My affair with the kitchen

My affair with the kitchen started at a young age. I was what, 14? Girls in my family were initiated into cooking early, because good girls must know to cook (?!). I remember feeling a bit revolted and the feminist in me feeling agitated because no such rule applied to the brother. Unfair, my mind screamed. But I took the plunge, nonetheless. Barring a few episodes where my feminist conscience made its presence known, I was hardly complaining. I may have taken refuge under gender equality debates a few times, but truth be told, I was OK with it.

I mean, I was always a foodie and even as a child I had a good sense of taste. Age 4 onwards, I was the guinea pig of the house, always being asked to ‘have a bit of taste’ and check if the seasoning needed any adjustment. All of 4, I remember commenting at my newly-wed chachi’s rotis, ‘they are not round enough’. When it came to food, I was tough to please and my sense of taste was only too well developed for my age. I wasn’t a fat kid just like that. I knew my food well, always teetering about in the kitchen, observing keenly how things were done, asking questions, passing comments and just being a hindrance in the small kitchen basically.

Little did I know back then that one day I will be very thankful for being initiated in to cooking at a very young age.Things I am grateful for: Reason #26. I grew up in a family full of master chefs and it’s only natural that some of that talent has made its way into my DNA. The benefit of starting young is that you have the basics sorted long before your peers begin to start experimenting with using a pressure cooker. That was done and dealt with in my case, and long out of my way.

I discovered my love for cooking long before I got married. Taking the responsibility of cooking everyday and enjoying every bit of it has nothing to do with my marriage. If anything, my marriage and my move to New Zealand has only given me more opportunities and more time to experiment with cooking things that I didn’t even consider hitherto. And oh boy, has it been wonderful or what! I began experimenting with different kinds of cuisines, different kinds of dishes, different kinds of spices and ingredients a few years back and there is no looking back now. If I had any doubts about how dearly I loved cooking, they have been put to rest post my move to New Zealand. In fact, I now have access to a whole new variety of exotic veggies and fruits that were not found back home too easily. And if they were, they were exorbitantly priced.

I have been asked several times how I make time to cook healthy fresh meals everyday with myriad of other household responsibilities, no domestic help and a full time job to boot. Well, it’s definitely not a garden of roses but we always make time for things we love to do, don’t we? And TCG, the designated dishwasher, preferred garlic peeler and chopper, and all-in-one handyman cum sous chef in this house, where I am the BOSS, willingly helps out with all the odd jobs including peeling of potatoes. And to top it all, he is NOT picky and NOT choosy about his food, ever willing to experiment and always appreciative and encouraging. Now, who doesn’t like that?

You know that you are really passionate about food and cooking when you don’t tire watching zillion food shows that are aired currently, when you start looking up for recipes or end up watching video tutorials of new recipes when you are online, when you start planning your meals for the whole week well in advance, when you are constantly thinking about which item in the pantry needs to be replenished, when you subscribe to hundreds of food blogs, when you sneak time in between your work day to check out a few recipes, when your start feeling excited about your weekly trip to the supermarket or worse when you start thinking about cooking even in bed!

Being vegetarians, there are only a couple of options to choose from at various restaurants here in Wellington. We end up burning a big hole in our pockets and returning home feeling slightly cheated and underwhelmed. And this my friends, has turned out to be a perfect premise to cook at home all the time, even on anniversaries and special occasions. And a big, well equipped kitchen, which is every cook’s prerogative, just makes it that much simpler to cook at home. Would you believe if I said that our eating out is limited to one meal every couple of months?

The satisfaction that you get when your dish turns out to be perfect is unparalleled. And when TCG changes in to his track pants and big ol’ t-shirt after a BIG, hearty meal, I know it is worth it. It feels so good. It works out to be quite a lot cheaper (not to mention healthier) too to eat at home and bumps up our savings substantially. I have been working in NZ for almost a year now, and almost everyone here eats out or eats take-outs at lunch.  I can happily say that I haven’t done that even once to this day. I always cook a little extra the previous day for both our lunches.

I have thought about having a food blog quite a few times. I could probably do better that quite a lot of food bloggers out there who only worry about clicking pretty pictures. But there are two things that keep me back

1) I don’t necessarily use exact measurements, most of what I cook is intuitive and measurements are based on what feels correct to eyes and touch and taste

2) I enjoy cooking too much to be bothered about stopping every once in a while, washing hands, drying them up, clicking instagram-worthy pictures and finding another couple of hours editing them

Some day perhaps! If my handyman cum sous chef decides to triple up as my photographer! Who knows!

 

When you are pampered silly

TCG’s mother is here for a few months and we are being spoiled royally. Routine seems like a vacation and weekends seem like one big party. Evenings are filled with healthy banter and our tummies with delicious food that she dishes out each day. Gone are the days when I had to think all day long what to cook for dinner. TCG and I go to work and by the time we come back, everything is taken care of. House is dusted and looks spic and span, meals are cooked, and lunch boxes packed. What bliss! We haven’t seen laundry pile up in weeks. It gets done magically before we even get a chance to think about it. Not just that, it gets ironed and stacked neatly in the place where it belongs. This must be every working person’s dream. Having nothing to worry about in the evenings, after a long day’s work. We just plop ourselves on the couch, put our feet up on the ottoman, and RELAX. It feels like such an indulgence and undeniably gives us a guilt trip.

We have told her several times not to busy herself in kitchen, not to go around cleaning after us, not to stress, and just sit back and relax; she is on a vacation after all. But she likes being active and there is nothing much for her to do by herself when we are at work.  So she busies herself with household chores. TCG and I feel terrible about her doing everything for us (although she does that of her own accord). So we have worked out a pattern and reached a mutual agreement as a family. My MIL cooks Monday through Thursday. And TCG (my very own dishwasher) does the dishes, while I plop my feet up on the table, bark orders at him (Ramu, kaam theek se karo, plate theek se saaf karo nai toh tankhwa se kaat lungi ) and scroll mindlessly through the world wide web. Friday through Sundays, I bring out my apron and don my cooking hat, while my dishwasher continues with his designated job and MIL gets to plop her feet up on the table and command what she’d like to eat.

TCG and I have lived by ourselves for the better part of last year, in a new city with hardly any friends to socialize with. So it feels awesomely great to have another human for company. We look forward to our evenings with her, where we talk on a variety of subjects ranging from politics to culture to science, and society over steaming cups of coffee. She is well read, intelligent and aware about current affairs, so it is always refreshing to know her views and thoughts. My mother-in-law is very affable and easy to get along with. She is sociable and makes friends easily. I have hardly had any settling-in issues, thanks to her loving and accommodating nature. She has a strong character and is driven by her convictions. She is rational and reasonable in her arguments. What amazes me the most is her flexibility. She is ever ready to try out anything new, be it food, or adventure. It is not easy to try and like all kinds of exotic food at 52 that you have never eaten before. She does it effortlessly, and willingly. Her energy and enthusiasm is infectious and it warms my heart to see someone enjoying life to bits. (Does it read like essays we used to write back in school? :P)

TCG and I used up all our leaves in December for my BIL’s wedding. But we are trying to make most of the weekends and public holidays. We have been showing her around every chance we get, albeit a little sporadic. Last month, the three of us took off on a road drive through North Island in New Zealand and had a whale of a time. We covered quite a few places in 4 days, stayed in a cute, little Bach by the lake, went on nature trails, soaked up some sun, struck few things off the to-do-adventure list and had loads of fun. On weekends, we pack off a picnic and go visiting nearby markets, beaches, cool places in the city and botanical gardens around Wellington. We have a big trip planned to South Island during Easter (3 weeks to go yay) and are looking forward to it with growing excitement with every passing day. This is a first for me as well, so I am very excited. But if TCG’s account of these places and those thousands of unreal photographs is anything to go by, we are in for a big, big treat. New Zealand is breathtakingly beautiful. Have I said that lately?

My MIL is here till the first week of June. It is going to get extremely lonely without her. Every day spent is one day less, and it saddens us to think that she will be gone soon. She has pampered us silly and getting back to ‘life’ is going to be super challenging. What I will miss the most about her is not the comfort and order she has brought in to our lives, but the cheerful and smiling face that greets us everyday we get home.

 

Daddy’s little girl

A few days ago, while at a friend’s house, I was a witness to a beautiful father-daughter relationship being played out in front of me. This friend is a new father. And needless to say, his 7 month old cherubic daughter is the apple of his eyes. The new mother said that he can’t bear to see his daughter cry. When they take her to the doctor for the vaccines and injections, his eye well up when his daughter lets out a sharp cry at the poke of needle. In the short time that we were there, I saw him playing with her, gently stroking her head, rocking her, comforting her, singing to her, feeding her and even talking to her. I was choked with emotions and transported back to my childhood days; reminiscing the little wonderful, moments that I spent with my father.

How lovely a father-daughter relationship is, isn’t it?

Like father, like daughter

Like father, like daughter

What I find truly fascinating is how naturally the new parents are able to process this whole set of new, complicated emotions that comes with being a parent. How naturally fathers start doting on their daughters! How these seemingly tough men, who have hitherto always shied away from sharing their emotions, become so gullible when it comes to their daughters! How he discovers a whole new side to him when it comes to his daughter! How he becomes a puppet in his daughter’s hands! How he would do anything to hear her little giggles or to see her jumping with joy! How disturbed he feels when she looks sad! How vulnerable and sad he feels when she is sick! How protective he feels when she steps out in the real world! And likewise, the biggest grief in a daughter’s life would be to see her father cry.

“A daughter is a day brightener and a heart warmer.”

I am sure parents love their children dearly, irrespective of their gender. But there is something just so beautiful about a father-daughter relationship. It is extra special. Why most daughters, including me, even look like their fathers!

No matter how old she gets, she always remains her daddy’s little girl.

I love you dad. I couldn’t have had a better dad. (Things I am grateful for: Reason #24)

I cried at the wedding not because mom cried. I cried because YOU cried.

The reason why daughters love their dad the most is that there is at least one man in the world who will never hurt her.

Final Countdown

97 days to go. I know I should have done this post three days ago. 100 sounds more solid compared to 97 after all. What can I say? I just forgot. When there were 104 days to go, I told myself, I will do this post when there are 100 days to go. And on the 100th day, I forgot.

Ya, ya okay…I am coming to the point. So what am I counting down to?

97 days to go before I catch that plane home. To say that I am very eager and impatient for these days to get over soon would be an understatement. I am checking off dates from the calendar every passing day. Not quite that literally but you know what I mean, right? For once, I wish time would just pick up pace and this waiting business would get over.

This is the longest I have been away from home, the longest I have gone without seeing my family. I know tons of people live away from families and I am not special in anyway. But then, tons of people don’t have the family that I have. So I am not even comparing. I am special to them as they are to me and I miss them to bits. Period.

TCG and I are so excited about this trip. There are so many things to look forward to. It’s a big family reunion. TCG’s younger brother is getting married. The house will be in frenzy. The groom will fly down from Singapore. The bride will be waiting in Siliguri. We will fly down from NZ. The parents (TCG’s) live in our family home in Mumbai. The wedding is in Siliguri. Then following the wedding is a whirlwind trip to Gujarat. It’s going to be one roller coaster of a ride.

Our family is scattered. So these are the times, however small, we live for. These are the times that fuel our hearts with love and fond memories that keep us going throughout the year. I will see my folks after a year. I can’t imagine how I would have survived without Skype. Thank you creators of Skype! Thank you!

In between all this, I have to make enough time for my parents too. I am blessed with the most wonderful family (Things I am grateful for: Reason # 22).I need at least two weeks of exclusive time with them. TCG, are u listening? End of discussion.

Then one of my favourite cousins Payal is getting married too. My little sister Payal. I am so happy for her. We have already had long chats about who is wearing what. We are all going to be dressed to the nines and bring the place down with fun and frolic.

And in between all the wedding excitement, I have so many pending hugs to give my lovely friends, so many topics to catch up on. Thanks to What’s app and Skype, we are in touch every day. But it is still not the same.

Meanwhile, TCG and his younger ‘groom’ brother have gone crazy thinking of endless dishes that they want to eat. They have already decided which hotels and restaurants they want to visit. I wouldn’t be surprised if TCG has secretly stashed up an excel sheet ‘The eating timetable’ somewhere. He makes spreadsheets for everything. *Rolls eyes*. When they go to India every year, they go crazy on food. They binge. They eat to fuel their desires not just for that time being but for the whole year until next trip. But who am I to judge? Who know, I might end up doing the same thing. I have missed my mom’s cooking and I missed eating all the famous ‘Mumbai’ food.

I often think how hard parting will be this time. Once in India, we will dread counting down on how may more days of fun left. And with each passing day, we will feel our hearts growing a little heavier. I wish that time would slow down then.

Growing Homesick

You can take an Indian out of India, but you cannot take India out of an Indian.

Having lived away from my beloved home for more than half a year now, I can’t help but nod in complete agreement to the above. May be it’s the distance that is making my heart grow fonder, but the fact is…it is growing fonder.

Isn’t it paradoxical that we realise how valuable some things are to us, only when we have lost them? I now realise how I have (like many others) taken so many things for granted back home. Small joys, small conveniences, family, friends, flavourful food…the list could well go on.

In most cases, people get homesick once the initial frenzy of new life, new city, new country, new friends die down. Once the initial excitement fizzles out, they begin to miss the old life, the old country, the old city and the old friends. Old is after all, gold.

In my case, I knew from the start…that no matter how well I embrace the new, the old in me is so deeply rooted that it will always be on the ‘snooze’ mode. It will keep resurfacing time and again, reminding me of what I have left behind. It can get so overwhelming sometimes. You can actually watch movies like ‘Swades’ and go all teary eyed. Because you can relate to the story so-darn-well. Not an hour passes by, without thinking about India in someway or the other. No Kidding!

It is a complex set of emotions. I am so happy to be with TCG, to be experiencing everything new, to be enjoying every bit of it, yet at the same time there always is this longing to be at home. Every time I see something new, get to experience something beautiful, see a picture-perfect scene of the endless sky in the myriad of colours, gorgeously contrasted by clear green waters of the sea, I wish I could be with my family. I wish they could see what I am seeing. I wish they were here to enjoy the marvellous view. I wish they were here to comment on how beautiful everything here is. What I am meaning to tell is, all the beauty and all the new experiences that otherwise should have been counted amongst the ‘best experiences of life’ are not so best without having shared them with my friends and family.

It’s funny but every time I hear the word India, my heart skips a beat. Every time we pass an Indian restaurant and see the locals going gaga over ‘butter chicken and garlic naan’, I feel my heart swell up with a teeny weeny bit of pride for my country, though I have nothing to do whatsoever with the evolution of Indian cuisine. I feel like telling each one of them, “hey that’s our food from our humble country, isn’t it delicious?”  May be because there is something beautiful about seeing ‘other’ people experiencing and appreciating what you have experienced and taken for granted all your life.

Every time I read about India in local papers, I inadvertently feel a small tug at my heart. Every time I hear someone saying positive things about India, I feel good about myself. Every time someone shares a negative experience, I feel sorry about it and feel obliged to correct the misdoing. It’s like that figure of speech we learnt in our grammar classes in school – part for the whole. When something is said or discussed about India, I can’t help but take it personally.

Indian food, Indian customs, beautiful Indian clothes (haven’t wore them for 7 months?! What?!! Really?!), Indian movies, Indian festivals, Indian ways, Indian attitude, Indian spirit, Indian jokes…I miss it all. I have tried to keep it alive here, inside me. The Indian inside me is too proud to let all these things just disappear into thin air.

India might have its problems. Its inconveniences, its issues, its peculiarities. But then, which country doesn’t? It is what makes us who we are.  I am so grateful to be born Indian. Things I am grateful for: Reason # 21

I miss you India. I will see you very soon.

Time flies and how!

Seems like life is wheezing past me in an accelerated motion. Days are melting into weeks and weeks into months. Everything is happening so fast, that I literally have to remind myself to stop for a bit and take stock of situation. How else would I know how life is progressing before several months melt into a year again?

And why exactly am I being so reflective and pensive? Because in the blink of an eye, it’s already been 6 months. Yes, today it’s been half a year of being married. Whoa! Really??! I didn’t realise it’s been that long. It seems like just yesterday that I was living my single life. Memories from the previous phase are still so vivid, it’s hard to comprehend that things have actually changed. That I am actually married. And the good part is that the transition was so smooth that it doesn’t really feel very different. Yes, agreed that I am living a completely different life now, but that’s the point. Changed countries, changed careers, changed the whole way of life. It just feels like a natural extension to my former life. On the contarary, I have rediscovered so many amazing things about my former self. It feels wow. And that should speak volumes about TCG. He has been so easy to live and get along with, caring and giving, making small adjustments for me, and making enough room for me in his life. It is hard to imagine being married to anyone but TCG.

Who will we marry, how will our partner be, how will he look, how will he treat us, how will it be like to live with him is the biggest mystery in the first quarter of our life, isn’t it? For me that mystery is solved now. And I am so happy and grateful to realise that my imagination matched my reality so very closely. How do you feel when all your questions from many years are answered all at once? That is how I feel right now. How do you feel when things you always wondered about present themselves to you in the most pleasant way possible? That is how I feel right now. TCG not just met my expectations, he has surpassed them. No kidding! And this realisation has made me very, very humble, grateful and thankful for what I have got. Because, I know exactly how it is to not be with Mr. Right.

And God, if you are reading this, I want to tell you a big THANKYOU, for taking such special care of me.

And you TCG, hear this out:

“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”

 

 

Top ten ways to beat the seasonal mood swings

Sun plays a very, very important role in our overall wellbeing. I am not saying anything new, am I? Everyone knows this.

But this taken-for-granted-sun has really made its point. And how well! Till very recently, I did not really understand how sun influences our personal and mental well-being and how much can it really affect our mood.

The full force of its power has recently dawned upon me. NZ is in midst of a full blown winter.  This means we have very short days here and very long nights right now. For the past couple of weeks, sun has been rising at 7.45am (OMG, can you believe that?) and sets at 4.57pm. On most days, its gloomy, rainy and windy. Sun just gives us a formal guest appearnace once in a while and behaves like a celebrity who walks into a party late, knows his worth, charms everyone and leaves just as quickly.

I am observing how depressing this can get. Not getting enough day light can seriously affect moods. When I wake up at 7, it is so dark, that I have to summon every little speck of power within me to leave the warm comfort of bed, and step into yet another cold, gloomy day. When I leave office at 5.15pm, it is so dark that it seems like 8pm. Ya. So basically, my exposure to sun is now limited to the weekends only, provided that sun decides to come out on a weekend. If it also decides to take a weekend off, it gets extremely dull and can also get quite depressing.

With this, comes a crushing realization of just how powerful nature is. And how paradoxical life is! And how it makes you want things you do not have! When I was in India, I used to rant about how hot summers got. And now when I am in NZ,  how much I crave for some sun and light. I really need a Vitamin D fix. Urgently.

There have been studies on this unique condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. People with SAD, seem to have depressive mood spells in autum and winter. I am not getting into the whole scientific part of SAD. Am just saying that what so many people are experiencing is not baseless.

But lets take charge of this and do small things to keep black mood at bay. Let us not let it affect us so much. It’s all in our mind, and we can control this.

Top ten ways to beat the seasonal mood swings:

  1. Try to be upbeat, and not have lingering, depressing thoughts. Stay happy. Train your mind to think happy thoughts.
  2. Surround yourself with postive people and people who love to laugh. You definitely do not need negative, overly critical, unreasonably judgemental, and people who constantly find reasons to complain. You need more positive aura around you.
  3. Listen to your favourite fast music. Your favourite peppy number. Have a go-to playlist for such days or listen to your favourite song in loop. Whichever way you like really.
  4. Steer clear of sad, depressing songs.
  5. Call, talk, meet, skype with your family and excahnge good conversations. It really lighthens the mood.
  6. EAT CHOCOLATE.
  7. Ease up on coffee and eat your favourite food.
  8. Watch classics and funny movies.
  9. Develop a hobby. If you already have one, lose yourself in it.
  10. And you may want to use more white lights at home as opposed to dim, yellow lights.

EAT CHOCOLATE.

EAT CHOCOLATE.

EAT CHOCOLATE.