Nostalgia


And so it begins. The much awaited and anticipated trip of the year. Next week am off to Mumbai with S. Hubby will come later in the month. We shall be in Mumbai the entire summer. I have been planning this trip for quite some time now. By planning I mean micro-detailing, breaking it down into weeks and days and making a list of things I need to do on those days. This method has hardly been a success in the past, but then one can always hope.

The highlight of the trip is going to be spending some quality time with my grandma. When was the last time I had a sit-down with her? The last I remember is 2009, right after S was born and she was with us. A year after that I had travelled to Edinburgh and even though I have been going to India on holidays, time with her had been short.

Now that she is at my dad’s place, I hope to rekindle and perhaps create some more memorable moments with her. The time she spent in the nursing home, I was engulfed with the most distressing nostalgia and helplessness. ‘Missing her’ wouldn’t cover it. There was this deep emptiness inside me and the thought that I wouldn’t get to spend a relaxed time with her whenever I visited India. It felt like I had to let go of a deep part of me. Time spent with her at the nursing home was limited to an hour. And when you know you have only a fixed time to spend, you can’t really think of all the things you want to say. There was no time to lie down idly and listen to songs and ghazals, there was no time to listen to her little nuggets of wisdom, there was no time to be lazy and be in each other’s company and just be. There was no time to discuss the subtle differences between the urdu ghazal words. There was no time to discuss Lata or Christie or Hardy. Most of the happy memories from my childhood have revolved around her. The summer vacations were spent partly in her home. Being in her company was enough. We didn’t have to do anything special to feel happy.

It has been predicted that this year will have a lot of rain. This looks like the perfect setup to have lots of chai and gupshup with aaji.

Advertisements

Parental anxiety – should you force your child to do things?


Imagine this: I am working in the kitchen and kiddo is playing with his puzzles. I get a call on Skype from my parents and I see that they are eager and excited to talk to my son. But kiddo doesn’t rush to the laptop. Perhaps he is engrossed in his game. Or maybe he needs some time to warm up to them but for whatever reason, he won’t budge nor raise his head so that they can take a look at him. He is just not feeling it. Repeat this scenario with his other set or grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, great grandma, in short, everyone.

And I can’t help but feel it. Can he not just wave at them? or at least say a quick hello? Feeling the pressure and not wanting the situation to get any more awkward, I tell him to come and say hello, show them some random toy, tell them what you did today, just anything. But as soon as I say those words, I feel guilty for making him perform an act just to satisfy other’s desires. He has told me quite a few times that he does not want to talk and has refused to come into the room. At other times, he is over excited and eager to talk to them and cannot contain himself. But in situations like these you can’t help but feel a bit awkward, guilty for your kid’s sake and even a bit pressurised, can you? I know kids can’t be expected to make small talk and I have absolutely no idea how to change this situation without the risk of manipulating him into talking.

Another incident: A couple of weeks back, we had been to Gambado, which is a soft play centre. There we met a colleague of Saint’s and his family. His son is about the same age as kiddo. His parents kept nudging and telling the little boy to play with kiddo. Now I had never had to deal with the situation where I have to tell kiddo to share and play with others. He does it on his own. Being an only child, I find it amazing that he has the will to share his toys with others. But I know that yelling, scolding or even repeatedly telling your child to share something with another or play with someone is not going to make them do it. It has to come from instinct, compassion and generosity. In the playgroup I have seen kiddo waiting out patiently for his turn to play with a toy and after sometime when the playworker tells him nicely that another boy also wants to play with the said toy, kiddo has promptly let go of it. Kids do listen, nice and easy.

And then there are other similar issues of my misguided anxiety – whether he is eating enough, if he is cold and should I make him put just one more jacket. After all, mothers know best? You do however know that things are going to get bad if they just are. He will catch the cold if it’s meant to be and that is not because of the jacket, wet hair or being barefoot.

I know I have to let him be. All I can do is facilitate his activities or offer him a choice and not push him into doing something he is not ready to do but hell, it is hard especially when all I need him to do is just talk and respond.

I am not being paranoid today, just a bundle of nerves with all these questions. Any ideas? advice? suggestions? All welcome!

On turning 30


So 30..yeah.

I have never thought 30 is a big deal and I won’t let marketing and media get to me. I never had a 30 by 30 list (but then I found myself nodding my head vigorously at this list) and I am not going to the store to buy my first anti wrinkle cream.

The last five years have been pretty exciting. This is my 5th birthday after marriage and out of these 5 I have spent 4 outside India (1 in Singapore and 3 here in Edinburgh).

So 30…yeah!

I know I am supposed to feel older and mature and wise (!) But in my head I still feel about 15. Who doesn’t?

Kiddo has made the largest impact on my maturity levels, if any. After you have a child your priorities are forced to change. Quite ironically, he has brought out the child like qualities inside me yet has managed to turn me into a responsible adult. Life has literally changed after him. The fact that I can cook a decent meal says a lot about my change and those who know me well will agree. I have also in fact, developed quite a liking for eating food and trying out new dishes. The credit for this goes to the Saint and it is going to be his fault if I turn fat. Now can you see how I tend to digress to the topic of food?? 🙂

Anyway, so yeah…30!

The Saint and kiddo have baked me a cake! No help from me. They even searched for this recipe on the net and didn’t use any of mine.

 

No big surprises and no extraordinary celebration to mark this supposedly important landmark. I believe that is good. 🙂

What do housewives do?


‘What do you do all day! except washing utensils and cooking whatever groceries your husband brings home’ asked a relative some time back. Note the contempt. It was said with a sneer even.

‘Nothing! I just sit around all day, read books, watch TV and eat ready meals heated in the microwave’ was my retort or something like that. After all I am just a housewife.

It is a falsity universally acknowledged that a housewife or a stay at home mom has no work and just sits around all day being lazy and making merry.

The working woman is the one who does all the work at office and at home! The housewife should in fact be ashamed to stay at home and be a burden on her husband – as he has to work hard to provide for her.

For the work of the housewife cannot be seen, evaluated and appraised. She doesn’t get a pay check at the end of the month to prove she’s done any work.

Here are some of the chores/housework that takes place automatically/mechanically/magically at my home:

  • The house is always clean – the rooms, furniture, upholstery are cleansing agents – they clean themselves. They do not need a person dusting, washing and swiping at them.
  • The delicious food gets cooked automatically and magically finds itself served hot on the table. Three times a day.
  • The clothes, when spoiled, find their way to the washing machine and when the machine is done, go and hang themselves on the stand. What’s more, when they are all dry they walk up to the closet and fold themselves neatly in the shelves; some of them even place themselves on ironing stands and get themselves ironed – again to walk into the closets in neat folds.
  • The groceries are automatically replenished. Perhaps the refrigerator has a mechanism with the superstore to refill the items.
  • The trash – when it finds itself stinking unbearably walks out into the trash-cans outside the building.
  • If you are in India, the door is automatically answered 20 times a day for salesman, postman, neighbours, watchman, sundry people and their requirements are answered.
  • The phone is answered by an operator.
  • The small baby in the house dresses, feeds and cleans himself without any help from the adult. Or perhaps the fairy mother takes care of the child and looks after his needs.
  • The kids raise themselves with good values, discipline and nutrition. If the child has good values, is well-behaved, obedient and generally a good boy all around – then it must be his inherent nature and he is born with it – the stay at home mom has no influence or contribution in it at all.
  • Note that if you are living abroad, the maid, servant, driver, etc. is all rolled into one person – the housewife. There is no maid to do your daily chores of washing the dishes and clothes. You have to do your own groceries shopping and carry them from the shop to your house.

So then what do housewives have to crib about?

Today if a woman chooses to stay home it is usually because she has the option and wants to care for her children. The fact that despite being well-educated and worked hard enough to make a career, these women have made a conscious and rational decision to give up their jobs to take care of their children, I think such women should be respected for their choices.

What’s a biryani anyway?


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?

PS: Read this to know the origin of biryani.

PPS: As you can see, I have not given up blogging 🙂

Where had I been?


I have been regularly missing this space. But I would try to here more often now.

So an update about family first. My son is now comfortable in playgroup. His dad goes to drop him and I pick him up. He is excited to go every day and wakes up early without complaint.

As for me, I thought I would get some time for myself and I can do activities like going to the library, maybe catch an early morning show, perhaps even go shopping. Who was I kidding? I have been more busy now than ever. The time that kiddo spends in playgroup, I spend in frantic household chores. Cooking, cleaning, laundry! One hour from my morning is spent in picking him up from playgroup and coming back home. Yeah, I got busy and I still don’t have me time. 😦

In other sad new, my grandma took another fall and got her other thigh bone broken early Sunday morning. She was operated and is still in hospital.

In further sad news, our visa expires in April. We have no idea yet whether hubby will find more projects and our visa would get extended. I so so want to continue our stay here. This place is the longest we have stayed together after marriage, the place where kiddo took his first step, said his first words, even started school. And no doubt this place is absolutely positively beautiful. I think we haven’t explored half of Edinburgh, let alone Scotland. We both are collectively anxious and nervous. Please do pray for us.

On a small positive note, my FIL has started a blog. Here’s the link. Do visit and comment. Thanks 🙂

Happy Birthday sonny! You are 2 today :)


You are 2 today! That was what the poster on our hall read when I turned two years old. That was almost 3 decades ago. How time flies. I remember standing stiffly pointing appropriately at posters and cakes and gifts with a plastered smile on my face. Most of the times I never liked the taste of my birthday cakes. Hmmm..maybe it was because of the fact that all other kids standing around me were more eager than me to have a bite as soon as I cut it or it was probably the icing that did it. And I didn’t know how to give a nice pose for photographs.

Anyway. My son is a natural though. He already poses in front of cameras and even knows when we are video shooting him. I guess it’s due to the fact that we tried to capture every moment of his since he was little and now he is used to it. 🙂 I decided not to be late like last year and post my thoughts about your birthday on time.

So how do I feel? Or more importantly, how do you feel son, turning two and showing me in not so subtle ways that you are growing up and that you not the little baby I held not a long time back. How come only two years changed all that? Isn’t it a short time for you to be up and walking, no, running without holding my hand; being confident about it? How about selecting shoes of your choice and refusing to wear the old ones until daddy made the payment and put on the new shoes? Thomas engine, Chuggington really! How did you learn to sing ‘Happy Birthday to you’ days before your birthday? How did you realise that you didn’t want to sleep on the separate bed and insisted on sleeping right between me and daddy. And now you wake up at night when you realise I am trying to make some space for myself, and you throw yourself on me. You really have odd ways of showing possessiveness! How come you are contented and calm without being too complacent? Sometimes when I see you so serene and into your own world, I can almost peep into the small window that gives me a glance into your future but before I comprehend the thoughts, it’s gone but it gives me an inkling that it’s good and healthy..for lack of better words.

There are times when I think about my career and when shall I resume it again. But then I once had a conversation with an elderly aunt of mine who raised her son single-handedly. She said that children who have their mothers with them in their formative years and who grow up with them singularly, turn out to be more content, self-reliant and happy than those who don’t have their mothers 24×7. This conversation has been a soothing balm for me.

What more can I ask? To burden you with my ambitions and hopes is not something that I want to do and I really hope that it doesn’t come to that. I don’t want to be that kind of mother. Yes, but I do want to instill in you liking for books, music, travel and food. I am sure if you deeply attach yourself to these (in that order), other goals of practical life will come to you naturally. Of this am sure. Advice in words is of no use right now but I hope in my actions and behaviour towards you, am bestowing the right values. You really are a good kid to bring up. I haven’t had any difficulties with you that I can name. Really. None. Touch wood. But I still have something more to say..

Two years ago, on this very day
I was on the hospital bed, all stressed out and gray

When they put you in my arms you looked so calm
I would be the best mother I had no qualms

Little did I know that my world had completely changed
That it would never be the same, no never again

Now I can’t imagine the nights when you weren’t at my side
And the day doesn’t begin until you have smiled

Do you know the little flutter that I feel inside
When you call me ‘Aai’ with your smile so wide

Surely there are days when I feel so bad
When you don’t eat, when you don’t sleep and you make me so mad

But the real fun is in experiencing all these things with you
Your achievements, your tricks, your moods and the essence that is you

It’s a delight to watch you grow and it never ceases me to amaze
All that you have accomplished at such a small age

Obviously am a mother and I have a bias they will say
It’s a mother’s heart after all, what else am I to say?

Two years now and look at how time flies
Wasn’t it only yesterday when you were bundled up all nice?

If I give you any advice I know you will scream
But always remember it’s chocolate and not vanilla ice cream

When life throws problems at you that seem big and you can’t handle
Look at the stars at night and your issues with appear small and dwindle

But all this is too far off so let’s not bother now
It’s your only 2nd birthday so go take a bow

Terrible twos? No way it’s definitely terrific twos
Here am wishing a very happy birthday to you!

Too long, eh?

Spring is here


Spring is finally here – with longer and warmer days, migrating birds and light showers. I finally feel like moving my butt from the couch and stepping out of the house. And it has its rewards too. Like this last weekend when hubby bought me a jacket, more like an overcoat but very chic. I am discovering the joys of window shopping here. 🙂

Also, developing my cooking skills in a different direction now:

Vanilla Cake – It’s so much better with silicone moulds, you don’t need to dust the base with butter and flour!

Vanilla and Chocolate Marble cake - didn't quite get the marble effect though

For the second cake, I messed up a little. Well not really, but the mould was smaller for the amount of cake I made and it burned a little at the top and so this is the upside down version of it. But tasted like heaven. Hah, talk about boasting! Now then, who needs this awesome recipe??

Have been reading quite a lot lately. All sorts of contemporary fiction that’s free on Kindle. So literature has taken a back seat but will soon get back to that as my TBR list is just growing endlessly.

PS: Happy Women’s Day! We all rock! 🙂

From tandoori chicken to size 8


And you thought I would put on weight with all that hogging. Sheesh! How can you think so? I guess it’s in the genes. No, it’s the jeans. Or maybe it’s the way I cook food. Confused yet?

Okay let me begin at the beginning. After another hogging weekend, what with the Chicken Tandoori and mutton and fish, we went out shopping for clothes last evening. I have never had to go on diet so far but just when I was panicking on which size jeans to try on, I was surprisingly delighted! For me it was always a dreadful thing to go on and buy jeans or trousers or whatever type of pants since a particular size never fits me and it’s always between two sizes that I have to choose, one that is a bit loose and other that’s too tight. So you can imagine my pleasure at finding the right jeans in the right colour in the right size and the right height. I was almost squealing in joy when this time the smaller size fit perfectly. 

Flare Jeans

Back to the tandoori chicken, let’s just say that it’s one of those dishes that I miss most so have been cooking it frequently recently and every time we find a wine that goes well with Indian and tandoori dishes. Here’s a pic:

That’s fresh from the grill

I have been having weird dreams lately – of meeting fellow bloggers and discussing with them their posts I like the most and conversing as if we have been old friends. Note that apart from commenting on their blogs and having them respond to my comments, there’s nothing I know of them personally but what makes you bond with them through their posts? Are we so open and forthright with people in our reals lives as we are on blogs?

I am also experiencing this bizarre thing – right before I fall asleep, I have some brilliant ideas about a blog post, or something really funny that I just have to share and then I fall asleep. I will myself to get up and write down that thought but then at that moment I fall asleep and have no recollection of it when I wake up. Have you been experiencing anything like this?

And a big hello to the lurkers! Please please introduce yourselves. I know you are here, some regular lurkers and some new ones. How are you doing this week?

One hell of a weekend


So much has happened over the weekend. The mind is exhausted and me needs some serious sleep though I have slept through the night for 10, no 11 hours straight. Anyway, in my last post, when I was typing away to glory and patting my back in between sentences, I forgot to mention that hubby had informed me that the guest won’t be having dinner on Friday since he would come late at night and would have had food on the way.

Wrong! so so wrong! Late Friday evening, hubby announced that the guest would be having a full meal. The next 10 minutes were spent in arguing of course. Hubby was adamant that he had said so specifically last night and I was sure he hadn’t mentioned it. As I rushed to the kitchen and started banging opening shelves to check if there’s any leftover food that I can cook, hubby sheepishly admitted that he had forgotten this small little detail. Now I know why MIL asks him the same questions 101 times to make sure his answers are the same. Anyway, hubby was pinned down with angry sideways glances the whole time I cooked. Luckily, for me, when the guest arrived, he was quite famished and gulped down whatever I had cooked.

On Saturday, they both went out – boys day out I guess to roam the all of Edinburgh and feel the autumn. Another day for me with Shantanu, laptop and the toys. And it was sunny for most part of the day! Yay! Funny how seeing the sun shine brings a smile on my face. Anyhow, all was well and me had lots of time to cook and clean.

Wonder how you do some things instinctively? Or is it the sixth sense. I prepared some huge quantities of food all that I cooked, most certain that it wont be consumed in one meal.

Sunday started with a very cranky Shantanu. He usually isn’t cranky except when he is hungry or sleepy. That’s it. He had his morning feed quite reluctantly, which is surprising. And then for the next hour he kept crying and crying and crying. He just won’t stop. This was very weird and the last time he did this was when he was four months old and had his vaccination. He didn’t cry much during the later vaccinations. After crying for this long, he got exhausted I think and went to sleep for another couple of hours, which is again weird. Then when he woke up, he refused to have his feed. Very Very weird. And then the fever got him. Before rushing him to the doctor, sometime in between, I prepared breakfast from the left over food last night. Remember, the sixth instinct?

Till the time we made an appointment with the doc, both hubby and I were on the phone, almost all the time. He with the hospital doc and me with the ghar ka doc. Not that I really needed any moral support, it’s just that in situations like these, common sense takes off and you don’t think of simple things. Aunt, grandma and mom suggested a couple of things, and yes, I need to call all three and when they suggested the same things and gave the same advice I decided to follow it.

The doc assured us that it was only viral and we shouldn’t be worried, just had to keep him on paracetamol and let them know if the fever doesn’t subside. He slept till evening and wouldn’t take any feeds. Only at night when he felt a bit better did he have some food. He slept through the night without any temperature and is back to his normal self since morning now.

Did I not ask you god, not to jinx it since I mentioned what a wonderful child he is? Anyway, we shall deal with that later. As Shantanu slept for most of the day yesterday, the drawers in the kitchen stayed shut, the toys weren’t punched, the wires and switches lay still, the papers were not torn to pieces and the house was quiet, very quiet. It was then that the dullness of it all hit us with force.

I keep wishing that Shantanu grows up fast so that all this mess would stop. Not anymore. All this mess is what my life is all about now. And from today morning, the order in the chaos is restored.