Thursday, March 31, 2011

Time to go all out

War-cries and fireworks thunder everywhere from the galleries appearing on the TV screen to the living room  and spill over to the streets all over the neighborhood. The Battle's Won! There are the Prime Ministers of both the nations, sitting side by side, each one wearing an unbearably straight face, trying in desperation to tie all their freaking emotions into a tight bundle and stowing it all away. Oh, PM Gilani makes an urgent exit right after the last ball.

There's Sonia and Rahul, having a remarkably gala time on the stands "with the crowds". After hours of sitting through the game with a slightly "I'm-actually-a-little-lost-but-who'd-know" kinda look, in the last over Sonia does the maternal act, pallu firmly tied to her waist, waving and cheering  as if  it was Rahul himself who was playing out there. There's Aamir Khan, Preity Zinta, Venkatesh and the other film stars rising, trembling with excitement (or throbbing joints) after balancing themselves in their chairs at that precise  run-scoring, wicket-winning angle (talk about superstitions) throughout the match, just like everyone else. One thing's for sure today; if you ain't bleeding  blue, you are just.. sick.. atheist even! Many a cricketing oracle had already flashed a card for the Srilankan Team during their semi-finals with "Srilanka! Meet you in the Finals!" or something like that. What seemed audacious then now seems prophetic. Forget taking home the Cup-- We Have Arrived (Did you just note the royal 'we'? Of course, it's applicable only when "we" win).. defeating our "arch rivals".. saving face on the home ground..

Cricket has seldom been one of my pastimes. It's huge with most everybody at home. I remember my sage paternal grandad positioning himself in the living room sitting close yet far and detached from the howling and swearing of all the boys of the house (and their very many friends. God! Our house did turn into a mini theatre during the cricket season). My mother and grandmother can even today be woken up several times late night in a day and night match with the roar following every important run or wicket. Though I imagine they would have loved to be left alone during these few hours for some much needed rest (especially after an extra busy day in the kitchen feeding an ever hungry bunch of men with fries and snacks shoveled down with the aid of buckets of coffee), they do not seem to mind it and join in the cheer for a while taking a break from  beauty sleep. On the one or two occasions that I spent time at my maternal grandparents' home around the time of the matches, funnily my grandad always supported the opponent team while my uncle raged furious arguments with him in favour of the Indian team. My grandmom and aunt were (are) both fans of cricket of the top order and even prayed away silently for India's victory. Even my little sisters can really appreciate a good innings or speculate intelligently over the chances of winning  or losing a match.

In a pathetic attempt to "connect" with my family in a different way I tried watching the IT game along with the house a year or two ago. It just bombed. I simply couldn't stop wondering What could possibly be SO engrossing about a bunch of guys flinging a bat and a ball over and over again? Neither did I understand the rules of LBW or how can a match actually end when it's 'declared', nor was I any the wiser about their little insider jokes about the players. This left me a little jealous, but I could live with it. 

On the other hand, I've never really understood politics either. Just what is it about the Government and it's hundreds of ministries and thousands of departments that were finding it so difficult to please the minds of those early morning newspaper readers that always had a ready spat just waiting to explode should the characters (! What? to me they were nothing more) jump out of paper? I considered my folks to be quite extraordinarily intelligent (and influential) because they simply knew anybody and everybody that was being mentioned in these papers and they knew every little dirty scheme they played. I never quite made an attempt to understand these phantasmagoric phenomena.

Until I did. Now even I can't  but betray that there is a real charm about hitting a good ball and also about getting a hang of what people are talking about. There is no escape from the discomforting sense of being lost to a nice little chat. The point is, no other excuse can hold well against initial fears of rejection and ignorance except for some genuine interest in the game for the sake of the game itself. Where I live, this is the season of big games and World Cup Cricket is just the first of them. With the elections coming right after, there's a buzz all over the place that is simply impossible to miss. Whether a cricketing fan or politics-savvy, this sure is the time to go all out and paint the world with your hue. What say?

Monday, March 28, 2011


When was the last time you ENJOYED work lunch? Like, really savored the sight and smell and the texture... "you're kidding right?" you ask.
 A, the nice and friendly fellow with a cabin on the first floor became a proud father recently. As is the custom in our workplace, he has organized for a treat in the canteen today. Now celebrations come and celebrations go, but it's only the Arun Ice-cream served at the end of lunch that every once that keeps up it's reputation. Maybe this is the first time that our canteen is serving to toast  to a new-born, I don't know, but they have put together a spread which is slightly (huh? a little more than 'slightly') different from the usual fare. The vegetable stew and sauteed cauliflower-peas curry are warm, crunchy and finely spiced, and go beautifully well with the toasty phulkas and rice. Wait.... What really takes the cake is...... (drumroll) ta da! Chakkarai Pongal!!! Coming from a clan that regards this mother-of-all-ceremonial-desserts with the keenest regard, it would have been a disaster on the tongue if one was taken for a fickle ride. Usually one look at the grains is enough to determine whether the dish would be peck-worthy or not. This one has the look; a thick and drying sheet of dark honey brown and underneath the surface, caving in like lava at the slightest prick, lays the shimmering golden rice pudding. Quite a few sneaky cashew nuts give themselves away, all roasted to a hearty brown. Ice-cream arrives. I pause. Chakkarai Pongal on the one hand. Ice-cream and chocolate sauce on the other. Eyes dangle from one plate to the other. Golden brown. Fluffy white. Warm and gooey. Cold and creamy. Lip-smacking. Mmmmmmmm....
In a small eatery that serves Burmese food, I was once served Kownimo- a dessert made of white sticky rice, drenched in coconut milk and chocolate sauce, with a dollop of ice-cream, all laid on a banana leaf bed. Going with the flow, by now I don't have tell you the obvious about how it tasted. Now the sight of these two plates reminds me of that delectable treat and I'm all set to go an a gastronomic skiing trip. The first spoonful feels like an avalanche, melting with almost a whisper of promise, "this is just the beginning..."
Instead of my gobbling up the lot, this time it is the food that has devoured me... I'm had..... Buuuurrrp!
Welcome baby K. Here's wishing you all goodness and sunshine. Live long and merrily dine!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

This happens if the newly appointed staff in your college happens to be younger and more nervous than you.

She is that quiet one (at least she seems so) who has come to stay in our hostel. We exchange smiles when we cross each other on my way to or from the hostel, but our camaraderie ends there. With that tiny backpack permanently hung over her large shoulder and a somewhat lost look on her face she can easily be taken for a student.

My friends and I were taking our usual evening walk under the beautiful open skies in the neighboring colony, and were plotting a mischief on D, chief chaos creator among our lot. These last few days are going to be far more fun than I thought. When we neared the local supermarket, we saw a big figure walking toward us,  wearing a backpack and carelessly chomping on popcorn by the handfuls. So concentrated was her focus that she didn't even take her eyes off that packet until we came up-close, face to face. She paused abruptly and stared, stuffed mouth and all. The look on her face..... priceless! We could only do so much to suppress a cackle, but before we actually burst it, she mustered up an awkward smile and hastened away.

Now this is what the journal entry of that student must look like, who caught me outside the supermarket with my bag of popcorn earlier this evening. :P

Friday, March 25, 2011

Farewell already

We're just back from another treat, courtesy of S. Munching on his bag of cheetos he says, "I think I've finally created a stir at you-know-where-we-work. People are gonna gossip about it for a day or two." Yeah  that's right, some recognition at last. It's not as if he'd had much of a chance in these few days he hung around here. He put in his papers today. It was coming since the day we joined and for many a day we've been joking about it. In all fairness, this wasn't exactly his dream job.

All day he was busy meeting one person or another explaining, submitting, wrapping up and the works.The moment he stepped into the room, we both chimed "treat!" and yes, we made good of his hospitality by wolfing down a couple of bars of five-star, an ice-cream or two, wafers, cookies... what! you're not interested?

"I was just waiting for one of you to ask" says he, "would I disappoint my sisters?" he puts on his cheeriest smile. We talk about his upcoming marriage, his prospectives speculating his weight over their first telephone chats with him, and we try to get him spill the beans about his next move, as he seems all too excited about it. He refuses to budge with an enigmatic, "ah, you'll know soon" and moves on. We move on too and continue having a gag about all things in general.

I will miss S. It took an R and an S to bring about laughter and a sense of belonging to an otherwise silent work environment. With one of them gone and the other actively looking to go any moment, it just doesn't feel the same.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just another day at work

So, the story about this afternoon was to strictly be about the hangover (if you can call it that) of last night's party, the graduation photo shoot of my students' and the spontaneous treat that R treated S and me to. Cut to the treat, 'coz what pleases the stomach, takes the pie (er... what are the idioms that do NOT involve the mentioning of food?)

Losing a ring that has a sentimental value would sure break your heart, and finding it after you almost lost it to the earth must make you feel like a billion bucks. Maybe that's why R decided to share her fortunes with us today! Happy are the folks that trot alongside their fair host to toast to the safety of their rings with a bar of mango ice-cream, fries, a bar of chocolate, some chocolate chip cookies, a double-decker sandwich, black currant smoothie, okay I exaggerate.. The ice-cream and fries were flushed down with a cool drink alright. Simple folks, enjoying their little moment of fun, out of their dreary work-spaces before winding up for the day. When you have colleagues like these, where's the time to rue?

Introducing Les Personnages

R and S are my colleagues. And they are leagues ahead of me in their respective careers, so I'm already thankful that I even get to share my workspace with them. I guess whether you are a newbie or a veteran, it always helps to bond with each other when you're all new kids on the block. Even better when you share a particularly evolved (ahem ahem) palate, and not less when you share the same disgust for the excuse that calls itself (your) hair, sticking on to your scalp in that funny fashion. Moreover, who can resist two people who are always bringing on that easy fit of laughter every now and then? I for one will always keep longing for just one more of their antics!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Zoom in 'Awesome'

Chancing upon this blog after reading about Neil Pasricha in the Reader's Digest today, I'm relieved that we're not alone in this world that can sometimes be Too Sane to handle.  Behold the community of isolated souls who go after little bubbles with the hope of catching them whole, and follow a falling kite, running past neighborhoods and barging into any random gate and scrambling up the stairs of somebody else's home just for the pleasure of taking home a free kite. Though it is sometimes difficult to swallow my mother's matter-of-fact quip, "Life is too beautiful to be wasted in malice and sadness", now it just reminds me of the little-big boy I once 'encountered' in a village. He bumped into us when we were out on a visit and caught hold of my hand motioning me to see what he was about to do. Moving past that initial feeling of unpleasant surprise, it was plain to see that he couldn't speak, and must probably suffer from a certain degree of mental retardation. He smiled a smile so charming, it disarmed us. Then he released a spinning top from the string he held on his left hand. The top spun perfectly and long on its axis, making him shout out and punch in the air with utter glee. However, the loudest laughter and the most awestruck stares were those of ours, who watched our long lost favorite toy come alive and how!

And then there was the day I woke up on hearing the chatter of a handful of monkeys in my hostel-room balcony. It would've been a pleasing moment by itself, had it not been for the dozens of clothes (and underwear) that I'd left to dry just the night before. By the time I was fully awake I could hear my neighbors go tap-tap-tap with sticks on their back doors too, neither able to open the doors for fear of a full-scale monkey rampage inside of their rooms, nor keep quiet as the monkeys pawed and examined and dirtied our clothes. Desperate to get them distracted, we went downstairs and ran a jet of water on them. They peed right back on us. Furious, we did what a bunch of hassled monkey-chasers would do- plonk on the sofa and  pray that the little monsters would go. Go they did, but not before choosing their favorite t-shirts and panties to match, which they dragged over our roof (to try them on and show off to each other I bet). Sigh, so much for harmonious co-existence.

While this story took some time for us to have a laugh over it, you know what's awesome? When a colleague offers up their share of ice-cream at lunch for you to gorge on! (it helps when you've just finished yours and  are still licking your lips)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A tease

What can be better than extremely deliciously cooked food? Super smart plating and some imaginative photography I think. "Food is just not about the act of eating. Great food appeals to all of our senses" said a wise man. I'd vouch for it. I am your usual gazer at dishes which contain any thing remotely edible, but this one blog had me literally ogle to my heart's content. "Feed your eyes"- that phrase kinda tickles your gluttony bone before pulling you into the heights of visual fantasy- what colours, what healthy reds and glazed golden browns and refreshing blues and greens do they treat you to! I think savvy food bloggers have truly mastered the art of "presenting" their work, which makes them nothing short of Artistes bestowed with a rich palate, keen eyes and nimble fingers all dusted with magic powders. Take a look. I heart!

Now that's what I call Hot Chocolate!

So my friends, my long, pan Indian quest for the perfect cup of Hot Chocolate saw a bright silver (or should I say, a sparkling brown) lining in the tantalizingly near horizon in... oohh, just an hour ago! Thank you, thank you for the applause, but I really owe it to the likes of Nigella Lawson, Kylie Kwong, the dudes hosting Highway On My Plate, Man Vs. Food, Take Home Chef, Hell's Kitchen, and Top Chef. If not for their having me go green with jealousy at their ability to get their hands on food exactly the way they imagine it should be, I would probably have remained just a hungry street rat, scavenging for food in just about any food joint without really being sure of where I can safely give an order, assured of a worthy eating experience!

Much to my mother's annoyance I have been increasingly eating out for(ever or, in other words) a couple of years now. Hunting for the best paranthas, the best coffee, the most scrumptious breads and cakes, the most sinful desserts, the most delectable quick bites, are just the beginning of what I know is going to be my life-long hobby. Since it fulfils my urge to loiter on the streets and discover new places even within familiar grounds, it is like a total package of recreation!

Being a big fan of the cold coffees, my interest in learning about the brews of all related varieties of beverages started about two years ago, when my daily wanderings became largely a one-woman affair with an unfamiliar city. As visits to cafes big and small increased, and the dining time elongated, they kept me 'informed' through the snippets in their menu cards. Sometimes, in smaller places, I'd chat up with the chai-wala uncle to know what goes into his cup of tea, coffee, or whatever it was that he was going to give me.

Soon it was quite clear that in most places, the brews were not half as exciting on the tongue as they appeared on paper. In the normal course of things, one should have taken the signal and started spending more time in one's own kitchen (like my mom would rather have me be), or looked out for something else to do, rather than punish your stomach with more of the same stuff. But punish is exactly what I did continue to do, as my interest became a hobby, and went till the brink of becoming an obsession barely kept in tethers by an anxious mother, a spartan sister, and several friends with varying degrees of patience towards this idiosyncrasy.

On the up side, well, what more, I chanced upon a fine cup of Hot Chocolate after months of hard labour, trial and error, and a bit of clever (even if I say so myself) investigation! So at the precise moment when I took a swig of the thick, sweet and dark brown, cup of Hot Choc tonight, I relished it with no less than the jubilance of Columbus!


On this lazy afternoon at work when being tied to one's desk and devoid of Facebook and Youtube to boot, reading 25 ways to fit creativity into your busy life does not seem to be of much help except.... Maybe, just maybe it is finally dawning on me that it is more of a need to write a blog now than I pretend to care about it.

All these wonderful blogs that we will discuss about on this one have been supplying tirelessly to satiate my enormous thirst for entertainment in the last three years. Never realized that the everyday details of somebody else's life could be so interesting for a person sitting on the other side of the world.

Most of all, what I like the best about this whole idea of blogging is that- it's as if one can simply say Hi! like two neighbors greeting from across their balconies. It doesn't matter where you're from or what you do but hey, hullo there!