Memorial Day Weekend

Since we could not afford a trip that involves long drive, we decided to stay put at home. This is the first long weekend that did not see us going out of the town. The Roommate is tiffed, but his hands are tied, and he cannot actually complain. For some time we planned for going out on the beach (cancelled since the sun was not bright enough until mid-day), movie night-and-day (did not get time to go to library to get videos), shopping (the only thing done, but got tired too easily). Luckily, Ray and Radha invited us for lunch at their home, and one afternoon was worth spent with their seven month old boy, Kesav, who was a handful. Kesav could not stand and ignored Srikant for the first few hours, and stuck to me, for which I am ever grateful to him. He is such a cheeky boy.

Apart from that Memorial Day afternoon, we were left with the challenge to be at home together without killing each other. I immediately knew, to stay strong at such adverse situations and overcome such challenge, I needed big distractions, a bigger challenge. So while the roommate took refuge behind the Mac, I hid myself in the kitchen.

Now, people who know me already know the kitchen is not my favorite place at home. That I had the guts to publish a post on cooking is surely going to raise some eyebrows with lots of friends who are otherwise culinary experts. However, this was not going to dampen my spirit. I was only reacting to the high level of hCG in my blood (you must already know of the other side-effects, if you have been privy to my other blog).

So, a-la-Julia & Julliette, I started Project One Item A Day.

29th May, Saturday: Fired Rice and Chilly Chicken
I decided on a Chinese theme for the first day. I knew this will impress The Soulmate as he is a Chinese cuisine fan, but I also ran the risk of having "Chinky" as my permanent nickname. Still, this was the easiest, as I already made it (yes, you read it right) a few times at home. Most of the ingredients were there at home, but realised we did not have the vinegar. The Soulmate ran downstairs without complain. Thanks God for the onsite grocery store at our apartment, which is unimaginable at this part of Downtown LA.

For obvious reasons, I would not go into the recipe and all, since that was not the goal of this post, and will directly post the photos.

The Soulmate made use of the leftover chicken bones and the vegetables in the freezer and made awesome chicken soup. But, I am not going to talk about it here, neither I am going to post any photos of chicken soups. This is my blog, and I decide what
will go in here. If you want to post photos of your cooking skills, you are welcome to have your own blog. Period!

30th May, Sunday: Dosa with Coconut Chutney
Woke up very late, and went out for lunch and shopping and came back tired. I still had the energy to go to kitchen, dish out some snacks. Dosa was on the menu. Now, I really know how to make batter; I made some in the past. But, as you obviously understood, it was such a hectic weekend, I settled with store bought Dosa batter. No complications with a guarantee that the Dosas will come out crisp and tasty. I, however, made the coconut chutney myself. Hmmph! No Sambar, since we both don't like it with Dosa (it masks the flavour), and there was no sambar powder at home. The Chutney Pudi was made by Viji, and I get a regular supply of those.

This is the first time I made Dosa without any supervision from Ma, Viji or Venkat. However, the task was made 100 times more difficult by the Soulmate who continuously poked his nose, and offered unwanted suggestions, and were very generous with unwelcome criticism. I am immensely proud that I rose above such petty criminal activity, maintained my dignity and delivered quality.

31st May, Monday: Gajar Halwa
Even though we came exhausted from Ray-Radha-Kesav's home, I felt the carrot's that were shredded the previous night should not go waste, and instead of ducking under the sheets, cooked this dessert.

All in all, it was a very productive weekend. I would not still dare to ask any of you to come and taste my cooking (The Soulmate has earned himself that punishment), but I wish to carry on some more of this if I have the time and the penchant for it, and, more importantly, if the enthusiasm persists.


The Story of My Heart

Image Source: amazon.com

“I have a story going in my head which I think will make a nice book.” I threw the remark casually over the breakfast table this morning. The soulmate looked up from behind the newspaper, his eyes screwed with confusion. I knew he was weighing what his next line of action should be. Which, for that instance, were:

1. Give me a green signal to carry on, which will be followed by a half an hour of lecture on my part with animated descriptions of characters and events, with occasional demands of suitable and encouraging comments from him, in the absence of which, he will be found guilty and convicted of the crime of being an “insensitive husband”.


2. Ignore me which will result into a big fight and he will be found guilty and convicted of the crime of being an “insensitive husband”.

Proving again that I was smart in my decision, for I chose him as my life partner, he opted for the former.

I took the thread and happily carried on. The next few minutes went something like this:

Me: “There were these two sisters… no... cousins.”
SM: “You and Tia?”
Me: “Aah! No... not us. Ok...ummm... so one of them were very pretty.”
SM: “Tia?”
I gave him an indignant look, and continued, “The other cousin was average looking, just a Plain Jane.”
SM: “That’s you?”
I was visibly irritated at that point, and definitely did not enjoy the frequent interjections. Unflustered, I concentrated on my story again. “So the cousins have an aunt, umm… a spinster, preferably a widow, who lives with them in the same house.”
The soulmate adjusted his seat, and asked innocently, “And who is this Aunt, your pishi or jethima? ”
I retorted, uncertainly, “None of them. The cousins live in a big and old mansion in a posh corner of a small city.”
He scrutinized my face for a moment, and quizzed, “What was the last book you read again?” and seeing my stony face he gladly retrieves back to the world of current affairs.

That was where the conversation ended.

I keep telling myself that how am I ever going to write a book if everything that I ever thought, dreamt, or wanted to do had already been written by an author before me? So, as he guessed rightly, this time, I was thinking of “Sisters of my Heart” by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni and developed a similar plot line for my story.

This book had been lying on my bookshelf for quite a time, after I picked it up in Bangalore airport on a journey home. I let it gather dust cause I knew it in my mind that this one story has already stolen my idea of what would have been my first book, the story of two sisters, until I could not resist any longer.

But glad I am that I read it at last. It sent me into a roller coaster of emotions, for all good and not so good reasons. This is a story of two cousins born on the same day into an upper caste all-female Bengali household in Kolkata. The story tells about their love for each other and the bond threatened by family secrecies and jealousy, their lives as they grow together… and apart… and only to be brought together again by destiny.

The story is told from each sister’s perspective, and each chapter moves back and forth between the two protagonists. Coming from a similar background (as u might have already guessed, since I was ready to write another book on the same), I could identify myself with both the protagonist, Anju and Sudha. (Yes, Anju is me, Sudha is Tia, hahha). This is my first CBD book, and I immediately fell in love with her writing. Her writing is like flowing poetry, and the language is very artistic. I wonder if any non-Bengali reader thought that the young girls, Anju and Sudha, speaks in a flowery way, cause that’s how Bengali girls spoke in late 80’s and early 90’s, until commercialism changed the attitude of young Bengali girl’s in modern India.

The characters are very real. The way Aunt Nalini wails at every small lapse and declares how it would not have been accepted in her own father’s well-maintained household wonders me. Did CBD ever meet my she-who-should-not be named- here aunt (wink! wink!) or how else did she draw her character so vividly?

I was less happy with Anju and Sudha, though. Anju being the more ambitious among two, never ventures into anything other than reading literature, and the vivacious one that she is, never fights enough when her college education is stopped. Sudha, should have been allowed to have little more vanity just for the reason that she is so pretty (aren’t all pretty girls snooty?) and not so mimic and docile. Or was it that the burdens of secret made her forget about her own prettiness? But at the end, it made a beautiful story of sisterly bond. The complexities of the characters, their intertwined past, the drama and secrecies kept me glued to the book, till the end of the book.

I am happy that I read this book. It saved me a lot of hard work to try to write a second (or third) class cheap quality book on sibling relationships. I was little furious though as the author left it to me to extrapolate how it would go at the end. But just saw that those two characters are reunited in Divakaruni’s another novel "The Vine of Desire". So, I will have to grab that book soon.

Now that I realized that writing book on sibling relationship is not such a novel idea, I kept stumbling on more books on similar plotlines. The current one I am reading is Brick Lane, by Monica Ali which though tells the story of an uneducated woman who relocates to London after marriage, but it also has an important supporting character in the role of a sister (who happens to be very beautiful. again), whom we never see in the story, but get to know her through her poorly written letters. Since Brick Lane does not only tell about two sisters but also deals with Immigrant’s issues, religious and political, racial and women's issues, and also I have not finished the book yet, I will talk about it later.

The Career Graph So Far...

This post is a winner at the Blogadda "My Dream Job" Contest. July 30, 2010.

I have had my dream job since I was eight. I am one of those lucky persons who did not have torun after a job they might like..Rather my dream job landed into my lap by kismet. So, the other day I saw this email from Blogadda and it mentioned “share your dream job and you never know you might get it after you let us know.” A lot of us will be excited to hear this, and I thought since I already have my dream job, who knows, sharing it might give me a chance to excel in it. So here is a reminiscent of my time on my job.

Image courtesy: http://www.hanselman.com/

I was five (or six), playing teacher-teacher in Thakuma’s bedroom, all alone. One of the walls which served as the blackboard was adorned with illegible scribblings, and my pupils (the stools and the chairs) listened to me in silence. I asked a question to one of the wooden chair, who failed to answer. That resulted in his ears being pulled out firmly, and hit by a cane brutishly.

My dad who was sitting at the desk, looked up from his work when he could no longer bear to see the sufferings of the poor chair at my hand. He pulled me up, sat me on his lap, and on enquiry received an animated explanation from me about the aforementioned chair’s consistent failings in the classroom and subsequent justified caning. Dad nodded, “Beta if you want to be good at your job, you might consider sparing the cane and explaining the subject in a simpler way. Now you do want to be a god teacher, don’t you?” I nodded vehemently, and he added, more intently this time, “Remember, no matter what you want to be in life, teacher or doctor, the first thing you would want to be is a good human being, ”I looked up at him, blankly, not realizing the actual meaning of his words.

“Which school do I have to go, Dad, to be… er… that?” I asked. Dad smiled, more humorously this time, “You don’t have to, Beta, you will learn it yourself.”

“So, would you help me to be one?”

“I can guide you, but it is you who have to do the job.” He went back to his work.

And I started working on the job to be a ‘good human being’.

I was ten, I received the paper for an algebra class test, and it read 00/20 in red. I showed the paper to mom, and she wailed for the next half an hour (longer than I regretted for the poor marks), cursed all the 33 crore God, who conspiratorially handed her down a stupid girl who would not turn up to do anything good in life. I sobbed, and cried, and said sorry that I failed them. Dad was calm. Later when the noise level came down to tolerable level (so that each one can hear the other in the room) he said, “Beta, its Ok if you get bad score in one of the tests. You can always try harder next time. What matters most is that you be a good human being, and that will make us very proud.” Those words again. He told the same the other day when I was dressing up for a friend’s birthday party, discarding one dress after another, unsatisfied with the reflection in the mirror. He consoled, “Wear anything, and and as long you have a good heart, you will feel the prettiest.”

So, by the age of nine or ten, I realized that the way to success is to be a good human being. “And what a easy job that is”, contended I thought. It was definitely easier to be a good human being than getting 20/20 in Algebra.

I was 15, playing lock-n-key in the school playground. My friend tripped on a stone and fell on the ground on her face. While others laughed, I ran to her, helped her to stand on her feet, and asked if she is OK. The appreciation in her eyes that day taught me the reward you get for being a good human being. I did not feel bad that I was not the most popular girl in the school, not the prettiest or the cleverest. I rather felt pride when I was called the most kind of all. I felt happiest and imagined a pair of colorful wings coming out of the back of my body (just like my favourite character Captain Haddock thinks each time he manages to do a kind job).

Life in school was simple, living with parents at home was even simpler. Being the daughter of a preeminent person and coming from a well-known family allowed me to enjoy certain advantages in life, and I could afford to be nice and kind to others without putting myself into much inconvenience. Then the time came when I had to move to another part of the country, to start my University education. Living in college dorms with other girls, leading a life where nobody knows anything about me other than my name was difficult. My primary job started to suffer. Though I managed to achieve some brownie points occasionally, there were other incidents when I realized that a hint of a new pair of horns was stemming out of the temple of my head.

So the day I discovered that the girl who I thought was my best friend was talking behind my back, I did not react kindly. Or the days when a girl refused to return the money she borrowed from me, or I suspected my drawer was searched and my note book had gone missing for more than two days, I was less than angelic in my behaviour. By the end of my 1st year in college the horns were in full view for everybody to see. And then there was this time when I wrote a full answer on my question paper and passed it to a friend during the university exam, as I was scared he might fail the exam otherwise. Though a shiver runs down my spine each time I think of that juvenile reckless behavior, the horns and the wings enjoyed connubial bliss on that day. (This best friend later turned against me, teaching me an important lesson in life: nobody in life is worth brandishing your horns for, but that is another story). There were other times when the wings fought with the horns, each trying to outdo the others, claiming authority. But I would spare the details here.

I finished my studies, and started teaching in a University. I studied to help people with hearing disabilities, but over the years decided that I could do something better than just be a direct care-giver. So I opted to teach and help students who will in the future go out in the world and help to make a few lives better. Though at times I might have lost my patience with my students, but mostly, I would like to believe, I performed well in my primary job and my students and colleagues would possibly remember me as a good human being.

A lot of incidents came crowded in my mind when I was writing this post, some still very fresh in mind, and others half forgotten. On those times, when the horns prevailed over the wings, I avoided my Dad’s gaze, as things were often more complicated than explaining the fault of a simple wooden chair. In retrospect, I feel that I might not have done brilliantly well in my job, but I trust I have done fairly well.

Today I am on the right side of 30, and with maturity, I realized that things are not always black and white. The horns are still there (and they serve pretty well to keep the halo in place). The colors of the wings are little faded here and there, but they still flutter as beautifully as they did that afternoon on the school playground.

This post is in response to the blogadda contest (powered by Pringoo).

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