Unacceptable


Sometimes, there are things we may like to do that are completely unacceptable to social norms. And so we avoid it.

For many, that is the way of life – to live someone’s version of life. Sometimes, that someone is a voice within us, fooling us into believing we’re in control.

What happens when you take the plunge and explore the other side of what is unacceptable?

Running away
From opportunities
From challenges
From suffering

Breaking down
Of the heart
Of barriers
Of walls

Streaming tears
Of sorrow
Of melting joy
Of realisation

What if, on closer inspection, what used to appear unacceptable, may in fact, be more acceptable?

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Inertia


We’re always told to think before doing anything. If possible, think twice.

But what if we don’t even know what we’re going to do? How does one think about it?

Like when we’re nervous, blurting out words without even knowing what we’re about to say next.

Like the social animal who knows just the right words to strike up a conversation without even knowing you.

Like the high ranking official on a podium who reacts to emerging situations without prior preparation.

We’ve all been in these situations. It happens in speech, as it does with other forms of expression – the artist, musician, actor, and writer within us reaches out by bypassing the neurological highway and surprising us.

Here is one of those moments when my thumbs tapped away without my knowledge:

The world spins around
Nothing makes sense
Inertia worsens this hell.
Leave. Move
Before it’s too late
Or fall into your shell.

They say that the universe has a way of communicating with us. That the world sends messengers to guide us along the way.

Sometimes, the messanger is sitting right inside us.

Payasam for the independent Indian


On 15th of August 1947, the British left India. Atleast that’s what we like to believe.

Consider the following:

At a geopolitical level, we stand fragmented, perhaps permanently disabled, fighting against our neighbours, with whom we share a common heritage.

At an institutional level, we inherited a corrupt bureaucracy that mostly enjoys fat salaries for warming the bench; a political structure that upholds the time honoured divide and rule policy; large organisations that spew communal hatred to further their own interests; and a system of reservation for ‘backward’ castes which is supposed to end discrimination, merit be damned.

Even at an individual level, given that we want to teach kids only English (along with other European languages); dream of an MBA from a foreign university; drool shamelessly at NRIs during family get-togethers for matchmaking; and are obsessed with ‘fair skin’, I wonder, are we really independent?


Meanwhile, yesterday, I made some payasam on occasion of a birthday—of a very interesting person. He is quite dark skinned and born to a community regarded as ‘Other Backward Classes’. He has a luxurious palace, but give him beaten rice and he’ll be absolutely thrilled. He used to steal butter as a kid, but I believe he has outgrown that, what with today’s salted low fat, low sodium stuff on sale.

He didn’t have any fancy MBA, but that didn’t stop him from leading a small group of warriors to victory over a mighty army.

His name is Krishna. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Oh you have! Quite the ladies’ man, no? Please do take a generous helping of this aval payasam—a delicacy made from beaten rice, milk and jaggery.

Aval Payasam
Happy birthday, Krishna!

Unusual


Growing up, I hated the idea of cooking. But living with someone who loves to cook, in a house that has a beautiful kitchen, I’ve softened up to the idea of cooking – and sometimes, enjoy it too!

Our everyday cooking is quite monotonous, so when we make special dishes, it is an event in itself. Going through all the food pictures we have taken, I have to go all the way back to last October, to find a memory of the last time we made a sweet dish – an unusually long time ago, given that we both love sweets :).

To celebrate our first Diwali after marriage, we decided to make rava kesari (link to the recipe here).

Here’s a picture of the ingredients we were using. Any guesses for what is missing?

Prepping for Rava Kesari

Weekend coffee share


If we were having coffee, I would talk about the changing season. The fast pace with which all the leaves have fallen out, how the streets below are covered with brown crunchy leaves, and how quickly the new red leaves have filled in the void above.

I would have thought out loud – is there a hint, a message there?

* * *

I’d tell you that I’ve been contemplating submitting a couple of stories for publication. And it scares me to no end.

My blog feels like home, and writing here feels like a warm embrace. But out there, a publication looks like a warzone, and every character I type feels like an arrow that’s ready to rip apart my soul.

As I refill our mugs, I’d confess to you, that for six months the stories have gathered dust – idling on a word editor, waiting for me to send that email I drafted so long ago.

High on caffeine, I’d hear your encouraging words. What’s the worst that could happen? If it gets rejected, it’s okay. I’m here. I’ll listen.

When life kicks you in the back


“So, how many months?”

My spine arched backwards, my left hand supporting my lower back, I inched forward and into the physiotherapist’s clinic, wincing with every slow step.

“Oh no! I’m not pregnant!” I replied.

A little embarrassed, the doctor apologised and asked me about my backache.

Four-five years?! Why on earth did you not get yourself treated all this time?” Her response was a mixture of surprise, sympathy and anger.

‘Coz I didn’t have the time

I had consulted a GP, an internal medicine specialist, an orthopaedic, a super specialist spine surgeon, an Ayurvedic physician, a Kalari gurukkal, no less than four homeopathic advisors (two of whom are family members) and got three x-rays, an MRI and countless blood tests spanning over six years.

The Ortho told me to visit a physio, the spine surgeon prescribed some exercises and the ayurvedic doctor advised a massage. My Kalari guru diagnosed my problem by just looking at my foot many years ago and scolded me several times for not getting the treatment done at his clinic.

But I followed none of their recommendations. Why? Because I had no time. It was as simple, common and pathetic an excuse as there could be. Every time my lower back protested against me, I took a day or two off from work. And things would be back to normal – or as close to normal as they could be. 

And even now, I probably wouldn’t have been sitting in front of the physio, had another consulting doctor not referred me to her when I limped, in extra slow-motion, on top of the examination table.

“Well, atleast you’re here now. It’ll take time. And a lot of effort on your part if you want to lead a normal life. But it is not impossible,” said my doctor, calming down, having overcome her initial surprise.

The able-bodied cripple

My muscles had lost all strength. There was inflammation in my joints. My nerve was getting compressed. The painkillers were of no use, and added to my problems with their side effects. I could not sit, stand, walk or lie down without excruciating pain.

Funny how I always complained of not having time. Two weeks was what my Kalari Guru had asked of me. And now, I had taken three full weeks of medical leave from work. It appeared that my body was teaching me a lesson.

During those three weeks that I was at the rock bottom of my life – physically, mentally, and emotionally – my support system stood rock solid.

I stayed with my convalescing parents – my mother was still recovering from chikungunya and my father had been afflicted by dengue less than a month before. My husband managed our household single-handedly despite his insane work schedule. Setting aside their own inconveniences, they supported me unflinchingly.

The startup I work in, allowed me the leave of absence. Any other company would have let go of me like a depreciated machine (humans are, after all just another replaceable resource).

I took a hard look at what got me in this place. I looked for something to put the blame on. But deep within, I knew I was the culprit. And something had to change. I needed to change.

My boss had been telling me to relax and loosen up for months. And even as I complained of my pain, he said “it’s largely psycho somatic you know.” It hurt. It hurt a lot. I knew my pain wasn’t made up in my head. But this statement struck deep within – not because it was a false accusation but because it was partly true. As I browsed through the Materia Medica, I found that frustration and anger were also likely to cause back aches.

This breakdown was a warning. And if I didn’t mend my was, I won’t get another chance. The workaholic, always-available, Kasturika had to go.

I told myself: If it isn’t going to kill anyone, then work, no matter how exciting or pressing, can wait. My life and health are now my priority.

I decided to give up, albeit temporarily, that which I loved most – writing. Health first, I told myself. My bestselling book will come. Have patience.

It has been three months since my medical crisis, and I am in many ways a different individual than the one who crawled in to the doctor’s clinic tenderly. I have followed my physio’s advice as closely as I can – my muscles are slowly regaining their strength. But these are just baby steps. My joint still flares up every now and then when I strain myself too much, or skip a day’s exercise. My family and company have continued to support me in this duration and if it weren’t for them, I’d be in shambles.

I now have hope that I may be able to practice Kalari again. My physio says it’s unlikely. But the hope is there. In this roller-coaster of a journey, the worst days are definitely over.

Keep chipping away, one day at a time, my muscles tellme; take good care of yourself, the ride is just beginning.

Shine


This weekend India will celebrate Diwali. And preparations for the festival are in full swing. Homes are being scrubbed squeaky clean. Renovated houses are getting last minute paint jobs. Traders – both online and offline – are running promotional offers. And all of us are busy shopping for clothes and gifts!

The most important aspect of the festival, of course, are the lights. With every nook and corner being illuminated, the streets are one of the most beautiful sights to see this time of the year. Even the most common, everyday routes we take, turn glamourous.

As I was walking near a popular market a few days back, lights caught my eye from behind the trees. I would normally just walk past the glittery market, but this time, I took a detour just to soak in the festive ambience.

All decked up – Diwali preparations in full swing

Unfortunately, Diwali is also the worst possible time to head out because pollution levels skyrocket. It’s a shame that noisy and noxious crackers are still so popular. I’ll admit we used to burst crackers as children too. And it’s been years since we stopped. I hope you, my dear reader, will refrain from contributing to the pollution levels this year and enjoy the sights without the sounds.

Update: Big Bazaar does a fabulous job of getting the message across with their paper patakha ad. Check this out:

Here’s wishing you a very happy, prosperous and safe Diwali.


To see more shiny posts from around the globe, head over the the Daily Post.

The food channel comes home!


Having spent two nights in a hospital room with a poor WiFi signal, needles piercing my arms and eating some rather bland food, coming home was a heavenly feeling.

The hospital wasn’t all that bad. For starters, atleast we didn’t have to cook, or worry about household chores. Then there was a large TV – a device we have chosen not to include in our house. After all, who needs another screen and another monthly subscription for something we neither have time nor inclination to watch. So there we were in that homely room switching between food and science channels for pretty much all our waking hours. I have to say it had a little bit of an impact on me.

I’m not really a foodie. I know lots of people who are – they know which is the best place to eat in pretty much any part of town; what is the speciality of those food joints; and are even willing to travel a fair distance just to taste that one flavour which has the perfect contrast of textures and smells. For me, all that is Greek and Latin. But after a prolonged exposure to the micro waves of the TV shows, I decided to turn into a chef for a while.

The recipe – a tower of biscuits layered with creamy chocolate and dunked in coffee – was one my mother had been wanting to try out for long.

I took pictures along the way and noted down all the steps – detailing everything a TV chef would likely mention. Taking pictures meant that it took us four times the time it would normally take to make this sweet.

This week, Jen Hooks asked bloggers where their heart is. Right now, it is set on devouring this delicious piece of home-made tower of biscuits!

The tower of biscuits

To see how other bloggers interpreted this week’s photo challenge, head over to the Daily Post.


For those who are interested, here’s the recipe:

  1. Whip some milk cream with chocolate sauce.
  2. Add cornflour and heat the mixture over low flame, stirring constantly, till it thickens into a smooth paste.
  3. Spread the mixture over 6 Marie biscuits and place them one on top of the other.
  4. Cover the tower with an extra biscuit and press lightly.
  5. Pour coffee decoction over the tower, ensuring that the biscuits are fully soaked. Drain the excess coffee and place it in the freezer.
  6. Remove it after about half an hour, or till it becomes stable. It should be soft and have the consistency of cake. Make sure it does not freeze completely, or it will be nearly impossible to eat it!
  7. Serve as is, or sliced.
  8. Consume immediately – we did not keep it to test its shelf life 😉

H2O


States of H2O
The three states of H2O

View of the snow-capped mountains surrounding the holy glacier at Tsomgo (also called Tsangu or Changu) Lake beneath cloudy skies.

In response to the photo challenge on the Daily Post by Lignum Draco

Music on the move


Of all my childhood memories, our Saturday routine has perhaps left the biggest imprint. Every Saturday, we went to the Vinayak Temple and the adjoining market at Sarojini Nagar.

Appa drove his old Premier Padmini – we used to call it the Fiat – on the near empty roads. The FM radio in the car was always set to All India Radio 102.6 MHz – that was the only station back then. It was our only source of contemporary music, and it was all we needed. We would sing along in loud voices to distorted lyrics that our ears chose to hear.

Years later, the Fiat was scraped. Our Saturday visits continued – with a new in-car radio for company. We retained the Fiat’s radio system.

Apart from the controls on her face, there was little to cover the body of that radio, save a raw metal exterior and lots of wires hanging loose. Anna rigged her up with a set of small speakers and connected it to a plug.

Some years later, we relocated. For a while we continued to visit Sarojini Nagar. But that trip was long and tiring and we began visiting a different temple nearer to our new house. The old car radio, though, was still going strong at home. She became my faithful companion while I prepared for my final school exams, and subconsciously memorized lyrics of John Denver’s songs… I hear her voice in the morning hour as she called me.

I went to college and got my first feature phone – one with an FM radio. Over the next several years, more sophisticated phones followed. And today, my smartphone has replaced the need for a radio altogether.

I don’t know what happened to that car radio system. Maybe it was given away, maybe scraped, but certainly it is in a very different shape right now as compared to what she was back then – just like everything else from my childhood:

Many shops we visited in Sarojini Nagar have shut down or changed their line of business. The market is no longer our weekly grocery and vegetable market. The roads leading to it are choked, and the mad rush ensures we keep our distance.

All India Radio is not the only radio station in town. It is surviving, but their best RJs have moved on to private stations and even internet radios – including the one I’m listening to right now. 

As the internet channel plays a classic, all my memories gather round her… 

And John Denver echoes the sentiment

Radio reminds me of my home far away


In response to this week’s Photo Challenge. To see what the world is feeling nostalgic about, visit the Daily Post.

She looked something like this