Dec 30, 2012

2012, in Books!

A super-good year for books... I touched a number that I only dreamt about touching.
Reading 120 books in 12 months is a big deal, especially to me.
That means an average of -
10 books per month
2.5 books per week 
a book every 2 days
All this combined with a very demanding job, and another demanding hobby... well, I felt like I ran past the finish line of a marathon as I closed my 120th book earlier today.

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[Do check out my book list by clicking on the pic above]

It was indeed like a marathon. I started off with great gusto, I grew disillusioned in the middle, I told myself that number doesn't matter(which didn't till I finished my 100th book, after which it was merely a challenge I threw to myself to see if I could touch 120!), I drew inspiration from other readers, my elbows ached with all the book/Kindle-holding I did, and when the finish line was visible there was exhilaration and excitement, and when I finally reached the magic number after some huffing and puffing, I was overjoyed. And am overjoyed because as I hit the number, I also know that I enjoyed and savored each book, even the not-so-good-ones.

One of the reasons why I am not able to contain the excitement is because I am not sure if I will ever be able to read 120 books in an year again. Life is busy and it will only get busier in the coming years. Also, I want to not read 120 books in the coming years... I want to concentrate on other hobbies... coz as much as I love them and think that they are really the only things that matter, I know that books alone cannot satiate the zest I have for things! I want to work on other aspects of the hobbies, like working on my cooking techniques and understanding better photography...

When I started off this year, I wasn't sure if I would be able to read even 50 books, which is why I set myself a modest target of 30, which I think I crossed by the 6th week of the year. And as the numbers kept on increasing, I kept on piling them up. I spent a lot of time on figuring out what my next books would be, where to source them from and internalizing each book that I finished reading. The last bit was particularly important because I've read some great books this year. Some books which I will carry with me forever either because of the marks they made on my mind or what they have introduced me to.

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I finished the Tome-Travelling challenge I picked up at the start of 2012, read some incredible writers for the first time, read some real duds and some life-altering-awesome books.

The Tome-Travelling aside, I have read some great books in 2012. Thankfully, there were not many young-adult books, a genre I still enjoy reading, but know for a fact that they cannot teach me anything new. There were a lot of authors I read for the first time and wondered how on earth I survived without reading them before. There were also some disappointments in the form of highly rated authors whom I couldn't enjoy as much as I thought I would.

Here are some of the best books I read this year, in no particular order -

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – A very well researched and written non-fiction book, something that’s not my first choice but am glad I picked up, which opened my eyes to a whole new world.
  2. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – As I mentioned in my review of this book, the word ‘beautiful’ doesn’t even begin to describe this book. A very poignant love story with a lot of other elements interspersed, this is a very interesting book.
  3. A Room of One’s Own – Ms.Woolf’s account on why there are not many women in literature is a very profound book, something that aligned to the theme I chose for this year – Feminism.
  4. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – One of the most complex works of Murakami’s that I read this year, this is also a weird yet thoroughly awesome amalgamation of worlds, in a classic Murakami style.
  5. Kafka on the Shore – Oh.My.God! What a brilliant book! Every aspect of this book will mess with your head for days after you are done reading, and every aspect of it will remain with you forever. You will talk about sardines, portals and wish you heard the title song somewhere… the book will haunt you forever and you will love it!
  6. Wide Sargasso Sea – Like the reviewers say, this is indeed the other side of Jane Eyre, a book that implores upon the story of Rochester’s first wife. You will not feel the same about Rochester after you read this book!
  7. Thirteenth Tale – What.A.Book! It’s a pity Diana Setterfield has not written any book after this, and am eagerly waiting for someone to make a movie out of this one, though I know the movie will NEVER live up to the book. As I mentioned in my review, this one is a thorough book-lover’s paradise.
  8. 1Q84 – I’ve written, spoken and thought about this for every waking moment for up to a month after reading this, and am still not done.
  9. Ines of my Soul – I took a free trip to 1500’s Chile and came back when I finished this book. Yep, Allende’s prose is as captivating as the interesting life Ines led back then.
  10. A Doll’s House – Ibsen’s short play is anything but short. Thoroughly feminist and thought-provoking, I would recommend this book to every girl.
  11. The Bell Jar – Slyvia Plath’s talent is not unknown to the modern world but I think this book is am embodiment of it all. Though the concept is depressing, Plath manages to write it in an un-depressing way.
  12. The Shadow of the Wind – A profound tale of undying love, extreme hatred, time-tested friendship, deep sorrow and above all Barcelona, this book made me a fan of Ruiz Zafon’s.

2013 is going to be about classics. I intend to read classics, both old and new. I also intend to re-read some books that I love - Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, Harry Potter series, The Thirteenth Tale, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the likes…
Am also going to pick up the books I chose for my 2012-Tome-travelling challenge, those that I couldn't read either because I couldn't source them or because I barely couldn't finish them.
I will also read Vikram Seth's Suitable Boy and Rushdie's Midnight's Children, or at least try to read them.
There is also a plan to finish reading all Murakami's works, though I highly doubt if I will do it all in one stretch, for the fear of not having anything to look forward to if I finish Murakami.

The ONLY thing I regret in all this mad-cap-reading is that I did not take the time out to review each book that I read, something which I enjoy doing otherwise. As a result of this, all I have are the ratings I gave for the books and no track of my thoughts as I was reading them, something I love to read at a later point of time to reminisce. 

2013 will have a new Kindle, the new Paperwhite one which has just been ordered(Yippee!!), which might hopefully mean undisturbed sleep for the husband who gets bothered by the reading lamp by my bedside but is sweet enough to not mention it, because he knows that I cannot sleep without reading. There will also be a new Surface later in the year, which will hopefully make updating my reading progress in Goodreads much easier.

So here’s to an exciting 2013… an year full of good books, great conversations with friends, some travel and some great work. :-D

2012–the Year that was…

Oh, it has been a good year. A very good year, indeed.
I read a lot, enough to compensate for the very less travelling I did, cooked quite a bit, learnt a bit more about photography and learnt how to knit.

Travel: There has not been a lot of travel, thanks to the very colliding holiday schedule both I and the husband kept this year. Right when I would be free from work, he would be swamped with it, and when I would be busy, he had some free time. In spite of this killing schedule, we went out twice... Delhi-Agra and a week long trip to Coorg, which was essentially a reading holiday, where we both did nothing but read in our respective corners in the charming little homestay we stayed at. And I went for a short holiday to Goa with friends where I did nothing but eat mangoes in the comfort of our hotel room, take a couple of long bike rides and squirm as usual at the thought of sitting in the beach.

Blog: No, am not talking about this one. Am talking about The Meal Algorithm, which is where I blog more frequently(72 posts in 2012!). I love to write, and the love for cooking has continued even in 2012. I discovered slowly that baking is certainly not a strength, though I can bake to save my life, its cooking that I'd like to do. Even that has suffered a bit in the latter part of the year, thanks to the house help disappearing for a full 4 months, without whom, I had to cook the basic meals of the day too after which I was too busy to think of something new to cook or even shoot what I cooked. So yeah, both cooking and photography suffered in the latter part of the year.

Books: This is going to need a whole new post for itself. Yes, reading has been the focus this year. I was busy and stressed at work. A lot of family visited us this year, I watched some mindless TV for months at a stretch (imagine watching back to back episodes of Gilmore Girls, The Good Wife and 30 Rock). I also picked up a new hobby-learning to knit which didn't really kick off as well as I thought it would and hence required me to spend a lot more mind power and time on it. During all these, reading was what I did. With great focus and lists in tow, I read every day, for atleast an hour. And thanks to the incredible speed at which I could read, I finished a great number of books (all of which will be in a separate post!) and am mighty proud of it...

Hobbies: As mentioned before, knitting suddenly piqued my interest. Well, there are reasons to it. I once saw a bunch of girls crocheting in an episode of The New Girl which I totally loved as a stress-buster-idea. And then, there was this awesome cardigan and handbag that I wanted to make for myself. Only when I finished learning knitting(I can do a decent knit and a pearl now but knitting sweaters is a long way ahead!) did I discover that it was crocheting that I should've done, if I wanted to make myself that cardigan and the handbag. So yeah, 2013 is going to be the year where I learn crocheting.

Work has been good, with even some good stuff towards the 3rd quarter of the year. As usual, I met some amazing people, didn’t lose friend (touchwood!) and have gotten slightly better at reading people. I still take things at face value, but the cynic in me is back, which I think is good. The positive attitude is still there, and I hope it will continue.

We have absolutely not been socializing, partying is beginning to look like a chore. The husband and I have been hanging out by ourselves on a weeknight , mostly in HRC to do some people-watching, and meeting some good friends at either their or our homes. I stopped worrying about this trend, which I initially thought was alarming, and have not begun to understand as yet another change age brings in. I’ve realized that I’d rather have conversations with people I like than sit with a drink I don’t drink with blazing music in my ears, and am okay with it being a sign of growing old.

Weekends are either spent reading on my couch or with family around. There have been quite a few alone-weekends what with the husband travelling a lot over the weekends initially. So yeah, there has not been a dearth of alone-time which I’ve always enjoyed. I spent most of this time by myself and some of it hanging out with friends, all of it super fun! New babies by friends are welcomed into the world and good things have happened to people who are dear to me, this year, and that has made me immensely happy.

Health has been bad. Yeah, pretty bad. Its not something that’s visible to the naked eye and people wouldn’t know if I don’t mention it, but its been bad, to the point of being traumatic in the first half of the year. There were days I was so down physically that I couldn’t even get up in the morning. I am glad persisted through it all, and now its all getting better. Only in the past 3-4 months have I been settling into feeling good. I know I have to exercise, coz only that is the solution to everything I’ve been facing, but then, that’s a problem I have decided to solve on another day. For now, Homeo is what am relying on.

2013 Resolutions:
I plan to read up a lot more on food photography, bring in some technique to the way I shoot pics, learn some photo-editing software to enhance my pics and see what I can do with my food photography.
I will aim to post atleast once a week on my food blog, this should be do-able, but lets see where work will take me!
Crocheting - learn this!
Read as usual, but not with the mad fervor! Also re-read some books.
Travel. Take another holiday in Goa and may be a reading holiday as well.
And please, for the love of God, get in shape. Exercise!

Jun 10, 2012

Tough decisions…

Yep, only when you have to make them do you realize that you are indeed a grown-up. And that life is not how it was when you were Daddy’s little girl, you’d run to Daddy and tell him the problem and expect it to be solved in the next minute. Or pick up the phone and talk it out with Mommy, and expect her to solve it for you. Well, when you grow up, more often than not, you discover you cannot even discuss many of your dilemmas with your parents. That’s the downside of being a grown-up, I feel.

I will take a slight digression and mull on how much watching Gilmore Girls again made me miss my Mommy. And how many times in the middle of an episode, I would pick up the phone and talk some random stuff with Mom, not the usual, how are you doing, did you take your meds, no, I cannot visit you this weekend etc. Yeah, I realized that watching the show made me grow closer to my Mom, reminisce all the moments I spent talking to Mom when I was staying at home, and how we are still close, except that we now don’t see eye-to-eye on most topics. Watching the show has also made me understand Mom more, understand how she would’ve felt when she saw her kids leave home, how she dealt with the empty nest syndrome and how she is coping with it even now… Well, as I said, I digress.

Back to the decisions, it sucks, doesn’t it. To be all grown-up, with the whole world expecting you to know what you want in life and how to get it. To have to deal with all your problems without support. To be an adult, pay bills, make plans etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for independence, but I sometimes get nostalgic about the irresponsibility, of depending on someone else to get your stuff done and of having to pick up the phone and just expect problems to be solved. Yeah, I chose this world, and as much I whine about it, I want this. I want to be able to decide what I want to do with anything I would like, and how things have to be dealt with in my life. Makes me feel all super-powerful.

It only stinks when I have to prioritize. When I have to decide what I want to do over something else I want to do. Its the difference between ‘want to do’ and ‘have to do’ that bugs me, and by what I see around among all the adults I know (those who don’t want to be adults but have to be ), its a problem all of us have.

I just made one of such tough decisions. It was between what I want to do, and what I have to do. Have to do is pretty important stuff and yes, it keeps me happy. Want to do is something I always wanted to do. An option I wanted to explore as an alternate career. Something I wanted to do when I grew bored of my Have-to-do stuff. Something that was my cushion. I thought I could do both of these, I am a super-woman after all , just that it turns out I am not. Deadlines in both these areas of work, and I figured out I will have to let the want-to-do go away. I cannot screw up with my have-to-dos, can’t I? And so, I decided to take a shot at want-to-do when I am more relaxed with my have-to-do.

I know I am going to regret this decision, moreover opportunities do not keep coming. And so this will get filed under the Missed-Opportunities list I am maintaining. This might even be a Dear Diary moment, for me to look back when this list grows too big because I will forever be busy with my have-to-do. Sigh. Sometimes, at very very rare times, being an adult sucks. Coz I alone am responsible for this decision, no?

May 18, 2012

Mango!

Nothing says summer like the arrival of mangoes and watermelons to the markets. And of course, the sweet songs of the cuckoos in the mornings, the power cuts and the hot afternoons. And yes, the reminder that I've indeed grown up, and so I do not have summer vacations anymore.

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No more running around grandparents' houses with cousins without a care in the world.
No more sitting by the todu and squeezing the mangoes out of the last drop of their pulp.
No more competitions on whose mango seed flies the longest, and who will hide from the rest of the cousins the longest.
No more of those very expensive put-a-hole-through-cousins-pocket gad-bad ice-creams.
None of the pelakkai gattis, mango rasayanas , tandoorlis and kukku bajjis.
No more summer exhibitions where you would meet all the people you've ever known , all in the span of just one evening.
No more of just-cut-me-a-mango-Mom all three meals a day.
No more sleeping on the terrace till the sun tans you to the darkest shade possible.

Well, I can make, eat and see them all as much as I want now, but its not the same without the company of the people with whom I shared my childhood.

So , come every summer, I inevitably miss the summers I spent in my grandparents' house in Hidingala and Ujire, and the careless 12-hr-long night and days I spent reading all the books I want. Basically, I miss being the 15 yr old me.
And of all the things I miss in summers, I miss the tastiest mangoes ever – Banaganapalle mangoes a lot.
You do get them in Hyderabad, but they are not as good as the ones you get in Kurnool, the place where I grew up. Very tasty, export quality mangoes for the cheapest prices possible, straight from the orchards.... oh yes, that’s possible only if you are in Kurnool. And yeah, you gotta be as mad for mangoes as we as a family are.

I was whining about the lack of good mangoes in Hyderabad and how I haven't eaten an Alphonso mango till date with no particular action item in mind. And now the house is full of mangoes. From the orchard, from the streets and even the Alphonso variety ... you name it, and the husband has managed to get it for me this time, making me grin wide, but also miss my childhood all the more.

As I am making lists on whom all to share the Alphonso crate with, I called Mom asking her to come over, just to taste the mangoes (yeah, that's how crazy we are for mangoes). She promptly refused my offer to share my Alphonsoes and told me that her Banaganapalles are way tastier than any other mango under the sky, and that I should go over to Kurnool if I want to have a bite of them. :)
So yeah, I am not considering driving over just to taste them, because she refused to parcel them to me the way she did it for the brother... :)

After I am done sighing at the awesome smell of mangoes the minute I open my fridge, I have to plan a short vacation and also the endless work that has been piling up when I was busy doing... well, eating mangoes... :) and yeah, the home photo studio for my food photography experiments.

Tell me, how are your summers going? Lots of fun? Vacations? What other plans?

Apr 5, 2012

1Q84 – A World, a journey and an experience…

Wandering , I was lost in the big almost-bad , never-ending world of books, YA novels and some dumb series , fluttering from book to book, wondering where in my book-journey I lost a purpose and where I had forgotten all about my favourite style of writing and the worlds I'd live to get lost in and worrying about what my next book would be like and telling myself that quantity is never better than quality but still piling on the number of books I read per month and questioning my own attention span ... And that is when Murakami happened. Almost every time he happened, he managed to fill my head with unimaginable worlds and beautiful paired sentences and aptly used words... Thus showing me what the joy of reading is all about!

Like how they say that when you are in love, every step you take in your life is so that it might take you closer to your love (am refraining to use a reference from the book here, something which Aomame does towards the end of the book), every book I read this year so far was to get me closer to this book – Murakami’s 1Q84.

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It was to read this long a book with complete dedication that I spent weekends and weekdays maniacally reading all other books in my To-Read list. The sheer size of this book was deterring me, and I was questioning myself if I would persist enough to finish this book at all and if my restlessness take a upper hand from the love I have for Murakami. Well, turns out my love for Murakami , his words and the worlds he creates for me is greater than anything else!

At the core of 1Q84 is a beautiful hopeful love story, something very deep and soul-touching, taking course over an year, 1984. Well, Murakami has his way with words for sure, can do a great job with love stories and his translator does a good job too, but what is better than the love story in this book is the way it shapes up. The characters that are introduced in the midst of all the action in Aomame’s and Tengo’s lives, the worlds they exist in, the individual characteristics of each of these characters , their purpose in the book, and the sheer world he created in this story… each of these are brilliant. Murakami sure did give a lot of thought on how he would develop each character, where he would end them, how they would play according to his wishes in 1Q84 and what impressions they will leave in our minds.

Mar 29, 2012

Books… the impact!

 

Needless to say, books impact our lives a lot. I also believe that books shape us, our characters and a lot on how we think about many aspects around us. That is why being well-read was a very important trait for me. The ONE thing I was particular about my life-partner even as a young girl was that the boy I would marry would be well-read and should be able to talk and hold conversations on books. If not anything else, we’d at least never run out of topics to talk about.. :)

I am a huge fan of Haruki Murakami, his books, his style of writing (with due credit to his translator)  and the world he weaves in his stories. I’ve learned a lot and read up a lot after finishing each of his books because of the many references he gives to many topics in his books, all those that he likes or he draws his inspirations from. So when his 1Q84 was due for release last year, there were a lot of articles on him, his living, his books and his inspiration for 1Q84 itself and the various things in the book that he refers to. First and foremost on the inspiration list was that he titled the book on the lines of George Orwell’s 1984. Now, until then, I’ve obviously read and heard a lot about George Orwell but was never compelled enough to go and read his books. But to read and understand and to not miss a single reference that Murakami would give in 1Q84, I decided to read 1984. This is first of the many things I did in 2012 to gear myself up to read 1Q84. Yes, that is/was how important it was for me to understand the book and Murakami, and the book. I am currently reading this book, but more about this later, in a separate post which this book totally deserves.

Now, 1984 – from the minute I finished reading this book, I cannot tell in how many ways this book has impacted my thinking. From the outline of it, its not a great story. Its set in a dystopian society ruled by a dictator where people are forever forced to think in a certain angle. Obviously, the setting is brilliant, the story telling is awesome but what’s more awesome is how this book has been in my thoughts forever. Every time I think of past, and how I would like to change it, like the old photographs on my food blog, or the posts on this blog, or changing certain aspects in my Facebook Timeline, I cannot help but think that I am trying to change history, one of the most important points of 1984. Its shocking how deep an impact the book has made, because of all the things that have crept into popular culture from this book, the only thing that stuck to me is trying to change history. Trying to change history is trying to change who we are, and in effect changing our own identity. This thought has dawned on me only from the book.

And that is how I began to think of all the books that have impacted me , changed the way I think about certain things and shaped the person I am today.

Mar 7, 2012

Those 30-Days…

are going to be one heck of a challenge…

Inspired by my friend who introduced me to Try Something New for 30 Days, which I shall now call as The 30-Day Challenge, by virtue of this awesome TED talk, I have decided to start something new in the month of March.

I started off by trying to ape this friend, and not eat any dessert for the next 30 days. I must say that the start was indeed good, but it waned as the days passed by. I lived through a family get-together and one office party when everyone on the table ordered a dessert and I was by myself smiling and gloating away to glory at not having been lured into the Dessert-trap.

Since I could do it, I also thought I’ll mark this month as No-Junk-Food month, which means I will not eat anything fried , or anything that I can buy from a roadside stall.

Well, that didn’t go on all that well. Brunch with friends happened on Sunday, where I saw an array of desserts. I asked myself the reasons for challenging myself to not eat desserts, and the answer wasn’t very compelling. Weight loss and health are for sure good enough incentives to not eat dessert for a month, but my first reason had been to season myself, discipline this irrational heart. Turns out not eating dessert is not much of a challenge to me, as much as not making dessert is.

So that is what it is… for me, for the month of March  - To not make/bake/cook dessert for the entire month. And one heck of a challenge it is… considering how easy it is to crave, read up on and to make one, and all the food-blog-browsing I do…

Feb 26, 2012

Ines, of my soul…

There is something about the way the Latin American writers write. Its like this – they want to tell a good story, with all elements in it. They want you to remember it well. They also want you to be aware of your surroundings. And they want you to do it all without putting down the book.

Of course, this applies to all the writers out there. But only a few can accomplish all this, and much more. Only some write stories that will stay with you forever. Only some can hold the power on your heart to not want to finish a book. Only some can weave poetry into prose and still tell a good story. And very few can actually make you stay in this world, and yet transport you into a different one, a magical one. And very very few can actually sketch down to the smallest detail, all the aspects of the world they create for you, and all in a few words.

Doubtlessly, Marquez is President of Great Story-Teller Country, and the Minister of Awesome Writers Guild, if there is one. Only he can tell a beautiful story, make it stay with you for every breath you take as long as you are reading it, and make it stay in a safe draw of your brain, the drawer you open when you want to float into a beautiful world, and get lost. But off late, as I am delightfully discovering each new author, I am also discovering the old ones, who are good enough to be in this country that Marquez rules. Well, Isabel Allende is one of those, I now confirm.

How many times have you pursed your lips as you read two protagonists have an argument in a book ? How many times did you feel like wielding a sword yourself and getting into the fight to save your favourite character in the book? How many times have you tried wiping off the drool from your lips as you read the making of a tasty dish in a book you are reading? How many times have you wept tears of joy or sorrow depending on what you are reading? How many times have you said out loud ‘Oh , no!’ or a jubilant ‘Yes’ as you read something good happening in the book? How many times did you read a complete book with same gusto knowing the climax and end of each of the characters much beforehand? And how many times have you been disappointed that the book you are reading has ended?

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Well… Ines of my soul is one book which will take you through all these and much more. Its like you are making the journey with Pedro and Ines from Peru to Chile. Its like you are seeing them suffer in the desert. You feel like you are there when the captured are being executed. You feel like you are in Ines’ and Pedro’s bedroom as they are making love. You can literally feel the passion Ines feels for Pedro and the love she feels for Rodrigo. In short, its a trip to Ines’ world, the 1500s Chile, the trip you can never take if not for Allende.

All this while still maintaining a certain poetic lilt in the prose. While still moving the story at a steady pace, leaving you moments to re-read a certain paragraph or a page. And announcing beforehand what is going to happen to each of the characters, thereby challenging you if you have it in you to read forward, if you will go ahead and read it knowing fully well what will happen next. And you will be more than glad to lap it all up. And also tying up all the loose ends. All of them, down to the detail of the descendants of Balthazar, Ines’ dog.

I was on an exciting roller coaster ride as long as I was reading this book. I felt tired as I finished reading the war scenes, and was excited when Ines narrated her love stories. I voraciously wiki-ed all the characters of this book, and read it all.

This book deserves 5 out of 5 stars. For the story that will stay with you for your lifetime. For the free trip to old Chile. And for Ines, Pedro and Rodrigo.

Read this book if you want to go through these, and many more such emotions.
Read this book if you want to experience what the fabled South American writing is all about.
Read this book if you are remotely even interested in history, or love stories.
Read this if you are a passionate person yourself.

Actually, just please read this book, and come talk to me about it… I’ll even learn making empanadas by then! :-)

Feb 16, 2012

Of Lahiris and Namesakes…

Am tired of Lahiri, her same old premises, and similar characters. And I've begun to notice that her stories all have a depressing undertone, and are extremely verbose. Where other authors beautifully express the predicament, situation or scene in 5-10 beautiful magical sentences, Lahiri takes an entire page for them, and they are still not awesome.

I might not be worthy of a reviewer to give such a rating to one of the most famous woman authors from Indian origin, but I am beginning to wonder how and why her stories get popular?
All of them are based on a Bengali couple living in the US, and are struggling to keep their children still in touch with their Bong routes, and the kids are doing everything in their might to shrug away from them, their cultures and their parents. And at the end of every story, the off-spring eventually realizes his/her roots and gets back to them.
Its like Lahiri is reading from her own life and experiences and is not doing anything to take the reader to a different place or time. And when this tone is repeated in each and every one of her books, I read Namesake and two stories from Unaccustomed Earth, and am done with her. After reading Namesake, and an excerpt from one of her other stories, I still wanted to give her a chance and see if there is something , something at all that might appeal to me in her books, but no... none at all.

Namesake also wasn't a great book too, in hindsight. And that was the only movie based on a book that I thought to be better than the book, and certainly the entire credit goes to the actors of the movie, and not the plot or the storyline. So in short, am done with Jhumpa Lahiri. I will not read any of her books unless of course, she wins the Nobel Prize for literature.

But yeah, in spite of all this, I am in half a mind to put myself through Interpreter of Maladies , though I don’t want to, and only will to know what the book is all about.

Feb 11, 2012

New Home, and some Thanksgiving!

Yep, for me, Thanksgiving has come a little early. :-D There is a long list of people I have to thank for something big on this blog!

Did you notice the URL of my food blog – www.themealalgorithm.com?

Yes… I bought the domain – TheMealAlgorithm.com, mainly because I wanted to know how it feels to have your own domain, what with everyone having one of their own, and I having no clue on how to go about it. Well, for starters, it feels great. :-D Its been two days and I haven’t been able to get over it till now. :-)

There was some major confusion, cluelessness and mayhem before I actually bought the domain. I wasn’t sure how to start about it, and what to do and all. GoDaddy.com was recommended by everyone, but when I actually was about to buy the domain off it, there was some problem with the payment options, and I had to cancel my order.

Then I asked Nags of Edible Garden [which you should totally check out if you want to understand the nuances of food photography. Check out her blog for the tips. I did all my prop-shopping after reading how she uses her props] what she did for her domain. After talking to her and figuring out if I can host the domain on Azure, I went ahead and bought the domain from Google, which again was powered by GoDaddy.com, but the process was easier.

And then came the problem of the template. All the food bloggers’ templates I like are based on white, and I knew that was what I wanted too. But my non-existent HTML and web-designing skills didn’t let me pick and choose any template I wanted and could customize. After checking atleast ten different templates and trying them all on the blog and not liking any, I turned to Twitter. I asked for folks how they design their blog templates, and got plenty of help.

All of these guys helped me with template options, on how to customize the blog or a suggestion on how to go about getting a domain and I took the ones that applied the most to me.

Anita Menon
Mala Bhargava
Amit Agarwal
Saleem Pheku
Rads
Monika Manchanda
Shripal Gandhi
Maxdavinci

Thanks a lot, guys!

I went with Madhu’s suggestion of starting with a plain white template, and customizing it the way I wanted. And it worked great. Atleast I love my blog template, and feel comfortable coming here , to my own blog. :-)

Then came the header. I wanted a plain header, nothing fancy, but I wanted it to have a design which would imply what the blog is all about. Well, my creative abilities are again non-existed, and so I wanted to go with a simple flowchart, making something I am good at, but the husband thought of something better. Something which resembles me a lot more, and he customized it to suit this blog.

Yes, the code in the blog is his idea. He wrote it in the Visual Studio IDE, and I made the flow chart using Visio 2010. And I integrated them all using Microsoft Powerpoint 2010. And lo… the header was ready, and am in love with it!

Now that everything is ready and set, all I have to do is to get into that kitchen of mine and cook… :)

[Cross posted in my food blog – www.themealalgorithm.com too]

Feb 7, 2012

A Doll’s House - Review

Oh.My.GOD!
What a beautiful play!
In just under 100 pages, the concept of marriage and sacrifice are dealt and boundaries of love, admiration, friendship and desperation are treaded upon.

Its a wonder that a play as good as this was written in the late 1800s, when being a woman meant something totally different from now. Yet again, this book proves that feminism, what it means to be a woman, what it is to have self-respect and not let anyone take you for granted have not changed in the past century, and women continue to face situations like how Nora has faced.

Just as the reader admires Torvald's love for Nora and the adorable names he calls her, and still wondering why it feels so saccharine to me, the sudden jolt of the letter is felt, and Nora's strong personality is opened up. I was literally praying that the play turns the way I want it to , in my mind, and doesn't make Nora into a weakling for love.

This book is a forever favourite, and I recommend every woman to read this, and make the men in their lives read this book.

Yes, Feminism in its theoretical meaning might be a a dated concept but it is as much required in the 21st century as it was in the 18th. And am glad it aligns to my philosophy of being a feminist - never let anyone take you for granted, and always respect yourself.

My review – 5 on 5 stars. An awesome book which I will refer to forever when I talk about feminism.

Feb 3, 2012

We weren’t lovers like that

 

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It is better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all, they say. But those who have loved and lost will tell you a different story, and more often than not , it will be that its better to not love at all than to lose a loved one. Losing a loved one to death would probably be much easier in one angle. You at least know that they were yours in living. But losing a loved one due to circumstances and situations, well.. that could be painful. You know the other person is living, and is not yours, and you will be in a quagmire of 'what-ifs'. But then, if you ask me, I’d say the person rather be living somewhere than be mine and dead. He/She is at least alive, but that’s a purely personal opinion.

Aftab , the main protagonist of this book is an example of this. The pain a person goes through at having lost a loved one due to circumstances. Most of them created by himself because of his weak character. And as he is making the long train journey from Delhi to Haridwar, he is letting his mind do the inevitable, dreadful journey into the land of what-ifs. And dwells in it. Thinking about all the times he spent with his love, and wondering how she lived after him, poring into the smallest of the details and killing himself bit by bit in that process.

I have read great reviews about this book, by some of my friends on GoodReads, whose reviews on genres I read I highly trust, which is the reason why I picked up this book after the initial hesitation of reading an Indian author. The past few outings with Indian authors haven't been really pleasant, and I have been lamenting on the death of Indian literature in English, what with every writer trying to get his movie in the hit-list and thus sell it for a huge sum of money to one of the Bollywood production houses. I can blame Chetan Bhagat for this downfall of quality Indian English literature, its even easy because I hate him, his books and his writing. But then, lets face it, the talent is not really there. That's what I told myself.

Atleast till I read this book. I loved Navtej Sarna's style of writing. Really elaborate, flowery, beautiful and a yet a lot of room for imagination. It was a pleasure to read the chapters he wrote about Aftab mulling about his lost love, and recounting those beautiful days. It filled my heart with a wonderful flowery feeling, which does not happen often. And I loved it.
But then, that was about it. I am not a great fan of this book. A fan of the author, yes, but not the book, and it doesn't have anything to do with the author or the book or the plot itself.

I detest books which have weak characters as main protagonists, and that's just me. I know it takes people of all kinds to make a world, and so it is within the book world too. But for some reason, Aftab came across as really a loser. A helpless, pathetic, passive aggressive kinda person, who did nothing all his life but live per others' wishes. And I hate such characters.
But then again, it is a testimony to the good job the author did in portraying a regular person as a weakling and still retaining the flavour of a love story.

One thing is for sure, if you have loved, or lost a loved one, then you will love the particular chapters where Aftab is talking about his Ro. If you have not fallen in love yet, you will want to read this and imagine this is how you would feel if you were in love.

Pick up this book by all means if you love reading a nice romantic story.
Pick it up if you love to read a beautiful, flowery , free flowing elegy of someone's love.
Read this for the pure joy of reading. That's all.
Do not pick it up if you judge the book or the author by its characters, or if you are looking for a strong protagonist.

My Rating – 3.5 out of 5.
But I’ll make it a 4, purely for the joy of reading, and the two nights it sailed me through.

Feb 2, 2012

Inscrutable Americans


I was looking through some old blog posts in my other blogs, and saw what went through my head after I had finished reading this book. I don’t just have a review of this book, I also have an example of how I felt after I read it…
Here is one half of that blog post. The other half is all about how this is just a passable read etc, but this part is my favourite. Written 6 years ago, I LOLed again as I read this…
Dear Brother,
My respects to our Respectable Parents! I am doing fine here. And I am thinking that you are also doing fine there. Or is somebody fining you for what you are doing? Hahahaha... I am joking only of course. I am hoping you are not minding this.

Tell our parents that I am doing only prayers and office work and not doing anything that they asked me not to do. Also please inform Mother that I am feeling well and eating well too. I am not eating in any of the outside hotels because I am getting scared that the cooks there are not Brahmins. Dearest loving Mother asked me not to eat outside food as the cook will mix non-veg food in my khichdi and do dharma-bhrashtachar. I am hoping that you are also not doing the same thing. We are the proud descendants of this great caste system and so we should keep up high morality.
Also please inform dear Mother that I am putting lot of oil on my head before going to the office. I am also preparing breakfast and dinner for your dearest respectable Jijaji. I am taking good caring of him as Mother said that taking care of respectable patidev will take me to the heavens directly. After completing these 2 months of taking good caring of your jijaji, I am feeling that I am eligible to go to the heavens. I am not calling him with his name as dearest Mother asked me not to. I am daily praying to him also after my prayers to the Lords. And I am not reading anything bad or watching those bad channels on the TV where the woman will be wearing only two pieces of cloth. I am reading only the devotional books that Mother has asked me to read after I am coming from office and cooking for dear patidev and watching only the devotional channels where all the people wear just one coloured clothing.
Please tell these to respectable Mother and please ask her from my side if I do anything more to go to the heavens. I am also having a doubt if I should be doing prayers first to your jijaji (I am feeling shy to say his name also) and then to the Lords. I am getting this doubt because I am reading in one of those devotional books, it says that 'Patiye pratyaksha daivam'. But please do not mention this to Mother as she did not tell me to read this book as this book does not follow our dharma correctly. If she is knowing that I am reading other books, she will get angry on me and come here to pull my plait and hit me on my head. So please help me, my dear brother.
But dear brother, I will tell you something only if you will promising not to tell respectable Mother. I am falling sick yesterday and so absented office. I am just hoping that my lead there does not mind my absence. Of course, I am calling him and telling him about my incapability to attend office. But I am still thinking about what he will be thinking and all this thinking has made me more sick and my head is aching and aching yesterday.
Other than the ones I am writing above in this letter, I am having nothing more to tell you.
I am hoping that you are studying well and not doing any of the sins that are mentioned in the puranas. It is our responsibility to take care of this great dharma and keep up the respect of our parents. So please do not drink anything other than buttermilk in your college canteen. I am hearing these days that there is some drink called Coca-cola and Pepsi which is tasty, but I am not knowing and I am doubting if it is good taste or not. I am asking your jijaji to get me some of this drink and will taste it. After that, I am telling you if it is a good drink for growing students like you to drink. Till then, please do not mention this to our Father that I am planning to taste this drink. Dear Father does not like such things.

And please eat only bun in your college canteen. I am seeing many people eat bun-like eatables called burgers and pizzas in Hyderabad and in our office here. But I am not knowing how good it is for you. I will do the same as above and telling you if it is good for you.
Ok dear brother. I am hoping that you are taking care of yourself now.

Leaving you,
Your Dear Respectable Sister.

Jan 31, 2012

Fortune?

So who will read my fortune from this? :)
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After being in the limbo of will-drink-some-day, the teas that I bought from Teavana store in Bellevue Square Mall are finally seeing the light of the day.
These are the remains of the Raspberry Riot Lemon Mate, a very tart, sweetish tea. Loved it!

Jan 30, 2012

Before I fall

Before I fall By Lauren Oliver - Goodreads Link - Here

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Though it starts off as being a bookish version of Mean Girls, this book is anything but that, or may be it is. The way you look at it, that is.

I loved what the author tried doing with this book, by spinning 7 different versions of the same situations, and showing how one small action by Sam can change the course of action of the entire situation, something like The Butterfly Effect. And how one should treasure the people that matter to them and the memories associated with them.

I totally loved how Sam's character evolves with each day, and how her relationship with Kent changes with each day, so much so that, by the end of the book, Kent and Sam left a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart, something that resembles to seeing two people you really like falling in love, and you being aware of each detail of it.

Another important angle in this book is perspective. We all are right in our stories, and we are the heroes in our stories, but a little perspective, and being aware of it will go a long way.

This book might even teach you to not hate anyone outright, and peek into your heart to see why you feel about them the way you do, and might even suggest you reconsider your feelings. You never know how much time you have with them, and you don’t want to carry any regrets in your life.

Well, the book starts off as a bit of a drag in the beginning, and might even make you doubt your decision to read it, but don't give up - for that trip in your head you've never been on, for Sam , Kent and Julie and for your own sake.

This book took me back to how I felt when I finished reading Five people you meet in Heaven, the time when I made my own list of people to meet in heaven, and how I might’ve affected their lives.

In the same way, this book made me wonder how my last day would be, look at it from a third person’s perspective and wonder what my last memory would be. Slightly morbid, I know, but practical and inevitable when you read a book of this kind.

Trust me, you will not regret reading this book.

My Rating – 4 out of 5 stars.

Jan 29, 2012

Bookfessions

 

It feels good to know that there are thousands of people like us, bibliophiles, who’d rather be reading a book than be with people, who’d rather have a beautiful story in an imaginary world they spun than be in this world full of lies, and who love their books more than they love their clothes and shoes!

For Bookfessions, refer to this Tumblr. Brilliant blog!

Bookfessions – Link

Some of my confessions -

- I was once caught reading a book which was hidden in a bigger text book in the middle of a class, not by the teacher who was in the class, but by the headmistress who was on her morning rounds. Guess, what happened next goes without saying. :-)

- When we met the first time, the minute husband said that he reads books, and that he loves Godfather, I had a good feeling about us. Well, he was one of the first men I met who had read and loved Godfather as much as I had. And oh yes, apparently, I was the first girl he met who had liked Godfather as much as he did. It goes without saying that we both should’ve met more people before we met each other… ;-)

- I have read all Shakespeare’s works, abridged versions, of course by the time I finished 9th class. It goes without saying that I finished all the books in my school library , which was pretty extensive for the size of the school, by 9th class. The librarian was happy with this fact, coz that meant I would actually read my text books in Class X.

- I haven’t still forgiven that boy, my parents’ friends’ son, who took my Russian Fairy Tales book and still hasn’t returned it. Its been 20 yrs, and I don’t know where he is now! And Mom has stopped asking me to lend a book to anyone. That is how much grief I gave her for having goaded me into giving that book to that pest!

- I once actually yelled out , ‘where’s the broom!’ when I was stuck in traffic, and my friend gave me this really weird, incredulous look. Of course, she didn’t catch the Pottermania bug!

- If I REALLY like the book am reading, then more often than not, I read it cover-to-cover in one go.

- Mom once found me with a book in one hand, and a torchlight in another in a corner room during a power-cut. On the same lines, I once read through a complete milk-burn situation when I was alone at home, all the while thinking, the neighbours have left their stove on with milk on it, and that I should tell them about it when they come back. Mom, on her return told me that she smelt the milk burning from across the street, and yes, I got a good whack on my back.

So, that’s it for starters… What are your bookfessions? Out with it… :-)

Jan 27, 2012

My first love…

is this – My mortar and pestle.

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After having gotten over the excitement of having this awesome looking pitcher, am back to being in love with this… :-D

What’s yours?

[Also cross posted at my food blog, The Meal Algorithm here]

Jan 23, 2012

Am from Shivalli…

Ideally, that is how I would like to introduce myself when anyone asks me where I am from. I generally resort to saying am from Karnataka or from Mangalore depending on whether am in a mood for a deeper conversation on that day. And then I smile and listen to how the other person says I don’t look like a South Indian at all. If it is someone who is familiar with how women from Konkan region look like, they will then admit that I look like someone they know, someone from Mangalore or Belgaum. But more often than not, people immediately say, I look like a Punjabi , because of my loud voice. Or a Gujarati because of the name. Or a Telugu, because of the surname. And then cringe in my mind. Why? Why don’t I look like a South Indian? Each of these attributes are because I am a Mangalorean. To be precise, a Shivalli Brahmin. Well, not many have even heard of this community.

Am missing home. And by home, I don’t mean my parent’s place or my own place here in Hyderabad. I am definitely missing Mangalore, especially my native place Ujire. Well, that place is almost a Tara for me, so to say… that place where I go to reaffirm that I belong to some place, and the place that reminds me that there are more of my kind. The loud, Tulu-speaking, boisterous , fun-loving crowd.

Well, its not hard to be thinking of your native and mother tongue when you are some sort of a minority among all the Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Mallu speaking friends, colleagues and relatives. And when your native place is atleast 16 hours away from where you stay now. And the only people who speak your mother tongue are reachable through phone, and you don’t see them all that often. And you have to answer questions about the lack of written script for your  mother tongue. (Well, there IS a Tulu script, there apparently is a Mahabharata written in Tulu , one epic poem, and one Tulu movie even won a National Award)

Oh yes… I am missing the usual Tulu banter. All those phrases used in vernacular Tulu. I can still translate them and use them in Telugu or Kannada, but its not the same. Phrases like Chittu puli saibe , Ninno tare , Kebitu gaali potunu, Ninku marlu, Botri marayre, Beedi naayi which appear in vernacular Tulu do not mean the same when translated. Tell me if any of these make any sense to you – The guy selling oranges, Your head, There is air in your ears, You are mad, No, man, street dog. No, right? But use them to any Tulu-speaking person, and you’ll see the wide grin or may be even an incredulous look on his/her face.

What with people migrating all over India and the world, there are a lot of people who don’t live in the place that speaks their mother tongue. For popular languages like Telugu, Tamil, Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam etc, you will find someone speaking the same language including the same dialect in most Indian cities. But for Tulu, this is never the case. In the rarest of the rare cases that I actually found anyone speaking Tulu, I’ve noticed immediately that it is not the same dialect that I am used to.

Language is important in making a person feel at home or not. Other such parameters are food and people. All of which I don’t get to see as much as I would like to.

Mangalorean cuisine is different in terms of the ingredients , the vegetables and the style of cooking. There are a lot of yogurt based dishes, and there is almost zero usage of lentils. Almost all dishes have fresh coconut in them and there a lot of no-cook recipes too. There is a ton of difference in our staple breakfasts and the rest of the nation’s. In short, like all other regional cuisines in India, it is totally different and quite rare to find even in restaurants. Kodakene, Kodyelu, Saaru, Bajji, Rotti, Shavige, Gatti, Dose… These are staples in a Tulu household, and are unheard of in any other part of this country.

And then the people.

We, Tulus are a very loud community by nature. We laugh and talk in a very loud, boisterous tone. We make a huge spectacle out of everything. Words generally reserved for adult usage flow freely when we talk. Almost nothing is not suitable for children’s ears. Words like pinkan and pukuli which literally mean ass are commonplace in our conversations. There are just no inhibitions. Men have loud , crude jokes in the presence of an entire audience, and no one considers it rude.

At lunches, all the men remove their shirts, and sit in a straight line, showing off their pot-bellies and Janivaras . All of them utter the words ‘Govinda Govinda’ at once , and start on to polish off the sumptuous food off the plantain leaves, in one particular pre-decided-from-atleast-900-years order. (If you do not eat food in that order, your lineage is immediately questioned. ) And all of them get up from their lunches at the same time, always after the eldest man in the entire lot is done.

We can eat Dose for all three meals in one day. And like that for a full week, if needed. For festivals, all of us call our relatives, each of them mostly proprietors of a Udupi hotel in a different place, and talk about our menu for the day asking the same question – ‘Ini jaado special’ knowing the answer very well. And Dose is the prominent item in that. For Krishnashtami, Ugadi and Deepavali, our only festivals. And for birthdays or social gatherings. Dose & Chutney, it is! Its a mass-Dose-preparation-ritual for us, every day.

And the love for sweets , or desserts. There are almost always three to four varieties of payasams at our weddings. Couple of burfis , pelakkai gattis, Kukku rasayanas and paramanna feature in our menus, and dal will be missing in all our menus conspicuously. We just don’t eat Dal, you see. We make up for all that protein by drinking litres and litres of peru (milk) and chai.

All of us are united in our great love for saaru, and the saarus in all our houses taste almost the same. It is like literally everyone’s Mom had the same teacher for cooking in their school. And all of these women stock up on their Byadigi munchis. Goli, gujje, saute and amte are some of our vegetables which make some of the best dishes. Our pickles do not have oil in them and yet last for as long as you want them to and taste like a piece of spicy heaven.

We all love to eat anything with coconut oil. Dose, Idli , Kodyelu or Mudita uppuda with rice taste the best with coconut oil for us. We do not mind if the other person is squirming at the thought of eating coconut oil, for us its the healthiest ever. Oh yes, Parachute coconut oil is highly edible. For the record Parachute coconut oil is different from Parachute hair oil. Thank you very much!

All our social gatherings are because our Swamis or Mathadipathis are visiting our towns, and one rich Uncle is hosting the seer, more often than not in his paryaya. We all flock to him for his Ashirwada and some news about our collective hometown, Udupi or how the Krishna elephant behaved in the recent paryaya.

Almost all of us have grown up with our fathers talking about vyapara (business) which generally is hotel business. All of us have eaten Idlis, puris and masala dosas as breakfast for major parts of our lives, and will still order the same food when we eat outside. We would like to know how different these taste in other hotels, you see.

Almost all of us have memories of how our fathers have chased cars with Karnataka registration with the vain hope that they probably are from Mangalore, and came home with a carful of strangers only because they spoke Tulu. We all have shared our books, our rooms and our memories with kids we’ve never seen before and who will leave the next day, only because their parents spoke Tulu too, and our parents found a common connection in their third cousin’s fifth daughter’s in-laws’ cousin. Oh yes, we all are related. More often than not. And by the mere mention of our surnames, we identify each other which part of Mangalore they are from.

There is no men-will-sit-in-one-room-women-in-another attitude in our community. Everyone is welcome to talk to everyone they like, and all conversations always start with a wide smile and a ‘Encha ulleru, maama/maami?’ followed by a quick ‘Usharullera?’ and a bending down to touch their feet. Elders always ask the same question, no matter which time of the day you talk to them – ‘Ashana aana? Jaado tinderu?’ (literally means – did you have your meal? What did you eat?) and the younger ones rattle out the entire menu.

During festivals or celebrations, there is a mass-community-Namaskaram ritual. Everyone bends down on all their fours to touch the feet of their elders. We do that even if we see them, the elders of the family every day, on festivals, and even if we wear a new dress that day. Basically, there is a mayhem and confusion around Namaskara time, because everyone wants to touch everyone’s feet. We frown upon anyone who cannot get down to their fours and bend. What a sacrilege to not be doing that!

The Tulu girls are generally known to be more gutsy than Tulu boys, who are always mama’s boys, calling their Moms 8 times a day to update them about their days, ending up taking care of their Dad’s Udupi hotels and passing them on to their sons, making tonnes of money in the process. Tulu women are generally very pretty and look not a day older than 35 even when they are well beyond 50, and Tulu boys end up getting a bald head and a slight paunch by the time they turn 30, though I am told that times are changing these days, thankfully for the Tulu girls.

None of us, Tulu girls have heard the Gayatri Mantra being recited out loud in our houses, and we have not touched or cleaned the God’s pedestal till now, we are not allowed to, but that doesn’t mean we are discriminated. That is for the boys to do during their Gayatri recitations and Sandhya Vandanams, that’s all. Oh, and yes, we do Bhootaradhane and consider the Kolas a huge celebration.

And yes, we all speak one language more than the rest of you non-Tulu speaking folks. Telling people that Tulu is your mother tongue but you cannot speak it is frowned upon. There are so few of us that most of us do not want to not know our mother tongue. Forget passing it on to the next generation, we are doubtful if folks from our own generation will find enough people to speak Tulu with.

No, we are not proud of Aishwarya Rai, but we do mention that Prakash Raj is one of ours. So is Shilpa Shetty. And we are all particularly proud of Sunil Shetty, and more such folks.

You see, my culture is rich. As rich as any of the other cultures in India. Just that, there are so few of us, and so scattered that we are not as famous as the other communities for our idiosyncrasies or general behaviours.

Just because some of us do not live in or near our native place , and are not married to Shivallis, and do not have carry our Shivalli surnames in our names anymore , that does not make us any less of a Mangalorean.

Our hearts still yearn for Tulu, coconut oil and to yell ‘Ninno Pinkan’ (and be understood) out loudly to anyone who might irritate us…

Jan 11, 2012

For the sake of colours…

 

This is originally posted at the Flickr page, and should actually be at the Food Blog, but I love this pic for all the colours in it. And hence, here it is… For the May be a 365 tag. :)

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Jan 10, 2012

What I miss…

 

Next month, I and the husband hit our 6th wedding anniversary.
Its nice being married this long, especially when you have not thought you’d do it yourselves. More so, when you both knew it was a gamble you were taking on and had even told that to yourselves and each other.

Being as different as chalk and cheese apart, sustaining a marriage this long with serious full time careers, pursuing independent hobbies, having enough space between each other, and still finding time to spend with each other is a big deal. At least for those of us who are commitment-phoebes even after having being married, i.e.., the two of us in this household.
Also, any two people who have no reason to be together except that they want to be and hence are.

Well, now you can now imagine how elated I feel every time we hit an anniversary. We made it to another year. With our head and heart intact. And sane too. A big big big deal!

Like I said, its nice being married this long. You would’ve shared all stories you’ve ever known. All experiences. All the people you’ve ever met. And all you have are stories you make together, people you meet together, and places you mostly go together.

You get comfortable around the person. You grow along with the spouse. You learn to laugh at and with your spouse. You make your own weekend routines. You have your own inner jokes. You arrive at your own holiday vacationing patterns.
Many things don’t have to be said any longer, they are implied and understood because that’s how you both have done them. For all these years.

Trust me, even for someone with a vagabond-ish heart expecting new things everyday, this kind of familiarity feels good. That’s me we are talking about.
There is just one thing I miss by virtue of having been married this long. Because of having known the husband all these years -

Butterflies. :-)
The ones that make their presence felt in your stomach when you meet someone special for the first time. That kind which makes you smile to yourself amidst a crowd. That very kind which makes you feel unsettled and want to call up that person every second minute. The ones which you feel when you anticipate the first kiss, the first touch and the first few moments you are alone together.

Yes, I miss that. :-)

Jan 8, 2012

The cynic thinks…


Trust me, being cynical about things suits me. Or being highly philosophical , for that matter. A great deal.
I don't have to worry about the end result. I don't have to deal with anxieties or cold feet or worries. I only have to do my share of the work. And leave the rest to destiny/Karma/Universe. Things will work out the way they were designed to be.

But you know what I miss the most about being this way ?

The ability to feel. To cry. To fret on things/people. To possess. To desperately want something.

Well, I am not a saint. I do feel all the above. But only for an extremely small fleeting second, and the practical self kicks in. And all these feelings vanish. Just like that.

Kinda boring, no? :-)

Jan 7, 2012

True love… huh?

 

I was listening to Lana Del Ray’s songs and the whole discussion about true-love started in my mind between the eternal-cynic and the once-sentimental selves about what true love is, if it exists and if it really is over-rated. That’s when I remembered an old post of mine. Something I wrote back in 2008, when the song The Reason was on my playlist non-stop. Am pleasantly surprised to know that my thoughts about love have not changed much.

Some excerpts from the original post…

Does this kind of love exist?
I know love is beautiful, and its the best thing to happen to a person and all that jazz. I know you feel completed when you are in love, and I also know that its lucky to find love.
But this kind of love, the one mentioned in the song, like how you feel like holding the tears, how you can never ever forgive for giving her some pain... this one is beyond me.

Either I forgot how it is to be in love, that fresh feeling, or I never felt that kind of an emotion, both of which are okay. Coz I know that the fresh feeling will never be fresh, and the important feeling is the one that lasts, and if I never felt that emotion, that' is because I am not an emotional person, but it would be interesting to see someone who feels all this…

Is there anyone who has felt this all even after few years of togetherness?
I mean, does anyone actually feel this kind of love in real life, or is it all fiction?
I always thought no one would be as foolish as Scarlett O’Hara (the literary one, not yours truly) is, to give up everything you have in pursuit of one man!
I always thought violins-in-a-slow-tune never happen when people fall in love.
I always thought no man would leave everything he has and go behind his wife, like the protagonist in Zahir does. Yes, the reason he does that for is different, but the feelings he feels are profound!
Is there something like - you stay in his arms and you don’t want anything else? Naah, not for me atleast. I would enjoy the moment thoroughly, but then that is not life.
Is there really a Prince Charming? Is it enough if he just charms you and takes you in a pumpkin carriage?

Well, in my world, everything is practical & real.
I believe in love which makes me feel secure, and happy.
I believe in love which gives me my space and lets me grow.
I believe in love where I can share each of my feelings and get support/understanding in return.
I believe that I might miss someone terribly, but I can still be happy by myself.
At the same time, if I am not missing someone, it does not necessarily mean that I do not love the person the same way anymore.
I would want to stay in his arms, and look into his eyes, but that would be for the rest of my life, not for just a moment or two. If its for just a moment, I’d rather not have it. And I wouldn't do it with stars in my eyes, just a neat smile on the lips!

No, I am not talking about the whole soul mate concept here. I do believe in the connection between two souls. I, for one do not believe that there is just one soul mate. I believe that there are many soul mates. You meet them at different stages of your life. They don’t have to always be from the opposite sex.

Neither am I talking about the One. I do not believe that there is something like The One.
Mr.Right exists, but the catch is, there are always Mr.Right-s. Depending on where you are in your mind, or life, you meet a certain person who becomes your Mr.Right then. Its a great feeling if he continues to be the Right one forever, if you both learn together and grow together. If not, too bad. 

I, for once do not also believe in Love-happens-only-once-philosophy, or in true love at all.
If it is love, then it is true. Otherwise its just infatuation, lust or attraction. I even think that true love is highly over-rated.

I have contemplated on what I would do, if ever the person I love would leave me and go. Well, I might cringe and yearn for his company for a while, and miss him after that. After a while, I think I will get back to life.

My philosophy towards this is - As long as it was there, it was good. Now let me not spoil it by dwelling over it! From the time I have known love, I have been like this, and have enjoyed it this way. Always loved with all my heart and never regretted it!

Well, I wasn’t always this practical or cynical, if you decide to call it that. I used to be sentimental , trying to hold things in my fist and trying to control how my relationships grow or where they lead. If anything age has taught me , its that I don’t get anything by trying to be a control-freak. Age has taught me that -

If its meant to be, it will. If its not, it wont be.

Yep, so I can safely deduce that this kind of extreme love exists only in the songs, movies & books!

And if someone I know feels this kind of love, I would be amused... :) And yes, I would also want to know how they feel this way, may be I can take a few lessons.
After all, to one his own!

The Language of Baklava

If you love food, you must read this book. If you loved the family meals, and stories shared during those meals, you must read this book.

Diana talks about all the meals she has shared with her family cooked by her Dad, Bud over a number of years. There are stories which talk about comfort food, food to impress people, food when some family members got angry, and food to cure your soul. Its a long recipe book with personal stories for each of the recipes. All of them in exquisite detail in terms of the story and the recipe, both. If you are a foodie, you will even find yourself drooling as you read some of these recipes.

If you want to understand the Jordanian way of living, eating and existing, you must read this book. There are elaborate stories about stays in Jordan, dwelling into the way the Bedouins live, the food natives eat, and their gregarious method of eating.
If you are an Asian, you will find yourself smiling at most of these, and even tell yourself with a little reproaching tone, that’s how we all are. All Asians. Loud. Endearing. Loving our family and our neighbours, and food being the central of our existence, and family meals having a lot of history, drama and stories for us.

If you have more than one point of origins/identities , you will love this book. If you belong to one community, but have grown up in a different one, and are yearning to be closer to the one you belong to, and yet your heart knows you are really the second one, then this is book is for you.
You might even want to do a little soul-searching yourself, and answer those questions you’ve always asked yourself – where do I belong to? Which is my real native? The one I was born into or the one I grew up in. At least I did. The book didn’t answer my questions, but it gave me a certain comfort that I am not the only one thinking like this.
Reading this book might even put a little perspective on why our migrant parents behave the way they do when they meet, see or even think of anything that connects to their native remotely.

As I was reading about Bud, the way he behaves, his dream to own a restaurant, his need to keep the family together, the way he conditions his daughters, I felt a feeling of having known this person. And that person is my Dad! Almost 80% of the description Diana gives for Bud are what my Dad is! :)
Now I understand why my Dad used to behave the way he would when he would see us what he then thought to be drifting from our culture , how he would react when he would spot anyone speaking my mother tongue(which is one of the rarest languages spoken in India) or how he would tell some stories about food with his eyes literally brimming with emotion or the steadfast way in which my parents would insist that we do things the Shivalli way.

This book also reminded me of all the meals people from my community would have together, in an alien land which found the food we ate very different, very alien. And that the need for us all to meet each other very frequently was to keep in touch with our roots, because all of us were drifting away. All of us knew that, we were accepting that, but we also wanted to cling to our culture. Our food. Our people. Our customs.

This book details that yearning very beautifully. Its a person’s journey to his native, and back to where he now lives in, to accept a little painfully that his native is not what he thought it was. And that he has now transformed into a different person.

If I were to write a book about my childhood, my Dad and the food we made at home, my community and my people, well, it would be something like this. Except that the food would be Mangalore-an, and we would still be in India. There would be stories about people asking me about my mother-tongue Tulu and asking me if all the stereotypes they know of or heard of about us, our language and our food are indeed true.

And then there are some lines that have made a mark on my mind. When Auntie Aya tells Diana – Every time you think you want to have kids , ask yourself if you want to have kids or bake a cake. Funny yes, but very deep too.

In short, if you eat, you should read this book.
If not the stories, the recipes are to die for. This is the collection of all of the Middle-Eastern food you’ve heard/read/dreamt of, all in one place. Babaganoush, Hummus, Baklava, Tabbouleh, Fattoush. All of them. And so much more.

I’ll give this book a complete 5 on 5 rating. This one is going to be on my kitchen bookshelf permanently!

My GoodReads reading progress -

image

Jan 4, 2012

Closer…

To God. That’s what I felt when I saw these places. Breath-taking is not the word I am looking for.
Feeling closer to God.
Being one with Nature.
Beauty so magnificent that no amount of photography can capture it.
Tongue-tied because you are Mesmerized by the surroundings.
That moment when you feel you’ve seen everything in your life, and you don’t mind if it ends. Right there.
That moment in time when you don’t want to share with anyone, and also want to share with everyone you love.
You know fully well that you can never describe how you feel about this moment.
Your own particular place of worship. Your Zen.
Unending peace.
A time so beautiful that you almost choke with emotion.
A place and time when you lose track of yourself and everything around you.
What I am looking for is one word which will sum all these feelings. I felt all these, and so much more. So much that these places will always have a special place in my heart. And create an yearning to go back there again.
The first time I felt this was when I stood on the Wisdom Path on Lantau Island, Hong Kong and saw the vast nothingness. When I felt those large towering pillars containing excerpts of the Heart Sutra not knowing what they preach, but knowing that they are from the message of Peace. It was when  the mist slowly lifted and I could make out the ocean and the forests from atop the path. It was a moment of immense peace. I almost cried when I felt all these, and just took in all the beauty.
Lantau
What I felt was so special and rare that I wanted to see if I will feel all this the second time I go there. And I did. All of this, and much more. This time there was a familiarity between that peace and myself. It was like we were greeting each other pleasantly, and I lost myself again. And that’s when I knew, this would never go. I would continue to be in love with this place.
And that’s how it started. My search for a place like that again. Something which will make me feel the same things again. Something that will transport me to a different medium and a level again.
Only after a complete 2 year span did I find that place. This time in Seattle, Washington. In Olympic National Park. On the banks of Lake Crescent in Bovine Meadow.
I got down the car, stared into the space and just stared. It took me a complete 15 mins to recover and let the beauty sink in. All three of us, we just stared into that beauty.
Lake Crescent
There was not a single sound except the sound of the waves splashing to the banks. Except the sound of wind that was making the waves splash. And the vast nothingness deep into the space between the two mountains. The varying colours in the water. The cold breeze flowing in from the snow-capped mountains across the huge lake. Just Beautiful.
Lake Crescent - 2
I was literally crippled by seeing all this beauty, and I had to sit on a broken branch to take it all in.
And now all I yearn for is to go back there again. To share it with people I love. The husband. Some more friends. Whoever will appreciate this beauty. And for more such places.
Its like the whole travel bug has hit a new level. The search is not for places where I can relax. Or places where I can do sight-seeing.
The search is for the place that will make me forget myself, the world and everything in it. A place which will tell me that God and Providence exist, and what am I but a mere speck in the entire picture.
A place which will not just be a stamp on my passport, but which will mark a stamp on my mind.
A place which will reinforce my belief in this world and Providence.
A place which will make me feel all of the above feelings, and may be much more.
A place which will tell me that I can still feel. All those beautiful feelings.
A place which tells me that am not a cynic, but a romantic.
In short, I love to travel only so that I can rediscover myself in the beauty these places have to offer. To reaffirm myself that such beauty exists and I am lucky enough to witness it.
And travel, I shall…

Jan 3, 2012

The year, 2011…


Has been good, I must say. For travel, friends, books, food, work and life in general.
 
Some friendships which I know will last my entire life have happened this year… Smart , intelligent women who will continue to matter a lot … I couldn’t have asked for more this year in terms of friendships. Visits to and from friends who don’t stay in Hyderabad have happened this year, strengthening the bond we share… This post sums it all!
 
Cooking, baking and shooting the stuff that’s made, all of this has taken a new level altogether this year. I’ve become more serious about what I cook and how I shoot it, which is a good sign. It might be that one thing that really interests me, even if it is for the moment. More focus on healthy eating, and getting in all the vitals into the food has been taken this year, and with the cook being around for help, kitchen is not an area am scared of anymore! All this is documented on the food blog, and pics are on the Flickr page.
The Meal Algorithm
The Photo Experiment
I’ve had the best year as far as books are concerned. Clocking atleast one book per week is a big deal when you have a full-time job, right? :-)

Books
Work has been great. Some good times, some challenging ones, some friendships put to good test, new friendships , some loyalties pondered on… in short, it has been a very eventful year, in a very good way. What with the total outlook about work and life being changed last year, things stopped to faze me. The mantra had been karma throughout. These lines by Dido which I also have on my communicator status sum it all for me -
I deserve nothing more than I get
Cos nothing I have is truly mine!
I’ve mended some relationships in life, made some very new but important ones and got a whole new perspective on what matters and what doesn’t.
 
There was a slight interest in gardening, but after I’ve discovered that my green thumb is as big as Uday Chopra’s acting career, I’ve left it for the maid to do . She has an amazing green thumb and totally nurtured all my plants back to health. What I take responsibility for now are just the easy-to-maintain Bamboos I have around.
 
Last, and never the least, I’ve travelled more than I can hope and wish for in this year. The husband says he has done his quota of travelling for another two years, now that he has clocked in so many miles with me, but then, that’s a fight I choose to have later. :-)
 
First it was that long trip to Sikkim where we went sight-seeing to see the peaceful monasteries, the large snow-covered mountains, heights that we’ve never imagined we’d be at Nathula, Lachung, Yumthang, all more than 10000 ft, great Momos and the sweetest set of people I’ve ever come across in India so far.

Sikkim - March, 2011
And then it was the totally unexpected short 2 week Seattle trip. I was there on work, but thanks to my travel partners, I got to see some very beautiful places – Pike Place Market, Snoqualmie, Mt Rainier, a drive through ONP and a ferry to get to Kingston, lots of shopping in Bellevue Square Mall… this trip is something that I will never forget. It being my first time in US also might have to do something with this. :-)

Seattle - May, 2011

And then Pondicherry happened. Idea of a long weekend and a talk with friends let to this trip, which also was a part-road-trip. Some great food also happened in this place.
 
I’ve been to Bombay before, but that was when I was too young and I had not even eaten a Vada Pav then. So this time, when a friend was going for after-Diwali-vacation to Bombay, I tagged along shamelessly. I stayed at her place with her family, and got an awesome mini-tour of Bombay. Meeting new people, some shopping on Linking Road and good food …
 
Another idea of a long weekend, and me yearning to go to the mountains took us to Coonoor towards the end of the year. The most beautiful place I’ve been to in India so far, this farm where we stayed in was everything we wanted for that trip – beautiful view of the mountains, great view from our cottage, a very friendly dog, good food and loads of time to laze around and not do anything.

Coonoor - Dec, 2011
This was also the year when I practised the most important of all arts –
 
 
I’ve perfected finishing all work by 9 AM on weekends, and laze on the couch all day long. Either reading a book or a newspaper, it was my me-time, when I wouldn’t even take phone calls, letting the busy week pass through and gearing up for the jolting weeks ahead… It was exactly like Elizabeth Gilbert expressed in her Eat, Pray and Love.
 
In addition to all these, I also turned 30 this year. An awesome , totally unexpected party was thrown for me and another friend who was turning 30 too on the same day. Husband literally showered me with gifts, thus seizing the opportunity to never let me crib that he doesn’t surprise me. Lots of catching up with friends , some great times and great photographs to prove that have happened. Now that all my friends have turned 30 too, its a new phase in all our lives. 30s are not as bad as we thought they would be…
 
I also got a tattoo this year. Lots of thought was put into it, and it turned up to be the most-thought-out-thing I did so far instead of being an impulsive one. Am now -
The Girl with the Music Tattoo!
Now am all ready to get a second one… :-)
 
The year came with its set of glitches too. I lost an Uncle in December, some terrible things have happened to friends and their families, husband is very stressed at work, many friends have moved away from Hyderabad and there have been some ups and downs in the health and exercise routine, but then, this is all in the game.
 
2012 is going to be a great year… this amount of travel might not happen, but there are exciting times for sure. A great deal of books will happen. Hopefully new friendships might happen, I might get to retain the work friends I have, and the old ones will thrive. I plan to continue the whole cooking/baking routines and continue to do good photos with those.
 
Yet again, what really matters is how peaceful I am,  how many good things happen to people around me and what I learn. I just hope this Zen remains for this  year as well! :-)
Happy New Year, Everyone!
May you have great happiness, prosperity and wonderful times this year!