Tag: Bangalore

How to make epic chakkli like my mom

How to make epic chakkli like my mom

As you may all know, today is Gokulashtami / Krishna Jayanti. It’s the grandest festival in my house and we all love it; “we” being my neighbours, my friends, cousins, colleagues, random strangers who visit the house during the festival, etc. I doubt the excitement is because Krishna was born. I mean, it is, to an extent. But a lot more excitement is because of all the thindi. My mom makes chakkli, kodbale, muchchoray, tengol, kadlekai mithai, kobri mithai, kadlekai unde, puri unde, rave unde, besan laadu, chigli and so many other thindi items with weird names. She makes this every year without fail and in HUGE quantities.

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Krishna overdose

We give all our neighbours, friends and colleagues the thindies on the day of Gokulashtami. And it’s not just anyone making the thindi. It’s my mom and her best friend, Prema aunty. They’re out-and-out pros! Anyone who smells the chakkli-making immediately pops into my house for a bite. Uttara, who hadn’t come home for some six months (although she lives next door) came home yesterday, secretly broke her fast and ate a piece of chakkli. Such is the effect of the chakkli frying smell.

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Crunchy chakklies

This year, I thought I’ll help my mom out a bit. I decided to make chakkli. And I decided to write the recipe, just for fun. The mess around the house, the atta flying all over the kitchen, boxes of thindi on the dining table, the aroma of elakki, sugar, ginger, and the spicy warmth of kodbaley and tengol really added to my festive spirit.

So here’s how you go about making chakkli.

1. Ask your mom if you can help. She might usually turn you away because you’re no good. But this year, Prema aunty can’t make it because she has baby-sitting duties. So my mom gladly obliged.

2. Watch and learn. My mom works fast and she’s not the most patient person in the world. If you don’t get it right ten times, she’s gonna ask you to go away. So learn quick.

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The mould and shaping plates you need to make chakkli and other confectionaries

3. You need akki (rice), uddin bele (black gram) in a 4:1 proportion. Wash them, dry them, roast them and take them to the guy who makes it aa powder. Flour mill guy. “Bees kondu banni,” says my mom.

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The beesing guy

4. After that, add salt to taste, heat some oil and add that too.

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Before kneading

5. Add water, some hing, and knead it.

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While kneading

6. You need to smack it hard before you put it in the mould and squeeze it. You gotta smack it like you mean it. Don’t do it half-heartedly because otherwise, the chakkli will break while you’re squeezing it.

7. After that, slowly squeeze it into the chakkli shape. Make the hole in the centre big so that your chakkli looks big. (Tip: Avoid making the circular shape while squeezing. Squeeze out a straight line first and then make the shape with your fingers. The dough is delicate, so be careful.)

8. Slowly put the uncooked chakkli into pre-heated oil and let it fry until you get the desired colour.

9. Don’t eat it until you give it to Krishna for pooja. (You can skip this step if you believe that God resides in you.) I had a conversation with my mom regarding this and it went like this.

Me: Why do we make thindi for Gokulashtami?

Mom: Because Krishna was a thindi potha. Haven’t you heard all songs go, “I’ll give you that, come here. I’ll give you this, come here.”

Me: So he accepted a lot of bribes? Yeah, I think I’ve heard that. Krishna was a manipulative person and he accepted bribes. He was corrupt. Blah blah blah.

Mom: Before you say anything else, know that Krishna resides in you. So, everything you’re calling him, you are those things too.

Later…

Mom catches me eating all the thindies, bit by bit.

Mom: Swathi! You’re not supposed to eat it you mental girl!

Me: But the Krishna in me was hungry and needed the food. He is tempted easily and he couldn’t control himself.

Mom: Sighhhh

#Sorry

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Epic chakklies in the making

11. Anyway, after the pooja, you’re done! Eat it. Devour it. Try and share it.

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All the thindies

I love how yesterday went. My mum said, apparently when Krishna was born, it rained heavily with no prior warning. That’s exactly what happened yesterday. It poured in the afternoon on a REALLY hot day.

And I also went and gave some cows a few bananas.

Also, Nuvena surprised me today by turning up outside my house after a visit to Iskon.

It was such a happy, productive, festive and Krishna-ish day! :)

I hope many more youngsters like me don’t dis festivals just because religion has a role to play in it, and it’s “cool” to be agnostic or atheist or whatever. Just go with the flow, take what comes at you with an open mind, celebrate the festival without causing anyone harm and be happy!

Happy Gokulashtami! :)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Door

This week’s photo challenge is just simply Door.

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I found this locked door when I went to KR Market in Bangalore. It’s a local market, with flowers, vegetables, little babies crawling on dirty roads and lots of flies buzzing around. It thrives with activity right from 5 am to 9 pm. It’s a very interesting place to shoot. In fact, I went there for a photography assignment.

If you want to see more pictures of the market, click here.

I’m a girl and I ride like a lunatic

I took my sister on a ride yesterday on my Scooty Pep+. It was the usual ride from my house to hers – one kilometre long. We’d done this ride a thousand times.

This time, however, she suddenly exclaimed at my riding. “Why you riding like a lunatic? I’m in no hurry and I don’t want to die. Ride slowly. I hate people who ride like this,” she said.

In another 30 seconds, while still in motion, I took off my helmet and kept it at my feet. Again, she showered me with some cuss words. “This is how people have accidents. Continue doing all these antics while riding and go crash into a tree!”

That’s when I realised I had started riding like a boy.

I’ve been riding in Bangalore for the past 10 years. Malleswaram, Vasanth Nagar, MG Road, Koramangala, Jayanagar, JP Nagar, Kanakapura Road, Bannerghatta Road, Bellandur, Hebbal, name it, I’ve been there on my 85 cc bike. I’ve mastered the art of weaving in and out of traffic. All this with zero accidents. (Yes, touch wood.)

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On my Scooty Pep +. Picture courtesy: Komalaaa :)

I’ve been jeered at, that women can’t ride, I’ve been angered by that comment, then gotten over the anger and have eventually seen a few girls behind the wheel and thought, “Ok I guess women really can’t drive.”

Now, I’ve reached a been-there-done-that phase, where I couldn’t care less about what people think of my riding skills.

The thing is, even though I know that I’m awesome at riding, people on the road look at me, a girl, and think, “Oh there’s a girl riding. Surely, she’ll do something ridiculous on the road.” No matter what I do, they’re going to think it’s ridiculous simply because I’m a girl. So I take that as a license to ride however I want – whether I want to ride really slow on the right lane or whether I want to zip past vehicles by cutting across them rudely – because hey, I’m a girl and I ride like a lunatic!

Well, I could do all that, but I don’t have a general disregard for rules. So, right now, all I do is overtake vehicles, be it in slow moving traffic or fast traffic. I glide smoothly from the right side to the left and overtake trucks, cars and buses alike. I ride like most of those boys that sit on the back seat of a Dio or Activa and stretch their legs in front of them.

It’s actually very liberating to do that and to get told that I ride like a boy. To stand out of the stereotype that girls can’t ride. In fact, I’ve been told that before too. When I used to play football in college, my coach once told me, “You play football like a boy!” I beamed at him. In fact, I was so happy that I came back home that very day, opened my diary and made a note of his compliment.

Now, I’m not saying that girls suck at riding or at playing football. I’ve seen girl footballers that can run circles around defenders or execute neat freestyle moves. I’ve also seen girls who can pull off some wicked stunts while driving (only in videos). But these girls are rare to find. Anyway, I’m sure all girls who have been riding for years in India will relate to this.

The thing is, I’ve always battled with myself about whether I should feel happy about being told I’m like a guy or whether I should be all feminist and get pissed about it. But no matter how much I try to get pissed at the statement, I don’t. Well, it depends on what the compliment is for. If someone tells a guy that he multi-tasks like a girl, then he should be very proud. On the other hand, if someone told me that I carry myself like a guy, I’d be very sad. So, that’s kind of what I’m talking about.

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Being classy on an RX-100

I like being told I ride like a guy. Since I apparently have the skill, I have now started riding an RX-100, my dad’s newest buy. Well, it isn’t a new bike, obviously. I’m sure it has been owned by at least six people before. My dad is the master of buying second, third, fourth, fifth-hand things. After buying them, he repairs them, paints them, modifies them and makes them as good as new.

And guess what! It took me just 90 seconds to learn how to ride the motorbike. It’s so simple! Even my friend, Nisha, took 30 seconds to learn to ride a Bullet!

So, once I figured out the bike, my first question to my dad was why girls don’t ride motorbikes. Just why?

It’s so liberating! That krranng sound when you kick-start the bike, the smoothness you experience when you shift to third gear, the idea of laughing at lameass guys who ride dabba motorbikes, it’s amazing!

I really think girls should start riding like guys, and start riding motorcycles too. I want them to be revolutionary, so much so that a few generations later, men should be complimented that they ride like women. (Actually, if someone told a guy, “Dude you ride like Swathi,” then it’s already a compliment. Haha!) I wish there are more girls who’ll take that extra step and be awesome at this seemingly male-dominated skill.

Nothing can make you feel more independent and awesome. Trust me.

So, come on girls! Time to be badass!

Beauty and the Bandh

So, as most of you in the city may know, Bangalore had a bandh today.

Although it didn’t make much of a difference to me (I had to go to office), it made a world of a difference to the city itself. The daily pollution was probably reduced by 90 per cent today. Hurrah for lungs full of oxygen!

Anyway, I just felt happy about every street being less populated. It felt nice to NOT be reminded that there are around 420 people every square kilometre in this country. So, I decided to click a bunch of pictures. :)

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A rose and my new trekking shoes!

As usual, my day started with a jog. (I say “as usual” to sound cool. I started jogging two days ago.) I found a rose on the road. I clicked a picture. Then I found that people are more conversational and comely in the mornings, especially during bandhs. An old man was poking fun at a fruit seller that he had to work despite the bandh. It was actually quite sweet, because the fruit seller asked the old man if he wanted to take over and do it for a day. It was all in good spirit. I smiled at them and jogged on.

When I got home, I noticed that the fruit seller wasn’t the only one at work. My milkman was also doing his usual rounds. He’s the most laid-back milkman you’ll ever see. There are days when he comes as late as 10 am to deliver milk. But he’s been our milkman for around 13 years and I don’t think we’d like to settle for anyone else. My mum gives him coffee every morning.

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“Don’t click a picture of me. I can’t pose!” Then he poses.

Speaking of my mum, she was just chilling this morning. Bandh or no bandh, Saturday is her day off. She was cleaning the balcony and tending to the plants. And posing for pictures in her night clothes with a sleepy face.

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“Hi there, you minion!”

I was standing on the road and clicking pictures because, well, I could stand on the road. I live on the main road and I hardly ever get to stand on the road. Vehicles are always rushing by and if I get onto the road, I’ll be shoved right back onto the pavement by violent honks and Oi-get-out-of-my-way’s.

Today, I took the liberty of standing bang in the middle of the road and clicking pictures. Ha!

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Middle of the road. Like a boss.

After this lack-of-people happiness, I spent some time with Pupsicle and Piccolo. As always, they annoyed me by not posing properly for pictures.

Get a room you idiots.
Get a room you idiots.

After all this, I left to office on a high note. I sang all the way to office, reached in around seven minutes and worked. It was a pleasant day at office as well. We did some gardening there today. Izzat got lots of soil and compost and seeds. We got our hands dirty.

While coming back from office, I was so happy that I wanted to stop my bike, get off and dance a bit. My office is on the Mekhri circle road. It’s disgustingly crowded and trafficy everyday. It takes me 15 minutes to negotiate just about a hundred metres. But today, I entered the road and my God! I could actually see the road, pay attention to the trees around it and the sky! It’s a once in a lifetime thing.

I also found boys playing cricket in the middle of the road. Well, this happens even normally, but more so during a bandh.

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The cricket team of MD Block

After this, I decided to do something interesting. I got bored of just clicking pictures. So I flipped my phone out and decided to do a video. It was quite a stupid idea because I don’t have a Go Pro camera. I have two hands, a bike, a Nexus 5 and a helmet.

But I had to make the video because I loved Bangalore today. I felt like I was back in the 90’s.

So watch this video, because I literally risked my life making it. I rode with my phone in my left hand and my right hand on the handle bar. It was awesome! I took the video on my NExus 5, but after processing, the quality has reduced. Now, I’m no video maker, but I did this for fun. It’s 30 seconds long. So watch it and tell me it’s awesome. :P

That’s all! Hope you had a happy bandh! :)

Home alone diaries – When I learnt that my mom is superhuman

Today is International Happiness Day and International Story-Telling Day.

And I’m very happy, so I’m going to tell you a story.

I’m happy because my parents are coming back home tonight after 15 long days, relieving me of my home-alone stint. The story I’m going to tell you, is… well, about my home-alone stint.

My mum and dad went on a North-East trip two weeks ago, leaving me home alone for the first time in my life. “Big deal,” I thought, about managing the house by myself. And that’s exactly what it was – a big deal.

Three bedrooms, two living rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, two balconies, a terrace. It’s not easy to manage such a big house all alone, especially if you’re into cleanliness.

Within 24 hours, I learnt of all the chores my parents do everyday, and I learnt it the hard way. Nevertheless, I enjoyed everything I did – be it waking up at 6 am to fill up the filter with drinking water, or dashing about the house to sweep, mop, heat milk, make rice, make rasam, make breakfast, pack lunch, do snaana, drink milk and rush to office in the morning.

It was actually exhilarating! I felt responsible. I felt like without me, the world couldn’t go on. That’s always a great feeling.

I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I automatically knocked out at 11 pm and woke up at 7 am. Of course, there was that ten minute power nap in office too.

Through the course of this home-alone stint, I learnt a lot about myself and my parents.

For instance, I learnt that I’m a slightly traditional person. There was a festival day when they were away. We have always celebrated that festival at home, wherein you tie a yellow thread around your neck to ask God or thank God for a good husband. I found the yellow thread, said my prayers and was about to put on the thread when I remembered my mom telling me years ago that someone older has to tie it. Immediately, I ran to the neighbour’s house and asked Prerana’s mom to tie it. I lit the lamp every evening and lit an agarbatti. I’m not pious or anything. Just doing all this made me feel complete, like my parents were still at home and doing the things they’d do everyday.

Not only that, I watered the doorway and decorated the entrance with rangoli every day. I googled new rangoli designs and squatted outside my house, looked into my phone. I drew with intense concentration. If I missed one dot, the whole design would be messed up. While drawing with chalk is simple, not so much drawing with rangoli powder. I don’t know how and when I learnt it, but my mother has somehow silently passed on her talent to me.

That’s kind of what this post is about – how my mother has been a silent hero in my life. Without her presence, I don’t think I’d survive even a day. I’ve always been openly awed by my dad and have written blog posts about him and posted pictures of him being a cool dude. Mostly because he likes all that. But all along, my mom has been there by his side and by mine, teaching us both a good way to live, instilling in us a good lifestyle – when it comes to food, clothing, daily life, manners, everything. And she has been completely subtle about it. She is the real Wonder Woman.

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Sending a picture to my sister. “Is this toor dal?”

Without her guidance over the past 24 years, I don’t know how I’d have survived these 15 days. I’m proud to say that I didn’t order food even once when my parents were away. I made it a point to make breakfast and lunch and dinner. I learnt how to cook a few basic things. I made rice and rasam (something no one in the family can live without). I think a little credit goes to my boss, who over a random conversation, advised me not to go to my neighbour’s house everyday to eat. “Deny their offer. Cook at home. See how much you learn and how good you feel,” he had said. I did just that.

I learnt from scratch how to make rice, rasam, aalu-jeera sabzi, pudina chutney for sandwich and salad, pasta salad, etc. I was in such a bad state before this that I didn’t know which dal was supposed to go into the rasam. I still don’t know which dal is called what and when people told me to put toor dal in rasam, all I did was blink stupidly.

Now, I’m happy that I can make yummy rasam. I even got a compliment saying, “It tastes exactly like your mom’s rasam!” That was the best feeling ever. Everyone knows that my mom makes the best rasam!

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Sinful Brownie Points at Ice and Spice

But I wasn’t such a goody goody kid also. I did have some rebellious fun. I couldn’t let 15 home-alone days ago to waste! There was a 1522 evening and an Ice and Spice evening when I wasn’t bogged down with too much work. At Ice and Spice, I really indulged in some crazy food. Ah the thought of that Brownie Points dessert is still sending me to heaven!

Anyway, apart from the food, there was still a lot to be done. I had to sweep, mop, etc. In between, a coconut tree branch fell into my balcony. That required a lot of cleaning. And I hadn’t realised just how many plants we have in our house. On the terrace, in amma’s balcony, in paati’s balcony, beside the house, outside the house, behind the house. My my! I had expected some rainfall so I wouldn’t have to water all these plants but the rain god wasn’t on my side. (What’d I do to you Indra?) It was scathing hot everyday and I couldn’t forgo the plant-watering. However, I realised that there were 81 flowers on my terrace one evening! They’re all so beautiful. So I felt happy that I was making them grow.

After plants come animals. Puppy and the fishies. I had to feed them both everyday, give fishies oxygen, buy eggs for Puppy, clean her bowl. My God! Going back in time and thinking about it is making me widen my eyes at how much I did. I even made sure that the house was spotless by keeping it clean. And I had to wash clothes. Phew! Bravo Swat! You’re awesome.

But it was really really fun doing everything. I loved being on my toes and still making time to read and write a bit. I even got a JustBooks account on one of those 15 days. I brought my friends over on a couple of days and we chatted away till 3 am. Komal and Nisha were awesome enough to make aalu paratha for me for dinner. I literally let my guests take over the kitchen and cook for me. Haha!

Nisha and Komal getting ingredients ready for aalu paratha
Nisha and Komal getting ingredients ready for aalu paratha
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“What is this girl doing? Why is she doing that to her face?”

I like how I never really felt alone. My friends constantly popped in and out. Pupsicle and Piccolo were always around. Every time I needed to talk, I called them and they’d listen and even respond emotively. They’re two very intelligent doggies, who know that they should agree with everything I say.  I love my doggies. : )

But at the end of the day, my favourite part of it was going to Uttara’s house and eating her ajji‘s God-level varan bath (parapu mammu, or, Sudarshan, if you’re reading this, purp mammu). Varan bath with goad loncha (sweet lemon pickle) is the best food ever (only if it’s made in Uttara’s house). It made me do my happy dance with every bite.

Anyway, I’m glad I had these 15 days to live alone and figure out life. I am now resolved to help my mom and dad in daily chores. I definitely can’t be the super woman that my mom is, but hopefully, someday, I’ll be at least half like her.

Thank you amma, for making me who I am today. I like to believe I’m a little piece of you – judging by my likes – love for literature, trees and nature, curd rice, maavinkai and generally a tasteful, dignified approach to everything – and dislikes – garlic, meat, animal haters, smelly people. Haha! (We don’t really dislike many things.) I love you for giving me this happy outlook in life, for making me enjoy every little thing I do – be it doing potty or watering plants or riding my bike with my hair down or drinking water from streams when we’re on a tour somewhere.

And one final thank you for helping me manage the house for 15 days, without being there but somehow being there.

You’re a champ, mummy! : )

 

When abortion is a painfully good choice

Today was one of the toughest days of my life. It was mentally exhausting.

A lady said to me, “These dogs are giving us a chance to undo our sins by helping them out.”

By “helping them out,” she meant neutering or spaying them so that they can’t have babies.

I stood there wondering, “Am I really wiping off a sin or committing another one?”

Things got much harder when the veterinary doctor came to me and said that Puppy was pregnant. It wasn’t just spaying now. It was abortion.

Puppy and me
Puppy and me

This is how it all happened. Around a month ago, a female Puppy that lived outside my house got into her heat cycle. When female dogs are in their heat cycle, they attract males from miles away. It was a terrible sight to watch the male dogs mount themselves on her, whether she liked it or not. She couldn’t sleep at all because male dogs just lined up to mate with her.

I don’t know whether I was doing the right thing, but I brought Puppy inside two days after her heat cycle began. I kept her in my house, taking her for walks four times a day so that she could still play with her friend, Piccolo. Piccolo is another male dog in the area, who dotes on Puppy. Even now, he comes like a bodyguard with Puppy and me when we go for our walks.

For a few days, she didn’t like being inside. She wanted to be outside with her friends. But I made her sleep in my room, bought her a few toys to chew on, played with her every evening after work and promised to let her out after we operate her.

I could get her operated only after her heat cycle, which lasts around 45 days. I waited and waited, and thinking it was over by now, I took her to the vet today.

The doctor called me in after the operation and showed me the six half-grown foetuses he had just removed from her. They were strung together with the placenta. They looked like tiny balloons. In 15 days, he said, Puppy would have littered.

Who would take care of them if they were born? I don’t have the capacity to take care of seven dogs. I can’t even keep one.
I wouldn’t have the heart to separate Puppy from her babies and give them up for adoption.
There are more than 10 rogue dogs around the area that I wouldn’t trust to let the puppies live on the streets.
If they did, who would feed them all after they’ve grown?
Moreover, Puppy is still only around 9 months old. Would she survive childbirth? 

My mind was teeming with all these questions. In fact, these questions were what helped me justify my decision to get her spayed.

It wasn’t a decision I made easily. I’d been reading about it every single day for over a month. Most articles I read online told me to spay her. Not trusting the internet, I asked my friends. My two most favourite people, Rahul and Nuvena, were dead against it. And I almost always take their opinions seriously.

You do not have a right over Puppy’s life and her puppies’ lives. You cannot take away her right to be a mother!

Conversation with didi
Conversation with didi

These were the lines thrown at me by them, and by my own mind. Just to make sure I spoke to the person most concerned about animals, I contacted my cousin, Kavitha didi. She has dedicated her whole life to animals, fighting for their rights. She has been a vegan for over 20 years now and is a role model to me. Her opinion was what would convince me, if anything.

So i took her advice and went to the vet. When the doctor told me she was pregnant, I was doubly torn. Will Puppy know what I’ve done to her? Will she ever forgive me? Will she go into depression? How can I do such a terrible thing to her? She would have been a loving mom. If I put myself in her place, I’d be furious.

I asked the doctor all these questions. He tried to convince me saying I was doing a good deed by sterilising six more dogs. He said birth control is the need of the hour.

Well, thinking practically, it makes sense to get street dogs spayed. It’s not easy to take care of them in this hostile urban world. Not many people like street dogs. Besides, I’ve always been pro-choice. Nip it in the bud before it grows up without love and care is what I believe. But when you aren’t making the decision for yourself, it isn’t that easy.

My mind asked me, “Why are you thinking practically when it comes to Puppy? You yourself aren’t always practical. If you were that practical in life, you’d have gone with the tide, done engineering and MBA and gotten a mainstream job and earned well. You wouldn’t have decided to be a writer. So why be practical in Puppy’s case?”

I still haven’t answered that question.

Puppy
Puppy

All I know is that it was the toughest day. Watching everything, right from Puppy getting anesthetised, to her dropping out of consciousness, my dad carrying her to the operation table, peeking into the window of the operation room to see how it was going, everything was a huge struggle. During the 10 minute operation, my dad and I were constantly pacing up and down, exactly like they show in movies. I couldn’t keep my voice stable. There was a point when  I broke down because I couldn’t take it anymore. My dad and I were equally concerned about Puppy and trying in vain to convince each other that she’ll be fine.

The most heart-wrenching moment for me was when she was still lying unconscious at home. She couldn’t move, not her eyes, not her ears, not anything. She lay there, limp, with her tongue sticking out. I sat next to her and said, “Puppy, I’m sorry.” And I was shocked to see her tail wag just hearing my voice.

Sigh.

Someone said that Puppy has the deepest trust in me because she knows I won’t let anything bad happen to her.

I hope that still holds good.

To all those of you planning to get your dogs neutered/spayed, I wish you good luck.

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Dad and Puppy

Special thanks to my dad, who has been with me throughout my time with Puppy, advising me what to do and taking care of her all day himself. I’d never be able to handle Puppy without him. Heck I wouldn’t even love dogs this much if not for him. So thank you appa! And to my mom, who takes care of Puppy and ensures she feeds her, even if she has to sacrifice her own curd rice. A hug from her after the operation was all I needed to calm me down a bit.

Also, a lovely and selfless lady called Geeta Mishra helped me incredibly in getting Puppy spayed. If you guys know stray dogs around your house that need to be neutered, do feel free to contact me. I’ll put you through to her.

Thank you for sticking around till the end of this post.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

Puppy
Puppy

They say that a dog’s behaviour is a reflection of its master’s.

My first dog was a rascal (I don’t mean to be rude, Simba. But you bit someone). This one, I call her Puppy, is a darling. Every time she sees someone enter the house, her ears fly back and her tail smashes everything in its vicinity with excitement. She has learnt to be the most friendly dog in the neighbourhood.

Her eyes are the most adorable, truthful eyes I’ve ever seen.

I hopelessly love her.

All the fuss about a cup of tea (totally worth it)

It’s my mom’s birthday and I thought I’ll do all the work in the kitchen today. I did the dishes, we went out for lunch and I decided to make evening tea. I make tea for my dad and myself everyday at 3pm after an afternoon nap, as we have both retired from work and are chilling at home. I make substantially good tea. But today, it tasted horrifyingly bad. I have never made tea for three people before. Besides, it was the first time I made tea after going to a tea tasting event at Infinitea, and I don’t think I can make nice tea anymore because what I had at Infinitea raised the benchmark to something I can’t reach.

This awesome picture was shot by a talented Shaam Somanna
This awesome picture was shot by a talented young man named Shaam Somanna

You must be thinking, oh what’s all the fuss about? It’s just tea. Well, whether you’re thinking so or not, I think making beautifully blended tea is an art that requires a good deal of practice. You boil it too much, it gets acidic; you add too much milk, it loses its flavour; you make it too watery and it sucks. A Geisha goes through years of practice before making the perfect tea, imagine! (I’ve been reading Memoirs of a Geisha a bit too much.)

Anyway, I have always had tea at places where they first slam a steel tumbler onto the granite slab, pour some tea decoction into it, then take a huge ladle, scoop out a good amount of milk from a barrel and lift the ladle as high as their hands can go, while tilting the ladle and pouring milk into the tumbler simultaneously. This tea usually costs around Rs.10.

At Infinitea, I had a completely different experience. Not like I’ve never been to a tea parlour before, but I’ve never really been told what and how exactly to go about drinking tea. For instance, I never knew that green tea goes best with lemon and lime mousse. Forget the flavours. I never even knew that the textures of mousse and tea go well together! So here’s what the menu for the Winter Tasting evening looked like.

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Winter Tasting. Sounds too fancy no?

 

Since it sounded so fancy, I decided to dress up like a fashionable socialite and go. By my standards, what with the bottle green pants, a belt, a MK bag and everything, I was as fashionable as possible. But by normal-ish Mount Carmel College standards, I was dressed in daily college wear. Hehe. I felt good about myself anyway, and that’s what counts.

Salted caramel butter macarons and lemon macarons. Sanjana, I ate one for you!
Salted caramel butter macarons and lemon macarons. Sanjana, I ate one for you!

The evening went really well. Nuvena and I spoke to the founder of Infinitea, Gaurav Saria, for over an hour. He is an ambitious, happy, married chap who loves his tea, and doesn’t take the easy way out as a chef. If it’s going to give him better results, he doesn’t mind having to go a notch farther to reach his goal. He gave us one of the first few batches of his fresh macarons. They were incredibly tasty! Finger licking good, if I may steal KFC’s tagline. “Most people in Bangalore make macaroons. That’s the easy way out. I have been working on these fellas for years and still haven’t perfected them,” he said about the macarons. That’s how much he knows he stuff. Who knew macarons and macaroons are different things! For many minutes there, I thought he was just pronouncing it wrong. Haha! (Macarons are delicate, meringue sandwich cookies made with egg white, sugar and almond flour. Macaroons, are made with egg whites and coconut. No almond here! Macarons are 2,000 times more difficult to make!)

This is the picture I shot when this picture was being shot.
This is the picture I shot when this picture was being shot.

The five teas served to us were top-notch, perfectly concocted and started from light teas and ended with the quintessential masala chai. Every tea tasted surprisingly different, and was made from fresh tea leaves, as opposed to packaged tea powder or tea bags. Did you know that the stuff in tea bags is just the dhool (dust) that remains after the actual tea leaves are packaged? Sigh… We were taught that good quality tea leaves are harvested, sun dried, ground in slow moving grinders, that just touch the tea leaves a bit, just enough to shred them a bit, then sent into rollers to be shaped and come out as ready to use tea leaves. We tasted tea made from oolong tea leaves. (And here I was, thinking Oolong is just a pervert character in Dragon Ball Z!) Oolong is one of the finest qualities of tea apparently, originating from China. The British actually brought it from China and planted it here in Darjeeling when they ruled. Now, India is the largest grower and consumer of tea, and the second largest industry, worth around Rs.10,000 crore! Man! There’s SO much to learn about everything in the world.

Anyway, I must say, the delicacy that accompanied every tea was every bit as delicious and rich as it sounds on the menu. I could feel the lentils of orange and lemon in the respective mousses burst in my mouth with a juicy flavour. The Belgian Chocolate Pot de Creme was out of the world! It was a little creamy bit of heaven. Every sip of tea helped wash out the flavour of the accompaniment, so every bite tasted refreshing.

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Gryffindor socks
Gryffindor socks

I find such evenings very entertaining mostly because I love to observe people. There was a little girl sitting opposite us. She held a Harry Potter book in her hand, wore a Half Blood Prince t-shirt and Gryffindor socks. I would have absolutely envied her when I was her age. I struck a conversation with her and she said her favourite house was Slytherin. Haha! She was adorable.

It’s on days like this that I learn to appreciate the knowledge other people have, of things I’ll probably never learn. Did you know that it’s good to not wash your tea cup with soap because tiny particles of the soap remain even after you wash the cup off? It’s good to let the tea stain stay, because it’ll season your cup and make your tea taste better! Every minute topic has so much to learn about. So on this day, I learnt that tea is not just tea. Of course, it tastes awesome when your mum blends it with all the love in the world, but there’s an infinite(a) amount to learn about it. : )

That’s that. It’s what a real tea party looks like!

Thanks for dropping by! And thanks Nuvena, for making the evening happen! : )
Thank you Gaurav for hosting such a fun evening. And thank you Shaam for these awesome pictures!

Until next time.

Here’s why you should adopt Indian dogs

You all know, by now, that I love dogs. If you don’t know that yet, read this.

The day before yesterday, my Puppy got bitten by a bully. You see, Puppy is a 4-month-old Indian dog, who lives on the streets and sleeps outside my house when she feels like it. I keep a bowl of milk and a bowl of water for her. She drinks when she feels like it. Basically, she is free to do what she wants, go where she wants and live how she wants. No leash, no collar – freedom.

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See how symmetrical the design on her face is? She can’t be more perfect.

 

But like I said, she got bitten by a bully. So for two days, she hasn’t been her usual self – jumping, running about and going berserk when she sees me, or mom or dad. She has been lying low, not walking, not talking, not eating, not even wagging her tail. The bully bit her on her inner thigh. So she is finding it hard to sit and stand easily. She sways while walking too. But she’s a strong little puppy. She’s holding up, without complaining. Not one sound from her. No whining, no growling.

We took her to the vet this morning, to CUPA. My dad and I. My dad is helplessly in love with her, although he won’t admit it. So he drove us down. Puppy sat with her front paws and head in my lap, her eyes wide open, gaping at everything she could see through the window. You know dogs like Marley? How they stick their heads out of car windows, stand in the seat, wag their big tails and make a mess? Puppy did none of that. She sat quietly, ready to accept whatever came to her.

When we reached CUPA, we parked the car. We lifted her and put her down, because she isn’t currently strong/brave enough to jump about with the wound and everything. She walked towards the lawn and peed there. My dad and I began to walk into the building. All we had to say was “Puppy, come,” and she followed, although a bit hesitantly. At the entrance sat a scared Golden Retriever with its two masters. A Rottweiler soon followed, drooling all over the place. Puppy, naturally, was a bit scared of other dogs, because she’d just been bitten by one. So she sort of hesitated and went off-path. so my dad carried her to the waiting area. There, we set her down, just near our feet. There was a Labrador, a Pomeranian, a German Shepherd, two Golden retrievers and a Dachshund. All these dogs were snarling, growling, a few excitedly whimpering and straining at the leashes of their masters. One of them peed right there, just at his master’s leg. Puppy sat there, at our feet, without a leash or a collar that we could hold her by, just looking around at things with amusement. She was curious no doubt; she didn’t show a sign. I’m blessed that God put such a well-behaved puppy on my street.

Inside, all went well. The doc gave her two shots. Before we got into the car, puppy, who was following us, took another detour to the lawn, to pee again. I have no clue where she learnt that she mustn’t pee where humans walk. She sat in the car as she was told to and slept outside after we reached home.

You might think that she is this subdued because she’s wounded. But that’s not true at all. The first time I took her to the doc for a general vaccination, it was the same scene. She was very good. And although playful and enthusiastic all the time, even with other dogs on the street, she has never caused problems.

Now, I don’t see a reason for her to listen to me or my dad. We are not her masters. Yet, she does. She doesn’t do anything to piss us off. When she is thirsty or hungry, she holds her bowl in her mouth and stares at my mum. Even my mum, who isn’t as into dogs as my dad and I are, has fallen in love with her. Even if the amount of dinner is just about enough for the three of us, mum keeps a bit aside for puppy every night. That’s the only time we feed her. She fends for herself otherwise. She hasn’t been trained, hasn’t been made to stay with us. But she does.

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Puppy, hugging my feet and sleeping

 

I’m not bragging about Puppy here. In fact, I’m telling you, she isn’t mine. She loves me, I love her and that’s about it. She is an Indian dog, and I help her when she needs it. It’s all you need to do, because Indian dogs are bloody intelligent and street-smart. If you’re wondering why I don’t keep Puppy inside my house, I have had bad experiences in the past, and I feel it’ll reduce their immunity. Besides, last night, I tried bringing Puppy inside. She came inside. When I shut the main door, she panicked and wanted to be let out. It was 1 am and I couldn’t leave the main door open.

But a lot of puppies aren’t lucky like this girl. Many puppies are left in other dog’s territories and when that happens, they are bitten and sometimes, killed by other dogs, because like humans, dogs are extremely territorial. So when you see abandoned and helpless puppies, do what you can to help them – be it adopting them, or rescuing them for adoption through online forums – because no one can love you and stay equally detached like Indian dogs can. It is the most ideal relationship in the world.

You know that cliched line, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t it never was”? I think whoever wrote that had an Indian dog.

So if you’d like to adopt puppies or help adopt abandoned ones that you come across, you can check out this Facebook page, Let’s Live Together. They do really good work. Or hand them over to CUPA. The number is 080-22947317. Or post pictures of the puppies on Put Me In Touch or Bombat Dawgz, both of which are groups on Facebook. That’s also helpful.

PS: I have nothing against foreign breeds. I go gaga over them too. But Indian dogs need help where they can get it. So do try and help.

Cheers.

 

To new beginnings!

I’ve been putting off this post for a while, maybe simply because I don’t want to have to deal with the thought yet. But WordPress persuaded me today, saying, “Write a post about something that should’ve been left untouched, but wasn’t. Why was the original better?”

Well, my entire life is about to change this month. For the past year, I’ve had a daily schedule; I’ve been able to tick things off a list that I made at the beginning of the year. It’s been mostly filled with work at Deccan Chronicle. The year actually flew by, but it has perhaps been the most fruitful year in my life, in terms of work and personal life. Su and Anand lived one kilometre away from my house. My Friday nights were almost always spent with them. I interviewed a few awesome people and grew close as ever to Nuvena, Sneha and Zoya. And I have to now bid goodbye to all of these people.

If you don’t already know, I have quit my job at Deccan Chronicle and have 11 days left there. So that means I won’t be seeing these silly girls, Nuvena, Sneha and Zoya, everyday. Sunayana is going to be in Orissa for a year, starting tomorrow, and Anand is going to Chicago for maybe two years. The thing is, I’m used to living away from my sister. For six years, she was away, studying, and for a year, she was in Amsterdam. But now, I’ve grown surprisingly close to Anand and having them both away, might be an extra pain to deal with and I don’t want to come to terms with it. They are my gang! No matter what my problem is, I go to them. “Should I quit?” “Should I buy these pants?” “Should I change the poster in my room?” “Should I put pickle in my curd rice?” You get the gist.

I don’t think the change of circumstances ever makes a difference in one’s life. It’s the people. It’s always the people. And I had gotten too comfortable with these people.

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I suppose getting too comfortable with a phase in one’s life callsfor a change. We are all excited about change. By ‘we,’ I mean Su, Anand and I. Su is in Orissa to help in rural development. Anand is off to USA from work, which means alone time in a new country, which is always a good thing. And I’m looking to write and travel as much as I can before I settle into another job. Maybe that’s what has gotten me all jittery. I’ve always been like Jenny from Marley & Me. The organised-kind with life plans and a bucket list to follow. Right now, I have absolutely nothing to organise because I don’t know where my life is headed! I’m so confused. On the one hand, I have people asking me “What next?” every time they see me. And on the other, I have my own mind asking me to take things easy, and take up whatever comes at me. I’ve always been told to listen to my mind, by my mind.

This looks like a silly diary entry, with nothing for my reader to take away. I know. But I have to set these thoughts free, and make some space in my mind, you know. Because every little thing is changing.

The left side shift key on this keyboard isn’t working. It has always worked and now it isn’t.

I hope that’s the only bad change out of everything I have mentioned in this post.

All in all, I’m looking forward to 2015. Supriya is coming back in January (hopefully). Sunayana is going to visit in January. I may go to Orissa to visit her. I may go to Shillong to visit Priyam. I may travel to Chennai, Pondi, Kerala and who knows where else!

But I’m going to miss the perfect past year. The nights at 1522, the gossip lunch time in the pantry at office, making tea with Nuvena, riding back with Sneha, drinking chai at the adda, staying over at Su’s where we always fell asleep trying to do something constructive, making plans to go for runs regularly and failing, going for movies, watching the matches together, watching Su and Anand argue about BJP (and watching Su shed a tear when he insulted Modi), attending parties where pretentious people came and waved their hands about at each other… Wait, I really don’t think I’m going to miss that last bit.

Su and Anand, just for the record, I love the team that the three of us are. (If I say anything more cheesy, I think Anand might remove me from the MVM Rowdies Whatsapp group.)

 

Anyway, cheers to new beginnings!

*Deep breath*