Saturday, June 28, 2008

Postscript

Some of you may remember my Survival Guide for Daughters-in-Law.

There was just something I wanted to add: there may come a time, if you are particularly unfortunate, when things just don't work out. When you've tried, tried and tried some more. When you've bent and given and shown the other cheek more times than you'd have believed yourself capable of.

When you really have done all this, and I speak of years of effort, understand, not a few months, then I think you should also give up while you still have some shreds of self respect left and walk on with the rest of your life. Be polite and courteous and distant. Eventually, things will fall in place. They always do. And often, even when people refuse to acknowledge changing attitudes and perceptions, the attitudes and perceptions and consequently behaviour also change.

This takes a long time, going by what some of my friends say.

I'm glad I've not had to wait so long. My patience isn't famous for its quality.

What Me Worry?

Rahul and I are off to Madras on Sunday morning so Vicky and I celebrated my [un]birthday this evening. R was deposited at his thakurda-thamma's (V's folks) and we caught The Incredible Hulk at Fame. I quite enjoyed the movie. But then, I'll probably enjoy most things with Edward Norton in them. I guess I do have an unfortunate weakness for the thin/lean, spectacled variety of males. There was this moment when he donned a pair of glasses to read something and I nearly leaned forward and kissed him. The light, affectionate kiss I give V when he does something utterly charming.

I just read that paragraph and realised it isn't very appropriate, given my matronly status. Oh well. At least textual analysis no longer forms a part of my daily life now.

For the last one week I've been trying so hard to imprint the man into me. I mean, I'm married to him and all that, and been with him some years now -- more than I've been with anybody else, I find -- so obviously, he is some part of me already. But I've been doing this more feverishly this last one month, trying to notice, record, file away little images of him, touches of him, sounds of him. I don't know why I have this sense of urgency in me either. We'll only be gone a month, and this is a nice flat to leave him at, more comfortable and better set-up than our old one. Family and friends are still nearby. I know he'll be OK, and I suppose I will be too. Rahul will miss his father but he'll be happy to have his Diddi and Dadda (my parents).

A long time ago, I asked to be turned on. Perhaps I am now. I feel so alive. Perhaps, when I'm down, whether due to depression or due to stuff at home, I only can feel so dead because I'm otherwise so alive. I feel like I'm really living my life. Was telling somebody, I forget who, the other day that I'm glad I packed in so much in five short years at JU. That I wish I'd packed in a little more even, because while the pace was hectic, the memories are eventually great. There was so much bad stuff but now I'm reaping the benefits of the lessons I did learn from them. In a way, that was the preliminary, an extended prologue, to the life I'm living now. Then I felt like an escaped convict, unsure of which of the many pleasures to go for first, but convinced I wanted them all. Now I'm more sure of my tastes, know my limits and when it's OK to push them.

And I've been doing that, I think, this year. The Bhablet's hit the Terrible Twos early and is miserable and making V and me miserable. But it's still misery I've learnt to live with. I mean, I've learnt to put it out of my head when I go to work. And I'm working and meeting people. And running a home, such as it is, and learning new things all the time. I've been having fun. And V and I have been doing stuff together. Sometimes I feel a little guilty at leaving Rahul out of things (like this evening) but these days, more and more, I want V to myself. I want some of the time to ourselves that we never really got, considering I was pregnant by the time we went on our infamous honeymoon!

I've been thinking over the last three years, the years since my student days, when things changed and so fast and so much, and I think I've really been living. Isn't that what your twenties are all about? I've heard in your thirties you start being a bit more picky but otherwise the fun continues. My twenties will have been less parties and more family, but these times seem so lively. I sense in myself a courage of conviction, a strength of mind, a deeply sensual attractiveness that I know I never had before and I may not have twenty years on. In which case I'll be glad I had them now. I spent my teens trying to figure out what I wanted and what I needed and whether I could have it all. In spent my early twenties trying to have my cake and eat it too. And now I'm approaching twenty-six, I know what my cake is and how to eat it when I want it.

On second thoughts, that metaphor may have been carried a little too far. A stretched metaphor somehow is never as effective as it seems inside your mind, have you noticed?

I could go on about so much tonight, but I have lots of writing to catch up on. Reviews and column writeups and so on, not to mention some work I've taken on recently, all of which was supposed to have been done by now. I guess some things haven't changed, at that. Oh well, as the French say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Randomness

Just got a call from somebody who described himself as a journalist from the Times Group. He called because he's doing a story on Calcutta bloggers below 30.

He's got to be one of the most arbit interviewers ever. Kept interrupting me every other sentence. So after a while I started letting him talk, interjecting a question now and then. (What, I've done the journo stuff too!) And then he gets all upset asking who's doing the interviewing. So I pointed out nicely that he was and I would like to be allowed to talk, being the interviewed. Not that that worked.

He was so defensive. Told me twice that his opinion didn't matter -- did I ask? Couldn't name a single blog he's read, including this one. Didn't want to write about bloggers from JUDE. Well, not to sound all JUDEan, but if most of the young, better-known Calcutta bloggers just happened to be from that *shiver, gasp* institution. Beats me why, but there you have it.

So if you leave out all bloggers above 30 and all bloggers from JUDE and all bloggers who are not widely read, dear Shivaji (if that was your name), you don't have much of a story left. As I tried to tell you nicely, before you got on my case. And yes, it's extremely annoying if somebody keeps interrupting me to say that I don't sound very enthusiastic about talking to him.

I have interviewed and been interviewed plenty in my life so far. This has got to take the cake as the second worst. (Beq, remember the worst?) For some weirder reason, he got all coy and upset when I finally cracked and asked him how old he was. I try to give all kids a break but honestly, not if they keep on insisting on being stupid on my time.

....

I wrote this far and then called up the Rimi. And found out she'd been through him before I did. All is explained. All is practically forgiven. Come back Shivaji, your mother (and munna, didun and Bapi) miss you.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mona's Biriyani Recipe, Tweaked

So Mona, our neighbourhood kitchen goddess, sent me a recipe for easy biriyani. I've made it twice so far and yesterday I changed the recipe a little to suit available ingredients. Both times it tasted fab.

No, I have no photos so stop scrolling down already. This is how I made it:

Ingredients:

Chicken -- 500 gm, cut

Marinade:
Onions -- 3 medium size
Green Chilly -- 1 (fresh or pickled)
Dhaniya (coriander/cilantro) -- generous handful of fresh leaves
(these three are to be ground into a coarse paste)

*Mona used lots of pudina (mint) leaves too in the paste, which tasted great, but I had none at home yesterday and the recipe was equally tasty, in a different way.

Ginger-garlic paste -- 1 heaped tbsp
Yoghurt -- 1 cup (150 grams or so though more doesn't hurt)
Garam masala whole, to taste (i.e. whole cloves, cardamom and sticks of cinnamon)
Lemon juice -- of 1 lemon
Shahjeera whole -- 1/4 tsp

Rice:
Nice rice, either basmati or jeerakati or some such long-grained variety -- 2 cups
Salt -- 1 tsp per cup, maybe a little more (better less than more, though)
Lemon juice -- of 1 lemon

Extras:
Potatoes -- small ones; to be used either whole or in halves. aim for one piece per pc of chicken (I love biriyani potatoes)
Onion -- 1 medium size, finely chopped
Saffron -- teeny pinch, soaked in warm milk/water
Ghee -- as much as you can afford. Or do it all with fresh veg. oil


Method:

1. Make the onion-mint-chilly paste. Wash chicken and leave to marinate in a glass dish. I have been known to cheat on marinating by popping the meat-marinade combo in the microwave for a minute or two and leaving it in with the door closed after the cooking time is over. (15 min)

If nothing else, this clears counter-top space.

2. Peel potatoes and cut in half if too big. Heat a little ghee (or oil or oil-ghee combo) in a kadai and shallow fry the tatties slowly until nicely browned and mostly fried. (If you want to check softness when done, poke a fork into one. This'll help you decide on cooking time later.) Set aside the fried potatoes. (10 min)

3. Slowly shallow fry the chopped onions until nice and brown. Set aside. (10 min)

4. Wash rice, set to cook. I do it in a dekchi so that I can control it entirely but the choice of cooking vessel is yours. Add salt, the lemon juice and a bit of ghee for smell. Cook till grains are al dente i.e. almost cooked but still feel a little hard when crushed between thumb and forefinger. Drain, leave uncovered to cool. (20 min approx, depending on rice)

5. While rice cooks, heat a little oil/ghee/combo of both in the kadai. Empty the chicken+marinade into this, toss. Add potatoes, make sure the gravy coats them well and cover. Simmer for at least 20 min

*Mona said the chicken should turn brown but mine doesn't. It browns later when cooked with the rice.

6. When the chicken is tender and potatoes are soft, take off stove.

7. In a glass (lidded) microwave baking dish layer rice and meat, meat at bottom and rice on top. Do as many layers as your dish will hold. Poke holes with the handle of a wooden ladle and pour the saffron mix sparingly through. Decorate with fried onions on top.

I usually prepare two such dishes and cook one after the other, since I have a small microwave and it doesn't hold very big dishes.

8. Microwave each dish for between 8-10 minutes and once done, leave for another 5 min.

Bring out your fancy chinaware and enjoy!

*I've put in the timing for some of the steps to help you plan. My own cooking time is always severely limited so I like to know just how much time to spend on each step. This recipe takes you a bit over an hour if you do things slowly, and you should be done, from chopping onions to washing utensils, in about 90 min, if you're not very slow. But the first time, you might want to take it very slow and make sure every thing looks just right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Songs I could play over and over and over again



And this one too:



The second one I sing for The Bhablet. Because sometimes I'm not sure he does know how lovely he is. And when I hear/sing the first one I always think of V, all the nights we drove around town, trying to keep sane, looking for something to do and sometimes, just because.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Happy Fathers' Day

to all you fathers-that-are and fathers-in-waiting.

To my own father, flying between continents, even though you've refused to get me anything from Vienna and got me nothing from Tokyo last week. I cannot get you on the phone right now, but I hope you are happy and relaxed as I write this.


To the father I have at home here who refused to take his son for a haircut because he didn't think the barbarshop full of other fathers would be able to handle his Bhablet while V had his own hair cut. I don't know what your son will give you -- he started the morning with some smelly potty and a big grin -- but I hope you like it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Handy Pack of Fives

In the midst of all the hubbub of last week, Sunny Days turned five in a quiet sort of way on 3rd June.

Five years, huh?

Seems like a good time to do a wee tag sent my way aeons ago by Gauriiiiiiiiii. The rules, if you remember, were:

Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts.
The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given : family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like.
Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do).

So, family: I don't write about my family much, if you discount stuff about V and Rahul. But there was this post about my father some years ago.

Friend: I'm not always such a good friend. And sometimes I'm downright weird. This is about one such time. (Linking because it's funny, that's all.)

Yourself: This was a toughie. All I write about is myself, so how do I pick the most descriptive of them all from 500+ posts? Then I came across this one and yes, that's me. This is me learning to love, hating it, but unable to break away. Which pretty much sums up my whole life really.

Your Love: That's easy! Go read it and then tell me what I'm writing about. :)

Anything You Like: This is the last post I wrote before my marriage. It's not particularly well-written and it sounds a bit sad, but I have never written in the same way since. In that challenging, bring-it-on sort of way. I guess I just grew up. Also, I find it funny to think of all that bravado now, because I can well remember how things turned out afterwards.

Am tagging Beq, Anansi, Rimi, Hip Hop Grandmom and Ditty. If you've not done it already, of course. Have fun.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Three Things I Have to Say:

1. Am in Madras, will be here till Tuesday evening, so am not checking my mail very frequently. Kindly adjust.

2. Facebook says I should not date Scorpios. Right. I only marry them.

3. Facebook also says that I'm Samantha, not Carrie. I checked the pie chart afterwards and was reassured to note that I'm almost equal parts Carrie and Samantha, and the balance probably tipped over on the Sam side because of my answer to the question of the guy in the bar. Oh well, at least I'm fairly sure it's the slutty side that keeps the husband happy so why bother chopping and changing now? Even if I oughtn't be dating Scorpios?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Nightlife

This one's for Beq, who called me today and asked me to write about "something different". Beq-boy, this one's to cheer you up and give you hope. Because being a mum (and talking about it and writing about it) still does not make me boring stay-at-home. Not all the time at least.

So, Dana and Shuki and I've been hanging out a bit of late. It's nice to be surrounded by women and that may sound like a silly thing to say because I'm in an office filled with women quite a lot of days each month, but actually, it's nice to hang out with girlfriends once in a while. We had a pedicure night one Thursday, after I came home from work. The Bhablet's pool was appropriated and filled with hot water and we all enjoyed a nice long soak before the rest of it. There was wine, popcorn, gossip and much laughter.

Since we had so much fun, we decided to follow it up with a movie on Saturday night -- Sweeney Todd. That's two musicals in one months: the La Martiniere show of Fiddler on The Roof (dir. by Katy Roy) and then Sweeney Todd.

And since that was such fun, we decided to watch Finding Neverland at our place on Sunday night. Dana brought the DVD player but not the remote; my laptop cut the disc dead on first sight; we drove down to her place and brought the remote; the disc stopped playing ten minutes into the movie. You believe in jinxes? So we decided to go for a drive instead. While ambling down Southern Avenue at 11ish on a Sunday night we were amazed by the prostitutes waiting by Vivekananda Park. Because these women (some were transvestites) were wearing the most kinky clothes, from crotch-level minis to fishnet stockings to barely-there boob tubes. Such fun. So we turned around and drove back to reassure ourselves that we had indeed seen what we thought we'd seen.

Being decent misses and a much-married mother we wouldn't pick any of them up, of course, so we did the next best thing and picked up Maitra (who's back in India, yay) and brought him to see the girls. It was side-splittingly funny how the girls were negotiating with cars going by, while the policemen at the booth maybe two hundred yards off looked in the opposite direction.

And then we went off in search of more things to see on Cal streets at night. Esplanade yielded nothing so we turned into Park Street. Maitra wanted coffee so we found ourselves walking into Atrium at The Park. Just before midnight, me wearing my skimpy home shorts and a faded top, hair anyoldhow, Shuki in a no-nonsense t-shirt and shorts, Dana in my old racerback vest that has now stretched to infinity and come back home fading colour all the way from there. Oh and I forgot to mention Bruno, the Brown University mascot that Maitra's brought as a gift for The Bhablet. I didn't like to leave Bruno alone in the car so he came along with us. From Atrium to Aqua (the poolside bar which turned out to be both closed and staffed by kids who couldn't have been more than sixteen tops) to Someplace which revealed Tin and Can, among other people. Shuki said her credit was good enough to get him into Roxy and I only wish I'd taken her up on that one, because it seems a shame to have taken him to all other parts of The Park and left out Roxy. On the other hand, given that Bruno came to be a companion to my son, that was probably just The Bhablet's good angel waking up at last and getting down to his job.

We drove around aimlessly for a while afterwards, I remember, and there was a lot of hilarity, but things are a little vague after that. Came home a little after 1, so couldn't have been up to very much.

Tonight Dana, Shuki, Maitra and I went to watch Sex and The City. I loved it. I mean, I didn't go looking for anything very profound, so I was able to enjoy the fashion stuff and the hot bods without worrying too much about what level of cinema it was. And I truly love the whole fashion thing. Call me shallow, but I like fashion shows and adore watching well-kept women carry off the most outrageous outfits. I love the teeter-totter heels and the dinky hats and the slinky coats and the It bags. OK, I know It bags are kinda passe but I like the whole culture, is what I'm saying.

I loved the way the movie focused on making men look so edible. Because, honestly, am sick of watching only women's bodies through the male gaze in the name of erotica. I wouldn't mind women's bodies through the feminine gaze but that hardly happens in the world I live in. But the men in SATC were just so hot! There was Big, looking as gorgeous as ever. The guy in the beachhouse next to Samantha's who was pretty much lemmeatim if you ask me. (You didn't?)

And I loved how the women were older and fun and cool with being older. Sometimes it bothers me that our generation is too busy trying to stay young. Now that I'm very nearly on the 'wrong' side of 25, I'm pretty excited about getting older. Am looking forward to the 28 and the 30 and between you and me, I intend to be darn sexy when I'm 40. Even if I'm fat.

Since there were four of us who'd gone for the show it seemed only fair to decide beforehand who was to be whom. Dana being Charlotte was an unanimous choice; Shuki as Miranda and me as Carrie was more because we were less unlike these two characters than we were the others as such; Maitra, by common consent, could only be Samantha.

We were followed by a random bike guy on the way home. He followed us down Southern Avenue, all the way to Jodhpur Park, so we stopped by the police kiosk at the corner of the Jodhpur Park park and explained to the two cops on duty that we were being followed and was it OK if we stopped there for a minute. We did seem to lose the creep after that. Dana has messaged that she reached home safe.

I think, next time, I'll take Ally. Am not comfortable with Dana being the designated driver every single time. She may be stronger than me but I'm older and anyway, fair's fair.

We have to leave for our flight to Madras in, let me see, three hours. You think there's any point sleeping? Probably not. I think so too.