Sunday, August 16, 2015

That Tiranga Dhokla

A long time ago at The Red Curtain we needed a spectacular food for stage. Something big and unusual that could be made at home and brought to the venue, and I came up with these tiranga dhoklas and giant laddoos. Yesterday at our local Independence Day celebrations there was a tricolour cooking competition so I made the dhoklas again after so long. My mother-in-law, who's visiting us just now, kindly made the chutney and I made the dhoklas from scratch following some excellent recipes.

The top and bottom layers are this recipe. The orange comes from ketchup and a bit of chilli powder though any red sauce will do, keeping the flavours in mind. The green comes from dhaniya chutney. You need generous amounts of both for colour and also to adjust salt accordingly in the basic dhokla batter. The central batter is from here with no changes apart from fewer ground green chillies. I made a batch each on the stovetop and microwave simultaneously and much preferred the stovetop steamed dhokla for softness and texture.

If you give them a shot, here is how I work --
1. Make the basic batters except for the Eno/baking soda part. I made twice the amount of the yellow batter, divided it in two and kept all three bowls ready.
2. Add the red sauce to one yellow batter, mix it in. Add Eno and steam till just firmed up, not fully cooked.
3. Add the Eno to the white batter and spoon gently atop the mostly cooked red dhokla. Steam till just firmed up.
4. Add the green chutney to the second yellow bater, mix it in. Add Eno and steam till cooked. Check with a skewer inserted all the way to the bottom.

If you're microwaving you need to play around with the timings and see what suits your steaming bowl and microwave. I usually make these in glass tumblers in the microwave with another glass of water in there to keep the inside of the oven moist. At 900W I steam approximately 50-60 seconds per layer but this will really depend on how thick your layer is. Your last layer might need a little extra time.

Why am I telling you all this? Because it won first prize. It wasn't the prettiest but it was tasty!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015


There comes a time, every so often in my life, when I look about me, at a life filled with richness, and question whether this is all I get.

There comes this longing, for things that haven't yet earned the right to be named, for things that cannot be named if I have to live with the aftermath of naming them, for things I haven't earned the right to yearn for.

I will be 33 tomorrow. I wonder if I'll feel the same when I'm 73.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sew Much?

The great thing about being in households run by my mother, grandmother and aunts is that they always have sewing things handy. I've never seen my grandmother crochet but when I last visited her, I wished I had a hook handy and lo, out of her cupboard came yarn and a suitable hook.

My mother even has a sewing kit in Moore Avenue where she doesn't live and where I'd occasionally rummage to find threads in colours my own box was missing. To be in a place where you have access to not just basic repair materials but also embroidery floss, fabric, hooks and knitting needles is to feel more than a little at home.

Right now we're at Ro's and one of the first things I did was mend a few clothes of Puchke's using Ayaan's sewing kit. Yet another reason why this boy makes me proud... he has a sewing kit!

Before we left Calcutta one of the first things I sorted and packed was the contents of my sewing cupboard. Deep shelves full of fabrics and notions; wools and hooks and needles; all sorts of dinky thingamajigs I rarely use but which make me so happy; threads of almost every kind, from sewing to cotton yarn. If you sew (or embroider or knit or crochet or...!) you'll know the happiness I get from all this.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Not Picking

I used to be a picky eater. I learnt to eat everything on my plate after Rahul was born but people still think I'm a picky eater and laugh at me over that. This doesn't bother me at all (especially since this motivates them to find me food I actually enjoy eating).

What bugs me is when people tell me what they think I should eat. If any of them saw me eat the food of my choice over a week, a month or longer, they'd see I prefer my food light, in not very large portions, and at regular intervals. Left to my own devices I cook more vegetarian than non-veg, drink a lot of water, eat some raw portions, and don't snack as much on junk as they think. This is a fact that my snack cupboard confirms, given that packets of deep fried goodies and cream biscuits sit around and get stale. I don't go overboard on the ghee, butter, sugar or maida though I love them all. I don't because excess makes me feel sick and when it's not fun I don't want to eat.

You know why it bugs me when people try to tell me what they think I should be eating? Because they have clearly not looked at the food I do eat; because food has always been used to control women in ways most men do not want to acknowledge; and because I am more invested in my well-being than they ever will be. Please, stop.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Love Is...

... a sticky finger exploring your lips, your nose, your nose-pin, as a sleepy, sweaty, tired little baby tries to keep it together. Or when he's fighting sleep and decides to admire you instead, your bindi, your kaajal, your dingly-dangly earrings, the stray hairs that keep escaping your top-knot.

Love is the kisses and bites you give that insistent little finger too.

Thursday, April 09, 2015


I awoke from a nightmare not ten minutes ago and my heart is still racing. These aren't the dreams of monsters and ghosts that scared me as a child; these are visions of people being perverse, being very, very cruel, so realistically twisted from things that have actually happened that I have to work hard to remember these visions are not true and that these people don't do these things.

My heart is still racing.

I am petrified of dementia in my old age. Earlier I used to worry about being at the mercy of other people for my most basic needs; now that I have these occasional glimpses into the inner doubts in my head I worry about being at the mercy of thoughts like these without having the rationality to defend myself.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Review: Madzzle Mysteries of the Amazon

Have you seen the new Madrat games in the toyshops? Rahul has been gifted two in the last six months, one of which went over his head and another, the Ultimate Tic Tac Toe, which he quite enjoyed even though I strongly suspect he and I fudged the rules quite a bit. ;) I was intrigued by the company's approach to board games, because it's been quite some years since I found games that weren't just trying to capitalise on old favourites. Well, you can say the Tic Tac Toe does just that, but trying playing by the game's actual rules and then we'll discuss it... Anyway, so I was intrigued enough to say yes when the company approached me to try out one of their newest games: Mysteries of the Amazon from the Madzzle series.

Madzzles, going by this game, are based on jigsaw puzzles which you solve to be able to start a game based on the puzzle itself. Confused? I was, a little, but it's actually great fun.

This is what reached us. A game in a handy-dandy tube, which is a vast improvement over the unwieldy boxes of the other two games that we already had.

These don't come cheap. This particular Madzzle, for instance, is priced at Rs 750.

It's classified as being suitable for kids in the 8-12 years category but I confess Rahul and I laughed ourselves silly playing it. We shouted so loud we actually frightened poor Puchke.

See the back here. You can click on the photo to see a larger, clearer image.

At this point Rahul was already hopping up and down in excitement.

The tube opened to reveal a rolled up mat and another, narrower, tube within.

See the excitement? I wasn't allowed to do the opening!

The second tube held a 120-piece jigsaw puzzle -- they claim each piece is unique and fits without a gap -- a deck of data cards in a bag, a reference picture for the puzzle and a pamphlet with the rules of play.

Even better, inside the lid of the smaller tube was a small packet of marigold seeds, Madrat's attempt to give back to the environment.

I appreciated these little touches, as I did the playfulness of the whole package, the direct yet non-condescending communication with the child.

The puzzle mat is another interesting innovation though I don't know that I would call it a roaring success. The idea is to have a pliable surface on which the puzzle can be pieced together and stored. One should be able to roll the puzzle up in the mat and it stays safely held in place with the magnetic strip on the edge of the mat. I tried it a few times and the puzzle fell apart sometimes as I rolled and sometimes as I opened the mat up. It didn't fall completely apart though, just partially, so piecing it back together was rather less work than starting again from scratch.

Here is a look at the entire game: the black puzzle mat, the smaller tube container, the puzzle pieces and their reference image and the deck of cards with their little green bag.

Now here's the thing that we couldn't photograph -- the puzzle glows in the dark! If you piece it together and ensure it gets some strong light (artificial light suffices) and then turn all the lights off, close the curtains and catch the baby before he tries to taste the pieces, you will be rewarded with blinking eyes in the darkness of an Amazonian rainforest. That was great fun, though we had all expected it to lead to something more than just the glow in the dark experience. We were a little crestfallen to find that is all there was to it, but I have to say, it was pretty cool even then.

The cards allow different plays once the puzzle is ready. The most basic, hunting objects in the densely packed picture, led to a riotous hour in our home, and there are further variations as players hunt or challenge each other based on creature specifications instead of just names.

Our verdict? We loved it. The price would have made me pause before buying but having tasted one Madzzle, I would rather buy this for a child than overpriced movie merchandise. Rahul, an eight year old who hasn't been interested in jigsaws in many years, commented that this was "the best game ever, can we play it again?" 'Nuff said?

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Vicky Minds the Baby

The other day I went into the other bedroom and found this scene in progress:

Vicky, supposed to be keeping an eye on the boys, had dozed off. Rahul was playing on the floor and Puchke was trying to join him headfirst, stopped only by his father's hand firmly gripping his wee ankle in sleep.

I suppose I should be grateful they weren't out robbing safes.

The link above leads to you an etext of 'Butch Minds the Baby'. You can read other Damon Runyon stories here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Of Cousins and Wedding Invitations

I got married in 2006, the first of the cousins on either side to do so. I waited impatiently for the others to get married, so I could do all the fun things they did at my wedding, make all the demands, enjoy all the events, savour the anticipation. Eventually one did get married but his wedding was in another country and his mother, my aunt, did not invite my parents (her own brother!) so I dropped in with a gift at the reception but did not stay. Not much of a happy memory, especially unfortunate given that I met his wife properly later on and really liked her, and their son.

Last year another cousin got married and his father, my mother's cousin, came and invited us and I was quite excited, as were my parents. Except they never did get their invitation. We will never know why since my parents are the kind of people whose blessings people take when their weddings are organised, and I have known prospective brides, grooms and their families to go to great lengths to ensure my parents' attendance at the wedding -- but that was not the case here. This led to some lasting ill-will and ensured that when this uncle's daughter got married some months later, none of us received an invitation. In fact, the family went to some trouble to hide the date from us, which still baffles me!

So, that's three cousins whose weddings I could not attend.

Now it's April and cousin T is getting married in a fortnight in Delhi. She is the closest to me in age and as children we were quite close, confiding our secrets in each other, sharing many common interests. But she doesn't want me at the wedding. Her mother, who I once looked up to and believed loved me, has spent many months telling whoever would listen how she doesn't want any of our family there. When her parents did come over with the invitation to the reception, they were neither particularly inviting nor especially interested in whether we were coming. I don't usually stand on ceremony with close family but I do know when people are being unnecessarily offensive. The wedding itself was decided upon about a year ago but our card was dropped off by Cousin T's maternal grandmother's help one evening, late enough to ensure that we couldn't possibly make it to Delhi. The other cousins I have never been particularly close to but I did not realise Cousin T and her family would take such pains to ensure I would not be around. I really don't know why and I don't think the reason matters at the end of the day.

These are the doings one cannot undo.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Someone asked what she needs to learn to prepare for motherhood.

I said, "Just learn stubbornness, you'll need that most. When everything gets you down you'll need a lot of stubbornness to get back up and carry on doing what is right."

Today I'm not getting back up.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Time flies like an arrow...

... and fruit flies like a banana. Yes, yes, I know that one. Vicky's inflicted it on me often enough.

I was a little prepared for older-brotherhood to cause some degree of growth in Rahul but how can you really be prepared for these things? And what I certainly did not expect was how he shot up physically after Puchke's birth. Almost overnight his shirts were too small, his jeans too tight and his cheekbones grew sharply defined. He lost the last of his baby beauty in these months. Now his face shows the lasting beauty that will probably define him as he grows older. It was fascinating to watch. Less fascinating has been his on again off again clinginess as he deals with the changes another child brings.

At some point Vicky (finally) got into the swing of baby things. Suddenly the gentle, efficient and effective man I remember from Rahul's babyhood re-entered our lives and took a lot of the weight off my weary shoulders. I know I sound very dramatic but I was exhausted after six months of little sleep and breastfeeding and dealing with the baby at night and the household and Rahul during the day. But now that Vicky's stepped in, the most adorable thing I see is how Puchke is finally looking around for Vicky once more, lifting his arms to his father, splitting his face into his nose-scrunching grin because his Baba entered the room. Sometimes Vicky makes me feel like that too, so I can empathise.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Planning to Give Vicky an Earful

Vicky went to visit his mother on Saturday and came home with some old albums of photos he wants to scan. They are filled with ancient photographs from his own childhood. I particularly love the ones of him and his brother because they show how much fun the boys had, and it makes me optimistic about our own two boys.

Sentimentality aside, the photos have also firmly established that Puchke's hilarious sticky-out ears are inherited from his father. The child was born with the most beeyootiful shell-shaped ears that lay flat against his head but they quickly became huge and sticky-out. I've hesitated to point a finger at V thus far because I may have neat ears but my brother's could have been borrowed from an elephant while Cousin J, well, the less said about her ears the better. But these photos show us the real culprit. I don't think Vicky is ever going to be allowed to forget how I gave the child a good start with the ears he and his funny genes messed it all up thereafter.