Surrounded by mundane

I haven’t updated this blog in a long time. I posted a couple of times but nothing concrete. There isn’t anything major happening in life to write about. Well almost everything and nothing. I can write loads but wouldn’t wish a few readers of this blog to read it.

Anyway, not to sound too bleak, life has been going on as usual. Autumn’s gone and there’s a chill in the weather. There are a few trees in the neighbourhood that are bright red but they will lose the leaves too. Autumn was long and wonderful. We collected a few leaves of different colours from bright yellow to dark maroon.

The kiddo has settled nicely into his routine. Although I think he spends far more time in school than I had wished for. Lunch in school is a big change and the other day he told me, “I don’t get to see you for a long time for four days in a week. We don’t get to eat lunch together.” There was an open day at school a couple of months ago and we got to see his classroom and some of his work. His classroom is so much fun – there a number of different play areas – book corners, art tables, house corner, charts, and many other things that make it attractive even to the adults. No wonder kids are happy and wish to go to school everyday. No boring brown benches! His teacher is lovely, warm and very open. This is such an opposite from the schools in India, where teachers are dreaded and feared.

Life has settled into a routine once again. I wake up early to make breakfasts and lunch boxes and it is all a blur until I drop him off at school. The school is just at a 10 minute walk from our house. All students are made to stand in a queue outside in the playground before school bell and I am amazed at how good the primary 1 kids are at lining up. They don’t cut lines and are prepared to wait their turn.

Leaving aside all the family drama and heart breaks, I have quite a few firang friends here now. Their approach and perspective is quite refreshing. I recently tried to explain what “ghee” means to a firang friend and calling it “clarified butter” made me wince. Clarified butter – in now conveys the deliciousness, warmth and homeliness as “ghee” does. Explaining jaggery was even more difficult. I finally ended up saying – imagine a slab of thick hard cheese but only sweet! Another friend and I discussed the varieties and brands of coconut milk available here. This friend and his wife have just opened a delicatessen and they were introducing some Eastern food dishes. He couldn’t understand how we made coconut milk at home. All these conversations are so much more interesting than the emotional and heartbreaking family dramas. I love the fact that I can indulge as much or as little as I want and walk away unscathed.

I recently watched a play – The Mousetrap – written by the famous Agatha Christie. I remember my grandma introduced her novels to me when I was in college and thus began my love for reading whodunits and books. I had already read the book so there was no mystery to this whodunit for me. It was nostalgic to watch this play and I feel like I am now part of history. When I read those books during my teenage years, I never imagined I would live places and neighbourhoods similar to those described in her books. Having lived in the UK for 4 years now, I can now better understand and internalize her plots and circumstances and I have a whole new love for her books. The play was warm and cosy and atmospheric and felt like hot chocolate on a Christmas night. I can’t wait to discuss it with my grandma.

There are good days and there are bad days but am trying to overcome the bad with the good. Distraction is the only solution for situations beyond your control. Nothing lasts forever and perhaps it’s true. Writing is difficult but there are days like today when it just flows. The saving grace are my husband and my son who live through it all and continue to support me. So hopefully there will be more blog posts.

Over the weekend and then some

Belated Happy Holi everyone! From the photos around the blogosphere and on FB and whatsapp, it seems almost everyone I know had a colourful time this year. Not for us. A sunny weekend for us should usually suffice!

On Saturday I was busy slogging in the kitchen preparing this

Chicken Biryani

It’s a fairly simple recipe and gets cooked in less than 2 hours!

But that’s not what I was really slogging at. It was this

Puran Poli
Puran Poli

My first attempt at Puranpoli! It’s a classical Maharashtrian dish prepared on the auspicious occasion of Holi and Padwa. It may appear to look like a roti but it’s very sweet and very different from a normal roti or chapati. To describe it to a firang here, I would rather call it sweet tortilla! 🙂

It’s made from split yellow gram, jaggery and rava. Only 3 ingredients… sounds simple but the procedure is lengthy and hard.

In short, cook the yellow gram and drain out all the water, add jaggery to it and cook on low flame till it’s soft and dry.
Make a soft dough of rava by mixing water and oil in it and soak it in oil till it becomes soft and stretchy.
When the stuffing has cooled down, the poli is ready to be rolled out.
Grease a butter paper with enough oil so that the dough doesn’t stick to it. Take a small ball of dough and flatten it out into a small circle, place a small ball of stuffing at the centre and wrap the dough around the stuffing to make it into a ball.
Roll out the puran poli taking care that the stuffing doesn’t come out of the dough while rolling it.
Heat a non stick pan and grease it with oil.
Hold the butter paper upside down and hold the edge of the poli on the pan and peal away the butter paper. (!)
Cook it over low to medium heat and flip it once.

Phew… all these things just right and you might get a full whole unbroken puranpoli!

Chicken biryani and Puranpoli done on Saturday! Time to rest for the next month or so.

Yeah right!


No, on Sunday Hubby and I went to dance! Yeah you read it right.

Scotland’s national centre for dance – Dance Base – had an Open Day on Sunday to encourage new dancers to join the thrill. Bone tired we dragged ourselves to the Grass market where the centre is located and danced our feet out for a one whole hour to Elvis Presley’s c’mon everybody! After the one hour, we were drenched in sweat for the first time in Edinburgh. I experienced my heavy lethargic leaden legs turn light, supple and brisk. I had a spring in my step. Thanks to hubby dearest for pushing me off my ass and getting me on my feet quite literally. (On a negative note, don’t you just hate it when husbands come up with the most rational and practical answers/solutions to some of the most persistent long time problems you have had? Once you listen to their talk, you hit yourself mentally and wonder why you didn’t think of it!)

So after grudgingly admitting to having a great time dancing, we lingered on walking down the pubs at Grass market and that’s when we came across the armchair book shop – a quaint, cosy little place. Anyway, am not committing myself to a weekly dance class yet but yes, in an ideal world I would do it just to get my agility back. When you can’t do a 2 minute simple dance sequence you realise how dull and heavy your body is. And to think there was a time (another world, another lifetime) when over the weekend I used to dance for 3 hours and then swim for an hour!

About swimming, I can’t swim even a lap now. So much for the bragging. Anyway the brat is all nervous and turns into a cry baby when it comes to his swimming lessons. (yeah, we decided to start him early, though we think it’s late – but that’s the normal parenting anxiety). All was well for the first couple of weeks but then he suddenly developed this anxiety about swimming. Now every time we reach the centre I can the tension building on his face, the anxiety making its way up from his stomach to his face. Love, anger, threats, treats – nothing works. But I appreciate his guts to enter the pool even when he has cried copious amounts. Last week he just held the bar for the entire class duration. Today, he cried and cried and then cried some more. It started when we entered the changing rooms. His coach has been very patient with him so far, giving him time and not forcing him to do anything against his wish. But today she nudged him and pushed him and enticed him with sharks, ducks and fish toys and made him swim! (thank you God) He seemed to be okay with it. Keeping fingers crossed for the next week.


Embarrassing your kids is a totally different high! I have only just experienced it. My dad still does it and I still get upset and embarrassed. I take kiddo to a music class every Monday where they are taught instruments, notes and rhythm. At the start of the session, we all stand in a circle and dance to the routine intro song. Most of the times the steps are the same but sometimes the instructor switches them (patting your head instead of your knees etc). So this Monday, we all were standing in a nice big circle and at a point, she changed the steps. I had tuned out and kept doing the wrong step. The brat noticed this and kept nudging me. When I realised what I was doing, I kept doing it and went a step further and did a funny little step complete with facial expressions and hand movements (think Joey’s dance in Friends). The horrified expression on the brat’s face was priceless. There was disbelief and then anger. For me though it was hilarious. Nothing more pleasing than making your kid uncomfortable with a little funny stuff. 🙂 Now I know how my dad feels.

Day 6: Books

I love reading books. It’s more of a hobby than a pass time. It all started when my grandma introduced me to Agatha Christie’s books. I love delicious deaths! After reading almost all of her books, I started on Hadley Chase and Holmes but nothing else matches the intellectual appeal of Christie’s whodunits.

Recently though I had given up on the mystery genre to read ‘higher literature’ which can be boring at times. but every once in a while I come back to Christie and read one of her books. Currently am re-reading Murder on the Orient Express.

Contemporary fiction is nice. Sometimes I do find something new which I like immensely but most of the times it’s just same old same old.


Book Review: The Facility

Title: The Facility
Author: Simon Lelic
ISBN: 9780330522724
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 3 out of 5

Synopsis: The book is set in the near future where a “Unified Security Act” has been passed in the UK which essentially allows the government to go to any length in the name of maintaining security. A secret facility/prison is established and a number of people are detained without any explanation. The book follows Arthur Priestly – one of the imprisoned, Henry Graves – governor of the facility and Tom Clarke – a journalist approached by Priestly’s wife, Julia, who believes her husband has been detained under false pretences.

My Review:

I had read good reviews about Lelic’s debut novel, Rupture (which I haven’t read yet) so I was eager to get my hands on his second book. I am usually not too keen on reading political thrillers but this plot sounded interesting enough and so I chanced it.

This is a fast paced thriller and is gripping throughout, well almost. It wasn’t very thought-provoking and I felt that this complex issue of government confidentiality could be investigated further. The book revolves around these 3 protagonists and how they react to this situation. Instead of a typical frameworks of such novels which reveal more as they progress, this is an inverted projection of this kind of story in that it doesn’t reveal the big conspiracy and aimed at keeping things hidden.

We don’t really know why the facility is established until a third of the way through the novel. The difficulty with this approach is that it is difficult to examine the issues in-depth. The writing is good, there is a creepy murky feeling throughout the novel but it doesn’t really stand out as an exceptional thriller. It is an absorbing fact paced read but it doesn’t end up leaving you satisfied with the outcome.

Book Review: A Moment of Silence

Title: A Moment Of Silence: Or, the Observations of Miss Dido Kent
Author: Anna Dean
ISBN: 0749079940
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: Miss Dido Kent is 28 and unmarried and hence heading towards spinsterhood. Her beloved niece Catherine sends her word that Catherine’s new fiance, Richard Montague, has upset her. Dido rushes to her niece’s help to Bellfield Hall, home of the Montague family. She discovers that Richard has secretly broken off the engagement without any proper reason and since then disappeared. Then, a dead body of a woman is discovered in the garden. Are these incidences related? Dido wants to find out.

My Review:

Given my love for Agatha Christie, more so for Miss Marple, I was really looking forward to this addition to the ranks of worth female sleuths. I wasn’t disappointed. Dido is smart, resourceful and very sure of herself. She is extremely pleased with herself when she deduces something about the mystery. Her letters to her sister are very amusing and she doesn’t mind blowing her own trumpet. Her cleverness and show-off only add to her character, gives it more spunk and personality.

She does a great job of making people confide in her to solve the mysteries. She is no Miss Marple who relied on human psychology. Dido here gathers so much information and confidences of the residents of Bellfield Hall that by the end of the novel it is very easy for her to figure out what the whole matter is.

There twists and turns, the mystery is puzzling and leaves you guessing at every turn of events. The conclusion is happily surprising. Dido is a fun character. The novel is well written and clever. It ends on such a note that I am hoping there is much more to happen in Dido’ life. This is a first in the series and I am looking forward to read more.

Book Review: Cracked Up To Be

Title: Cracked Up To Be
Author: Courtney Summers
ISBN: 9780312383695
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: Parker Fadley was once perfect – a straight A student, captain of the cheerleading squad, girlfriend of the hottest guy in school everyone wanted and a very popular girl. One night, everything changed and now she is a mess. Parker is now destructive to herself and others around her. She has abandoned her friends, broken up with her boyfriend and is lagging behind in her school work. Why would a girl who had it all do such a thing is the mystery.

My Review:

I picked up this book since I wanted a light right with some mystery thrown into it and it didn’t let me down. I haven’t read much contemporary YA but after reading this book, I have suddenly turned in to a fan of this genre. The summary made me think it would be an emotional novel but it turned out to be shockingly heart wrenching.

Parker is such a likeable character, although she is mean to everyone, selfish at times and very self-destructive. She is damaged but what is endearing though is her brutal honesty, wit and her inherent intelligence that shines through in certain situations. Parker has flashbacks of one night that changed everything for her and since then she has put on this facade of being strong and difficult. It’s only through these flashbacks that we understand what really happened and why Parker is hurting so much while being mean to everyone.

This novel explores the complex and difficult world of teens – homework, projects, best friends, petty disputes, teen love and parties. However, Parker’s raw emotional state and the edge on which she is balancing is real anguish. Drugs, alcohol and sex surround her and she is really holding it together for her studies when in fact she may fall apart anytime.

But teen life is also about friends and their true friendship. Amidst all her pain and suffering, she has her ex-boyfriend Chris and the new guy in school Jake who refuse to give up on her and want to help her by breaking through the barriers she has created.

Everyone faces the pressure to be the best and excel but sometimes it is too much to handle and one may crack, like Parker did. This is a gripping, fast-paced read and an emotional one at that which is beautifully written with endearing lead characters.

Note: This post has been cross-posted at Bond with Books.

Book Review: These Things Hidden

Title: These Things Hidden
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
ISBN13: 9780778328797
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis: Allison Glenn was once Linden Fall’s golden girl in every way. She was perfect daughter, the model student, she had the good looks and good grades with aspirations of college and beyond. All that changed one night when she was sent to prison for five years for an unforgivable crime. Now, she is released on parole and wants to lead a normal life and re-establish her relationship with her younger sister, Brynn. Brynn, on the other hand, has faced the burden of what happened that night for all these years. All she wants to do is bury the past and forget Allison.

My Review:

This is a very intriguing and absorbing read. Even though Allison committed a crime, I couldn’t help but care for her. We don’t really know what she did in the beginning of the novel but we know it is heinous by the sound of it. However, her character is written so well and with so much care that you cannot help feeling sympathetic about her by the time you find out what she did.

The book is written in alternating viewpoints between the four central characters and it is a style I have come to love as it offers brilliant characterisation. All the central characters are very well drawn out and you can relate to them for their beliefs, faith, their past sufferings and the choices they make because of them.

As the story progresses, the past is revealed at the perfect moment. The suspenseful writing makes it very interesting and I was hooked from the beginning. The writing is also almost lyrical and poignant.

The book deals with a lot of realistic issues about teenage life, sibling relationships, secrets and guilt, and parenting. It also deals with the complex mother-child relationship and how different women react to it. Apart from our parents and upbringing, the choices we make affect our lives. While bad choices may ruin it, good choices might just as well take their toll.

I would highly recommend this book if you want to read about contemporary issues with a blend of suspense/mystery to it.

Note: This post has been cross-posted at Bond with Books.

Rainbow at my window after a thunderous weekend and comfort books

The rains stayed well into the weekend with lightning, thunder and heavy showers but ended with a rainbow. This was the scene outside our drawing-room window when it finally ended.

Rainbow at my window
Every time see I rainbow, and believe me, I have spotted it a lot of time, I fall in love with this city all over again. I mean, back in Mumbai, how many times do you get a chance to relax and look out of your window at home, spot a rainbow and smile? I love this escape from my hectic life in Mumbai. I absolutely love watching rainbows with my son and I know this is one thing I will always remember about this city – the relaxed life and spotting rainbows with sonny. It is so very comforting.
Although I didn’t eat pakoras, this weather had me wrapped under a blanket with my favourite book – Pride and Prejudice. Almost all of us have our comfort reads..books that are on our shelf for keeps. Books that we go back to when we need a guaranteed entertainment.  

Pride and Prejudice
Image by elycefeliz via Flickr
Books that fulfill this function for me are any of Agatha Christie‘s and Pride and Prejudice. And sometimes we wish to watch a movie instead of reading a book. For me that would again be, P&P, the Colin Firth mini-series, Father of the Bride – both parts, Devil Wears Prada. Surely, you all must also have such lists. Tell me, which are your comfort books and movies?

Solitude, reading and some thoughts..

4 days without computer. 4 whole days without internet..without mail, without Facebook, without blogs, books and all that glittering stuff that stares at us from the tiny laptop screen. Surprisingly, I didn’t have a nervous breakdown. I was quite normal in fact. No doubt I had my nose stuck to my Kindle most of the time but the fact is that I survived. I am a self-proclaimed net addict and am on Facebook and chat most of the day. But having that taken away from me, I realised there are other things to do as well. Most of the clutter was cut down when we had no TV and it was a bliss and now I can spend days without switching it on. But the internet is another thing. You need to stay connected, whatever you interpret from it. It’s not that am constantly chatting with friends or doing something. It’s just that the light should keep bleeping if you know what I mean. I found out it’s a big relief actually to be cut off for some time. The world doesn’t end and you have time to appreciate other things and enjoy the good old solitude.

So in all my solitude I read Kristan Higgins books. What was I waiting for. I realised that I am all for chic-lit novels and am turning out to be a huge Higgins fan. I am hoping to write reviews for these books if I get time from reading the next Higgins book. Have read Too good to be true and Just one of the guys so far and now on the third one – Catch of the day. These books are hilarious, sweet and have characters that very believable and cute. And did I mention that the gals have pets?? and that too dogs? No wonder am lapping them up!

On a serious note, do people underestimate you? If yes, how do you feel? I mean sure it’s fun when you are small and in school when nobody expects anything from us and it’s a great satisfaction when your results turn out quite good because, well nobody expects this from you and it’s nice to stun them with your achievements. But what when you are grown up and feel the need to be taken seriously and when you really want people to listen to what you have to say? Being assertive is one thing but what do you do when people (possibly unknowingly) belittle you by underrating your opinions or ideas over things? What do you do? Tell me!