Digging up some treasures…

I had a dream, a dream in which a supernatural being told me of a treasure cove and urged me to go in that direction and find it. I normally forget my dreams as soon I press the snooze button of my alarm clock, but strangely this one stayed crystal clear in my memory.

After days of dilly dallying and pondering and delaying (yes yes I treat everything equally, my dreams and blog included), I decided to go ahead and follow this lead.

I walked towards where the path took me. The road was filled with small trinkets, which I picked up along the way. Some of the trinkets even looked familiar. The long walk was making me tired and my mind seemed to be tiring along with my exercise starved limbs.

Slowly the path cleared and I could see the huge pile of treasure the super being had promised me. Most of the stuff looked like something I had loved and lost. My favourite hair bands, clips,earrings, a small mountain of pens, insurance papers, important bills, birthday cards, visiting cards , medicines and cosmetics  (way past their expiry dates, almost from the Harrappan era). I looked at it all in disbelief. This treasure hunt was almost like a walk down memory lane.

I gazed at the pile and went into a memory induced daze… only to be woken up by the spouse’s exasperated tone ” Ok, can we empty your next hand bag and search for that document?”

Yes, I have to sheepishly admit that I have to rummage through many eco-systems   when I rummage through the galaxy called my hand bag looking for sun -glasses or just a bill. The eco-systems which otherwise co-exist peacefully until I shatter them with one of my frantic searches :) I am sure they eye with me with the same suspicion we had for Mr. Laden. I just hope they are not secretly plotting a war against me by destroying my treasures forever.

How I wish there was a tracking device where I could just feed in the name of the thing I am looking for and it would miraculously emerge from my bag instead of tolerating the endless snide remarks from the spouse of nurturing a black hole in the house. Good food for thought as I munch on the not so damaged chocolate I just dug out!!!

 

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Book Review: Southern Flavours

Cooking is something I enjoy doing. After a grueling day at work the interactions with my pots and pans are like stress busters. So when I saw the book Southern Flavours by Chandra Padmanabhan up for review, there was no way I could not try my luck to get my hands on it. Blogadda did not disappoint and voilà in a week’s time it was at home waiting to be read.

The wise men say, never judge a book by its cover, but I loved the way the book looked. Food they say is eaten with your eyes too and the presentation in the book lives up to it.

Southern Flavours includes the kind of authentic food cooked daily in various south Indian homes . It is a kaleidoscope of flavours from the four southern states and show cases the variety you can cook up with vegetables. The original names of the dishes and their English translation makes it easy for any reader to interpret. The small nuggets of information of where the author procured the recipe breaks the monotony that creeps in some recipe books.

The book is divided into various sections. The first one is the basic recipes which is helpful for novice cooks like me to learn the recipes handed down for Sambhar powder, Rasam powder etc rather than depend on the store bought variety.

The next section is called Sambhar and Kuzhambu. Kuzhambu is usually a stew or broth with vegetable, tamarind and dal. The Rasam section enlightened me that there were so many ways to make the good old rasam.

The Poriyal and Kootu section is the various ways you can make your stir fries or sides for a meal. As a south Indian, I sometimes run out of ideas for vegetarian dishes and this section is a big help for the same.

Next on the menu is the must have in all meals for all south Indians, the rice dishes. From the humble Thayir Sadham to the more complex Bissi Bele bhaat, the rice dishes become a complete meal in themselves. The best part of this section is the notes which suggest the accompaniments with each dish.

The snack section is lip-smacking to say the least. There is an assortment of regular snack like Idlis and Dosais and not so regular snacks like Ragi vadai and Moru appam.

What better way to end the meal but in a sweet way. The sweets especially the carrot payasam caught my eye and is definitely on my to make list for the next special occasion.

The accompaniments include the standard coconut chutneys to some rare dishes which have lost their place in the modern kitchens like Cabbage Chutney (Muttakos Thuviyal).

The test of a recipe is in its taste. I normally use the Puliyodharai (Tamarind Rice) mix available in stores. This was the first time I made it from scratch and it turned out absolutely delish.

The next dish I tried was Rava Dosai with Vengaya Thuvayal. It was polished off too.

The best things I liked about this book are

  • The simplicity of the recipes

  • The accuracy of measures even for the tempering and garnish

  • The homely feeling that each recipe brings with it

  • The notes accompanying each recipe suggesting alternate ingredients and the best combination for the dishes.

  • The variety it showcases

The not so good part is that I found the oil content in some recipes a little higher than what I normally use. More recipes from Kerala could have been included.

A beautiful book and I really look forward to trying more recipes and adding it to this post.

A big thanks to blog adda for giving me this treasure house of recipes from grandma’s kitchen.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

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Book Review: The Muddy River

My reading had really gone down in the past few months, so when blogadda put
up “The Muddy River” by P.A. Krishnan for review I applied immediately and was ecstatic when they chose me.

This book falls in the genre of a political or rather bureaucratic fiction. It is a story woven within a story and is nice fresh narrative style.

The book revolves around Ramesh Chandran, a bureaucrat who works for a Public sector
undertaking in Delhi. His wife Sukanya and he are dealing with a personal loss and slowly
trying to bridge the chasm between them that the loss brought in.

Ramesh is an upright employee and has several run-ins with his higher ups. He is a simpleton
at heart and has taken to writing a book in the form a diary of his life’s experiences which
forms a part of the book’s narrative. As a result of one of his skirmishes with his boss, he is
sent on an assignment to Assam as a Vigilance officer in a power company at Assam. The
insurgents kidnap an officer from the Power Company and Ramesh is assigned the task of
getting him released from his kidnappers. The book meanders over the insurgent situation in
Assam and the barter that is done with the large corporations to satisfy the monetary needs
for the same. Ramesh is initiated into the murky world of politics as leaders and ministers just
listen sympathetically and not do anything to rescue the officer from the kidnappers. He is
helped in this mission by a colleague Anupama and a police officer Bhuyan. They help him get a grasp of the local politics and help establish contact with the kidnappers.

There is another twist in the tale as Ramesh unearths monetary scandal in his own
organization and is almost finished off by his superiors and others involved. In between all
this drama, the narrative takes you through the scenic beauty of Assam and its undiscovered
tourist destinations and begs the traveler in you to explore Assam.

The book ends in a highly unexpected manner and makes you think. For me personally, I want to read it one more time just to soak in the nuances I may have missed out.

The story as a whole showcases the struggle of an honest man in a corrupt system. The
narration is fast paced but like all kidnapping dramas slows down in the waiting periods. The
concept of a novel within a novel is refreshing; however it confused me at times. The concept
of using different fonts for Ramesh’s novel and the actual story is good but needs absolute
attention from the reader to make sure you are not confusing the two. The only grouse I have with this book is that many characters just flit in and out of the story, only to reappear a lot later when you have forgotten their role in the story. The end also is a little hurried and could have been crisper. All said, a good read in the genre of political fiction.

About the Author: P.A. Krishnan started his career as a teacher, became a bureaucrat in
the Government of India and shed that mantle to become the CEO of a research foundation.
He is presently a Senior Director of a multinational company. An accomplished writer, both in English and Tamil, he lives in Delhi with his wife, Revathi, who is a teacher

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

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Battling with hope

When we take our wedding vows or circle the sacred fire, the mind always hopes the person who holds our hand now will do so for the rest of our life.

I want to talk of someone whom I am very close to and who has been an inspiration in how she has dealt with the blows life has dealt her with. She is the most vivacious person I have ever met, the life of every party. What I didn’t know was beneath all those smiles and giggles was a mask she hid from the outside world.

Two years back, we took a trip together to explore a few places and in one of her rare candid moments she told me a story that shakes me up even today as I sit down to write it. It was about a young girl who married young with much fanfare to a guy settled abroad. He was well educated and his parents were educated and well off too. Initially she stayed back with her in-laws due to visa issues and thats when the facade began to crumble. Her in-laws had a sham of a marriage and kept quarreling. They did not believe in engaging a house help and expected her to take care of their huge bungalow. After 2 painful months she flew to UK. Her happiness was short lived, as her mother-in-law constantly called up her son to persuade him ti return to India. They came back home and her life took turn for the worst. The in-laws did not let her leave the home and cut her off from her family and friends. In case her parents called, she was barely allowed to speak. The mother -in-law  watched television in the son’s bedroom and made sure the couple had no privacy. All the while, her husband took the middle path and remained the mute spectator. There was no physical violence initially but his mother made sure she got the giant share of her son’s attention and salary. If she ever retaliated to her mother-in-law’s taunts, the fights would become loud and noisy and melodramatic.

One fine day when things got to a point where her in-laws beat her up, she walked out. Her parents who had been asking her to move out since a long time were relieved too. She found a good job and closed a painful chapter forever.

As she finished, I asked her why she waited for 4 years before moving out, she quoted from Shawshank Redemption “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best thing, and no good thing ever dies”  Its the  same hope that kept me going then when I battled abuse and now as I  stare at the great life ahead of me.”

Living through abuse and coming out stronger is not easy. I am so proud of my friend and hope her life is a guiding light to many who are suffering and have suffered like her.

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A Managed Circus

So St Valentine has just got back home from his annual visit to earth, leaving behind in his trail a host of people who have emptied their pockets on account of commitment or in anticipation of getting the committed tag. Then there is another set of cynics who have taken off their “We don’t believe in Valentines” mask and have carefully placed it in their safety lockers for use next year and the years to follow.

 

Who said Cupid doesn’t play favorites? He has a few chosen few and then there is the neglected lot. The ones he doesn’t even give a passing glance and places them in foster care. The care taker of this foster care believes that love and commitment doesn’t come easy. It comes with a lot of effort for the person in question and the people around them. These poor folks are branded and placed in the boxes called “Arranged Marriages” when they begin their bumpy journey to earth.

 

Let us trace the journey of these poor earthlings as they approach that marriage able age put down by the unquestionable high power called Society ;-)

 

A young girl, usually just out of grad school, all bright and ready to face the world. A new job in hand and many dreams of spending that cash without a daily expense report to the parents. That’s when the elders in the family cast an evil eye on your new found happiness.  By the elders it’s mostly the women folk who take it upon themselves to make the already good world a better place for the younger generation. It is their definition of giving back to their world (rather I think they grin evilly and say Payback time)

 

Suddenly you and your family are invited to many social dos ranging g from poojas to weddings to even naming ceremonies and haldi kumkums, with the mater hovering around you to wear that new dress and almost get into a fist fight when you refuse to put on some yellow metal. The only high point being the new dress that was glared upon from last weekend’s shopping excess is now considered a blessing. Endless nudging and winking happens as you enter the parties. Aunties with so called eligible sons, nephews, neighbors and few long lost acquaintances whom they have not seen since their diaper days flock in to ask you random questions about education and hobbies and future plans and the likes. Very unfamiliar faces recommending a fitness regime and a fairness cream post the viva session usually bursts the initial euphoria of being in spotlight though.

The parents are then almost forced to disclose the phone numbers, which they reluctantly give and even cite excuses of not being in favor of marriage over career for their bright daughter. Typically acting pricey when you are being showered with attention syndrome.

 

The initial period passes in rejected proposals and absolutely turning up the nose in disdain when suddenly the parents realize that time is buzzing past and all the so called aunties need to be taken seriously. The old diaries are fished out and subtle and not so subtle hints dropped to acquaintances about a daughter who has been the good girl and resisted Cupid’s arrows keeping in mind their scandalous take on “Love marriage”. She always wanted to marry in our community is their trump card. If only they knew, that cupid plays favorites, if only.

The aunties swing back into action. Kicked that their endless hints have finally yielded some results. The bio data is made and circulated among one and all. The responses start trickling in slowly and the parents attack it like a nerd in a gadget store. Each day as you land back after a hard day staring at the computers, there are even harder tasks waiting your attention at home. Numerous smiling faces and endless educational and professional accolades waiting your approval. Choices and more choices. Few are okayed and dispatched to the astrologers for approval. The astrologer looks at your horoscope like a farmer who has just discovered a pot full of gold in a barren field. The verdict is that you are blessed with a mix of stars so unique that finding a perfect match among the stars will mean numerous visits to the astrologer and a slight respite for you as he asks you to get into a religious frenzy to pay for all the sins of initial non interest and disdain.

 

The parents listen with utmost devotion as he lists down the never ending list of poojas and temple visits to please the stars. With each passing day the horoscope slowly transmogrifies in the words of Calvin into a horrorscope. The parents even go to an extent of changing their trusted astrologer under the suspicion that he is soothsaying way into building a billion dollar empire. However as they say the stars don’t lie. The father is asked to sign a dealership with Bata or Paragon to regularly replace his pair of footwear for the endless distance he is destined to traverse for the noble cause of finding a groom.

 

 

Slowly the so called well wisher aunties lose their interest and move on to newer or more updated stock in the market. Age as they say is a great leveler. There are rumors spread about too much demand from the girl’s side and how expectations need to be trimmed down as per market value (I am not making that up) Left to their own devices, the parents are left with no option but to counsel their ward into the world of matrimony sites. The profile is edited and re edited to create an image of a perfect bride. Photoshop experts are pressed into service to undo the small blemished and scars of nature. The profiles on matrimony sites can range from interesting to downright material for comedy shows. Yours truly was given killing glares for laughing at some eligible guy’s description which read as “Looking for a convented girl.” I don’t even want to get into the entire details for the scare of copyright violations and the like. Anyways as is common with all situations in life, there is a law which says “The most appealing profile will have the most unmatchable sets of stars”.

 

So the search continued forever with a few ladki dekhna and jazz thrown in between for entertainment sake. There were attempts of conversations made with absolute strangers who made you wish the earth just opened up and swallowed you for the time being.

To cut a long story short, it was an experience of a life time. Very educational as it throws in the questions of caste, sub caste and even language dialects as search criteria. So many search criteria I am sure which if given at the same time would stump even good old Google …

 

What can I say .. all’s well that ends with bells n cymbals :)

 

 

 

PS: Any resemblance to anybody’s personal experience is all but unintentional!!

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Three to tango …

 

The few people (I don’t even need all my fingers to count them) who do take cursory glance at the blog have enquired whether this place has shut down like the Kerala companies plagued by labor union issues.

 

There were a few labor union issues and non- cooperation instances from the grey cells fraternity to deal with initially. This was followed by some major changes and decisions on the personal and professional front too … As is pretty obvious I can wax eloquent and get poetic when it comes to excuses.

 

So where were we?  Yes the hiatus, about which I can pen a whole post and that being a good thing as I have been at a loss of choice for a topic for my post. Pliss pardon as it is a long rambling account and I will not take responsibility for the discovery for the cure of insomnia.

 

There was an upheaval on the professional front. I was struck by an acute case of GIGOTOS syndrome. It sapped out all my creative juices and made me listless and wary. I could not concentrate and a change from the current scene was the cure suggested by all and sundry. Hence began the search for a perfect place for change of scene, many options were considered, researched upon and approached and finally decided upon. The D day arrived and when I landed at the new place, it was almost like my first day in school, all alone and lost. To add to it the place is an ocean of humans if there can be one. So in short I felt like a fish (who obviously cannot swim) thrown into an ocean. Like they say it is a GIGOTOS syndrome (Grass is greener on the other side syndrome for the uninitiated). Anyways we have learnt to swim here and the going is good so far….

 

Since there was enough adjusting going on the professional front, we (the BH and I) decided it was time for a change on the home front too.  Thus began our house hunt. Every Saturday the property ads in the newspaper would be duly encircled and we would embark on our mission to find a perfect place to call home. The discoveries we made would range from pathetic to heartbreaking. Pathetic since what you read in the ads is normally the reverse  of what you get to see and heartbreaking since the Murphy’s law of perfect home states that “ What the eyes perceive as the perfect home is inversely proportional to the size of the bank balance.” However much of petrol and energy burning happened and we finally settled for a property to call home. Much joy and jubilation happened. The interiors were planned and visualized, the spouse even building a few kennels in the air. The only minor things to be done being, getting all the documents in place, get the loan sanctioned and getting the house registered in our name.

 

After much deliberation, we decided to avail a loan from a nationalized bank. We scoured our homes for our documents, which meant having to expose my engineering mark sheets which I had stuffed into a deep hole like the one in Alice in Wonderland for public scrutiny. The documents were duly submitted and complete, so we thought. Like every thriller, now it was the time for the villain to make his presence felt. In our case it was in the form of our bank and bankers. Initially they sent in the vamp (read the sales guy) to seduce us wit their sweet talk and just when we fell for their charm, the bad guy struck blow after blow, and we were left reeling. Our banker was a lonely guy who loved company. So he made sure we dropped by to visit him on a weekly or on some occasions on a bi-weekly basis. We exchanged small talk and each time a single document in our ever increasing pile would be found missing and he found an excuse to meet us again ( this is the trouble of having a pleasing personality people keep coming back for more :P )

We realized his ploy but by then it was too late. I watched with despair as our file moved from one table to the next but the loan was still a distant dream. The inherent communist in me even contemplated a Harthal with red flags and sloganeering but gave up for the lack of support. Finally the spouse in true hero style almost came to blows with the banker, after much tussle the hero won and the loan was passed.

 

The registration also was not without hiccups, with a few nonchalant government clerks and an absolute dead pan lawyer thrown in to add to the circus. Anyways after much tears and sweat and theatrics, the house is finally ours.

 

The home shifting saga made me realize that objects (like clothes, cardboard boxes etc etc) however inanimate do multiply like rabbits. How else can I explain the enormous amount of stuff I had hoarded over a year’s time? The parents who had been sent an SOS for a rescue mission to sort out the stuff; were blinded by the sheer volume of the wardrobe (mine of course). They reiterated what the husband had just declared; do not shop unless you have worn each garment at least once. Pray can some one please explain to them that I still face paucity of clothes each morning? Some things like they say cannot be explained, they need to be experienced to be believed. The battle is still waging on that front which I believe will end like all Indo- Pak talks, with no dossier satisfying either parties.

 

Phew this roti, kapda & makaan saga was exhilarating to say the least. An emotional roller coaster which methinks needs a whole month of retail therapy to recover from … There did I just say more clothes??

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Voices in my head

Since over a month, each time I hear voices in my head. The voices give me instructions on what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. Each day I try hard to block the voices and go about my daily tasks but they refuse to go away.

Sometimes the voices almost seem like they are barking orders at me. Don’t we have enough people ordering us around to have some random voice joining in?

Few days I am even scared to wake up, the voices are really becoming louder. I wonder if they are the fruit of my over imagination. I cannot mention them to anyone, for the fear of being labeled insane. It was a tricky situation, do I let the voices dictate my life or do I continue being the free bird (read bird brain)??

I tried concentrating on the positive things I heard, and to implement them. The more I abided to their instructions, the voices seemed to die down and let me be.  The voices seem to know where exactly to guide me and where to rein me in. It all boiled down to listening between sentences and paying attention to finer details. My life has become easier and they have found a different person to guide.






The voices of the instructors at the driving school …. Night and day, I hear their instructions, a few  good ones like “Madam aapne clutch poora nahi dabaya” or

Some bad ones like “ Jitna control ho steering pe utna speed badhao.”

Or the real ugly ones like “ Kya aap bhool gayi ki apne gaadi me break bhi hota hai!!”

As for me, I have finally decided to follow what they say, for my good and the good of many around me …

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The gift ..

She lay back staring at the stark ceiling, wondering if they were colored white to bore people and put them to sleep. Her mind was full of ideas; she had been planning this party for as long as she could remember. The excitement wouldn’t let her sleep.

She had personally looked at every minor detail; she hoped he would remember this night for the rest of his life. The hall was fully decked, the DJ was setting up his console and the guests had started pouring in.

She came from a very affluent family, where Versaces and Armanis rubbed shoulders with the Louis Vuittons with practiced ease. Her childhood was any young girl’s dream, with vacations to exotic locales and all that she wished for. Her parents were busy climbing the social ladder, so they made sure to give in to all her demands.

Today is his engagement party. She waited patiently with the others, for the couple to take centre stage. They were heralded with a shower of rose petals, the demure girl and the dashing lad. Rings were exchanged and the celebrations began with the dancing and the revelry. She danced with complete abandon; the party was going as planned.

The toasts were raised; the couple looked drunk in their happiness. They had eyes only for one another. It was her turn, she turned to face the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, hope you had a great time at this party, I take this opportunity to congratulate Pia and Rishi on their betrothal. Hope you both remain happy always.”

The DJ stopped the music, one voice played on the speakers, “Anoushka, don’t you ever disclose this to anyone, I have pictures of you. It’s only your life which will be ruined. Yes Rishi , she said fear lacing her voice” The phone clicked indicating an end in conversation.
The room which till now reverberated in cheer, suddenly turned ice cold. All eyes turned to Anoushka and then to Rishi. She looked at him and said, “Rishi bhiayya , I wish I had this courage 10 years back when I was ten and you played your games with me. I played along as I looked up to you and wanted to please my smartest cousin. I thought Pia bhabhi should know too .. she should learn to appreciate your dirty games .

With that she walked out of the party, leaving an ashen faced Rishi and a retreating marriage party!!

Child sexual abuse is one topic i feel very strongly about. The most vulnerable section of society and the  heinous crime cuts across all socio economic barriers!!

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Buried dreams..

Ramnath’s excitement knew no bounds. His packed bags were overflowing with goodies. He checked and rechecked his passport and tickets. The whole of last year he had almost ticked each day off in the calendar and pinched every penny.

As he boarded the flight, his excitement knew no bounds. It had been 3 years since they had met. He had kept his visit as a surprise which made it more special.

The flight bobbed over the clouds. His co-passengers were fast asleep, he couldn’t shut an eye. His thoughts wandered to his son. He had worked hard to put him through his education; he had graduated as an MBA, the only one to do so from their whole village.

The whole village had gathered at the village square to celebrate his success. His eyes glistened with tears of joy.

The flight landed, he gathered his belongings. He called for a taxi. Ramnath had planned to give a surprise; instead the one that was handed over to him almost took his life.

The sky scrapers of Dubai which he had longed to see  were of no interest to him. All he could feel was a sense of loss and failure. His life had been turned upside down.

His son had been lying all along. There was no white collar job, no company accommodation and no perks. What he saw were inhuman living quarters teeming with people broken in spirit.

His son had lost his job. The shame had not let him come back home or tell his father. He paid his debts by working in the construction site and sent home the extra cash he made by driving a cab. The very same cab his father had boarded. Ramnath held on to his bags and wept uncontrollably at the passenger seat….. The gulf dream lay buried under the construction rubble….

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Looking back

Looking back I see a little girl with stars in her eyes,
Her canvas was the universe and her dreams sky high.


She dreamed of a being a good student and doing well in sports,

To see her parents eyes proudly shine when they saw her school reports.


She struggled with the needle and thread,

Skills they told her in future would hold her in good stead.

She breezed through her school days, college was a struggle,
Diodes, amplifiers capacitors and transistors made her mind boggle.

She stumbled into the big bad world and was labeled an employee,
Hoping the bugs she dug out for a living didn’t push her into ennui.

There came many downs, and a few ups too,
While destiny played its peek a boo, the knight showed up too.

Somewhere she is still the little girl with stars in her eyes,
Her canvas is still the universe just that a few dreams have died!!

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