Sunday, February 21, 2010

Meal Time Companion

What does this remind you of?

Did you think of chatnis, veggies, and pickles placed round mounds of spicy puliyogare and tangy lemon rice or perhaps a Rajasthani thali?
Well never mind, but that’s what we are going to talk about today. FOOD.

Yesterday I saw these guys deftly shape jalebis in smoking oil. When they were done to perfection (the jalebis of course) they transferred them into hot sugar syrup. A young helper wielded jalebis dripping syrup from a large skillet on to a spacious tray. But hey! We barely saw them in the tray before they were snatched away by eager customers who had lined up for the juicy snack.

I think, in Delhi, jalebis are more like religion. You have them with milk for breakfast, you have them as an evening snack, and in winter hot jalebis are welcome anytime. You remember that ad in which the boy goes round-eyed and says JaLebi? Well most people here go that way. And now I with my overly sweet-tooth, I am an addict too.

You see a fabulous commitment to food when families eat outside. You have big guys, serious daddys, and restless kiddos, sitting at the table and spooning mouthfuls of delight in perfect rhythm. Nothing distracts them. People running around, wall mounted LCD displays, blaring music and pestering flies are ignored while mounds of food are attacked with gusto.

I have no grouse against that, none at all.

But look at what happens at home. Mommy (or a convenient cook) toils over hot coals (ok ok a four stove gas burner) to make a royal meal (err…maybe it is plain old roti-daal-and yesterday’s sabji, or rice-saaru and palya). Dad, kids and elders troop into the kitchen. Pick up their plates piled with the nourishment. They file into the hall. TV is tuned in. Phone calls are attended and channels are surfed. Mindlessly and mechanically we stuff morsel into mouth till the plate is empty.

But do people talk to people in the same room? Whaat! Are we supposed to do thaaaat? Whatever for.

I say
  • Turn Off The TV.
  • Sit at a table.
  • And have one meal together as a family.
  • It is worth it.
Haven’t the wise men of ancient times said-

  • (In Kannada) - Yella hotteygaagi
  • (Or in Hindi) - do waqt ke roti ke liye

After all, don’t we go through all the strife of earning only for a stomach full of food (…and a wardrobe of clothes, and a feather-in-my-cap certificate from boss, and not to mention a biiiiiiig car and a neat flat)

I spoke to some of my students and convinced them to try this at home. They would have dinner with the family for 5 days with the TV switched off. They came back with insightful observations. I list them for you.

Smitha Gopal: Ma’m, Past one week everyday I have listened to lectures of what I should do and how I should behave. I think I will stick to TV for meal time companion.

 Arjun Jagadeesh: Dad would ask us a problem that the world faces and we brothers would try and provide solutions. Thanks ma’am great idea.

 Aftab: I realise we have brinjal and potato very often and I don’t like brinjal.

 Sheetal Jain: Though I sit with the family for five days for dinner they only talk to my little brother. I really like him a lot too. But I felt left out. TV is better.

 Prarthana Reddy: I did not know my dad said so many jokes. He made us laugh a lot. Grandpa makes noise while eating.

 Rohini Mallya: Because of this assignment I could not complete my library book on time….still, it was nice.
 Who would you rather sit with for dinner?

  •  Family?
  • TV?
  • Book?
Sorry. That was a rhetorical question. You are supposed to say family!


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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Evening To Remember

There are no two ways about this.
When you see 7 peacocks strutting about around, you have just got to pause, forget everything else, and enjoy. We took these photos from a cell in dim light. Sorry, they are not technically there atall....But you get the picture – I guess.

What is special is that, this is in the heart of present Delhi, in the IIT campus. A peacock ambles by

I was so excited that I forgot to remove my finger from the viewer. Just look at the way he holds up his head elegently on his vibrant neck.

So many peacocks to share our walk with us. We go click-click-click while they go peck-peck-peck

With a flutter of their heavy tails they fly gracefully to the branches of tall trees. I never knew they could fly that high. This one jumped from a smaller tree to this branch and then neatly disappeared from view into the thick folliage of the trees

Don't you agree? Nature inspires by just being there.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An Umbrella-Walk In Pouring Rain

This happened years ago, when my little one was really little. She was in class one…or perhaps class two and I was a non-working, flustered, always tired, serventless, fulltime mom of two. My little one got up late and was in no mood to go to school. ‘Can I stay at home?’ She asked me. I hustled her into a quick warm bath, two tight ponies, a crisp school uniform, and whisked her off to school. Maybe I needed the respite of a quiet home. Maybe I thought she would make this a habit. Maybe I wanted to do the ‘right thing’. But this I know for sure. Her eyes even now cloud over when she recalls that day. I had missed some magic moments. Moments that we must cherish we just gloss over. O that’s nothing, we say brushing off a compliment. Are we embarrassed by happiness? Or are we scared? We choose to brood over and discuss sadness and sickness. Our TV news is of bombing, betrayal and berating. We inscribe each tragic thought deeply into our souls….making them black.
What is your magic moment of the day?
Cherish it. Experience it. Be aware of it. Watch out for it.
Think of it before you go to bed tonight. Here are some magic moments we love to recall

  • An orange sunset at Goa
  • An umbrella-walk in pouring rain
  • Celebrating an A (or even a C) in a class essay
  • Re-reruns of Full House
  • Bumpy camel ride in Jaisalmer
  • Taking pictures of a temple elephant on a busy city road
  • A satisfying dinner
  • Leaves flying in the wind
  • A warm phone call
  • Rows of twinkling Diwali lamps


Hang on to happy thoughts. Finally, that is what matters. What is your magic moment of the day?
Do tell us.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chocolate Mousse

I have used light pastel colours and streaks of sap green.

Dinner was cleared. The kitchen was wound up. The doors were locked for the night. There were just the two of them. Not much to neaten up around the house before calling it a day. She gave the hall one last look before she got up to switch off the lights.
Hey! Who was this ringing the doorbell at 11 in the night? And with such fervour!
She walked briskly to the door. Perhaps it was her neighbour?
What could have happened!!??
She opened the door to a fabulous bouquet of orange, red and yellow lilies, little white flowers and a smattering of purple. A bunch with all the colours of a happy pack of crayons!
'Happy Birthday Amma!' Her dear children had come to make her cut a cake at 12 in the night! It was not a cake actually….it was a large bowl of her favourite chocolate mousse with a soulful layer of dark chocolate chips and yummy cream scoops. A midnight birthday celebration with bubbles of cheer
We listened to music
Sang songs
Dug into chocolate mousse
Discussed books
Answered phone calls
Opened gifts
Had a rollicking time

A magic moment!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Obstinately Persistent

I am verrry happy with this leaf and ant!! 'Came out better than I expected.

MAr-le-Vus! The little boy said squatting down beside two large red ants that were carrying a large fallen leaf
to - don’t know where
to - don’t know why
‘Don’t sit there Rahul. Come ….. see the red ants will bite you’
Rahul and his grandfather liked going for walks. They were at perfect crossroad-ages. Rahul was all chatter and grandpa was happy to be all ears; and when grandpa talked Rahul was happy to be all ears.
‘The ants are so small. They cannot take the leaf. Will they thatha?’
Grandpa peered at the two ants tugging at the fallen leaf.
‘With persistence they can’
‘Persi-ten?? What is persi-ten thatha?’ (thatha is a kannada term for grandpa)
‘Per-sis-tens …. Persistence! That means doing a thing again and again till you do it well…. Till you get it right’
‘O’ Rahul nodded wisely. ‘When Puja picks idli on her spoon and tries to eat. She does it again and again. That is per-si-ten?’
‘Haha! Yes Rahul. That is persistence’, said grandpa imagining fondly his 2 year old grandchild’s attempts at breakfast.
How is persistence different from being obstinate? When we agree with what is being done that’s persistence, determination, willpower? That’s admirable. That’s lofty.
When what’s being done goes against our grain, when we cannot agree, when we cannot find logic then that’s being stubborn, obstinate and pig-headed.
Did that get a tad simplistic?
But that’s how we see the world don’t we? Always from our point of view … Naturally … ‘cause, we know best.
But wait, the best definition of persistence is in PING, by Stuart Avery Gold. The wise owl says, Persistence is the difference between a strong will and a strong won’t.
Neat. Don’t you agree?
So, Persistence is all about being positive, all about wanting to actually DO something.
And being negative, Not wanting to do something, When the focus is on NO, That’s being obstinate.
Aaah! Tiiiinnnng! Eega gottaittu.
Did I get that right?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Everything in black-white except the flower

How do you like this composition?

This is too bad. I am back after a long gap of almost 7 days. And I had planned to post one blog everyday!! Is this what Julia in Julie and Julia calls ADD??
You know, the title of my blog reminds me of an old pun, what is black and white and red all over?? .... the newspaper ofcourse!! (read!!!) well todays paper has many more colours too!!
Well, never mind! I want to write about a yellow daal that I prepared yesterday.
I cook arhar daal in a pressure cooker with some thin slices of onion, tomato and haldi. I keep a large pan to make the seasoning. A dollop of ghee goes into the pan. It swirls around melting gradually.
How could I do this? 'Behaving like a breathless teenager!! I mean this is so strange. We were sitting on the short wall inside Pragathi Maidan sipping hot coffee. This gentleman in a neat jacket walks up to the Costa coffee counter. Is it him? The grim dad of Taare zameen par? Wait let him turn around him once more. Yes it is! Shall we talk to him?
I have never done this before. I just walk up to him and hover close by till he turns around. I say ‘excuse me’… he gives us a sceptical look. He is suspicious of us.
I drop the mustard seeds into the hot oil and they go chit-chit-chit
Are you...errrr did you….errrr did we see you in Taare zameen par? His face clears. Aaah! They have not come asking for money...or favour!! Yes he says
I put in two spoons of udad daal and some chana-daal
We say ‘A very nice film. We saw it many times’. … ‘Yes many have seen it more than once’ he clarifies. How could I be so daft! Where do I go from here?? ‘Are you from the theatre?’ I ask. ‘Yes, from NSD’ he says brightly and adds hopefully ‘Are you?’ ‘No’ I reply. ‘Are you from Delhi?’ he asks. ‘No from Bangalore’ I tell him. He has a look of a puzzled ‘so’….. and I am desperately looking for an escape. By then some friends come up to him grabbing his attention. We hastily say our ‘byes’ and make an exit
Oops! The kari-patta in my hand goes soggy and the udad-dal is burnt.
I empty out the oil and start the seasoning process all over again. Actually what I want to say is
Think of the present, the now and let not the past or the future clutter the mind. We let the moment on hand go by, while we fret and fume about things done or not-done.
100% with the present .... else ... you burn the seasoning!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Have I captured the love-labour that goes into a clothesline? There is something so friendly and humble in a clothesline. It happens only in India.

Pink chaddis and faded jeans
Holed Socks and tatty towels
Kurta with sequins
Shirts with tassels
Out in the open, for all to see
Out in the open, others’ envy
You stoop and you stand
You put clothes on the line
Predictable regularity
Comforting domesticity.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Food for the Book Hungry

Pragati maidan book fair - watercolour

It can’t be true that Delhi has NO nice book shops. Let us say that I have not yet walked into one. I miss the two tiered Strand book stall, good old Nagasri at Jayanagar, the whopping Landmark at the forum mall and Sapna Book House which I depended on for more kannada books for amma.

So the book fair at Pragathi Maidan is a blessing – heaven sent. Achu and I were there from 12 to 5 and had barely covered 2 halls. There are stalls by big time publishers like Harper Collins and Penguin and Rupa and smaller stalls by lesser known publications. There are stalls with a smattering of books catering to niche reader set and stalls with a deluge of books and book-lovers.

Aaah! The smell of new books, a heady mix of colourful spines, arrays of light blue and pink and brown covers of identical books piled up for sale, books that bring back memories of college days, books with strange names, books you wonder whether anyone will ever read and books you would love to possess if only….you could!!

It is equally fascinating to study the lovely people who visit the book fair.

A wise old man meticulously looks for books that he has pencilled down in his small diary. A spectacled lady, a teacher or librarian perhaps, copies names of books that interest her. A determined young boy has an arm load of books and his father patiently explains that he needs to make a selection of only three. There is also this guy who has obviously been dragged into the fair by his booklover friend and is forced to browse. Booklover-friend, with a shine of excitement in his eyes picks a paperback Don Quixote and thrusts it to our guy saying, “hey, you must read this yaar. Bahut accha hai”. Our guy looks at the book sceptically, opens it a few pages, and confidently returns it saying, “arre yaar, yeh to original nahi hai. Translated hai. Dekho, yahan likha hai. Main tho original loonga”.. (hey man, this is not the original. It says here - translated. For me only original will do) … the original Don Quixote by the way … is in Spanish!

We decide to buy an Asterix. I have read many and do not remember their names, I only recall incidents. The person at the stall is a true-blue Asterix lover… he tells me exactly which book to buy.

We come away glowing with two bags of books. Soon to be overtaken by a happy gentleman with a heavy jute bag slung on his shoulder and dragging behind him a loaded trolley bag, both full of books!
One day, I will publish my book and this man will walk away with one of mine.