Monday, July 19, 2010

I HATE goodbyes

So after a surreal, almost dream-like two-month stay with us, my parents left for India. This is the longest that we got to stay together after I left for Hyderabad in 2002! To say I miss them would be an understatement but I will just leave it at that. I dread the thought of returning to an empty house tonight. I feel very bad for all the times I was harsh with dad for eating sweets...

Just so that I focus on something and not mope around – I plan to master the hula hoop by July 25th and that’s a promise! Just to up the stakes – either I hula hoop for at least 2 minutes or cook gulab jamuns for A and K3! :D Let’s see which way the hoop swings.

Friday, July 09, 2010

My friday fix of nostalgia

My idea of friends and friendship while in college was quite filmy, to say the least. It was hugely influenced by the movies like DCH. Being around friends for most part of the day I worried how I was going to manage after college. I remember being really upset for a couple weeks when my friends from the engineering college left Aurangabad for their homes, jobs, higher studies. Like we all do, we promised that we would stay in touch as much as we can, that there is email, phone, web-chat, etc. Similarly after MBA when we said our good-byes, we made our promises. Nobody was naïve, even then we knew that it wouldn’t be as easy as seeing each other every morning in the college corridors – but there was hope that we would catch up often.

There are so many things to take care of after college, in real world, that catching up with friends never gets listed as a priority, how unfortunate! I was just thinking about a day, ten years ago. Every single thing got reported to my best friends. Every single problem, no matter how small was discussed at length, solutions analyzed, every simple joy was shared and we used to laugh together. I still recollect a vivid memory of my friend. We were so close that we did things almost the same exact way, so much so that people thought we were twins – yeah even when she stood at least a couple inches taller than me. This friend and I wept profusely in the middle of some random class test for my dog who was soon going to live with my grandparents. That memory seems so warm yet so weird at this moment – I can’t believe it was in this life…

Well, I have been a sucker for all things about friendship – I take pride in the fact I don’t have one single best friend but all my friends, (though the number has shrunk dangerously in the last few years) are my best friends. Such soppiness , but true. The reason for this rather melancholy post on one of the most “happy things” in life is plain green envy. Yesterday while watching a bunch of young school boys having a whale of time under the sprinklers, I missed my friends – all those right from my kindergarten days to the ones I made on the first day of my first job. Quick to make amends, I immediately promised myself to be more clued in with their current lives. Arrgh! But I still can’t get myself to orkutting or facebooking or twittering! That phase of self imposed social exile doesn’t seem to end just yet.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

i thought i could cook pithle

When I was growing up, my contribution in the kitchen was limited to following my mom’s instructions. She would tell us “stir the curry”, “cover that vessel”, “dry the plates”, “take out the vegetables from the fridge” and you get the point. All three of us were especially gifted in carrying out her instructions verbatim. So if she asked us to turn off the gas, we used to just do that. She had to explicitly say “turn off the gas and cover the vessel”. In this sense we were “Saang kamya Balkoba”!

I don’t remember the first edible thing I cooked. But I remember cooking Pithle – the humble chickpea flour (besan) preparation for which every Maharashtrian household will have its own recipe. My experiment began enthusiastically with a small vessel, a cup of curds and a cup of besan and ended up in a monster kadhai with 3 - 4 cups of besan, 2 cups of tamarind pulp and countless cups of water. Verdict- Absolutely inedible. I just couldn’t understand what could go so wrong in cooking such a simple thing? The first time I tasted the stuff, it was not sour enough but there were no more curds. So I added 1 cup of tamarind pulp and it tasted too tart. To compensate I added some besan and then some more. It tasted really tasteless by now and I tried to compensate by adding some more tamarind pulp. The whole stuff was way more than what the vessel could hold. So midway I poured the gooey, drippy stuff into a bigger kadhai. And since most of it just stuck to the kadhai and was turning into a solid mass I panicked. And added more water. I had never cooked before but always observed how my mother cooked. She did not measure water, nor tasted food while cooking nor ever peered into a recipe book. But the food always tasted delicious. Sadly I didn’t realize that her confidence came from years of cooking.

Luckily for A, I more than made up after my marriage. I have cooked pithle several times and it comes quite close to my mother's version, sometime like my amma's version and sometime like my mamis'. Of course I love cooking when it’s a weekend affair. With no cook or help, the time and energy spent around planning, cooking and storing meals is enormous. Can’t help thinking about all those mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, friends and occasionally uncles who cook (many a times, laboriously in the hot, poorly ventilated kitchens, often over smoke spitting chulhas) and so lovingly feed hungry, eager mouths. Annadata sukhi bhava indeed! And then I cant help thinking about farmers, the ultimate Annadata, toiling hard, themselves struggling to make ends meet and yet producing food for the entire country. How do they resist the temptation of moving off to the nearby cities and get a more certain, secure livelihood, one which is not dependent on the rain-gods?

How I start off thinking about pithle and end up thinking about the plight of farmers is beyond my comprehension but I don’t feel hungry anymore.

Ps: While I was re-reading my post, i remembered my grandparents in their big kitchen in Secunderapur. The vision of my mothe-baba continuously stirring a HUGE vessel of milk to make khoya for gulab-jamun while my amma bent over the gas stove, cooking the most deliciously soft puran polis moistened my eyes. Ah! Grandparents are such a blessing - can’t wait to see them back home.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paisa Wasool weekend

My grandfather’s pen friend lived in Buffalo, very close to the falls. Having read her old letters with his consent (I know, it’s bad manners) several times each summer, I imagined her house to be perched right next to the Niagara falls.

This weekend we undertook an 8 hour journey to visit the great falls and came back in awe! Huge, scary, gigantic, magnificent, surreal and I ran out of superlatives. The sight is worth all the hype around it. For a moment, you forget where you are. Yes, with hundreds of noisy tourists around, the thundering falls still make you forget everything. My favorite memory of the falls is from the Maid of the Mist ride – facing the horse-shoe falls, standing as close as possible. The boat was stationary but the roaring waters played games on the gullible mind – one feels as if the boat is headed right towards the falls and you instinctly want to shout “Stop the boat!”

The route from Boston to Niagara Falls is monotonously scenic – so much so that after a while you no longer notice the lovely shades of green, the neat houses that dot the greenery, beautiful lakes, ponds and quaint little towns. Not even the menacing Hudson which keeps you company for hundreds of miles together!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Spiritually yours

I wanted to write for a very long time about something really close to my heart. I am not really sure whether it will rightly express what I want to share but I have decided to just go with the flow and not worry about what the post ultimately turns out to be.

Though the concept of Guru-shisya is not new to Indians, the need for a spiritual guide is still looked upon with much suspicion. With so many imposters exploiting people’s beliefs and commercializing religion, it is not difficult to imagine why. I like to draw an analogy of finding the right Guru to that of finding the right family doctor. Not a super-speciality hospital – but that one person who puts your family at ease, someone you can consult anytime and confide in him/her your deepest fears without worrying that he/she will make you run from pillar to post and charge you thousands if not lakhs of rupees.

Our Guru is the head of our family, and is dearly loved by one and all. For some, he is a lawyer who had a thriving practice at Indore, for others he is a philosopher who has traveled the world to spread his Guru’s teachings, and for some he is a ratna- parkhi –gemologist. However for all his disciples, who are part of a family, he is simply Dada!

Around May-June every year, at my Guru’s abode, the Gurupeeth, we celebrate Sri Dutta moorti sthapana utsav. The highpoint of the weeklong festivities is param pujya Dada’s address to his disciples. Every one eagerly awaits to hear what their beloved Guru has to say about the work done over the year and what advice he has for the year to come. It’s such a special occasion that everyone tries really hard to not miss being at the Gurupeeth for Dada’s ashirwachan.

My first memory of the Gurupeet is of the utsav in 1994 and the memory is as vivid as if it happened just yesterday. We were not Dada’s disciples then, or so we thought. My parents and I had travelled to the Gurupeeth from Parbhani which took us 12 hours by bus. We had met Dada at Parbhani for about 2 minutes and he in his usual, extremely generous manner invited us to visit the Gurupeeth for the utsav. And so we went. It was when we saw that thousands of his disciples had thronged from different parts of the country we truly realized the extent of his following. During his discourse that lasted for about 2 hours, everything he said I felt as if it was just for me. Now that I think about it, I am surprised that a 2 hour long spiritual talk in Marathi, not my strong language then, had such a powerful impression on a high-school going girl.

During his discourse, Dada mentioned that he was very pleased with the discipline that everybody had worked with over the year and casually mentioned that we would all experience that our efforts were appreciated. I didn’t know what he meant.

It was time for maha-prasad and as we were awaiting our turn, it started raining. It didn’t rain - it poured! It was a hot summer day in May and rains were totally unexpected. All the disciples were overjoyed. I was very worried because we had not carried any change of clothes as we were to return the same day. Looking at the dark clouds my mother told me that it looked difficult to catch the bus home. Another lady who overheard us told us not to worry as this was not any other rains but Krupa vrushti. And just as she said that, it stopped raining! With no damage done. My clothes just a little cold but dry.
I looked at the skies, they were clear again just like another scorching summer day. I couldn’t believe my eyes! But the people around me didn’t give this phenomenon a second thought. It appeared as if they were expecting this to happen!

That afternoon we sought to meet with Dada under quite unusual conditions. He was resting as the darshan time was over. Since we were new to the place and didn’t know any protocols, we told one of the volunteers to inform Dada that we have come from Parbhani because he told us to come. How naïve! What cheek! And lo! The volunteer returned and told us that Dada wanted to see us! The meeting itself is a blur but I still remember the happiness of meeting him. Over time we were fortunate to see him, hear his discourses, attend his programs in Aurangabad (where we moved to from Parbhani) and in a short span of 2 years he made us his disciples and took us under his wings.

The Guru-shishya bond, is as intimate and as divine as a mother-child bond. You can neither choose your mother nor Guru- it’s all part of the design God has for you. It was at K3’s insistence that we three requested Dada for his Upasna on May 5, 1996. The protocol is that a would-be shishya should offer guru-dakshina in the form of flowers, a coconut, mishri and a few token coins when the Guru gives him/her Upasna or guru-mantra. However since ours was an instantaneous decision we didn’t have anything to offer. But as we know now, these things hardly matter. K2 and I will always remain grateful to K3 for ensuring that we took the plunge when it was the perfect time – when we were young enough to follow our hearts and not as worldly wise to question everything.

It’s been 14 fulfilling years and our entire family and hundreds of friends and relatives have since become our fellow guru-bandhus and guru-bhaginis. Personally we have been through several ups and downs but because of the unshakable faith that our Guru is with us every moment, at every step on our journey, neither did we get carried away with our accomplishments nor did we feel crushed with the set-backs. We are grateful for the happiness and blessings that God has showered on us and are equally grateful for choosing us to go through the difficult times without losing faith. Every happiness has grown multifold because it’s shared with Dada and every trying situation has taught us a lesson and made us even stronger.

The 58th annual utsav celebrations started yesterday at the Gurupeeth. I so miss being there for the utsav. It definitely hurts that I am not there in person to see Dada and listen to his ashirvachan. But I am sure that he will send me a sign that he missed me as well!

Friday, June 04, 2010

I smell weekend

and there I warned you - nobody ever did anything productive in office between 3 to 5pm on a Friday, other than willing the clock to run a little faster. This is after all a silly blog!

I suddenly realized that I don’t remember the last time I listened to a song. How can that be?

There was a time when I recognized every Hindi film song old or latest (at the time) just moments after the music began. (Angrezi music was never something I understood or liked. I am so sorry A, I know the confession sounds totally middle-class. ;) ) I thought it was a big deal – it would be a deadly skill if I ever decided to participate in a film songs-based quiz. I told you I was ambitious.
Well it was also big deal because we didn’t have cable television and everything I knew about latest and old songs just came from Doordarshan’s dose of Chhayageet and Chitrahaar. And we didn’t watch many movies either. But I still knew and absolutely loved so many songs.

Somehow, don’t really know when I just lost touch. I was looking at the top Hindi songs of the last 12 months or so and I don’t know even half of the songs. I won’t know if it’s old or new. I dont know the picturization nor do I know which movies these songs are from. I am losing it and not liking it at all! I hardly listen to any music – not even bhajans which I am so fond of. Tch tch! *violently shaking my head* Time to make a lifestyle change. Okay, what is this post all about? Never mind - i have saved the best for last.

On the picture – isn’t it beautiful? 5 pairs of hands painstakingly, all the while ensuring that they didn’t get into someone else’s “territory” put this together in about 8 hours. How lovely!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Fun times

Boston doesn’t come close to San Ramon. San Ramon is a small picture perfect suburb which has a resort like charm to it. Set amidst rolling hills and grass dunes, the landscape is a wallpaper color coordinated to the last pixel. Rubbish the analogy, but I hope you get the picture.

So when K2 and M treated Mom and Dad to these visual delights for almost a month, in addition to introducing Dad to a whole new world of American sugar-freedom (the sweet sound of Splenda), K3 and I were worried for Boston. And then it was only when spring arrived that we started liking it here. Boston is a historic city which has an important place in America’s freedom struggle. Monuments, churches, cemeteries, squares, parks, ships, museums, etc you would have read about in the history books are all here. But to my parents, it’s just a good-to-know thing. We weren’t sure what would be their a-ha moment in Boston.

We were needlessly worried. In the last 10 days since they have been here we have had our share of divine, pure bliss moments and some more - simple things like bowling as a family, eating authentic Sambhaji-park type bhel alongside the river, running barefoot on the beach and watching the endless reruns of Sarabhai vs Sarabhai on youtube to name a few. We could have all been anywhere in the world at this moment and still could have had as much fun – Boston scores because we happen to be here at this moment.

(K2 –Chicago remains the greatest city ever. Hyderabad and Pune come a close second, okay?)

Friday, May 28, 2010

discovering simple joys

Food is also, I think the food for soul. No, you don’t get it?

There’s this place near my office I go most days for my lunch time fix of greens and crunch and usually stick to the safe raw veggies. Safe because I know there’s no seasoning or marinade and I don’t have to worry about what I am eating. Ever since I learnt that those innocuous looking olives and onions were marinated in chicken stock and more than a couple bones kept them company!

Anyways, with my food boundaries so well defined and with no possibility of me trying anything non-vegetarian I was wondering if I should resign myself to eating simply ghaas foos. This thought and the food made the afternoons at work seem way longer and the summer colors one shade paler. And the visions of food back home didn’t help either!

Since last few weeks I had been eyeing these absolutely delicious looking dolmas – the stuffed grape leaves, neatly arranged on a tray at the salad bar. I wasn’t really sure what these were stuffed with and today to my utmost delight the bar manager tells me that it’s vegan! One more to thank god on Friday!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Give me my sunshine

Crossing the beautiful Charles enroute to office is the highpoint of my day. I notice that just like me, several fellow commuters greedily look onto the wonderful view craning their necks. The river in itself is not very huge and it hardly takes a couple minutes for the train to chug across. The city doesn’t really have a skyline to boast of. So the rewarding view is just the Charles river and the rows of trees along its banks.

The weather forecast today said it would be a rainy day. And a rainy day it is. Though it’s not a downpour, it is that niggling slant drizzle where neither the umbrella protects you nor the long raincoat.

When I looked out of the train, the usual color was replaced with different shades of grey. The river, the buildings and the clouds. Depressing, but spellbinding sight. After surviving the awfully long winter months, I got used to the spring colors within a day. It was like with a click of a button my winter memories were erased. So much so that I didn’t remember seeing the leafless trees and empty sidewalks. Sadly, it all came rushing with this dreary rainy morning.

Hopefully the sun comes out tomorrow and with it comes all the color.

Friday, April 23, 2010

You realize you are a pathetic liability to your folks when you worry about Monday on Friday evening.

Take a bow K, you are one of your kind! :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Suitably untitled

When you move to a different place you are given a chance to start a new life, give yourself a new personality and reinvent yourself. Speaks my mentor at work. I nod.

What do you do if you come across as the same old person you were in the old place? I ask him.

It means you are not new anymore in the new place. And old habits die hard. He tells me.

Damn! Am I stuck to being an over-cautious, easily-scared, fussing over “what will he/she think” type of person for the rest of my life! Worse still, I needed to travel more than 12,000 miles to this snow field just to know this! Ridiculous. I mean absolute waste of everything.

Anyways, all is not lost. On our trip to Disneyland, I was tricked into riding a roller-coaster* and I not only survived to tell the tale but also timidly rode a couple of mini roller-coasters. My folks who gave up trying to convince me to do something adventurous will rejoice in my achievement.

*For people who are wondering how can somebody be tricked into riding a roller-coaster- I was not drunk. This monster was hidden in a big building with a fancy name – not revealing what it actually was! And the lovely people who knew it feigned ignorance. Not spoiling the actual details of the ride for anybody who may end up visiting Disneyland.

Monday, March 08, 2010

in a lame attempt to break the blog-break

Five things from Hyd I am missing right now:
1.Poli-bhaji in my lunch box
2.The weekend trips to Jiva
3.The beautiful necklace road/KBR park area
4.Birla temple
5.Fortnightly visits to amma-bothe baba and others

Five things I love in Boston:
1.The Charles river
2.The promise of something to explore over the weekend
3.To come home to A and K3
4.The bounty of fruit and vegetables
5.The hobby and art stores

Idea - courtesy K2

Wishing all the lovely women I know a very happy women's day!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Simple Joys

While I am in the new year mood and still naive to think about new year resolutions, let me announce mine. This I hope improves my chances of sustaining them through the year.
1. Draw
2. Paint
3. Origami
and No Fear!

Warming up in Boston

On Makara Sankranti last week and I remembered the taste of the delicious til-gul ladoo and poli my mother makes. She adds cardamom and nutmeg and peanuts as well for the rich taste. I also remember that Makara Sankranti is all about “sankraman” or Change. This year is our year of sankraman. We took the decision that saw us leaving Hyderabad, our home for the last several years, our beloved house which we still refer to as new after 3 years of familiarity, A left his job of 10 years and our daily routines. Not mentioning the people – our dear families, friends and other acquaintances, we pretty much left behind our lives we had built in the city that grew on me. Needless to say, we shocked the junta in the process.

It’s not easy to handle such magnitude of change and uncertainty without being nervous or feeling overwhelmed. Nervous and overwhelmed I was. Till I saw my first snow and felt it on my face. I mean this is it. The cold I was so scared of back home, the snow which I had seen only in movies or TV, the chilling wind which people warned about – everything is here and I am right in the middle of it. And to be honest, I like it.

I like it because A and I got the chance to be more adventurous, take a detour and enjoy the sights. I like it because he is with me and so are K2 and K3.

Three weeks of daze. And I feel I have been here for a while till I blurt out to the cab driver “Madhapur!”

PS – I realize that it’s been a year since my last post. I wonder how. Especially because 2009 has been a kind year with so many joyful moments, family get-togethers, milestones. I just need to shrug off my lethargy and start writing. Soon.