Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cook Away The Stress!

I am stressed. I feel a big boulder in my chest. My breathing is getting uneven. I can feel pain piercing into my cheeks and temples. Classic symptoms of sinusitis inflammation at display, Lady pay attention to us, they seem to claim. God! I want to scream. I want to go home. I want to take rest. Most of all I worry about that tiny drop of tear threatening to roll down my cheeks. I cannot dismiss it as just-one-drop. That one stupid drop will unleash an avalanche. I have no time for that. Those bloody traitor tears of mine have embarrassed me quite a number of times, giving my emotions away when it would’ve mattered to have exhibited a composed front.

Today I won’t let them bury me in shame. I rest my head on the seat and order my muscles to relax. I close my eyes and feel my spine against the seat. It feels good. I will myself to think about something relaxing. Something like swimming on a full moon night, only that I don’t know swimming. I think about cooking. I’ll make Upma.Not the way Amma makes, but the way her daughter makes.

I imagine myself peeling an onion, cutting it into two neat halves and soaking it in water. Soaking in water takes the burning edge out any fiery onion. It is a minor victory over a silly onion that would’ve made you cry. Ha! Revel mortal revel.

I sieve a cup of Rawa, white and coarse like desert sand. I heat the pan with a little desi-ghee.The ghee is frozen. It will take a little time till it turns in to the golden yellow liquid I love.

Meanwhile I slice the onion evenly into thin pieces. The chilies’, cut into small wheels of fire and crushed ginger bide their time.

In the now golden yellow liquid ghee I fry the Rawa.Mixing slowly and steadily. The practiced constant movements of my wrists make sure that the Rawa is fried evenly. When it turns a light brown I switch off the burner and tell it cool.

I take the Wok and heat Ghee in it. I shake out the bottle of mustard and the tiny black beads fall into my hand like soldiers up for a war. I pop them in the Ghee and watch them splutter. Tripp Troop Thudd .

It is time for onions. I fry the onions till they are soft. I lower the heat to add the chilies’ and crushed ginger. Oh yes the curry leaves; Fresh and clean with the smell of all things beautiful. I drink in the smell of curry leaves.

It’s time for water and salt. I measure two cups of water. I slowly pour the water into the hot wok careful not to burn my hands. I’m not careful, now it is a habit; a habit born out of handling hot woks and cold water innumerable times with unfavorable outcomes. I add salt.” How many teaspoons of salt do I add?” I think out aloud. I decide on two. I taste the water to make sure the taste of salt stands out.

As I wait for the water to bubble and boil I measure out a handful of raisins and cashews. I take out my priced possession, a baby wok. The wok I bought from Mysore market for Rs 20.A handy little thing when it comes to frying garnishes. I heat a teaspoon of ghee and wait for it to melt. I put the cashews and raisins in the hot ghee. Stir them twice, switch off the burner and stir in the heat of the wok. It is the golden rule that begets you golden brown fried cashews and raisins. I add a few curry leaves to the now cooling ghee

The water is boiling; bubbling with ghee and onions. I add the fried Rawa into the water in a circular motion as though I am making Jalebi or Murukku. Perfect concentric circles of Rawa drown in the boiling water. I mix them constantly to avoid the odd lumps of uncooked rawa.The water is soaked by rawa.The anger with which the Rawa is funny. It angrily spurts itself here and there and then quietly resigns to its fate. The spurting fades and Upma thickens.

I mix the Upma once again. I garnish it with fried raisins, cashews and curry leaves.

I sigh; a sigh of contentment. The stress is gone. Well almost. I feel relaxed until the cab driver tells me,” Here we are, at your office. Client visit in the morning eh?”

I smile and drag myself to the dreary office. May be in the lift I’ll imagine making Moru curry.

Actors in the order of their appearance:
Upma: a popular Indian breakfast dish originating in South India.
Ghee: Clarified butter used in Indian cooking
Rawa: Semolina
Jalebi: A sweet popular in Persia and countries of the Indian Subcontinent.
Murukku: A savory snack popular in India
Moru: Butter milk

P: S: The ghee is a girl’s calorie night mare. Well then, I was only imagining.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Evening Ride

Being grumpy is something I don’t like. But then I inevitably turn grumpy on Tuesday evenings. My eyebrows are creased perpetually through out the evening. I’ll snap at you for no reason and I’m “avoidable”, totally (These days I’ve even noticed my boss schedules meetings every Tuesday afternoon outside office so as not to cross my paths).So if you happen to see someone looking like me on the road and if it is a Tuesday evening you might want to cross over to other side of the road. Why do I hate Tuesday evenings so much? It’s because the next day is Wednesday, the longest day of the week* and weekend looks a far cry.

   Anyways on this particular Tuesday, the grumpy me took off from office very late, and this fact added another 22 ounces of grumpiness into me. Thanks to my inability to generate my signature magnetic smile, I didn’t get a seat in the MRT** and much to my annoyance I had to stand on my point heels, (Don’t even remind me of the man*** who discovered point heels and declared it as a mandatory accessory for power dressing) my soles aching and later on becoming numb, for the entire 32 minutes train ride. The conditions didn’t improve as I limped to the bus station and I missed the bus home by mere seconds, again, all credits to my heels. After a good deal of waiting I got my bus and plunked in to the front seat. I gave myself the luxury of a quarter of a smile. I still must’ve looked the embodiment of grumpiness and nobody sat next to me. That was when a young lady, oblivious of the “disturbing” atmosphere decided to share the seat with me.

By the end of the day at work, I look like a vagabond, my hair sticking out in all four cardinal directions, kajal smudged and clothes crumpled.Somedays I gawk at my reflection in the restroom mirror and wonder whether I slog in the software industry or the coal mining industry. Honestly I don’t know how some women manage to look fresh and pretty after a day’s work, I like to believe that they probably don’t work at all. (I like earning brownie points for making downright nasty comments. It makes up for a bad work day as well.)

On the contrast, the pretty lady looked fresh like the morning dew on a rose. Her black dress was prim and proper, hair tucked behind her ear and a smile played over her glossy lips. I could smell the whiff of a pleasant perfume.Inspite of the crinkled eyebrows, the woman in me had an urge to ask her the brand of the perfume. If you think I was getting envious about her, you are almost right. All I wanted to do was ask her how she manages this. But then our dear lady was very busy on the phone. Even when I was looking (or pretending to look,if you think so)out the window, my ears picked up the sweet nothings she was murmuring into her phone.

“Hey baby, missing me?”
(Yeah right! Here we go.)

“Now, now, be a good boy, I’m almost there.”
(If you are almost there, why don’t you put down the phone and save yourself the bill?)

“Give me a kiss, baby. A nice loud one.”
(I almost fainted here.)

“Here is a big one. MUAH.”
(Followed by giggles)

If you are going to reach home in 10 minutes, why do you have to make a phone call and say “I missed you baby?” There is no end to which people turn mushy.
The conversation lasted three bus stops.

I got up from my seat to get off the bus so did the mush queen.Aha! I waited for her to get down. I wanted to see the “Mush King”. So I unhurriedly tapped out of the bus.
I gave myself the liberty of sporting an attitude befitting a critic viewing Milan fashion week 2011 autumn/winter (winters make the critics grumpier)

And at last like the show stopper of a fashion show, Mush King surfaced. Trust me, I swooned, well almost. Mush Queen was showering him with kisses,”Oh my sweetheart”. I had never seen anything so perfect. The button eyes and soft brown hair; the complacent expression – everything about him was adorable. The happiness of meeting the woman he loves most in world had turned him rubescent. A tiny flame of jealousy burned through me.

He gurgled from his pram and gibbered,” a oo eewww shoo yaa ee,Mama”.He clapped his hand and said again,” Mama Mama”. The nanny and the mother laughed. I smiled in the background oblivious to the trio.

The bus stop was empty but for us. I walked to the coldness of my apartment leaving the mother and son glowing in the warmth of their love. I learned a lesson that day,” Don’t be judgmental on Tuesday evening. The foreshadow of Wednesdays tend to impair your judgment skills”

* Go read this post.Scroll to the end (if you are in a hurry) for the explanation of "why one should hate a Wednesday?"
** MRT: Mass Rapid Transfer train facility in Singapore
***I don’t believe any woman could’ve designed that instrument of self torture. It could’ve been invented only by a man.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Avial’s of my life

You must be wondering, why this post? Refer 1.
Why Avial? Refer 2

Is she planning to write recipes on this blog? I’ll give the answer right now, a big emphatic NO. The truth is that I’m a little high on my skills in kitchen because I pickled three lemons yesterday (Don’t do that, that thing you are doing sounds like a sneer mixed with a giggle). Honestly I refer to internet for recipes. No, I don’t call Amma to humiliate myself.

Now people before I start my rambling there is a warning. A big one. This post contains immoderate use of coconuts and keralites.[It's a long post amply spiced]

We all know how much keralites like me love coconut in their food. No recipe comes without a “kutty-thenga”.Now the king of all dishes is “Avial”, the recipe of which I’ll be sharing with you shortly. Avial is very special because apart from tomato and potato every vegetable finds its place in this dish. You can put any vegetable you want.Ain’t that cool. And it is incredibly easy to make and extremely delicious.

The history of Avial dates back to Mahabharata according to Wiki.
“It is supposed to have been invented by Bhima during their exile. According to the legend, when Ballav (Bhima's name during this time) assumed his duties as the cook in the kitchen of Virata, did not know how to cook. One of the first things he did was to chop up many different vegetables, boil them together and top the dish with grated coconut”

Another version is as follows according to Aithiyamala (A garland of historical tales) by Kottarathil Sankunni:
The maharaja of Travancore used to perform Murajapam every year, a vedic seminar, in which a large number of vedic scholars participated. One year it so happened that there was no vegetables left for the last day of Murajapam.Only few pieces of various vegetables left over from the previous days were available. The cook cut all the left over’s into long thin pieces and prepared "Avial." The king liked the dish so much and presented him with a gold bracelet and ordered that this dish be served every year from then on.

I prefer to believe Amma’s version. According to her, Avial was invented by chefs or cooks who did not like wasting ingredients.” Unlike people of today,” with an exaggerated stress she adds,” people then thought wasting of food as a sin and crime. If you ask me it still is *.So when kings hosted luncheons loads of ingredients would be wasted. One intelligent cook added all this with coconut and made Avial.”

Come on, which dish has got so much fan following in Literature: D.

Presenting the amazing Avial

Don’t ask me silly questions on preparation time. All I know is its very fast and very popular in my household (You know,the one I run).

Vegetables (pick any or all) – 1cup cut into long pieces
  • Long Beans
  • Carrots
  • Yam
  • Plantain
  • Drumstick

For gravy: Mix all ingredients and grind into a coarse mix.
  • Grated Coconut -1/4 cup
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tablespoon
  • Green chilly - 4-5 no’s
  • Shallots –(2-3] optional

  • Curd (Real sour one if possible] – 2 table spoon.
  • Turmeric powder  -1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves – a few
  • Salt to taste
  • Coconut Oil – ½-1 table spoon

·         Put all vegetables in water. Add enough water to immerse the vegetables. Add turmeric and salt and cook till the vegetables are half cooked. (We have to add coconut and cook it again in a while. If we make the veggies soft now after we add coconut it will be a vegetable pulp)
·         Grind the coconut, cumin seeds, green chilly and shallots into a coarse mix. (There is no benchmark for coarseness; you can make it into a smooth paste as well. Avial is incredibly flexible)
·         Now mix the vegetables and ground coconut and cook for few minutes.
·         When it boils, add the curd and switch off the gas. Mix well.
·         Garnish with curry leaves and coconut oil.
·         Close the dish with a lid for the aroma to seep into Avial.
·         After 15 minutes open the lid, take a deep breath and let the aroma waft around the kitchen for a while. :D.

You can replace curd by raw mango slices or tamarind water.

Avial-Two: The band Avial.Do we have bands named Muringakay Sambhar or Paneer butter masala? No. But we have Avial.Yummy as the dish; the band features very talented musicians.

I am not an authority on music or someone who can be a judge of rock music. I like music, I listen to songs and that gives me a right to say that I like Avial’s songs. I enjoy their instrumental music though I am allergic to rock music in general. Their lyrics are not of the genre,” I hate you, like I love you.” (NOM to the song. I love it too) but picked up from the folk songs that tell the story of a common man.

In a recent Malayalam movie, Salt-n-pepper (a light hearted comedy, recommended for all), Avial performed a song titled “aanakallan”.Google it up, I like the song and have heard it umpteen numbers of time.

 Avial-Three : Oh I forgot to mention as Avial is a mish mash of many vegetables, the usage also means a disarray.Sigh.
When I say,” My kitchen is in Avial form”, please bring a broom and cloth to clean up the mess for me. 
If I say,” My brain is in Avial form”, make sure you are at least 15 feet away from me. Mentally derailed people are not held responsible for their behaviors. No, it is not same as “pickled”.”Avialed” as I call it is cooler.

1. Because I was feeling highly philanthropic towards my fellow bloggers and felt it was time to share good things over the blog. Sharing over the blogs are normally experiences, I decided to share my favorite recipe and music band. (I am game for anything that doesn’t include sharing my box of chocolates and TV remote.)

2. Because I love Avial to pieces and I don’t know the recipe for KootuKalan.Happy?

3. She is Anna Hazare in her campaign against wastage of anything. Some call it a middle class attitude. I think she is being prudent. I may never be like her but I do appreciate her.

Friday, October 7, 2011

For Freaku...

“It has been two years. Two eventful years in which my world has changed so much that you wouldn’t recognize it at all. And I still miss you.

The last time we met in Mysore, you had bothered to come to Mysore from Bangalore on the way to Pune.You could’ve  chosen to sit in Bangalore airport all day long but no you made a 4 hour trip so that we could meet up. I wish I had hugged you a little longer. But no, I was conscious what the auto driver would think; after all we were in Mysore. I should not have given a damn.You are my friend and like a little brother I totally adore.
I knew this. You knew this. Rest of the world could think what it wanted; I should not have cared. When you decided it you are done with Pune, I wish I had forced you to move to Mysore instead of Mangalore.

Wish I had taken the trip to Mangalore as we always planned over our office messenger chats.
And that impromptu trip I made to Mangalore and couldn’t meet you because you were back in Kerala. But then it did not mean much as there as we said,” There would always be another weekend to meet up. “We had laughed over our messed up plan.
I wish I had talked to you on that Monday as I promised you over the messenger on the previous Friday evening before rushing to board my bus bound to Kochi.

And when I got the message in the morning that you are no more. I laughed. Bloody joke! I did not cry. I went back to office to check your messenger status. Read all the mails between us. Called our friends so that they would tell me it was a wrong message. I did not dare call your phone. I would not cry. I thought about your mother and brother. I thought about the MBA you so badly wanted to do. The crushes you had confessed to me. Of people who told had hurt you that you wanted run away from the world. The life you had dreamt.  How could God be so cruel to you? You had so many things to see and do. And this part irked me to no end. You were an angel and probably God felt that the heaven would be better place with you with Him.

A week later I managed to publish an obituary, which ran something like this:


You were too pure for this tainted world.
As I sit and look back, I can only see happiness.
The way you brought a smile to my face, the way you lifted my spirits...
There were too many things we did together, too many things we didn’t.
You were my partner in all nonsense, giving you the nickname "Freaku" which you sported happily.
And today a week after you left us, I feel the void, deep and dark...
I miss you dear, the pain would never go.
Wherever you are sweetie, you will be remembered, now and forever.

Love you hamesha

Each day I think of you lovingly and I miss you badly. You were one of my best of friends.Some days I wish I can hear you talk and laugh again. But then I know I have to let go of the sad regrets and smile at the beautiful days we had with our friends.”

That is my story. Do you have friend who is very dear to you? Whom you have been meaning to talk “some time today”? A person you are happy is there in your life. Don’t save those hugs for a better occasion. There are no better occasions than now. Call a
We do not have all the time in the world. Life is too short for petty fight and misunderstandings. Tomorrow might be too late.

[If you have a friend whom you have not called in a long time, call up that person or meet that friend in person. Share your friend’s response with me.]

Monday, October 3, 2011

Prisoner of Memories

Look at me,
A prisoner of memories
Or is it imprisoned memories?
Weird though it is true,
Today the prison and prisoner, are one and the same.
I have in me, locked away, and tied in strings of faded past,
A satchel of dreams, Fragrant like dried flowers,
Showering my present with visions from past.
Damp, wet and musty smell at times
And at others of flowery meadows of summer times.
A warmth penetrates deep into my bones.

A familiar sense of belonging,
A feeling of in tune with life,
Not a single note amiss.
I string along the music
Swaying my body, eyes closed in a trance,
Until the heat of today engulfs me,
Reminding me of my dilemma.
Yes, I am traveling across the spaces
Beyond the clutches of cosmic energies
Weightless like a feather
Dancing along paths long forsaken
For only I remember those paths much walked down.
Green leaves canopy those trails
Mist blows over those serene waters
The river shines and sparkles and shimmers
As the rays of light kisses it
A picture so exotic like a thousand emeralds shining behind a milky veil.
Forgotten are those memories,
For the entire world.
Past is long buried, they say.
But, for the prisoner of these dreams,
Life is now nothing but a shadow of this past.