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.



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!


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!


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.

The way Taliban treats its women

This past week I have spent reading the bestseller Thousand Splendid Suns. And it has opened a can of worms. It has been a revelation of sorts. It had me lapping up a lot of details about Afghanistan, the Taliban and the plight of women in the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.These are the things I knew existed, but I never took enough interest to dig a little deeper. I did now. Before I started reading this book, the mention of word ‘Taliban’ rang only a clichéd bell in my mind. A lot of people like me, I am sure, must have been associating the word Taliban with Terrorism. Like they were some kinds of synonyms. We have always read those words in connection, haven’t we? I have always thought of Osama bin Laden and Taliban in the same breath. After reading this book and a lot of other things about Taliban and Afghanistan on Wikipedia, I realised how superficial my understanding of that word was.

Until recently I only thought that Taliban was a dirty word, as if it was some kind of an antonym for “peace”. I admit my understanding or knowledge of this was so superficial that I didn’t even know whether it was a sect of people, a region or an ideology. Now, I know better.

Before this, I knew that Afghani women lived in less-than-human conditions, that their plight was deplorable. But my estimate of their appalling plight was not even close to what the reality is. Their lives are hellish and within the confines of the four walls of their dark houses (the windows are blackened so that no male can peep through them and get a glimpse of their silhouette) they are treated worse than caged animals. Women have no importance in the Taliban society and their only role is to procreate preferably male protégés.

Few of the Taliban rules of the women are: (Mind you, this is just the tip of the iceberg)

  • Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution(The female employment ban was felt greatly in the education system. Within Kabul alone the ruling affected 106,256 girls, 148,223 male students and 8,000 female university undergraduates. 7,793 female teachers were dismissed, a move that crippled the provision of education and caused 63 schools to close due to a sudden lack of educators. Some women ran clandestine schools within their homes for local children, or for other women under the guise of sewing classes. The learners, parents and educators were aware of the consequences should the Taliban discover their activities, but for those who felt trapped under the strict Taliban rule, such actions allowed them a sense of self-determination and hope.)
  • Women should not appear in the streets without a blood relative mahram and without wearing a burqa (a veiled dress)
  • Whipping, beating and verbal abuse of women not clothed in accordance with Taliban rules, or of women unaccompanied by a mahram.
Religious Police beating up women for breaching laws

Religious Police beating up women for breaching laws

  • Women should not wear high-heeled shoes as no man should hear a woman’s footsteps lest it excite him
  • Women must not speak loudly in public as no stranger should hear a woman’s voice
  • All ground and first floor residential windows should be painted over or screened to prevent women being visible from the street
  • The photographing or filming of women was banned as was displaying pictures of females in newspapers, books, shops or the home
  • The modification of any place names that included the word “women”. For example, “women’s garden” was renamed “spring garden”
  • Women were forbidden to appear on the balconies of their apartments or houses
  • Ban on women’s presence on radio, television or at public gatherings of any kind
  • Not wearing any fitted, narrow or tight clothes
  • Not wearing clothes that resemble male’s clothing
  • Not wearing nail paints or the fingers will be chopped off
  • Not wearing perfumes or any kind of cosmetics, or she will be considered as an adulteress and flogged in public
  • Not talking or laughing in public or doing anything that could entice a male and draw attention to her
  • Not listening to music, no singing, no painting

These are just few of the many absurd rules imposed on them in the name of “safeguarding” their dignity and integrity.

The more I read, the more I felt the need to throw up. Seriously, which century are we in? Because of misplaced beliefs and thoughts of one group of people, the whole Islamic community stands humiliated today. They all bear the brunt. The whole thinking is flawed. It will take more than a few good men to change the course of winds in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of thousands of women have died happily to escape the torturous life they were forced to lead.



Time will tell

There are so many things that we experience on a daily basis. And so many of those things happening to us make no sense at all at this point. There are so many things that scare us, make us unhappy or sad. And we often ask God, “Why me?” Some things feel so horribly wrong and some grieves are so unbearable – totally out of our league of understanding.

Yet in the long run, everything makes sense. Every experience, every moment, every day is intricately woven into a larger scheme of things that might not make any sense to us in present. But when we look back, things that made no sense in past, questions that had no answers, many missing pieces of the puzzles from the past have slowly fallen into place for us today or they will eventually fall into place when the time is right. It is very hard, but sometimes all that is required of us is to just trust in time. Don’t we often think back on some chapters of our life and say, “Thank God it happened that way”?

Things that are beyond our understanding today are also happening to us for a reason. A reason that only ‘time’ knows. Just like those things in the past that make sense to us today.

Let me give you an example. You woke up with a start, only to realise that your alarm had conked off and you have slept past your bedtime. You hurry through your chores, cursing the damned clock and rush out to catch your daily bus to work,  only to realise that you have missed the bus and now you will be undeniably late to work. You curse some more. But in a dramatic turn of events, you find out in the afternoon that the bus you missed in the morning met with a fatal accident. Now you thank your stars. Thank God, I wasn’t on that bus.

I am using such a dramatic example only to drive home a simple point. May be you weren’t meant to be on that bus. You felt that you were doomed in the morning. But by afternoon, ‘your alarm conking off’ and ‘you missing your daily bus’ make sense to you. When you look back on events, you are able to connect the dots.

Now that doesn’t mean that every time you will miss the bus or every time you will fail at something, there would be such a dramatic reason behind it. The reason might be big or small, but we must trust that it has happened for a reason.

Only if we could sneak a peek into our future on a whim, so many of our present queries will have answers, right? But things wouldn’t be half as exciting. What fun it would be to know everything today anyway? Knowing everything in the present might, in fact, be too overwhelming for our little mind and the information overload might just crash it.

So just like we never question why happy, pleasant, good things are coming to us, we should also try to come to terms with the unsavoury experiences. Because they are also happening to us for a bigger reason that will reveal itself later. They are also playing a small role in the film that life is! History is a witness to how some of the most unpleasant events in the past have acted as triggers and given rise to something so beautiful.

It is my feeling that Time ripens all things; with Time all things are revealed; Time is the father of truth – Francois Rabelais

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.