My love affair with Peanut Butter

As love affairs go, this one might not seem so scandalous. I mean, its just peanut butter after all.

But then, its not JUST peanut butter. It is PEANUT BUTTER.

I wonder how I went so many years without peanut butter. I started relishing this sinful spread only about a couple of years back and ever since, there has been no looking back. And I am so addicted to this versatile spread, that now; I can not go a day without having my peanut butter fix each morning. Peanut butter on a toast is how mornings kick start around here. Creamy and crunchy, I love them both. And people who don’t like it, I feel sorry for you.

I love it so much that I dread to think of a world where peanut butter doesn’t exist. Yes, I get those kinds of thoughts. I also want to take it along on holidays, just in case you know 🙂

Breakfast, lunch or dinner…every time is right for indulging in some peanut butter. Every time I come eye to eye with PB jar, I have to practically stop myself from dunking a finger in this gooey goodness.

Health wise, they say it is in fact good. It has healthy kind of fat and all that jazz. So I have stopped feeling too guilty about consuming it. But then of course, eating in moderation would be logical. Not more than couple of table spoons a day. DAMN it’s hard.

 

Too much peanut butter

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A small, fighter of a plant

Last year, a friend of mine gifted us with a small plantlet. A beautiful little plantlet. The kind I hadn’t seen before. Looked exotic. Looked beautiful. Snap dragon it is called. I was thrilled. Who doesn’t like beautiful, little flowering plants? It upped the ambience of the house a notch.  And I’ll give my friend that. Seems like she had put quite a lot of thought in to this wonderful gift. When you are just starting off in a new country, in a rented place, small additions like these are really what make a house look more like a warm home.

This small little plantlet grew, flowered and bloomed. Small, pink flowers whose petals opened like a dragon’s mouth. Each time we saw a new bud popping, we ooh-ed and aah-ed. We marvelled in its beauty. If this plant was a girl, it would have felt vain over how beautiful it looked. At any point, it would have 10-12 flowers in full bloom and half a dozen or so of buds waiting for their moment in glory. The contrast of pink and green. What’s not to like? The plant grew in size. We kept trimming away at the dried, withered edges. It was branching out so fast, that within no time we had to tie a thread around the little stems to keep them from bending sideways from the weight of the flowers.

Then came winter. The plant withstood the stormy winds as it did the cold, harsh weather. That little thing fought with all its might. It did start looking a bit dried out and worn out, and showed a few signs of fatigue. But we kept trimming at the dying parts and kept watering it regularly. We kept it alive.

Until that day came. We were visiting India for a month and needed someone to look after the precious one in our absence. I left the plant in the good care of a dear colleague, who promised to water it every other day. A little water every other day, is all the plant needed.

Upon my return, when she handed me the plant, it really looked miserable. It looked like it couldn’t bear to be away from us. My colleague did her best and watered it regularly, but it seemed to have worn out tremendously. It looked like it was dying. My colleague blamed herself to my dismay. I scolded her for blaming herself. It wasn’t her fault. She watered it regularly. That’s all we asked her to do.

With a heavy heart I brought it home. It was hard to see it go. My MIL suggested that we try one last resort. We trimmed the whole plant down to bare minimum. Until what remained of the plant was just its small little stem. Withered flowers, fallen leaves, dried out stems lay in a heap on the carpet.

We hoped it would survive, we hoped it would bloom back to life. But we were not convinced. It looked too weak to survive. Mentally, we had given up on it. We kept it out in the balcony, but rarely spared it a second glance. We watered it occasionally. Nothing seemed to change for the first three months.

But that little plant hadn’t given up its will to live. Miracles do happen. After about three months, we noticed it was looking a little greener. Little grown up than it had looked in many months. It looked like it was alive. Within weeks, we saw new stems branching out. It was looking fuller, it was looking healthier. We waited and soon we were greeted with new buds opening up. And before long, the little plantlet was blooming with flowers once again. It is now about eight inches tall, but has four flowers in full bloom and five buds ready to shine. It’s beautiful again. My home is a bit more cheerful once again.

Why am I sharing this story? Because every time TCG and I look at this plant, we are awed. We are fascinated. We are humbled. We are surprised. We are amazed at this little plant’s fighting spirit. It’s will to survive against all odds. It’s strength to face the winters and brave the storms. Little it may be, but look how much LIFE it has in it. It reinforces our faith in ourselves.  It reminds us never to lose hope. It proves where there is a will, there is a way. It reminds us who the BOSS is. It tells us not to fret the small stuff. It teaches us not to be disheartened by minor setbacks and disappointments. It enlightens us and makes us wiser. (It made us feel guilty about having thought once that it wouldn’t make through. )

When a three-inch brazen looking stem can spring back to full life with it’s fighting spirit and zeal to live, who are we to give up, make excuses and feel doomed over small set backs.

A small plant. A BIG teacher.

I wish this precious one always survives.

For those who want to know how a snap dragon plant looks like:

Image Courtesy: Easy bloom

Image Courtesy: Easy bloom

 

 

This ‘Indianness’

When you have been away from homeland too long, you get to learn yourself better. You discover those aspects of your personality that you never thought you possessed. Then you realise, may be you did, but these feelings were hibernating while you were busy taking things in homeland for granted.

Unexpected things and random experiences are known to trigger a wave of nostalgia, taking you down the memory lane, making you teary-eyed and happy at the same time. One thought leads to another, and before long, you are lost in the awesomeness that is homeland. Time seems to slow down while you walk through this beautiful garden of memories. A small smile plays on your lips, much to the wonderment of your co-workers. When asked what you are smiling about, you say ‘nothing’. How do you explain to them what brought the smile on? It’s hard. They wouldn’t understand. They haven’t had common experiences growing up with you. They are not on the same page. And you are in too happy a space to even bother explaining them.

How do you explain endless hours spent playing lagori, shaakli, chupa-chupi, langdi?

How do you explain the joy you felt on enjoying the coolness of kalakhatta, orange or keri flavoured gola on your lips on a sweltering hot summer day?

KalaKhatta Gola Picture Courtesy - Ahujaboy

KalaKhatta Gola Picture Courtesy – Ahujaboy

How do you explain the fun you had playing holi, pelting water balloons on random people?

How do you explain what’s all the fuss about Pani-puri?

 

Pani-Puri Picture Courtesy www.bubblews.com

Pani-Puri Picture Courtesy http://www.bubblews.com

How do you explain DDLJ, Hum Aapke Hain Kauna and the likes have been an important part of you growing up? How do you explain you miss drama sometimes?

How do you explain what’s the deal about maa ke haath ka gaajar ka halwa?

How do you explain those many fun-filled moments you have shared with your cousins, or for that matter even your mama, mami, kaka, kaki, mausa, mausi, bua, nana, nani, dada, dadi? Heck, we don’t even have English words for these uncles and aunties. In Pardes, you realise how impersonal English language really is, you crave to talk in your mother tongue. You try filling the hole by watching Bollywood movies. Bollywood movies remain your closest connection to India. Every once in a while you feel a strong desire to watch some classic movie for the nth time, just so you could relive those memories. Just so that you could take the cheapest ticket back to India for a wee-while. Just for a while, you want to be transported back to India.

In a foreign country, you are constantly battling feelings of ‘neither here’ & ‘nor there’. There are days when you feel like giving it all up and heading straight home. Damn career, Damn pardes.

It’s then when you learn to acknowledge how big a part India is of you. You can take an Indian out of India, but you can’t take India out of an Indian. So true that.

The good thing is you learn to value your roots a lot more. You learn a great deal about yourself. You have plenty of opportunities to pause and reflect. You feel like you have grown years wiser in a small time. You learn new perspectives, you become more flexible. You become more aware of differences in people around you. As much as I have seen, heard or read, I can say every Indian settling abroad inadvertently goes through this unique, one-of-its-kind tug-of-war. Every one feels homesick once the novelty wears off. Because culture, traditions and way of life in India are nothing like in any other countries. There is a whole world within India itself, and it is difficult to explain this “Indianness” to a non-Indian.

All my friends gearing up for a new life outside India; be ready to be challenged. Be ready to unlearn and be ready to learn. All the best.

 

Of new beginnings

It has been many weeks since I last came here to rant. Every time I go weeks without writing, it only gets more and more difficult to come back.  Where do I start? There are so many things that I want to share, but have been stopping myself because I was afraid it was a bit too premature. It still is really. These past few weeks have not been a bed of roses. There have been many a challenges, and many a changes, it has been nothing short of a roller coaster. TCG and I have been holding our fingers crossed for many weeks now!

This is not me complaining. This was our choosing. This is just me realising that there is long bridge to cross before we finally see things that we have been dreaming about take shape in real. This is the gap between perception and reality. The gap between what we wish and what is. This is the gap between imagining and doing. This is the gap between planning and action.

Between the two of us, I am the one to have ants in my pants all the time.  I am the restless one. He is the patient one. I am the one who gets bored sooner rather than later. So it was not really surprising that I had started to feel bored and wasted in my current job as in my previous ones. I have always dreamed about running my own business, albeit small. And this time, I had all the reasons. I didn’t really have a job that I was 100% happy with…what with moving countries, and paying my dues, and starting all over again right at the bottom and all that shit. We got our residency. We are young. We don’t have any major responsibilities yet and this is as good a time as it will be to enter the dangerous waters, to leave the job for something of my own. Challenging but exciting. Difficult but rewarding. Dynamic but satisfying.

I started whimpering, sending out subtle messages to TCG. About how my job didn’t really add any value. About how I was just putting in long hours but not really getting anywhere close to where I want to be. About how money should not be the only motivation. How I should really focus my time and energy on something I will really enjoy doing. About how we should be ready to forsake our current state of comfort and work on bigger things to achieve higher goals.

I hoped if I talked about it enough, TCG would take me seriously and sit back and listen. I needed him to be a part of this. I may be a bit daredevil and passionate, but passion alone is not enough to run a business. I need an anchor like him to keep me grounded. Someone like him to talk sense back into my head if I am just woolgathering and building castles in the air.  I wanted him to approve and I wanted him to be convinced. I needed TCG to work along with me so that we could evaluate all aspects of starting a business before we take any risky steps. Without him and his nod, I could not start. He, with his analytical mind and spreadsheet skills, was what I needed to put the numbers together and to chalk out a plan. To decide if it was actually viable. I ranted and ranted till he would listen. And listen, he did. And how! Exactly the way I wanted.  And before long, we were neck deep in planning and action.

Juggling our full time jobs, TCG and I have been working evenings and weekends for the past few months to put all the pieces together. Doing our due diligence and market research. Networking and making contacts, getting cost estimates, getting our heads around the whole value chain. But the bubble was soon burst, when at the very first step we encountered a sea of hindrances. We have sorted out the steps that will follow, at least in our minds and on paper; but step 1 eludes us. It really is a waiting game. We really want it to work. We are waiting. Every time we think we have just about reached there, something doesn’t work out. We find ourselves in a tricky situation. We worry momentarily and start over. It is draining, makes us question our idea, makes us want to give up and go back to the comfort of a job. But we are not ready to give up.

When step 1 completes, it will be a big boost. I know this post has been evasive; but so are all other things around me at the moment. I will share more details when step 1 completes. Until then, I need all your good wishes and more.

And in middle of all this chaos, we suddenly find ourselves in a situation where we have to move houses. The landlord is coming back to live in the beautiful house we are living in at the moment. What timing! This should be a whole post in itself.

 

Bad girls do it well?!

There are times when I wish I wasn’t so chicken.

Remember this song:

Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well
Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well

It is tiring being the good, disciplined girl. There are times I wish I was a little more carefree, that I wish I wasn’t overly committed to work, or I wish I’d care a damn before bunking or taking leaves. In my case, leaves have always been accompanied by a fair amount of guilt. I wish I wouldn’t feel too guilty about taking a sick leave so that I can save my annual leave. Every dear soul on earth does that. You get life only once, then why feel guilty about using your ‘own’ time doing things you really like. Why feel guilty about taking a day off, just so you could do all those things on your personal bucket list that keep getting pushed to be bottom of the pile. Why feel guilty about a little pleasure? Why do some people (like me) take sadistic pleasure out of being ‘overworked’? Yes, people do that sometimes. They fail to draw a line between work and life. Especially whose work and life are not overlapping. They miss a dear friend’s wedding, because they are too busy, and too chicken to apply for a leave. They feel that if they leave work place for one day, people will forget them, their good work will be forgotten, and their promotion will be given to someone else. I am that person sometimes. I don’t like myself when I am like that.

I hate myself for being the ‘good’ girl sometimes. I always was. Even back in college, I rarely missed a class, because it came with a huge bag of guilt. While everyone else had a rollicking time, my feelings were always in the grey zone – wishing to miss a class and being part of the fun but at the same time not being able to miss that class. And constantly thinking about the fun and frolic my friends had outside the class. I must have missed out on so much fun. I must have missed out on so many moments of bonding and friendship. If I did bunk, my joy was punctured by thoughts of lessons I missed. As a result, I never was truly able to savour or relish any one type of feeling and was always thinking about ‘what if’.  I wish I was more carefree. I so wish.

Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well
Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well

This is a pattern and this has to change. Even to this day, I feel guilty about watching a movie or just lazying around the house when I could be engaging myself in more productive things over weekends.  Like taking on freelance content writing assignments that would bring in some extra money, or reading something knowledgeable or intelligent that would add some value to life or intellect. So it makes me question myself? Is money (or knowledge in some cases) the only barometer of happiness (And this is totally self-imposed)? Would earning a few extra bucks make me happier? This is why I feel guilty. When I could be earning a little extra working on the weekends (even if I don’t wish to), why waste time watching a movie or doing fun things? My idea of productivity has to change.

There probably is a reason to this madness.  Time is money and time is precious. So if you are in an average job like I am, working 5-6 days a week, doing things you would rather not do if given a choice, you feel like you are wasting time.  And let’s face it. You have to pay the bills so you have to work.  There is hardly a choice there. That’s when you feel like you have to get maximum out of your weekend because the weekdays have no bandwidth at all to accommodate your personal favourite things to do. Your time during weekdays is not really ‘yours’. You have no control over your own time and that’s when it starts to feel really crappy. You feel like you are doing menial tasks just because you have to pay the bills. But if work was play, if work was fun, if work was things you love doing anyway, it wouldn’t feel so emotionally and mentally taxing. But not everyone is fortunate to turn their hobbies into profession. Not everyone is able to love/enjoy what they do.  And that is why this battle between the two voices in our heads will never really die out.

But hopefully for me, things are set to change. I have a plan. I am fed up of myself for being too chicken, too afraid and too calculative; for choosing the comfort and security of a mundane job over exciting and interesting things. I am at a stage in life where I have a choice, where I can choose, where we don’t have children to worry about. This is as good a time as it ever will be to do things differently, to rock the boat, to enter the unchartered territories, to come out of the comfort zone, to take a bit of a risk, to lose the regret and take the step. Hopefully it will all work out as I have planned. Watch this space for more. More details will come up soon.

And when that happens, when my weekdays will be filled with joy and satisfaction, then I will probably not feel so guilty about unwinding on a holiday.

 

My story about winter

It is that time again. Time to bring the woollies out, time to crank up the heater, time to dread taking head baths, time  to have a big pot of soup simmering away on the stove, time to wait several long minutes in the car before the car heats up, time to make zillion excuses to not exercise, and time to be indoors all the time, cuddled under a fleece blanket even on holidays. Did I mention time for rising electricity bills?

Oh, Winter! I am not able to decide whether I love you or hate you. I think I fall somewhere in between. You bring out strange emotions in me.

Back in Mumbai (oh, those good old days!), I remember a strange vision flash before my eyes. Don’t know if that was a dream, or an epiphany or a déjà-vu moment.  I was single, and TCG was no where in horizon. I dreamed wearing a plush winter jacket, a chic scarf around my neck and stepping out of a red car. A tiny smile was playing on my lips. If you have ever known Mumbai, you would have really thought of it to be an entirely absurd dream. There almost never is a winter in Mumbai. The coldest it gets is around 20 degrees, hardly a temperature to bring out scarves and long coats. Then why did I have such a dream?  A clear visual is still imprinted fresh in the eyes of my mind. May be it was a visual of what is to come.

Cut to present and it all makes sense.  I live in Wellington now; winters here are chilly and windy. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder at the intuitive powers of your mind. Sometimes you just know what is to come. At such times, you realise the power of your dreams.  A few days back, when I was stepping out of our red car, wearing a chic scarf and a winter jacket, that visual from my dream from a couple of years back, came flooding back to my memory. The moment was just as I had seen in my dreams.  My hair was secured with black bobby-pins, just like it had been in my dreams. It was unimaginable. It was surreal. Did I attract this is my life?

Coming back to winter. I like winter because it lets me dress up, lets me wear nice jackets and scarves and look all prim and proper.

But it does bring along a lot of discomfort. Outdoors feel chilly all the time, like cold needles pricking you. You can’t wait to get back to the warmth of your car or your home. Wellington is nasty for its winds and there is nothing more dreadful than winter + winds combined, which happens a lot here for my liking. The sun peeps out really late and is very quick to call it a day. Its dark when we walk to work and it is dark when we walk back home and that can get really depressing.

Sorry, more dreadful than winter + winds is, winter + winds + rains. Did I mention that?

Winter is early this year and portions of South Island are already covered in a thick blanket of snow. And Wellington has already started flirting with 2 degrees and 1 degree. It doesn’t really snow here, but it did a couple of years ago and took the entire nation by surprise.

I have never really seen snow falling, wish that could come true this winter!

I better go create that visual in my mind! Like now!

Simple days

Is there anybody who feels extremely sad about the fact that people won’t use ink pens any more? As a child who loved a good pen over a good doll, it aches my heart to see that its cheap and ubiquitous replacement, the ball-point pen, is flourishing where as the good ol’ humble ink pen, known to be a writer’s best friend, may well be on the verge of total disappearance. A calligrapher would vouch for an ink pen over a ball-point day any day. I wonder if the kids today even know what an ink-pen is, and what it looks like? I wonder if they will know what a pen is in few years, let alone an ink pen. Every darn thing is becoming digital these days!

Does anyone else feel as disinterested as I do, talking on phones? I find it really difficult to stay focussed on the phone conversation. I can’t hold up a conversation on phone longer than a minute or two. My mind starts wandering before I know, even leading to embarrassment sometimes, because I am only hearing, not listening. Try as I might, I can’t. And ever since moving to New Zealand, I have hardly made any outgoing calls, or received any incoming calls either. I am connected to my world through Skype and Whats-app, and the need to make calls (apart from family sometimes) has become almost non-existent. Thankfully, TCG and I are also not those people who want to be connected on the phone all the time and be updated about everything the other person is doing while s/he is away. Thank God for that! I couldn’t have put up with a husband who calls 100 times a day! There are better things to do!

Does anyone feel the pressure while shopping because there are way too many options to choose from these days, thanks to consumerism? Whether you are selecting milk or a packet of chips or toothpaste or shampoo or even toilet paper for that matter, there are way too many options for your little brain to consider? It is mind-boggling.  And no matter what you choose, you always end up wishing you had chosen ‘the other’. Life was simple when we had lesser options.

Does anyone else feel it is alright to go on hours without looking at your mobile phones? I have been increasingly leaving my phone back, when we step out.  And I actually like it. It feels nice to give your full attention to the person you are with and share a warm conversation, as opposed to staring at your mobile screen when the other person is talking to you. It also feels nice to be at a dinner table where everyone is actually enjoying each other’s company rather than being engrossed in their phones. It feels nice to be in a real world rather than a virtual world.

Does anyone feel that the mindless clicking of photographs we do on our mobile phones or digital cameras is actually annoying? We click pictures till we run out of memory. Then we copy all the data to our laptops and create more space on our phones for newer pictures. We have 1000s of digital pictures but hardly any physical photos to hold on to (like back in the days) anymore. How often do we revisit these several thousand pictures? Back in the days, we clicked pictures only on special occasions and had them all developed and preserved in small albums. We clicked fewer pictures, but we still had memories to hold on to. Now, we only have clutter and no time to sort that clutter. I feel when you go click-click-click all the time; you end up having pictures, agreed, but you also end up losing that moment.

Sometimes I just wish, things could be simple once again!