Monday, December 30, 2013

13 Lesser Known Facts for 13 Months of Motherhood

So, I decide to end the year on a very factual note :D. The mommy me has completed 13 months and here are some facts that unfolded along the way - most of which I had never ever gotten to know before M came to us. If you are a parent, you'll end up nodding for most of these with a brave grin; if you are a parent-to-be, you'll learn these the hard way; and if you are nowhere on the horizon, this might just as well be Ripley's Believe It or Not for you :P.

Monday, December 9, 2013

(Almost) Instant Yummilicious Desserts!

Decadence takes a new form in winters. I am an awful diet follower but come winters, and my gluttony reaches an all time high. All resolutions of shedding the pregnancy weight and buying a slim fit pair of denims a size smaller are sacrificed at the altar of rich (read: fattening) foods that seems to be a must in these lovely, snug winters!

Okay, enough of the prologue. I have always shied away from trying out instant microwave dessert recipes because I always thought I'd rather have the "real" thing than some sad substitute. But one desperate evening, when I was really craving chocolate brownies but didn't have the energy to go through the entire baking process, I turned to a bookmarked recipe: Emergency Chocolate Brownies. I swear it takes less than five minutes and it is extremely yummy!

Here's a peak into my sinful indulgence :D.



Encouraged by the success of this shortcut method, I also tried this baked custard recipe. It was so creamiliciously good. A must try.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My fondest childhood memories...

On the occasion of Children's Day in India, a friend of mine shared her blog post on FB on her favorite childhood memories. It was such a wonderful post that I instantly made up my mind to steal the idea and do my version. 

And here are a few of my favorite things  memories from what now seems like Utopia:

  • My earliest memory of childhood is waiting in a van with the driver outside the hospital on the day my brother was supposed to be born. I was about four and a half years old then. I remember wondering what was taking so long and infact even getting worried in the middle. Little did I know that a devil awaited me :D.

  • I remember going to the gurudwara in Karol Bagh, Delhi with our then neighbors in the late 80s. They'd tie a handkerchief on my head and we came back with yummy halwa for prasad.

  • On Diwali, dad used to scatter puffed rice all around the house, after the puja and before the fireworks, for the gods and goddesses and their vehicles/chariots who'd visit you on that day. It was so funny, and I am sure we did not do this out of hunger but we used to every once in while pick up few and pop into our mouths :D.

  • My favorite movie going experience has to be Jurassic Park with my brother and mom. Dad was out of the country on an assignment and given all the peer pressure we refused to wait till he was back. Poor mom had to take us all the way from Rajouri Garden to the old Priya at Vasant Kunj all on her own in an auto. It was such a fun day. I have never had a better ice cream than the one we had at Nirula's that day!

  • School picnics in Delhi were the obvious forts, zoo, the planetarium etc. One particular trip, I remember being irritable about something. I was in Grade 2 or 3. And I remember our teacher trying to perk us up and saying Yuvika look at those monkeys. I retorted, saying, yeah they look great. Infact they are so much luckier than us that they don't have to go to our school. Ouch. Ofcourse this was shared at the PTM (Parent Teacher Meeting) :(.

  • I remember playing Dynamic Duo (a toned down version of Famous Five) with a neighbor - I was in Grade 4/5. Every evening at play time, we used to walk around the compound to scout for something suspicious - a broken bangle, a half burnt cigarette butt and what not, build a story around it and then "solve" the case. It sounds crazy to me now, though :).

  • We grew up in days sans McDonalds and Burger Kings. Nirualas was the hep and happening place then. And I don't know how many remember, but in the early 90s, a chain known as Wimpy's opened at various locations in Delhi. One was right round the corner in Rajouri and that's where I tasted my first pizza - mushroom pizza. Heaven it was :)

  • While on Nirula's, my brother and I used to love going to the one in Connaught Place (CP) after we got our annual report cards - because if you got above 80%, you'd get a free sundae! Year after year that was such a looked forward to event. 

  • In junior and middle school, for any competition, we used to get coupons from the St. Paul's book shop. Dad and mom used to take us there and buy us books (putting in a whole lot of their own money too) and that's how my bro and I collected the Why, What, When, How series that were huge hard bound books with nice thick glossy paper and lovely pictures. They were such a source of pride for us. And mom used to paste a copy of the coupon with our names et al. on the inner cover page :).

  • I used to love going to school, always. I used to love arranging my uniform, school bag etc, the previous evening. I was so obsessed that even when cousins came over, I'd hate to take leave, with the result I was very unpopular with some of my first cousins for a very long time :D. My books and notebooks would be covered in brown and plastic paper, and very neatly maintained all year round :).

  • Summer vacations were fun too. My fondest memories of summer holidays are lemon icebars and orange icebars, board games (Chess, Chinese Checkers, Ludo, Snakes n Ladders), and visits to our home town in the hills of Kumaon.

  • Circus!!! Oh god, how we would pester mom and dad to get us the front circle tickets. The travelling Gemini circus, is still around?

  • There was a 3-digit number that one could call in the 80s and 90s and an automated voice would give you the current time. We were such cheapsters - my cousins and us. We'd call that number and ask all crappy questions. For example, How many children do you have? And the automated female voice would say 3:10 PM. And we'd laugh our guts out and bang the phone down. You can call us retards :P.

  • I was in Class 7, when the Internet first came home. Mom, Priyank and I sat all huddled up as dad initiated the dial up connection. It was a good five minutes and there was a constant noise, which dad explained as this computer is "talking" to another. And then WWW happened to us :).

  • Finally all those times with my bro! Having a younger sibling meant having a lot of fights too. My brother would almost always physically overpower me and if I began to call for mom or dad, he'd challenge me, saying I should win a battle on my own and not take help! The funniest fight memory is that he had learnt this whole Dussehra meaning and all - He pounced on a peacefully sleeping me and shouted, "Victory of good over evil." Oh and let me also tell you this - we used to have a lot of games with pretend and play - teacher-student, mom-dad, etc. During one such time, he was the doc and had to perform a surgery on me (the patient ofcourse). I think in the middle, he got bored or something, he just covered my face with a bedsheet, and said, "Sorry, she's no more!". Influence of bollywood?

Wow, I could go on, but will stop here. What are your fondest childhood memories?  

Friday, November 8, 2013

Tres Leches Cake!

Our little munchkin's first birthday just went by. And I have to boast about this right away. Yours truly baked the cake! I have this now new badge of great pride (:D) that the first cake my daughter ever had was baked by me. Aaah, motherhood does make me petty, huh?

Anyways, here's the cake I baked. It's a Tres leches (three milks cake). I picked up the recipe from the ever so dependable Martha Stewart. And I was not disappointed. This was my first attempt at the cake though I have had it from bakery stores. It happens to be one of my favorite ones, and guess what - Manya and Vish loved it too! If you love milky sweetness, this one's for you too!


You can hop onto my mommy blog for more details on the celebrations!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

That Day After Everyday

If you haven't seen the much talked about large short film by Anurag Kashyap, here's the YouTube link:


If you have grown up in India, I bet that you have either been at the receiving end of such kind of molestation or have witnessed it first hand. The disgusting autowallah who steals glances at you from his rear view mirror, the co-passenger in the bus who rubs against you, the office going uncle who pinches you in the metro, the cyclist who hits you while you are walking, the local unemployed youth hanging around the paan shop, and even the so called cops in the PCR van standing at the cross-section.

Detractors of violence say an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Okay, so what should a woman in the position of those in the movie have done? Gone to the police and get ridiculed, insulted and harassed? Left their jobs and secluded themselves in their homes? Waited for a good Samaritan to intervene? Just like all those very helpful by-standers, would the crowd come to their rescue?

I still remember my first few days in the Delhi buses travelling to college - there were days I'd be in tears by the time I reached my destination. And then I happened to meet a gutsy senior from another college on the same bus. She didn't know me but saw a guy trying to push me. She looked at me and said - What are you doing? Give him back. I was aghast. Was that possible? She handed her umbrella to me and said in a very menacing tone, "DO IT." 
I gave it to him nicely as the rest of the bus cheered (but never joined in) - I am dead sure he never had the guts to touch another girl again.
 That was my "that day after everyday". I never ever cried or got upset after that. I traveled armed - with compasses, dividers, umbrellas - I always had something with me to protect myself.

Till the time the law is not enforced adequately, women are not considered human enough to have the same rights as a man, and having a girl child is considered a source of grief, we are on our own. And to protect ourselves, if we have to take up arms against such monsters, we will - because we must.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Decoding Desis

You don't have to be in phoren (foreign) land long enough to know your desi pals. For the uninitiated, 'desi' is a term we Indians use for our fellow country men - it may or may not mean any contempt. Here's the Wiki definition.
(Afterthought: OMG, desis made it to wiki, now we have surely "arrived", haven't we?)

P.S. I am writing this post with a lot of hesitation so please take this warning very seriously.
If you cannot take a joke on yourself and are very sensitive about the whole Indian-ness and associated sanctity, this post is NOT for you. This post is just meant to sit back and smile in indulgence. I do not mean to offend anyone in any way.

Phew, with that halfhearted sincerely meant disclaimer, let's move on.

So, here is some dope on desis, which I have experienced personally in my various travels and stays in the supposed land of the billion dollar dreams.

  • In the first few days of your arrival, the sight of fellow desis makes you smile (within) in a very reassuring way. As soon as you spend a month, you come to the realization that we are just about everywhere. There are only so many reassuring smiles that can happen. In about 6 months, you show visible distress as soon as you spot loud speaking desis who are obviously not as politically correct in their behavior and attitude as you are. A year into your stay, and you think that the diwali gatherings at the Indian temple are best avoided because your Indian network is already too big (and did they say H1B quote was already full, how do all these millions make it here every year :D). One more year down, and it surprises you if you reach an event or a grocery store, or a tourist spot and you don't spot a desi. Where are all of them? Am I at the wrong venue?
  • A fellow desi who approaches you (in a store or a mall) with the opening statement, "Looks like I have seen you somewhere", is an Amway shark - who is looking for prey. He/She can make out you are the new blood in town. That statement is your cue - run, run as far as you can. 
  • A simple rule of thumb in choosing the best Indian restaurant is that if a lot of Americans visit that place, it sure is not authentic - tastes have been tempered with. The best Indian grub in town is served by desis, to desis, from desis.
  • It is culturally insensitive to ask desis what their Friday night or weekend plans are. Oil massage for our hair, threading, waxing, soaking and grinding rice and lentils for the week's dosa/idli batter, buying groceries for the week's cooking, vacuuming, and laundry are all not your idea of a regular weekend, right? Now, let's leave it at that.
  • Most desis often will discuss with each other how the glorious era of the Great Indian Cricket conglomerate is fast losing its shine, and that they think IPL (Indian Premier League) is such a short change for the real deal that apparently cricket is supposed to be. HOWEVER, these people will hurry home and watch the highlights of every single match they missed and will be updated on every single wicket!
  • Game Day, Super Bowl are events that most desis have adapted to. But how much ever interest we might feign, Cricket is THE religion. Refer the point above.
  • There's this great belief that the first 100 in the queues outside any electronics store during Thanksgiving are desis. That IS true. But every desi will swear that he or she has never done it. So who are those? Well they are the ones who just landed.
  • All those 7-11 jokes on Miss America don't really bother us that much. Back home, our parents insist on 'fair' brides for us in the matrimonial columns. And we are yet to have a 'dark-skinned' girl crowned as Miss India. Forget women, we wholeheartedly support Fair and Handsome (creme) for men too.
  • Just because we shop at sales events and are lifelong members of Sam's Club/Costco, we are not cheap. We are smart people. We pay our taxes on time - our contribution way higher than the average. (It is another matter that we are also s$%t scared of the law that is actually implemented.) Even in the throes of economic crisis, we fuel the cash flow by travelling and and buying all those chocolates and iPods for our trips back home.
  • Desis in general are very critical of fellow desis. We are easily embarrassed by our own brethren (most of the times, quite justifiably). A glorious example of this is that we refuse to rent in an apartment community where there are towels and other articles of clothing hanging in the patios. No, we even refuse to see the model apartment. 
  • Dear American 'brothuhr', no desi will open up about this to you, but every time you refer to the massacre of Indians etc., we get goose bumps all over. It takes us a while to figure out you are talking about Native Americans - but during those few minutes, we have already imagined the worst.
  • And finally, the English language. Most of us study English pretty much as a first language from kindergarten, yet we might mess up our w's and v's. Also, our vernacular tongues may make our speech highly accented, but hello, your deep south accents with the heaviest of r's evuuhh are no good either.
By the way, just a footnote, we desis are as diverse as diversity can be. Just because you have met a few, you don't know us all. We come in more flavors than you can imagine!

What are your favorite 'desi-isms'?

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Letter to the Previous Owner of MY Mobile Number

[Update: This post was selected as the BlogHer Voice Of the Year Post 2014.]



Dear Latania,

(I hope I spelled your name correctly - I tried to decipher the spelling phonetically from how you are addressed in calls and voice mails. Your texting friends, don't write your name.)

Let me first introduce myself. I am Yuvika and have had the great (mis)fortune of owning the mobile number that you previously had. It has been a year and not a single week (or rather fortnight actually) has gone by that I haven't regretted wondered at my luck of getting this very number from T-mobile. Such events in my life re-affirm my otherwise non-existent faith in karma

Anyways, coming back to the subject of this letter. From what I notice, you have not bothered to inform anybody - friends, family, ex-es, banks, credit card associations, health teams - that you have changed your number or are no longer available on this number. With the result, I very humbly have taken down all the information various stakeholders/parties wanted to share with you. 

So just in case you have been searching the Internet for information on your personal life, I hope you find this blog post and there's an archaic Indian-English way of saying this, "Hope this letter finds you in the pink of health." :D.

Without delaying your agony further, here are the updates from the past one year in chronological order (mostly). 
  • A friend of yours and her mother wanted to have you over for thanksgiving last year. They said they knew you'd be bored and without company, hence the invite. Sorry, I don't remember the name from the voice mail. I was recovering from post-partum blues and hence my concentration was elsewhere. (Note 1: I fail to understand how people can leave a voice message for someone else on my personalized voice mail :()
  • I think you are part of some mass messaging group. I got 43 messages wishing you a happy new year. You sure must have had a great new year. But, sadly you won't get these wishes anymore because, I tracked down the original mass sender's mobile number and let "her" know that you are no longer available on this number.
  • Mark called to wish you a happy new year too. He has an incredibly sexy voice and when I told him this number was not yours, he so very courteously apologized. In his gorgeously husky baritone, he said, "I am so very sorry  but nevertheless a very happy new year to you too. Have a great one." Awww. Only that day, I didn't mind (so much) having this number ;).
  • The Delta Skymiles Credit Card customer care has been trying to reach you forever. I get atleast one call per week from them. From the voice mails they leave, looks like you have a long overdue payment. When I do happen to attend the call, the agents (mostly females) are quite curt and icy in their mannerisms. I think they do not believe me when I say I don't know you. I no longer attend calls from that number now. And because the customer care is soo freakin' rude, am glad you haven't paid them. They are dumb too, if they have still not found an alternate way to reach you.
  • All through the winter months, the NoVa school community board kept me updated about when the district schools were closed because of the snow and when they were reopening. No, I don't have school-going children of my own, but my husband found these early morning texts very useful in order for him to decide his POA for the day.
  • Your ex-husband called about a week back. (Note 2: I must say the "calling" men in your life have good baritones.) He did not leave a message with me and was rather in a hurry to cancel the call (quite unusual from your usual callers who seem to have a lot of time and inclination for polite chatter).
  • Two of your girlfriends sent you an MMS with their picture outside Macy's in Times Square, New York - the accompanying message was, We Miss You! I wanted to text them back saying that the picture quality was very poor and it's no longer very hep to get clicked outside that particular Macy's. Maybe, I missed an intended personal memory or joke.
  • A friend of yours sent you lengthy texts about how her cousin's mom was not being treated well at her old age home and she was looking at alternatives. I thought I should reply back, so I did - very politely telling them I was not the intended recipient. She stopped sending the texts, but did not thank me. I am slightly offended.
  • Your dentist's office called - you are apparently due for your annual checkup. I told them your teeth were doing great and you no longer needed their services.
  • And finally, in the last 48 hours, I have received 8 automated calls from Bank of America, all with the message, "There has been an unusual activity in your Bank of America debit card." I suggest you contact them, before this unintended unusual activity becomes usual.

Apart from all of this, I also get a lot of random calls asking for you but my apologies, I have no updates or details from any of them. I am sure you will find it in your heart to forgive me.

As and when, I have more information to share, I will write to you again.

Yours sincerely,
The current owner of your previous mobile number.

Monday, September 9, 2013

30 Lessons for 30 Years

Let's come straight to the point. I turned 30 last week.

Hawwwww. But, I did :(. THIRTY. I am officially old. Booohooo. Or wait, should I just take Frost at face value - "Time and Tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty."

Now, I could have done a post on why turning 30 sucks - but nobody would be interested in that. EVERYBODY knows turning 30 SUCKS! And I do have my reasons already listed out here. I could have done a feel good post, how I still feel only 18, but then that would be only trying too hard. I already bid adieu to my 20's here

So, I thought as I come to terms with the big number, why not list down the lessons I have learnt as I have grown up (though that itself is questionable) - some the hard way, and some a little more easily. (No surprises that there is one lesson for each year :D.)
P.S. Ofcourse these lessons are not all saintly - they are practical and meant for "normal" human beings. After all, not every monk wants to sell his Ferrari!

1. Age is nothing but a number. And, you can play with numbers. Subtract, divide, erase - do as you please.

2. Ditto as (1) above, weight is also nothing but a number. And, btw, the years of wisdom need some display area!

3. You will spend your teens and early 20s swearing that your parents "just don't get it". And a couple of years later, as if almost magically, appreciation and understanding for all that they did and didn't do, will magically descend on you. Suddenly, spending vacations and all your "free time" with parents will become the coolest thing ever! 

4. As the years pass, friends will become harder to come by. Your 4 am and anytime friends will continue to be your school or college pals.

5. All that hurry in high school years to try on the latest mascara, eyeliner, nail paint is needless. Make-up can wait. It will sooner than later even become a little necessary on certain occasions :D.

6. You get over school and college crushes sooner than you know - those helpless tears were indeed not worthily spent. And that was surely not heart break! The biggest proof of this will be as you will find yourself "liking" (very genuinely) each other's spouse's and baby's pics on FB ;).
[Afterthought: I think I am going to invite trouble on this one, but, like my 8 year old nephew says it, who cares!]

7. There's not much fun in watching a movie with your own money, with people the whole world knows you are with, and when you can check-in on Twitter and FB. Nothing beats the ecstasy of siphoning off money from mom, bunking a class and then tiptoeing into a movie hall with "questionable" company, while all the time keeping your fingers crossed that no family, teachers or neighbors spot you! 

8. All things sugar and sweet, however good, get boring. Spice is a necessity of life. All spice, without sugar? Not many would complain ;).

9. Tears is not a sign of weakness. Nor is being emotionless a sign of strength.

10. While having a Plan B is a great idea for continuity and sanity - the only problem is that most often than not those with a good Plan B often give up Plan A very easily.

11.  In our race to get everything done, we sometimes don't spend adequate time doing things that actually matter. It is good to always have priorities, and keep re-evaluating them. You cannot do everything all the time without being unfair to yourself.

12. Your most embarrassing moment is yet to come. Everything that happened till today is forgettable and forgivable.

13. When somebody asks for help, give all you've got. If you need help, take all they've got.

14. Everybody is innocent, till proven otherwise. Take your chances, make your own judgments, nurse your own hurts, create your own experiences.

15. Forget easily. Nobody and nothing is worth it.

16. Forgive at your own pace. You are worth a lot more.

17.  It is difficult to please everyone. Somebody is going to get offended, somebody is not going to like you and many will hate you. Too bad. Their loss. You need to keep true to yourself and love unconditionally the people that matter.

18. There's always another side, another perspective to the story. The picture is never complete. Allow for malleability in your thoughts, opinions and views. Rigidity is your greatest enemy.

19. Everything is prone to change: your feelings, your clothes, your relationships, your goals - adapt and go with the flow - keep your optimism intact.

20. It is okay to "not know". Nobody knows everything, and there's a reason why Google has such a powerful search engine.

21. Tomorrow never comes. NEVER. It mysteriously disappears on the day of its impending arrival. Don't plan anything for tomorrow.

22. Indulgences - every once in a while - as often as they make you feel good - are totally worth it.

23. If you want to buy a dress or a pair of jeans that you really really like. Buy it now. Don't wait to lose a size or two before buying - because, you know it's never going to happen. [Also, refer point 2 above.]

24. Water is the elixir of life (though, good wine might come a close second). Drink lots of it.

25. If someone happens to cross your mind, thoughts or dreams, reach out to them. No, it's not weird, it's not stalking, and it's surely not being desperate. It's called keeping in touch, and do it even if it has been years since you connected.

26. Day dreaming is the ultimate panacea for all ailments - a bad day, a sour mood - imagine your favorite place, your favorite person, imagine doing something scandalous, imagine living out your most romantic or adventurous novel or movie. It will all be okay, again.

27. Let everybody have a say. You don't have to agree with what they say, but defend their right to say it!

28. Eat dessert for breakfast, main course for lunch, and salad for dinner - The only way you can reasonably scrape through middle age without a humongous midriff and without any grave cravings left unfulfilled.

29. One great plus of growing "older" is that you become more secure about your individuality. You can fearlessly claim that you love the latest tapori bollywood number, wear ill-fitting, out of fashion denims, refuse to go with the majority, without having to worry that somebody would be judging you. The need to explain yourself begins to disappear.

30. There's so much grief in the world, there are so many unfortunate people - your sorrows are trivial when you compare them to those that other people are suffering from - spare a thought for them, count your blessings, and thank someone up there (or someone you believe in) who has been taking fairly good care of you.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Misused words!

Haven't you noticed that every once in a while we say something that we didn't really mean to but had to - because we had nothing better to say or because propriety beckoned it? What about words or phrases that you hear and you know they mean "nothing" really? What about words that are often misused?

Here are some that I absolutely detest and yet maybe guilt of using them (:P):
  • Cool! So what is cool? Everything that you cannot classify into more distinct and identifiable categories. It's also a word to close conversations (quite awkwardly sometimes :)).
  • Awwww...The baby is cute and so is the puppy, the couple is cute and all the mushiness in PDAs (public displays of affection - mostly inappropriate :D) is also awwwwwww. But thanks to social media this simple expression has been done to death that sometimes I feel its use is nothing but sarcastic.
  • Nice to meet you: We have just met - it's our first hello and first handshake, and in that nano second you have already decided it has been great to meet me? Yeah, yeah, I know it's meant to be polite, but I can never bring myself to say this to people I am meeting for the first time ever that very second - I am glad we met - it's always good to meet people - but, call me a prude if you will, I want to atleast have a minute or two long conversation for me to feel "nice" about you.
  • Premium: Everything is premium - Premium Internet services, Premium produce at the grocery stores, Premium outlets, Premium quality - actually all the so called "premium" things don't deserve the premium they are offered at.
  • Tragedy: This has to be the most misused word ever. Everything is a tragedy not tragic. Being a Lit student it irritates me all the more when every trifle is described as a tragedy. It dilutes the magnitude and the implied scale of the real tragedies. A tragedy has an impending doom, and inevitable fate. Most unfortunate events that happen around are really tragic.
  • Awesome - Every freakin' picture, status update, video, comment, remark is awesome. It is not. How can every other thing be so extraordinary. Alas, awesome has lost its awesome-ness ;).
  • We really need to do something about this/ It's high time: Take it from me nothing will be done by anybody because, let's be fair, nobody know anything about "that" and how to go about it. How about Let's do (1), (2), and (3).

So what are your pet peeves? Care to share?

Meanwhile, We really need to do something about these premium words that are nothing but an awesome tragedy to have happened to the awww-worthy social media where, by the way, it was great meeting you. Cool?

[Image source: Google Images]

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Savory baking...

It had been on my mind for a while now to try some of the savory bakes that seem to be very popular on Pinterest and FB pages. Finally, a friend's visit this weekend broke the jinx and I did try my hands at a recipe. It was ridiculously simple and the end product was sooo yumm.

Presenting Cornmeal muffins (recipe here):



These were soft, light and quite flavorful. Also, they make a great side dish for any meal as you can prepare the muffins well in advance and warm them a little just before serving.

Though, I have tried making Indian veggies like aloo shimla mirch (Potatoes and bell peppers) and gobhi (cauliflower), and even some very simple casseroles (mostly sauteed veggies with cream of potato/ mushroom/ corn - a great accompaniment to spicy/flavored rice) in the oven, I have not tried too many muffins, puffs, quiches and the likes. Have shortlisted a few tempting recipes - with the hope that I will make them some day!

Monday, July 8, 2013

We stand alone.

A friend sent this very disturbing video, along with a message to blog about this so that we can initiate a healthy discussion on what can be done to avoid such circumstances.

To briefly summarize: A young man (allegedly) committed suicide by jumping off the topmost floor of the Express Avenue mall in Chennai, India. The tragedy was just not that. It was the delay in having emergency medical aid being brought to him, so that maybe he could be saved.


I do not wish to discuss any of these: suicide vs. murder vs. accident, intent etc etc. What I do wish to discuss is the state of emergency medical help available in our country. I had a number of questions when I saw the video:
  • Out of the hundreds of witnesses, did even one try calling 102?
  • What is the response time for 102?
  • What would I have done if I was there?
  • Wasn't there a doctor or nurse who could have helped?
  • Why did the police come without paramedics?
  • A 10 (or more) minute delay for first-aid? Should malls have medical rooms?
  • At that time, nobody knew it was a suicide, why was the public prevented from stepping in?

Here are the answers:

We are a nation that hides behind the anonymity that large masses bring. Basically, we are cowards. I am. You know what I would have done had I been there? I would have kept a "safe" distance. I swear I would have called 100 and 102 (though, from personal experience I know calling 100 is a big joke, but still.) I would have spoken to the mall authorities to extend medical help. That's all. I would not have stepped upto personally take  the guy to the hospital or give him first aid (even if I knew how to). In addition I would have stopped any near or dear one form doing so. Let's stay within a reasonable response range, I would have said. 
To whoever blames the public (and me) for apathy, I'd offer an insincere apology. The system has failed once too often for me to have any faith. Don't give me the BS on how we make the system. No, I don't. So, for once I'd rather not blame the curious and innocent bystanders.

I don't know if malls should have medical rooms. Yes, why not? But would they have helped?

The management was scared too? Or they simply didn't want any unnecessary "mess"? Who has a conscience in this country anymore, anyways?

Somebody did call the cops though. Why did they take more than 10 minutes to show up? Was their response timely enough? Did they bring the paramedics?  What was the first aid offered to the victim? Was the mall security/authorities booked for inaction? My guess is that NO would be the answer to these questions. 

The aam aadmi (common man) wants to return home safe after his day long quest of roti (food), kapda (clothing) and makaan (shelter).

The people with the muscle and the moolah need their hands free from any unwarranted mess because they have a lot of s*&%t to deal with anyways.

The law enforcers have to choose between protecting the common man or the people with the money and power. They don't have much of an option, do they?

The government needs the law enforcers and the powerful moneyed people to make money for those in positions. They are not sure whether they'll be reinstated in the next elections - so this maybe their only opportunity to fill their personal coffers up.

So, what does one do? Just what the video says at the end. Be alert. Be safe. You are on your own. Oh yes, you can once in a while try checking up if the guy up there still exists.

(If you have a better suggestion, bring it on - but before you talk about Satyagraha and fasts unto death, boycotts and andolans/revolutions, just keep in mind we are talking about ordinary people like you and me who stand alone in a country of over a billion people.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

bewafai

साक़ी से गिला तो मैखाने से हमने मुंह मोड़ लिया;

हमसफ़र से शिक्वा और कारवाँ ही छोड़ दिया;

आफ़ताब ने ऐसा जलाया कि रोशिनी से मन ऊब गया;

साहिल पे जो मात खाई, लेहेरों पे फिर यकीं कहाँ हुआ।


हँसी ने जब गम को पनाह दी, ख़ुशी को अलविदा कह दिया;

ऐसा इश्क़ की हम हम ना रहे, जुनूँ  से भी रिश्ता तोड़ दिया;

अंधेरों में अब वोह बात कहाँ, रात से जब बैर हो गया;

खामोशी ने ऐसा साथ निभाया, बातों पर यकीं ना रहा।


और भी गिले हैं, शिक्वे कई - शायद सबको भुला दिया,

चोट भी हैं और दर्द भी वहीँ - अब तो सब सह लिया;

तुमसे क्या बैर, ख़ुदा ने भी कुछ ख़ास साथ ना दिया,

पर ना  जाने  क्यूँ, उसके जहाँ को सीने से लगा लिया।

-----------------------------------------------------------

(Last time I took a shot at hindi poetry, some readers came back asking for an English translation. Everyone knows translation can never convey the absolute original intended meaning, but nevertheless, here's an attempt for the piece above:

Betrayal

I didn't get along with the tavern keeper, so stopped going to the very tavern.
Discontentment with my soul mate, and I abandoned the journey.
The sun left such deep burns that I fell out with light itself.
How I was cheated at the shore, I could never trust the waves again.

When my smile gave sanctuary to my sorrow, I bid farewell to happiness forever.
Such love that I lost myself; passion has now deserted me.
The darkness no longer inspires awe or fear since I befriended the very night.
Silence has been such an ardent companion, I no longer trust conversations.

I have many grievances, many disappointments too - but most have been forgotten.
There's hurt and there is pain - but I have borne it all.
What can I hold against you when God himself was never by my side;
Yet, I don't know why, I embraced his world close to my heart.

Monday, June 17, 2013

First cheesecake!

When my S-I-L shared this recipe of a no-bake Oreo cheesecake on her blog, I bookmarked it for a must-try. Vish's first Father's Day presented the perfect opportunity :D. 
The recipe is fairly simple and the end product is soo yumm. How can it not be with - complete with lots of whipped cream, cream cheese and Oreo cookies! (I am dead serious about trying out more varieties of cheesecakes!)

Slurrp...time to dig into the leftover in the refrigerator :P.

And this time around, I did not forget taking a pic. ;)


(P.S. Whenever I whip cream and then decorate the cake, it always falls - doesn't stay sharp - any tips and tricks?)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hitler's Children

I saw this really good documentary on Netflix the other day - it's called Hitler's Children - a conversational-styled movie with dialogues with the surviving children/grandchildren of the topmost (and hence the most fearsome) officers of the Nazi regime and some of the first and second generation holocaust survivors.

It deals with issues of the burden of carrying a fear-inducing surname - the feeling of guilt, responsibility, embarrassment, shame. The most powerful moment of the film for me was when the grandson of the Auschwitz camp commander visits the camp on a day when a survivor from that very camp is also visiting. The grandson is asked to answer a few questions by the tourists, and as he struggles to hold back his tears and give dignified responses, this survivor walks upto him, hugs him tight and says, "You were not there, it was not your fault. That was another time." I still get goosebumps recalling that scene. The grandson completely broke down - was it a closure or not is debatable. Did the survivor feel that having met the next generation of his perpetrator and forgiving him, he can move on - forgive and forget? Did the son feel that having got that acknowledgement from a person who lived through the camp atrocities is a befitting closure to the years of guilt and shame? I do not know.

The documentary made me wonder on the larger question of what family legacies and surnames do to an individual's life. Obviously, they have greater bearing if there is real greatness or tragedy associated - but how do children deal with it. I am sure sons and daughters of politicians and actors in the current world have it easy - do they really have a "burden on their shoulders", I think not. Ditto with business men. (Pardon me for my dismissive tone.) But imagine being born to parents who have been responsible for killing millions or some other negative impact that history can never forgive and forget - what do you do? Would you "renounce" the "name" or would you "live" with it?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

For the love of chocolate!

I had been postponing this post for a long time, because I wanted to have pictures to go with the recipes but every darn time I baked, the camera was no where in the picture :(. So before I forget, noting the recipes down here for my future reference and for you to try out too!

So, here are three chocolate-based cakes that I have tried more than just once in the last 6 months, with success every time. These are super yummy and like I always say, if I could get them right, anybody can!

1. Martha Stewart's Ultimate Chocolate Cake with Ultimate Chocolate Frosting: This has to be the easiest frosting ever! The cake comes out so well that it is an instant hit with everybody. Also, you can whip it up at very short notice. My favorite decorative addition has to be the MnMs I put on it.

2. Martha Stewart's Moist Devil's Food Cake with Mrs. Milman's Chocolate Frosting: The cake is fairly basic but the frosting requires a loads and loads of patience. The creams needs to be cooked on a low flame for almost 40-50 minutes and then refrigerated for a couple of hours to get the right consistency. I was actually surprised I got it right the first time. But, the frosting is well worth the effort. It's absolutely yummy!

3. Chocolate Cake with Nutella Buttercream Frosting: I wanted something quick and tasty for my hubby's birthday. And as luck would have it, I chanced upon this recipe. We both love Nutella and this seemed a fairly easy frosting to prepare. And it was. I gave a slight twist to the cake by adding strongly brewed coffee - it went very well with the Nutella taste. 

What are your favorite chocolate cake recipes?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fear

I shooed the cat,
It stared right back into my eyes.

I shooed the pigeons,
They hovered even closer to my food.

I shooed the squirrel,
It defiantly settled on my patio wall.

I shooed the raccoon,
It refused to leave my dustbin.

I shooed the deer,
It calmly walked towards me.

I shooed the geese,
They cackled louder and closer.

I turned around and asked someone,
How come these animals know no fear?
He gently smiled and said at once,
Cos, nobody shoos them around here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Public humiliation in modern times...

This is an excerpt from Wiki on public humiliation: 
"Public humiliation was often used by local communities to punish minor and petty criminals before the age of large, modern prisons (imprisonment was long unusual as a punishment, rather a method of coercion)."

I am sure we all have seen old movies, history-based shows that provide ample examples of public humiliation, the most popular being, public stoning and beheading. The intent behind these seems to be obvious: to make a befitting example for all other criminals. If I park my comments on the manner of punishment and the righteousness of the judgement aside, I feel that public humiliation is a suitable way of letting everyone know that you cannot get away with messing the law of the land. What do you think?

I say this also in the context of the recent outrageous crimes against women in Delhi and NCR, specifically. People have asked for public castration, beheading, setting up on fire and what not. You know what, I agree with them. The so called humanists talk about how these methods are bestial and blah and blah. Well, what the wackos have been doing is nothing short of what can be expected from beasts of the worst kind. So why be human with them? I think, given our present social construction, just a judgement will not suffice. More than the law we fear what "others" might think of us. So, to let everybody know, a public execution of the judgement seems like the need of the hour. Doesn't it? 

In another context, in this age of social media, public humiliation has become quite rampant and it takes minutes for the incident/comment/situation to go viral: via MMS, Twitter, FB, or even YouTube. 
While it has obvious ramifications on our personal lives and more so the personal lives of the people affected, does it also make us more accountable in the larger sense of the world, or no? I wonder. 

Have you noticed how most brands are quick to respond when you post a complaint on their FB wall or using their Twitter handle?

I believe now hiring firms, and even schools, do an "online" background check to see how you "behave" in the eworld. Does that scare you? 

Are you confident of your online identity? Do you use you real name mostly or hide behind pseudonyms and anonymity?

Do you take what's written about you in real and in reel seriously or with a pinch of salt?

Have you ever been publicly humiliated - for your fault or for somebody else's?

Have you seen public humiliation work?

[Image source: Google Images]

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Spring Jinx!

What else can explain my arid blog during this season, for the second consecutive year? It has been barren, but I am hoping for fresh blossoms...Please linger on...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Do you believe in sleep quotas too?

I know, I know, I have been ignoring this space for quite a while now. But, I swear to god, I am not being lazy. I am just oscillating between two states: sleepy awake and wakeful sleep - neither of which are conducive to any decent blog posting that I would like to do. Things are getting to a point where I am convinced that God allots fixed sleep quotas to everyone and mine is near exhaustion! Read more at my mommy blog

Friday, February 8, 2013

Meet the "list" me!

Seriously, this is something I am not apologetic about. I don't exactly remember when and how I cultivated this habit, but for as long as I know, I have been making lists. 

During school days, I remember making lists of books I need from the library, lists of songs to "tape" from friends, list of lessons to study, movies to watch, friends to call over - for everything I had scraps of paper with bulleted items. (No wonder I became a technical writer :P) 

In college, I always had a ready list of things to shop when I had spare pocket money. That one even had a priority number assigned to each item. At work, I had lists on paper and the white board of documents to review, extra activities to do if time permits, list of tools and concepts to learn and what not.

Now that I am married, and have a family to "run", there's no limit to the lists I have. Here's a peek into all my active lists as of today:

1. Groceries/Other household stuff - This list is divided into 3 sub lists, as follows:
  • Regular (for stuff I can get at the regular grocery/convenience store)
  • Indian groceries
  • Large scale (items that would warrant a visit to Costco, Sam's Club or the likes)     
2. A shopping list for my daughter: Contains all sorts of things ranging from diapers to clothes to books to toys to medicines - each item has an approximate Buy By date next to it.

3. Pediatrics' List: This list is updated with all the things I need to discuss with my daughter's pediatrics - whenever some specific query strikes my mind, it goes straight to the list.

4. Blog Posts To Write: Yeah! Given that I don't have the leisure to instantly start typing the minute I think of something, I quickly put the topic in this list and refer to it the next time I am at the comp!

5. Recipes to try: I follow a few food blogs, and once in a while the "regular" bloggers I follow tend to post some interesting recipe too - the links to all of these go into a list that I can access at a later date.

6. Daily to do: You won't believe it but I am this crazy. 99% of the days, before 9 or 10 AM, I pen down what are the things I need to do on that day. These include such mundane stuff as cook, clean, do laundry, keep trash out, call parents, exercise, walk, blog, mail so and so, oil hair, and so on and so forth - basically every single thing I need to do. It's a surprise I don't write breathe or even brush teeth in there!

7. Places to visit: I have been maintaining this list for years now! (Before every visit to a place, I again end up making several lists: things to carry, things to bring from there, must visit spots, must eat local food etc.)

In addition to all these lists, I have recurrent activities like payments, appointments etc. logged into Google calendar, which is set to give me reminders at 5AM of the day an event has to occur.

And I still deny that I have OLD - Obsessive Listing Disorder!

Why did I think of sharing this info all of a sudden? Well because, the other day, we went for my daughter's monthly pediatric appointment, and I was ready with my list of things to discuss. The doctor looked at me in complete amazement, and said, "Wow! I really admire the fact that you come so prepared for all the appointments. You have everything written down so clearly. Its a pleasure to see you each time." She then turned around to my husband and said, "You are one lucky man that your wife is so particular about everything". I needn't mention that Vish didn't even consider that as a compliment to me. He is forever irritated with pens and papers lying everywhere around the house, and notepad files named Things to Buy, Things to do etc., all over the desktop :D!

On a lighter note, I often joke that I also have a mental "hit" list. A list of people who I feel should be shot down - and the only reason that list does not have a physical manifestation is because I am worried if something does happen to those people, I might be put behind bars :D.

So, what lists do you keep? Or do you just go with the flow :P?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mom's paintings on our walls!

Remember I shared some of my mom's paintings in my post: My super artist mom. I absolutely love her art work. She might be lazy enough to not getting down to picking up the brush (ouch, I am going to be hit for this one), but when she does, her creations are magical. I can't brag enough about her skill. Oh, and nor can dad. He can go on and on in appreciation. It is super cute to see him like that!

So, when my parents came visiting this winter, mom had a lovely surprise for us. Four paintings for our walls. I was absolutely thrilled, but sadly, given our preoccupation with my pregnancy and then the baby, we never got down to hanging them. This weekend, finally, Vish and I had the time to do that. I had promised myself I'd blog only after these were on the walls, and so sharing the paintings here (these are all oil on canvas, and I am posting the pictures without the frames, so that you can see them properly, without the frame glass reflections).

Oh, and btw, the first painting has a small story to it too. So, when I was in school (Class X), I had asked mom to make these cats for my room. I was in a major "doing up my room" spree, then. Now to be fair to her she did try (more than just once) to get down to making these, but something or the other more critical would come up. What do you expect, with a full time job and two brats for kids! However, all through school and college, I left no stone unturned to make her feel guilty :D. I used to always tell her back then - sometimes in annoyance and mostly jokingly, that if I'd have a daughter, she'd also reach grade 10, and the painting would not have been made. You can imagine poor mommy's plight, when I announced I was pregnant with a baby girl on her way. She was mortified that my prediction would come true and so that very instant got down to making the long promised painting, along with three others as bonus!





Oh, I don't say this often enough, I love you, mom!

Friday, February 1, 2013

THE Question (of children)

I wrote a post on this in my mommy blog. I feel it makes sense to provide a link here too for this blog's readers, because it's not just about mommies. I'd be thrilled if you have time to read the post and share your thoughts...

THE Question (of children)!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Just another love story

The sun glistened on the snow.
The latter was shy but,
Didn't know where to go;
And so she stared back at it.

He sent down comforting rays,
That promised to make love to her
In a million alluring ways.
She'd dare not resist further...

As the morning gave way to noon,
His advances became more certain.
He promised her the moon,
And said he'll recede behind the curtain.

She no longer could bear
His inviting loving gaze;
And so flung her arms bare,
Looking back at him in a daze

And then happened what does
In most loving stories since the time;
She melted into an oblivious fuzz;
He turned around without flinching a dime.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

And they come in all shapes and sizes...

Triggered by S's post on her experience on being sexually harassed, and the obvious scars it leaves, some of us friends have been sharing over an FB message thread on what we have done in retaliation to being sexually harassed, especially in our school and college years. The discussion soon turned into what would be the right approach to defend oneself against molesters - ignore, laugh back (in order to insult), abuse, hit, hit and run? 

As I read what everybody had got to say, I realized that no particular approach would work as a panacea for all kinds of molestation - simply because the molesters or harassers come in so many shapes and sizes, and each requires a different treatment - and from some, there is no escape at all.

Having traveled in Delhi for so many years, in every possible mode of public and personal transport, I have met so many kinds - all disgusting but with varying abilities to cause harm. Here's my understanding and experience:

  • The Peer Group Kinds: Well, these are the college going guys - usually from not your college. They'll try to take the same bus as you, come and stand next to your seat, try to establish eye contact, follow you in cars or bikes, sing the latest bollywood romantic song for you, even give you flowers on rose day and chocolates on chocolate day, and maybe ask you for your phone number or zodiac sign on Valentin's day! But that's it. They will not get physical - no touching etc. They are the ones who are scared of your male friends, family, police, and the public. This kind is best ignored. And years later when you look back at these guys, you'll only smile in indulgence, unlike the anger and discomfort you felt at that moment.
  • The Frustrated Uncles: This is one perverted lot. With their middle age evident in their bellies and hair, they are frustrated with their married life, families, jobs, government, essentially, themselves. And they think the best way to let all that frustration out is feel up young girls in crowded buses, trains etc. However, the upside? They are scared of public embarrassment. Shout at them, abuse them. If they are acting really dirty, hit them with your elbow, or a compass or an umbrella - and there they go running away. Funnily, this is the kind that the public will also be very happy and ready to beat up or throw out.
  • The Road Side Romoes, infamous as RSRs: These guys may span across all age groups - from young 13 year olds to 70 year olds. Usually found on cycles or foot - they will instantly decide you are Madhuri Dixit or Aishwarya Rai, the minute they see you and pass comments, sing (once in a while, they might decide to hit you too). I remember one wobbly old guy in a rickety cycle asking me: baithogi? (will you seat). I retorted: "pehle khud ko to sambhal lo" (first, balance yourself). And he got so scared! So, that's the thing, these kinds are basically idiots and dumb asses. All it takes is a gutsy girl to make them go whimpering away. Shout at them, threaten to call the cops, and go after them if they hit you, to teach them a lesson of a lifetime. 
  • The RAPISTS: These are the most dangerous kinds - psychologically sick with deep rooted inferiority complex, and with no respect for any woman - the ones who will rape if they could. They are not scared of the law, have a gang to support them, use physical force or even weapons. This is the group that's the largest in Delhi/NCR, more than in an other city or town in India - and there is nothing a girl can do to get them off their trail. You ignore them, they'll follow still; you laugh at them, shout at them - they get bolder with the attention; you hit them, their ego gets hurt, they hit you back; you call the cops, they throw acid on you; you run, they rape. What can you do? Pray you never come across them.
I have come across the first three categories and have done what came to my mind at that moment. I have cried, shouted, abused and hit - hit many infact -mostly with umbrellas and compasses. And I hope atleast a handful of them were taught a lesson for life. 
Those who argue against the use of violence, need to know that you can't implement a well thought out strategy in such a case. It becomes a question of survival and self sustenance. You can't rely on the good sense of the spectators, and let me not start about the callousness of the police. I personally know of girls who were slapped by cops when they approached the PCR (police control room) vans to report "eve teasers". 
The verdict? As of now, in India, a girl's safety and sanity depends on her self defense and LUCK!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A new year wish

Here's wishing you a wonderful new year.
Hoping that peace and joy find your way,
And you also find time to remember
Those who do not live to see this day.

Between the flowing wine and the festive cheer,
The despair in the world might seep in
To bring atleast a drop of tear,
In hope for peace in this deafening din.

Women being raped, children being killed;
Economies tumbling and wars being raged.
Our prayers are feebled, and humanity outraged;
Everyday we die, but the apocalypse we survived.


Wishes of friendship and love seem inadequate.
I wish you courage and perseverance;
I wish you safety and comfort and faith,
I wish you solace for your grievance...


(Another take on the new year: A letter to my daughter)

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