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……