A new week, a new skill.

Hi everyone,

How is your Sunday? I have been on Skillshare for a while now and have been using it to learn little tips and tricks. But only recently after a few posts on Social Media, I realised I must use it to learn simple art and try small lessons, one every fortnight or week, as time permits ūüôā

So this week, this what I did. I watched “Drawing Cute” by Vivika Vaina. ¬†It is just 11 minutes long and absolutely lovely! Ofcourse you don’t need to be “good at drawing” to do this. And I thought it would make a wonderful way to spend holidays with kids or just even churning out dozens of elephants or pandas from your table when bored or maybe make your own prints or greeting cards or bookmarks or illustrations on little post-its for your friends – your imagination is the limit!

Anyway, I did it because I haven’t been doodling or drawing for over a couple of months now. It isn’t just therapeutic for me but rather a way to come up with solutions to challenges and just totally relax my mind, as I want. I started with this class this morning and have already finished 30% of my to-do list now. I hope this doesn’t become a cheat post because I really did want to share. Even if one of you finds this interesting and gives it a go, then I consider this useful.

Just to tempt you further this is what I did as the class went on, so I spent like 15-20 minutes in all including colouring it ūüôā

Which one would you adopt? ūüôā

IMG_5910.JPG

Class credit and all illustration ideas: Vivika Vaina, Skillshare.

The dry-fruits box ritual.

For some reason today, I am reminded of the little ritual of filling the boxes wit dry fruits. Every month, Pa used to bring home 200 grams of anjeer, raisins, cashews, almonds, dates and pistachios from a local store at the market. He’d announce his arrival with a “Tan-ta-daaa, look what I have got!” and we always knew. We always knew that this meant only one thing – filling up the boxes with dry fruits. After getting refreshed, we would all go to the kitchen, get the almost empty boxes of dry fruits and then carefully set them on the dining table. We’d huddle together around Pa. Meticulously he’d open the packet of anjeer, they always went in first, those rings stacked around a fibrous cord. This was followed by the raisins and every time he would take extra care while opening the packet of raisins always tsk-ing away at why they staple these packets and how one has to be very careful lest the pins get mixed with the raisins. And we’d chorus, “We will eat them one by one and not stuff them in our mouth at once,” because that was what we were always told and we knew when we had to give him that reassurance. It was a joy watching him struggle with pins because he had such short nails that it was impossible to say if he had ever had them any other way. Finally, he’d manage to get the pin out (always stubborn to use his fingers). The dates, almonds and cashews followed. What always excited us were the pistachios. Somehow they were the most enticing of nuts, the one that gaped through the gaps waiting for the shell to be broken. The pistachios were always eaten 6 at a time. We did not want to finish them soon. It did not really matter a lot if we did, I am sure Pa would have bought more, but somehow that was how we wanted to pace ourselves always. Once the boxes were all filled, we helped Pa carry them to the kitchen and place them on the rack – the second row from the top, just about the right height for us to reach for it if I tip-toed or stood on one of the chairs from the dining table.¬†

For some reason, I thought of this and it made me smile and also sad at the same time. I can imagine Pa’s smile as he filled each jar with a small announcement and it was and is easily one of the happiest moments we have had together.¬†

P.S. Am a bit late for Day 5, but let us assume I am posting from Seattle.

The one where I talk about my fear

It is weird that am starting my NaBloPoMo with my fear. To make matters worse, it is a “paradoxical” fear. Does such a term exist? Maybe not. But then, I just made it up. So yup, it does exist. Atleast in my head and really that is as real as it gets. The thoughts in your head, I mean.

Have you ever told someone you are scared of something and then they say, “Oh! But it is all in your head! Don’t worry.” I cannot roll my eyes enough and one of these days, my eyeballs will pop out. Because, dudette/dude! That is what fear is. It exists in your head and that is as close and real as it gets. It is with you and within you. It becomes a part of you. And it never exists without a reason. The reason maybe known or unknown, can be worded or not. But it is there. The intensity may vary. But it is very much there and next time you want to tell me that it is all in my head. think twice and don’t say it. Because, I sort of know that and it doesn’t help me.

I fear flying. It is sort of weird because I don’t know when I developed this. My first flight (to Singapore) ¬†5 years ago was one where I didn’t even know that one could be scared of flights or flying or altitude. I remember, when I was on the plane, it was so still that I wondered if we were even moving. Now in hindsight, I know that it was perfect weather. The occasional movements I felt were what I looked forward to and could actually feel that we were moving. Again, in hindsight, this was turbulence and something that scares the hell out of me now. I have travelled so much alone and with K but I seem to have this fear of flights more s0 especially for the last one year. What makes it weird is that I love travelling and I love love going on long distance trips. My PhD brings with it good opportunities to travel for conferences. Somehow it doesn’t scare me when I am booking the flight (as much as it does when am checking-in). The result: I never can enjoy a flight journey and some of my happiest moments from the trip are when we land and our seat belts come off.

I am not writing this to make someone who fears flying, more anxious. Neither am I going to describe how I panic. I am writing this to say you are not alone. Also, I don’t talk about this all the time (hardly except with a few close friends) because talking too much about it makes me sort of anxious about it. And really, I don’t want any more anxiety with flights. But I have been trying different ways to feel more calm on flights.¬†No, I don’t take melatonin. I never take any sort of medicines/ relaxants. I sit through the flight praying, reading and just really wide-awake and maybe sleep for wee bits if it is a long haul.

What I have started doing more is educating myself. Learning more facts about how a pilot undergoes a lot of training, how flights now are way better than flights say a couple of decades back -interms of design, reduced scope for error and so on. I also read statistics and try to tell myself, look, there are a million people flying safely in and out and that works in my favour.

But damn, the human mind is clever. It knows that statistics and all this education may only talk about the majority. What if am a part of the smaller unfortunate faction? What if the odds are against me this time? I don’t know. But I know this. The moments of heightened pleasure that follow the landing is worth every bit of my attempt to overcome my fear. I have walked through some shrines in Bangkok, stood atop a cliff temple in Bali, walked through the snowy scenic streets of Luca during Christmas, shared childhood stories along the Seine and then gotten so overwhelmed, that I told¬†myself how dumb I could have been to not do this just because I feared the travel. Standing in front of the Palace¬†of Versailles, the ¬†Colosseum in Rome and getting lost in streets of Venice, I have been so moved that I still can remember these emotions. And they are enough to¬†push me to travel more, see more and learn more.

And most importantly,¬†K tells me, “What has to happen will happen”. And this, has been my biggest source of comfort somehow. There is so much unpredictability in this but it still tells me that I have to go on, no matter what because what has to happen will happen. This for me is somehow powerful knowledge and it comforts me a lot. There is no science I can offer because this perhaps even sounds lame to you. But just knowing that fear doesn’t stop something from happening makes it feel pointless. And sometimes (those rare times), my emotions do listen to this advice. There are things under your control (somewhat) and some not. Being positive and having good thoughts definitely goes a long way in making these journeys ¬†a little less daunting for me.

I have a long way to go, I don’t know when I will get over them. Perhaps one day I will wake up and it will be gone. Or maybe, I will travel so much that it becomes a part of me and I won’t even feel it. Or maybe, I will continue to feel anxious but continue to travel because once am there, everything will be worth it. For now, I want to try. For I know that when we drive along the mountains, amidst the clouds lost in the music playing in our heads or when we¬†fall right into the sea on a banana boat ride and then float back up victoriously without knowing how to swim or when we meet that chatty native on a bus ride who tells us secrets we never imagined, it will all be worth it. And with that, I book my flights to Tasmania.

 

 

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 ūüôā

 

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 ūüėõ

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!

 

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 ¬Ĺ 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 ‚Äď 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 ( ¬ľ 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‚Äôt tell one from another.
  • Add the chopped corriander leaves and salt to taste (remember that the chutney also has black salt)
  • Stuffing is done ‚Äď 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‚Äô 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?

 

 

 

Cheese and cheese crackers !

Isn’t it amazing how we learn to have good breaks between endless hours of work? I have noticed that while I sometimes forget to work, I never seem to forget to take a break. The past weeks have been full of work and I am always wishing for more hours before I logout from work simply because, I have so much left. But once am out, I hardly let that thought bother me for long. I really think of this as a strength and as my own coping mechanism. Everyone has a coping mechanism and mine is to just let it be by finding something else to do. I must admit that this isn’t always easy. Sitting in a ferry on the way to Indonesia and thinking of that impending report ¬†does happen to me. But, all I need is to look outside, look at happy faces and realise that¬†everything is achievable and nothing merits worry. I constantly seek to spend time with people I like and people who fill me with a lot of positive energy. Books, movies and people have that power of lifting you to such delirious heights that it becomes an addiction, a mandatory ritual even.

Today was one such beautiful day where I realised how life in its little moments has its own way to telling you that needlessly worrying and making a mountain of a molehill is outright ridiculous and a shameful waste of time. I went to the eldercare today for a session of volunteering. As always, it warms my heart to see elderly people happy and welcoming and so friendly forgetting all their ailments. Some cannot raise their hands to wave a hello and yet they make all the effort in the world to convey that through their eyes and smile and the way they lean forward when they see you. I know a few of them quite well and yet, I am always close to tears when I see them – they are beautiful people inside-out; they put all their pains and sorrows aside just for those few hours of happiness they get by spending time with others.

We took them on a kopi trip – a small outing where we take the elderly residents for coffee and food to a nearby food court that is followed by a shopping trip where everyone has an equal budget within which they can choose whatever they wish to buy. It is a 1:1 event where one volunteer takes care of one elderly person. So, I was with¬†a very bubbly Mr. W. I have often seen a lot of pictures on the facebook page of him singing those peppy numbers in Mandarin. I was super excited to be spending time with him. We had a¬†delightful time at foodcourt where he requested for kopi-o with extra sugar (he made sure that it was as per his liking) and pork mee with extra chilli. His hands are weak and he needs to be fed. His diet also needs to be soft and noodles cut into bits. I don’t even want to mention this but I have to because if you had seen him enjoy his meal and coffee today, you would have cried at how easy it is to attain¬†happiness.I just placed the cup infront of him and asked him to enjoy. I did not want to assume he needed help. He had me in splits when he said “I would enjoy it if a young lady fed me” – so cheeky¬†and¬†charming that I couldn’t refuse him. After a good time, we went shopping where he requested for “Tiger beer” – talk of enjoyment! Well, I coaxed him to buy coke and enticed him with some pringles and chilli sauce (to make his everyday porridge spicier). We took lots of photos and shared many a smile that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I felt absolutely no sadness when I said bye to him. I loved his company and respected him for his ability to be happy and make everyone happy. I don’t know when I will get a similar chance but I always want to think of him with a smile. I love how these little moments give us much more than the other way round. Selfish though it sounds, I think it has become addictive, in a good ¬†way.

Just like these cheese crackers. I came back home in such high spirits that I had to channel them somewhere. Call to parents and Chintu +¬†a smile on K’s face was the obvious choice. So, I made these cheddar cheese crackers from her blog. Please excuse me while I go stuff my face with some more. They are awesome! I loved the simplicity of the recipe, the smell that I could sense just by reading the recipe that I HAD to make them. Please go make these coz’ they are done before you even begin!

cc1 cca

I have always been fascinated by cookie cutters. Apart from using them on playdoh, this was the first time, I used them to make crackers – I kind of went wild with frenzy as you can see above and below.

cc3 cc4

cc5

2 batches have been devoured already. With another batch on the cooling rack, life is good.