March 31, 2009

Gay-ping signs

Today I spotted a guy wearing pink sneakers. Guess what the first thought was that snuck into my mind… “He’s gay??” And I was thoroughly irritated by that. I was being oddly judgmental. And why? Because from where I hail from, pink shoes/clothing on guys is alright… Guys could hug, put their arm over one another’s shoulders and just be best buds… And I’d spent what, three years in the US and I thought I could categorize people? And even when they were right in front of me, I couldn’t spot it (read this post). I think the first ‘sign’ that became synonymous with being gay (in India), was a guy wearing an earring on his right ear-lobe (George Michael). What a loser theory! Then came the pink clothing – shirts, shoes, you name it… but I think it’s an American theory. Because here in Europe, guys wear pink a lot of the time… the really thin ones wear skinny jeans too… the runners all over the city are in tights and none of that means anything. But here’s the whole catch… why does one need to know anything? What’s with the stereotyping… and the labeling? Who cares? What difference does it make to anyone personally? Nothing. Like many other things… I think this is a preoccupation for the curious, perhaps, gawking is a reason to differentiate.. to make out any obvious patterns. But you know what everyone needs to do? Live and let live.

The joy in spontaneity

There is some true joy in being spontaneous. In fact one of the unadulterated joys in life is in giving spontaneous gifts to loved ones. And anything spontaneous as long as it isn’t life altering always leads to happiness… a trip.. a sudden shopping spree…a call to a long-lost friend… to name a few off the top of my head. It gives you that sudden surge of adrenaline and has you bursting with joy for the rest of the day at least. And then you feel like you slept with a hanger on your mouth – smiling all day. And these days make it worth existing past some of the horrendous ones that are bound to show by every now and then.

So on this Fool’s Day, do something silly. Make it one of those days you wanna think about to get past the terrible ones. Make it count! (And if you need inspirations, I’ll tell you about my most memorable Fool’s Day trick where I pretended to have a fracture in my arm on an English final exam in the VIII grade). Happy April Fool’s Day!

March 26, 2009

Oodles of Noodles

Pretty basic… easy to make and one of S’s favorites. It was a simple choice tonight… when I had no energy to make anything exotic. As always, I tossed in whatever I found. Featured here, the noodles has green beans, spring onions, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and peas. And it’s seasoned with garlic and provençal herbs. Bon Appétit!

Mirror mirror on the wall...

From time immemorial the common folk have been obsessed with seeing the future... what it holds for them, what they can expect and if they need to be prepared for adversities. Hailing from India, the land in which astrology still flourishes, I have seen a very large variety of means by which one's future is told. There are the traditional horoscopes of course, which are to this day a deciding factor in wedding matches. Then there are face-reading, palm-reading, sole-reading, tarot cards, parrot fortune (kili josiyam - for the unfamiliar, this is where a parrot picks a card from many which holds the key to your future), vaasthu, tantriks, psychics, and God-men just to name a few other. In a land with over a billion people, with faith factor from a very large chunk of the population it is not surprising that the "industry" is a flourishing one. But it's not restricted to India, of course. Astrology (zodiac, sunsigns, blah) has it's roots in so many cultures that there are billions of believers across the world.

What is it about unlocking the future that is so fascinating to billions? Sure if it were a proven Science, many would jump the bandwagon. But that's what baffling. There is absolutely no foolproof technique to tell anything in the future from any of the above-mentioned means. The stars... your face, the lines on your palm... they are not text that is read the same way by everyone. And there is not a single proven Clairvoyant person to date. Take Nostrodamus for example. He was revered... but he wasn't as right as many believe. Also, take horoscope-matching in India, for example. Before a potential wedding, the horoscopes (birth charts - positions of stars during the birth of the person) of the bride and groom are "matched" by astrologers. I would be inclined to "believe" in all of this the least bit if any 2 astrologers came up with the same level/ percentage of matching. But guess what? Every astrologer you go to gives you a different picture. Indeed so many matches have been skirted past because either the bride's side astrologer or the groom's side has words of caution for them regarding the catastrophe ahead should the match go through (In India, a potential match maybe predicted to not just wreck the marriage, but sometimes adversely affect the health of someone in the family, all the way to death, even). Some say the couple will live happily ever after, some others say that the match is doomed. So, who are you to believe? And even if you "believed" one and went on with the match/or not and things didn't happen as predicted (big surprise), does that make the other astrologer right? I bet he would have had failings of his own. People should at the most stick to horoscope-matching as a means to filter out the many many proposals that they are likely to get for their son/daughter. It cannot be mistaken to be a "sure" thing. Which is why as a person of Science, I choose not to believe. I am sure all of these factors, the stars, the lines, blah, control some small/vague/undefined strings in the grand scheme of things as we Marionette our way through our lives... but till we know how much or how little, there is little solace in believing in a pseudoscience. Astrology doesn't stop with predicting your life together with your partner... it can tell you the kind of wealth/health you can expect, how many kids you'll have and practically everything you care to know. Surely, out of sheer chance, some of these "predictions" turn out true, sort of akin to "vibes" that even non-psychic people may have... but none of this proves anything.

I guess if it was just a prediction you'd hear and still go by your life with not too many changes, it's still okay. It's shocking to see that the most educated of the lot are also sometimes the most stupid. Take the Mumbai businessman-Tantrik story (read it here) - how twisted would one have to be to want prosperity (as if!) at such a cost? While one can be absolved for using astrological predictions as a guideline to maybe change some things in their lifestyle for the better, it should not be misconstrued to be a sureshot thing. It cannot be mistaken to be a Science. Many things in life are unpredictable... which is what makes it exciting and worth living. Imagine if everything were laid out for you in the form of "sure" predictions. How boring would it be to fulfill such a life? Some things are best left unknown. Period.

March 25, 2009

Feeling hot hot hot…

Thanks to all of you who offered tips/suggestions to appease the terrible stinging. Something worked!

Well well well… wish it were as steamy as it sounds. Quite the contrary! I had the misfortune of slipping in my teensy kitchen on a piece of plastic wrap, whilst going to add red chilly powder to my paruppu usili. That meant that the jar was open and in the process of my fall, all of the powder spilt on my chin, my clothes, my arms, etc. Luckily, my eyes were saved. I was quick to jump to my feet and rapidly brush everything away. Or so I thought. But did you know that it can really sting? And that it spreads slowly as a subdued burning sensation? And that a shower just sorta feeds the burn? Indeed I felt the burning more after the shower than before. The only thing that the shower ensures is that nothing is physically sticking on to your skin, I suppose (unless it gets into your pores or something). With my skin burning in patches, huffing and puffing, I was all ready to get doused in an ice-bath.. but I got tips from many friends - from applying ghee/baby oil on it to patting buttermilk on it and I tried them all. Either one of them worked or it just gradually subsided. What a relief! I think the worst area was my chin… maybe coz it caught the most of the powder. But it had that exact feeling that you get on your upper lip after having something very spicy and then drinking chai (remember how chai/coke feeds a stinging burn on the tongue after something spicy?) To add to it, the fall ended up splitting a finger a bit and getting chilly on it. Fewer things burn more… I can say that with conviction and a cold water splash never felt better. Band-aided and burn-free, I am finally at peace… enough to blog about it in any case.

The restless mind

Abdul Kalaam: A dream is not what you see in sleep. A dream is what does not let you sleep.

However I am talking about the kind of mental unrest that results from some form of unfinished business. An unfinished task at work… an unfinished conversation with someone… the unfinished book… all of these are potential causes for a restless mind. And someone like me is pretty deeply affected by it. I can’t even break a book at a very interesting point without going a bit further and leaving it at a point where I can make peace with it and get a night’s rest. As weird as I am, if I leave some work behind, it haunts me in my dreams. I am a dreamer. I have dreams almost every night and I can remember most of it in the morning, color and all. I remember the time when we were learning Calculus in School. Every night, a different mathematical expression would present itself to my sleeping brain, which would then tirelessly perform continuous integrations and differentiations, whatever the case maybe on it till I got up exhausted, not having gotten a wink of actual sleep.

I think the real reason that such things affect people like me is that there is no closure in those situations. Even in the smallest of things. There is no conclusion to a certain thing which leaves a lot to the imagination. And having had no lack of that, it leaves me completely at unrest. A lot of them these days, turn into blogs as you regulars must be reading. But some others haunt me till I can ‘complete’ it. The different possibilities till one real ending are boundless. The end of a book… the settlement of an argument… the completion of a task at hand and so on are my closure elements. And I need them. They give me the sense of fulfillment and I need it for my sanity as vague and weird as it may sound. And if I am denied of the closure, it robs the pleasure of the whole thing. I know people for whom it doesn’t matter. It’s just a book/movie… who cares who won… can we not discuss it at all? Nope… doesn’t work for me. Which is one of the reasons that in all of my blogs for example, I need a closing statement. Something that effectively concludes a discussion. Ever noticed? This is your chance.

March 24, 2009

Makeup to go

Having lived abroad for quite a while now, I can vouch for the fact that personal appearances do make a big part of the whole first impression deal. I mean, you could be smart and everything on the inside and stuff, but you've got to be presentable on the outside. In India, this just meant that you didn't look haggard... your hair was in place.. your clothes neat... you didn't have spinach on your teeth and you were just about set. But in the US and France it's a whole level upward. In the US, I observed how almost all the women carried a huge backpack/handbag which had their workday essentials and a tiny teensy purse/tote that consisted of their makeup. I found it extremely odd that they couldn't bother to put the small one into the big one and just carry one thing at a time... but would rather choose to carry this dainty tote alongside a massive one. And this seemed 'unfair' when I used to dress in the dark for my 7:30 am ECSS shifts in UC by not turning the lights on hoping not disturb my sleeping roommates. Indeed I think I've gone days without bothering about my reflection. After I became a "working woman", I started caring a bit more... but just enough to look put-together.

Here in France, women carry just one huge handbag which presumably has everything in it. But here's the twist. Many many of them wear their makeup in public. On trains... in buses, no matter where... no sooner than they find a reflecting surface (or have a place to sit to hold up their compact), they go at it. And not just something simple like powder/compact/blush, but even the hard stuff like mascara and eye liner. France is a country of mascara. If you wanna blend right in, coat your lashes with oodles of the stuff but tastefully and you're set. And practically no one looks unkempt. I think what's striking is that these people who wear their makeup on the go have absolutely no qualms in peering at themselves from various angles to check their makeup, fully aware of the fact that gazillions around them are just staring at them for the lack of anything better to do (especially when the train goes underground and there's nothing to see on the outside). Not that this deters them in the least. I suppose they'd rather show up to the people they know, all well-madeup than bother about the strangers on the journey who aren't going to remember them anyways. In some weird way, it all makes sense. Each one to herself.

March 23, 2009

Gracefully yours...

Grace is very underrated, if you ask me. And it's one of those things you don't appreciate when it's there but truly notice only when it's lacking. Take the discourteous stranger who doesn't so much as spare a 'thank you' glance after you've held the door open for him/her... the restaurant that charges you for a dish that can best be described as 'inedible' even after it was returned... the person who takes what you offered once, for granted all the time... we are surrounded by a world that's fast falling out of grace. Blame about half of it on the pace at which the world is moving at.. People are always in a hurry... no body pauses to appreciate the moment and everyone is caught up with something or the other, making them lack in basic courtesy, unknowingly or not. The other half can only be labeled 'uncouthness' for the lack of basic etiquette.

How do we deal with it? While being graceful in every such scenario seems to be the ideal retort, more often than not, it's not possible in every occasion... especially when you're someone impatient... someone like me. The result is an explosion of words - to the offender or an unfortunate companion complaining about the offender, an avalanche that would've best been avoided. Still others prefer to reflect what they get... you're discourteous to me.. watch me reflect you... And when it's a passing environment, you end up being unnecessarily rude to someone who had nothing to do with you in the first place. So, neither is a great solution. It leads to further unpleasantness in any case, which is exactly what we don't want. Maybe the Gandhian-Munnabhai philosophy of being nice no matter what will ultimately work... sort of like the "spread the joy" air. You're nice to one person, who might be motivated to be nice to another and so on till it finally comes back to you. Who's to tell? Lemme start right here... Have a fabulous day ahead! :D

March 22, 2009

Anytime pasta

Once in a while when I am too bored to think of anything creative or long-drawn to make, I end up making some pasta. Funnily though, S isn’t a big fan of pasta at home (particularly ‘coz I am a miser with cheese) and so I usually have to save it up for occasions when he isn’t around. With cricket season starting today, it was the perfect idea for brunch. And so I just tossed in a bit of whatever I could find – in this case it was spring onion (bulb and leaf), carrots, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes (my absolute favorite). I seasoned it with some Provençal herbs and salt n pepper. And voilà, quick, easy and tasty… a hard combo to resist. Bon Appétit!
PS: Happy Birthday SM :)

March 20, 2009


Kaliyug: The age of vice according to Hindu mythology. And we are currently living in it.

I wish it were just a fancy Hindi movie. Unfortunately, I am referring to the times we live in… and particularly the Matrimonial not-so-blissful experiences that I’ve seen people and heard of people endure through the whole matchmaking and way past it as well.

Idhelaam enga kaalathila nadandhirkave nadandhirkaadhu (None of this would’ve happened in our day)My Paati (grandma) sagely says. And while I wish a smart response sprung to my lips, I know what she’s saying is true. And it’s probably because many women in the old ages in India at least, were cowed down by the more dominant men-of-the-times. Under-educated and wholly dependent on the husband as the bread-winner, with their lives entirely revolved around him and the kids. It became a management game of meeting ends and putting food on the table and taking care of the children’s needs and so little else encompassed their lives. I speak for the majority and as with everything there have been exceptions to every example. But coming to the crux of this discussion, these days I hear of so many weird stories in the whole matrimonial dance which are shocking to me, to start with. And hence I can’t even begin to comprehend what the older generation thinks of it. Of course I am a tad conventional in all this… and so hearing about these incidents truly rattles me. Married with kids abroad, but yet in the matrimonial pool gutless to expose the truth… Gay but marrying for the sake of society… Illicit lover abroad… marrying for a visa into another country.. I’ve heard it all, read it all in the news and elsewhere. Or so I think. Each brand new day reveals more of the adulterous side to the human nature. More deceptions… more heartbreaks and ultimately more match-breakdowns. Erstwhile, ours was a culture that prided itself on having some of the lowest divorce rates in the world. To hear the older generation quote it, “In our day, divorce was not an option”. Well, the complexion of that claim sure has changed these days.

With the already hard arranged marriage scenario, one has to now contend with the extra degrees of freedom thrown into the equation. How then does one know that they are doing the right thing? Here’s the catch – you don’t. It’s what everyone will tell you. Go with your gut… and hopefully if it’s led you along the right path, it will in this accord too. And if it didn’t? There’s always more hope out there… try and get out unscathed or at least with minimal damage. As always, easier said than done. But that’s how it is in Kaliyug and we’ve got to deal with it.

March 18, 2009

Magical Touch

Being in touch is a magical thing… not so much with modern-day technology, you may think. But seeing examples in my own present, I have realized that no matter how easy it is to keep in touch with people, it is just as easy not to. Everyone may have all the necessary access that goes into filling the gaps, phones, emails and such, but you need two hands to clap. It struck me that there are some people no matter how long after you communicate, you can still pick it up exactly where you left off. And those are the truly blessed friendships. On the other hand some others need to be fuelled regularly for the fire to burn on… and if you miss some fueling sessions, the steam is lost. In other words, it may take a while to get it back on track. It’s sort of like watching a tele-series (not Indian ones), where if you miss some episodes, you’re a bit lost for a while before you catch on. And then there are those people… long lost patterns in the fabric of life, who surface ever-so-often in the most unexpected ways. And if this is someone who really meant something, there’s great joy in meeting them. However through practical experiences, I have realized that it’s hardest to deal with people who you were '”ok-friends” with, not-too-close and none-too-far. The latter can be easily glazed over… the good friends easily patched.. the one’s in between, in limbo. There’s something to talk about for exactly 5 minutes before you’ve run out. Pretty unfortunate… but neither of you is in the same place that you left off… And of course you will remain to be the distant friends that you were/are. And then there are so many of us, the words “Keep in touch” rolling off our tongues, many times when we don’t mean it. Little do we realize at that instant that a lot of magic has to go in to actually keep in touch.

Even as I leave you to ponder this… I’ll be in touch. :)

March 17, 2009

The art of letting go

We've all heard about this.. hell we've all contended with this at some point of time or the other with something/someone or the other. The way we react to some things or people is a chemical reaction that has nothing to do with the way you would like to react. And more often than not, the two don't match. You don't want to like someone but you do. You don't want to be bothered by something but it gets to you. But at some point or the other, we've got to learn to let go. That's the only way to remain sane and oh-oh cliché, move on. We'd all like to believe that we are supremely above the influence and that we don't get affected by such silly matters... but the bare facts are that everyone's bothered by someone and no one can wear the skin of 'not-caring' that convincingly. It's almost always a work in progress.

While I pride myself on not dwelling at something too much... yesterday something happened that made me realize that you can try and try and try to be nice to someone but it may not necessarily yield to anything from their end. And for no apparent fault of yours in the first place. In such cases, a devil-may-care attitude works best... but I was unnaturally bugged. The funny part was that I never expected any more or any less from the whole experience.. but the fact that the end result matched my own measly expectations bugged me. And I fumed on for a while before I realized that this was what I needed to let go. To get to actually not caring from pretending not to. In every such case, there is that one point where the attempt snaps and contempt is born. I had reached mine. And you know it when it happens. It's very tangible. Sometimes, you just have to let go for the better things to surface around you.

March 16, 2009

Street view

Call me slow.. but I only just discovered Google's Street view functionality in Google Maps. For cave persons like me, who haven't heard of it, its a feature available on certain locations which gives you a view of the street in terms of a photograph. So what's cool is that through a sequence of pictures, you can move up/down a street and turn 360°C to see buildings, stores and what not. Though it's a bunch of stills, it's like the oldest animation trick in the world, the movement of frames and pictures gives an illusion of you moving as well. I just checked out the amazing resolution in my Paris home. It of course led to the inevitable. I checked out every address I lived in. I particularly delighted in checking out UC and going up and down from Riddle Road to ERC... my most dedicated route. It was pure nostalgia.. and with every turn I took, I remembered the 2.5 glorious years I spent there.. the friends I made, the experiences I endured. And they left a huge smile on my face. Next on the nostalgia track, I waded through the ghostly empty streets of Ames, retracing my favorite joints, the cinema that this blog witnessed as the maximum movie reviews and finally to San Diego, the last of my US stay.... the long walk from Regents to Gennessee every morning... such an overdose of nostalgia... and really worth every bit of it. You should check it out too... just go to Google Maps and enter the address you want to see and when it finds it, click on the red bubble in red on the left pane and when it finds the location on the right, in the ensuing bubble, see if you can find the 'Street View' link. And have a blast! Find familiar places, famous monuments and what not...

Laugh-out-Lungs moments

Sure, we've all had our "LOL" moments (the Laugh-out-loud ones). That's when you just give something more than a forced chuckle and when you literally just laugh about something for a second. But I bet everyone's had this second kind of LOL too.. the laughing out your lungs variety. Rarer than it's namesake, this is when you are laughing sooo hard at something that you are left gasping for breath, with tears streaming down your eyes and a clench in your tummy... all of which are pretty bad symptoms on any other day - but not this time. I've had quite a few of these... but some just stand out more distinctively than the others, you know... and the best part is that I can still laugh like a maniac when I recollect these incidents.

I remember when back in undergrad, KG and I were on one of our marathon though-we-spent-the-day-in-college-together-we-still-have-stuff-to-talk-about phone sessions. And we were discussing a friend and one of us said something and immediately the same mental picture stole into both our minds and we couldn't stop laughing. We gasped, panted, howled and resumed laughing... so much so that we had to hang up - to laugh.

At UC, I remember once when PT was trying to do her Swades uncle (the one with hoarse voice - some village head dude) voice which she usually did well. But for some reason, she just wasn't getting it. Instead her already-big eyes were widening even more and she was clearing her throat over n over and we rolled on the floor laughed like crazy, she and me. In fact when we got home that night, we hunted down the Swades DVD for her to recollect the voice and the dialogue so she could do it right. Hilarious!

Similarly, last night we heard some random Tamil News on one of our free channels here.. and one phrase stuck to us - The newsreader was quoting someone calling Sonia Gandhi as a "podavai kattina Mussolini" (sari-clad Mussolini). S and I looked at each other the same split second and burst out laughing. And it last quite a bit.

Even while writing this post, I 've burst out laughing in an empty room three times over... all these memories are soo fresh and untouched that I can relive them as I want. And like so many other things, you'd have to have been there to enjoy it. I bet everyone has their own laugh-like-a-fool moments. And it's a collection of these moments and some others that holds soo many other memories good enough for us to cherish and recollect at will. Totally worth it.

March 14, 2009

Starved for Sub..

Unbelievable, isn’t it? Especially for you US junta.. it must come as a shock that indeed S and I had a loud and insurmountable Subway craving and went all the way to Paris mid-morning to get a Sub each. And only when the familiar taste of the Southwest Chipotle trickled down my taste buds did the craving slowly get quenched. It must sound awfully funny to most of you people, especially when I was one of you guys who’d taken Subway for granted. With it being the most common source of food during the student days in UC, I barely thought I would go out hunting for it. Especially when back at UC, Subway was one of the more “expensive” alternatives or at least a wholesome meal. Here, it’s by far the cheapest that we can find. And, on that count at least there’s a few Subways strewn across Paris with more being planned to spring up. I sorely miss Chipotle on the other hand. Being a huge fan of Mexican food means that the Chipotle craving gets the better of me sometimes. And those are the days that I make my own Burrito Bol. Something’s better than nothing, right? The things one has to do to appease the taste buds. Slurp!

March 11, 2009

When my GMail crashed...

You never know how much you depend on something till you lose it. My GMail Inbox for example... I knew I was pretty addicted to being on GChat and so did so many of you considering the amount of time I am seen online... But I didn't know how much I needed it till today. This morning, for some reason I couldn't access my Inbox and it drove me crazy. It wasn't enough that I could log on to GTalk or Meebo. It was more that there were 9 unread messages and I was enraged that I couldn't access my mailbox. So much so that I had my password reset and sent to my secondary email ID (which had shut down by the way), reactivated that account, then received the password reset mail and then reset my password and still to my chagrin, could not get on GMail. And then, while I filled their lengthy account recovery form, miraculously I was able to log on to Orkut and Blogger (both of which had failed in the morning) and soon my own sweet Inbox.

If this is true of something as "trivial" as an email Inbox, it makes you wonder if you sometimes take the people in your life for granted, doesn't it? Sometimes it is entirely true that you don't value the people constantly in your life for their worth. Only when you stand to lose them does their true value surface and if you are smart, you can salvage it and if you're not, you lose them forever. It's just the way that people often are sweet and kind to perfect strangers whereas they choose to show their true temperamant to the ones they love the most and vice versa. I am not saying you needn't be kind to strangers... of course you should be. But what I am saying is that while being brusque with the loved ones is a luxury, it shouldn't settle into comfort for they are the ones that cherish you and last in your life.

Who knew a GMail Inbox issue could trigger such a thought process? I didn't. As always, I have read into the small things and come up with a life-size analogy. Forgive me.

March 10, 2009

Much ado about nothing

Yesterday, I was generally publicizing my blog to my newly web-savvy aunt. She asked me what my blog was about. The most simplistic of questions, yet the most complex when it came to answering it. The answer "nothing" sprang to my lips immediately (figuratively speaking, of course) for in reality it would rather have to be my fingers as we were GChatting. But my answer didn't sound good.

What's the blog about? It's not about anything. What sort of publicity line was that? And why or how would it ever sell? On the other hand, MindBlogging is about everything. Everything I am concerned with in any case... be it day-to-day or thought-to-thought. And then it struck me that it definitely wasn't easy to find the fine line between not sharing anything too personal while being entertaining and ultimately just talking about my own life or thoughts with the exception of now-common food blogs sprayed through the other posts. That's the thing about personal blogs I suppose. While food blogs, movie blogs, investment blogs and the whole world of other generic blogs out there probably have a steady stream of regulars, it's harder to retain interest in a personal blog.

So, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my regular readers. I hope it's half as entertaining for you to read as it is for me to write it. Keep visiting!

March 9, 2009

Malabar-style parathas

Ok by that I mean the layered parathas… something like the frozen Deeps brand parathas. For the uninitiated, parathas are amongst the most popular Indian flat-bread variety and are omnipresent on the menus of Indian restaurants. For a while now, I seemed to be making only chapathis or theplas. So I thought it would make a nice change to make parathas instead. And soon I was tempted into trying the round layered variety, typical of the restaurants and so I set about making it…
Wheat flour (atta)2 cups
Saltto taste
Sugar1 tsp
WaterWarm – 1/2 – 3/4 cup
Oilas required
1. Mix the salt and sugar into the flour and knead into a smooth, slightly-sticky dough by adding all of the milk and the required amount of water. Knead for at least 4-5 minutes till there are absolutely no lumps whatsoever and it reaches uniform consistency (it should be like chapathi consistency).
2. Cover with a damp wet cloth and set aside for 10 minutes. This is for the dough to soak in all it’s moisture and get ready.
3. Take dough roughly the size of a large lemon or a mid-size tomato (more than you would for chapathi) and using a rolling-pin, spread it into a mid-sized chapathi of sorts. Meanwhile place an iron skillet on medium-high to cook your parathas.
4. Pour 1/2 tsp of oil in the center of the chapathi and spread it all over the surface with the tips of your fingers.
5. Fold the chapathi making it a “fan'” of sorts as shown in the Picture A. What you should be doing here is folding the oiled part into itself while keeping the dry bottom of the chapathi on the outside.
paratha1 6. Now pinch one end of this long folded chapathi and make into a spiral as shown in Picture B.
7. Flatten it on either side and make it ready to be rolled again. Look at Picture C.
8. Roll out again like a chapathi. This remains surprisingly dry for the oil has all blended into the layers that you have just created. Look at the faint spiral visible in Picture D.
9. Put this dough on the hot skillet and add a 1/2 tsp of oil around its sides and spread it all over the paratha as it cooks. Holding your ladles or a cup on the paratha cooks it evenly and browns it evenly as well.
Tip:Alternately, you can choose to freeze your own parathas at this stage when they are rolled out and ready to cook. This is a big time-saver for those time-crunch days .
10. Cook on both sides till browned evenly and voilà, there’s your layer paratha… the layers come up as you cook the paratha and even more as you eat it. You can choose to add a drop of butter on top and spread it for a richer taste. But for the health-conscious, stop right here!
Serve with curd/subji or dal for a sumptuous meal. Pictured here with tadka dal and onions. Enjoy!
Bon Appétit!

March 8, 2009

A true chocoholic

I am a chocoholic if you ever met one. If you give me anything in chocolate, I am likely to like it. From chocolate hot drinks to mousse to ice cream to the basic thing itself, the chocolate. I am also a connoisseur of chocolate and so it follows that I have a specific pattern in eating chocolate. I don’t rush it at all. It is something that has to be absolutely savored. Most of you are probably familiar with Toblerone. It’s one of my favorites. This is the triangular chocolate for the unfamiliar few. And the way I eat it is to slowly let it melt in my fingers while eating the tiniest bites and then finally licking it off each of my fingers. Absolutely gross to the ones watching me but absolutely divine for me myself. If you want to, you can try it when no one’s around. Similarly I am a big Ferrero Rocher fan… this is the golden wrapped chocolate sitting in it’s own muffin cup. And I have rules about eating a Ferrero. First you have to savor the outer nutty chocolate covering… the wafer shell and then the darker thick chocolate swirl and finally the elusive nut inside. And there’s no two ways about it. And you have to spend like a minute eating it. Imagine my indignation then when S just took 4-5 and gobbled them in the span I had barely unwrapped my one and admired it’s perfection. Some people just don’t get it, do they?

March 7, 2009

I heart Animals

For as long as I can remember, I have been a friend of the Animal Kingdom. Right from feeding a day old Kuttan, the cat we found in Vrandavan, to the hag kitty in Kuwait to the recent-most Kittadhri in Ames, I have had the biggest soft corner for all animals, though sounds more like just cats. But truly, we've had our share of pets, my brother and I... the first actual ones, Meenu n Cheenu, our pet fish in Kuwait and then Pintoo, our parrot in Ghatkoper. And while we lived in Kuwait, our neighbour-kid Ritchie who lived opposite our house would bring home all these exotic pets, a duckling we had the best time playing with, a rabbit that waddled into our house ever-so-often and even a woodpecker. All of these incidents and the fact that we at home are strict vegetarians instilled a deep love and respect for all animals in me from when I was a kid.

And so some of the very first encyclopedias I got were Animal Encyclopedias. And long before other kids even knew they existed, I'd read all about Ocelots, Meerkats and Gila monsters and what not. And add to that, we soon had Animal Planet and everything and the fascination grew. I have been a big fan of zoos. And the Singapore zoo and Night Safari were amongst the most amazing experiences I've had.

I guess the purpose of this post is not to express my unsolicited love for animals. It's sort of the answer to many people's questions as to why I am not non-vegetarian. Is it purely cultural or is it religious or is it choice? At this stage of life, it's choice of course. But the fact of the matter is that I have never ever been tempted to even try anything non-vegetarian. And what I don't get is that when it doesn't bother me at all, why it would bother anyone else. And to every person who is non-vegetarian, I'd like to talk to you all after you've seen Earthlings. For the same reason, I cannot imagine buying any other animal products - fur, leather, ivory and what not. And no, I don't own a single leather article myself and yes, I am trying to influence others around me. And when faux leather looks just as good (though it may not feel as good), I cannot imagine why you would have to buy "the real thing". Finally, it's everyone's personal choice. And I know I've made mine. I heart animals.

Healthy veggie bean burgers

S is a big big fan of veggie burgers and hence it was inevitable that my experimentation in the kitchen would pave way to this one sooner than later. The idea struck me because it was the weekend. And customarily we go out as a gang and end up having dinner outside… and invariably, S seeks out a veggie burger for his meal. And so I thought it would be a fair idea to give it a try. If it failed, I always had the dinner outside to fall back on. I was pleasantly surprised that not only did I not fail, but it was the best veggie burger I’d ever had (almost as good as Chilis in the US, which is saying something) and definitely way better than what we normally get outside. (Note: Evidently I had a lot of time on my hands for I sat and fashioned the little flag on the toothpick… lol)
Mouthwatering? Enough to try at least? So, here’s how -
1. Burger buns (buy outside – hehe)
2. Veggies – use your imagination! I’ve used lettuce, onions – 1 small, finely chopped and 1 large, cut and broken in rings, garden mushrooms –use Portobello if you get it. I couldn’t find any and so settled for the garden variety – 2 nos, Green chillis – 2 nos, finely chopped
3. Oil – 2 tsp and salt-to-taste
4. Kidney beans – 1 can, washed very well
5. Almonds – 6, finely chopped
6. Corn flour/All-purpose flour – 2 tsp
For the patty
1. Cut fine slices of the 2 mushrooms to be roasted separately. You will be left with the last bits which don’t make big-enough slices and the stalk of sorts. Chop these fine and add to the chopped onion and green chillis. Lightly fry the 3 in a spoon of oil till the onions turn translucent and lightly brown. Set aside. Roast the sliced mushrooms on the gas or bake them in the oven. (You can also fry them in negligible amount of oil and set them aside).
2. Meanwhile, put the chopped almonds in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for 3-4 minutes.
3. Drain the excess water from the washed kidney beans and add them to a large bowl. Mash them using a masher or the back of a ladle to make them semi-crushed yet not-too-pasty.
4. Once the onion-mushroom-green chillis cool down, add to the bowl along with the roasted almonds and knead well with your fingers.
5. Add salt and the corn flour to it and mix well.
6. Spread a plastic wrap on a plate. Take some of the patty mixture and shape it into a round patty of decent thickness using your hands and place on the plastic sheet. This makes it easy to remove without sticking for the frying later on. You should have something that looks like this -
7. Heat an iron skillet on medium-high for 3-4 min and cook the patty on it for 2-3 minutes on each side. Take care not to break the patty while flipping it. Alternately, if you have an oven, you can just bake it in it (be sure to brush your patty with oil on both sides).
8. Meanwhile, toast the burger buns on a toaster.
1. Add whatever veggies you think would be appropriate. I put a slice of lettuce, 2 rings of onion, 2 slices of mushroom on the bottom bread and then the patty and then another slice of onion.
2. Serve with chips/fries/ or good old ketchup if you wanna be all healthy.
Why is this burger healthy?
1. It’s a bean-based burger and it’s rich in protein.
2. You know how much oil you used and that’s way lesser than the deep-fryers at the stores!
3. No fries/chips… you save a tonne of calories right there!
And finally, Bon Appétit!
PS: The feather on my chef’s cap is that S absolutely loved them!
And what’s more, you can easily make a batch of patties and freeze them for later. Go burgers!

March 6, 2009

The lucky ones

You know what I’ve envied the most in a person? It’s something infinitely elementary… it is ability of some people to sleep immediately. And of course as with everything, you only envy what you do not have. I do not have the capability to sleep immediately. No matter how tired I am… how long I’ve been up, I have to spend close to 30 minutes every night finding my “position”. I toss and turn in vain to find that one position which gives me the comfort required to drift into my dreams. And if all this drama is not enough, I am a terribly light sleeper too. If someone so much as breathes very hard next to me, I can get up. Of course it’s an acquired trait and so if I know that people are likely to snore, I try to block that out before I sleep so that I am mentally prepared for what’s to come. Sounds weird, I know. And to top it all, I can hear sounds in the ultrasonic frequency, so-to-speak. The sound of a tap dripping in the farthest of locations… the sound of a door shutting two floors above and what not. Add to that the very colorful and vivid dreams I experience night in and night out, you can see that I have a lot to contend with. So you can safely conclude that I end up having lousy sleep many nights. But these days, touch-wood, my patterns have become better and from the thorough insomniac that I was, I have been sleeping early and getting up at reasonable times constituting a full night’s rest at any rate. But still I take 30 minutes… 5 games of Midnight Pool or 3 games of Snake on my cell phone to attempt to shut my eyes and try to sleep. What makes that worse? Sleeping next to someone who can sleep instantly. My brother used to be like that. As late as he could stay up and as sleepless as he would remain, the instant his head touched his pillow, he was out. I’ve always considered people like that blessed.. to be able to put away all their thoughts and meld into nightly limbo. Ah well, it’s almost 12 at night… Midnight Pool, here I come.


If you are TamBrahm (or maybe just south indian), you’ve sure as hell had kootu. It’s such a typical dish in all our households that we more often than not don't miss it for quite a while before the thought of this savory dish fills our senses and you yearn to make it.


For the uninitiated, kootu is a kind of side-dish that is popular with any of the southie dishes like sambar, rasam or any kozhambu. People even eat it with chapathis though I wouldn’t recommend that. Intrigued? Go on…


1. Chow-chow (also called bangalore kathirikkai or chayote squash) – the most popular kootu base or doodhi (bottle-gourd/sorakkai) or some form of squash – peeled and cut in mid-sized pieces.

2. Moong dal – yellow – 1/2 cup, washed well.

3. Channa dal – 1/2 cup, washed well.

4. Salt to taste.

5. For grinding: Jeera – 2 tsp, White rice – 2tsp, Cocunut – 1/2 cup – fresh or dessicated, Rice flour – 1/2 tsp, dry red chillis – 3 nos.

6. For seasoning: 1 spoon oil, mustard seeds – 1 tsp, Urad dal – 2 tsp and well-washed curry leaves.


1. Put the first 4 ingredients in a pressure cooker. Add enough water to submerge all the ingredients and pressure cook for 3 whistles.

2. Meanwhile, put the 1 spoon of oil and add all the ingredients to be ground when the oil is hot and fry lightly. Take care not to burn any of the ingredients. Once the coconut is lightly brown, take off from the stove and set aside to cool.

3. Grind the mixture to a chutney-like consistency once the ingredients have cooled by adding sufficient water.

4. Add the ground contents to the pressure –cooked contents and stir well and bring to a boil.

Set aside.

5. Seasoning: Add a spoon of oil, sputter the mustard seeds, the urad dal till it turns brown and the curry leaves to fry lightly. Add to the rest of the ingredients and voilà, you have your kootu.


Bon Appetit everyone!

March 5, 2009

Masal Dosai


What’s more tastier than crispy dosai filled with soft and mildly spiced potatoes and with sambar as a side dish? Fewer things.. Here is tonight’s menu.. masal dosai. I don’t think this post warrants a recipe seeing as it is very straightforward. Bon Appetit!


PS: I know these aren’t my best photos… but my memory card tricked me. Hmph.

March 4, 2009

Turbo clean

Even all you meticulously clean folks know about this one. The operation-cleanup that takes place when you have very little time and are expecting guests to arrive. In it's rudimentary form, it involves making just the front room of your house presentable to one n all so that you can stash all the junk away into one of the inner rooms. And if you have some time, it means that you needn't dump everything into the inner rooms, but rather in a haphazard manner into the shelves/drawers/ cupboards that they belong to. And if you have even more time than that, it's not even a turbo clean. It's proper cleaning.

My turbo clean has a few basic steps.
Step 1. Leave all horizontal surfaces in the house clean and devoid of excess material. That involves clearing the dining table, the center table and the dresser from excess stuff and stashing them away in the kitchen/dresser drawers or wardrobes, whichever maybe appropriate. I don't mess the inner room to clean the outer one. So that's one good thing.
Step 2. Rudimentary dusting - of all surfaces in which the dust is very obvious.
Step 3. A quick swipe of wet clean on these surfaces and an even quicker sweeping of the floor.
Step 4. The appearance smoothing - of table cloths, sofa-covers, seat cushions, chair backs, center-table top piece and general knick-knacks. The key is that a wee bit messy is way more acceptable than a little dirty.
Step 5. Survey. Once the overall semblance of cleanliness has been achieved, you're good to go. Put away anything that seems obscurely out of place.

Once I re-read this post, I know I sound like someone who seldom thoroughly cleans the house. But believe me, I do. Even then, over the week when we lazily pile our bags/coats-scarves/bottles of water/newspapers-magazines/ snacks and all over the week all over the place, it tends to get messier than ever. Add to that, the construction work opposite our house keeps a steady stream of dust coming in no matter how tight the windows are shut. So, while thorough-clean with floor mopping demands the weekend, the turbo clean is at worse a 20 minute process. And totally worthwhile.

March 3, 2009

Screen to screen

You know how somethings just sound better face-to-face than by any other means? A letter or an email for example can often convey the wrong tone that leads to misunderstanding from reading between lines. An unintended sarcasm or pun might spring up at the wrong place totally muddling the object of the message. But we all know that. But have you also realized that saying somethings over chats/IMs are easier than face-to-face? Especially something negative or embarrassing is so much easier to peck away at the keys rather than say it face-to-face. Of course while you wait for the response from the other end, the wait can seem like eternity, but that's an entirely different thing.

Why is it that so many of us find it way easier to just "chat" the sensitively important stuff away rather than convey it in person, if possible or at least over the phone? Is it because the web eliminates that smidgeon of personal contact and thus makes it possible for us to send across messages more objectively? Or is it that it's easier that you don't see the other person's shock/surprise/hurt and regret it an instant later? Regardless, there have been plenty important things that have been communicated more through IMs than other means in the modern age. Maybe above all, it's because of the accessibility of this technological era. That you can "be online" wherever you are and people who want to can certainly keep in touch with you. And that helps you stay connected no matter the real distance and so it does increase the bonding and perhaps it's just as easier to spill the beans. Maybe in a lot of ways it's similar to blogging. Not all the topics written everywhere are something you can sit and talk with the same someone to. It's more like an exposition of what you want to say over a means that can find other net-surfing people to read it and the kindred souls to comment. It is easier to write a blog than to talk with a lot of people... see what I am saying?

March 1, 2009


Has it happened to you when on some day almost everything goes wrong? Congratulations you’ve met Murphy! Well yesterday was one day sprayed with quite a bit of incident. All was well till the evening when S and I were going out to meet friends as always on weekends. The first incident was at the first bar we stopped at, Le Drapeau after scourging like 15 bars in the center of Paris. It was one of those places, clean tables, high-priced drinks and not-so-crowded, making you wonder if the drinks weren’t good or what was.

Klutz, Part 1 –> We didn’t spot anything right away and ordered drinks even though it was past ‘Happy Hour’. The cocktails were a bit overpriced at 8.5€ but I figured if the glass was big, then it wouldn’t matter that much. And so in the gang of 7, I was sitting at one corner and I after feeling a bit warm indoors with the coat on, I took it off to drape it on the empty chair next to me. And while I reached over, the waiter coming over with the tray of drinks didn’t see my hand which in turn knocked over 2 beers all around the other drinks, the floor, my jacket and what not. I knew I wasn’t entirely to blame and I hadn’t even had a drink yet. Funny. And I was right about the place too. The cocktail was soo miniscule that it vanished into me in no time with no effect or satisfaction. The place was largely overpriced. No wonder there were empty tables on a Saturday night.

Stomachs rumbling, we then hunted down an Indian restaurant in the heart of Chatelet to dine in. And we found a couple of them. After comparing menus and prices we settled on one in which the owner uncle seemed rather enterprising.

Klutz, Part 2 -> Getting bored waiting for a table outside, a friend and I went inside to wait. And no sooner had I gone in and tried to lean on the side rail to allow other customers to pass, I knocked over a vase. And believe me, I wasn’t drunk from the not-so-visible cocktail. I only just caught it in time to realize that neither was the vase glass nor were the flowers real. So, it wouldn’t have mattered ultimately, I guess. I set it right and vowed to watch my step.

Klutz, Part 3 –> Of course things didn’t happen as I’d planned. The waiter led us downstairs to the well-lit cave basement to our table. And I tripped. On the steps and thankfully I balanced myself on something before cascading down the steps or something just as embarrassing. The downside was that I twisted my wrist a bit. A small price to pay for being spared the horror of a fall, I suppose. And visibly everyone started being careful around me. But right after that I guess Murphy ran out. Or I stopped noticing. And so I survived. We all did. Whoosh. Some days you are just happier that the day is over. I was, last night.It was enough excitement for a 2-hour outing.