The Cooking Cycle

We South Indians use a lot of curry leaves and coriander leaves in our cooking. Usually, when we run out of veggies, we describe the emptiness of the refrigerator thus, “There are no vegetables at home, not even a sprig of coriander!”

This happens once in about 10-12 days, when I have used up ‘all the veggies and all my creativity’ to make interesting dishes out of boring vegetables.

And this is the trough of the sinusoidal cooking wave in the cooking cycle.

When we hit a trough, it is reflected in the faces of my husband and kids; they realize that it’s the ‘boring cooking phase’, when mom is lackadaisical, and the food looks uninteresting.

And then, the cooking wave slowly moves upward. This happens when I go shopping for veggies and grocery.

I come back and stock my refrigerator to its brim. The fresh smell of mint, coriander and ginger is in the air! My fridge looks colourful with orange carrots and pink radishes, green chillies and yellow bell peppers vying for space in the cold confines of the fridge’s crisper.

Red apples, shining grapes, serious-looking papayas and cheerful oranges settle down on the fruit rack.

With my cupboards and fridge overflowing, my cooking cycle hits a peak. I am inspired! I am charged! I scour my recipe books, draw inspiration from recipes on social media and try out new dishes that I have tasted at friends’ homes.

Image Courtesy –

My family knows this phase, and they sniff in appreciation, as interesting aromas waft around the house. The dining table looks colourful and vibrant. We are spoilt for choice.

This cycle keeps repeating, like most other things in life…..!

Today is a Sunday, and I have hit a peak on the cooking wave.

We are going to tuck-in to a yummy meal. See you all soon!

Posted in Everyday moments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mom’s Magic Masala Powders

Indian cooking is both an art and a science. It is as much about mixing and experimenting with different flavours, as it is about precise quantities and ingredients-in-recipes that cannot be altered.

Indian cooking is about flavour, culture, local produce and the local weather. It is also about blending, grinding and pounding techniques that are used to extract ‘that’ perfect flavour!

But more than anything else, Indian cooking is about the hundreds of masalas and spices that are added to make each dish unique.

A lot of cooking happens in Indian homes. This whole cooking phenomenon in Indian homes rests on a very strong base.

What is this base, you may ask? It is what I choose to call “Moms’ Masala Network”.

If you visited my home and raved about my spicy potato curry or my onion sambar, I would probably tell you that both the sambar powder and the spicy powder mix I used for the potatoes, were home made; made by my mother.

Go to any Indian home, ask the lady of the house, and her best dishes will be those ones, where her mom or grandmom have made the masala powders at home; if not made by them, the recipes that she uses would be theirs, for sure!

My refrigerator has at least ten types of these masala powders.

However, of these, three masala powders are most precious, as my mom makes them at home and gives them to me.

Every summer, when the Indian sun is roasting everything in sight, my mom shops for the ingredients for sambar powder, rasam powder and chutney powder.

She reserves a day to do the shopping. She sun-dries the ingredients, roasts them and then gives them to a small mill in the neighbourhood, where the ingredients are ground to fine powder.

My mom sends huge steel containers to the mill. Once the powders make it home, she carefully packs them in huge zip-loc bags for her three daughters.

On each package is a small sticker label, which gives details about the type of powder and the date on which it was made.

I treasure these masala powders, because my kitchen runs on their strength and their flavour.

A yummy South Indian breakfast of idli or dosa is incomplete without my mom’s chutney powder. On a typical Sunday afternoon, the kitchen is filled with the aroma of onion sambar, thanks to my mom.

These products are available in the market, but the taste of mom’s masala powders cannot ever be matched.

Thank you, Amma.

Posted in Everyday moments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The afternoon mystery parcel…

My day is usually crazy till around two in the afternoon. By then, my batteries need recharging.

By 2 pm, my mind slowly starts switching off, and my eyes start crossing, as words on my computer start blurring. That is when I head to take a power nap.

My power nap usually does not last more than thirty minutes, but if I do not get my quota for the day, meet me at your own risk.

Image courtesy –

Immediately after my power nap, I have a nice strong cup of filter coffee; and I am then ready to take on the rest of the day, the children’s arrival from school, cooking, writing, household chores and the hundred other things that one needs to do!

However, in the last month, the schedule for my afternoon power naps has gone awry. The reason for it is quite simple.

Between 2 and 3 pm every afternoon, the door bell rings, and a mystery parcel arrives by courier. I sign and take the package, keep it on the side table, and try to go back to ‘power nap mode’.

But, if there are any afternoon-nappers around, you would all agree with me that if a power nap is interrupted, one can never go back to that zone again!

These mystery parcels are the result of my husband’s sudden interest in and realization of the ease and convenience of online shopping.

Sometimes, the mystery parcel is as small as a match box, sometimes it is big and fluffy. Being rudely awakened by the door bell on most afternoons as I am, I don’t even bother opening the packages. I leave them for when my husband gets back.

Yesterday afternoon, three different packages arrived. When my husband got back, I pointed them out to him and sighed, saying that it was a nuisance to receive so many packages.

He took two of the three parcels and asked me to open them. One was a connector cable for my laptop that I had said I needed, as the old one was not working properly.

The other package turned out to be a zoom lens of the clip-on variety for my smartphone to help me pursue my passion in flower photography! This second one was a surprise gift for me.

I think I may just have to train myself to push my power nap to later in the afternoon, when the gentle rustling of leaves, and the rhythmic call of the cuckoo bird will lull me to sleep; where I will dream of parcels that may hold more surprise gifts for me!!!

Posted in Everyday moments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The traffic in our lives…

I am standing on the 14th floor in my friend’s apartment. I look out of the window. I can see the highway below, where cars and trucks are whizzing past, taking people and goods to various destinations.

Just behind the highway is a cycling track that is surrounded by lush greenery. People on the cycling track are enjoying the morning, the fresh air, and the feeling of goodness from all that exercise.

Beyond the cycling track is the ocean, where waves are beating against the shoreline. Boats and ships can be seen as mere specks from where I stand, bobbing gently on the water’s surface.

When I slide open the window a little, the sound of traffic is quite loud. Along with this noise, there comes a cool breeze that gently whips the hair around my face – so refreshing.

This is so much like our lives, where there is heavy traffic in our minds about chores, assignments and deadlines.

During some parts of the day we feel choked by the traffic; then again, when we are not so busy our life slows down a few notches, and we are on the cycling track, where we stop to enjoy life, where we focus on our goals and feel positive.

Then again, when the day winds down, we are at peace; we are in that in-between zone, where the day’s worries have gone, and tomorrow’s checklists haven’t invaded! A time when we are on the beach, enjoying the gentle breeze, rejuvenating ourselves and bonding with family!

Posted in Everyday moments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mom and son….a special bond

Every Sunday, at around eleven a.m., my husband calls his parents to talk to them. I am sure, back home, my parents-in-law are eagerly awaiting this weekly call. My father-in-law usually picks up the phone. My husband and his Dad chat for three to four minutes, and then he passes the phone to my mother-in-law.

Courtest – Pinart

This call goes on for a while. My husband talks about his week, she talks about hers. He laughs merrily at the things she says. They have minor differences of opinion about a few things, and argue good naturedly. She asks after his health, and asks him to take good care of himself.

Sometimes they talk about old neighbours who have passed on, or their children or grandchildren, who have graduated or gotten married or had babies. These are their shared memories, of my husband’s growing up years and the stories of people who shared their lives ‘then’ – family, neighbours and friends.

The conversation then moves to our children and me, and my husband talks about our week, and what’s been happening in our lives.

As I go around the house completing my chores, I watch my husband’s complete absorption. Though he usually doesn’t talk much, this is one person with whom he talks for long periods. The conversation meanders through various topics, about TV shows, about health and food.

My mom-in-law’s love manifests in many ways when we meet. She best expresses her love for all of us through her cooking. Each time we visit, we come back loaded with home made jackfruit jam for my husband and gooseberry pickle for me, along with many other things for each of her grandchildren.

However, since we live far away and visit them only twice a year, these weekly phone calls with her son keep this special bond alive, till our next visit.

Posted in Everyday moments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Bliss is in the small things…

It is a stiflingly humid day. My husband, daughter and I are on a shopping marathon. We have a long list, and we walk down the bustling street, ticking off each item on the list.

My husband gives up after a while, and sits outside the mall, where there are long benches, placed there only for men like him, who do not enjoy shopping.

My daughter and I scour the aisles looking for what we want; and also quietly review things that we do not want, but can’t resist.

What is it with sales? Sigh..!

Anyway we trudge up steps, walk some more, and get into other malls.

We have been on the road for nearly five hours. We have accomplished quite a bit, but some of the items on the list have not been checked off.

At some point, we ‘collectively’ give up. Our car is parked nearly a kilometre away, and we start heading towards the carpark. We are now strolling.

A cool evening breeze filters through the trees. Hundreds of birds are chirping loudly and getting back to their nests at sundown. In fact, there are so many birds that their chirping drowns out the noise of traffic and people.

As we walk down, we stop at a stall that sells the famous wafer sandwich icecream. The stall itself is on a bicycle. We order our wafer icecreams – mango and peppermint.

Image courtesy – Wikipedia

The lady at the stall cuts out a perfect rectangular slab of ice cream, and places them between two wafers. She then deftly slides the whole ice cream sandwich into an easy to hold plastic pouch.

We take our ice cream sandwiches and settle down on one of the long benches. We watch people going about their day. Street performers and artists keep bystanders engaged.

As our feet cry out in relief, we sink our teeth into the ice cream sandwich. Heavenly…! We relish the experience in silence. Our eyes say it all.

A simple ice cream transformed our day. Truly, bliss is in the small things!

Posted in Everyday moments | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Published on Kindle…..

I am very happy to share with you all that my book of short stories for children, titled THE TIN CAT AND OTHER STORIES FOR CHILDREN, is now available on Kindle Publishing around the world.

There are 12 short stories, each of which deal with the various situations and emotions that children encounter in their everyday lives.

Would love to hear from you, after you have read the book!

Posted in Everyday moments, Short Stories | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

A Blue Watch and Penne Arrabiata…

My daughter has a blue, digital watch. She received the watch as a gift from her grandparents, when she was nine years old. My daughter fell in love with the watch the moment she set eyes on it, and wears it to this day!

The blue watch has been her constant companion all these years, and would probably qualify as a best-friend-of-sorts.

The colour has faded, the strap is worn in places, the glass has scratches, but my daughter will not hear of retiring this watch.

She is at an age when clothes and accessories are very much in her radar, but this watch, whose colour does not match any of her clothes (read – clothes which are in various shades of black or grey or silver), is on her wrist always.

Yesterday, my daughter suddenly announced that she would prepare dinner for all of us – Penne Arrabiata. This was her first attempt at cooking. She listed the ingredients, went to the supermarket, asked me for measuring cups and spoons, and was soon busy chopping tomatoes, crushing garlic, rolling basil leaves and chopping them artistically.

Courtesy – shutterstock

Olive oil was warmed in the wok, and soon the heavenly smell of ‘garlic frying’ was in the air. All of us waited patiently, as the aroma wafted and made our tongues water in anticipation.

Soon, she announced that dinner was ready. We rushed to the table. The pasta was served beautifully; with cheese drizzled on top. Fresh basil leaves completed the presentation, and we were ready to tuck-in.

Delicious. Yummy!!! We were in bliss, and heaped compliments on her. Her eyes twinkled in joy, and she acknowledged our praise.

Later, I watched her clearing up the kitchen, her blue watch still on her wrist, a permanent fixture!

And it hit me then! On one hand my daughter did not want to let go of her watch; a watch she’s had for so many years; on the other hand, she would soon be on her own, cooking her own meals and taking her own decisions.

As her mother, both these thoughts played in my head. Much as I wanted her to replace the old watch, a part of me wanted her to keep it, so that it could give her comfort and keep her childhood memories alive, when she leaves home to pursue her own dreams.

Posted in Everyday moments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

My Grandma’s friend

When I was growing up, we lived in a big joint family with my grandma, aunt and uncle. Life was always exciting; the house was always filled with people visiting. The kitchen was a bee-hive of activity. From 6 am to around 2 pm, and then again from around 4 pm to late at night.

Picture courtesy –

My grandma, mom and aunt were permanently busy, and we tried to keep out of their way. Life was simple and fun.

My grandma’s house was the third house in a long line of houses; neighbours we knew from birth. In the third house from ours, on the right, which was the sixth house in the row, lived one of my grandma’s dearest friends.

My grandma’s friend was referred to as ‘the aunt who lives in the third house from ours’ (loosely translated from our language).

So, when there was a festival, we became errand girls, as we ran to distribute sweets to our neighbours. We frequently visited “the aunt who lived in the third house from ours”, as, being dear friends, my gran and she exchanged a lot of things – sweets, vegetables, sometimes change for currency, sometimes grocery….

Also, nearly twice or thrice a week, “the aunt who lived in the third house from ours” called on my gran during the 2 pm to 4 pm lull time.

She wore lovely vibrant sarees, and a big pink Bindi on her forehead. She usually carried a bunch of keys, that had a long metallic keychain. This used to fascinate me. She had a distinct cough, and she coughed on and off. We were not allowed into the living room, so we peeked from the window sometimes.

They caught up on their everyday lives. At 4 pm, after her friend left, my grandma and mom would head into the kitchen to start preparations for dinner. All meals were prepared at home, and there was no concept of eating out.

My grandma and the “aunt who lived in the third house from ours” went back to their chores, totally rejuvenated after their afternoon chit-chat.

But it wasn’t until much later, when I had started working, that I heard about the passing away of my grandma’s friend. It was then that it hit me; that I did not know her name!

But, she continues to live on in our memories as the “aunt who lived in the third house from ours”; and evokes many lovely moments from my childhood.

Posted in Everyday moments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Letting go in bits and pieces…

The excitement at home is palpable. My son is scurrying about, double-checking, triple-checking and quadruple-checking with me; ensuring that all the items on the checklist given by his school have been packed.

He is going away on a three-day school trip, the longest he has been away from home and from all of us.

We have to drop him early tomorrow, so we try to get him to sleep early. He checks his big backpack, and a smaller backpack, one last time, before he hits the bed.

His excitement is contagious; we are also caught up in it all.

As his mom, I hope he will be fine, and able to manage on his own. Above everything, I want him to have fun.

His elder sister, who has been on many such trips, gives him a few tips. He is after all the youngest, and it is time to let him go!

The next morning flies by in a flurry of last minute checking, and driving to school. Many children and parents are already there. In what seems like a jiffy, the children board the coaches, and with a few waves and yells, they are off.

Picture courtesy – wikiclipart

I head back home. It is like any other school day, when the kids are not around, but the house seems a tad emptier. I go around the house picking up stuff. On my son’s table are some eraser shavings, a half-done sketch of an animal, and a pencil. Suddenly, it hits me that a bundle of energy will not rush into the house at 4 pm, for the next two days. There will be no non-stop chatter about the school day or animals, or the cats in the neighbourhood.

Soon, when I check my phone, I realize there are some photo updates from school. Lovely photos of the kids and their activities; what fun experiences they seem to be having.

I zoom in, and eagerly scan the innocent faces for my son. There he is, smiling, with his friends, looking happy and cheerful.

Soon, the day’s chores catch up with me, and my daughter and I also take some time out together, catching up on some mom-daughter time.

The three days fly away, and my son is back home, enriched by his experiences, and bubbling with stories about the trip.

As I hug my little one, I realize that he has taken an important first step in his life. The first of many such experiences and challenges he will face in this journey called life.

As his parents, my husband and I hope we have equipped him to do just that!

Posted in Everyday moments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments