The ‘Rasam’ Debate

‘Rasam’ is a South Indian dish. It is a watery soup that is eaten with rice. Rasam is a combination of many tastes – it is spicy, tangy, aromatic, and full of flavour. More than anything, Rasam soothes, comforts and invigorates. It can be eaten when you have stomach upsets, when you are down with a cold or fever or pretty much all the time.  It is also the dish you want to come home to after a long holiday,  and restaurant food.

Rasam is usually served as the second gravy (that’s mixed with rice) in a typical South Indian meal. The Rasam, as a dish, is so versatile that it can be made with different bases like tamarind, lemon, orange, pineapple, lemon grass and many more.  It can contain one or many of the following – tomatoes, garlic, ginger, drumstick etc.

It is a staple dish in most homes. A good South Indian cook is expected to make a mean cup of Rasam. 

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Where I grew up, Rasam was a must-have with our afternoon meal. Piping hot rasam, with rice and papadams, eaten with spicy potato curry.

My mom is a Rasam connoisseur and I have inherited my intense love for Rasam from her. My mom’s Rasam is to die for, and I have many wonderful memories of tucking into wonderful meals with her aromatic rasam, with the monsoon winds sweeping outside.

Cut to many years later. I was a newly married woman, trying to impress my husband with my cooking skills. One of the first meals that I prepared was a Rasam-Rice combo with some vegetable.

When we sat down to dinner, my husband looked at the Rasam and said, “I don’t like Rasam at all.”

I was shocked. How could someone not like Rasam? I did a hardsell of my Rasam but to no avail. My husband’s family only had Rasam when they were down with fever.

So, for them, Rasam = Fever Comfort Food

For me, Rasam = The greatest dish ever…

How were we going to reconcile this? It was an even bigger debate than Coffee vs. Tea (Coffee for me, of course).

It’s been a long journey. The only consolation is that when my husband is down with a bad cold or fever, he asks for ‘my delicious rasam’. I keep telling him that my rasam is delicious even otherwise…but!

When I think about it, this Rasam debate in our home epitomises marriage. Two different people, with different tastes, who learn to live together and compromise on many things, but don’t on a few things…and can laugh over all this over a cup of rasam.

A good book

I have not been myself this week. My mind has been sucked into the pages of an ‘unputdownable’ book.

This week, I live my normal life like an automaton. My brain, my attention and my senses have all been hijacked by the complex plot, and the gripping action.

I cook, and I think about what’s going to happen next. I feel as if I am floating in the real world and my identity exists only in the world inhabited by the characters in the book. This is the only reality.

Any small break, and I am nose-deep in the book. I am amazed at the power that words can have over me. Words that, when combined just right, narrate a powerful story. Words that grip me, make me laugh, make me cry and make my heart thud with the excitement of what is going to happen next!

And when the book ends, I am sure I will have difficulty coming back to the real world, where work and school and chores beckon. It will be an arduous task to leave the characters behind, but there are some that occupy permanent residence in my mind. They will probably join some of the other memorable characters, who already live there. People whom I know and love from those lovely books I have read, people who have influenced me and who have opened my mind to new thought.

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Reading a book is an indescribable pleasure. Whenever I finish a great book, I yearn to write one too. This is what reading does to me. There is a  ‘wannabe writer’ in every bookworm’s head. I am no exception.

I dream of dialogues between imaginary characters and look at interesting people, who will fit into the book that I will eventually write. 

The essential me!

Thankfully, in my world social networking means ‘really’ going out and meeting friends and socializing. However, going out also means that I need to ‘get-ready’ good clothes to wear and also ponder about my appearance, hairdo and accessories.

Some clothes have sequins and lace, some have embroidery, some have beadwork, some are heavy, some are light, some need heavy accessorizing, while some are so heavy that there can be no room for accessories.

Most days, going out nicely dressed is a lot of  fun. However, sometimes the sequins chaf against my neck, sometimes the hairclips that pin my hair tug at my hair roots, sometimes the material of the saree or dress makes me feel like I am in an oven.

And finally, when I get home, the joy of getting back into home clothes is pure bliss. Lovely cotton clothes, worn out and faded, much loved and frayed – can anything feel better? Tying my hair in an unruly knot, without hairclips to nag me. Removing make up and splashing cold water on my face.



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All this, and I am myself again. This is the ‘essential me’. My home clothes make me more efficient. I can think with more clarity, with my hair in a tangled knot.  Stretching out on the couch, I contemplate. I am at peace. I am home. 

Earphones 101 for Moms of Teens

Every day as a mom is a learning journey. We learn new things abour our children. We learn that they see the world differently. We sometimes see ourselves in them and discover new facets to their personality; and then one day we suddenly become the moms of teenagers!

And by this time, most moms have had to probably take courses such as Patience 101, Understanding Teen Silences 101 and many more. But there is a must do course that will probably be fully booked all through the year – titled Earphones 101. These accessories take on a new dimension and meaning when you have teenagers at home.

They look harmless enough, when they nestle amongst the hundred other cables that are vying for space in your cupboard. They look nice, when they are in your handbag, and you feel good that there is always the option to listen to music, if and when you have the time (time…sigh!!!). Earphones were fun many decades ago, when you shared one ear-piece with your spouse, to listen to your favourite songs.

But, have you seen today’s teens? All of them seem to have sprouted ear-phones from their ears. With the theory of evolution being what it is, maybe humans will sprout earphones as a natural part of evolution. Imagine walking around with two small wires hanging from one’s ears!!!

So, as a mom, you expect answers when you ask your kids something. Immediate answers. But teenagers vanish into their rooms, and you shout through the door.

“Lunch is ready.”

Silence.

“Lunch is ready….can you hear me?”

Silence.

L.U.N.C.H  I.S.  R.E.A.D.Y!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There is an answering bark from the neighbour’s dog. Comforting.


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I enter my daughter’s room. She is oblivious to everything except her school work. And there is the enemy –  the earphones –  ‘they are the reason’  she has no clue that her mom may have permanently damaged her vocal cords. I tap her, and she looks up and smiles. She is gently swaying to the music.

I smile. I play dumb charades and show her that lunch is ready. She nods vigorously and takes off THE EARPHONES and gives me a hug. She is back in the real world again.

I sigh and decide that I need a hot cup of coffee to soothe my throat.

Power to ‘electronic babies’

If you had visited our home last night, you would have seen us busy with our electronic babies. We were told that there would be no power in our condominium today, and so more than anything else, our priority was to feed and nourish our electronic babies to help us survive our day.

By 9 pm, all our gadgets were connected intravenously to various chargers, and receiving that ‘much needed energy’ to overcome the state of powerlessness.

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Today dawned bright and clear. We rushed to finish as many chores as possible, and by 10 am there was a perceptible silence – all our appliances had taken off for the day. 

But it took so much getting used to. Light bulbs remained stoic when my hands tried to turn them on with the mere flick of a switch, the refrigerator was in a dark mood and the fans, for their part, enjoyed the natural breeze that blew-in through every open window.

Thanks to a few things that absolutely needed doing,  I had to walk up and down a few floors. At each floor, the view was different. I walked briskly up two floors and then slowed down and then some more. I was a huff-puffing mass when I got home.

The WiFi tree on my phone disappeared. The TV stared silently, throwing back only my own reflection.

Today, battery life was so precious. No extra surfing, no downloads. Everything could wait. 

I am sure we could teach ourselves to live without power; however life would be very different. 

When the power was finally restored, various devices came back to life after a day’s break with musical beeps, the WiFi tree on my phone was in full bloom and the refrigerator deigned to smile. And thankfully, the elevators had come back to life!

Biscuits from my childhood

Biscuits were an integral part of my childhood. My mom usually carried a biscuit packet in her handbag, to keep her three girls from going cranky with hunger.

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There were such wonderful biscuits. From simple glucose biscuits to marie biscuits and hundreds of other yummy items in between, we have had some great biscuit memories.

One of the best variety of biscuits was the cream biscuit – a layer of yummy cream sandwiched between two round biscuits. What divine flavours the cream had – orange, pineapple, vanilla, chocolate! 

The fun part was when we would separate the two sides of the cream biscuits and scrape the cream off with our tiny teeth.

Then again, there were biscuits called the dot biscuits; each biscuit not bigger than a dollar coin, perfect rounds. I remember that this biscuit was a favourite in my cousin’s place. The biscuits used to sit in a round, glass jar, atop a shelf. And we were allowed to eat it during tea time (read milk time for us kids).

There was a rectangular biscuit, which had sugar crystals embedded on its surface. There was a square shaped biscuit that was both salty and sweet, all at once. It had 9 small holes in 3 rows.  My sisters and I used to nibble this biscuit around the edges.

Then again, fun arrived in the form of animal biscuits. We used these animals to create shadow puppets that finally got swallowed by little girl monsters.

‘Biscuit carved art’ was a fun game, where we would carefully sculpt shapes out of the biscuits with our teeth, and then compare our works of art.

Biscuits were also ‘shared love’ with our grandma, who dipped her biscuits in tea in the evenings and popped yummy, soaked biscuits into our mouths with lots of love. Biscuits were also crunched up crumbs brought for me from school by my elder sister. Biscuits were also buttery and round, and came freshly baked with a heavenly smell from the local baker!

The best of all for me were the jim-jams. Truly a slice of heaven. We lost our charm for biscuits in high school, but the craving hit us again, when we were away at college in hostel ;  the best way to beat the hunger pangs that came when we studied late into the night.

As I write this, I am sinking my teeth into a perfectly rectangular piece of lemon puff biscuit.  Delicious.

Chocolate

My kids are now at an age where they want variety in their food. From a limited menu of around twenty dishes, their taste buds have suddenly exploded to include new tastes and flavours. 

However, one flavour that is a constant in their lives is chocolate! They can eat chocolate, drink chocolate and talk chocolate. They can have it at any time – day or night. They can have it when they are sad or happy, energetic or tired.

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They fight over it. Sometimes, they even share a rare moment of sibling harmony when they eat chocolate.

Chocolate syrup is a fixture in milk shakes and any snack that the kids rustle-up.

Chocolate moustaches and chocolate stains, chocolatey grins and brown teeth, gooey fingers and chocolatey kisses are only some of the cute memories.

Chocolate can mend sibling fights, brighten up one’s day and provide mouth watering memories.

Biscuits and donuts, wafers and chocolate-chip cookies, dark chocolate cake, chocolate fondue, chocolate ice-cream; the children have tried it all. I don’t think they can ever outgrow  this flavour.

According to my children – any time is chocolate time! 

Chocolate is the flavour for all seasons.