...and then

Saturday, 30 January 2010

In my mail....

So when I am in the mood to create or lose, I sign up online for all kinds of things that I know I shouldn't but do all the same because, well, I am just addicted to finding new things. If nothing else, they're great ruminating material for new story ideas at work.

On one such day, after a cousin very charmingly told me, when he met me after a long time. "And you, why are you like this?" His tone was gentle, a little musing and mostly on the verge of saying something a lot more insulting. And as I almost perfection itself, except for the extra weight, I could tell right away he wasn't referring disparagingly to any character flaw I have. So, when I cocked my head to a side, which I charmingly do when I don't understand someone, and said, "How do you mean?" He said, "Well, I am just looking for a non-insulting word." And I supplied him with it immediately. "Fat," I said. Easy, simple and not at all insulting, you'll agree. Why should I be insulted if my genes are lazy and I have an addiction to gorging on Time Out?

So he agreed and smiled. I think that's the last time he'll smile with his original teeth. And, no, I am not paying for his dentist. I could have thrown at him that I am naturally...er...voluptuous and that only gets worse with childbirth -- not one but two in as many years -- but that would make no difference to him. He's a man and he sees women who come back with flat stomachs three months after they had babies. Never mind they are Marwadi girls who don't eat more than three crumbs of bread and one spoon of dal.

Ok, I've digressed way too much. So I signed up for some serious celebrity nonsense that would tell me how I could choose the right kind of workouts and what kind of food I could eat depending on my metabolism, work habits, hair color, whether I prefer men or women, and what shampoo I use for my dog. (Yes, I am a sucker for questionnaires. Anything that wants to know about me, I love. ) Well, of course, she told me that I have slightly slow metabolism (clap, clap!), that I need to work in more exercise into my routine (er, yes, thank you) and that I should eat every last bit of yellow clothing I have because, don't I know, yellow is so last season. When it came to my set of exercises, she said I had to pay.

That's not a surprise, I knew it would come to that. But I signed up for all the other things that come from this website. And I love every one of them because they tell me what I don't know about rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, quiz me on if my skin is aging faster than I am, they ask me questions like "Should we drink as much as men?". I love it.

My answer to the last question is a resounding "no". We should drink more. A lot more. That's the only way to get through the whole world revolving around us. For example:
Emergency #1: Husband's cold

"Show me one man who doesn't treat a cold as a life threatening illness and I'll show you a prize actor."  - Me

If you have a husband/boyfriend who helps you around the house, you can be sure a cold (his cold. yours, of course, you will battle with boxes of Kleenex while hanging up the evil eye you got from Turkey*, ironing your shirt, cooking rajma and filing your story/completing your report or whatever it is that earns you the rotis that go with the rajma)  is enough reason to take off from work and do all the things at home that your other half does.

That is, if, he is the kind the does help at home and doesn't need you to mollycoddle him and wait twitching hand and numb foot on him.

The other kind, well,  you should give him credit for taking his own plate to the sink and hanging up his own clothes. And you can be sure when he has his iamgoingtovapourisewith thiscoldthatiskillingmeitis, you better forget about everything and cool his fevered brow. You see, he'd just ... vanish without you.

Eemrgency #2: Baying baby

Your baby's just landed her hand in the spiciest chillies that were harvested this year. But quick, watchful and wonderful parent that you are, you spot it immediately and take it away from her pudgy hands. She barely touched them for a second and you're proudly patting yourself on the back for a disaster well averted when the storm hits. You in your smug patting of the back forgot to wash her hands. Now she looks like she went and kissed a sucker fish.

Of course, she doesn't want anyone else to soothe her. Even an hour after she's been given honey, ghee, water, banana, a fried alligator. So the moon's moved right away from where it was when  you took your camera out to take a picture, your breakfast is cold, you're late for work and well, the world revolves around you

Emergency #3: Parent trap

I wonder what parents did before their kids grew hands and legs and brains enough to follow orders of fetching and carrying. If you are living with them by some happenstance, having grown up doesn't change anything. I wonder how my mum would drink water if it wasn't for handy old me to go fetch. I truly am the centre of her world.

Emergency #4: Work things out

How would my colleague write the editorial piece in my magazine if it weren't for my stories? At the last count, she lifted three paras of the cover story (mine) and used it as part of her editorial piece. Clearly, her life is incomplete without me.

So should women drink as much as men? No.
They should drink more.


* Afterthought: What is with Turkey? Everyone's heading there. I mean it's nice and all but you guys should have finished with it in 2002.


Friday, 29 January 2010

Orders accepted.

So here's what I've been doing when I have time from work, spending time with my girl, taking care of my boy, washing bottles, cleaning up rooms, following up on stories and chatting with the husband.

Here's what I used to create the necklace.

And this

And this is how it turned out. The scarf too.

Yes I am accepting orders :)

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

30 and counting

What do I like about having turned 30?

I like that I have mellowed in all the right places. I am still impulsive and I still am careless about who I make friends with. But I am also careful about judging someone. I am slower to judge, but not as slow as I'd like to be.

Increased libido and opening up of sexual worlds. It helps that there's a husband on the scene to oblige.
You still look like you are in your mid or early 20s -- if you are south indian, that is. If you are a washed-out, cranky, whiney north indian then you lost the looking young battle when you were 21. Yes, I am bigot. So people look at you and say whoa! 30, you don't look it. (What the hell is 30 supposed to look like anyway?)

Add to that two kids and a reasonably well-kept exterior, I am always surprising people. :)

I am taken seriously at work even though I wear dresses that end above my knee and moderately plunging necklines because, come on she's 30 right? She should know what she's doing. Muahahahah yeah, right!

I can legitimately go for facials and not pretend that my skin is nature's gift because I washed delinquent doggies last birth, free of charge. It's a whole different thing that the very two kids who make me look good also come in the way of my trip to the salon.
I like saying thirty.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

What utter bloody freaking stupid nonsense

This was all that was bloody freaking utterly stupidly needed.

I mean, really. Even those people who sit and name craters have lost their mind.



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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Notes from my other job.

I don't like mommy posting, hence I don't have a  baby blog, although I have more than enough fodder for one. But this I couldn't resist.

I found this when I went looking for Shyama when she was quiet for more than one minute.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Venus is a man and Titty has no tits

Here's my contribution to the burgeoning posts that you can find online about  Malayalee names.
Specifically, Malayalee Christian names.  I can already hear M saying it's not like Malayalee Hindu names are all that much better. I agree, but he has a family friend named Swingly (a lovely old gentleman, I might add) and a sister-in-law named ....erm.... Titty (not so old, not so lovely and not tittacious at all). Damn, that was going to come later but I couldn't resist.

Whereas all I have is an uncle named Ambili, which I am told, is a woman's name. Well, my argument is this -- how can it be a woman's name (Ambili means the moon in Malayalam) when every piece of song-writing and literature refers to it as Ambili Maman (the Malayalam equivalent of Chanda Mama)? Someone explain that to me, first.

So anyway let's get on with life. My first brush with slightly bizarre, i-will-hack-my-family-to-bits-when-i-grow-up names was in class 12 when I had a classmate called Lovely. The fact she was indeed lovely and continues to be (maybe there is something to that theory about the person actually growing into the name), gave the parents no right to name an innocent babe the first thing they thought of when the priest rushed them at the baptism ceremony.

 But she had a horror story to narrate. To add insult to the injury of her name, she said she knew a family that had twin girls. Guess what the deliriously joyous parents named them? Loveme and Kissme.

Have you recovered? Some smelling salts? No? Ok, let's move on, shall we?

Now, in a class full of names like Lincy, Jesme, Rijo and Gentle, why do I take particular notice of Lovely, you ask? Simple. The list I've just rattled off and other similar names, I completely and compositely ignore because they don't mean a thing. Really, if you haven't already figured, I have other things to do with my time than dawdle with a bunch of names that actually came from some corner of imagination that is so remote that it can be classified as belonging to another solar system all together. So I have no issues if you are called Blessy, Jomi, Rilli, Petsy, Eljo. Because all they are is sounds.

But I am dreading the time when Loveme and Kissme get to their teens.

Another kind of naming tradition that utterly confounds me is naming a boy with what is obviously a girl's name. For example: Venus (godDESS of love and beauty) GodDESS, godDESS as in female equivalent of god. Venus lives in my building and is a father to two girls. Yes, I said father.
Or Kim (Usually short for Kimberly). Kim is a man I know - through my husband (Hi, M). Unless he was Rudyard Kipling's protagonist of the same name Kim just doesn't sit right on a man.
What about Tess. Nice name, harmless. Calls to mind a relatively simple child-woman with gorgeous red hair and a big smile. (It's my mind and my Tess has a big smile.) Yes? Well, no. Tess is a neighbor in my parents-in-law's neighbourhood. Tess is also the husband of another woman named Lovely.

I know how hard I struggled to come up with a name for my kids. I wanted the names to be meaningful, beautiful to the ears, something that they'll like when they grow up. And I wanted my daughter to be named for my beloved grandmother. So when I come across absolutely impossible names (a friend swears there is someone called Golden Fruito but I doubt her sanity) I wonder what the parents were thinking. Did they want their kids to grow up to be psychopathic murderers? Was it an active ploy to kill any chance of a social life the kids might have had? Were the children conceived in a rash of get-back sex? What, what, what?

I think my  husband's been having me. As in I've been had by my husband. Oh come on, taken in. Meaning strung along. Pah. Go wash your brains with soap.

I'll tell you why: He tells me a story of a man who was so sick of common names that he decided he'd name his kids something absolutely no one would want to name. So he named his daughter Virus. Yes. V I R U S. As in the thing that causes some kind of illness. No, I am not kidding. Yes, I am serious. For you doubting thomases, send me an email and I'll give you my husband's phone number.


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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

You buy, we fry

Every time I come to Kerala, I leave without eating the fish that I hear so much about. Eating fish in Kerala is as much about the way it's made as it is about the fish itself. So while fresh fish IS made at home, I always have the urge to try it at restaurants, shacks and tiny 'fish meals' places.

This time, leaving without eating out was not an option. A balmy night, great company and a nice restaurant saw us polishing off two grilled groupers. All there was to spice it up was some lemon juice and pepper. When I say that I didn't know you could actually do that to fish without leaving a dubious taste, I am being kind to my ignorance. The salt, lemon and pepper sat on the fish so gracefully that it brought home again why I dearly love fish.

Except for one beady eye looking at me -- I am told some folks in Kerala eat it all: the scales, eyes, eggs, everything. I am sure I am missing out on something but I'd gladly pass up the eyes. The scales, although, I am looking forward to trying.

Eating fish, to me, then, has always been something one needed to develop into a fine art. Like preserving butterflies or getting a bride ready so that her pictures come out great but she doesn't scare the guests off. Or worse, the groom. It's something that I associate with the delicate nature of Japanese art. The fineness of a fish and its flavours is top notch unlike, say, beef or chicken (unless you're eating a beef carpaccio) just like a cherry blossom tree before spring comes, in a Japanese painting. Stark and delicate and hard to ignore.

Fry it in Mummy's spices and coconut oil with curry leaves, or cook it in a thick gravy of grated coconut a la R's grandmother. Or tandoori it. Or marinate it in some garlic, chillies and coriander and grill it gently. Or do it in a hundred other ways that you can make fish in and you'll still find that the least pleasure is gained from it when you eat hungrily.

Any of the above is best eaten when you're just starting to get that little feeling in your head that makes you want to chew and taste and fill your stomach. Fish, in any form, is best eaten when you are going to allow your tongue to feel it's white (mostly) flesh unravel on it. When you consciously and lovingly peel a strip of its tenderness off the virginal bone, feel the velvet of its shimmery skin and place it exactly at that spot on your tongue the milks the maximum flavour for you. When you know that you can sacrifice the rice, the whatever else you eat with fish, and make a meal of the fish alone. But most of all fish is best eaten when you've just realised that there's nothing else you'd rather eat than this 'flower of the sea', as they call it. And oh, you're never going to enjoy your fish if you are going to worry about how your hands are going to smell at the end of the meal. Salt and lemons will do the trick for you if you don't trust soaps alone.

After days of eating red meat, my fish craving was getting bad. And then when I saw that big grouper, smelling of coal and heaven, I knew that I just didn't understand what I was saying when I kept saying that I loved seafood. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, comes close to a fish well done.

Next on my seafood trip is fresh crab. I'll let you know how that goes.

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The nicest prawns ever

I tell you grandmothers have the best recipes. Or I don't know if they have the best hearts.

The other day, mine decided to indulge me with prawns. I am used to prawns being fried in a spicy paste of red chilly powder among other things. So she decided to show me how it was done in her day.

So 2 kilos of luscious-looking prawns found their way into a large pan where G'mummy put in a generous paste of shallots, garlic, chilly flakes and salt. She let it sit and then poured out some shiny coconut oil. When the oil started shimmer, she puts this mixture and for the next hour stirs, stirs and stirs. Patiently, on a low, fire she heats up the mixture taking care that the prawns cook but don't burn or turn rubbery. She takes great care with the type of pan she uses because it needs to something that conducts heat very very slowly.

At the end of it there's this gleaming mix of prawns studded with finely chopped shallots and garlic that have just gone tender. The paste clings so lovingly to the prawns that you can see the gentle pink colour of the cooked flesh.

I take one ready-to-burst piece of lusciousness and give it a little squeeze between my thumb and forefinger. I can feel the flesh firm yet yielding. And I pop it into my mouth. It doesn't hit. It doesn't dazzle. It goes slow on your tongue. Salt - check, spice - check, unique flavour of shallots and coconut oil - check. The delicate sweetness of the prawn does a gentle waltz with the raw masculinity of the spices, and it seems like a perfect marriage because neither loses its individual nature.

I couldn't quite figure out what it would go with best but I think a safe bet would be a dosa or a Malabar parotta - fluffed up and pretty. I tried it with a little Indian-made Merlot (Mushal) with it and it just reaffirmed my faith that you can actually drink a red with seafood.

Recipe and picture coming soon. As soon as G'mummy parts with the former.

Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia. My own will be up soon. 

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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Things that make me mad

Can you believe this supercilious crap?

I don't get this woman AT. ALL. And for those of you who are wondering why I read it in the first place - here's my explanation for now and eternity. I read everything I can about Bombay. Even by someone as unfortunately popular as De. God!

Because I like the time for an involved, neatly written post, I doing the easy thing. A list of completely random things that really annoy me. If you happen to read this, please feel free to add your own.

1) Complaining about work. Well, not really complaining about work but doing it for three years. And still not doing anything about it. Get up. Get out. Just stop complaining.

2) Making me answer your phone. Your cell phone.

3) Telling me to do something 3.5678 nanoseconds before I am about to do it.

4) Blaming the traffic for everything every chance you get -- your rhinitis, your divorce, your burnt dinner, your sneaky domestic help.

5) Sending me emails. Calling to tell me you sent me an email. Then calling back in half an hour to check if I read your email. I will say this only once: I. CHECK. MY. EMAIL. 20. TIMES. A. DAY. If you've sent it to me, I'll get it.

6) Looking at my monitor for more than two seconds of I-am-not-sure-where-to-look-as-soon-as-I-say-hello, when you stop by my desk for a chat. What the $%$^ do you care if I am looking up how to baste zombie eyeballs or crochet peonies??!

7) Trying to pronounce 's' sounds like Sean Connery. There is only ONE Sean Connery and you are not him.

8) Excessive exclamation marks. However surprised you are, one will do nicely. If you insist on detailed expression, limit it to three.

9) Talking to me in French. I have never learnt French. I don't intend to. So don't try and impress me with it, because I won't know jack. And if it IS impressing you are after, try Italian or Portuguese or something -- at least it sounds sexy.

10) Constantly twitching to see if you are being checked out. And then pretending that you don't care.

11) Jeans/skirts/dresses and bindis. Not cool on anyone. Not Madonna, not Gwen Stefani, not you.

12) Not giving.

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Monday, 4 January 2010

When you don't know how much you miss something.

Did you know that celebrating the new year on January first is completely arbitrary? There is no religious significance, there's no astrological significance, nor anything to do with seasons or harvest or the moon. It's just a random date someone chose to have a lark. Ever since I found out, I've been wondering what celebrating new year on the 29th of June would be like.

Ignore that. It has nothing to do with the rest of my post. It's some random piece of information that I wanted to share. Because that's what I do. Share. Borrowing from the extremely funny Crystal (Hi, Crystal) "...some people overeat, I overshare."

I've started work again. And I positively sparkle! Not at work, that will come later but as a person. I am smiling bigger and better, I can feel the charm oozing out of me and I am on a total high that I am being productive in a sense that doesn't relate to progeny alone.

Two days ago, I was sitting here at work and listening to all the sounds of the newsroom. People yelling across the hall: to shut pages, to ask if a story was complete, a reporter speaking on phone to a source, a photographer showing his pictures to check if they will do. And I actually felt goosebumps. It's a far cry from anything in India but at least I am back where I love to be the most.

I have thought long and hard about one question for a few years now. "Where are you from?" I can never answer that question. I feel most at home in Bombay; I was born there and lived some of the best years of my childhood and adulthood there; nowhere else is home for me. Not even where I grew up. But would it seem pretentious to say Bombay is home when I no longer have family there? Also I speak Malayalam fluently, my surname is very obviously Malayalee, I am even married to a Malayalee but I can never bring myself to say I am from Kerala. Because I have never lived there, my mother has never lived there and I have no sense of roots there. But I worry if I come across as someone who is negating her Mallu-ness if I say I am from Bombay. Yes, yes, I care about what people think, sometimes.

So now when I am at work I realise, this is another place I feel very much at home in. The newroom, among stories and sub-editing, among opinionated Bengalis and overfriendly Malayalees. I absolutely love being here. So much so that I don't miss the kids as much as I thought I would. Maybe it'll get worse once I get used to this newness but right now, I am truly happy.

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Sunday, 3 January 2010

New year resolutions

It was about four years ago that I resolved to not have any new year resolutions. Mostly because I was doing it because ...well... I didn't know any better (wow, two becauses in a sentence. That's a new low even for me). Every new year, I'd think of a really bizarre list (i WILL lose weight. i WILL not bitch. i WILL not buy shoes endlessly. i WILL learn to like Tom Cruise. You get the picture.) and by February, I'd be looking at my phone notes or diary or asking my mum, "Er, exactly what did I resolve to do?" That is, if I wasn't already reminded of one of my resolutions when I bit into a truffle or smoked the odd cigarette.

And then till March, I'd be all head-nods and determination. Soon April would bring its heat and I'd forget all about everything I'd decided to do or not. I'd say to myself, "S, you're four months into the year already and not doing anything you decided. It's already ending, this year is, so there's no point in your sticking to anything. So go lose your temper for a change." Or something like that. I am pretty persuasive when I try, as you can see.

Last year I felt the faintest stirrings of wanting to make resolutions. But the call wasn't loud enough. This year, however, the call is loud and clear. The need for a resolution has presented itself, it feels like the thought has crystallised into one big compulsion and now I can't but follow.

Incidentally, for those few of you who have felt the same call, check this out. It's a little long, it's a little yawn, but it explains what I've been trying to understand about failed resolutions and miniscule willpower in general.

This year's resolution is an old one. Stick to my resolutions. I am not very different from half the planet when it comes to resolutions. Top of my list is, of course, to lose weight. I've gone along with this battle (not fought, mind you) for long enough and now with two kids, I seriously think it's time my body looked like someone whose hips have never borne children. Some others are.

February Anger management: Work on my temper. If I can't work on it alone, get help.

March Equestrianism: Get off my high horse. Consciously catch myself when I look down on things. Accents, news presenters, Chetan Bhagat, bad english, synthetic wearing fashionistas and those who use their fingers to put things in quotation marks, among others.

April Skinflinting in spring: Start putting money away. (Do not laugh.)

June Wordwise: Read more. Read better

If these are met by half the year, then I'll create new ones while continuing the existing.

Meanwhile, let me see if I can get that doughnut I am craving for after all this talk of will.

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Saturday, 2 January 2010

Outside in

So, a new year.

The last one just sort of flew by for me. We all say it every year but last year beat most other years for me. I lived with a sense of impermanence, a sense that made me feel that I had to keep my bags packed and ready to go.

Sometimes, I wonder how I became a mother of two (yes, for those who don't know Utkarsh was born August last year and is now a bonny lad of 4 months) in about as many years, if not less. I don't mean I wonder about the technicality but like my lovely sister in law Y (Hi Y!) said, I am watching this whole thing from the outside instead of being in the middle of it all. Two new year's eves ago I was getting drunk and coming home barely able to keep my heels on and this new year's eve I had a quiet drink at home because going out would mean two diaper bags, formula dispenser, wearing a feeding bra and going some place that would have low light/sound/breeze/personality and being very worried about irritating fellow diners (party-goers being an impossibility) with a stubborn, fussy baby.

How did that happen?

On the one hand, I am 30 and should feel glad that I've had my marriages, divorce, unemployment, career break and kids. On the other hand, the Me that's watching all of this in my life can't quite figure out whose life she is living. Because it certainly ain't hers! Her life is somewhere in a smallish apartment in a locality by the sea that she has done up in fairy lights through the year, where she cooks to impress herself and wakes up early to go to her dance lessons; not because her babies won't let her sleep. In that life, her skin is how it used to be at 27 and her overflowing wardrobe wasn't the source of her guilt. She'd be with at least two men, separately, if not together, and she'd be deeply interested in a third. She'd be barefeet, tv-less and have a hot pink book shelf, a vintage mirror, rugs everywhere and glittery curtains.

A life in a Middle Eastern capital, working for a magazine and raising two laughter-inducing, joy-giving kids was never part of the plan. It's not a bad thing, not at all, considering the kind of money I am going to be able to spend on clothes, books and make up, but it was not my plan.

Happy 2010 all.