Of A Little Boy And His Ganesha

So, we just got back from a sort of break at the in-laws’ place. We left home thinking we would stay for a couple of days – the OH, Bubboo and I – and ended up staying for 10 days. We didn’t even take extra clothes with us, because we had no intention of staying over. But stay over we did, and we did have fun too.

We ended up doing a whole lot of stuff out there, pigged out on a lot of lovely food, explored a lot, relaxed and walked and spent time with everyone in the extended family, read a bit, came up with a whole lot of ideas to write about, shopped, and what not. Bubboo was thoroughly entertained by everyone, and she entertained everyone with her antics as well. This is the first time I have stayed at my in-laws’ place for so long after we moved out and into our own house, in 2009. We must have stayed with my in-laws for a sum total of 4 months before we moved out. So, you can imagine how fraught with emotions my time there now was.

I came across so many relics there, from when the OH was a little boy, and they brought a lump to my throat. They reminded me that this mature, cool, composed person who is my husband was also a little boy, once upon a time.

This Ganesha idol, for instance.

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This colourful idol came home once when the OH and his brothers and sister were kids, for Ganesh Chaturthi. The little-boy husband religiously decked up the idol with flowers every day and offered sweets to the Ganesha. When the time came for the Ganesha to be immersed in a lake, the little OH sobbed incessantly, hugged his mom’s feet and begged for the idol not to be taken away from him. My mother-in-law was told by her mother-in-law that tradition (the taking away of the Ganesha idol to be immersed in a lake) was no reason to make the children in the house unhappy, and so the family decided to let go of tradition. The Ganesha stay put in the pooja room of my in-laws’ house, and that is where it stays till date. Every year, on Ganesh Chaturthi thereafter, it is this Ganesha that is prayed to and offered sweets. Thanks to my mother-in-law’s meticulous housekeeping, the Ganesha is still in lovely shape, apart from peeling paint at one or two places.

Sweet, right?

These little anecdotes from the real life of real people – this is just what I love hearing. They tell me more about people than they tell me, through their words.

I will be back with more such stories shortly. Till then, you guys be good!

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Balcony Tales

Balconies have always been important to me. I love balconies. I think they are windows to the world outside, from where you can look out, all the while sitting in the safe comfort of your own home. They are sanctuaries, where you can grab a few moments of peace over a cup of tea or a plate of bajjis. They are in-between, neither inside the house nor outside, a place where you can escape to when the chaos inside the house gets too much for you, and you don’t really want to get out of the house. They make the house outward-looking, I think. Without a balcony, a house would be isolated from the rest of the world, cut off, very inward-looking – of course, my own two cents only, meaning no offense to anyone else. For this very reason, I do not like balconies with grills – they make a house safe, yes, but they also close out a lot of light and action and air and love and make the house, well, suffocating.

I especially love balconies that do not face dead, overgrown plots of vacant land or the back of someone else’s house. I like my balconies to look out onto a road, possibly, where there is a little action – just enough action, mind you, not too much. My ideal balcony is one where there are plants (flowers and a small patch of herbs and some vegetables), a swing and a little nook where I can sit and think and create.

Considering my love of balconies (thankfully, the OH shares a bit of this love), a road-facing balcony was one thing we always look out for while we are looking for an apartment to live. We had three balconies (three! yes, a rarity these days) in the place we used to stay in earlier, and a long road-facing one in the place we shifted to last year. It took us quite some time to set up the balcony garden in the house we presently live in, but now, I can safely say we are almost 70% done. The garden still needs a lot of work to bring it to the shape I want to bring it to, but at least there is some semblance of a garden now, there is a sanctuary in the house for me to go to, there is a little place that fills my heart with joy.

I am happy to say Bubboo seems to love the balcony as much as I do. It is the first place she heads to, as soon as she wakes up in the mornings. It is where she sits and watches the older boys and girls in our apartment play in the evenings. It is where I sit and talk to her about the different kinds of things that we see around us – from dogs and cats to vegetable vendors and trees and flowers. It is where Bubboo sits and watches the rain. She often eats sitting out on the balcony. I sometimes read to her there. We like basking in the sun on the balcony, on days when it is not too hot. We like watching as our neighbours wave to us in the balcony, and waving back to them. We like watching as butterflies and squirrels run in and out of our plants, searching for food. I could just go on and on and on!

Balconies have always, always been a place of solace for me. Our balconies have seen a lot of action. They hold a whole lot of fond memories for us. They have been a place of sharing our own kind of love, of bonding with each other. They have been places of sustenance for us, providing us with some home-grown ingredients for our food.

This new place is slowly, very slowly, beginning to feel like home. We are apart from the rest of the OH’s family now, very far away, but we are slowly finding friends here, bonding, building up relationships. I hope, with all my heart, that we soon forge friendships and relationships of note here, and that our balcony here goes on to witness a whole lot of special, little memories.

 

 

That Feeling…

… of harvesting fresh produce with your own hands, vegetables that you have grown painstakingly in your own home, in your balcony garden.

… of cooking a simple lunch with vegetables gathered from your very own home.

… of knowing that you can pluck the veggies fresh whenever you want to cook them, that they’re there for you, waiting, and that you don’t need to buy them in bulk and store them in the refrigerator for days on end.

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Strawberries in the making… we’ll, hopefully, get our hands on some if the squirrels decide to leave them for us.

… of knowing exactly what has gone into your food.

… of knowing that you are feeding food as fresh as it comes, to your family.

… of knowing that you will be able to survive on home-grown vegetables, at least for a few days, if you happen to be stuck at home for some reason.

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Spinach aka palak… just look at all that gorgeousness!

… of knowing that your daughter knows that tomatoes and coriander and spinach grow on plants, and not off supermarket shelves.

… of being able to teach your daughter, first-hand, the value of home-grown food, love and compassion, the work that goes into growing something.

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Coriander.. waiting to be plundered

… of communing with nature, feeling like you are a part of something primitive, part of an ancient tribe that believes in self-sufficiency at least to a certain extent.

… of knowing that this kind of self-sufficiency, in terms of food, is something you could get used to, that there is more to come, that this is just the beginning, not an end.

… of knowing that there is nothing sweeter and fresher than home-grown food, that nothing could beat that.

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A black nightshade aka manathankali plant in bloom.. Bubboo loves eating the ripe berries off this plant!

… of wonder at the potential that such a little thing as a modern apartment balcony holds, in terms of growing food, of daydreaming over the possibilities.

… of knowing that you have taken one step further in the direction of ensuring better health for yourself and your loved ones.

Got to love that feeling, right?

 

If We Were Having Coffee…

…. I’d tell you about how Bubboo has been sick since yesterday, with fever, a tummy upset, vomiting and the loosies. All because I decided to give her an egg for the first time ever. It was my idea, largely, to give her an egg (We don’t generally eat eggs that haven’t been baked into desserts, otherwise). I wanted to get her used to eggs because they are loaded with nutrition, and because she can have them when we are holidaying and it is tough to find home food. I got desi eggs (Mistake #1), because I needed only two to try out and the organic ones come only in packs of 6. I tried giving her a boiled egg first, but she spit out the whole thing (no wonder, I hate boiled eggs myself – had a tough time having them during pregnancy!). So, I discarded the boiled egg and asked someone to make her an omelette with the other egg. In hindsight, an omelette wasn’t the best thing to give a child having an egg for the first time (Mistake #2). I’m over myself with guilt now, because I have made a poor, healthy, playful child sick now, and she is dull, listless, in pain and clingy. We didn’t get enough sleep last night either, for the very same reason, and that is making me grumpy too.

…. I’d tell you about how I quit part-time work a couple of months ago to become a full-time stay-at-home mother. I am not the sort of person who can take stress easily, and it wasn’t my cup of tea trying to balance work and house and a kid all together. And you know how part-time jobs in India usually are – expectations of full-time work and part-time pay, and being aloof from the rest of the full-time team. I didn’t want that. I was finding it tough to put 100% in my personal life, caring for Bubboo or my job. So, the decision to quit. That said, it hasn’t been easy to deal with the realisation that there is no pay cheque coming in in the first week of every month, that there is nowhere to get dressed up and go, that we now have to be wise with our expenses because there is only one person’s salary coming in, that being at home and caring for a kid all day can make you starved for adult conversation, that you miss having a social life (not that I had a great social life when I was in a full-time corporate life earlier, but at least we had girlie conversations!). Not to forget the fact that there’s a whole lot of guilt at not being able to contribute anything to the family kitty and letting the husband take all the stress.

… I’d tell you about how the weather in Bangalore has been alternating between sunny and pouring, of late. The sunny days are good to take Bubboo to the park, catch up on my walks, and capture some photographs whenever I can manage to carry my camera with me. The days when it pours, it usually does in bouts, in between which we have nice, overcast weather that I have come to associate with Bangalore. On days when it rains in the evenings, I try my hand at some recipe or the other that I have been waiting to try out (I have a huge list of recipes that I have bookmarked, and need to work my way through), and Bubboo keeps running between the living room and the kitchen.

…. I’d tell you about how much the recent news of the murder of a techie in Madras has affected me. That, and something I read somewhere about a woman, a mother, being abused every day by her husband, and she still staying with him for lack of knowing how to escape from him. Both these incidents have sent chills down my spine, reminded me of how unsafe the world is (there is good in the world, too, yes, but there is a whole lot of bad too, right?). These incidents have reinforced in me the belief that it is extremely crucial to bring up a girl child the right way, so that she has roots as well as wings, courage but not over-confidence. It is a tough job to do, and I can only pray I do it right. At times like this, I think my decision to quit work and raise Bubboo was a good one.

…. I’d tell you about how I haven’t been doing much in my life lately, just trying to eat healthier, spend quality time with Bubboo, ensure she gets a fair amount of social exposure, write and cook a bit, and go for walks regularly. In spite of that, there’s this feeling of time slipping by oh-so-fast, I don’t know where, and being stressed out and tensed all the time. I have a lot of help from my parents and the OH in caring for Bubboo, a house help for sweeping, mopping and doing the dishes, and we recently hired a cook. I wonder whether I am really inept at time management or is having a kid really supposed to feel this way. I mean, I see a whole lot of mommies managing house and kid alone, with NO help from anyone, working out of home, with not even a maid or a cook! I will work on finding out.

…. I’d tell you about how the OH has been having a really stressful time at work. He changed jobs last year, and the work at this new firm is really overwhelming, in terms of the workload. To top it, there’s been a change in the management, and the new manager is making things tougher than they ought to be. He’s slogging away day and night, eating at odd times, not getting enough sleep, not taking enough care of himself, and taking way more stress than he should be taking. I keep worrying about just how much he is taking on on himself all the time. He tells me not to, that he is capable of handling stress better than me, but still.

…. I’d tell you that we have a wedding in the extended family to attend the next week. We are really looking forward to it, and I sincerely hope Bubboo will be well enough to make it to the event.

… I’d tell you how I really, really hope to find a solution to all the chaos that is part of our life now.

… I’d also ask you how your week was, and hope you have been having a more cheerful time than we have lately. 🙂

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For Weekend Coffee Share, an interesting meme here. Do check it out!

 

 

Of A Homely Birthday Celebration

Way too many special occasions have been going by without notice at our place, lately. There always seems to be something or the other happening for us to really, properly sink into the feeling of how meaningful these days are to us, or to make them feel special – work stresses, a cranky baby, a chaotic situation at home, the OH or me not feeling well, a general bad mood, or Bubboo’s sickness. The OH has been taking it in his stride, but I haven’t been very happy about it. So, when the OH’s birthday rolled by, recently, I was determined not to let the day slip by just like that.

I didn’t want to take a chance of going overboard with planning too many things to do either; I just wanted to do a few little things that would make the day feel special. And, I am happy to say, that is just what we did. We had a homely birthday celebration of sorts, spread out over a couple of days. The OH’s birthday fell close to a weekend, so he took Friday off and decided to celebrate over the three off days, a little bit every day.

The Sampoorn Santhe was on then, and we decided to spend Friday visiting there, with Bubboo. The rain and traffic jams and waterlogged roads were a pain, and we got exhausted just making the trek to and fro the venue, but the fair was totally worth the visit. Bubboo was cranky and the husband got super hungry (he refused to have lunch before we left home, and then we got stuck in a traffic jam and reached the exhibition at tea time!). We got so sick and tired of the horrible commute that day that we cancelled all our plans for the next two days, decided to stay put at home, just relaxing, eating home food, spending quality time together, and taking Bubboo to the neighbourhood park. I am so, so, so glad we did that!

This year around, there was no eating out, as usually happens on birthdays and anniversaries.

But there was this…

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A bouquet of his favourite roses and rajnigandha flowers

And this…

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A surprise cake with a Bubboo figure wishing her father a very happy birthday

The cake came from the same home baker who made the cake for Bubboo’s first birthday. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous chocolate-orange cake, which was super-duper fresh. It was much loved by everyone at home.

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Another view of the little girl on top of the cake

And then, there was this…

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Our favourite pink-and-white coconut burfee from Adayar Ananda Bhavan

And, of course, there was some much-needed catching up with sleep, a few experiments in the kitchen, and a lot of jhoola swinging.

I might get used to the idea of such homely celebrations of special occasions, you know? Have we grown jaded over the years, or grown up enough to realise that these days don’t need going out or elaborate dinners or big gifts; they only need a whole lot of togetherness and little moments to make them special?

Spotted…

… in a park in Indiranagar, Bangalore.

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My kind of park, all right! I can imagine just how beautiful it would be to walk here. 🙂

This board was the first thing the OH and I spotted when we walked into this park, one day. He said – ‘What?! So many conditions for a simple morning walk?!’ and I said – ‘Wow!’ Now, you know exactly how very different we are, right?

Kids!

The husband is away on work, and the little one seems to be missing cuddling up to him. So, the last time he called me, I broke my no-phone-for-kid rule. I told the pint-sized one her dad was on the line and put the phone to her ear. She smiled as soon as she heard his voice, then grabbed the phone from my hand, and began turning it from side to side, looking at it intently. It dawned on me that she was trying to find her dad inside the phone!

I am immensely touched and heart-broken, both at the same time.

Taking Baby Steps Towards A Healthier Lifestyle

Roughly two years ago, I was too lazy to get up and get myself a glass of water whenever I wanted one, I am sorry to admit. I would fill up a couple of huge plastic bottles with water first thing in the morning, right after I made us our morning cups of tea, and would leave the bottles here and there in the house. I would sip from this bottle or that throughout the day, and wonder why the water never refreshed and energised me the way it used to, back at my parents’ house in Ahmedabad.

Then one day, suddenly, it hit me – I was missing drinking water from an earthen pot. That was what we used to do in Ahmedabad – we have never been big fans of refrigerated water, and the high heat in Gujarat would necessitate the meticulous filling up of water in earthen pots throughout the year, most of all in the summer. I haven’t seen many earthen pots in Bangalore, I don’t know why. I was sad when the OH told me his family had never really had water from an earthen pot. I gasped at just how much of plastic dependence we had been fostering, directly or indirectly, by drinking water from plastic bottles all the time and decided to put an end to it. An earthen pot was bought from a roadside potter, and we started joyously drinking from it.

It was a huge pot, though, tough to clean and fill up, especially with a toddler around. We didn’t want to revert to plastic bottles again, however. So, on our recent trip to Madras, when we came across a potter selling an earthen surahis on the streets around Mylapore, we were quick to get our hands on one. Almost three months since we bought home our surahi, neatly packaged in a carton with newspapers stuffed in, I am happy to tell you, we are absolutely in love with it.

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The surahi is just the right size to clean and refill, and it ensures that water doesn’t get stale by being left in it for a long, long time. The water from the earthen surahi is gorgeously fresh and revitalises us like nothing else. It carried us through this summer, when the temperatures in Bangalore peaked like never before. Occupying pride of place in our kitchen, it ensures that we do not have to resort to too many refrigerated juices or packaged fizzy drinks. The surahi has made a happy man out of the OH, too. It has reminded us that we are old-timers at heart, though we might have adopted a sort of modern stance to life.

We gave away the big plastic bottles that we owned to whoever wanted them, and the very few we still own are lost somewhere, in the trash, in the kitchen cabinets. We hardly find use for them any more. We invested in a couple of Milton stainless steel flasks, and fill them up with cool water from the surahi whenever we go out – the water stays cool and fresh for quite a few hours and we don’t have to buy packaged drinks wherever we go. We never loved the packaged drinks anyway – we would occasionally buy them out of desperation (because we would be too thirsty!) or for their novelty factor.

When I go for a walk, though, I carry water with me in a little plastic bottle in a little bag strapped over my shoulder, with a few currency notes stuffed in. I well know these bottles aren’t supposed to be reused, but I don’t know of any other way to carry water with me while on a walk. The steel flasks are quite heavy to carry when you walk, and I don’t walk well (a fitness walk in a park, I mean) when I carry anything at all in my hands. So, the little bottle stays till I find a healthier alternative to it.

Valentine’s Day Dinner: Punjabi Kadhi With Pyaaz Pakodi

The husband has been to Delhi so many times on work that it has become like a second home to him. He is so very conversant with the eateries and foods in Delhi, almost a local there. He has often stayed holed up in seedy guesthouses in the city, with no one to talk to, overloaded with client phone calls and e-mails. At times like those, he tells me, he finds comfort in eating piping hot rice and Kadhi Pakodi, that quintessential Punjabi dish. The OH even has a favourite thela-wala whose Kadhi Pakodi he likes, if not loves.

I don’t know why I never tried to make Kadhi Pakodi for the husband before – I think it has something to do with my associating the dish with loneliness and gloomy nights spent away, him cooped up in his guest house and me at home, in Bangalore. On Valentine’s Day, though, I decided to change this. I decided to learn how to make Kadhi With Pyaaz Pakodi and surprise the OH with it for dinner. It somehow seemed like a fitting thing to do on Valentine’s Day, cooking your loved one’s long-time comfort food and all that!

I relied heavily on this recipe, and made a few little changes of my own. The end result turned out to be a huge, huge hit. Yay! 🙂 I have made the dish a couple of times since then and, I am told, it is even better than the stuff the OH used to have at his favourite thele-wala‘s. 😀

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I am sure Kadhi Pakodi is not something new to most of you people, but it was for me. I had never tried it out before, and I am so excited to know that I can make it so well now!

Here is how I make it. This recipe does not have exact proportions – for this dish, I always eyeball the ingredients and use my intuition.

Ingredients (serves 2):

For the kadhi:

Curd (slighly sour is better – ensure that curd is not too thick nor too watery)

Salt, to taste

Green chillies, slit lengthwise, to taste

Turmeric powder, to taste

Red chilli powder, to taste

Gram flour (besan), to taste – roughly 4 tablespoons for 1 big bowl of curd

Kasoori methi, to taste

A few curry leaves

Oil, for the garnish

Finely chopped garlic cloves

Asafoetida, for the garnish

Mustard seeds, for the garnish

Dry red chillies, broken into two

For the pakodi:

Gram flour (besan)

Onions, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

Red chilli powder, to taste

Coriander leaves, finely chopped

Ajwain, to taste

Coriander seeds powder

Cumin seeds powder

Oil, to deep fry the pakodis

Method:

For the kadhi:

  1. Put the curd in a large mixing bowl, and add salt, slit green chillies, turmeric powder, gram flour, red chilli powder, and curry leaves. Mix everything well, ensuring that there are no lumps. Let this sit for about 10 minutes.
  2. Heat the curd mixture in a deep-bottomed pan, till it comes to a boil. Add the kasoori methi to the pan at this stage, mix well, and switch off the gas.
  3. In a smaller pan, heat some oil and add the mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Now, add the asafoetida and finely chopped garlic. Saute on a low flame till the raw smell of the garlic goes away. Lastly, add the dried red chilli and saute for a minute on a low flame. Now, add this garnish to the kadhi in the pan.

For the pakodis:

  1. Mix together all the ingredients listed for the pakodi, except the oil, in a large mixing bowl.,
  2. Add water little by little and make a dough that is firm.
  3. Heat the oil for frying in a deep-bottomed pan, till smoking point.
  4. At this stage, turn the flame to low. Drop little balls of the dough into the hot oil, a few at a time, and deep fry them thoroughly, turning them with a spatula.
  5. Remove the fried pakodis on a tissue paper.
  6. Once the excess oil has been drained out of the pakodis, add them to the kadhi. Serve immediately with plain rice or parathas.

Notes:

  1. Do not boil the kadhi after adding the pakodis. The kadhi needs to be served immediately after adding the pakodis. So, it makes sense to make the kadhi in advance and then make the pakodis just before serving.
  2. You can even use fresh methi or palak leaves to make the pakodis, instead of onion, or even add them along with the onions. Alternatively, you can make plain pakodis, with just besan, salt, coriander powder, turmeric powder, ajwain, cumin powder, red chilli powder, and chopped fresh coriander.
  3. You can mąkę the Kadhi plain too, without the Pakodas. You could even omit the garlic, if you choose to.
  4. This type of Kadhi is popular in Punjab, Delhi, and adjacent areas. It tastes different from the Gujarati and Tamilian versions of Kadhi, the latter called Morekuzhambu.

Do you like Kadhi Pakodi? How do you make it?

 

Us

In the half an odd hour or so that the OH and I get, every few weeks, when neither of us is taking care of Bubboo, busy with work, has errands to run, or has tonnes of household chores to take care of, our conversations go something like this.

Me: Did you read that e-mail I sent you some days back?

OH: No, which one? The one with that recipe?

Me: No, that was just 15 days back. This e-mail that I am referring to? I sent it some 25 days back! You still haven’t read it! Gah!

OH: Yes, man! Haven’t had the time! But why are we whispering?

Me: Oh, yes, why are we whispering?

OH: Bubboo isn’t sleeping, and she isn’t even around. We can talk louder, you know?

Me: Hmmm

We speak louder, then, for about 2 minutes, and then revert to whispering. There are some 15 pending issues recognised – pending e-mails to answer, appointments to be made, things to be bought, something we had to talk to about with Amma, and so on and so forth. Then, we remember we had decided to just talk – just let go and talk about anything under the sun, without worrying about our seemingly never-ending list of chores.

Just then, the doorbell rings. Bubboo is back home from her play time at my Amma’s house. No more talking of any sort happens then between the OH and me.

And the days go on.