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.

 

 

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NaBloPoMo, what?!

So when she wrote about this on Facebook, about teaming up to write everyday a month for NaBloPoMo, it seemed like the best thing ever possible to me. Then. That was mid-October when November was still far off. So the only obvious thing for me to do was volunteer and say,” Hey! I want to be part of it!” And then, I even went on to think why November was so far away. I was itching to say a lot apparently.

Now on 31st, I am err. sort of unsure. I have forgotten what it was that was building up in my head, I wish I had made a note of some ideas atleast 😛 I have never written 30 days at a stretch. Not even in school, like, not even copying from the blackboard. But having said that, I think I need this. I hope to be able to write everyday. I am travelling this month, so I hope to stay regular. I am excited to write. I am more excited to read what others are writing. Okay, I am going to stop rambling and fervently hope that my writing won’t be as tattered as this. Join in the fun or do pop-by and share your thoughts or suggestions as well if you can make some time, okay? 🙂

Okay then, whee!

 

 

On Keong Saik Road, Vinayagar temple and dining at “The Study”

K and I are always on the lookout for new places to eat. Well, because I am vegetarian,  we also check the menu online or if we are just roaming around trying to get into a place that feels like “the one” (yeah, there is something like that because it happens to us), then we still look at the menu. Even if there is 1 vegetarian dish, I am happy. I don’t want my way of life to stop me from walking into what maybe a wonderful experience or even just trying something totally new.

So, a week or two back, when K and I were thinking of spending a cool evening out (now cool weather is a rare rare thing is Singapore), I suggested Keong Saik Road. It is funny how we have been to the Ganapati temple there but not walked further up and either spent time at a restaurant or something like that. After visiting the place, we wondered how many more such places we haven’t bothered to go to. Anyways, let me tell you a bit about where we dined and share some not-so-great photos that I clicked just to remind me to go there more often.

 

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Keong Saik Road is near (err. in) Chinatown and is one of those places with a personality of its own. There is a Vinayagar kovil (kovil, in Tamizh = temple) pretty much at the start of the street. Being big fans of Ganapati, we have been here a few times. Also, we love the prasadam  there. So we first went to the temple, had our fair share of idiyappam and amazing sambhar and piping coffee and yes, we also prayed. Then we decided to just walk around the area and build a small appetite before we looked for a restaurant.

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It was a Saturday and the road was bustling with all kids of people – families who had kids, people playing ping pong, people doing artwork on the road, entrepreneurs and food startups selling their organic or home-made products with zeal, teenagers on nervous dates, pretty girls in white dresses, lots of people eating by the road, children running around  freely especially because traffic is not allowed beyond the temple point and in all, the scene felt vibrant and hipster!

I am in love with these shop-houses, the ones that have a shop below and a house on top (I don’t think they are all inhabited) but I love those gorgeous windows, the colours of the walls, the lanterns, the effort they take to retain that rustic charm, how it all looks so vintage-y  and just the general hipster vibe of the place. We walked a bit, ogled at all the goodies on display and for sale – chocolates, organic honey, handmade greeting cards, milkshakes, coconut water in cute cans and a lot of knick knacks. We did not buy anything but it was a treat to look at the youngsters and also family set-ups so passionately marketing their products with a smile.

Walking around and watching other people eat, did sort of make up a bit hungry (does it happen to you as well? I get hungry when I watch someone enjoying their meal. Same for thirst! Am I weird?) Luckily, there were quite a few restaurants and bars to choose from when we spotted this.

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Discretely located along the row of shop-houses and almost right the beginning of Keong Saik Road, we found this.  With its neon orange walls, a minimally visible doorway and windows with bars, this really called out to us. I mean, I am someone who also does a bit of research before going to a restaurant and especially if we are hosting friends but when it is just K and I, we are okay to get into a totally random place, even if it is slightly overpriced just for the sake of trying it out. And if it lives up to it, then we go back. So, when I saw “The Study”, it sort of reminded me of “The Library” which, I later read is a sister of “the Study” and is right by its side but was closed that day. “The Library” is a bar that prides itself on quirky cocktails with quirkier names like E = mc 2. One needs a password to enter it and the clues are released on the Facebook page every week. Sorry for digressing. Let me talk about “The Study”. Luckily, “The Study” was serving up some of the drinks from “the Library” that day, so I did have a peek at all those cool names.

“The Study” brings together a ” mix of local and British cafe culture giving modern twists to great classic comfort food from around the world.” I do not know much about British food so this seemed interesting. The Head Chef Daniel from Britain has worked in different cities of the world and brings with him some of those flavours in the kitchen.

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The bistro is really unpretentious with really basic minimal furnishings. Only 3 or 4 tables were taken and we took a small table for two by  the window because well, sitting by the window is undoubtedly the best.

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A very cheerful waitress who later told us that it was her first day, greeted us and gave us the menu. The dishes are categorised, interestingly, on the portion-size. They have small plates (really small portions), large plates (slightly larger but turned out to be insufficient for yours truly’s tummy), sharing (which I am assuming are larger) and then a section on desserts. So, you can only get a big size of dish A but you won’t find it in small size/portion. When we looked at the menu, I saw that there were exactly 2 vegetarian dishes – Vegetable, local harvest vegetable and charcoal mayo (?!) in small plate and Polenta, goat cheese, tomatoes and pine nuts in  large plate. I forgot all about I don’t like goat cheese and went ahead with ordering the large plate (because I don’t do small and especially not when it has pine nuts).  K is not a vegetarian, so of course he basked in the innumerable options he had, asked the waitress for a recommendation and chose some hoity-toity chicken dish.

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I honestly felt the portion was small. I eat a lot, my pet name is black hole but still, this was really small. I cannot say if it was well-made, I have never eaten this before, but I did like it. I kept the goat cheese aside though. I like polenta, I think this is the second time I am eating it and I quite like the texture when it is baked like a loaf. The herbs gave it some flavour and I loved the crunchiness of the nuts. I wish there were other vegetables and not jus cherry tomatoes. It does get boring after you finish all your pine nuts and then you are left with tomatoes. It was an okay-decent dish.

We also had a go at a selected drinks menu from “the Library”. I wish I had taken a pictures because I cannot remember the names at all now except E = mc 2. I went with a non-alcoholic mocktail with watermelon, lemon, and basil. K went with E = mc 

 

Absolutely loved our drinks. I did try a bit of K’s drink as well and I must say it was really good. We got a complimentary dessert from the chef and it was the best of all. I mean, I don’t like ice-creams much and they must have known because they served us a cake-icecream scoop in one of my favourite cake flavours – banana walnut. The ice-cream loving K was also happy to get his scoop of favourite vanilla ice-cream.img_5719

That cake you see at the bottom and the caramel syrup you see on the ice-cream – absolutely gorgeous!

We did like our time there and we realised that we haven’t done much British food with contemporary twists/ local twists and would love to try more of such cuisine. For any Singaporean residents reading this, people who have been to similar places, we are all ears!

So, how was your weekend? What was your latest dining experience like? Where did you go? Tell me all 🙂

 

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.

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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.