Tag: Family

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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About being alone, but not lonely

You know, there was a time in my life when I was really depressed. Well, not clinically depressed. Just mentally. I was 16 or 17, living my teens – awkward looking (a bad hair cut, undone eyebrows, baggy clothes), not-so-confident and from a state syllabus school when the rest of my mates were from CBSE or ICSE. I had very low self-esteem. I would come back home from college everyday and crib to my diary about how everyone in my life had boyfriends/girlfriends and other best friends.

I would list down names of my favourite people and next to their names, write down the names of their favourite people and it burned me to know I wasn’t on anyone’s list. Not on my best friends’, not on my sister’s – they all had boyfriends (and wonderfully, they’re all still with the same people). I would indulge in self-pity, listen to music with depressing lyrics, mostly Evanescence and Avril Lavigne’s pissed off songs and once in a while, just cry it all out.

That feeling of having no one sucks, doesn’t it?

All of a sudden, I feel this looks like an ad for Whisper. Thu!

My parents have been out of town for 45 days, leaving me home alone. Now “home-alone” would prick many ears and make them imagine parties, alcohol all over the place, boxes of pizza lying around and loud music playing. At least that’s what I think of when most people my age tell me they’re home alone. But I had zero parties. My friends came to stay over maybe five times and that’s it. I was with myself most of the other days, cooking cleaning, washing, mopping, sweeping, the usual household chores.

I even fell sick, went to the doc, got medicines, nursed myself back to health, and took care of myself. Usually, I have my mom fussing over me when I’m sick, making kashaya, getting me Homeopathy medicine from Hattangadi, giving me hot rasam rice. But I made my own rasam, drank milk with turmeric, gargled and drank hot water for four days. Perhaps only when I was sick, I indulged in a bit of self-pity, but nothing more than the permissible amount. Permissible as set by me, I mean.

I’ve realised it’s difficult to live alone if you’re the self-pity kinds. I, for one, am not that kind, not any more. Perhaps I was, when I was 16, 17 but after that, I grew to look quite decent, speak well, learnt a bit about everything in life (you know, sports, politics, people, behaviour, etc) and promised myself to never feel bad for myself. I learnt to respect myself for who I am, and enjoy my own company. I talk to myself, sing to myself, dance to myself, cook for myself and life alone over the past 45 days has been breezy! I didn’t expect that, really.

I realise I’m ready to run a house on my own, including paying all the bills, cleaning up the kitchen and doing the dishes, removing dead cockroaches and sometimes pigeons from the terrace and balcony, COOKING good food, serving tea/coffee to guests and hosting other people at home.

It’s such a wonderful feeling to work hard and go to sleep feeling real good about yourself, thinking about how many things you did in the day.

I’m writing this mostly because, over the past 45 days, I have realised I don’t need anybody else in my life. Haha! I just realised how that might have come across to my readers. :P I don’t mean to offend any of you, all you people in my life. (Except you, Nuvena. I don’t want maamis around me. :P)

What I’m saying is, if, at some point in life, I have to lead my life alone, I’ll be able to manage it. It’s like a life-skill that I can use, if need be. But I must add that given a choice between living with people and living alone, I’d any day pick living with people.

I think living alone for some time in life is something everyone must do. You realise what others mean to you and how much others do for you! You learn to be independent and self-efficient, something I notice that a lot of people my age aren’t. Even I wasn’t until 45 days ago. I did not know I could cook for myself for 45 days, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and survive it. I did not know that the electricity man just cuts off the electricity if you forget to pay the bill (and I learnt the hack to get electricity back without yet paying the bill. In your face electricity man!). I did not know that I could change a tube light, as simple as it may sound; I’ve never had to do it in my life! I did not know that I could keep 30 fish alive and nurse my dog back to good health when she had a stiff neck.

I did not know what perfect parenting was like until I saw myself imitating my parents everyday when they weren’t here, trying to repeat their daily actions – be it squeezing a tomato to put it in the rasam exactly like my mum does or fixing a light bulb and half-immersing it in the water like my dad does.

As much as I missed my parents, I’m glad they left me to fend for myself. I learnt of my own capabilities, which is why my self-esteem has shot through the roof. Hehe.

So, if you’re living alone, make the best of it. Don’t feel bad for yourself that you’re alone. In fact, you’re lucky that you’re alone and can be your own person. If you’re not living alone, throw the other person out of the house for a while and make sure you live alone. :P

Tips to live alone:

1. Learn to cook. It will take up most of your time.

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Cold pasta salad

2. Invite some crazy people over. Even if they are donkeys.

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3. You go over to meet people

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4. Listen to music. Morning, afternoon, evening, night, 3 am. Doesn’t matter. Listen when you want to.

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5. Have a sleepover in a tent on the terrace.

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6. Pay attention to nature. It’s the fastest way to put a smile on your face.

7. Find a hobby. Something like making bookmarks. I made them for charity.

8. Visit your grandparents. Nobody loves you like they do.tatha

9. Go on a mani-pedi date with your best friend and party with her.

10. Go for a wedding. In this case, your best friend’s wedding. :)

11. Read as much as you can!

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I’ve read a bit toooo much over the past month and a half.

12. Build an  army of doggies to protect you

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Kuntea and Puppy. Piccolo was somewhere around the corner

13. Finally, keep in touch with your parents and do something nice to welcome them back.

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That’s all now! Good day! :)

PS: I logged onto WordPress today and it said, “Happy anniversary!” It’s my second year anniversary with WordPress! Thanks for reading! :)

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! : )

 

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*

 

 

 

God, are you listening?

Dear God, I’ve been meaning to write to you for quite some time. In fact, I thought about it during the second week of September, when I came to meet you at the Malur temple. At that time the #IceBucketChallenge was at its peak and I saw you participate too, except it wasn’t voluntary. You were not only doused with ice cold water, but also ghee, milk, curd, honey, sugar, banana pulp, turmeric and so much more. You were in the form of Lord Narasimha that day, the lion-headed form of Vishnu, mythically known for ripping out Hirankashapu’s intestines. I was wondering why people were feeding you, a carnivore, with things that I eat as a pure vegetarian. It struck me as bizarre. But Su offered me another explanation that those were not for you to eat, but they were used to give you a nice snaana so that you can have glowing skin – like royalty, is what she said. But for all I cared, it was just a waste of a packet of Nandini milk and curd, because you were just a rock, sitting there with a poker face, not responding to the beautifying treatment one bit. Instead of wasting it, I could have eaten it, or given it to one of those poor people outside the temple, who would have relished a rare meal delightfully.

Nevertheless, I had a pleasant time at Malur anyway amidst nature, the farmlands, the gigantic shady trees and the stray animals there. Also, at office yesterday, we also did a pooja for you. This time, you were in the form of Saraswathi, the flawless, calm Goddess who plays the veena. Or at least I’m guessing that’s who you were, because I couldn’t see the idol the poojari was dressing up. You were hidden beneath all those flowers and clothes. I was standing way at the back. You might not have seen me either. That pooja was like a test of patience for all of us in office. It went on for half an hour, and 30 people stood before you, shifting restlessly from one leg to the other, sending text messages to postpone meetings and waiting for the final aarti so they could get back to their chairs.

Now, you may wonder why I’m telling you all this. It’s just that every time these kind of mass prayers happen, I never get to talk to you enough. Besides, I’m more comfortable writing to you than talking to you. And I don’t get the point of mass prayers anyway, because at the end of the day, it’s just that one faithful person really praying to you. Everyone else is in their own world, mentally distracted. I don’t mean to offend you by saying you have just one guy praying to you, and I know you know what I mean because you can see right through me, through everybody. That’s what I’ve been told ever since I was born anyway. I don’t see a point in trying to make a conversation with you, because I need to have my eyes closed to concentrate, and a few people find it amusing when I keep my eyes closed. I have been through that phase of course, where I giggled when people tried to concentrate. It just doesn’t make sense. There’s too much distraction. The point of praying to you is to be able to talk to solely you, to thank you for everything you’ve given us and ask you for everything else that we want, right?

I wish you’d let people know that one doesn’t have to travel a thousand kilometres to see you and pray to you. Chumma you let these people do what they think will please you and you laugh at them inwardly. Don’t think I don’t know. It’s not cool, God.

Please somehow let people know that you don’t care about that hundred rupee note that they put in the aarti, or the silk saris they adorn you with or the thousand shlokas they chant without knowing what it means. (I myself can chant the entire vishnusahasranama and I have no clue what a single word means! This blogpost is way more meaningful to me.) Tell them that they don’t have to waste precious resources on idols, when there are a million poor people in this country who don’t have a single rupee. Tell them that all they have to do to please you is be good people. Tell them they don’t have to go out of their way to be good. Even a simple act such as picking something someone dropped and returning it to them is good, right? I sure hope so. It was nice talking to you, God. Thanks for listening.

Here’s to the end of a grand, memorable era

So my dad retired yesterday, after working for 36 years at BHEL. That’s 60 per cent of his life.  

Just retired
Just married retired!

There was a grand function at his factory yesterday, a send off party. Four other people retired along with him. There were 200 people in the hall to send them off. People went up on stage to say nice things about the retirees. I think more than 20 people spoke, with words of praise for all the 60-year-old retirees there. 

 

IMG_9486
My handsome appa 

Yes, 60. The retirement age. I still can’t believe my dad is 60. He can easily pass off as a 35-year-old, with his lean mean physique and jet black hair. Save for the greying moustache, nothing can give away his age. I don’t think he believes he’s 60 either. Recently in April, he had an angioplasty. Everyone was mighty surprised about it, because my dad has always been the healthiest guy around. He tirelessly works from 6 in the morning to 9 in the evening, and by work, I don’t mean sit lazily in front of a computer. I mean physical work. He worked at a factory that manufactures porcelain. He worked in the Quality department there, so he had to test everything, life heavy things and move about a lot. His colleagues said he can’t be replaced. “Ramesh is Quality. Quality is Ramesh,” one of them said, while speaking about him on stage.

The audience at the function was offered the chance to go up on stage and talk about my dad. Despite ten people already having spoken about my dad, a girl a couple of years older than me went up to the dais. Her name was Jaya. She was an apprentice under my dad and worked at BHEL for a year. During that year, my dad encouraged her mentally and financially to go ahead and study whatever she wanted, and now, she’s working at Indian Space Research Organisation. My dad’s eyes were wet by the time she finished her speech.

I thought, shouldn’t I go up and say a few words? But just one thought was chewing my head off that time.
How on earth does anyone stay with one company for 36 years? 
Even my mother, for that matter, has been with Accountant General’s office for around 30 years.

It’s just hard for me to digest. I’ve been at my institution for just one year and three months and I’m already thinking of quitting. Well, if not seriously, it’s just there somewhere at the back of my head that soon I’ll get bored of this and must find something more intriguing to do. My dad was also up on stage yesterday. “Don’t bother whether you’re given promotion or not,” he said to the younger employees. “What matters most is job satisfaction and I thank BHEL for having given me that all these years,” he concluded, and the audience applauded with rapture.

I think I have the most dedicated and loyal parents. And it’s not just when it comes to work. They are loyal to their friends (they’ve had the same best friends since school and beginning of work), committed to each other with all their lives and love their children to bits, and all this in a very non-intrusive, held-back way. I find it so hard to find that balance between being dedicated to something with all your heart and being unhealthily obsessed with it. And my parents have effortlessly achieved that balance. Clearly, I have a lot to learn from them.

I’m guessing the not-overly-obsessed bit is what’s going to help my dad, now that he has no more factory work. I’ve known him to leave home at 8, come in between at 12, go back and come again at 4:30, pick up my mom and come back at 6, and go to the garage and come home at 9, ever since I was born, literally! His entire life for the past 36 years has revolved around factory work. It’s going to be hard for me, him and everyone around us to get used to the fact that the BHEL phase is over. At least for a month, I’m sure I’m going to wake up at 9 thinking appa has already left to work. Funnily, it seems like it’s not just my father who has retired, but all of us, who have bid goodbye to a habitual lifestyle that had an impact on all daily lives until now. 

A picture from his retirement day
A picture from his retirement day

I can’t tell you how proud Sunayana, amma and I are of you appa. We love showing off to everyone that YOU are the first man in our lives. We are lucky to have you with us, when everyone wishes they can have you in their lives forever. I don’t know what we did to deserve you, but we did something right! 

Hope you don’t ever change appa. 

Love you to bits. 

Happy retired life. 

In loving memory of my paati

I thought I was over my grandmother’s passing away. Turns out I am not.

I always thought I get over people easily. When my gramma went away, I cried on the first day, shed a few tears the days that followed, but never really mourned more after that. Maybe I believed that she had left her ever-smiling, kindhearted spirit with us. Maybe I don’t miss people much when they’re not in my daily life anymore.

I cried for two days when my dog passed away. But I didn’t after that. I probably cried more when I watched Marley and Me a few months after he died.

My puppy, Gunner
My puppy, Gunner

 

Why I’m talking about this right now is because today, when my mother was cleaning out an old closet in my grandmother’s room (yes, after four years after she went away), she found a few sweaters. Before she put them in the machine, she just wanted to check the pockets to make sure there was nothing in there. But she found something in them. I thought it might have been money. But it was something I did not see coming. It was a Marie biscuit.

My gramma was diabetic and Marie biscuit was the only biscuit she’d eat. Every evening, she’d make tea, dip Marie biscuit in it, finish the tea and sit outside in the balcony, breaking the biscuit into pieces in her hand and then putting the pieces in her mouth, taking her time to eat it. That was one of her habits. She never bit into the whole biscuit. She never bit into apples, or carrots either… Not because she couldn’t. She had strong teeth and she never wore dentures. She just didn’t think it decent to bite into it I guess. My dad has the same habit now. Pardon the cliche, but old habits die hard indeed.

It was strange how instinctively I turned vulnerable and melancholic when my mum found the biscuit. The stable, quiet ocean in my head was suddenly unruly, like on a full moon night; the waves were roaring and ready to splash. I didn’t cry in front of my mom of course. I drank tea, sat on the porch steps enjoying the evening; Perhaps  my gramma enjoyed a similar evening, sitting in her green balcony the day she forgot her biscuit in her pocket.

Then again, I guess it’s times like these that make you really mourn for someone, rather than on the day they go away. I missed my gramma the most when I used to come back from college to find a locked door, and not one that opened to her peaceful face, engrossed in some awful Kannada serial. Supriya and I, who came home from school and sat around at home, had learnt the theme song of that 4 o’ clock serial by-heart. Haha! It was the worst!

Today, I don’t know if my grandma will be proud of me. I have really short hair. She always wore a disappointed look when I cut my hair too short. She used to be so happy when it was long. I’m wearing a fitting t-shirt today. I don’t think she’ll like that either. She was the more traditional kinds, who exclaimed with joy every time she saw me wear a salwar kameez. But she never, ever, ever, told me not to do the things I did. She wouldn’t complain about how I wore my hair or my attire. She was never intrusive. She let me live my life how I wanted to. I loved that about her. And she was the person I spent most of my childhood with, more than with my mum, dad or sister. I’m glad I could share it with her.

I miss her sometimes.
I miss sleeping next to her, (something I did for around eight years).
I miss the pleasantly disturbed sleep I had in the early mornings when the signature 6 am tune on AIR played on her portable transistor, which she kept above her pillow all the time.
I miss her gruff voice, it was unique and something that I always found friendship in.
I miss the strong smell of Sensor balm, which I still associate with her.
I miss taking a bite off her crisp chapatis, dipped in sambar, when she ate two whole hours before the rest of us.

Most of all, I miss her presence in her room, crafting the perfect little birds she made tirelessly, with so much dedication, or decorating photos of Gods with chamkis and beads, and adding a touch of grandeur and royalty to them.

The last thing I said to her was “Good night,” the night before she slept forever.

Well, I hope she’s happy with my tatha, wherever she is, because I know they’re together and happy now!

I’ll see you when I see you again paati.

Sorry if this post was a bit too emo. I just had to get it out.

It’s all about loving yourself

Someone told me the other day that if you wear a t-shirt all the time, it means you don’t care about yourself. It was one of those mindless “assess your personality through your clothes” things like this. (Because that’s the best way to go about judging a person’s personality apparently.)

Does this seriously look like someone who doesn't care about herself? I look incredibly awesome. Like an anime, I've been told. B-) (Thank you Sneha.)
Does this seriously look like someone who doesn’t care about herself? I look incredibly awesome. Like an anime, I’ve been told. B-) (Thank you Sneha.)

Anyway, just because I wear tshirts and jeans and sneakers all the time, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about myself. In fact, a few people would laugh if you said “Swathi doesn’t care about herself.” I can imagine Nuvena laughing already. She is the one who gifted me a Mephobia print out to pin up on my desk. I might have mentioned it before. Mephobia is the fear of becoming so awesome that the world can’t handle it and it explodes. Or something to that effect.

Apparently, if you wear tight fitting tops and jeggings, you are narcissistic. (Or you just think you’re thin, whether you are or aren’t.)

Ok I’m not talking about clothes in this blog post. I don’t care about clothes. I care about myself. Err… I mean, I’m going to tackle the subject of loving oneself. (Adjusts glasses and clears throat.)

A lot of my friends rant to me about how disappointed with life, that they are not talented enough, that work isn’t rewarding, that people are leaving them all the time, that they are single and haven’t found boyfriends/girlfriends, that their spouses don’t give them any attention, or that they’re just lonely and sad. Actually, nobody rants directly to me because I don’t give anyone bhaav when they do all this. I usually ask them to put a sock in it, in the politest manner. So yeah, they don’t come back to me. But you know, issues like this get thrown about in friend circles, about who is depressed and who is happy and whose boyfriend is cheating on whom and whose marriage broke up. (Because we all live in Gossip Girl-like lives.)

Anyway, I think the problem with all these people is that they don’t love themselves…enough. If you love yourself, nothing can really put you down because you do everything in your own interest. Also, if you love yourself, you won’t expect anything from others, so you can keep yourself happy all the time! So there’s no scene of being sad about anything – not anything to do with other people at least. {I’m a selective misanthrope. (Coined the term myself, thank you). So I have to find my way to go about being happy when I’m surrounded by humans all the time.}

But loving yourself comes with a few clauses.

There’s a very thin line between loving yourself and being selfish. When you love yourself, you have to make sure you give others, your friends, family, etc as much love. It’s not all about you. That’s where most people go wrong and end up caring only about themselves. Don’t isolate the love. Spread it all around. Can you imagine having jam only in one corner of your bread sandwich? Ew no! Spread it evenly. That’s the right way to go about it. (Whattey metaphor I say!)

Also, you can tell from how a person expresses love for himself, whether he’s a selfish jerk, or whether he genuinely loves himself and everyone around him. At least from my experience, I understand that if a person is always speaking ill of others, dismissing others opinions and feelings, and thinks his way is the right way, then he’s taking the wrong route. He probably doesn’t love himself at all. He is probably convincing himself that at least someone loves him, because nobody really does.

The best way to go about it, is be straightforward about it. In office, when I hand over an edited copy to my editor, who reads it again and finds zero errors, I’ll say “Wow! No errors? So cool!” (There are usually at least ten errors on an edited page.) I give myself that much liberty to praise myself, simply because I know I’m good. It’s going to cause no harm, save perhaps an amused look on my editor’s face. Everyone in my office thinks I’m narcissistic. However, that isn’t the right word to use. I just love myself.

My dad is another example about how to go about it. The world knows he loves himself. He loves having pictures of himself clicked. He’ll even tell you that he’s awesome and tell us stories about him being awesome in his childhood. That’s a healthy amount of love for oneself. At the same time, he’s also the most selfless person, helping other people at the drop of a hat, sympathising with everyone. Pretty much like my mum. She doesn’t expect anything from anyone. She’s such a peaceful, fun loving person, and I’m so much like her. She has just taught me the art of happiness in the most subtle manner.

That’s the thing. You have got to learn to be self sufficient. You have got to find a way to be subtle and loud about your love for yourself. You have got to find that balance. Then you’re set.

Because if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect others to love you?

PS: If you have noticed that I used too many brackets in this blog post, it’s because I learnt this today.

The joy of giving (and sneakily taking)

Nothing fishy going on here. I’m just referring to the giving and taking of clothes, and shoes, and bags, and make-up, and books, and board games, and- ok, there are too many things on the list.

You see, I have seven older siblings (that’s one sister and six first cousins), and I’ve been spoilt silly by all of them! The oldest is 20 years older than me, so there’s a whole range of ages among them. I’ve never felt like an older sister to anyone. Not even with my three younger cousins. Even with those that are six years younger than me, I behave their age, and never mine. Or maybe it’s the other way round, where they act my age. I don’t know. But I’ve always felt like one of the youngest in the family and I love it, and love all the goodies that come with it. And I must admit, the goodies haven’t always fallen into my arms. I sometimes just take clothes without anyone’s notice, just assuming that the owners have grown out of it or have forgotten about it. (Ssshhhh…)

A lot of younger siblings may complain about receiving hand-me-down clothes that their older siblings don’t fit into anymore.

Hand me down
They’re all brats like Malfoy

I personally think it’s a boon! For a person who hates shopping, it’s best to receive bags full of clothes without even having to get off a couch. Like right now, I’m wearing:
– A pair of jeans that my mom bought for my sister, but they were too tight for her.
– A pair of cool Adidas shoes, that Anand bought for my sister, they were too tight for her.  (And it’s not like my sister is fat. She’s just one size bigger, but these things just fit me better. )
– A very pretty white sweater that was hidden at the back corner of my cupboard. No clue whose it is. Seems perfect for Winter.

If I assess each piece of clothing in my cupboard, like I have done currently, I will be left with, say, ten pieces that are mine, out of, say, 600 clothes. (Do I have 600? Err.. Counting all the jeans, kurtas, tshirts, tops, skirts, shorts, jerseys, tracks, jackets, sweaters, dresses, gosh, again, too many things to type, but I’m pretty sure I have that many.) 

Take a look yourself.

DSC04508
That’s not all. That is just one of my two cupboards. And I do suffer from a bit of a neatness OCD.

When I went to the US for 45 days, I look 60 different t-shirts. Through out my first PUC, I never repeated clothes. That’s how many clothes I own. And I don’t get them just from my cousins. Even my friends who don’t fit into their school clothes anymore, hand them over to me. In this picture, I’m wearing a sweater that Supriya wore in seventh grade.

Supriya's sweater
Ignore the loud expression

In this picture, I’m wearing a skirt I bought in Delhi in sixth grade.

IMG_4602
And I’m at the happiest kiddie birthday party, where I’m playing the witch aunt! (My nephew turned one)

You might wonder how I can wear something so old, something so non-trendy. And I ought to be concerned most about it, considering I’m a lifestyle journalist who writes about fashion. But it’s a really good thing that all old things like high waist pants and bell bottoms are back in vogue. I have so many of them! Not like I wear them though; I stay safe when it comes to fashion. I never try and make a statement. When I dress up well to office, I sometimes get told, “Oh you’re looking nice today. You should dress up like this more often, and less like a beggar.” Believe it or not, I have been told that. That’s one of the problems that comes with over sized t-shirts that belong to six-foot-tall, seven-years-older-than-you cousins.

Anyway, now that I have turned 23, and we have entered a new year, I have resolved (as is the norm) to dress up well everyday. Just for the heck of it. And I have also begun giving away my clothes to my tiny tots – my nieces and my nephews.

I also give away clothes or orphanages. I have so far given away my clothes to kids in Malleswaram and some workers and their kids in my aunt’s factory and also some workers in my doddamma’s hospital. Sometimes, when I’m walking around Malleswaram, I notice a very familiar tshirt or skirt and realise that it used to be mine. It’s such a joyous moment! I shamelessly exclaim to whoever I’m with that “Hey! Look! That used to be mine!” and it makes me happy! It’s the same case with my old toys. Although I’m possessive about some of them, I try and give away the everything. But there are a lot of clothes and objects that are too special to me that I’m saving up for the future, waiting for my niblings to grow up, to be old enough for them, like my first ever keyboard and my first few favourite books. Ok forget the books. I’m going to take them back.

But the best thing is the sharing bit! Especially with my cousins. Everytime someone has a baby, the previous baby’s cradle, pram, clothes, everything shifts to the new baby’s house. And the timing so far has been perfect. When one baby turns two and doesn’t need a cradle anymore, another baby is born! And I love how everything is transferred to different families, irrespective of whether they’re from my dad’s side or mum’s side.

I also saved up my Fairy Tales books from when I was five, or when my sister was five, and my niece Sanjana is reading it right now. I’ll never know who owned the books/toys first, because we have all owned it at some point in time and we all take good care of things. It never really gets old. What’s old for me is new for my niece.

It’s awesomely ironic how all these materialistic things circulate within the family, turning into meaningful family heirlooms.

So thank you SMITHA for filling my cupboard (although you don’t really know how many of your clothes I have in my cupboard and how many times I have raided your cupboard since you’re not here. I intend to return all your clothes to you. Someday.)
Thank you Su, Navu, Swetha, Supriya, Uttara, Hrishi and anyone else who has ever given me your clothes.
And Arav, Aranya, Aryan, Sanjana, Spoorthy, Sukrit, Kritin, Kritheyu (phew that’s too many niblings!), I hope you all understand how important these family legacies are and pass it on, or if not, return them, to me, your favourite Chitti. : P

Cheers!