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

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.

 

Making choices

The day you get your permanent residency is a very important day in an immigrant’s life. Today is that important day in TCG’s life and mine, thank you.

This means that we get to live in New Zealand for as long as we like, without having to worry about our visas anymore. It means that every time we go overseas and come back to New Zealand, we don’t have to stand in the long common queue for international visitors; we get to line up the ‘Kiwi’ queue, which is smaller and faster of the two queues. Cheap thrills, I know. I am silly that way.

It means that, God forbid, if we lose our jobs, we don’t have to pack our bags and go home.  It means we know which direction our life will be moving in, at least for now. It means that the uncertainty hanging over our heads is laid to rest, and we can focus on having small to medium term goals and achieving them one at a time; until it is time once again to do some serious long term thinking like where we eventually want to live; New Zealand, India or elsewhere, whether we want to buy our home here or in India, whether we want to raise our child (when that happens) in a foreign land or homeland…

But for now, we are happy. The dream we were after for so many months, has finally come true.  And it has put a lot of things in to perspective. We have some clarity now and we are no longer insecure about immediate future. It means I will have better job prospects, and I can perhaps hope to get a job of my choosing.

It also means having to decide whether we want to continue living in Wellington or move to Auckland. TCG and I have been toying with this idea for a while now; we haven’t been able to come to much of a conclusion.  You already know Wellington is a cute, little compact city with the best of both world. It has the glitzy city charm with its quaint cafes and popular clubs, as well as the laid back country side to it. It is big enough to find all modern-world pleasures and small enough to reach anywhere within measured time.

Auckland, on the other side, is the biggest city in New Zealand with the third of the country’s population living there. It is highly metropolitan and home to all the cultures of the world. It’s faster and glitzier and offers little more opportunities to do things on weekends. TCG has lived in Auckland for over two years, already has a thriving social circle (which sadly we don’t in Wellington) and knows the place too well. I have never lived there, and knowing my love for big cities, a part of me aches to give that city a shot. We would earn slightly better than we do in Wellington, but that would be set-off against higher rents and added costs of living. Living in Auckland will also mean accepting that traffic jams will be a part of our lives once again and we might not be lucky enough to stay close enough to work like we do in Wellington. Which in turn would mean spending an extra hour or two commuting at the cost of missing workouts. But if we manage to find good jobs, and a right place to live, it would mean a better way of life. And oh yes, it would mean saying bye-bye to cold, harsh and windy Wellington weather. Auckland is way warmer.

The reason we can’t decide is TCG has a hi-profile job here in Wellington; I, on the other hand started at the bottom and am making my way upwards slowly. My current employment contract ends in a couple of months. I have been working here for a year, and have hopefully gained ‘enough’ kiwi experience to get a slightly more interesting job.  There is a good chance that I find something of my interest in the very same organisation by the time my existing contract ends. Am I prepared to forgo a year’s efforts and start everything afresh yet again in Auckland? And would TCG find an equally satisfactory job? He quite enjoys his present job. We keep going in circles without making any headway. We are tempted but we don’t want to make any impulse decisions. I know it will boil down to prioritizing what is important to us, but it seems scary because lot is at stake.

Hopefully, we will figure out soon!

 

 

 

School holidays

That nervousness about the approaching final exams in school

Those many hours of cramming and preparing and fussing over self-study books and guides

That first-look of the final-exam time-table

That oh-shucks feeling on realising that there is no holiday to prepare for the History-Civics paper

That happy (in most peoples’ cases sad) feeling on realizing that Math is your last paper

That blanking-out feeling just before stepping in to the examination hall

That looking at your friends calling out for extra supplements and wondering what-the-heck-are-they-writing-so-much

That counting of estimated marks at the end of each paper

That counting of how-many -more- days -to-go-before- vacation-finally-begins after each exam

That planning months in advance about how will we celebrate our last day of exam and school

Those nervous glances at the neighbouring students on seeing a particularly lengthy or a difficult question paper

That rushing through the last paper because you can’t wait to dash out of the exam hall and you couldn’t care less about anything else in that moment

That partying with your friends and ending up in a restaurant or a garden to celebrate (When there were no air-conditioned malls to hang out and spend several useless hours in)

That excitement about summer holidays

That happy feeling of being allowed to wear nail paint

That pleasure in devouring several dozens of alphanso mangoes

That relentless playing outdoors, until your mom threatens you to get back home for meals

That hurried chomping of meals so that you could quickly run out to play

Those endless hours of cycling, lagori, saakli, help-help, four corners, hopscotch, badminton, dark room, and what not (where have all these games disappeared?)

That sweet taste of melting popsicles in your mouth (does anyone remember the kala khatta flavour)

That rare treat of an occasional Cornetto cone (25-30 rupees was big in those days)

That annual summer trip to your village/hometown and the ever-so-exciting train ride

That nervous feeling of vacations coming to end and school reopening soon

That anxiety about beginning a higher class and meeting new teachers

That excitement about buying new books, uniform, shoes, umbrella, and all necessary stationery items

That choosing of cartoon-labels for endless hours and not being able to decide which labels to buy

That smell of a new book

Those many hours spent neatly covering (where have those brown covers disappeared?) and labelling your new books

Those blues on the day before the first day in new class and that end-of-vacation feeling

That excited first day at school and meeting your grumpy-faced teacher and going facepalm

Soft Beds, Hard Battles

Probably one of the most difficult things about relocation (especially to a new country) is getting used to a new bed.

Considering we spend an average of 7-8 hours each day on our bed, it is not an easy adjustment to make by any means.

Getting used to a new bed is harder than getting used to a new city. Finding a bed that suits you and makes you feel comfortable is doubly difficult. Because when you go bed-shopping, how can you know instantly if that bed feels right or not? You can lie down for a few minutes to see if it agrees with you or not. But you can only tell after a few nights, whether it suits you or not. And if it doesn’t, you are not just poorer by a few thousand dollars but you are also stuck with a bed that makes you cringe in pain each morning after waking up.

Contrary to what many of us feel, soft beds are not very ideal. It has been almost a year since I moved to Wellington. Our mattress is thick, but very soft.  I detest soft beds, they give you a horrible body ache and they are not very good for your body too. It’s the kind of bed you’d sink in, as soon as you plop on to it. You would think one year is a reasonable time to get used to a new bed.  Apparently, it is not. I still wake up every morning feeling sore. I feel the tension thick in my neck, shoulder and my back. And if that’s not enough, the pillows are no good too. Even after changing our pillows thrice, we still haven’t found ‘the perfect ones.’ After waking up each morning, it takes a few minutes of some serious stretching to feel mobile once again.

I hate this bed. I miss the beds in India. The day we buy our own house in New Zealand, we will import our bed from India. TCG, are you listening? Because it seems like I have almost forgotten how it feels like to wake up feeling fresh and not cramp-y.

Now who would have thought that I would write about missing beds on my blog! Phew!

*Soft Beds, Hard Battles is a 1974 British comedy film directed by Roy Boulting.

Time, where are you racing to?

It seems like 2014 is in a big rush to make its grand entry and is determinedly forcing 2013 out of its way. Poor 2013 seems to be making a hurried exit. Can you believe it? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we finally got a hang of writing 2013 in the dates instead of 2012 and now soon we have to start writing 2014. Phew!

Oh time, please slow down!

Though personally, I am hardly complaining, the sooner the time passes, the quicker I would be in India and sooner I will be seeing my loved ones. But keeping that one selfish wish aside, can I just ask you to slow down just a bit? What is the big rush?  If you continue at this hurried pace, my month long visit to India will turn into one hell of a whirlwind trip. It will be over, no sooner than it starts. I can already feel the post-holiday depression, even before the holiday begins. It will be over too soon. There is so much to pack in so little time. It is too depressing to think about how it will end. No, I am not letting my mind stray in that direction, at least for now.

You will get where you want to get sooner or later. So please, will you stop sprinting? And you are especially nippy on the weekends. No sooner than you arrive, you prepare to leave. Soon in February, you will tell me I am 27. What?!!

For the last few weeks I have been observing how quickly you are moving through the work week too, not just weekends. Monday through Friday in a wink of an eye. This is my third week at my new job and I have hardly had any time to think, pause and reflect. And after work, there is house and husband to look after. Fresh meals to be prepared every single day, not because I have to, but because I want to. I have hardly had time to breathe, forget checking personal mails or reading my favourite blogs.

Truth be told, I am actually a fan of these fast-type days. I love it when time does that. Consumes you so wholly, that you forget to keep time of time. I love being busy, I love being occupied. It is the slow, uninspired days that I dread the most.

Living in New Zealand has given me enough time to pursue a dual life. A life after work. Life that begins after office hours. And I don’t mean a life of wild partying (never had a life of wild partying anyway). I mean that window of a couple of hours  in the evening that gives you time to pursue your passions, your hobbies, your dreams, things that you want to do more and more.

Cooking it is in my case. No two days pass by without whipping up something new. Not a single phone/Skype call is complete without endless discussions on food. This is one passion that runs through the family and we are the family that discusses lunch at breakfast and dinner at lunch. And not to forget the snacks in between. And we never get tired of this. Guess what am I thinking about in the 5-7 minutes of free time that I might get at work? Food. I think of what is in the fridge and what is in the pantry and what can go with what and result in to a good dish. Suddenly out of no where, a new recipe would start taking shape in my mind. And once it is in the mind, it has to be on the PLATE.

Away from home, there is absolutely nothing that can fill the void of family and friends, but when life gives you lemons, you try to make lemonade out of it. So I can hardly complain about my less-than-active (almost defunct) social life in New Zealand. I have heaps of time, and I make most of it by doing what I do the best. Who knows, few years from now, when I look back, this is the life I would look upon, this is the time I would miss.

P.S. Thoughts about having a food blog are making more and more frequent appearances in my head than I would like to admit.

Diwali away from home

It’s not always about the place you have lived all your life in. It is usually about the people you have lived with that the memories are filled of. It is the family, the friends, the bunch of folks you are comfortable hanging out with, the jokes you share with them which only they fully understand. That’s what memories are made of. Same applies to the festivals. It’s always about the people you celebrate with. First Diwali away from home, away from India didn’t feel like Diwali at all.

It came. And it went. Nothing exceptional about it.

Back home, Diwali fervour begins much before the festival actually begins. The atmosphere is charged with festive and celebratory mood many a weeks in advance. There is a tell-tell excitement about the holidays, about the festival, about the visits from families living away from home, about meeting your loved ones. That is Diwali to me.

The house is thoroughly scrubbed down, all the hoarded junk is cleared out, a fresh coat of paint is given just before Diwali, expensive chinaware reserved only for festivals and special occasions is brought out, varieties of sweets and savouries are made, elaborate lunch and dinner party plans are chalked out, invitations go out, lights and lanterns stacked away in the back of the cupboards are brought out and artistically put up, presents for families and friends are bought, beautiful rangolis adorning the front of the house are made, and best of the shimmery, glittery costumes are worn for the Diwali Pooja. People wait until Diwali to make that big purchase of the year; that washing machine or that fridge or that LED TV or that car that they have long desired is brought during Diwali. Shops make a crisp business. That is Diwali to me.

The glimmering lights from the hundreds of thousands of diyas and lanterns around the city, splendid fireworks going off every now and then, the smell of incense sticks permeating the house, fresh flowers in the vase, big, bright smiles on the faces of children jumping with joy, making most of their holidays and having a field day with chocolates and sweets and even adults letting them indulge. That is Diwali to me.

Away from home in NZ, it was just not the same. There was a huge Diwali celebration held by the Indian Association here, which saw a huge turnout of crowds, Indians and non-Indians. But it was more like a Bollywood night or some annual day function way back from school. Groups from different parts of India performing their folk dances. Nothing ‘Diwali” about it L

TCG and I tried to recreate that magic in our own little way. We have no relatives here. But we visited the temple on the New Year’s. On the day of Diwali, we performed a small pooja at home, lit up the house with tea light candles and made a few sweets and savouries. We tried to celebrate with as much spirit as we could. We made many Skype calls with our families and tried to make most of what we could.

It was just not the same. This is not what Diwali is to me.

P.S: My Diwali post from 2 years ago