A stolen moment….


When the Indian Festival season starts, days and nights blend into each other; into a seamless round of parties, dinners and fun. The vibrant hues of the Indian saree light-up the landscape. There are shimmering sequins, and silk, visits to the nail spa and hair salon; and all this while preparing the hundred odd things that one needs for the festival season.

I am no exception, as I flit in and out of the house, draping sarees for every occasion. There is definitely magic in the air, people are happy and in high spirits. There is hope, there is a promise of another wonderful year ahead.

And in all this wonderful excitement, I have just dropped my son to his class, and head to a mall nearby, to run some errands.

I move with purpose, ticking off each item on my list. Somewhere, on those winding shop alleys, fresh coffee is being brewed. I ignore it and carry on with my work.

On the way back, I simply cannot resist. I do a takeaway and walk out of the mall. The mall is located on the waterfront.

I look at the water. There are many kayaks. Many teams are practicing – counting or chanting rhythmically.

I need this moment to myself, to do nothing, just till I finish my coffee. To absorb this peace of watching without acting, just enjoying my coffee and its aroma.

I settle down on the steps near the waterfront. Two sweet mynas are hopping about near me. They look quizzically at me. They are not daunted by my presence. They allow me to take pictures. After a while, they go into the bushes, and start pecking at the soil with their bright yellow beaks.

A beautiful morning – a bright and sunny day full of promise, clouds floating, kayaks gliding on the water, two smart mynas for company and coffee to top it all off.

This moment was mine..just to be, just to let go and to not think.

Soon, it is time to head back and join the main artery of everyday life; back to celebrating the festival season with friends and family – back to the fun and laughter!

Happy Deepavali to you all!

Tailor made


Earlier today, I chanced upon some black and white photos from my childhood. The pictures made me smile. My sister and I are wearing identical frocks in most of those pictures.

That was how it was back then. We would go to a garment shop, and choose running lengths of fabric. We would head to the tailor shop afterwards, for our measurements to be taken. The tailor would make identical clothes for my siblings and me, only the sizes were different.

The tailor’s shop was located in the crowded market in our town. It was a small shop that had a narrow entrance. The shop had shelves along all its walls, running from the floor to the ceiling. One could barely see the shelves, crammed as they were with customer orders.

I always wondered how the tailor was able to remember, when each order was due. Deep within the recesses of the shop were the sewing machines, all of them busy all the time, with men or women bent intently on a frock or a blouse or a shirt.

The main tailor, usually had a pencil tucked behind his ear, and a measuring tape slung around his neck. He measured, noted, gave instructions to his staff and managed the whole pipeline.

Picture courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

While, during non-festival times, the tailor usually delivered our orders promptly, it was not so during festivals, especially Deepavali.

The fabric buying took place at least a month and a half before Deepavali. We would rush to the tailor to place our orders. And even at that early date, the tailor would lament about the pipeline, and about how difficult it was going to be to deliver our clothes early.

And then the negotiations on the delivery date would commence – between my parents and the tailor. We would come home with a receipt for collection and an acceptable date for pick-up.

Just a fortnight before our due date, whenever we visited the market, we would drop-in at the tailor shop to give him a gentle reminder. There were no mobiles or text messages to do the job. The tailor would nod and wave vigorously each time – to reassure us that he had not forgotten us.

Our dad would usually pick up the tailored clothes on his way back from work. After dinner, we would get a peek at our new clothes. They were packed away and stored carefully till Deepavali.

The years just flew by, and then came the era of off-the shelf clothes, and our visits to the tailor dwindled.

However, after marriage, we Indian woman still go to the tailor to get out saree blouses stitched – ‘tailor made’ exclusively for us!

Mysore Pak every 365 days


It is that time of the year again. Deepavali. The festival of lights.

I have been busy all morning, melting ghee, sifting flour, and preparing sugar syrup of just the right consistency. Stirring the mixture with my right hand, and then with the left, not pausing even for a minute.

When the ghee (clarified butter) meets the sugar and the flour, the aroma that wafts around the house defies description. It makes my kids come running into the kitchen, and causes them to hop about in excitement.

Just after my wedding, my mother gifted me two, big, stainless steel trays. I bring out these trays every year, during Deepavali, for the specific purpose of making Mysore Pak.

The trays are greased and ready to receive the mixture that I am stirring. As I stir, I realize that 365 days have flown by in the blink of an eye.

A year that was packed with activities, school projects, dinners and lunches with friends, work, daily chores, meeting loved ones, shopping. A year that was just like every other year – filled with a mix of rainy days, sunny days and windy days!

The mixture is slowly thickening. I realize that my children have grown taller, and that some of the children I know from their kindergarten days have now gone to University.

This is a ritual, this Mysore Pak, a family tradition, which my children will hopefully carry forward one day.

The mixture thickens, and I feel the drag as I stir. I pour the mixture into the trays. In a few minutes, I cut the mixture into square pieces.

Time seems to be flying, but now and then, it stops, maybe once in 365 days, for us to mark some event or festival or milestone, to tell us to stop and enjoy these simple moments.

To bite into a perfect Mysore Pak that melts in the mouth. To know that we have another 365 days coming up, to do the best we can and utilize our time wisely and focus on what’s important.

Happy Deepavali!

Rose Nectar Vanilla Delight


The sun has set on a wonderful nine days of festivities, after the Indian festival of Navrathri. All the wonderful anticipation, pre-festival, has now been replaced by exhaustion; but of a very beautiful and fulfilling kind.

The nine days seem to have just flown by, in a colourful whirl of saree draping, accessorising, having guests over and visiting the homes of friends, eating the yummiest of foods, and posing for and taking the most vibrant pictures to trap all those wonderful memories.

Phew!

Right now, I am sitting on the couch, with my afternoon coffee. I lazily flip through the hundreds of pictures. The smiles are contagious – I smile, I laugh; as I remember all the fun we had.

One photo in particular makes me smile. Just before the festival started, I was scouring the internet for dessert recipes. My criteria was that it had to be simple to prepare and good to taste.

I finally found what I wanted. It was rose milk shake with a vanilla icecream float! I tried it out at home, before I had my friends over.

My children were the guinea pigs. They had their first cup, and kept asking for more.

That decided it!

Later in the day, my son said, “Mom, I think you have invented a drink that is sensational. I feel it deserves a new name.”

I said, “But, it is an old recipe…!”

Son: But this is super-special because ‘you’ made it. Let us name it Rose Nectar Vanilla Delight!”

Me: Wow..is it as good as all that?

Son: I bet your friends will love it too!

And that is how it turned out. Armed with my son’s love, I served the Rose Nectar Vanilla Delight to all my friends, all of whom loved it!

And, as we wind down after Navrathri, and look forward to Deepavali, my son’s love and words warm my heart, and give me the confidence to try something new!

Deepavali memories


I stand in my kitchen peering into the kadai, adding besan, spoonful by spoonful, into the bubbling sugar syrup that’s right now gurgling out golden ghee…..I leave the gas burner for a minute to get a drink of water & the delicious aroma of ghee, sugar & the first hints of Mysore Pak assault my senses.
My mind jumps back to another time …so long ago, in my hometown, where we would rush home after school to this wonderful smell of sweets being made. The air was festive – my granny would be on her sofa looking content with her family bustling around her. My mom would be filling-up box after box of sweets and savouries to distribute. At around 6 when darkness fell the first Lakshmi Vedi would go off with a loud crack…reverberating through the night. A frisson of excitement would run through the house…Oooooh “Deepavali is here”. We would await our Dad’s arrival from the cracker shop & inspect the goodies & share them.
One year, a coward, ready only to burst sparklers & flower pots, then a few years down, the brave one, setting off the dreaded ‘atom vedi‘, returning to base with a smirk that said it had been so easy. Then keeping our alarms for three thirty a.m. to be the first one in the block to set off the ‘100 wala & oosi pattasu’. Then the early years of college when it was not so cool to get up and be seen as doing all these with Featured imageenthusiasm. Then working life, marriage and kids.
Now, trying to re-create all that magic. Will my children remember the aroma of Mysore Pak wafting through the house? Do they look forward to the traditions we are trying to keep up every year? Yes, I am sure they will…maybe a different version of the same story..but the joy, the bonding & love will definitely continue.
Happy Deepavali to you all.

Moments of nothingness


The week’s craziness has abated, though not completely. This is the Indian festival season. Navratri’s barely over, and we are already barrelling towards Deepavali.

After many days, this morning I got a few minutes to sit on my living room couch and gaze out through the balcony window. A few moments of nothingness.

I believe that looking out at the world outside is immensely therapeutic; you are oblivious to your own self, as you watch life happening outside.There is so much contentment in just being.

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            Courtesy – en.wikipedia.org

As I watched, a lazy pigeon feather swirled round and round, enjoying the gentle breeze on its way down. A beautiful pigeon sat on the balcony grill and watched the world. My hibiscus plant moved gently with the wind. Crisp laundry fluttered in the service areas of many homes. Curtains billowed in the breeze.

Faraway, traffic moved at the junction; cars and buses filled with people. Everybody with a purpose, going somewhere, meeting someone.

Birds chirped; and now and then clouds hid the Sun from view.

I felt philosophical, as I watched life happen around me.

Most days we run from one mad chore to the next, never stopping or slowing down, never pausing to see that the plants in our balconies have grown buds, or that the orchids are in full bloom. Sometimes the cacophony of our minds and the noise of traffic and technology hide the beautiful music of chirping birds and the whispering breeze.

It truly felt great to observe and not participate. Before I got dragged into the chaos of everyday chores, I took a few deep breaths and enjoyed my few moments of nothingness.

Badushah


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‘Badushah’ is an Indian sweet, known by a few other names in the subcontinent. I love this sweet, one of the few that I truly enjoy eating. My daughter shares my love for badushahs too!

Last year, during the Deepavali season, I decided to prepare badushahs at home. After checking out various recipes and zeroing in on the one that seemed the easiest, I made preparations to get started.

Little dough patties kneaded with fresh yoghurt and other ingredients were neatly arranged.

So far, so good. Next, they had to be deep fried – little golden brown patties emerged, sizzling in oil.

These had to be then dunked in sugar syrup, the hot patties soaking in the sweetness.

After a while, the patties had to be removed from the syrup and placed on a tray to cool, to allow the sugar to solidify into thin sheets of white over each patty. Sprinkling bits of saffron and colourful strands of dessicated coconut on each patty was the last step, and I was done.

The badushahs looked perfect. The heavenly smell of sugar, flour and frying filled the air.

It was time for the children to come back from school, and I couldn’t wait for my daughter to taste the first badushah.

When she walked in, she sniffed appreciatively, and was very excited that I’d made badushahs at home.

She washed and came to try the first one. She bit into the first badushah. Her eyes widened. I waited for her verdict with much anticipation.

Strangely, she didn’t seem to be eating it. I asked her to bite into the badushah.

She took it out of her mouth for a moment and said, “Mom, I am trying hard to bite, but it feels like leather, I am not able to sink my teeth into it.”

My heart broke. I looked at the deceptively good looking badushahs.

I called a couple of friends for ideas. Then I sat down and googled – ‘Tips to repurpose badushahs that did not turn out well’.

This picture, here, is from that day. My badushahs passed the ‘appearance test’ but little else.