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Friday, 31 July 2009

Goddess and Me

I have always been kind of a tom boy. I try to tell myself it is because I have an athletic brother. It is a story I like to tell frequently about how we climbed trees and played in mud. As long as it was possible without embarrassing me I competed with him. Pushed myself to race with him, be strong, unafraid of insects, bugs, firecrackers, and darkness. He is my little brother so I had some time before he shot up to 6 foot plus. After which all my efforts were just attempts at humour at least from his point of view.

But when I was a kid, I could fight. While the other girls and boys fought coquettishly showing the first signs of flirtation, I fought to prove that I was stronger. In hindsight that was of course a very bad idea. By the time I was in my late teens I was no longer in a position to overpower any of them boys who had all grown up to be men but also had no idea about how to be anything but a tom boy.

And truthfully I am not sure if I would have turned out different if I had a sister in his place. Though I believe I am feminine in my own way I cannot relate easily to the mainstream idea of feminine. I cry at the movies but Karan Johar movies frequently make me cringe. I like romance but the idea of a knight in shining armour protecting me, taking care of me seems weak. And it was a bunch of exercise videos that got me thinking about all this.

Since I am lazy as hell and easily bored I adopt a different form of workout every couple of months. My latest is a bunch of exercise videos directed at women. Though I like to believe we women are special advertisements, products that claim “I am worth it" " You are a goddess" only to then take my money and put it firmly in their annual sales typically annoy me. While these exercise videos are tough and very good “total body workout" they have their quirks like all products directed at women.

So instead of squatting and bending I am "reaching down to gather flowers" and in place of stretching side to side I am "throwing the flowers into the air". Also while making me balance on one leg while kicking the other out they insist that this will give me the posture to be more "graceful and poised". Add to that a bunch of ballet inspired steps and it is complete chick flick of an exercise video.

The first couple of times of course I smirked and made smart ass comments for the benefit of my husband. One evening after a mentally exhausting day I switched this thing on for a workout. And as I reached down to gather flowers and then got up to scatter them I felt myself unwinding completely and giving in. When I did my ballet steps and stretched up to feel "tall and beautiful" I could feel the stress leaving my body and a smile on my lips.

Don't get me wrong I still feel most of it is idiotic. But the exercise video took me away from my laptop with emails, my sink full of dishes, and my dinner that had to be cooked to a place where I was just stretching and chucking flowers. As silly as that might be perhaps that is the point. I had been looking at it wrong and taking the whole thing oh so seriously. Maybe all I needed to do is to take it with a liberal pinch of salt. Maybe it is the silliness that makes this video and all "goddess" products actually worth our while. And while I will fight against the popcorn idea of feminine till my last breath I know I have lots of place for silliness in my life :).

I am considering starting a food blog in place of the recipe section. What do you think?

Monday, 13 July 2009

Late One Night

Late at night, seated in bed, night lamp on, laptop - well on lap. Husband next to me lying mouth open, emanating noises that sound like a snore, the miny breeze he is causing feels like a snore but can’t be because he does not snore. Pointlessly shoot husband dirty looks. Free from insomnia he sleeps on despite my loud typing. Decide to check blog stats. Oh well, most of world wide web seems to be unaware of my writing but I have few faithful readers. Search engines that spread their tentacles through these webs also result in a few passersby.

I see a few late night searches. For a moment I feel a bond. Fellow insomniacs. We are bonded by our inability to sleep and the Internet. Dig deeper into the stats to look up what the fellow insomniacs had on their minds. What lead them to my humble, virtual abode? Was it my wit, the sparkling commentary on the drama in my life, my insight? Do they relate with my work from homeness, my frustration with dance classes?

Handy tool that reports key words entered into the search engines, recently installed, pays off.

A couple of clicks lead me to the queries that tracked back to me.

- My hello aunty article where I lamented about how I missed the older generation in USA had good traffic

"aunty in high heels"

"forceful aunty"

"indian aunty in wet saree"

"indian aunties"

"Lovely indian aunties"

After a deep sigh at the predilections of my fellow insomniacs I move on to the next source of traffic

" A string of pearls for her sweet ass"

" butt pearls"

" pearls to turn her on"

Not one soul seemed to want the pearls as an ornament for any part waist up.

Notice now that I can also see county where the traffic came from. Feel a further sense of disappointment when I realize that the searches were made in broad daylight by folks across the Atlantic. It occurs to me that they probably go home to enjoy a full night’s sleep after their exertions during the day. SIGH

Friday, 10 July 2009

A Breath Of Fresh Air

Husband and I have been married close two years and we are at a rather unique/special point in our lives. Are we a couple of newly weds basking in the euphoria that the beginning of a romance brings? Of course not. Husband and I have also endured , sorry enjoyed each others company for a good five years now and there is only so much basking to go around.

Husband and I are what I like to call child free couples. We are at the stage in our lives where we are used to complete privacy and utter self absorption. We do not strive to set an example or discipline and are rather free to do as we please and are our own children. We are thus completely unused to any form of censorship, behaviour guidelines and of late have abandoned any semblance of a filter before we talk about what we are thinking ( OK that might be only me...).

So when ma in law and pa in law came visiting we had to grow up quick and keep our primal self in check - again don't let your imagination run away with you... there is also only so much "primal" to go around. And all things considered we have been doing a half way decent job. But such a G rated exterior can also last so long.

The New Jersey Turnpike is not place conducive with your Please, Sorry and Thank Yous. With
foresight, I declined to do any of the long distance driving. I am a nervous driver and generally give vent to my displeasure with a constant stream of child and in law unfriendly words in all the three languages that I have in my command.

My husband, on the other hand, has always been a man of few words and given the situation has taken to expressing his displeasure with the other occupants of the road by rolling down his window and letting his finger do the talking. My hubby is the Clint Eastwood of New Jersey drivers. And given our stilted conversation and the unchanging vistas I have frequently turned around with concern and found my in laws peacefully asleep. So I thought this lapse on husband's part went unnoticed. Also as the last elections showed us the middle finger is not a well publicized thing in India and the frequent rolling down of the windows could hopefully pass up as getting a breath of fresh air ( In new jersey, u ask. Yes yes , the power of denial)

Or so I thought. On yet another drive last weekend I noticed my MIL glancing frequently at a couple in a swanky silver convertible. The fashionably dressed couple, with their arms dangling over the sides of their freshly washed car looked right out of a glamour mag and my mil's growing interest did not seem out of place. After a few minutes of stolen glances I noticed the kindly lady began to fidget and frown and look worried. She continued to glance at the convertible and finally leaned forward to ask - "Those people in the car- why are they showing us their fingers?"

Needless to say husband and I doubled over with laughter. After explaining that the couple were just enjoying the lovely summer and the fresh air, husband and I have decided to restrict our own fresh air supply.

Monday, 6 July 2009

I Can't Do What Now??

The surest way to get make something irresistible is of course to prohibit it. Its starts early. I vividly remember reading forbidden books after covering them in newspaper so their titillating covers would be hidden from my mother, or renting a questionable movie and watching it late at night with my friends.

As you grow older there are few things that are actually forbidden and the few things that are forbidden... well they also fall under the "illegal - you will end up in jail" category. The secret thrills are lost and as an adult we are able to make decisions about what is right or not. That second serving of ice cream is not fun anymore without my mother denying it to me... well not as much fun and that risqué book has lost its charm. I can stay up late, go out late, eat outside of meal times, eat entire meals that consist only of ice cream and yet without them being denied to me few of these hold any fascination. It is human tendency of course to want anything that cannot be had.

It is no wonder that the Mother of all prohibition - the prohibition of alcohol has always been such a stupendous failure. On a recent visit to a vineyard we were told this great prohibition story that I just have to put down.

This winery is a pre-prohibition era winery in upstate New York. When prohibition hit United States, all the fledgling wineries in New York state that were already struggling with being in the cold climate belt not conducive to wine production, capsized. One vineyard however survived. The Taylor Company survived by selling large jugs of grape juice. Why would there be such a booming market for grape juice when all the folks starved of alcohol were guzzling cough syrup or perfume or whatever corresponding fix they could cobble together at that time? It turns out that it was not the health benefits that the grape juice offered that won the Taylor Company so many loyal customers. The Taylor company sold these jugs with "warning labels" on the back that explained that IF you added such and such amount of yeast and let it sit for such and such time and so on the grape juice would produce wine. Though I am sure these warning labels were put on the jugs with the honorable intentions of preventing any misuse of their product (NOT!!!!), the evil folks who lived in New York at that time being no different from the folks in New York now, treated these jugs as a make-at-home wine kit. It was this moral lapse on the part of the general populace that tided the Taylor Company through the prohibition era. It is also human tendency, it seems to make money providing that we want but should not have. Hilarious I thought - fine tale about prohibition, the human spirit and well the spirits...:))

Recipe -

Mango Ice Cream . This recipe results in the most delicious mango ice cream. The flip side of course is that it uses Cool Whip, a product I would normally not touch with a ten foot poll. But since I do not have a ice cream maker and this was delicious, I succumbed..

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Travel light or Travel Right

Last weekend husband and I embarked on what has come to be an essential tradition of any Indian family that has chosen the United States of America for a home - temporary or otherwise. This tradition started when the first IIT graduate turned down a lucrative offer at Tata steel or DRDO and moved across the Atlantic to try his/her luck here. He chose the United States despite living mostly of bread and large quantities of salad. After a few years of "settling down" - he can now make a quick sambar and rasam using broccoli, radishes, zucchini or anything that caught his eye at the grocery store. He now decides to have his parents over to be introduced to his adopted country. In an effort to give his parents a good time and perhaps justify his decision to stay here, he begins a personal tour of this nation. If like me he lived in New Jersey he spent the first couple of weeks showing off NYC. Times Square was not always the LCD lit nook that it is now but I am sure there were visits to Empire State and the lady liberty. But the tradition that I refer to is the trip to see the Niagara Falls. I have seldom come across an individual of Indian origin who did not make a trip to the Niagara.

Husband and I are no new comers to long road trips. Husband likes to drive and I like to see places. Together we have enjoyed many such trips. A road trip is one of the most relaxed forms of vacation. There is no early check-in to get a good seat/upgrade, no queues, no baggage check, baggage weight limits, and security checks along with a need to pack solids and liquids separately. No decisions regarding wardrobe for next few days need be made courtesy the aforementioned no baggage limit. The seat in your car is always available and you can take along the neck pillow that according to tag does not meet many safety standards and is in fact inflammable. So the routine is get up in the morning. Grab a bunch of clothes, four pairs of footwear (just to have the option), our sunglasses, rush back into the house after screeching out of the parking lot to grab sunscreen, phone charger or something that we actually need but have forgotten and then set off. Ideal weekend activity. A low maintenance, low stress plan that makes for a perfect weekend getaway.

The traditional Niagara trip with visiting parents on the other hand is a different ball game altogether. When mil first mentioned packing food for the trip I envisioned a few idlis to tide us over and some few snack packs. A few business minded folk have also made note of the Niagara tradition and now make "notes" (couldn't resist that one :) ) in their Indian restaurants selling overpriced Indian food at stalls and restaurants near the falls. The menu though not a kept a secret was never fully disclosed and I only began to understand the scope of the preparations when a saw a huge pot of tamarind paste simmering on the gas. When I enquired about it my MIL beamed at me happily and informed me that it was for the weekend. That evening I brought up the subject of the menu with some trepidation when the in laws, husband and I were seated at the table drinking filter kaapi. The group that had been silent and only given making the occasional hmmmmmm sounds of appreciation as they sipped the fresh kaapi made from fresh decoction suddenly got noisy and argumentative about what, how much, for which meal, what will last, how to roast potatoes without oil, will coconut keep, how many idlis can one dubba of Balaji idli mix produce and so on. As a "compromise" the menu was set at

- tamarind rice

- alu capsicum sabji

- chapathis 21 no ( this number and no other was found satisfactory by my husband)

- idlis soaked in molaga podi for breakfast

At this point it was decided that we must also pool with the other family travelling with us to so husband made a call to ensure that the other family would bring along curd rice and kurma to complement our menu. After my initial disbelief I just settled down to pass a few derisive remarks under my breath. I also spent considerable time needling my husband for the next few days (Hey, he knew what he was getting into when he married me!!).

The trip started at an early 7 am. The first dubba that was opened filled the car with the smell of molaga podi and soft, oily, spicy idlis were distributed. I felt the beginning of a few pangs of guilt as I enjoyed my not run of the mill breakfast. The trip continued and we visited a vineyard on the way. After some wine tasting, we reassured my in laws that there was only trace amounts of alcohol in the wine poured in our glasses while harbouring a growing buzz. We then pulled into an overlook point to eat our lunch. What would normally be a parking lot of taco bell was now a lovely green view point where the remaining food was opened. All of us crowded around the boot and tried to exhibit some decorum and resisted the urge to elbow each other while getting at the food. But the wine that we had had on a now empty stomach combined with a near perfect dish of tamarind rice made restraint close to impossible. The chapathis, the sabji and the curd rice with grapes also deserve notable mention. After having eaten until we could not eat anymore we drove to Niagara for the darshan. As evening rolled around more goodies in the form of homemade murukku, thattai were also passed to us. As much as I enjoyed bolting down the hot fast food while travelling light it was clear that this style of travelling definitely had its advantages.

When I finished off the tamarind rice which had gotten better with each passing meal for breakfast the next day, completely ignoring the hotel breakfast buffet I was not ashamed to admit that I had been wrong. Age old wisdom had won another round. My eyes had been opened. This was the definitely the way to travel, in style - to travel right.

Recipe-

Alu Bun - this was a favourite among us. They were a Bangalore Iyengar Bakery speciality and when I came across this recipe I could not resist making them. The buns came out beautifully though it is a bit of work. Also the website that I found this recipe at deserves notable mention - very good recipes, lovely pictures. Great blog altogether.

Out of the closet and not behind bars

India took a leap in the right direction today. We have finally decriminalized gay sex. I am not sure how this happened since we seem to be taking so many other steps that put us firmly in the post independence era.

But while it lasts lets celebrate!!!!!