MY BLOGS

Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Santa's Gifts

Christmas is just round the corner.  Go to any major shopping place, office, mall and there are huge Christmas trees, all decorated with little boxes of gifts under the tree.  Not quite officially date for Santa to deliver the goods, but it just shows the enthusiasm that the festive spirit kindles.

Seeing the gift boxes under the Christmas tree reminds me of Christmas when I was young.  We are not Christians, but that did not deter my dad from telling me I could talk to Santa Claus and ask him for whatever I wanted.  The modus operandi was really cute.  I would have to park myself in front of an old Marconi radio that had pride of place in the living room.  Then I could talk into the radio (yes, Santa had equipment that could catch the reverse waves and hear me) and inform him of my wish list. Not to forget the promise that I would be a very good girl the rest of the year! :-D

A sock would be duly stuck under my pillow and I would be woken up in the morning to get my gifts from Santa Claus.  There would also be a note left there by him in extremely shaky hand writing (Santa had come in out of the snow, remember?) encouraging me to be good, praising me for having been good and the like. :-D  What delightful days those were!  That would be followed by eating plum cakes bought from Kayani Bakery on East Street, Pune.  Oh, were those simply delectable!  Of course carols would also be sung.

It was somewhere around the age of 13 or 14 that the secret of Santa was let out and I don't wish to delve into it too much - it is not a happy memory!

My Santa is now in Heaven with his Maker.  I have been as good a girl as I can given my circumstances and my human foibles Santa.  So can I send you my wish list?  I have only three things I want in the coming year:
Peace of Mind, Good Health and a reasonable degree of Happiness.  Nothing more.  Is it too much to ask for?  Santa, I am not going to hang out a sock, but the doors of my home will be kept open for you to come and deliver the goods.  The doors of my heart are always open.  Please force the doors of my mind also open if you find them a bit jammed to deliver the gifts.  Waiting eagerly for you Santa.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Mind Your Language

The author does not hold herself responsible for any sense of outrage felt by readers. If you are easily scandalized by the slightly off-colour language that is in common usage these days, you will do well to skip this post and go on to the next snippet.

English is a funny language (notwithstanding the fact I love it very dearly). It is sometimes really galling how some words cannot be used in their "legitimate" sense any more all because someone just decided to hijack the word to mean something very different altogether. Many an unwitting, unsuspecting person could end up with red face if they were to use certain words without knowing the "other" meaning.

The first time I experienced this was when I told a friend in the UK that "I wouldn't spend a penny" on something. She laughed and told me never to say that in front of a Brit. Apparently "spending a penny" was commonly used to mean visiting the toilet - one had to pay a penny when using public toilets in the past. Of course the fact that it cost 25 pence when I was there did not make a difference to the expression.

Yesterday a friend of mine told me she was in splits (meaning she had a hearty laugh, not that she split in two) when she read that I had to run for the "dicky" to understand some words which I did not understand. She asked me if I knew what the word meant. Now of course I did (for those who don't, please run to the nearest dicky and check it out yourself - I don't want to explain such an inanity here in graphic detail), but I had not thought of it when I very fondly referred to my favourite book of words by that name.

I think twice for this very reason to say "That is a really gay colour" or "I am feeling very gay" or "The mood at the meeting was really gay" or "He is really gay". The word has become really taboo, although its original intent was to convey a very happy state of affairs.

Take for example the word pansy. I can't say "Oh, how I love pansies" when I love a flower, simply because I would get strange looks.

Long ago I had read a book by Anurag Mathur called "The Inscrutable Americans" whose protagonist is an "innocent" student who steps out of his little village in Madhya Pradesh for the first time. Here is an excerpt of his letter to his parents. Note the misconception he had when he heard a commonly used slang.
At Customs, brother, I am getting big shock. One fat man is grunting at me and looking cleverly from small eyes. "First visit?" he is asking, "Yes," I am agreeing "Move on," he is saying making chalk marks on bags. As I am picking up bags he is looking directly at me and saying "Watch your ass." Now, brother, this is wonderful. How he is knowing we are purchasing donkey? I think they are knowing everything about everybody who is coming to America.
They are not allowing anybody without knowing his family and financial status and other things. And we are only buying donkey two days before my departure. I think they are keeping all information in computers. Really these Americans are too advanced.
But, brother, now I am worrying. Supposing this is CIA keeping watch or else how they can know about our donkey? Anyway please do not tell Mother and Father or they are worrying, but lock all doors and windows. If CIA wants to recruit me to be spy in Jajau, I will gladly take poison before betraying our Motherland. Then I am going out and cousins are waiting and receiving me warmly.



Imagine the situation if I were wanting to go to Alaska and someone were to tell me a certain jacket or anorak looked really "cool". Why on earth would I want to buy it when I wanted something to keep me warm?

How on earth could a skimpily clothed damsel look hot? Would she not be cold when she was so barely covered?

Or how can smoking be "cool" for that matter?

Talking of smoking, brings me to the topic of butts. Why would anyone keep butting onto the personal rights of a person smoking a butt and tell him to kick the butt (would this smoker understand the term or would he go and kick the butt of this "butt"er-in)? Or why indeed would he keep butting in and disturb someone who was already working his butt off?

Here was another situation where a friend went to the US and was stopped for checking at the customs. He was carrying some “darbha” herbs with him for some shraddha rituals which are performed routinely. He was asked what that was. He did himself in when he replied “it is grass” and had some lengthy explanations to give before he was let off.

So dears, I hope you will be very careful next time you use this English "tongue" (figuratively I mean, not literally).

Monday, 23 September 2013

Touchy Times



"I was asking my son to get married to anyone he wants to, so long as it is a girl!"    

Not a very uncommon sentiment I hear these days. It makes me wonder. We humans are a very confused species. 

Leave alone life long partnerships .... let us talk of simple friendships. Time was when a guy with his arm across the shoulders of another guy on the road singing "yeh dosti hum nahin todenge" (we won't break this friendship) was a common sight and people used to envy folks who had such friends and friendships. Two girls sitting together, holding hands, giggling together, sharing confidences, looking conspiratorially at each other ..... well, silly girls sharing girlie confidences for some, so sweet for others.

I received a cultural shock when I was studying abroad. A friend of mine (a girl) once just touched another friend (a girl) from Australia and the usually chummy, jolly girl reacted so badly - almost as if she had been bitten by a snake - that the "touchy" friend felt really hurt about the touchiness of the "touched" friend. We wondered what had bitten her. Anyway, a cultural lesson learned that day - boys don't touch boys and girls don't touch girls. We had to relearn our moral science/social science/cultural science or whatever science that was. In India it was boys don't touch girls, girls don't touch boys. No, they don't even look or smile at them; forget it, they don't even think of them!

That was about a decade and a half ago. A decade has wrought a lot of changes on our decadent society. We are going the evil Western way. Now listen! We have progressed. We have become very "civilized". We may know about gays, but that does not mean that we walk around hand in hand or with our arms around the shoulders of friends of the same gender when we are feeling particularly "gay" (meant in a different sense of course)! Otherwise we may be mistaken for gays! And our society is too puritanical (despite being Westernized enough to eat burgers and to wear Nike shoes) to tolerate gays. So does that mean we can walk hand in hand with members of the other gender? Oh no, noooooooooooooo...... we are Indian, remember? If you don't, the moral police will be only too glad to remind you of the fact!

So whom do we touch??????????? Facebook Wailing Smiley

Friday, 12 July 2013

Ye Re Ye Re Paavsaa! (Welcoming the Rains)


Strong gusts of wind are blowing outside. It is a grey, cloudy, cool day outside. Just the kind of day I love. Not too hot, perfect to go out for a walk. The heavy clouds herald a heavy shower of rain - may be sometime later on in the afternoon. I am lying huddled in bed, lap-top perched against my knee wearing a warm sweater and a pair of socks. My mind travels to another time, another place in the past.

Ah the monsoons. What a lovely time of they year! The scorching heat of the summer is a thing of the past and so are the dried up branches of the shrubs and trees. The rains have brought with them a relief to the parched souls, the earth has turned a verdant green.

It is time to go back to school wearing a little red duck-back raincoat. Oh how I love my little raincoat. I feel so loathe to take it off. Monsoons mean the re-opening of school, levelling up in school (gosh, the farmville2 lingo seems to have become an inherent part of me ), new books, new teachers, sitting inside the classroom and looking out at the skies crashing down in walls of water.

Weekends spent curling up in bed under a blanket with a book in hand, and waking up in the evening to a cup of tea and some warm snacks - ah what luxury! Monsoons mean sitting in the kitchen with mom cooking something yum and the sound of the rains going pitter-patter on the tin chajja outside. The rain stops and it is time to run out with other kids and float paper boats down the rivulets of water flowing along the road sides. (We are not allowed to go and get wet in the rain. :-(We are told it is alright to get wet in the first rain of the season; getting wet in the rain after that can make one ill).

Monsoons herald the festive season with Nagpanchami heading the list. "Nagobala doodh, nagabola doodh" one hears the snake charmers calling out early in the morning, asking folks to come out and feed snakes with milk. The real joy of the day is adorning one's hands with mehendi (henna). The fresh green colour of henna and the aromatic smell are so pleasing to the senses, one can only know it through direct experience.

College days.....Monsoons also mean riding to and fro to college on a bicycle through small muddy lanes, coming back home with clothes covered with mud from being splashed by passing vehicles or coming back soaked to the skin, with mom and dad ordering me to first go dry my hair and change my clothes and mom handing me a hot cup of coffee. The years pass by. Monsoons still mean my getting soaked in the rain on my two-wheeler, but now the cold slowly starts getting to me through my clothes.

Sigh. This year, there have been strong winds each time it rains. The winds that I once loved, is now shut out by windows which are kept shut. The rain lashes against the window panes. My bones protest violently against the wind and the cold. No more question of going voluntarily and getting wet in the rain. I huddle under the blanket with a sweater and socks and a cup of hot coffee in hand and a lappie in my lap, telling the world what monsoons mean to me.


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Kothimbir wadi

Monsoons are here.  Cloudy days, chill winds ...... This is the time to lie curled up in bed by the window under a nice blanket with a book in hand and a plate of some thing crisp to munch; or sit with a friend on the portico watching the rain soak the trees and the lawn with a plate of crispy brown pakodas and a cup of steaming hot ginger tea.

Talking of crispy brown pakodas, my mind suddenly leaps back to kothimbir wadis - corriander cakes - a Maharashtrian savoury that I had almost forgotten.  Of course in the past it was always bought out from the nearby shops.  So I decided it was now time to learn to make it myself.  There were many variations of the recipe on the internet.  This was the simplest and quickest variation I chose to try.

Ingredients:

1 cup finely chopped corriander
1 cup besan / chickpea flour
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Red chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
Jeera (cumin) powder - a pinch
(The red chilli powder, jeera powder can be substituted by roasted cumin seeds - green chilli-ginger-garlic paste).

Procedure:

Mix the besan with just enough water to a fine paste.  Add the turmeric, salt, red chilli powder and jeera powder to it.  Mix well.  Then add the chopped corriander to this mix.  

Pour this mix into a greased vessel and microwave it or steam it in a pressure cooker so that the mix is cooked.  Cut the mix into diamond shaped or squared shaped pieces.  These can be eaten as they are, shallow fried or deep fried.  Eat with green chutney or tomato sauce.




Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Banana inflorescence (Vazhapoo Parapusili)


The banana plant is very versatile in that every part of it can be used in some way or the other.  Everybody is familiar with the fruit and hence there is no need to mention it specially.  The leaves of the banana plant can be used as disposable, bio-degradable, eco-friendly plates to eat from.  But how many people know that the stem and the inflorescence of the banana can also can be prepared in different forms?

Source:  Google images
Cleaning the inflorescence of banana:

Remove the large red bracts of the inflorescence layer by layer. Each bract covers a bunch of florettes. Remove this bunch. Take the florettes individually and remove the stamen and papery transparent petal from each of them and discard. (This is a tedious job, but the final results make the effort worth the while). Keep repeating till all the red bracts are removed and you come to the central white part of the florette. Chop the florettes finely and keep in a bowl of water with 2 tbsp of yoghurt in it (to prevent it from getting black through oxidation). Then discard the stem of the inflorescence and chop the inner white part into small pieces. (There are many video clips on Youtube which demonstrate the procedure step by step).  snapguide.com/guides/clean-a-banana-blossom-flower/‎ ,  http://www.nithyasnalabagam.com/2013/05/how-to-clean-banana-flower.html  Wash the banana florettes with fresh water and strain when ready to cook.

Ingredients:

Banana inflorescence
1/2 cup tur dal (pigeon peas)
1/2 cup chana dal (bengal gram)
1 dried red chilli
1 small piece compounded asafoetida (hing)
Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – 1 pinch powdered
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
Salt – to taste


Procedure:

1/2 cup tur dal
1/2 cup chana dal
1 dried red chilli
1 small piece compounded asafoetida

Dry roast all these ingredients together and grind them coarsely in a mixer. Sprinkle about 1/2 -3/4 cup water on this ground mix and then pressure cook it. Take it out when it has cooled and break it up into a powder.

Take a tablespoonful of oil in a kadhai (wok) and heat it. Add mustard seeds and a pinch of powdered asafoetida to it. Add the washed banana florettes to the oil once the mustard seeds have popped. Add salt, a pinch of turmeric powder and then add the mixture of tur dal and chana dal which has been pressure cooked and prepared.  Mix well.  Close the kadhai and allow to cook for 5-10 mins.

The dish is now ready to eat.




(The banana flower is rich in vitamins, flavonoids and proteins. The flower has been used in traditional medicine to treat bronchitis, constipation and ulcer problems. It eases menstrual cramps. The extracts of banana flower have anti oxidant properties that prevent free radicals and control cell and tissue damage.






Friday, 17 May 2013

Momma, Dear Momma of Mine




"Yes Amma, I have had my coffee.  Yes, I have eaten my lunch.  Now you eat that food up.  That is for you".

I look into your face and try to coax you to eat.  Suddenly the tables seem to have turned.  You are my child, I am your mother.  I feel a wave of protectiveness towards you.  I want to pick you up, cuddle you like a baby.  You are so frail my Momma.  You look like a little bird which will fly off on the wings of the slightest breeze.

But somethings do not change.  "Have you had your food"? you ask me as soon as you see me.  Even through the mists of your foggy mind you do not forget your concern for my well being.  We sit together.  You try to tell me something.  It comes out no louder than a hoarse whisper.  I try to listen.  What do you want to tell me Ma?  You don't remember words.  You make up your own.  Some words you remember.  But the stories you tell are also made up - situations of your own making.  You live in a world of your own.  No one can enter there.  We sit and look at each other.  I allow you to examine my palm.  You trace a design on it.  You examine the floral pattern on my dress.  You start pleating my kurta.  I just watch you.  I love it when you touch me.  Every moment with you is a treasure.  Pity I can't spend more time with you.
I get up to leave.  "You don't have to go.  Sleep here" you say.  It breaks my heart.  "No Momma, I can't stay.  I have to leave.  I shall come back soon.  I must go home before it is too dark".  "OK" you say.  "Go carefully".  Even through the haze your concern for me surfaces.  It has become ingrained into your psyche.
I am part of your Ma.  50% of me is made up of you.

My mind harks back to my earliest memories.  It's a hot summer afternoon.  You and I are lying on the floor. I wake up and look around.  You look at me, smile and pat my tummy. :-)  

You are eating your lunch.  I toddle up to you, point at your plate and demand brinjal.  "You have already eaten your lunch" you tell me.  "I want more" I demand.

You wake me up at 6.30 in the morning.  You have been up much earlier and been cooking to pack lunch for me.  I have to catch my school bus at 8 a.m.  I get up take my brush and hold it in my mouth and doze off.  You come and shake me awake.  I start eating some toothpaste.  I love the taste.  You chide me and get me through the routine.  I sit in the corner and await the hot phulkas which I have for my breakfast.  You pack my lunch box, check if I have taken everything, plait my hair and come along with me to drop me off at the bus stop.  

I come back in the evening around 4.30.  You have some snacks awaiting me.  You have made them yourself.  Not for you the convenience of ready cooked snacks from the shops.  Then comes my homework.  You sit down with me and ensure that I finish whatever homework there is for the day.  Sometimes you ask whether you are studying or I.  You have literally held my hand and taught me to write.  You have made me do page after page of cursive writing to make me write neatly.  You are a stickler for neatness.  It shows in my written work even today.  

"I was not allowed to finish my studies" you tell me.  "Study well.  Study as much as you want.  We won't stop you.  Achieve whatever goals you want".  You want me to have what you could not.  The fact that you were made to stop studying to get married at 20 still rankles in your mind.

Dinner is served and then you and dad clean the vegetables for the next morning.  

Mom, I remember you grinding batter for idlis on the traditional stone.  I remember you grinding rice, masalas etc on the stone.  I remember you and the maid actually scrubbing the floor with soap and water. Your kitchen was always spic and span.  How did you manage mom?  You were prone to frequent head aches and had a bad back.  That did not prevent you from slogging from morn to night.  We had a stream of visitors at home.  You took care of them without batting an eyelid and loved having them over.  How did you do it ma?

You helped raise your grand-children till quite a late age.  You looked after dad like a nurse when he was laid up in bed with cancer.  Day and night you slogged looking after him, washing sheets ........  You yourself were no spring chicken at that time.

Dad passed on.  You carried on with a stiff upper lip.  You refused to come and stay with either of your daughters.  You insisted on living on your own.  Why Ma?  Loneliness finally got you.  The dreaded "A" hit you.  

Now you need to be looked after all the time.  All your life you only gave.  Life always has a way of balancing things out.  It is now your turn to take.  You need to be cared for.  

I look into your face and try to coax you to eat.  Suddenly the tables seem to have turned.  You are my child, I am your mother.  I feel a wave of protectiveness towards you.  I want to pick you up, cuddle you like a baby.  You are so frail my Momma.  You look like a little bird which will fly off on the wings of the slightest breeze.

I love you my darling Momma.  More than words can ever say.  Thank you Momma, for being my Momma.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

Beat the Heat - Dadpe Pohe

Bangalore is ablaze and when I say ablaze, I mean literally ablaze.  The summer heat is bearing down oppressively making me want to immerse myself in a pool all day long.  Now that not being possible, I have to think of other ways of beating the heat.  Chappatis are more or less out of fashion in my home.  Everyday it is a menu of curd rice, some other variety of rice, raita .......  Cucumbers are in special favour.

Rice everyday can get pretty boring unless something else is added to the menu to provide a variety.  One of those foodie dreams took me back to my neighbour's house in Pune, where on a summer afternoon I had eaten this delightful, yet easily made stuff called "Dadpe Pohe".

Conversion of thought to action does not take much effort especially where a foodie is concerned.

So here is the recipe.

Ingredients:


Poha (puffed rice) - 1/2 kg

Coconut water - 250 ml
Fresh grated coconut - 1/2 a cup (adjust to individual requirements)
Raw mango - 1 small or 1/2 medium sized (add to taste)
Tomato - 1 medium
Onion - 1 medium - large
Groundnuts - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Oil - 1 teaspoon
Green chilli - 1 medium
Corriander leaves finely chopped

Procedure:

Wash the poha through a sieve.  Allow it to soak in the coconut water.  Add chopped tomato, onion and finely chopped raw mango.

Heat the oil, add mustard, allow to splutter.  Add the groundnuts and fry.  Add the chopped chilli to this.  Allow the mixture to cool.  Add to the poha and mix well.

As is evident, it is simple to make (just think how convenient it is when you have unexpected or even expected guests :-D), healthy and yummy to eat.

ViolĂ , its ready to wolf down.  Slurp slurp ..........


You are all set to beat the heat. :-D  Enjoy.

Friday, 29 March 2013

My Experiments With Cooking


Disclaimer: Everybody is advised to read this write-up only if they feel up to taking some shocks. The author does not intend to willfully offend anyone's sensibilities, having said which she does not guarantee the improbability that that might be the outcome. Any such effect is purely unintentional.

That I am a gourmet (and admittedly a gourmand) is a well known fact. A gourmet is one who appreciates and enjoys good cooking while a gourmand is one who can't lay off food. My motto is "I see food, I eat it" (my definition of sea-food diet). I have tried various kinds of diet, but this is the only one which I have managed to faithfully stick to and which has worked for me. (As I write this there are some lovely smells floating out of the kitchen, making me weak in the knees).

So coming back to the point, although I have always loved eating, I cannot say the same about cooking. I was a very hard nut for my mom to crack. Somehow I was an avowed women's libber in my school days and did not like the fact that people expected only girls to learn cooking while men could expect to be waited on (at least it was my perception of reality those days). So I pig-headedly refused to go anywhere near the kitchen , while continuing to eat like a larva.

While the mysteries of cooking eventually did begin to intrigue me, my big fat ego would not allow me to admit to mom that maybe I would not mind some lessons in cooking .

So one day when I was in Std. X, she went out with my neighbours to see a film, while I was left at home to study. That did not go down too well with me and I decided to entertain myself at home. What better way of doing that than eating some nice. My mind thought up a wonderful dish to eat - fried potatoes. I wanted to make it like what my friends brought in their lunch boxes. How does one fry potatoes? Well, simple. One took a wok (kadai), chopped up potatoes, put them into the wok and onto the fire, closed it with a lid and presto!!! After a while, there would be delectable potato fries coming out of the wok straight into my waiting mouth. (I could almost imagine the trajectory it would follow).

After a while of waiting, I opened the wok and checked inside. The potato did not want to part company with the bottom of the wok and it did not look like what mom made. Nor did it look like what my friends brought in their lunch boxes. I decided to take no more risks. Mom might arrive any minute and it would be a major loss of face for me to let her know that I had tried my hand at cooking. I picked up a piece of potato. It did not quite follow the trajectory I had imagined it would take. It made a brief halt in front of my eyes. Then I thought, maybe it might be alright after all. I gingerly took a bite. It was completely raw. What could I do? If I chucked it in the bin, mom would certainly spot it and my cat would be out of the bag. So with all the courage and adventurous spirit of a new teenager, I chucked the whole stuff into my biological bin. It was strong enough to biodegrade it without anyone noticing. Then came the next step of cleaning the wok and even if I say so myself, I did a sterling job of it and put it away, hoping that all evidence of the crime was wiped out.

But I realized two facts that day. One was that I would not make such a good criminal after all. Second that our CID should have made it a policy to employ only mothers. After all God provided them with a sixth sense and eyes behind their heads as well as other powers of ESP (Extra Sensory Perception). So it was to my utter chagrin that mom comes into the kitchen and asks me "Did you try cooking something today"? And being a useless liar, I decided to give her the facts straight. After that I was put through an interrogation about how I made the fries. When I told her, she said "Have you never watched me do anything? Don't you know that you need to use some oil and spices and that you need to sprinkle some amount of water to allow vegetables to cook? Why could you not ask me? Would I not have taught you"?

The years went by. When I left home for the first time, i was determined that if I were to ever feel homesick for any reason, lack of my favourite foods would not be on that list. Thus it was that I got the recipes for all my favourite items from mom before I left, and I must say it stood me in good stead. I did a pretty good job of feeding myself.

The only problem was that I did not have so much time for cooking and many of our vegetables were not available where I lived. Once when I went to the doctor with recurring headaches and tiredness, he said it must be lack of proper nutrition. I felt very sorry for myself and went shopping for vegetables at "Safeway" and decided to make a mixed vegetable soup for myself.

Once back at the hostel, I found that my pressure pan was not large enough to hold all the vegetables and borrowed my friend's pressure cooker. The soup was made and was pretty tasty. So I shared it at the communal table with my friends at dinner time. We had it for one day, then the next and the next. I had it alone on the fourth day. Finally I decided I could do without such "healthy" soups. What was I to do with the remaining stuff? It was in this way that the soup found a resting place in my freezer.

A few weeks passed. After about 3 months, I decided it was time to check out on the state of the soup. I pulled out the container and defrosted it. I did not know what to do with it. So after a bit of I had a brilliant . I added some orange masoor dal, some onions and masala and seasoning to it and pressure cooked the stuff again (just to make sure it was safe for consumption). An American friend walked in, took in a whiff of the air and asked what smelt so good. That was my chance. She was given a generous helping of the stuff and she walloped it up with great relish. I was relieved. It was not just edible, but yum. So the "new" dish made its way back to the communal table.

When asked what it was, I told my friends to taste the stuff and take a guess (nothing works like a bit of suspense). After they had finished, no one could guess. So I finally spilled the beans and was met with a horrified silence. "What? It is 'that' soup”? What if something happens to us? You – a microbiologist?" I assured them that the microbiologist had carried out a quality control test on it before it was served up. Besides I had part taken of the stuff myself. So that should be proof of the fact that it was safe for human consumption. Besides the proof of the pudding (dal in this case) was in eating it, wasn't it? And after all they had all declared it to be yum – and that was just 5 minutes ago.

To cut the story short, there was still some dal left and my friend whose culinary skills extended to cooking rice, offered to do me a favour and finish up the stuff the next day. So that was how my "healthy" soup was finally cleared up, with no detrimental effects whatsoever to anyone.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Motivating or Moti Waiting?


"Amma, I have no clothes to wear" goes up the tortured cry. Amma gives me an exasperated look. "What? Just look at your cupboard. Every time I open it, clothes keep falling out . How much more do you want? Do you know, when we were young, we used to have only two sets of sarees which we used to wash every day and use alternately". Having given me this homily, Amma vanishes into the kitchen to avoid my wailing. We have to go to visit some people and I have to dress up properly. Clothes after clothes are brought out of the cupboard and tried out. One is tight there. One is tight somewhere else. I cannot wear such tight clothes. It is indecent. Queen Victoria did not derive her inspiration from me for no reason.

"You need to lose weight. You cannot be so overweight at 14. Look how figure conscious people are these days". Every Tom, Dick, Harry, friend, relative or other animal making a visit to our home informs me of this. Why don't you go swimming? It is good exercise. But that requires me to get into a swimming costume. Not decent. No. Not on the agenda. "Look at the way you dress. Can't you get some better looking clothes? Your dresses look like tents". Oh well, that is my allowance to healthy activity - camping. So I live in tents. And am perfectly happy in them.

Eventually I buckle in. I go for aerobics, I go for swimming (yes even I, from whom Queen Victoria drew her inspiration), I go for yoga. But it is such a drudgery to get my ample self moving. I lack a very important thing. Motivation.

It is not sufficient if you just do a little exercise. You also need to control your diet. But my taste buds protest loudly at this. I mean if they should not be exercised, would they not waste away? What use their existence then? Did God create them for nothing? Did he not know what he was doing? Oh this is absolute torture. I am not motivated enough to keep smelling all the wonderful odours that float out of the kitchen and keep out of there. And having set eyes on the fanciful fare, I cannot avoid tasting it. I simply lack the motivation.

One day a gurumayi comes home and says. What you lack child is the motivation? Just wait! I'll give you the magic mantra. Say the word “motivate” 108 times in the morning and 108 times in the evening. I promise you if you say if for the next 108 hours, you will be motivated enough to get down to losing some weight. I say it as prescribed and it sounds to me like “moti weight”. I am now dying of mortification at calling myself “moti” and talking of my “weight”. The deed is done. I am now motivated enough to start a weight loss programme.

I throw myself into the programme with all my weight. I am delighted with the results. The ugly duckling now looks like a swan. The moti waited long enough to lose all this weight. She will certainly take care of herself in future not to lose the benefits of this major war on weight that has been waged. Everyday is a battle against self and nature to keep the weight away.

The years roll on and eventually the rolls pile on. There are many battles waged in the course of time. Some are won only to be lost again. Eventually, "Lady Wisdom” takes her place along with the rolls. She tells me, “whatever will be will be. You have to enjoy yourself, you see?” I accept that advice, buy myself a lot of tents all over again and decide to live a healthy life “camping” in them. This way, even moti will not realize how much weight has piled on, let alone others noticing. As they say “Ignorance is bliss”. Que sera sera. Moti and weight will coexist peacefully till death do them part.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Empowered Women and Increasing Divorce Rates - Related?






A neighbour, a divorcee, wants to get married again and is concerned about finding the right person this time round. She was the victim of domestic violence the last time round. She had endured the marriage for 10 long years despite being very well qualified and in a very responsible position at work. An acquaintance, a divorcee, has got married to another divorcee and is happily married since many years. Look at the matrimonial columns and one sees a separate one for divorcees. There is even an online matrimonial site for divorcees – secondshaadi.com

It is evident that the number of divorces in India is increasing. Where “divorce” was a dirty word not too long ago and being a divorcee carried a social stigma, making it difficult for the person to be married again (especially if it was a woman, so what even if she was an “innocent” divorcee – which all divorcees used to be if one were to believe the matrimonial ads – whatever that meant). Obviously something has changed, but what? The common conception seems to be that women becoming financially independent and empowered is a major reason for the increasing number of divorces. But is it really so?

There are a number of dynamics in any marriage that lead it to being a success or a failure. What was the reason for the number of divorces in India being globally one of the lowest? Odes have been sung to the social structure which supports a strong family system which in turn rests on the institution of marriage. So what has changed in the social structure for more marriages to fall apart? Earlier men and women stayed close to their families and social circles and were bound by social pressures to conform to certain patterns of behaviour. More recently, however, with the globalization of our economy, with more job opportunities opening up in the cities, more and more people have moved away from the family and started living on their own. They have effectively managed to break free from the stranglehold of social pressures. Alternative patterns of living such aslive-in relationshipshave cropped up where people may choose not to get married in the first place. Living in a big city away from home offers the luxury of anonymity, making this possible. Where arranged marriages used to be the norm in the past, young people probably felt obliged to continue in marriageshappy or unhappyto keep up social appearances and for the sake of family honour. Now, when more and more young people find their own partners and stay away from home, such pressures obviously decrease. This might explain, in general, the higher divorce rate and why it is more an urban pattern than a rural one where the old social structure seems to remain intact.

India is a country of many contradictions. Although we see so many social changes, scratch the surface and we find that not much has changed in our family hierarchy. If anything, our so-called “culture and traditions” are being grossly misuse to serve personal interests and to make a woman more subservient than she ever was. Today she has to excel at academics, extra-curricular activities, out-do her male counterparts to make a place for herself in her place of work – YET when it comes to marriage and home, nothing has changed for her. She still has to take care of the home as efficiently as she would if she was not working, make sure her kids do not suffer in any way (nutritionally, academically, emotionally .....) just because of her job ..... in short she has to be a Superwoman. As if all these demands placed on her are not enough, her position in the family hierarchy has not improved any. She still has to place her in-laws above her own parents. The number of women who complain of mental and emotional harassment at the hands of parents-in-law are not a few. It matters not then that she is a 60 year old woman herself retire from the highest echelons of Indian officialdom, she is still expected to toe the line. It matters not that not only is she independent but also supports the family in many ways, she is still seen as a “responsibility”. One might wonder why she does not walk out of the marriage or tell them where they get off. This is the sad reality of the Indian daughter-in-law. She might choose to stay on for the sake of her parents. She might do so for the sake for her children. She might just choose to do so because it is still not easy for an Indian woman to live alone as a divorcee. If this was the story for a woman who is 60 years old, the same still holds true for a woman in her 30s. She is just not mentally tuned to the idea of a “divorce”. So one can well imagine what a woman must be pushed to if she chooses to separate. Well, there might be exceptions, but here I have talked of the more common category of woman. It is a sad commentary, indeed, to think that to this day, many women, despite being financially independent, do not walk out of unhappy or abusive marriages.

If indeed there were women who said “enough is enough” and walked out when they should have, we would probably have read lesser reports of dowry deaths, forced abortions of female foeticides and the like. We would not hear of people who divorced their wives for not having kids or for having only daughters.

Having said this, there is no denying that the younger generation is (again a generalization here) tending to be more self-centred and growing more intoleran
t than the older ones (may be they have the option and luxury of doing so which we did not) and that this may result in a small proportion of divorces. Though I really doubt, we in India get to see many cases of divorces on flippant grounds like “I don't like the way my spouse snores or “my husband has lost his hair since the day I married him”.

So to conclude that empowerment of women is the sole or the major cause for the growing number of divorces is to shut one's eye to the picture as a whole. Even if it were true, it would only imply that the durability of Indian marriages in the past was not a result of any special virtue of our culture, but due to a lack of any viable options for women living in unhappy marriages. That would amount to nothing better than the most abject form of slavery. At the most one might say that women whose lives in a marriage have become so unendurable end up walking out because they have the financial option of doing so, the actual cause for the divorce being that their lives have become unendurable. Were women to walk out of marriages just because they were”empowered” or “financial independent”, would it not be more rational to believe that those women would have preferred to stay single in the first place or to opt for a live-in relationship?

This blog has been submitted for the 4th Annual International Women's Day Contest hosted by Indusladies.com