Bread pizza at midnight


It is midnight. There’s a light drizzle. I shut the balcony door and head indoors, checking all the doors, lights and fans on my way to the bedroom.

I pick up my phone to set the alarm. My screen lights up at that precise moment. I am delighted to see my daughter’s name flashing on the screen.

I pick up and we start talking. As we talk, she says that she is famished and wants to eat. Immediately on mom-mode, I chide her to eat wholesome meals at regular intervals. She nods. A practiced nod from years of hearing the same thing from her mom all the time.

I think back to the time when my daughter was with us at home. She would wake up in the morning and greet me with a hug. She would then squeeze herself on to the kitchen counter and watch me as I cooked. She would demand coffee, and as she enjoyed it, we would chatter about this and that!

Now, on my phone screen, I watch as she heads to the kitchen, thousands of miles away. She places her phone on the kitchen counter, as she mulls over what to cook. I can see the world outside my daughter’s window on her screen. It is grey and cloudy. I look outside my window – it is dark and cloudy.

Her voice suddenly announces, “I am going to make bread pizza! I feel like eating cheese!”

She potters around her kitchen. I can only hear the knife on the chopping board, and the clanging of pans. Suddenly, a sauce bottle comes into view on my phone’s screen. It looks cozy and warm, and contrasts beautifully with the grey, cold weather outside. The sauce bottle and I keep each other company.

My daughter suddenly pops into view and tastes the sauce. “Yumm”, she says. Again, the sauce bottle and I look at each other, accompanied by the sounds in the background, as my daughter disappears from view.

My daughter is finally done, and has popped her bread pizzas into the oven. She sits down and we talk – about this and that – sometimes staring into space, lost in our own thoughts.

After some time, she says that the aroma of cheese and bell peppers is wafting all around. When the bread pizza is ready, she brings it over, and we talk as she eats.

She sighs in contentment. I am happy. It is nearly 1.30 am in my part of the world. My eyes are shutting of their own volition. My daughter orders me to sleep. I fall into a blissful sleep, thankful to technology for the joy of such simple moments!

Ain’t so cool!


I got this picture on our family group a few days ago. My little niece is able to stand now, and one of her very first projects was to check out the refrigerator.

In her earlier crawling phase, my niece would smile and gurgle in delight if she was in the vicinity when the door of the refrigerator was opened. But now, she is able to hold on to things and walk, and she heads to the refrigerator often, pointing out and babbling her intentions to her parents.

At 1 year, she looks at each object with fascination. She touches the cold tomatoes and the glass bottles. She tries to pull things out. Her parents are on alert, allowing her to explore this new world, while also ensuring that she is safe. Everything inside the refrigerator is exciting – the colours, the textures and the cold air.

Cut to the scene in my house. My kids are also frequent visitors to our refrigerator. After all, it serves as a pit stop for them during their hectic day, when they seek rejuvenation of both their spirit and their energy.

My kids open the refrigerator. They see its fully stocked insides. They rummage through each rack; they open the freezer. They explore all the sauces and bottles on the door. They can see fresh fruit, some snacks, cans of juice, chocolate and Indian sweets. They cluck in exasperation. “Mooooooommmmmm”, they holler, “…is there anything interesting to eat?”

I deliberately point out all the edible snacks they can devour, but none of them seem to pass muster. And reluctantly, they make their choice from what’s available, muttering to each other that there’s nothing interesting to eat EVER.

What a contrast between the two age groups. Sigh! And as every mom with teenagers knows, this cycle is on autoloop, and the ending will always be the same. I quietly go back to what I was doing.

Extreme love


My children have just started their summer vacation. We are on day two of the holidays; still finding it difficult to make the transition from packed days to days where there are no deadlines to meet or targets to pursue. Time flows, like a lazy river, stopping here and there to rejuvenate, picking up speed at times but largely content with flowing along without any purpose.

In a week, we will pack up and travel to visit my mom and my husband’s parents. The children will spend many more lazy days talking, reading, eating, playing and sleeping.

Something transforms in the children and their grandparents when they meet. There is a syndrome both sides exhibit, which I choose to call ‘Extreme Love’. 

Picture courtesy – ClipartAll

Where the grandparents can’t love enough and the children can’t have enough of this love. Where the grandmoms cook all the kids’ favourite dishes, ever-smiling. Where every question asked by the children is patiently answered. Where the children are allowed to experiment with flour and batter and make a mess and leave the mess without cleaning up. Where they are not nagged, where they receive hugs that sustain for many minutes, where they can be sure that whatever they say will be heard with unwavering attention. 

Where each achievement of theirs is dwelt upon and appreciated. Where holding the grandfather’s hand to walk down the road for an evening walk is a great treat, as they come back loaded with goodies.  Where they are tucked in to bed with many stories, repeated stories. Where they spend time teaching their grandparents to use new technology and smartphones. Where they are loved ‘extremely’, an all empowering love that can boost a child’s self-esteem, that can teach a child about unconditional love and acceptance. 

This love between our children and their grandparents is to be cherished. There is no other love like this.

I was lucky to have received such love from my grandma and am happy that my kids are receiving the same from their grandparents.

Food phases


The festival of Navrathri is finally over. My dolls are back in their boxes, for a year-long break. The couches are back in position, and sarees put away to be dry cleaned. It’s been back-breaking work, and it’s finally done.

I take a breather and stand on the balcony watching the late afternoon sun cast long shadows on the park below. The park is empty except for a mom and her toddler.

It’s the toddler’s snack time, and the mom has a colourful bowl in her hand, filled with the snack.

It is so much fun to watch the scene below, unfold. The kid keeps running away each time his mom approaches. She chases him, he runs faster. She calls him, he hides. She pleads, he giggles. She bargains, he relents. He comes over for a spoonful of food. The cycle repeats again.


Courtesy – http://www.illustrationsof.com

The mom is fully determined to ensure that the contents in the bowl are transferred to the toddler’s stomach. The kid wants to ensure that he maximizes his time outdoors in the park, without the constant interruption of something as trivial as food.

I laugh out as I remember how my daughter used to drink liquids only from medicine dispenser cups (those really teensy ones). It took forever, but i still remember how my husband and I never gave up. 

With many years of parenting wisdom behind me, I want to tell the mother in the park below that there will be different ‘food phases’ in her children’s life.

There will be a phase when the child will eat the very same meal for days on end, there will be a phase when the child will detest a particular vegetable or meal, and then again, be prepared, for the same child will love these very same meals and relish them.

Then will come the phase when the children will love the food cooked by their friends’ moms,  and the phase when they will constantly raid the kitchen for food and more food, and then the phase where they will get bored with mom’s food, and the phase when they will go away from home for school trips or to the hostel, and then come back and tuck in to a home-cooked meal and say, “Wow, I so missed this food.”

I watch the park below. The mom-son duo are still running around. I smile and head back in.

Lunch


Wherever I go, I love observing people – especially in airports, railway stations, hotel lobbies, and in-flight. Each of these places is a different ecosystem by itself, where people from different walks of life converge for a certain period of time.

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This afternoon, my husband and I went out for lunch. We went to a popular restaurant in the vicinity.

We placed our order, and waited. My husband was busy on his phone, and I observed the people in the restaurant.

There was this family of three – husband, wife and a one-year old baby. The mom was trying to feed spoonfuls of baby food from a box, while the dad kept the child engaged. The Dad became an elephant, with a trunk and tried to snatch the baby’s food away, then he transformed into a lion and a horse. The baby gurgled and giggled, and finished her food. Each parent took turns to eat, while the other entertained the child. Been there, done it.

There was a man, who reviewed the menu for a good twenty minutes before he placed his order. I was curious to know what he ordered.

Then again, there was this man with his headphones connected and feet tapping, as he relished his lunch.

There was a group of college students, loud and cheerful, enjoying their lunch and friends’ company. Many delicious platters went past us to their table – a few sizzlers and many aromatic ones!

My tongue watered in anticipation. Our order seemed to take forever.  A tray filled with huge glasses of bright green slush went past. I wanted one of those. I wanted one of the sizzling platters too…but we’d already ordered, so I waited patiently.

Finally, our food arrived, and then my stomach and mouth took over, enjoying every mouthful. Different flavours and spices played different notes on my tongue. The food was amazing.

The table with the college students broke out into a birthday song for one of their friends, as candles were lit and wishes exchanged.

Looking out the window, I realized that the skies had opened up. We finished our lunch and settled down for a nice, hot cup of coffee.

A few people left, many arrived. More food, yummy smells. Melodious instrumental music played in the background.

I smiled. Another world, another ecosystem.

Oops…too many seeds


We had guests for dinner over the weekend. My carefully planned menu turned out rather well.

There was one rice dish, which had a number of seeds – mustard, cumin, cardamom, peppercorn and star anise, in addition to various vegetables.

There were enough leftovers to last us till lunch the next day.

After eating the leftovers the next day, my son asked me why I hadn’t cooked anything new. I promised him that I would cook something that he liked for dinner, as I did not want to waste food.

He readily agreed and ran away to play. When he came home he sniffed the air appreciatively, and asked me what was for dinner.

When I told him, he let out a whoop of joy, and then said, “I was so scared that I would have to eat that ‘seedy’ rice again!!!

I laughed and told him the meaning of ‘seedy’!

Boomeranged


‘Mom, children and food’ – one could write books, and more books on this topic.

“Chew slowly, don’t swallow without chewing, don’t place your book where your plate should be, vegetables cannot be scattered around the plate with the claim that you’ve finished your food. Don’t do this and don’t do that.”

From baby food to mashed vegetables to staple Indian food, my children have now reached a stage, where they ask for food, yummy food, all the time. So, I am happily learning new recipes.

With my new found happiness, I am glad to note that the children’s taste buds are ready to try and explore different cuisines.

So my husband and I have decided to take the children out to sample different cuisines whenever we can.

Mom’s observation – It is very difficult to stop a child from speaking out what is in his or her mind.

We start with Indian food, but from a different part of the sub-continent. It is a fine dining restaurant and I hiss warnings till we are seated. I keep telling them the dos and don’ts. I also tell them, “If there is a dish that you taste and do not like, do not make a face or say that you don’t like it. Instead, say, “This is interesting”, and I will understand.”

The children took my tips to heart and as we moved from starters and soup, to the main course, both kids would look at us and rate each dish – this is very good, hmmm this is interesting, and sometimes THIS IS VERY VERY INTERESTING (the ones they didn’t like at all).

We had fun and I came back satisfied. At least they had tried something new.

A few days later, I had friends over for dinner. The table was set.

One of my friends asked my son, “What has your mom prepared?”

My son peeked into each dish and gave his rating – this potato fry is very good, this stuffed bittergourd curry is very very interesting don’t try it, the starters are excellent, again, the stir-fried veggies, that’s interesting, skip it if you want.

And as my friends looked puzzled, I explained the ‘interesting story’ that had so beautifully boomeranged on me.

Exam-hunger


Most people talk about exam fever, but does anyone talk about exam-hunger?

What’s that, you may ask! It is definitely not the ‘hunger to write exams’, rest assured.

Exam-hunger is the sudden and exponential increase in hunger exhibited by students, when they are preparing for exams.

What moms bake or cook or buy never seems to be enough. One of your children is at the refrigerator all the time, raiding.

Was I like this, I wonder. Yes…my thoughts go back to college and hostel life, where we would pool our money and treat ourselves to samosas and coffee. A small plate with 5 pieces shared by eight or nine friends.

Studying late into the night, shocked to see some chapters for the first time, wondering if we slept through the lesson.

Trying to stay awake with barrels of tea or coffee, feeling hungry, cooking instant noodles, wolfing it down, studying some more. Feeling world-weary. Battling sleep, compensating for the lack of sleep by eating. Small comforts as we plodded through exam week every semester.

My children now exhibit this familiar symptom as they prepare for their finals.

“Is there anything to eat, Mom?”, they ask every half hour.

I keep stocking up, trying to balance between healthy food and fun food (not calling it junk food lest I activate my mom conscience)!

Midnight meals, mini meals, mini breaks for snacks, all to feed the brain to do well in the exams.

Hot Bajjis & Filter Coffee on A Rainy Day


It has been a hot, humid day thus far.  Finally, in the afternoon, the glare of the Sun is hidden by clouds, grey, dark grey and now black.  The clouds hang low in the sky, waiting for a signal to let go of the heavy water drops they are patiently bearing.  I stand on my balcony, watching.  The birds are waiting, the green leaves are parched, and waiting.  The humidity is killing.

In a few minutes, plop, plop, the rain drops fall down..huge heavy drops, reveling in their free fall from the heavens.  Big drops, falling faster now, sheets of silver gray, as they beat against the windows and fall on my potted plants.  The trees enjoy this fresh wash as they sway in the gentle wind that blows with the rain, now this side, now that side.

I allow the rain drops to fall on my face, the small needles of water rejuvenate me. Little silver threads moving in a cascade with the wind, the soothing sounds, the gentle flow of water as it touches the earth.

The children are expected from school any moment now.  What’s a rainy day, if one is not tucking into something yummy to eat!

 I decide to make ‘bajjis’ – potato slices dipped in gram flour batter to which salt, chilly powder and a pinch of asafoetida are added.  I pour oil in the wok and switch on the hob.  When the oil is heated just enough, I fry the ‘bajjis‘.

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As they gurgle and fry in the oil, I make a cup of filter coffee for myself.

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South India Filter Coffee in its traditional steel tumbler and cup (davara)

The first batch of bajjis is ready, a dollop of tomato ketchup and we’re good to go.Featured imageI watch the rain from my kitchen; the aroma that’s unique to frying, travels in the air. Tiny wisps of these may have escaped through the bottom of the main door.  In a few minutes, the children come trooping in, hair wet, clothes plastered and sniffing the air appreciatively, “Mom, what’s cooking?”

Bajjis“, I reply.

“Yummy”, they chorus.  Golden bajjis with ketchup, washed down with rain!

The Craziest Day Ever


I was 21, and had just graduated from University.  I had to travel to Chennai from my home town to attend some interviews I had lined-up.  I had to take a bus from my town to another, bigger town and then board the Nilgiri Express that would take me to Chennai, after an overnight journey.

It had been raining heavily on & off that day.  My Dad came to see me off at the bus stand.  The bus slowly snaked its way down the mountains and  reached a small town called Kallar.  There the bus stopped for no apparent reason.  I was in a state of semi-sleep, and loud voices woke me up.  We discovered that a huge tree had fallen across the road due to the heavy rains.  I panicked now.  It was another hour’s drive to the train station.

The driver conferred with the conductor of the bus and they asked all of us to get down and cross the tree.  There was a lot of laughter as not only we, but people from buses and cars behind us, had fun climbing over the tree to the other side. We walked to the closest road junction, and after about thirty minutes, another bus that was travelling in the same direction agreed to take a few passengers. The bus bulged at its seams with the additional load.

I finally made it to the railway station with 20 minutes to spare.  Little did I realize that my wrist watch (the winding type), had stopped a few minutes before.  Totally oblivious to this, I dropped my bags on my seat, nodded at the other passengers and stepped off the train to pick up water and some take-away dinner.  I paid for the food & water and stood in line.  There were many passengers before me and there was nothing to do but wait.  The PA system crackled and the lady announced the departure of some train. I barely listened to what she said.  As I turned my head to look at my train, I suddenly saw it lurch forward and glide slowly out of the station.

I shouted and waved madly, as I ran on the platform trying to board the moving train.  A good soul put out his hand and I clutched it to jump on to the train.  In this madness, I stubbed my toe and dropped one of my slippers on the tracks, gone forever.

I thanked the man, and realized that I was in a totally different compartment.  I had to walk down the train through the vestibules to reach my compartment.  Imagine, stubbed toe, one slipper missing, harried looking woman, limping. I suddenly remembered my wrist watch.  The dial was stuck at 6.40 p.m. I was at bursting point by this time.  I finally made it to my berth.

In the fifteen minutes following my absence, the entire coupe seemed to have been taken over by this one woman, who seemed to have brought bags and suitcases for all the passengers on the train.  There were bags lined-up on my berth as well. When I looked at her, she said, “Oh! sorry, I thought the berth was empty.”

I smiled politely and helped her move her bags out of my berth and sat down.  No dinner, no water, no slipper, hurting toe.  Well, what a crazy day.

When my heart had stopped thumping like it was trying to leave my body, I lay down to catch a few winks.  I could hear the sounds of people eating. Wonderful smells wafted my way.

By 10 p.m. people had settled down for the night.  That’s when my day/night got crazier.  The Ticket Checker showed up to check our tickets.  I opened my wallet, no ticket.  I looked frantically, emptying every single thing from my wallet and my handbag.  I remembered keeping it safely.  The TC looked exasperated.  He told me to look for it and that he would finish checking the others and come back to me.  I went crazy, I looked everywhere in my handbag, every nook every cranny. I even went as far as to tear the lining to see if the ticket had miraculously gone in there.  No luck.

The TC came back and asked me to pay a fine or get off at the next station. I pleaded with him and showed him my University ID card, my license. He saw them but did not budge.  Finally, I paid up.  I was so embarrassed as he issued another new ticket.  I curled up to sleep and then the sorry tears came. What a perfectly horrible day.

The interviews went well and I landed my first job.  I was very busy trying to learn the ropes. The train incident was forgotten after I had narrated it many, many times to my family.  Life slowly settled down to a new rhythm.

One Sunday afternoon, I was at a loose end and decided to catch up on my reading.  I pulled out a book from my cupboard and as I flipped through the pages to find the page I had last read, a small piece of paper fell from it.  It was my train ticket. I remembered now; I was reading the book before I left home and had used the ticket as a book mark.

I smiled at the memory.