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Of ups and downs


Sunday 10th Jan 2021 –

Another day of ups and downs. Ups in the morning with some key decision making. Come evening, undoing those decisions. This is the second time this has happened and hopefully the last.

Going into this, I had thought that I won’t be taking the pressure and stressing over it but given my nature, I am feeling stressed. It is also a lot more frustrating, knowing you have given it time and effort and it has come to nothing. I hate a waste especially when it is to do with spending mental efforts into something and realigning your outlook towards a way of life.

I have realised I cannot live with indecision and the constant back of forth. I think it shows a weakness in mental fortitude.

Another lockdown


As of yesterday midnight, Scotland is in national lockdown until 1st of Feb. This obviously means a month of home-schooling. The last time this happened, it was chaos all around. Parents didn’t know what to do and neither did the kids. I think the kids did better in the lockdown than the parents.

It was the first time for schools as well and they were scrambling to take lessons online. This time round, I am hoping for a more organised approach. We have been there, done that, so everyone knows what to expect, in a way.

Home schooling is so much different from actual schooling. The kids get to revise but new learning does not happen. There has been a lot of debate about the effectiveness of home-schooling. For me, it’s just about getting through the day without too much screen time! We’ll see how it goes. I am letting go.

Tested negative for Covid


In July, I was put on to a project, which does not really match my job description, but hey, you do that work that falls on you. I had worked on a similar project back in February and yet I was dreading this work and just wanted to get it done with. Let’s not talk of project management and deadlines. As always, I will meet them and get it done; integrity and all that. Midway through the project, I got an assistant of sorts to help me through it. By then I was already working 12-14 hours a day including weekends. It got to the point that I couldn’t switch my mind off. I was thinking of work constantly even when I wasn’t working. After office work, there was housework, cooking, cleaning etc. It seemed like I was just working nonstop.

I didn’t have the time or inclination to celebrate my birthday come August. I honestly can’t remember, what I ate on that day. Now comes the drama. On the next day of my birthday, by afternoon, I think my body had had it. I just went to the bedroom and flopped down. Next day, early morning, I sent a text to my manager, saying I physically can’t work anymore. She excused me for the day. I had tremendous body ache, a slight fever and fatigue. I couldn’t sit for more than 15 minutes at a time. I had to go lie down then. KP got really worried about me. Although I had not stepped out of the house for the entire month of July (working like crazy); he felt that we should all get tested for COVID. Luckily, we got the appointment for the very next day afternoon.

We drove to the Edinburgh airport where the test centre was located. It took us some time to actually find it. I was imagining long queues and waits. However, there was hardly anyone there. We had to keep the car windows closed at all times. The volunteers guided us to a spot where we could park our car. We showed our appointment date and time on the phone through the glass window. KP was told to roll down the window and kits were passed to us. We had to do our own swabs – throat, and nose. We did not have to step out of the car. That was the 5th August. We could all sense the tension in the air. Although I had a feeling that I didn’t have it, you can’t be sure in these crazy times. I came home and smelled the coffee and I could smell it!

We got the results via a text message early on the morning of 6th August – all negative. Drumroll and celebrations all around. Phew! I was still feeling miserable though. I did not have a cough, nor did I have a high fever. After a lot of google research, we diagnosed it down to flu. The doctors here are really not useful as they don’t see you unless you have been ill for a couple of weeks. I was just taking paracetamol and ibuprofen. After a couple of weeks, I had no temperature and was recovering. It was a month before I felt back to normal.

This is a note for the diary to record our part in the history of this pandemic.

A note for the diary #covid19


Long time since I updated this space. It never felt that lockdown was lifted during the months of August and September. A new strain of the virus is circulating in England and it is supposed to be 70% more contagious than the already highly contagious one. This new variant has wreaked havoc just before the Christmas holidays and new year. The UK has imposed its most severe lockdown. Christmas is essentially cancelled. People can meet with other households only over Christmas Day. The UK will go into lockdown from 27th December for three weeks. School holidays are extended until 11th Jan and then there will be a week of online schooling. All non essential stores, gyms, hairdressers and entertainment venues will be closed. Over 40 countries have banned travel to and from the UK.

Schools closed for the Christmas on Friday the 18th. We got an email from the head teacher a day before school closed, saying he was happy that not a single Covid case was recorded for the junior school. On Friday though, I got a call from the school office saying a positive case has been identified and that S was in direct contact with the case; so he needs to go home soon. He also needs to self isolate until the 23rd December.

S is fine and not showing any symptoms. Initially he was happy as self isolation meant he would be in his room playing video games and food will be brought up to him. Been 3 days now and the boredom has set. He has lost interest in the games. He is missing going out and playing with his friends. Two more days to go.

The guidelines around self isolation are strange. S has to self isolate but we are free to go out, with masks and social distancing of course. Here I am thinking, shouldn’t we self isolate as well? If S is an asymptomatic carrier, isn’t there a chance that he has passed it on to us already?

Fingers crossed.

Lockdown measures


Found this on my friend’s Facebook status and sharing it here as a reminder to ourselves to not take our life and freedom for granted. 
This will be a moment to think about in 2021🤔

Just so I NEVER forget…..

Diesel price was £1.10
School cancelled
Highers cancelled
O-Levels cancelled
Self-distancing measures on the rise.
Tape on the floors at shops to help distance shoppers (2m) from each other.
Limited number of people inside shops, therefore, lineups outside the doors.
Non-essential shops and businesses mandated closed.
Pubs, theatres, restaurants are closed.
Entire sports seasons cancelled.
Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events – cancelled.
Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings – cancelled.
Churches are closed. Graveyards are shut.
Don’t socialise with anyone outside of your home.
Children’s outdoor play parks are closed.
We are to distance from each other.
Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for our front-line workers.
Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill.
Panic buying sets in and we have no toilet paper, no disinfecting supplies, no paper towel, no laundry soap, no hand sanitiser.
Bread, pasta, flour, chicken and chopped tomatoes are sold out everywhere or in limited supply and purchases are controlled.
Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitiser and PPE.
All non-essential travel banned.
Fines are established for breaking the rules. Police patrolling the streets of many cities.
Arenas open up for the overflow of Covid-19 patients.
NHS nightingale is opening in London to look after 4000 patients.
Press conferences daily from the government.
Decisions about our daily restricted life is reviewed every 3wks.
The government throws money at businesses to try to keep the economy from imploding.  Grants and loans. The government to pay 80% of employees wages where businesses cannot continue to do so.
Daily updates on new cases and deaths.
The dead are denied wakes or funerals and barely anyone is allowed at the graveside. Max 10 at a funeral, possibly going to be further restricted.
Barely anyone on the roads.
People increasing wear masks and gloves outside.
Essential key workers are worried to go to work.
Medical field workers are worried about going home to their families.

Thursday nights at 8pm nationwide people go to their doorsteps to clap to say thank you to NHS and key-workers.

Children paint rainbows 🌈 on the pavements and hang posters in their windows. Toy bears are placed in windows to entertain children going on a bear hunt as their controlled once-a-day outdoor activity.

This is the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, declared March 11th, 2020.

One day it will show up in my memory feed, and it will be a yearly reminder that life is precious and not to take the things we dearly love for granted.

We have so much!
Be thankful. Be grateful.
Be kind to each other – love one another – support everyone.

Repost – Art of Whodunit – Delicious Death


Reposting another one of my old blog posts. With all the time over the weekend, I struggled to choose a book to read. I have over a hundred books on my Kindle yet nothing hooked me on. I did what I usually do in situations like these. I turned to my bookshelf and chose a Christie book.

There is no thrill quite like what I experience after reading a whodunit. I love this genre with a passion. Why do I love whodunits so, you ask? Simple as Hercule Poirot says they gives you the illusion of living an exciting life.

This brings me to what is going to be the focus of this post – my abiding love for Agatha Christie and her unusual and idiosyncratic detectives – Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. I have read my fair share of Sherlock Holmes – who’s intent on impressing Watson all the time. I honestly don’t think you can deduce that someone’s wife has left him because his hat is dirty and not brushed often – god! Or probably he can possibly categorise 350 different types of tobacco ashes. No monsieur, that’s doesn’t impress me at all.

No doubt Christie’s mysteries are thrilling, one better than the other, but what charms me most is her detectives – a little old lady with a twinkle in her eyes and a Belgian ex-police detective with an egg-shaped head. They are witty, funny, kind but firm and so brainy. The cerebral appeal that they have is what is lacking in modern detectives. Today’s detectives do not have ‘the little grey cells” and cannot solve a mystery by “simply arranging the facts in order” and hence resort to sex appeal and dirtying their hands and all the action. I am more impressed with Poirot sitting in his chair, sipping a cup of hot chocolate and using his grey cells to solve the crime. That’s a true detective.

Miss Marple’s method are different though. Her little village of St. Mary Meads has given her ample opportunity to peep into the psyche of people and learn their nature and every new crime reminds her of someone who has done the something similar. Her study of human psychology and human nature is simply outstanding and perhaps that is the reason why I tend to enjoy her stories a bit more than Poirot’s.

Somewhere along some books, I have also taken an immense liking to Captain Hastings who’s Poirot’s closest friend and the narrator of most of his stories. He is loyal to Poirot, has a dry, witty sense of humour, is charming in his own way and never leaves a chance to point out Poirot’s pompousness.

I have read almost all of her books but still after reading a few other authors I need to read one Christie just to make the blood rush.

Some of my favourites:

  • A Caribbean Mystery
  • Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Murder is Announced
  • The Witness for the Prosecution
  • Mirror cracked from side to side
  • The thirteen problems
  • Murder in three acts
  • Holiday for Murder
  • 4:50 from Paddington
  • Why didn’t they ask Evans?
  • At Bertram’s Hotel

 

What’s a biryani anyway?


Reposting this one as I made lamb curry today and it led to a lot of discussion in the office group chat! Originally posted on


Biryani

The last weekend I cooked mutton biryani – the much-loved dish on the paternal side of my family. Even though my father and uncles are not foodies, any mutton dish is the one food item that is revered. On special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries etc, a typical family get together would most certainly include Mutton Biryani.

Handed down to my grandmother by a patient of my grandfather, this recipe is a special one. My late grandfather was a police surgeon. My grandparents lived in police quarters and from time to time had to change locations as is common to those in the service. When they had settled in their final place of residence at Byculla, my grandfather was in the higher ranks and usually had a couple of constables at his service. They also had many a servants who lived with them in servants quarters. When I now try to imagine their lifestyle, I find it highly interesting and quite aristocratic. But I digress..

Once it so happened that my grandfather treated a poor patient and didn’t take any fees from him. A few days later, to show appreciation for the kind act, the servant brought home a huge handi full Mutton dum biryani. After tasting it, grandma and grandpa were hooked.

After that day, my grandma nagged grandpa to ask the patient to provide her with the recipe. Every time he conveyed the message, they would receive the biryani in the huge vessel. After repetitive incidences, my grandma finally got hold of him personally and asked him.

Next day, an old woman with a bulky frame, piercing eyes and a paan stained red mouth visited my grandma. In her intimidating presence, grandma felt like a small mouse. In the kitchen she sat down with her pouch of tobacco and paan and told my grandma, “start peeling the garlic..” She was the mother of that patient.

Without going into the details of the recipe, the gist is to par boil rice and keep the mutton raw. Layer these in this manner:  mutton at the bottom of a wide based thick vessel, then raw potatoes, tomatoes, dry fruits, finally the par boiled rice with fried onions at the top. The edges of the vessel had to be sealed with wheat dough before putting on the lid. Additionally, another vessel filled with water was kept on top to avoid any steam from getting out. The biryani was cooked on slow heat for about an hour or so.

My grandma swears that this is the authentic biryani recipe as the woman who taught her was a Muslim and this is how they do it. We accepted it and thought this was the only way to do it.

That is until I got married. As with every other food item, the biryani was also an elaborate affair at my in-laws’ home. The major difference between the recipes being, mutton was thoroughly cooked, potatoes, dryfruits and other garnishing items fried or cooked in some manner. The layering then involved only arranging these materials alternately and steaming them in a tight lid vessel.

Now I don’t remember when this thought formed but I simply believe that if you cook the rice and the meat separately and then assemble them,  the dish is not a biryani but is merely a variation of pulao. I mean what is the point in cooking everything separately and then only assembling them together? To get the flavours of the spices and mutton into the rice, the meat has to be raw.

Whatever recipe you choose, these two methods of cooking give out distinctly different flavours to the rice and I for one believe that the flavour of the rice is highlight of any biryani. Some people are astonished from the combination of cooked rice and raw meat but trust me on this, the meat does get cooked and the rice is not over cooked in the process. If you follow the instructions exactly and not try to add you own little ingredients or variations, then you will be able to make authentic dum biryani.

So what kind of biryanis have you tried and which do you think is the most authentic one?

Recently read books


The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry – This is a deliciously atmospheric book set in historical Edinburgh 1847. A medical crime fiction mystery written by husband and wife authors Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. Loved the mystery and reading about Victorian Edinburgh. The sequel The Art of Dying is even better.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson – Very addictive and immersive. Contemporary YA murder mystery. Our protagonist Pippa Fitz-Amobi chooses a closed case to research for her end of year project. It’s an open and shut case for the polie and town and it was closed five years ago. A girl murdered by her boyfriend who then killed himself before the police could arrest him. Pippa is not convinced and goes about finding the truth.

Conviction by Denise Mina – A true-crime podcast sets a housewife’s present life on a collision course with her secret past. What motivated me to read this one was the fact that it was set in Scotland. Anna is an ordinary wife, mum and a podcast junkie. One day her husband leaves her for her best friend and takes the kids along with him. Feeling miserable, she starts listening to the podcast “Death and the Dana” – a true crime podcast discussing the case of a man and his family who all died on the sunken yacht in Bay of Biscay. This is a different type of murder mystery thriller.

Unfollow me by Charlotte Duckworth – Violet Young is a hugely popular journalist-turned-mummy-vlogger, with three young children, a successful husband and a million subscribers on YouTube who tune in daily to watch her everyday life unfold. Until the day she’s no longer there. But one day she disappears from the online world – her entire social media presence deleted overnight, with no explanation. Has she simply decided that baring her life to all online is no longer a good idea, or has something more sinister happened to her? This was a brilliant read for me. Very relevant in today’s world of social media obsession. The mystery unfolds from the perspectives of her most avid fans who want to find out the truth.