January 29, 2009

Hotel-style vathakozhambu

Ever had vathakozhambu at a Tamil restaurant, like Sangeetha in Chennai? It's absolutely divine and nothing they make at home comes close to that. There's something different. Introducing, hotel-style vathakozhambu - the thicker, tangier and infinitely more delectable dish than it's pale counterpart, the home-style vathakozhambu. Today for some reason when I was day dreaming food, I got reminded of this vathakozhambu that we got when we had the Meals at Sangeetha. And I had to make it for dinner. Usually, I make the normal one that our moms teach us to make... the one that all you chefs have attempted at least once. But here's how to do it hotel-style. It's almost like a kootu consistency. And with no real recipe online, I pride myself as the first one that I know of attempting this novel approach, and having success with it whilst sharing it. Yo!
Ingredients -(If you are familiar with normal vathakozhambu, skip this)
1. Something vathhal (this is the dried veggie bit that you fry to add taste to the whole concoction like sundakka, manathakali keerai, etc.) - I didn't have any, so I skipped this.
2. Onions (if you have the small bulb ones, they are the best) - 4 if they are medium sized, finely chopped.
3. Tomatoes - 1 large, finely chopped
4. Tamarind - small lemon-sized
5. For seasoning and cooking - oil (preferably sesame oil (yellu yennai/til ka tel), mustard seeds curry leaves, 2 dried red chilis, 2 tablespoons of channa dal a pinch of asfoetida and vathakozhambu powder/sambar powder.
6. Salt to taste
1. On a saucepan, add 1 spoon of sesame oil and fry half the onions whilst adding salt so that the onions release their juices.
2. Once the onions become translucent, add the chopped tomatoes and about 1/4th the raw tamarind to it and fry for sometime more till you are sure that the raw flavour of the onions/tomatoes is gone. This usually takes 4-5 minutes on medium-high flame and you can see that the tomatoes have lost all firmness and have released their juices into the mixture as well.
3. Add 1 spoon of vathakozhambu/sambar powder and fry for 1 more minute. Set aside.
4. Meanwhile, on a separate saucepan (or the same one, once you empty it), add another spoon of sesame oil. Allow mustard seeds to crackle, add the asfoetida, the red chilis whilst crushing them with your fingers, the channa dal and the curry leaves.
5. Once the chilis turn semi-dark and the curry leaves lose their sprightly green, add the remaining onions to be cooked thoroughly. Add salt and give it a stir or two.
6. Meanwhile, make pulp off the remaining tamarind upto about 1 cup and add this tamarind pulp to the onions and allow to boil.
7. The mixture that you had set aside should've cooled considerably. Give it a quick run in the mixer to make a coarse paste.
8. Add this paste to the boiling stuff in the saucepan and set to boil having ensured that the entire paste is mixed in.
9. Taste to see if the salt/tanginess and the spice are as per taste. Add condiments as desired.
10. Season with washed curry leaves. And voila!

While it may not look as thick as it is, I assure you that it is kootu consistency and absolutely yummy. So, what does that go with? My trademark paruppu usili, of course! If you want the recipe to that, check the comments of this post.
Give them a try n report back! Bon appetit!

This week last year and the other 51 in between..

This day last year, was the night before my Mehendi ceremony in preparation for the wedding on the 1st of February. And whenever I see those photos (which is very often), I feel like I can still smell the mehendi as well. In soo many ways it feels like it all happened just yesterday. But it didn't... there were 363 days in between (it was Leap year last year before you mathematical geniuses pounce in to correct me). And I am no longer the same person that I was last year. Sure, we all change gradually over time. But Marriage eases in a lot more changes, in lifestyle, in responsibilities, and in a lot more subtle ways that you won't realize till you've tied the knot and lived your partner. And for everyone who is yet to marry, you don't know your partner till you've lived with them. And this holds good for both the arranged marriage and the 'love' marriage scenarios. Sure you've spent hours on the phone, gone on 'dates', hung out with friends... anything and everything. But none of that is any indication of what's to come. It's not daunting... nor scary. It's just the reality. If you've lived with roommates, you may think you're semi-prepared. I don't think so. In this case, you can't mind your own business and seek peace. Instead you seek to be involved... to meld your lives together... to find things to do together, etc. It's what I tell my friends. It takes a while to find your "groove" with your husband (or wife). To accept and understand the important things like eating/sleeping habits/likes/dislikes to the stupid and frivolous ones - loudness/speed of talking or eating with a munching sound (each person has some peeves - I have one... I can't go without correcting pronunciation - I just can't let it be). Everyone has some quirks.. But when it's your friend, it's far easier to let them be. I don't know why. Maybe you have higher standards for your partner (which is sooo good in a million other ways). Be that as it may, it takes a while before you find that comfort zone (the groove). Though you think you should tell each other everything... it's not that easy at first, unless you've had a long friendship history. Even then, it takes a while... especially if it's something that is on their side of the fence, like say, you wanted to bitch about one of his friends. It's something you would broach cautiously and proceed only if you received an inviting response. And of course there are fights. For anyone who thinks that the marriage is a wholesome honeymoon, surely for the first year at least, think again. The fights maybe absolutely dumb... but they show up their ugly face at some point or the other. And yes of course, you get through it, you make compromises and sometimes promises you know you won't keep. But it's all part of the game and helps you get through it and makes you and your bond stronger.

As a married woman (sob sob), I have learnt to stock the refrigerator (veggies, milk) and , the kitchen (dal, rice, spices, blah) and the bathroom (read shampoo, toothpaste, soap, conditioner, cleaner, brush, etc.) before anything runs out. I have learnt to make dinner almost every night no matter how tiring the day, how late I come, because it's a small something I want to do for my proper-ghar ka khana-deprived husband. I have learnt to get up earlier than him every morning and have hot tea ready for us as he rises and I let him shower and leave before me as he has a longer journey to work to endure. I have learnt to pack him lunch every day that it is possible. I have learnt to stock his cupboard after the laundry. I have learnt to pack both our things for trips. In short, I have learnt to run the house the way our moms did in this one short year. I am sure S has learnt many new things through the course of the year too... but you are going to have to ask him to know what they are (wicked grin).

So from everything that I have seen, the first year of the marriage is actually a long lesson. You learn so many things, about each other, your habits, personality and generally co-existing with one another and loving every moment of it (almost!). I guess it's during this year that the old-shoe feeling slowly start setting in. Sure, you still like to dress very well when going out with him... but you know it's not necessary. He's the same guy who sees you in your ratty old PJs at the end of the day too. The total comfort zone. That's what marriage ends up as I guess. And yes, that's the best-case-scenario.

January 28, 2009

The joy of eating

How many of you really eat? Like chew, savor and then swallow? And then, how many of you just swallow? I belong to the latter category unfortunately... Often I find myself short of time and with about 10 minutes to have lunch and so I gulp it down... of course that means that a lot of times, I eat the incorrect quantity of food. Today for a change, I had some time on my hands. And I decided that I would NOT gulp my lunch and wash it down with water, rather I would eat slowly. Sort of like Remy, the rat in Ratatouille, savoring the flavours and chewing each mouthful and relishing the combination of spices in my food. And it was utterly unique and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was how foodies functioned, perhaps. It lasted 30 minutes, more or less, my lunch break. And it was definitely worth my while. It's one of those things that it's worth waiting and relishing (not when it's the boring canteen food with minimal veggie choices, but otherwise). And I've decided to set aside some exclusive time for lunch though it's at my desk. You needn't live to eat.. but you sure can spare time to eat, right? That's the healthy way.

January 27, 2009


Due to popular demand (well one comment and a couple of GTalk messages) I've decided to share the Softbox secrets, in my possession thanks to S and the internet of course. So, what's a Softbox? It's a simple contraption that basically helps soften the harsh naked light from a bulb. And so what that does is to cast a soft, even glow over the subject and when you play around with it, you can get many interesting configurations of shadows and light (look at some of my thumbnails below if you need examples). It's sort of like a lampshade, just much thinner to allow almost all of the light pass through, except softened.

So, what you need is probably just a bunch of things lying around. Let's make a list anyways (I like to list things... even if there are just 2 things on it... In this case however, it may as well be justified).

Stuff -
1. Cardboard boxes (shoe cartons, courier boxes, anything that is neither too big nor too small)
2. White trace paper
3. Halogen bulbs (say, 500W for the max impact; if you can't find one, go with whatever you get)
4. Extras - tape, lampstands (from table lamps or the likes), scissors and pen-knife.

How -
Fairly simple and self-explanatory!
1. Cut a hole on the back of the box to allow the insertion of your bulb through it. If you are using a 500W bulb, be careful about burning youself unknowingly.
2. Cut away the side/front flaps of the opening of the box so that you can cleanly tape the trace paper over the opening.

That's it! You're pretty much done. That's only the first step though. Positioning the light and then playing with the ISO, WB and other settings of your camera as you light different portions of the subject are the next steps. And it helps if you have atleast two softboxes for even lighting, if you desire. Look at the post below for our setup.

January 26, 2009

Model in me

Anyone who knows me knows that this post can't do with me modeling anything. But surprise surprise.. it is! Ever since S got very involved with the whole lighting nuances in photography and created everything from a lightbox to a softbox, he's played photographer and obviously, I get to be the model. Here's our current softbox setup (all of this is made from shoeboxes and the likes... the overall investment is under 10€ - have any questions, drop me a line).

And here's a bunch of the results - some are truly scary I accept.. but that's what you get when you attempt ghost lighting amongst other things. Lol. So that was our weekend. Go on, try your own softbox. Enjoy.

January 22, 2009

A li'l bit of shopping

Ever since I went to the US, I got used to online shopping, particularly for electronics that came as deals on popular websites like deals2buy, edealinfo, etc. In fact many of the people out there would've bought at least one of their many gadgets on one of those sites. I know I did. I bought a whole bunch of stuff. You know the saying, Give an Indian a deal and he can't refuse it. It's pretty much held true. I've bought stuff I didn't really need simply because they were on a good deal and I didn't want to pass it up. And slowly the online shopping transcended just the gadgets. It went on to stuff for the house, like some pasta pans or photo calendars. Books of course were always on that list, courtesy Amazon. But soon the equation threw in clothes and all, especially if you were pretty darned sure about the size. And so it went. In fact, my roommate in Iowa would order groceries online too and for a few extra bucks, it was all delivered "garden-fresh" to your doorstep with no effort lost. Personally I think web shopping is just convenient. You can leisurely look at everything, read reviews then n there, and make a thoroughly informed decision. And most of the time you are spot-on. Sometimes, you need to return stuff and usually that's pretty hassle-free too. Why am I talking about this? I miss it!! No, not that France has a dearth of stores that will send you your stuff home.. they are all too darned expensive anyways. The US had deals, which could be seen online and it made sense to have them shipped for a very low fee or usually even for free. Here, the charge you a shipping, a VAT and anyways everything is just as expensive as the store that there is absolutely no motivation to web-shop. I recently discovered that Overstock was shipping stuff to France. I was delighted for exactly the thirteen minutes that it took me to select a beautiful Anne Klein Peabody coat, a steal for 21€. The shipping would be under 10 bucks, I naively assumed. And off I went to Checkout To discover that the shipping was 33€, the VAT was 15€ and the total was 69.90€. I was semi-heart-broken. Who pays more than twice the amount of the actual item for shipping and handling? Not me. Anne Klein is going to have to wait.

January 20, 2009

Read my mind

I figure everyone thinks in a different language, a language that may not be your thai-mozhi (mother tongue). I know I do. I think in English... Even when I pray to God or am mentally hoping for something, it's all in English. I think I saw it in Dasavatharam, where one of Kamal Hassan's dialogues says that he thinks in English. I totally identify with that. But that does not affect the delivery or the continuum of my speech or writing in any of the other languages that I am fluent in... But it does play a big role in French. Maybe part of the reason is that the sentence formations in the two languages are very similar. And do I find that I form a sentence completely in English and translate it word for word to French. And I realized that just today when I had a conversation in excess of 5 exchanges each with a colleague. I think for like a second before responding to the question. And in that second, there is a substitution process going on in my head. I don't know if I'll ever fluently think in French. It's unlikely. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am learning a new language after eons and I never really paid any attention to techniques when learning the other languages as a kid. And now I know that's why some other people's English sounds funny. They are translating it from their own languages... I bet that's what my French is to them as well. Funny. So what language do you think in?

January 19, 2009

Spare the hair

I was just talking to SS about this one. For as long as I can remember, I have never been encouraged to cut my hair by my family. Not when I suffered with lice when I was very young, or with hair fall from the water change from Kuwait to Madras... not when my hair suddenly became curly in XII grade and in return became as unmanageable as a dense forest (I swear I had insanely straight hair till then.. something that was plait-able and we used to tie it in half with a ribbon, typical of the south Indian innocent school girls). I guess I stopped caring about their opinions once I got to college. Even then, it only extended as far as getting a trim. I suppose it is part and parcel of the TamBrahm expectations that the girl keep growing her hair infinitely. Not that it follows the plans you have for it. My own hair stops at a threshold level for a very long time, awaiting a cut or something else. This is somewhere mid-back for me I think. For almost 2-3 months, there is absolutely no appreciable growth in my hair. But once it gets past it, there's no stopping it. Not just does it lose all its conformality and has the mid section growing away leaving the sides limping behind, but it also loses its tendency to curl a lot. In other words: Time for a haircut. I chop it down to just past my shoulder and the cycle repeats itself. Only since I went to the US, I have stopped mentioning my haircuts to the folks back home. It is invariably followed my a lament... Yen di cut panne? Adhu batuku valandhundu irundhudhu (Why did you cut it? It wasn't like it was a bother). Wasn't? Er... excuse me.. what about the weekly (sometimes, twice-weekly) routine of oiling, shampooing and conditioning my hair? And then to comb the knots out of it... it's insane. No sooner am I done with one section of my hair, the very same section develops more miraculous knots. Not just that... with hair like mine, the best days for it are close to hair-bath day when it's a bit flat. Or else, I am like Medusa, with springs of hair in every direction, rather than snakes... I don't know what's with the TamBrahm girls-should-grow-their-hair obsession in any case. It's a bit absurd. But no one reacts to it normally. There's a dramatic hush and lowered tones and there's a plea not to tell the dads. Previously it was like, kalyanathuku epdi jadai veppom? (How would we attach the false hair thing for your wedding?) Now after, it's more like - onoda aathukararke onnum illaina naanga enna solla (If your husband doesn't mind, neither do we). Girls, the solution is right in front of you - find a modern man. :D

January 18, 2009

Virtual reality

This post is dedicated to my secure friends network.

Know how you can be completely in touch with people in this day and age of technological advancement? "The world has shrunk", says the now-popular adage. Do you know of this other feeling then? Of chatting with someone almost every single day... or catching up on gossip on telephone.. but still merely wishing wistfully that they lived a few blocks away so you could just drop in for chai and live gossip? I do. And I envy my husband for this. Not that his friend's circle is intact. But there sure is a bunch around on whom he can drop in on at any given point of time (touch wood for that). I don't have that here. And sure there are busy days when it never strikes me. But there are also lazy Sundays when I could just give all I could for someone to actually develop teleporting. Ah that would be bliss! I have a tonne of friends elsewhere though... which is perhaps the reason that one can almost permanently see me signed on to GTalk. That's just 'coz that's what I am left with right now.. to keep in touch with everyone through these virtual means. And not being a TV person or someone who can browse endlessly on the laptop leaves me with the one other option - books (when you don't want to go skipping out due to inclement weather). But fading light has a way of making book reading unappealing to me (yeah, all vague n weird reasons). Besides I have always enjoyed books most when I am uninterrupted, i.e, I don't have to cook-clean-laundry or any of the Sunday-wifely chores that one tends to have i.e, when I was back home in India and could become the 'virtual deaf person' who had no eyes or ears for anything other than the page turning. And after all these experiences, I am now sure that Virtual Reality is a misnomer. Nothing virtual can be real. It's never the same. It's a great substitute though. Which is why some of my online conversations are the most treasured (and yes, it's easier saying something to someone across the computer rather than face to face, especially something sensitive). :D. So I guess the message in this post is two-part, one, a thank you to my husband's friends (and the husband himself, of course), who have whole-heartedly adopted me into their scheme of things and two, to all my terrible close friends out there, that no matter what, you guys can't be replaced. And those of you who have your gang around, appreciate that and cherish the times together!

January 15, 2009

"Enna theriyardha?"

I am sure all of you have faced this at some point of time or the other over one or many of the festivities at home. It's 15 years later and some random mami for sure walks up to you and says, "Enna theriyardha?" (Do you recognize me?)

If you're anything like me, you'd give a blank stare up and down and if still you didn't recognize them and they didn't realize that, you would fake it, "Ongala theriyamala?" (As if I wouldn't recognize you?) Most people have the grace not to embarrass you any further... But some people don't and explicitly ask you to name them. And that's where you falter or hope that your mom comes to your rescue.

The most times that happened to me was at my own wedding reception. Where so many people found it important enough to tell me the most patently obvious thing - Ithunoonda irundhey... ipo paaru evalo valandhutey (You were sooo tiny... now look at you, all grown up). At least that's a remark which you can smirk away, but the enna theriyardha is a trap. I remember this one comical incident when my dad lobbed on stage with an uncle, and was all excited and asked me about 5 times, "Kondai, yaarunu teriyardha?" (Child, do you recognize him?) Normally I would've nodded with a welcoming smile. But I was exasperated by the question and the occasion and after 3 days of festivities, I was so darn tired, add to that those stupid heels and the plastered smile. I snapped, "Illai pa." (No) My dad comes closer to me and whispers, "Neither do I... but I was hoping you knew." Touché. Not even your parents can rescue you from that one. And no one was getting out with any dignity past that point. Poor uncle.

January 14, 2009

The phony scare

Ah so it's your typical day.. Happy Pongal by the way (did I tell you I think I should be a poet?) And I walked out into the crisp air, which initially I didn't suspect was that cold. As the chill started engulfing me in a few short steps, I reached out my red woolen hat stashed in my left coat pocket and pulled it on my head and around my ears. Did I mention that my phone was usually in that pocket? Anyhoo, I went on ahead to the station and even as I glanced up at the monitors to find out just how long the train was going to take to come, I spotted Prof DA, who's new at the college. We struck up a conversation that lasted all the way past 2 trains and 3 stations right until we arrived at our destination and I reached into my pocket just to get my bare hands into warmer territory, and that's when I noticed the conspicuous absence of my bulky phone (think iPhone). I panicked. I quickly emptied the contents of my 2 coat pockets in front of a confused professor to reveal the train ticket, the ipod and no phone... Darn! I quickly explained to him that my phone was missing. He asked me to calm down and check for it every place. Just then, I saw the train we'd arrived at pull away from the station. Could it be? By then I was convinced that it had fallen someplace between my home and the station. The professor warned me that if that was the case it was unlikely that I would find it.. intact at least. I had to take the chance.

I retraced my whole journey, all the time praying it hadn't slipped away in one of the 2 trains, which basically meant I would never set eyes on it again. And all the way back, I made bargains with God hoping for it's safe return to me. With my eyes peeled looking for the black surukku pai (teeny drawstring purse) in which I kept the phone, I was almost home. And yet, no phone. I was a bit heart-broken. It was new, the phone. As I was almost home anyways, I decided to go in to get a drink... Having given up hope, I walked in quite desolately, when it caught my eye, the black surukku pai, on the dresser, from where I'd forgotten to take it. Thank God!

January 13, 2009

The good jitters

Sometimes being nervous can be a good sign.. And it's almost always the case with me when there's going to be something that matters a bit to me. Many of you may have experienced the feeling too. That tingle just as you are going to take your seat before an exam, the slight breathlessness as you are introduced for a talk that you are going to be giving, the barely noticeable oxygen debt in your brain as you are called in for the interview. I've termed this the good jitters. They bode good. And usually this is a sign when you are usually well prepared and fate just has to take a normal course for you to reap it's benefits... unlike when Murphy steps in and disaster reigns. And most things end on a good note. And always have. Touch wood. I like them, the good jitters.

Slumdog Millionaire - A review

Spoiler Alert: Duh, of course there are spoilers.

The movie released only yesterday here and that too it was 'Avant Premiére', meaning that it would release in the WHOLE of Paris on ONE screen. And with the Golden Globes giving it all 4 awards that it was nominated for (Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Original Soundtrack), the expectations were sky high. And the French folk turned out in high numbers to catch the movie, even if with subtitles. So, expectedly without reserving ahead, we were left ticket-less (5 of us sincere movie buffs). We are holders of the UGC Illimite, which is a card that at a given rate entitles you to watch infinite movies in a month in all the finest cinemas. The only catch is that you can only book tickets one hour ahead of the show you want to attend. And that's not even a 'catch'. Most movies are ee-ootifying (pretty vacant). But Slumdog, at 6:30pm, for an 8:00pm show was sold out. Our movie maniac friend, SA told us that they would 'release' the unclaimed reserved tickets out at 7:50pm. So judiciously we sent ahead another friend to hold 5 seats in case we got tickets. To make a long story short, with a stroke of unexpected luck, we all landed tickets and seats right next to each other in prime location.

Until a day ago, I had no idea that the movie was based in India, nor that it was based on KBC.. nor that they spoke a whole lot of Hindi in it. I checked out IMDB for a review and read the blurb there and was amazed at the original story. In one line, it's just this: The story of a poor slum guy who enters KBC and wins 10 million without effort and is suspected to cheating to get to that standpoint. Why he enters it, how he knows the answer to all those questions forms the core of the plot. What it's not is a 'rags to riches ' story. At it's core, the movie is a love story. It is about how Jamal Malik, a slumdog believes that he is meant to be with Latika, another slumdog, the girl of his dreams and how he yearns for her even after losing her time and again and how he believes that destiny wants him to get together with her. Seldom has such an authentic Indian movie been made, especially by a Western director. The movie is based in the slum suburb of modern Mumbai, Dharavi and every aspect has been shown as is... the crazed fanatism for Bollywood, the life at the slum, the gore inflicted by the money launderers who send out children for begging, parts of the gangster world and what not. What gets you is the way that the story has been narrated. The cinematographer and the director truly deserve a standing ovation. And our Rahman... oh Rahman.. what music! Normally in English movies, the music takes a back seat. Apparently Danny Boyle promised to give Rahman's music free reign only if he would please compose the music for the movie. And he kept his word. It's all Indian... right down to the song n dance sequence at the railway station in the end. There's not a single 'foreign' face. It's all India.. except that it's in English a bit and many of the kids in the movie are actually from slums. I loved the first 3 kids who played Jamal, Salim and Latika.. they were adorable.

Some scenes were gross, some disturbing and they were entirely meant to be. the gravity of the situation and the point of view could not be conveyed otherwise. And everything depicted there is 100% true and not the least bit exaggerated. The movie's gripping and the plot works only because it's based in India... it would'nt have stood a chance elsewhere. What was amazing was that the entire theatre was glued to their seats even after it was obvious that the movie was long over when the Bollywood song took over. It was that good and I am not exaggerating. This time the Oscar buzz rings true. And then there was applause when everything was over and the credits had almost finished running.

Jai Ho! - You gotta watch the movie to know what I am talking about.

January 12, 2009

AR Rahman does us proud again!!!

Yeaaaaaaaay!! ARR won the Golden Globe for 'Best original soundtrack in a Motion picture' for Slumdog Millionaire! Yoo hoo! And bcoz this is a sort of dress rehearsal for the Oscars, I am sure he'll win India the Academy Award at last! Bless you Rahman! Here's the youtube video of him winning -
Not just that, the India based movie, Slumdog Millionaire which rocked millions (review to appear on MindBlogging soon) won the Best Motion picture Award and Danny Boyle bagged the Best Director.

And on the others, Kate Winslet finally broke her jinx of being nominated 5-6 times and never having won. This time, she bagged it twice, Best Actress for 'Revolutionary Road' and Best Supporting Actress for 'The Reader' (this nomination was a bit of a cheat... but it really proved how bad the organizers wanted her to win.) and she did, both times! So, if this is any indication of the Oscars, Kate is about to break all the jinxes... Here's a complete list of winners - http://tv.msn.com/golden-globes/winners-list/?GT1=28013

Awaiting the Oscars!

January 10, 2009

Commitment freaks

Disclaimer: This blog was written at one stretch... If somethings don't make sense, it's okay because they probably aren't meant to. This is just me thinking aloud and as parallel thoughts explode, so does the breadth of the topic.

Recently I've been hearing about soo many of my friends stuck in 'dead-end relationships'. And I used to think "commitment issues" was a thing of the west. And restricted to men. But evidently in the Indian community there are no such restrictions. It seems to work both ways. And it bugs both sexes just the same. When I used to see Chandler on "Friends" or heard Niles tell Frasier to "commit to commitment", I found myself shaking my head disbelievingly. I used to think that it was funny that in the Western world that people dated all over the place, even had a physical relationship and still found saying the words "I love you" as a big step in the relationship. We Indians were different I thought. Needless to say, I don't agree with how the Indian marriages worked in the past where the parents alone met up and decided everything while the ones getting married had the least-valued opinions. Things have changed these days... a lot of them for the better. Even in the quintessential "arranged marriage", the girl and guy these days have a perfectly good acquaintance period before they decide on tying the knot. Of course, the concept of "arranged marriage" is unheard of outside India and a few of it's neighbours. And every new day seems to bring out horrific stories that I don't want to talk about. The only thing I'd like to say is that while "arranging" these marriages, people had better be pretty thorough researching personal backgrounds. However now, with a whole bunch of kids from the country now settled abroad and with India advancing the western way, a lot of youngsters these days find themselves in romantic relationships at a much younger age than ever before by Indian standards. I do not wish to talk about the romance of people under 21.. the typical college romance... the out-of-sight-out-of-mind variety. But this is about the more mature romance that comes a bit later in life.. when you have your career goals in sight, when you know what you want for your future and when you meet the 'right' person where everything clicks... or so you think. What if one side wants marriage while the other is just playing the field? Catastrophe. In most cases, these discussions come up sooner than later through the 'dating phase'. And all's well when both persons are on the same page... and is obviously not when they're not. And really, there do exist storybook romances where all's well that ends well. But this isn't about them or those Shakespearan romances... where the families reigned supreme and where movies got most of their plots. These days the issue lies with one of the 2 involved in the romance... for the want of different things. What then? The easier said than done thing to do would be to break it off and look for someone who wants the same things as you do. But very few people do it at the right time and healthily so that the 'friendship' if there was one can be salvaged. More often than not, a 'rejection' comes with tears, a broken heart and a lost friendship. And some other times, it's not even worth saving the friendship because of the fact that the basis was very flimsy... and in such cases the smartest thing to do would be to sever all ties and never look back and look ahead with no regrets whatsoever. Once again, easier said than done. What is it about a potential 'marriage' that seems to knock the brains off a normally very sane person? The changes involved? The lifetime clause? What?

Having been married for year now, I can proudly say that my life has undergone the minimal possible change that is associated with marriage. Yes, I did move continents.. but that was it. Yes, I had to leave behind a lot of near n dear friends... but I am in touch with them just the same. Otherwise, I find that living with my husband is like living with my best friend. And I mean that in the nicest way possible and yes of course there are added perks. But the bottom line is that we love spending time together, with friends or by ourselves, which is the basic reason that our lives have melded together and there is no big "lifetime" clause that haunts anything around us. Which is the reason we got married in the first place.

I think that though 'marriage' in itself projects a vast change on the upfront, the actual changes that happen in one's life are very gradual. They ease in and they are because of the choices that one makes by him/herself. And while many people seem to assume that they can't have 'fun' after marriage, I just think it shows their fear of commitment. They can smell that something is becoming big and they are afraid that they are going to lose their individuality... Like many of my numbered 'single' friends have the complaint that couples "we" things. There's not much of a "I'd love to come even though my husband's ill" or a "He's going bowling but I'd rather sit and chat with you". Rather it's more like "We'll join you all for hiking" or a "We have plans for Valentine's Day". Well, duh... That's sort of the concept. And while I think all couples should do their own non-coupley things once in a while, it is not out of the ordinary that more often than not they do a common thing. And the complaints are from the ones who are single alone, right? Once they get married, they start "we"-ing things too.

So what's the bottom line? Marriage isn't scary, especially if you've known the person for a while and like most things that you've seen thus far... It's like embarking on anything big in life... like deciding to go abroad to do your Masters... No one knows how these things turn out.. You just hope for the best and but your best foot forward. As with all big things, take the plunge and don't look back. Of course, make sure while taking the plunge, you are as sure as you can be that it's the right person. How do you know that? It's probably what got you thinking about marriage in the first place when you associated it with that person. And as Niles would say, commit to commitment. Period.

January 6, 2009

Cold feet

I wish it were for the poetic reason, in that I was scared about some major event in life. Unfortunately this time, it's literal. My feet feel frozen within the sneakers, within the woolen socks... Damn this office building!

The guide to navigate snow

I love it when it snows... Indeed I think my affinity for snow has carried it across the Atlantic into normally less-snowy Paris. The whole place looks like a black and white postcard where the only color that matters is white. Here are a couple of shots outside my window..

At the same time, I hate it when the snow melts... that's when it starts getting dangerous, slippery, dirty, cold and ugly, in no particular order. You don't survive 3 winters in Cincinnati and not know a thing or two about snow.. So, if it's your first snow or if you simply want tips on how to have a fall-free winter, read on..

1. Fancy shoes just don't work. Stick to good old sneakers with solid soles. Don't make the mistake of wearing sole pattern-free footwear.. they almost guarantee a slip.
2. Walk on fresh patches of snow. The lesser walked upon the path, the less likely one is to slip. the places where people have walked, the snow is often eroded to a murky slush which can be rather slippery if one is not careful.
3. Walk with chomp-chomp steps and not gliding ones. You needn't walk like a soldier on march-past drill.. but there is no need for large foot falls either. Closely spaced walking is safer.
4. Navigating slopes can be tricky if you are new to it... being a veteran resident of the Riddle Road Lookout Apartment (people in UC will be familiar with it's up-slope into the driveway and down-slope to the steps of the building). Keep firm steps and make sure that you are steady before you take the next step.

The rest is just practice. It does make perfect! Have a wonderful winter (or season), everyone!

January 5, 2009

And.. welcome back to school

My title's cheery... this post is not. Today's the worst weather that Paris has had in weeks/months. It's about -4°C and snowing continuously. There's a beautiful sheet of white outside my office window, which by the way won't hinge shut tight. Add to that the fact that this office is medieval and lacks a heating system means I am left with numb fingers, a numb nose tip, ears and cold cold feet. This, despite the fact that I am wearing 2 sweatshirts, one of them a hoodie. I just walked out my office into open air and I could feel no difference in the temperature... so go figure. Before I catch pneumonia or pneumonia catches me, I think it's a wise move to adjourn my work to the warm library.

What a 'warm' welcome back to school, to research, to work from a 29°C Madras. Hmph.

January 4, 2009

Comparitive review - Ghajini

Spoilers ahead

Well well... I got to seeing the much-awaited Ghajini (Aamir Khan's latest) and if you haven't seen the Tamil original, there's a lot to look forward to. Of course in one catch phrase, I'd call it a violent love story. Aamir of course looks like a million bucks... The first time he takes his shirt off to reveal his newly sculpted amazing 6 packs, it almost looks digitized. He can give those 300 men a run for their money, no questions asked. But other than that, the screenplay and everything else is straight off Murugadoss' original Tamil movie, featuring Surya, of the same name. In fact many of the actors have been kept the same, including Asin, the inspector, Riaz Khan and the blind uncle whom Asin helps cross the streets.

Having seen the original, I did expect a lot of improvements... and while there weren't a "lot", there were a few. Atleast the new movie has a reason why it is named Ghajini in the first place while that point is still unclear in the Tamil version... It almost seems like Aamir watched the original, liked almost everything about it and just had the director stitch the few loopholes to make a more seamless fabric. Asin was far better and her role, though the same, cuter in the Tamil movie. Here I had the feeling that she overacted a tad. However the reviews outside are glowing and it looks like she's set the right foot into Bollywood... good for her. Other than that, in my unsolicited opinion, I thought Surya was better for the role than Aamir was. Aamir is a more mature actor and is no longer set in any mould to carry off the chocolate-boy romancer in the singular romance part of the movie nor the obsessive grunting revenge man wielding an array of weapons. It felt like he's stuck in a bit of a limbo. I thought the role was made for Surya though and he was more convincing... However not to take anything off the stellar performance by Aamir. I doubt any one could've done as much justice to this role and looked the part of it and as has been mentioned everywhere, even with the lesser dialogues, his eyes speak volumes.

Other than that, I did think Nayanthara had overacted immensely in the Tamil version and I found that she crawled my nerves effortlessly and was glad to see Jiah Khan, both clothed and subdued in this one and it sort of took the focus off the overly meddlesome med student who couldn't keep her nose to herself. So I am glad for that. Also, importantly the climax and the crux of the story was a bit different in the Hindi version and I liked it better.. But it was also more brutal.. and all in all, the movie is not a feel-good one. Indeed the dull clunk of the iron bar ending lives of many in the movie has a haunting quality about it and I've found myself pinching my ears shut and watching through slitted eyes. Coming to the senstive issue, the music. Hey, I am big ARR fan and everyone knows that and by itself, I think this album is great, especially Guzarish... but maybe in comparison, I liked Harris Jeyaraj's score for the Tamil one, including the BG music and the songs. Maybe this is just like movies don't match their book originals...

I realize that this review must be extremely odd for the ones who haven't actually seen the Tamil version. So, to assuage your worries, I bet you will enjoy Aamir Khan in this movie and will certainly laud it as a good to Hindi cinema for the year 2008. Absolutely worth a watch..

January 1, 2009

A New Year's jinx

Well I was suddenly struck by this yesterday that having spent a lot of memorable occasions with my friends over the past few years, we've never spent a New Year's day or New Year's eve with one another. In fact SO and I were discussing it yesterday evening as well. Of course when we were traditionally home in India before moving out, we always spent the day with the family. And it didn't mean as much to spend it with friends... However even after moving out of the house for the 5th year now, I haven't spent this day with my friends (except for in 2007, I think).
2005 - I was in Dallas with my family over winter break at my brother's house.
2006 - India on vacation
2007 - I am vaguely unclear about this but I think the few of us who stuck around Cincinnati spent an uneventful day with one another
2008 - India again...
2009 - In Paris... but without any of my jingbang.

Somethings are just not meant to be I suppose. Maybe we'll make it a reunion sometime. Maybe. And uncharacteristically, this has made me melancholy (maybe added because I am just back from a fabulous India vacation). Happy New Year all!