The joy of being alone.

I had written quite a while ago about how I absolutely loved my trip to Melbourne as a solo traveller. K did not come with me on that trip and even though I stayed with a very dear senior from university, I did much of the “exploring and learning and excessive eating” on my own. I loved it. So much.

Anyway, this post isn’t about the joy of travelling alone – that is indisputable if you ask me. Rather, this post is about the happiness of being alone. For short periods. Long periods. Whatever.

When I hear people telling me how much they hate being alone, or rather, fast-track a relationship out of fear that they maybe alone, I have always wondered why that happens. Am sure there are several reasons and I totally respect that. But this story is about how being alone is not a sad thing for me anymore.

K has been travelling quite a bit this year. He travels to different parts of North America every month and each trip lasts anywhere between 8 to 15 days. That means, am alone for that period of time. My brother does visit me for a few days but then for the rest of the time, am alone. If you had asked me a year ago if I would be okay with this, I would have laughed you off. I was so selfish that I did not encourage K to take a really nice job (not going to define that) that involved a lot of travelling (in hindsight, it was a good move but my intentions at that time weren’t).

Fast forward to now, I have begun to learn to enjoy the time by myself – being alone, eating alone, taking myself on little “dates” alone, waking up alone and then just making coffee in one mug and just thinking of the day ahead. Amidst all of this, I have learnt to like myself better, know a bit more about myself and most importantly try something outside my comfort zone. I have grown (or so I ‘d like to believe), have found excitement in the most mundane of things, have dreamt of unimaginable stuff and overcome the urge to call home at the slightest instant. I have becomes a bit more of a risk-taker. I have pondered and enjoyed the blanks in the evenings. In those times, I have doodled, read, guiltily indulged in work late-nights, thought of fun stuff to send to my parents to read/watch, written letters to K on absolutely nothing and yet running into pages, thought of my research from different angles, pretending to think of something deep but ending up watched movies like “Main Prem ki Diwani Hoon”. These periods have given me such brilliant clarity at times and made me laugh at myself for being so dimwitted as to not see it right through.

I don’t know if all this happened with effort because I simply don’t remember investing any. It just happened. There was one really long trip of 3 weeks in April when K was away and one of those mornings it happened. I wish I could tell you a grand story but there isn’t any. I guess I learnt to make peace and enjoy the time. And that is a big thing because I like to do my own thing but have people around me all the same.

What is even more surprising is that I choose to be alone. I have a fantastic team here, stay on the university campus and so there are always people around and yet, I choose to spend time by myself. Every time I tell K how much fun am having, he makes a massive mock puppy-face at how I could not miss him and feel all lonely.

This may sound preachy but being alone is nothing about being being afraid or sad or bored. It is about spending time with the most special person in your life – you. It doesn’t have to be an extraordinary experience always. If you haven’t found that happiness of being alone yet, look out for it and maybe even make an effort to find it – I assure you, you’ll be blown away.

 

 

After the hiatus….

I have no clue how to begin this. There have been times when I have blogged after a month’s gap and had no clue how to share all that transpired during that time. And here I am – after almost like 2 years?!

I should perhaps start with a very very hearty “hello!”. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss this space, writing here and just talking to all of you here. But I know you wouldn’t believe me. After all, if I did miss writing and you, wouldn’t I be more regular?  I honestly have no answer. I kept thinking I’d write when that perfect moment arrives (as much as I knew it never would coz’ it never does) and that I would start with a post that would make up for this long period of dormancy. But am afraid that if I wait longer, I’d probably never get to writing again.

How have you all been? I feel so nostalgic opening up WordPress and finding some changes in the interface, reading my last post and then some comments and wondering why have been so foolish to stay away. For so long. Last Sunday, I was just introducing WordPress to a friend (one really cool person) and that was it, I knew then and there that I had to get back. Thank you Mrs. A for having just initiated it.

I have had a good 2 years – the usual roller-coaster that comes with being a PhD student. We travelled a fair bit, K and I, amidst all this – sometimes for conferences and then clubbing it with a vacation, sometimes just for vacation. The number of magnets on the fridge has increased, my fear of flights continues to stay, K still complains that I cannot get one good photo of him (one of these days, I tell you), my brother came over to study in Singapore as well (yay!)…. well, a lot has happened. Eventually, I will get to write more about all this and share my stories with you.

With that, I take another oath (14th one? 15th one? I can’t remember) to stay more regular here, to write more, to read more blogs, to have that restlessness to blog when I go to some new place/ do something fun, to share stories, to write about people I meet, to feel happy when there is a comment (am frank like that) and just sometimes try something new so I can create a memory to pen down here.

I don’t think any of you will check this space soon but I hope to get back in touch with all of you gradually and re-live the joy of blogging. Some of you wrote to me, asking me why I stopped blogging and encouraging me to write again – for all of you who thought of me, I am grateful. I am back now and with that, I strike one thing off my 2016 resolution list.

 

 

 

2014 that has been.

Happy new year, everyone! That officially makes me the last person to blog the wish, I guess. But hey, it is January still and you are never late for good things right?

I have been away. For oh-so-long. So much has transpired in the past few months that I couldn’t muster enough courage to open this blog. For I don’t know where to start. Or keep track of everything that I need to share here. Much travel and reading has happened. Life’s path has changed even. While I had seen this coming and had desperately wished for all of this, I hadn’t realized the work and the planning that these changes would demand. Throw some family weddings and social gatherings here and there all at random, mind you! Exciting wonly.

I am not complaining that K and I did some awesome trips to Vietnam, Thailand, Bhutan, Indonesia, Australia and India. If you ask me what I liked best about 2014, I would, within the blink of an eye, say travel. We travelled with friends and we travelled as a couple, I travelled solo and loved every moment of each of it. From someone who couldn’t eat pani puri by the roadside without ending up sick, I have come a long way in the immunity department. Now, K worries about how to get me off the street food. We took many a great photos, shared many a thoughts, laughed like kids, spoke nonsense non-stop, had umpteen dinners by the sea and along the mountain, hung onto dear life when we had to drive through narrow roads on the mountains in Bhutan with heavy fog and practically zero visibility and just the driver’s experience to our rescue(okay, that was just me coz’ K kept saying stuff like “so exciting” and I was so super annoyed), shared nimki, samosas and chai with the Indian army, got stamps done with our pictures in Bhutan (real ones, each is worth 20 rupees and can be actually be posted, how cool is that?), stared endlessly into nothingness, spent days in silence, slept when we felt sleepy and ate when we felt hungry, followed no time-table, met some amazing people, lived with some locals, enjoyed traditional meals, got lost pretending to be experts, found our way thanks to little native boys only after parting with Mars bars because all they wanted was chakalaate …..

Australia was a solo trip for me, part-work and part-pleasure. I LOVED it! While I did miss K, to be honest, I had a wonderful time by myself. I love travelling alone at times. It gives me inner peace and happiness. I love wearing a backpack and setting off with nothing to worry about. I stayed with an awesome senior M,  from university. She has two beautiful kids and a wonderful husband. We went to Gurudwara a couple of nights, I made bisibelebath for them and we just shopped like crazy. On the day I was to return on a late evening flight, I left my luggage at the railway station at 6 in the morning and just roamed the streets of Melbourne. It was so liberating hopping off trams and visiting museums and libraries and cafes. If I were to pick my favourite day from the trip, this would be it.

So, you get the drift, right?

2014 rocked not just in the travel section but also, in the dreams-coming-true department.  Today, I officially matriculated as a PhD student with fellowship. I will start school from 26th Jan. And I am doing all I can to not tear the roof with all the bouncing on the bed. My parents and brother are here with me on this big day. We have been going around and spending some time together. In a couple of weeks, I will be moving to an on-campus accommodation. I have always wanted to live in a university campus. There is a charm, a sort of magic there. I look forward to exciting times and a great deal of learning and travelling. I met some brilliant and amazing people, a Noble laureate even and their humility and warmth moves me tremendously. I feel touched.  I feel like a speck in the universe. And yet, I feel strong and purposeful. I am in awe of all the possibilities and also scared. -goosebumps-

But I know that this is a beginning. A good beginning. I have no idea how it will all turn out to be, but am determined to enjoy the journey and make the most out of it. Because, that’s all that matters. 

Today

Sometimes, I am amazed at how certain lines from the book speak to you at the most opportune moment. Almost as if, you have been wanting someone to tell you that and then this book comes in your life just to do that very thing.

I am now reading “The End of Your Life Book Club” by Will Schwalbe. As I sat in the cab this morning, immersed in many “to-do”lists, too thoughtful for a Friday, I pulled out my Kindle to read a few lines and clear my head a bit. Does reading do that to you? It clears my mind and helps me put things in perspective. Though I know this, I am still amazed everytime it happens. For K, any good game or food shows or even news does that magic. Ah, well.

Like today, I questioned my involvement in too many things. I thought of the packed evening and the tight weekend that I have voluntarily planned for myself, contemplating packing thursday evenings and wondered if I really do have to go to Ikea to assemble a sense of priority. And then, the book told me:

“For this day only is ours, we are dead to yesterday, and we are not yet born to the morrow” (Jeremy Taylor); and “For to know Thee is perfect righteousness; yea, to know Thy power is the root of immortality” (Wisdom of Solomon XV. 2,3).

It filled me with a sense of gratitude, goosebumps and all. I looked out of the window to see it had started to drizzle and then I saw a man taking his dog out for a walk at the crossing. He was dressed in white, looking so upbeat about life, in his 60s or 70s maybe. The dog looked equally charming and they seemed so happy with each other. I have no idea why but I think I will hold on to this one image for a long time to come. There was something in that moment that moved me. Moved me enough to come back and write it down immediately. It reassured me that this undertaking as long as it makes me happy, as long as it makes me feel alive, and purposeful, is indeed a great event in my life, by itself. These thoughts may seem so disjointed to you, but there was some amazing connection that made all the sense to me.

I hope all of you get such moments in your life, that touch you and leave you content. For now, let us enjoy our Friday🙂

 

C for Cucumber Hasigojju

My recipe for the alphabet cookathon is coming a bit late though I must hurriedly add that I did make it last week😛

You know those recipes that you churn in no time at all? Those recipes that taste like they were the effort of long labour or some secret recipe? The ones that are passed on from one generation to another? And that can be boxed in small boxes as snack or eaten as a side-dish? Those that people praise you for but only you know how incredibly simple it is?

This is exactly one of those.

Hasigojju

What you need:

Cucumber, finely chopped. I used 2 medium sized cucumbers

Salt to taste

 To grind:

Coconut  grated ( one cup)

Green chillies (4 medium sized or more if you like it spicy!)

Some hing (asafoetida)

Corriander leaves (a bunch)

A spoon or two of the chopped cucumber

All you need to do is:

  1. Blend the ingredients under “to grind) section to a coarse paste
  2. Add it to the chopped cucumber
  3. Add salt and mix it all (Add salt in the end so that it doesn’t become watery)
  4. Enjoy a piece of my heaven J

And the recipe is over before it began!

 

B for Beans kooTu

Smell of curry leaves. Clink of bangles while doing the taDka. Smell of coriander and hing. I don’t know whether it was all of these or something inexplicable that changed my hatred for beans into a newfound love and longing even. I remember carefully screening out the smallest piece of beans from kozhambu much to the dismay of my mother who would try her best to “cheat” me by crushing or making teeny bits of the vegetable to make sure it went into my tummy unnoticed, by me. By me. The hater of beans. My mother never ever understood why anyone would hate beans. But then, there I was, a bindle of contradictions.

I can’t tell you how it all changed because I really have no clue. But I can tell you that beans kooTu is now one of those dishes I can eat anytime. Like rice, dal and potato fry or curd rice, it is my other comfort food. It brings back my memories with a suddenness that I can’t place. It makes me long for those days when the first rays of sunlight made their way through the lattice and lit up my mother’s kitchen as she made the taDka for the beans playa when I sat waiting for her to make my hair and making desperate pleas for jam with chappati instead of beans. It is funny how things change and memories hit you with an unimaginable force and make you long for that dish you once despised.

The thing about memories is that you can also re-create them to some extent. Like, when I made this beans kooTu with amma on Skype for the alphabet challenge. 

You need:

  1. Nostalgia or a sudden urge to make the dish
  2. French beans (I used 300 gm) finely chopped (or if you are in the mood to disobey, chop them in large chunks)
  3. Moong dal (1 cup)
  4. Salt to taste

To grind:

  1. Desiccated coconut (according to your taste, I used about 2/3 cup)
  2. Corriander leaves (a bunch)
  3. cumin seeds
  4. Green chillies (2)
  5. Dried chilies (2) – change as per your preference

All that you need to do is:

1. Boil moong dal in water (I used about 2 ¼ cups of water) until the moong dal is almost cooked.

2. Add the chopped beans to the moong dal and let it boil.

3. Meanwhile, grind the ingredients under the “to grind” section.

4. Once the beans are cooked, add the ground paste and add salt.

5. Let it boil a bit and you will know when it is done.

beans

I think one of the biggest reasons why I love cooking is how it takes me back in time with such ease. It is amazing how churning up a meal in less than 30 minutes can take you to a place thousands of miles away. Right from the smell of the taDka to the way I arrange the ingredients on the kitchen platform to the sound of the mixer to how I finely select the best coriander leaves – just about everything reminds me of how much my mother resides within me. And that, is one amazing feeling I can’t get enough of.

Aloo sandwich Bombay style!

If you haven’t heard about our Alphabet Cooking from her on her post, let me tell you right away. We decided to churn out something in our kitchens every week. Condition: We follow the alphabetical order. We thought we would make something new, some long forgotten cherished recipe , something that we enjoy making and so on! We may even make the same dish. Cool, right? Yeah, I know.

I decided to go A for Aloo sandwiches, the Bombay style. I have heard a lot about Bombay street food from K. K was in Mumbai for a major part of his life while I have been there for a week for some study related conference and came back without trying even vada pav. Ya, can you believe it? And to make up for it, I had vada pav on the train.Anyway, there is always time to set things right to some extent.

And that’s how the aloo sandwich was made after reading some recipes online. Lots of memories+nostalgia+longing +excited shopping for ingredients + punching out earlier from work to come home and them+ the excitement of the alphabet week = aloo sandwich. If you have even one of the above, the below procedure is a cakewalk. Don’t let the picture deceive you but instead understand the spirit behind it. It s because I didn’t have the patience to click a good one.

aloo

Get set:

A) For the chutney:

  • Mint leaves ( about ½ cup)
  • Corriander leaves (1 cup)
  • Ginger (1/2 inch piece)
  • Black salt ( as per your preference)

B) For the filling:

  • Potatoes ( I used about 4 medium, but you can also roll by “the more, the merrier”)
  • Onion (1 medium size)
  • Tomato (1 small – medium size)
  • Turmeric powder (a pinch)
  • Asafoetida
  • Green chilly chopped finely (1)
  • Curry leaves  (1/2 sprig) optional
  • Cumin seeds (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Mustard seeds (1/4 teaspoon)
  • A few chopped coriander leaves
  • Red chili powder ( ¼ teaspoon) optional
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil (1 – 2 tablespoons depending on your diet)

C) Other:

  • 8 slices of bread – I used a combination of wholemeal and white and we loved wholemeal! So, go wild with the variety.
  • A few thin round slices of onions, tomatoes and capsicum
  • A stick of butter
  • Chaat Masala

Ready:

  • I made the chutney first by just throwing in all the ingredients for chutney into a blender. As simple as that.
  • Try some chutney on your finger tips. Boy, they taste good. Taste some more. Do a jiggle wiggle to celebrate the chutney.
  • Take a deep bottomed pan and pour some oil. Once that heats up, throw in the cumin and mustard seeds and watch them pop and splutter.
  • Add some asafoetida and soak in the aroma that fills your kitchen.
  • Add the curry leaves, chopped chilli and onion. This is the smell of early mornings when ma made upma. This smell means everything will be right with the world.
  • After the onion turns translucent, add the tomatoes and give it a good toss. Marvel at how they make an awesome pair (onions and tomatoes).
  • Add the turmeric powder.
  • Add the boiled potatoes and mash them left, right and centre till they are all mixed so well that you can’t tell one from another.
  • Add the chopped corriander leaves and salt to taste (remember that the chutney also has black salt)
  • Stuffing is done – tada!

Bringing them all together:

  • Take a slice of bread and spread some butter on it.
  • Spread the chutney (I was generous with the chutney coz’ spicy is the way we roll here)
  • Spread the potato mix evenly.
  • Add some onion rings, tomato slices. Capsicum slices and give it a small shower with chaat masala.
  • Cover this with another slice of bread on which you again spread some butter and some chutney)
  • Repeat with all slices and you should have 4 sandwiches ready to be toasted.
  • Toast them in your sandwich-maker or pan.
  • After toasting, spread some butter on the toasted side and watch it melt while you drool.
  • Quickly snap a picture or take a bite and then snap a picture. After eating, you may realise that the picture is blurry because you were obviously in a hurry.

Go!

Dip it in ketchup or sauce or whatever floats your boat. That first bite of crunchy outside, warm and soft insides and the heavenly butter will tell you why this street food is so popular. We munched on ours while catching some Fifa moments. Turns out Fifa gets more exciting with this toast.

Want to be covered in more drool? Have you checked out her post yet?

 

 

 

Happy hands and Calligraphy

For as long as I know, I have loved calligraphy. The thick downward strokes and the thin upward strokes that sometimes snuggle and sometimes distance from each other appealed to me immensely. Often, I’d look at my certificates and wonder the hand behind the writing. I wanted to be that hand, someday. Somewhere in 8th grade, I pestered Ma gave me a set of pens and nibs for calligraphy. While I tried my best to get the Bril ink flow as beautifully, I could not. All I had was jagged paper and a sad face and frequent reminders of “fox and the sour grapes”. But the dream remained.

Until a few weeks back. After repeated attempts to sign up for a calligraphy class offered by the amazing Pauline, I found myself in heaven when my registration was confirmed. I was so desperate to attend this class that I bugged K for some wi-fi when we were in Vietnam on a road trip just so I could register in the wee hours of the morning. Looks like the Calligraphy Gods heard my prayer because this class was in simple words – Epic! (I am tired of saying “awesome” for everything. So, going back to the previous century to scout for cool expressions).

I wanted to start this post with something along the lines of “It was a bright day that held so much promise…..”. But, I don’t need to. The class defined my day. With a limited class size of 8 from various walks of life, we were sure to have fun. When Pauline asked us what made us learn calligraphy, the answers ranged from the love for prettiness to wedding organisers to just giving it a try to being inspired! I love how it all happens. How people with such different ideas and perspectives are held together by one thread. I love how that thread pulls them all towards each other at some point in time. And when it does happen, I thrive on the conversations I make with different people who share pretty much one thing. Okay two. Most of them seemed to like chocolate as well. Since I do not have words to describe the epic-ness of the venue and the fun we had, I am going to let the pictures say those thousand or million words to you.

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We got some amazing supplies for calligraphy all with handwritten notes. I love it when people take that extra time to personalise things. We are so surrounded by prints that a handwritten name on a Kraft tag can make your day!

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These are samples of Pauline’s calligraphy. I love her style and just couldn’t get enough of it. This is just one of the hundreds I clicked.

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And then mere mortals like yours truly had a go at having her own wall of fame with some practice sheets pinned to the wall using super cute Washi tapes. I love Washi tapes. I love saying “Washi“. Washi. There I go again.

Pauline shared the best tips with us- “To love your handwriting” and “Practice makes pretty”. The process of writing reminded me of how much I missed doing it regularly. I miss my fountain pens. I miss that daily ritual with Pa and Chintu of cleaning your nibs and filling them with Bril and Chelpark inks. I miss writing in fresh notebooks that smell divine. I miss writing letters. With every stroke, there is an immense satisfaction. With every blob of ink that you cleverly get rid of without a trace, there is a sense of victory. Just one such joy, I realise, makes me dizzy with happiness.

What made it even better was the venue, Heaven in a Wildflower. The place at Joo Chiat is owned by Eunice is (in their own words)  a boutique event styling and vintage rental company in Singapore, specialising in creating beautiful occasions through handmade details, inspirational design, gorgeous florals and unique vintage items.” 

And my, what prettiness! She has such a beautiful collection that scream vintage, from different parts of the world. I do bring back some memories and little somethings from our trips. I could totally relate to the beautiful spread and the satisfaction that comes with little collectibles. Little things that slowly make your home your own over time with each little thing telling its own story.

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We did not need to look too far for inspiration. Just looking up in the class itself was enough. See!

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Oh and the food! How can my posts be complete without the mention of food. The lovely Carpenter & Cook whipped up a fantastic lunch of spinach quiche, apple and lemon cakes (and others that I was too busy to notice as I had stuffed my face) that were all devoured instantly.

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I have been doing some lettering and practising after work. These are the latest samples of my practice.

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I have a long long way to go and I am loving the journey.

Have you tried your hand at calligraphy?

Sunshine on the blog!

Awards make me super happy. Even when I don’t know whether I deserve them. This year hasn’t seen me blogging a lot. I have too many impending travel posts, book reviews and other things on my mind that I haven’t penned down at all. Yet, when she nominated me for this, I felt happy beyond words. I love reading her blog, the way she uses her words, the mutual love we have for random things from Bodyshop to art and craft and the fact that we sleep on our tummy hugging the pillow :)  Thank you MM! This post has been long due but am happy to be doing it at least now.

sunshine

Since nothing good in life comes easy, there are obviously rules here as well.

Rules Of The Sunshine Award
• Display the award on your blog.
• Show your gratitude and link back to the person who nominates you with the award.
• Nominate upto 10 of your favourite deserving “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.
• Link the nominees in your post and let them know they have been awarded.
• Write 10 interesting things about yourself.

And since rules are meant to be flouted, I will shamelessly flout the toughest one – nomination. Instead, I will make a new rule in place (sounds familiar?) – I open this award to anyone here because hey! a little bit of sunshine didn’t do anyone any harm, right?🙂 Go on and pick this up especially if you are looking for something to inspire you to write.

Now, 10 interesting things about myself. I have no clue whether you will find them interesting, but here goes:

1. I used to come home from school and watch some WWF matches. There was this guy, Rock, who raised each eyebrow individually and it looked so cool when he did that So, I spent days practising the skills and now I can proudly say that I have mastered it. I am suppressing the urge to post photos of it here.

2. Similarly, I can also move my ears back and forth. Now, that is something K had taken up as a favourite pastime until recently. Everytime he needed entertainment he’d go, “Toffee, show me how you move your ears.” I had to use some of my psychology background to wean his obsession.

3. The last one month I have been looking forward to coming back home from work. The reason: I buy myself a peanut butter waffle on my way back from this super awesome place that make yummy waffles. I reach work and am waiting to go back just for waffles. I end up reaching home late owing to the queue. But that moment when I have the freshly made waffle in my hand, the smell of peanut butter and that first bite of the perfect crispiness and juicy insides makes it all totally worth it.

4. I am obsessed with stationery. Like OBSESSED. Like, OBSESSED. So, I have a small shop at home. Yet, I can’t for the life of me find a sharpener when I need one badly.

5. I am currently learning Mandarin. My teacher is so cute that he thinks we don’t know a lot more than Mandarin. Like the other day, he was teaching us animal names in Mandarin and we came to the topic of tiger and he was like, “You know tiger? The animal with stripes which says “Groowwwwllll” and is sometimes in a zoo?” He did this for most animals. It was super cute watching him teach us animals and Mandarin. Okay, this isn’t an interesting fact about me but well, I was itching to share this.

6.  I am fascinated by Coorg cuisine and we have been making a few vegetarian Kodava dishes at home the past 2 weeks. I can’t believe I hadn’t tried my hand at them before. I am raring to go to Coorg and spend a few days there on the coffee plantations, savouring honey, buy cashews and learning about their cuisine from a native. And to think,  I come from a place so close to Coorg.

7. I am watching some old favourites on youtube with K every night – Zaika India ka, Malgudi Days, Highway on my Plate and now Sarabhai vs. Sarabhai and Small Wonder. Oh the nostalgia that hits you!

8. I had a very interesting and memorable trip to Vietnam last month. We rented bikes and biked across mountains and visited the most amazing spots and had entire days to ourselves. We stopped along the roads, just stood there at high altitudes, stared into emptiness without a spoken word, savoured the sunset and had mango milkshakes at practically every place where they served them. I can’t wait to write about this trip on my blog. I will never forget this trip, ever.

9. I love animes. As I type this, I am watching Madagascar 3 again.

10. I think I am an interesting person. K uses the term crazy.

Over to you now! Thanks MM, I had a whale of a time doing this🙂