Wisdom from 150 Beans!


I am flipping the pages of one of my handwritten recipe books. The book is yellowed – with both age and stains from the kitchen; from having balanced the book near the cooking pot or from having turned the pages with hands coated with dough or turmeric powder or a hundred other ingredients.

Against each recipe is a small note in my handwriting, which rates how the recipe turned out.

This book has recipes from my grandma, my mom, my mother in law and my dad’s sister.

Today, I can stand in front of the stove, and estimate the quantities of ingredients mentally, I can gauge by the aroma, if all is well. Skills that have been acquired over many years.

But there was a time when I was a novice cook, navigating the world of recipes with precise measurements and quantities. Life in the kitchen revolved more around the science of cooking rather than its creative side. My tools were a set of measuring bowls and spoons.

I remember one evening, when we had a potluck dinner with our friends. I had to prepare a vegetable side dish for around 40 people.

I used this very same recipe book then. However, I had scrawled down the ingredients and quantities, but had not written down how many people the recipe could serve.

Then began the complicated math. The recipe said 2 carrots, 15 French Beans, 3 tomatoes, 1 onion and so on. To me this seemed like the quantity for around 4 to 5 people.

Being an expert at the math of cooking, I multiplied the quantities by 10 to serve 40 people. When I wrote my new quantities down, the 150 beans seemed out of place………..and thus it began – my journey towards learning that cooking is more about intuition, and less about precise quantities.

Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

It has taken me many years and many errors to get here. There have been times that the dishes looked good but tasted anything but! Then again, there were dishes that crumbled, but tasted delicious.

It has been a long and enjoyable journey. Today, as I stand in front of the stove, I add salt and spice with practiced ease, I can see and tell, smell and diagnose what is right or wrong. I am a better judge of quantities.

After all, it is the wisdom acquired from 150 beans.

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Smart Charades


My mobile phone rings, and its call is insistent. I drop what I am doing to pick up the call. It is an important call, and I settle down with pen and paper, jotting down notes, and doodling unconsciously, eyebrows furrowed and shoulders hunched forward, my concentration absolute.

Image courtesy – fotosearch.com

A few minutes into the call, I sense rather than see a presence. A momentary lapse of attention, and I refocus. In another minute, the presence becomes palpable, I look up to see my son waving at me.

And then the game begins. A game that has its own unique rules. A game that I call the Smartkids game. I am sure that most parents are familiar with this game – maybe each of us plays different variants, but the basic game goes something like this.

The parent is on an important call. The child now tries to sneak-in a request to do something that he or she would normally not be allowed to do, when the parent’s attention is fully focused on them.

So, back to my call. My son waves. I wave back, and I signal that I am on a call, as he can see. The game of dumb charades begins.

My son signals for permission to play games on the iPad.

I shake my head and mouth a ‘no’. He has already used up his quota for the day.

He shows his ten fingers and the clock. 10 minutes and makes a pleading expression.

My eyes roll an exasperated NO in capital letters, bold font!

I am trying to keep my wits about me – to hold my telecon together.

My son goes away, but he is back with a pen and notepad. He writes, “Please, at least 5 minutes.”

I scribble a hasty big NO, font size 72.

Another PLEASE…and I am teetering on the brink of an eruption.

I stand up, and with violent hand gestures, and rolling eyes, I signal a final DECISIVE NO.

I can picture myself, trying to hold a sane conversation on the one hand and trying to play a rather difficult version of dumb charades on the other.

My son shrugs and frowns. He walks away. My call ends at the same time.

Game over. Phew! I have lost a few rounds in the past, but now I know how it works

My son knows that there will be other calls on other days, when I will falter and give in.

Sunset


We are lounging on reclining beach chairs, staring at the ocean that stretches beyond one’s comprehension.

Waves vie with each other to play tag with the beach – the younger waves, smart and nimble, as they compete with each other in a race that has no end; the older waves, sedate.

The sun, which was a bright yellow ball till a few minutes back, slowly takes on a warm orange hue that defies description. Within this beautiful orange are a million shades of pink, red, yellow and orange.

The clouds form molten orange streaks across the sky, basking in the sun’s reflection. The sun’s outline can now be seen, a huge golden orb that is moving down the horizon.

Silhouettes of birds dot the sky. Faraway coconut and palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

The waves catch the reflection of the golden sun and throw up a stunning light display on the water’s surface. The play of colours is superlative.

We settle down with refreshing milkshakes; to ponder upon the mysteries of nature – of the indefatigable ocean and the dancing waves.

In a matter of minutes, the sun slips out of sight into oblivion, into other faraway lands. The crickets set up their nightly chorus.

The waves are calmer now, winding down for the day; for the same cycle will repeat tomorrow, and bring with it another day full of promise.

A slice of family history


Thanks to messaging apps and social networks, families and friends have come closer. There is a joy in reconnecting with cousins, aunts and uncles, and knowing that you are family.

This afternoon, on my husband’s maternal cousins’ group, I saw a few photographs. Some of the cousins had visited the family’s ancestral home, and the village temple nearby.

The house, though occupied by other people, has stood the test of time – teakwood staircases and doorways, and lots of memories.

As I saw the photographs, my husband casually mentioned that he was born there, in that house. While I knew that he was born in that small village, I had not made the connection to the house.

That transformed the way I looked at the pictures. This was a part of our family history. My imagination soared.

Then I imagined how my husband would have walked up and down these wooden stairs on chubby legs, being chased by an aunt or his mom; how he would have played with cousins and watched the hens clucking in the yard. The home had a barn, where there was a beautiful cow named Radhamani, who was loved and cherished by all the family members. After my husband’s parents moved to the city, most school holidays were spent in this house.

Four other cousins were also born in the same house. Lots of stories and memories there.

I only know the husband I met nearly two decades ago, but starting from the ancestral home he was born in, and the lovely family who surrounded him, there were so many factors that have made him the person he is today.

It was nice listening to interesting family anecdotes, and to realize that there was a time, when my husband and I led independent lives, unbeknownst to each other.

A view from the balcony


My living room clock shows 6.30 p.m. The day is winding down. Children, who have played outdoors all evening, are heading back to their homes. The birds have returned to their nests.

The world is still aglow, lit by the setting sun. There is a certain calm to this hour that you wouldn’t find at any other time during the day. People are getting back from work, a spring in their step; looking forward to an evening of being at home, in their own space, relaxing and unwinding from the stresses of yet another day. Pets greet their owners with absolute joy, children fling themselves at their dads and moms to be bearhugged and cuddled, or to be thrown up in the air and caught in a tumbling mass of giggles.

I go to my favourite spot – my balcony – and stop in amazement when I see this.

This building can be seen from our balcony. I am totally amazed by the fact that the molten sun is reflecting off only one of the numerous glass facades of the building.

There is something miraculous in this moment, a splash of vibrant orange against a backdrop of grey, a great moment in an otherwise ‘business as usual’ type of day.

From where I stand, the sun has already slipped out of sight. But I am lucky to have been a part of this moment of sheer golden bliss.

Another simple moment captured, and filed away.