Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chef in the Making

Day 1 - Tentatively rolling rotis

Day 2 - Less tentatively rolling rotis

Day 3 - Making rotis end to end (mini-disaster)

Day 4 - Making rotis end to end (success!)

Day 5 - Experiment making theplas (not bad at all)

Day 5 - Super confidently making methi theplas (ho hum)

Day 6 - Making Peas parathas (yumm!)

What a week....wooooohooooo!

PS thanks to M-i-l and Tarla Dalal

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Life's little lesson

One of the things i did as a child was to make a wish on your fallen eyelash. And I taught this to my little daughter Nia when she was barely two. Simple magical act - carefully place the eyelash on the back of your hand, close your eyes, make a wish and blow away the eyelash. And you know your wish will come true if: one - you keep your wish a secret and two that the eyelash has to fly off!

Nia always believed in the magic and strangely she always ignored the conditions. When she newly learnt this wishing process, she would blow away the eyelash and immediately tell me what she had wished for ( i guess her way of ensuring that the wish came true!) So much for Condition #1.

As far as the second (and easier) condition goes - here's what i discovered her take was a few days earlier. Nia just finisher her bath and i found her eyelash stuck to her cheek. As i was placing the eyelash on the back of her wet hand, i told her "baby, wipe your hand dry else the eyelash won't fly off."

Her response? "mamma, good thing if it doesn't fly off - i can keep wishing till, it decides to!"

Thank you for this lesson - my little believer of magic :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Holiday with a Difference

Summer break @ Magic Puddles and unlike all other summers, we haven't been able to plan a holiday back home to Bombay. So been hanging around in Bangalore partly planning for the next academic session and partly catching up on long-pending personal work. When this break started out, it wasn't a happy thought - not being able to take time off completely, still having to work during THE break of the year.

But a week down the line, i am quite enjoying this pace. Knowing that i don't have to rush through things. Being able to spend quality time with the folks at home and at the same time being able to attend to work. Meeting friends in the middle of the week. Finally learning to make rotis (total success) and experimenting with gujju cooking (total disaster!) Catching up on random movies being shown on TV. Reading up some cool stuff.

And the best part of the week has been the amount of introverted time i am able to create at different times of the day. This introverted time feels doubly special since life had been in a frenzy since the beginning of this year. So during these special times, i see myself taking the time to clarify things for myself. At times, stepping back and watching how i react in different situations. Thinking through my priorities. Connecting with a deep part within myself and in the process being able to connect better with people around me.

Best of all, i love seeing myself zealously guarding these moments of introverted time. I am so looking forward to the next week where the break continues. And i hope to be able to continue creating it for myself even after i resume my routine work!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Simple Truth

Everyone needs or has a place where they can recharge their life energies, their soul - or so i read in several feel-good articles (which for some weird reason are directed only towards female readers). And many of these articles will have a few suggestions for seeking souls like me about where you could find this place. I always romanticized that for me the special place would be at a friend's dinning table (desperately borrowed from one of the lists i guess) but never did find that table. I pretty much had dismissed the idea that such a place can exist until.... took me back to this eco-farm in the outskirts of Bangalore managed by a trust. We'd taken children there for an overnight stay as part of the summer camp. And despite the energy and alertness required when out with a group of kids (and a sleepless night) as i left the place the next day, i felt totally energized. I naturally thought that it was this place that has the magic for me. It is packed with lovely memories of times that i have spent with friends. It's quiet and peaceful, air and water cleaner than what i get back in my city home and i feel blessed with the generosity of my friend who manages this place.

And then it struck me - it was not the place, but the sheer act of driving on relatively empty roads, away from my routine and then the quiet journey back (i returned ahead of the kids - so that explains the silence!). That's when it struck me, my special 'soul-place' is not a solid still place, but it is the movement. I get this same sense of peace in crowded buses and trains (so long as i get a window seat to myself). Whether i am doing the driving or not, I love the road - stretching ahead, winding. I love things going past as the vehicle moves - in some sense so transient and yet so stable! It amazes me to see how much land is available outside of our over-crowded cities. I feel overwhelmed by the the richness of colours, textures, smells and sounds around. Sometimes i am completely absorbed in my thinking and sometimes I step back and watch how i think. And in the fast moving, i am able to connect with a deep stillness inside of me.

Finally, it feels good to discover that my soul-place lies just outside the doorstep, waiting for me no matter where i am!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Colours of the World

In the middle of yet another exciting summer camp with kids in Bangalore. Our theme for the first session is 'water world'. So in class today, i decide to tell them a story about a little duck called Davy who decides to follow the migrating swallows and has a little adventure on his own. Although he feels that he has crossed the ocean and the desert and the mountains and reached the warm plains, he actually has just gone a little distance away from his little pond in the woods. The story ends with him getting saved from being devoured by a cat just in time by his mommy who had come looking for him.

At the end of the story, we decided to colour a picture of mamma and baby duck swimming happily in the pond. We have a few common 3-4 sets of crayons that is shared by the batch. Before i could say, alright let's begin, there was this wild scramble for the yellow crayon. EVERYONE wanted to colour the baby and mamma duck yellow. Now i for one have never seen a yellow duck (except of course Davy in the story!)

So here's what was the perfectly coloured picture of a duck for the kids:

(Obviously by the kid who managed to actually find the yellow crayon in the box!)

Not wanting to miss this learning opportunity, i got the children to talk about different birds that they might have seen and how all birds are differently coloured. We then talked about ducks. Just the previous day, some kids had got a duck picture for their show & tell and we discussed how there actually could b different colours on the duck. And post this little talk, besides stopping the fight for the evasive yellow crayon, here's what i got:

Quite happy with the results, i started to get the kids to close the activity, put things back in place and get ready for home, when little Aditi walks upto me and says, 'vijji, i think the baby duck's got to be yellow....but who says the water HAS TO BE blue??" And here's what her picture looked like:

Well, actually when was the last time i saw blue water anyway?!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oh so NOT fair!

Wednesday evening and Nia is all set to do some art project with me or just curl up and listen to a story, but mamma has something else in mind:

me: nia not tonight, pappa and me are going for a movie

nia: that's not fair
(seems like a standard response to everything i say or do these days - how come nobody warns us unsuspecting parents about fiery fives after terrible twos??)

me: sorry nia but you just have to read to yourself tonight

nia: from my birth till now (not a very long time we are talking about here - but for the little one, that's when civilization began!), we have gone to see only 2 movies together

me: no nia - 6

nia: ok mamma, 5 and that is final. and the number of movies that you and pappa go, even if i use all my fingers and aaaaaaaallllllllll my toes, i won't be able to count

me: nia its not my fault that they make fewer movies for kids and more movies for adults

nia: (with the most grieved expression on her face) how come EVERYTHING in this world is on the side of adults only????

Well, it's tough being a child!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A lazy Sunday afternoon....

................may not be so welcome after all is what i discovered yesterday as i experienced a real hot day in the otherwise-bearable weather of Bangalore. I did everything to cope with the heat – loads of fluids, sleeping on the floor, trying to immerse myself into Steig Larson’s novel, spending time in an air conditioned book store followed by coffee shop and even swimming late night. None of this helped in taking my mind off the sweltering heat.

The irritation continued Monday morning and i was all grouchy complaining about the heat. The husband, his usual optimistic self said don’t worry it will rain (yeah right!)

And now as i sit by my office window, late afternoon, there’s a wonderful wind blowing and the sky is cloudy. The air is rich with the promise of evening showers. And i am in love with Bangalore all over again! Rain or no rain – its getting cool already, its time to enjoy my evening cup of tea and say a prayer of thanks to mamma nature. And hope that this benevolence continues!

There is something so magical about rains! Growing up in Bombay, rain always made its presence felt in our life. Through the school years, heavy rains meant a holiday because area around the school would get flooded. In college, rains were a huge feel good factor, there was either the promise of romance or just (equally nice) casual walking in the rain followed with ek cutting chai. When i started to work, heavy rains meant a few anxious evenings wondering whether the trains would still ply and yet it was as magical as the city got washed with unexpected thunder showers.

Now rains mean happy moments with the little one all excited about her rain dance.

Or just sitting with the husband revisiting memories of that long walk in the rain that changed our lives.

At times, lazily chatting with a friend, enjoying some hot chocolate and pakodas.

Taking shelter in the little tapri by the road side hoping the vehicles whizzing past don’t splash the muck around

Walking along splashing in the puddles.

Or standing by the road side seeing the Jacaranda blooms float by.

Maybe just sitting alone breathing in the bheeni mitti humming some of gulzaar’s work......

.....So what do the rains mean to you – do share with me!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Happy Republic Day

Of late, i'm trying hard to do things with Nia more than singing and reading and in that enthusiasm, we landed at Lalbagh on 26th morning. Initially i wasn't sure if it was such a great idea - given that half of Bangalore (and that means a LOT of people) were there to check out the Annual Flower Show. But then we had good company - each other plus another equally enthusiastic family with their kids - so all in all it seemed like a fun thing to do.

As we walked in, we first passed the horticultural show and it was quite a treat to see vegetables still on the plants - a sight quite rare to the kids as well as the adults!Then there was this terribly crowded flower show we decided to walk thru - big big mistake.

Finally we settled under a tree to enjoy the picnic lunch. The children played around, climbed trees and tried finding secret spots to enjoy the picnic treats. The grownups chatted some, tried to play with the kids (but were boycotted because we were better!) and just lay back enjoying the weather.

I think for me the most wonderful thing was just being out in the open. I got such a feeling of abundance and warmth from the expanse. Despite the crowds of people visiting the flower show and though our spot was close to the exhibition area, not even once did I get the feeling of being in a crowded space. It’s amazing how open spaces absorb crowds, smells, noises, everything making you feel that no matter what is around you – there is a spot on earth reserved specially for you. I guess this is the point where I need to dwell on how we are screwing up the planet, but I think I’ll let that pass. I choose now to just soak in this blessing that the unforgiving Earth bestows upon all of us – a blessing of being held, being taken care of. A blessing I could connect with on that warm winter picnic morning.

…….I should do more of this with Nia.

And yes, I am inspired to set up my own vegetable garden in my house.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Run woman run.......

One of the things i have discovered last year is how happy self-paced exercise makes me feel. For the longest time it was swimming and though i absolutely love my time in the pool, it needs a major push to get there specially on winter mornings. Both my brother and sister had given running a serious try and i was quite keen to give it a shot myself. But I had this knee injury several years back and even until recently, the knee would hurt on days when i am up on my feet for a long time. So i was quite worried about taking on running thanks to all that stuff about how running is bad for the knees. Then my brother-in-law allayed all those fears by starting to run post a knee surgery (yeah there's a whole bunch of self-taught fitness gurus in the family!) Inspired by this i finally decided to give it a shot myself.

For once, instead of simply getting on with it, i decided to read up a li'l bit. And was surprised to see a whole world out there feeling oh-so-passionate about running. In fact too much if you ask me.The net research totally started to get to me until i discovered this wonderful C25k plan that made the start very doable.

So out came the old sneakers (didn't want to invest in good running shoes till i was absolutely certain that i would pursue it long term!). When my sister heard about my new found love, she sent this link on proper running form that really helped in ensuring that i had the basics right.

So started my gradually building stamina, increasing the amount of time i can run from 90 seconds to 20 minutes covering around 4 kms comfortably. It's been quite a fulfilling journey and though i am far from ever being able to do even a half-marathon, it's quite an experience to be doing this for myself.

Here's my own running tips:
- The 'run-every-alternate-day' is pretty much a golden rule i follow. every time i tried running on consecutive days, i feel the fatigue.
- The stretches post-run are an absolute must. specially the ones for my ankles and calf muscles. Thanks to those stretches, i've rarely felt sore after a run. And the knees never hurt either.
- Having a fixed route whose length i know helps me keep track of my own progress . But better still has been changing the route atleast once a month. I got a chance to run by a lake early December and that was great in keeping my motivation up! Even if it means having to travel a distance to get to a new route, it is totally worth it - specially if the route is a natural one.
- For women running in Bangalore, there's this great group called RGI you can get in touch with. They are a bunch of super-enthu women who say they run for fun - just the support you would need when you start to run yourself. I attended their first 5k-10k event and it was very well organized.

And finally, i've never really pushed myself. So running has been a more for-fun than a rigid fitness goal for me. It is for me a quiet 'me-time' in the mornings with my music and great Bangalore morning weather!

PS i did get myself a great pair of running shoes :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chef in the making

This Pongal got me to get into the kitchen offering to learn traditional dishes cooked for the festival. And to my surprise, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be since ma-in-law was the master chef and me a mere assistant!. Also having me as a captive audience (an event rarer that the solar eclipse that followed), she also decided to pass on bits of cooking tips and tricks to me as I went about cooking under her watchful eye. Some of those tips were backed by the science behind cooking while some followed the mechanics of digestion. Some just seemed to me like traditional ways of doing something and some the omnipotent grandma’s secrets!

The most rewarding thing that morning for me was not that I’d finally cracked how to make vadas, aviyal, vella pachidi and sweet pongal, but that I actually enjoyed the whole process of putting a traditional meal together. I guess one was zero stress on how things would turn out. Also since everything is offered to the gods before we eat, tasting during preparation is forbidden. So there’s nothing much to do but put the ingredients together and allow the science of cooking to do its magic!

Ah the interplay of big-time science and subtle magic in action! You see it as vegetables change textures when you boil them and then again when the coconut paste is added. Or the aromas transforming as the red pumpkin takes in the tamarind extract and jaggery syrup. Also soaked urud dal turn to a fine paste in the wet grinder (tip for all amateur cooks like meРreplace your regular mixer-grinder with the wet grinder Рits got way more character!). The changing of raisins as you saut̩ it in desi ghee. Simple hot water doing the trick to change the crisp vadas to soft dahi-ballas!

So after this really satisfying morning of cooking and festival celebrations, I seem to be changing my perspective towards cooking. Seems like I am going to be spending just a little more time in the kitchen maybe weaving my own magic! More on this to follow……