Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Pickle Story

I have never been a fan of pickles. Being a lady,  I am assumed to be a pickle lover. So when I refuse to have them when offered, it astonishes many. The only pickles I would consume with some interest is of stuffed chillies, chillies and garlic, chicken and peaches. And I had never thought that I would ever make pickle on my own. Before getting married an aunt-in-law asked me if I knew to prepare pickles, I replied with a smile that neither I eat pickles nor prepare any. But what did I know. Love and care makes you do things you think you are incapable of.

My maternal grandmother (Aita) is a fantastic cook. And her pickles are known far and wide. For my wedding, she prepared three pickles--chillies and garlic, olives, and starfruit. Everyone in my new home loved them, especially the chillies one. The recipe was asked for along with the sample. Then with self surprise I asked Ma the recipe.

Once in Delhi, I was on a mission. A kilo of green chillies were bought. Mummy cleaned and dried them, while Daddy chopped them all for me. Yellow mustard seeds was washed, dried and grounded, garlic and  ginger chopped. The recipe was confirmed and paraphrased from Ma over the phone. Deta was worried how would I prepare it on my own. But everything went on as it should have. Pickle was made and rested. It is still resting, now in the sunshine when available.  But yes, it is being consumed from day one. And so I have not failed I think!

So as I said love and care makes you do things you think you are incapable of. I am now a part of a family who are fond of pickles. A family I am expected to take care of. A family who is me now. And this is what made the first pickle story of all my (future) pickle stories.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wedding Files: Hits & Misses

What is a wedding without a few misses, mishaps and misgivings. And of course, mine was no different. My husband being resident of Delhi, it was decided that the wedding will take place in Delhi followed by two receptions, his from Delhi and mine from Guwahati. We were travelling by train as there would be luggage, plus Ma has aviophobia. Although I had booked our tickets three months ahead of the journey, tickets got confirmed only a couple of days before it. 

Well..everything was going on as planned and expected. Only my mother got hyper and nervous now and then (She has a typical style of laughing when she gets nervous). And while in this state, she either gets mad at people around her or feels sick. In the New Delhi DC office, we had to wait for quite sometime before having our turn of appearing before the Additional District Magistrate(ADM). There were several other couples along with their family and witnesses, all dressed up, and waiting like us. There were others who had come to apply for registered marriage and make their first appearance before the ADM. The registered marriage went on fine but we almost forgot to exchange our wedding rings. Among elders, Ma, Deta and Daddy (my father-in-law) were there. Mummy (my mother-in-law) did not know that we were going to exchange rings that day and was not told that she should come. Later she raised an hue and cry and sulked for sometime. 

In Delhi, it was only my parents, two sisters and myself who had to do all the shopping, preparations and execution. So it was quite hectic and tiring for all of us. Thankfully, there is a full fledged market near to my sister's residence and that reduced our headaches substantially. But carrying all shopped items physically including groceries, consumables, gifts, sweets, fruits, etc., my sister had a bad case of aching arms. 

On the day I was to move to my husband's home, my bags were packed ready and there was an additional suitcase which contained the groom's gifts. While leaving for my new home, I left with Ma in my in-laws' car while Deta and my sisters went ahead of us with the luggage. It takes almost half an hour to reach there. Once we all reached there and got settled, Ma asked for the groom's suitcase we carried. And then we realized, the luggage was not unloaded from the taxi. All hell broke loose. Ma got mad at Deta and my sisters. They thought the luggage was in the car we were traveling in while we on the other-hand knew it was in theirs. And as there was a good crowd to receive us downstairs, the luggage was forgotten in the commotion and confusion. The taxi was taken from a stand near my sister's place. My younger brother-in-law reached there, collected the taxi driver's number and called him. The driver was somewhere else with passengers and they agreed upon a place to meet. So the luggage was finally recovered. Once the news reached home, the family relaxed. 

The rest of the things were more or less on track. In a wedding, you can neither make everyone happy and satisfied nor can you ensure perfect execution. Now whenever Ma talks about any dissatisfaction regarding anything during the function, I just ask her carry the good memories ahead and let go of the negative parts. And with all the experience, we are now better equipped for the next wedding in line.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Progress Plant III: The Miracle Plant

Flowers... are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844

Durga Puja is just around the corner. And one flower which is used in this puja is the 'Aparajita'. Aparajita is the Assamese and Bengali name for Butterfly Pea flower (scientific name: Clitoria ternatea). 'Aparajita' means 'undefeated'. The aparajita flower is said to be the favourite flower of goddess Durga and hence its use in Durga puja. And obviously, the flower usually blooms in the puja season. It is basically a perennial creeper and the flower varieties are the common indigo blue and rare white.

17th June 2012
Personally, I love flower vines and aparijita is one of the common flower vines found in Assam. An aunt of mine has both the white and indigo blue varieties of the flower in her home. When I visited her in January earlier this year, I plucked a couple of dried pods of seeds from one of the plants. As it was past the flowering season, I did not know which colour I had chosen. Anyways, I did not plant the seeds immediately on my return to Guwahati. In fact I had forgotten all about the pods for almost half a year.
20th June 2012
27th June 2012
10th July 2012
I finally planted the seeds in a clay pot in mid-June. I would feed the planted seeds some water and anxiously waited to see some sprouts. Finally, after three days I saw a cute little sprout standing upright. I simply could not help smiling to myself. As I had planted all the seeds from the two pods, one by one, a number of sprouts sprang up. All of them did not survive though (you know, theory of survival of the fittest!).

28th July 2012
7th August 2012

22nd September 2012
As the sprouts became little plants, they became taller and lankier day by day. I had to provide them something to lean on so that they can crawl and reach the grill of the balcony. Luckily, I had some bamboo stick and wire at my place. I made a bamboo net type support and inserted the frame in the soil. I tilted the frame to touch the balcony railing so that the plants can crawl up easily. Everyday I have been monitoring the growth and whether they climbing the right direction. If not, I unfurl the twirls and re-position them. Slowly and gradually, the plants have shot up and reached the ceiling. The twines are going haywire and I often need to position them on a support. The leaves are healthy green. I feel the plant is quite water-hungry as I find the soil of pot often dry at the end of the day (I water my plants in the morning) compared to the other pot plants.

17th October 2012
17th October 2012
With less than a week to Durga Puja, I wanted to see the flowers bloom badly. And yesterday morning, I got my flowery surprise! Perfect indigo blue aparajita flowers perched shyly on the higher end of the vines. There were around 6-7 flowers tucked in the green cover. I think they have been budding since a couple of days. But because of the bright green cover and their position high up, I could not notice. But I was so happy seeing my blue jewels that I spent a long time admiring them.

The butterfly pea flower has amazing medicinal properties and often termed as the 'Miracle Plant' . All the part of the plant--leaves, flowers, stems and roots, all have medicinal properties and extensively used in ayurveda. It is used both internally and externally. Aparajita is used as an appetizer, digestant and vermicide, in colds, skin diseases, for healthy pregnancies and even to enhance intellect. The medicinal prospects of this plant is unlimited. 

In an Indian household, aparajita has a place in both religion and medicine. But to me, its delicate petals and glowing colour has brought me inexplicable joy and solace.

To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat. ~Beverly Nichols
My blue jewels
 I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
 I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Afternoon on a Hill"

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Money vs. Conscience

Near my office, there is a major market for fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. And I often shop there while coming home from work. Before reaching the main market, there are a number of temporary vegetables and fruits vendors who just sit on the pavement, starting from the bus stop. One such fruit-seller sits just next to the bus stop every evening with the seasonal fruits. He's an old fellow and normally wears a white dhoti and shirt. He's probably originally from Bihar side, but speaks fluent Assamese. I started buying stuff from him since the mango season. Almost a couple of months back, one evening I bought a kilo of mangoes. The amount I needed to pay was in multiples of five. I didn't have a five rupees change and neither did he. Very trustfully he told me that I can pay the balance the next time.
It was not the first time that a vendor/shopkeeper had told me that I could pay the change later. But they are ones who know me and where I am a regular customer. And here was this old man, for whom I was only an occasional buyer, and yet he trusted me to come back and pay him the change later.
Anyways, I was sure that I am going to buy fruits from him in the next couple of days and then make up the due. But somehow I didn't have to buy anything to buy from him that soon. My mother was here and she used to buy all the fruits near my place. Then I was out of station for sometime. And like that it has been near about two months now. Although I saw him almost every evening and remembered that I owe him, somehow it was left at that. 
But today evening I was very determined that I am going to buy fruits from him. These days, he has been selling  apples and sweet lime. I bought half a kilo of apples and paid him along with the due five rupees. He gave me a wide bright grin and said that he didn't remembered that I owed him. I said it was a long time ago. He said that in five and ten rupees he has left hundreds to people and he doesn't always remember. If the buyer had dharma (I think he meant conscience), he/she came back and paid.
I think he was quite bemused that I came to pay such a small amount. He stood up and started narrating this incident to me. Once when it was the season of oranges, a well-dressed man, wearing shoes worth around two thousand rupees, was waiting near his stall. Then the man started eating oranges from him. One by one, he ate four oranges. When the old man asked him to pay for them, he vainly replied that he's an inspector somewhere (obviously meaning that he's not going to pay). When the vendor still insisted that he pays, the main replied that he doesn't have the money. During that time, oranges were quite cheap and the payable amount came to only around twenty rupees. The vendor was obviously annoyed and told the man that he should have said that he doesn't have money to pay for the oranges before eating. If it had been a single orange, he would have considered, but it was four oranges. Sadly he said to the man that he could walk away without paying but he had sinned. And quite shamelessly, the man walked away.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rhythm Resonance

I had first visited the Batadrava Than at Bordowa in Nagaon district of Assam as a child. I do not remember much of that visit except heaps of salt outside the prayer hall and a peacock. Recently when I was my hometown Nagaon, my father suggested a trip to the Than. We were quite surprised as it is very unlike my father to plan trips. So obviously, we all happily obliged.
The entrance
Sri Sri Batadrava Than is founded by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva. The word ‘Than’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Sthan’ meaning place. Than refers to the residential religious institutions established by Srimanta Sankardeva. He established the first ever Kirtanghar (prayer hall) in Bordowa in 1468. Another fact that adds to the importance of this place is that the saint himself was born in Alipukhuri-Bordowa in 1449.
Alipukhuri to Batadrava
Mahapurush Srimanta Shankardeva (1449–1568), was an Assamese Vaishnavite saint-scholar, playwright, social-religious reformer and a colossal figure in the cultural and religious history of Assam, India. He is credited with providing a thread of unity to Assam straddling two major kingdoms (Ahom and Koch kingdoms), building on past literary activities to provide the bedrock of Assamese culture, and creating a religion that gave shape to a set of new values and social synthesis. The religion he started, Eka Sarana Nama Dharma (popularly known as Mahapuruxiya Dharma), a monotheistic vaishnavite religion, was part of the Bhakti movement then raging in India. Today, the religion he preached is practiced by a large population, and Sattras (monasteries) that he and his followers established continue to flourish and sustain his legacy. He is also regarded as the father of the modern Assamese race. ‘Eka Sarana Nama Dharma’ is based on the simple philosophy that one should worship none but one God who is Lord Krishna (Eka Deva, Eka Seva, Eka Biney Nahi Keva). Batadrava or Bordowa was the centre of the saint’s activities and so came to be regarded as the Dvitiya Vaikuntha (second heaven).

The Batadrava Than is the first Than or institution set up Srimanta Sankardeva to propagate the religion he started. He built the ‘monikut’ along with the Kirtanghar or Namghar and the ‘Cari-Hati’ (four clusters of quaterers) for accommodation of his disciples. The full fledged Than complex came up in 1509. The ‘Simhasana’ or ‘Guru Asana’ (altar of God) was placed in the ‘Monikut’ and a copy of the ‘Bhagavata’ was placed on it without any idol.

(History courtesy: &
Our trip:Although we had planned to leave for Bordowa early, we reached the Than around 11.20 am. It was Sunday and it had been raining heavily in the morning, which made us sleep a little more. The Than is around 21 kms from our residence. This monsoon, Assam is witnessing a bad case of floods and we witnessed a glimpse of it on our way to the Than. The nearby villages had been inundated by water and the villagers have built makeshift homes for themselves and their livestock on either side of the road itself. Some people were building homes, while some were seen taking a swim in the flood water and some were having fun fishing.

When we reached the Than, prayers were already going on in the kirtanghar. Like all other devotees, we were also wearing a gamocha on our shoulders. As devotees came pouring in, an elderly bhakat (priest) kept spreading additional sitting mats inside the hall. We handed over the fruit items and salt to the assigned priests and settled down for the prayers. The ambience of the prayer hall is serene and the same serenity seems to transcend into one’s being with the resonating rhythmic prayers.
Shilikha tree
The Shilikha (Myrobalan) tree, sitting under which Srimanata Shankardeva used to write the scriptures, is still very healthy after all these years. It is right next to the kirtanghar. The Akashiganga pool, which is formed by the waters of the nearby Akashiganga waterfall, is full of fishes. If you want to see the fishes, all you need to do is to throw some muri (puffed rice) in the water. There are also some swans in the premises who keep on grunting sadly till you feed them some prasad. When I had visited the place as a child, there were peacocks and deers too. But this time, none were to be seen around.
Fishes in Akashiganga
There is a pond called Hati Pukhuri near the priests’ quarters. In the recent past, guest houses for the devotees have also come up. The premises of the Than are clean although the visiting devotees do manage to litter here and there.

There is also a museum which displays items from the saint’s time. But unfortunately we visited on a Sunday, and the museum remained closed. You can also see a blind man who keeps singing soulfully while playing a stringed instrument.

The whole experience of visiting the Than was calming and soothing. Personally I feel it is better to visit the place in off season, as there is lesser number of devotees around and the tranquility of the place is more profound. And when we left the premises of the Than, I could still feel the resonating rhythms of the prayers. Being the foundation stone of the modern Assamese society, Batadrava Than is definitely worth a visit by every Assamese and Assam visitor alike.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A "Phew" Day

Humans are a strange lot. They deny when they know, they refuse when they can. And they typically do this when they know they are in a strategic position, by the virtue of which they can either help people and make things smooth or make things terribly difficult for them. Once one of my professors had stated that it is not the top officials in an office which have an inflated ego and not ready to give you their time. But is the the officials beneath them, usually the clerical staff who make you go round and round. And over time, his statement have been proved right in my personal experiences.

A couple of days back, we had to be in a district government office for some personal work. The experience was not very different from the usual one. Long waiting, tantrums of staff, attempts to control anger and patience testing. And it was a repeat experience as the job was not done by the end of the day and we had to the office the following day too. After a load of anxiousness, we achieved success the second day. But that was not the end. There was a flight to catch. Airport being 20 kms away, an hour and 40 minutes to departure and the given traffic, reaching on time seemed like a doubtful feat. But we managed to beat the odds and wiped our brows with a "phew" at the end of it. The list of things which finally saved the day were:

  1. Prep work
  2. Mobile phones
  3. A car 
  4. A skilled driver 
  5. A fax machine 
  6. Electricity 
  7. A hint of luck 
  8. A bit of humanity 
  9. Patience, love and positive belief
  10. God's grace (of course!)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Progress Plant II: The Fiery Beauty

When I was home last April, I brought a couple of Fireball Lily (Scadoxus multiflorus) bulbs back with me. I planted them in a pot but had no idea how long they would take to grow and bloom. Although I have seen them bloom back home all the time, this was the first time I was raising a couple of them on my own. Towards May end, one of them finally started to shoot up. I was very excited. And now they are in full bloom and are the pride of my little balcony garden. Here are a few glimpses of their pretty journey:

June 4, 2012: It was already their blooming time. So it was the flower bud which came up first

June 5, 2012: The second one is now awake

June 6, 2012: Boosted growth overnight

June 7, 2012: Fire Ball

June 8, 2012: The second one is trying to catch up fast

June 9, 2012: Full bloom

June 10, 2012: The twin blazes easily charms the eye

June 11, 2012: Basking in their own warmth

June 12, 2012: The first one is drooping now. But the tender leaves are now on their way to glory.
Fireball lilies are also called Blood lilies and as seen above, they have multiple tiny fiery red blooms growing in a spherical array. This is essentially a summer flower and blooms through June, July and August. They should to be planted ideally in early spring. In early autumn, when the flowers begin to die, the bulbs can be taken out and kept in a dry place, to be re-planted in the coming year. Else, the they can be left on with the leaves in the soil throughout the year and the flowers will again bloom in their time.

Though very attractive and gorgeous, the flowers of the fireball lilies are highly toxic if ingested. So children should be prevented from plucking them to avoid  ingestion.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Ma.. My Ideal

"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." ~Rajneesh.

I am my parents' first-born and Ma had me when she was quite young. She had married young and though she had her ups and downs in life, she left no stone un-turned in bringing up her daughters in the best way possible. She is the backbone of Deta and his strength in troubled times. Although she's the most matured lady I have known, she has a lively streak of child-likeness.

Ma is incomplete without her 'directions'. She has one direction for us all whenever we are doing something. For example, if I am cleaning my shoes, she will direct me to wash my hands (even when I know that I should do so!); when Deta is driving, she would direct him to be careful as there is a rickshaw ahead; when anyone is moving around the house bare-footed and then going to climb on the bed, she would direct us to go and wash our feet first. Examples are innumerable but her directions are never enough! But, no matter how much we complain, we have to admit that she's an excellent organizer, planner and family manager.

Ma cannot sit idle around the house. She has to do something or the other. So when she comes to visit me, she finds herself lots of things to do primarily cleaning and scrubbing every nook and corner of the house and organizing things. So right now, my place is sparkling.

Ma is a 'Queen of worries'. There is no issue under the sun, about which she can not worry. She has the capacity of an ocean in this matter. She can worry and take tension just about anything; be it her family or acquaintance of a distant acquaintance.  She covers them all. 

Ma is an epitome of patience and perseverance and has limitless faith in the Almighty. Like any other family, ours too have had our share of hard times. And every time Ma becomes the life-jacket of her family. She is like the sponge that soaks all water but does not show that she is drenched too. She never loses her faith and keeps us afloat. She always believes that if God closes a door, He opens another too. Ma loves to live in a cheerful environment and hates it when people around her are gloomy and not smiling.

Ma is a learner. If she does not know something, she does not shy away from asking. Since she married young, she got up in familial responsibilities and somehow could not pursue higher studies. But she never lost her hunger for knowledge. She is always eager to learn, no matter how big or small the thing may be. She loves to read and almost everyday she has some time to spare to do that.

Like any mother, Ma is emotional. She would get emotional when she realizes that her daughters have grown up, that they can cook and take care of themselves and of her and Deta too. Besides being emotional, Ma is also very soft-spoken and generous. I have never heard her say a harsh word when any relative or acquaintance had been rude or unkind to her. She would always bear it and let it pass. Even when her own kin would be selfish and unkind to her, no bitter word escapes her mouth. But she would not fail to help those very same people when in need.

Ma has always been open with children. She is not the serious type mothers whom we should fear. As my sister and I grew up, she started treating us like her friends with whom she would share her thoughts and feelings. She never  hid or hides any family problems or difficulties and matters. And that gave us maturity and responsibility.

Apart from all the seriousness, Ma is fun too. She's game when I say let's have macaroni for lunch or pizza for dinner. And sits down with me to enjoy shows like MTV Roadies! When we are together, Ma and I can shop and window shop till we drop and often leave the shops  through half closed shutters or back doors!  Recently I introduced her to the art of online shopping and she is all into it. Surprisingly, my sister is not much into shopping and is a very impatient shopper.

"When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child." ~Sophia Loren.

As a daughter, I feel extremely lucky and thankful to God that He chose me to be one of Ma's daughters. I shall be ever indebted to my Ma for being my rock and can never do enough to repay her. She is my ideal. I try and incorporate all her  goodness in my being and in the way I live my life. The only thing I do not want to learn is her art of worrying. What I have learned in my short life is that it is better to take one day at a time and not worry much about what and how things would be in the future. I say the same to Ma and sometimes she seems to be doing that. But old habits die hard! However, it is mostly her children she worries about. Sometimes, I feel she lived her life the way she did for the sake of her daughters. Every decision she made, in her every action, we were her priority. 

"No language can express the power, and beauty, and heroism, and majesty of a mother's love. It shrinks not where man cowers, and grows stronger where man faints, and over wastes of worldly fortunes sends the radiance of its quenchless fidelity like a star." ~Edwin Hubbell Chapin

It is said that mother is the first teacher of a child. True. Ma have taught us patience, perseverance, humility, love and faith. She has taught us to be calm, thankful and kind. She showed us how to maintain social relationships and live the personal ones. If, as a daughter, I am not able to follow her footsteps, it is my tragedy, not hers. I do not know about other things, but I have definitely learned to give directions! Ma has always taught us to be independent yet she always been our anchor. For every child, his or her mother is the best mother. And so is mine for me. I do not say it often, but I really love you Ma and I am very proud to be your daughter. 

"God cannot be everywhere, so He created mothers." ~Jewish Proverb.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Happily Home Alone

I am often asked how I manage to stay alone. That don't I feel scared or get lonely, don't I... whatever.

Well, the answer is I enjoy staying alone.This way, I am responsible for myself and the queen of my will. Earlier I was staying with my sister, but it was no issue as we have been together practically all our lives. Moreover, since she's the younger one, I am the boss anyways.

I have never been the scared types. I am not afraid of the dark. On the contrary, I can't sleep even in the slightest hint of light.Taking down  cockroaches have been my expertise since childhood. Also, I like watching lightning lashing across the skies.

On weekdays, I don't have the time to get lonely. In the morning, I drag myself out of the bed just in time to make to the office. On the way back, I shop for groceries, fruits, vegetables,non-veg items, food, clothes, shoes and anything else. Back home, enjoy a couple of lined up TV shows with some snacks. Then time to cook dinner, call up my folks, then watch a movie on laptop or TV. Finally, end the day with a few pages of a book and drift away to sleepyville.

Weekends spell sleep, laundry, house-cleaning, movies, self care and grandparents occasionally, and of course more sleep.

Staying alone has many plus points. You don't have to answer to anybody. No panic calls when you half an hour late in reaching home from work.Nobody to question you on your spending habits. You can have anything you want for dinner. No need to think what the others want to have or cook what the others want. You can always order in or pick up something on your way home when you don't feel like cooking. No one to fight with the TV remote. You don't have to share your space. And your stuff is always the way you keep them. Plus, you spare your prospective room-mates the horror of putting up with you. The only downside is that you have to look after yourself, even when you are sick.

For a woman who stays alone or with room-mate(s), the experience can be very liberating and a definite confidence-booster. But the most important thing is that it makes you fiercely independent. From cooking, cleaning, shopping, replacing the LPG cylinder and bulbs to taking out the trash and fixing power and water issues, you have to fend for yourself. And that makes you a responsible adult. Of course, if you are the kind who likes to abuse your freedom, that is your individual problem. Don't blame me for that.

So now you know, I am happily home alone.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Perfect Roti

I think that the major challenge every girl of the Indian subcontinent faces in the kitchen is roti (flatbread). This is one food item we wish we never had to prepare. Alas, this is a wish meant never to come true. Well, I do not have anything against roti but only against the dough making process. The part of the process over the fire, whether we make roti, parantha or puri, is the easy part. The major challenge and the most crucial part is the preparation of the dough.

When I was a little girl (by little girl I mean when I was tall enough to reach the gas stove on the kitchen shelf), the first phase of my involvement of  roti making was cooking it over the fire. The trick I was taught was that, after placing the raw roti on the tawa (flat pan), let one side to half-cook, then turn it over. Let the other half be fully-cooked (press the open side with a cloth while moving it in rotary motion) and turn it over. If the dough is perfect and you are doing your part right, then the roti will be blown just like the above picture.

The second phase of my involvement was flattening the dough pieces into perfect circle (or as round as possible!) using a rolling pin. Well, well, it was more of a project of creating new countries, if you know what I mean. I am sure the ladies do! And that still happens now on bad roti days.

The final and the most crucial phase (and messy) was making the dough itself. Now this process is a science in itself. The right proportion of flour and warm water, and a little oil and salt plus the amount and way of your hand pressure can make or break your roti (literally). For many years, I evaded this phase. Ever since I started surviving on my own cooking skills, I have enjoyed home made rotis only when visiting relatives and when I am home with my folks or when my folks are over at my place. But I have realized that this system cannot go on forever. Tomorrow I would not be able to tell my husband, children or any family member, that I am sorry but I cannot prepare rotis! That will be really embarrassing. Plus, what to do when I feel like having rotis myself! Actually this part is important.

So, in my quest to preserve my future respect (as well as present), I started making roti from scratch. And amazingly, I have realized that it is only a matter of practice. I have had experience preparing from lousy, average to perfect dough. Not in the same order necessarily. Last month when I was home with my parents, I prepared the dough. It was perfect. The edges did not crack when the dough was flattened with the rolling pin. Even the raw rotis were round-shaped. I was face-saved in front of my parents and nobody had to go bed hungry. Even my father was impressed. I was so high after the experience, that I decided to that for myself also. Unfortunately, the dough sucked. It was a hard and the edges of the roti cracked. Nonetheless, I had to consume all of it.

I am planning to cook roti again sometime soon. And I am going to keep on doing it till it becomes a child's play for me. And I am going to produce a perfect roti over and over again. Next in line will be my quest of the perfect puri and parantha. Actually, I have quite a list of quests in waiting.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Progress Plant I: Impatiens

It's amazing to see something alive grow in front of your eyes. Two months back, I bought a couple of Impatiens seedlings. I have been taking care of them since then. Here's their journey so far!!
December 21, 2011
December 31, 2011
January 25, 2012
February 16, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lovey Dovey

It's Valentines' Day eve and I woke up to the usual chirps of the greedy sparrows. I entered the kitchen and saw something flying out in a hurry from the exhaust fan's  outside opening. The kitchen's exhaust fan is right above the wash basin. And I found dry  pieces of twigs in the basin and  on the floor. I told myself that the sparrows are now trying to build a nest in the kitchen after I blocked their entry points in the living room. I found twigs in the attached balcony also. I cleaned up the area and took a chair to clean the area behind the fan too. Yesterday evening also, when I reached home from work, I found twigs. But I didn't suspect anything. Just assumed that the wind must have blown them in.

I had bread today and so thought of feeding it to the sparrows instead of the regular rice grains. As I sat tearing up the bread piece, a spotted turtle dove (kopou) came and sat on the balcony grill, completely choosing to ignore me. When I entered back to the kitchen, it flew straight to the exhaust fan opening and made itself comfortable. And then it started cooing in its sweet little voice. And after a couple of minutes its mate came. On seeing that, I simply couldn't help but smile to myself. And I knew I will be never be able to chase away this lovely couple from my home. The sweet things are simply trying to build a home.

I am used to seeing kopou building nests. Back in our Jorhat house, I remember a young female kopou trying to build a nest. Her mate was killed by a terrible cat and she was a inexperienced expecting mother. She tried building her nest with a few twigs and leaves. Finally Deta felt sorry for her and helped her. Her egg was the cutest. As far as the cat is concerned, he was banished from our premises forever.

I came home from work tonight a little late. Had a early dinner with a couple of friends outside and didn't really have much to do in the kitchen. Still I went there and switched on the lights to check on the exhaust fan area. And yes, there it was, looking straight at me. I assume that it is the female and the male is chivalrous enough to watch on her from outside. Of course, there were more number of twigs in the area below. I had a couple of utensils to wash and I tried to do that as quietly as possible. I called up my parents and told them about them. Maa said that it's okay and they will behave like pets once they take home. So not to worry about waking them up with lights or noise after sunset. Deta said that it's nice that birds are making nest in the house in the city.

So now I have a bunch of ever hungry sparrows to feed, a young dove couple to keep, few plants to water and a couple of local fishes to watch. Not a bad deal in a wannabe metro city, huh! For me, the dove experience is my valentines' gift from nature. And I really really hope that the 'lovey dovey's stay around me for quite sometime now.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pangs of (Puppy) Love

A few days back, I was having a conversation with a couple of my friends about the phase of so called 'love' in our school life. And how things have evolved since then. I personally feel that I am growing old when we talk about 'our good old days'. But nevertheless, incidents and memories of things like that are so amusing that I feel those are definitely worth sharing.

Being a girl, I have always known the female version of puppy love in school. Back then, boys did not reveal their side of story nor we, girls, bothered. We were too amused to care by all the attention we got. After all these years, it is enlightening to know their side of the story.

I will just give a general account of incidents that usually happened during my school days. Let's take a random girl G and a random boy B. The backdrop is high school (Std. V to XII) in the late nineties.

Girls' Side of the Story:
It all started with teasing by friends. If the news flashed that B fell for G, her friends start teasing G immediately. After that G finds B following her or looking at her wherever she goes. Missed calls and blanks start coming at her home's land-line phone (Yes, that was the age of landlines). If G likes B, she enjoys the teasing and blushes. But if she doesn't she would get angry. Some of her friends and B's friends play the messengers, passing on gifts and verbal or written messages. There are others who play the role of adviser. The teasing and advice becomes so extreme that the G starts actually thinking that she too has fallen for B! And often G and some of her friends would find that they have received love letters with similar content and language. Some Gs just enjoy the attention and take it no further. Some enjoy the gifts along with the attention of B or Bs. And a very few took it further and actually start a relationship. Valentine's day meant gifts. And if she didn't like the guy, Rakshabandhan eve was available to turn him into a  brother!

Boys' Side of the Story:
B starts finding G cute or beautiful. Every way of hers felt dreamlike and likeable. He starts scribbling 'G+B' on the classroom desks, trees in the school compound and anywhere possible. B tells about his feelings to a friend or friends. His friends do the job of letting the news getting to G. G moves around in the school with her group of friends and so does he. So the entire boy group starts following the girl group in the school. Boys usually worked in a team in this. B and his team would plan and make strategies as to how to 'patao' G, which of G's friends could be made a messenger. One guy would be the letter writer while another with beautiful handwriting would be the final copywriter. A friend of mine even told stories of how chicken blood was used to write letter so that G would think that the B had used his own blood! What gift is to be gifted, what is to be said and the next course of action, all ideas were pooled in by every team member. Valentine's day was awaited while Rakshabandhan was dreaded. Some Bs even skipped school on the eve of Rakshabandhan. 

After G and B becomes 'G+B':
G has fallen for B too and message had been conveyed. Good wishes and cheers on both sides. But the news should not reach the teachers or any other school authorities. If it reaches, first school punishment and then guardians would be notified, which meant spanking and beating. Codes were made for making calls. Two or three (or with a combination of half ring) at G's place meant, it is B calling and she needs to wait by the phone. If the telephone's keypad is locked, then tricks to unlock it were formulated including duplicate keys. Dates were planned weeks ahead-- where to meet and at what time to meet. G was often accompanied by a friend and so B had to save money harder. Apart from that, stealing a few moments in a empty classroom or hallway here and there was all that they could have.

Mostly the incidents were a result of having a crush or infatuation. But looking back now, I feel that the emotions of all of it played a major role in our growing up (I have taken the liberty to call it 'our' instead of 'my' here). Several Gs and Bs who were not a  couple then are married today. While many couples have gone separate ways and few are married couples now. And there are others who are still drowned in the gloom of unrequited love. Whatever choices we made then or the emotions we went through are a part of us today. It was nothing but the innocent first step of our future relationships.

As a result of social evolution, school love affairs are common news today and all for wrong reasons. One student killing another or oneself because of a love triangle or unrequited love, couples committing suicide because of family opposition, students caught in school in compromising positions and objectionable MMS clippings being circulated. Apart from the gruesome side, I also know parents who are cool about their children's relationships and consider it healthy.They have accepted such relationships as a part of their child's growing up and this attitude is actually something to be appreciated.

Nonetheless, I personally feel that school love stories have lost their charm and innocence over the years. The magic of a glance or a smile has disappeared. Our pangs of puppy love and its course of action have become ancient as have our school days.