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!

 

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It’s time I told you about it

Alright guys, sit back. We have some catching up to do. Warning this might be a longer post than usual. It’s been awfully long that I haven’t updated you about what I have been up to. I have been lurking around your blogs and finding out what each one of you is up to, reading things on the go. But I haven’t always been able to leave my comments. Being a full time worker, homemaker, writer, cook, and a cleaner is not an easy ride. When you are juggling one too many balls at once, one or two are bound to fall. To top it all, living in a new country, doing everything on your own, having no help, building your world (your home) from scratch one small thing at a time does take copious amounts of time.

To start with I have some good news and some bad news. Good news is that I have a new job now. My first six-month-contract job in NZ came to an end last week and my new job in a big company starts next week. Yay! Which also means I get two full weeks off to do my thing. Finally after months of worrying about which way my career was going, I finally got a new contract which might not exactly be what I want to do, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. So this is more like getting my foot-in-the-door kind of an opportunity. Knowing that I landed this job after competing against the locals felt so good. Felt like a small victory. It’s amazing how much living in a new country can teach you. Not wanting to sound very clichéd, but it is indeed like being born all over again. Starting afresh. Learning new ways of life. And most importantly, unlearning so many old ways. Stepping out of your comfort zone and stretching your mental and emotional boundaries. Fighting status quo and adapting to the new life. Inadvertently during this phase, you begin to question your beliefs, your convictions, and also your self-worth. In the end, you emerge much stronger and a little wiser. Your paradigm shifts and you are able to see the world around you with new lens.

Now the good news is related to the bad news. They are complementary. TCG and I had agreed that if I do not get a new job by 11th October (the last day of my first job), I would go to India a few weeks earlier than originally planned and spend a longer time off with my family and friends. Come back refreshed and rejuvenated in January and start looking for work again. Till the last day of my previous job, the new job was not confirmed and I was almost convinced that I am flying to India earlier than decided. In fact, I began looking forward to that, planning things I wanted to do in my head. But I wanted the new job more badly than I wanted to go home earlier. My logic was simple; I didn’t want to go home while worrying about not having a job or what would happen after I come back, how soon I will get a job and so on and so forth. Even if that meant a shorter holiday, I wanted to enjoy it to the fullest. That was only possible if I didn’t have the fear of work (or absence of it) dangling over my head at all times. And as luck would have it, I got my offer letter on the 11th of October. I love how God plan things out for us so seamlessly. Things I am grateful for: Reason #25.

So ya, while the good news is that I have a good job now (which is great considering how much immigrants struggle with these things in the beginning), the slightly off-putting news is that my holiday is trimmed short by three weeks. But that’s OK really.

Moving on.

When I was not worrying about job, or applying for jobs, or working on cover letters and CVs, I was trying out things in the kitchen. I remember I have randomly mentioned my love for cooking on this blog a few times here and there, but nothing in a way that will lead you to think just how much I really do enjoy cooking. Let me tell you that now, because now is as good a time as any. I come from a family where you’d initiate your girls into cooking in their teenage years. So I was introduced to cooking at the age of 13. And I am so glad that it happened. That means I have over 13 years of experience cooking now and I have had a long time to hone my skills. I have always loved food and until very recently I didn’t realize how I could turn my love in to passion. My real love affair with cooking didn’t really start till 3 years back when I started taking ‘this thing that I was good at’ seriously. By this time I had learnt all the basics and not so basic of Indian Cooking from my mum and thought it was now time to step out. And step out I did. I learnt a bit of Chinese, Mexican and Italian cuisine.  Every now and then I would make things and feel the satisfaction of creating or making that can only come with doing things you really, really like.

Then I moved to NZ this year. And that could well be best thing that could have happened to my cooking. With not much to do apart from applying for jobs and pleasing TCG, I started experimenting a little more actively. Trying out new recipes almost every single day and feeding them to my guinea pig that TCG is. It helps that TCG loves food too. And it so helps that he is so open to all kinds of foods and tests. It gave my experiments a new vigor. And just because he is such a sport, I love to do it more so from him. So the past 9 months here have been filled with cooking frenzy. Breads, soups, dips, pizzas, pastas, lasagna, noodles, cakes, cookies, pastries, snacks – sweet and savory, and the whole length and depth of Indian cooking…I find myself unable to stop. Every weekend I would try my hands at something new, fancy and elaborate and results have been supremely satisfying more than once. And thanks to the many thousand dishes there are to try, I can go without repeating a dish for months.

So why don’t I blog about food? Hmm … not a point that hasn’t crossed my mind a few hundred times. But something is stopping me. There are so many amazing food blogs out there (with not just amazing food recipes and techniques, but more than that… beautiful photos and videos too), I don’t want to be just another person to do that. May be I am not quite there. May be I don’t want to start until I feel a compelling need to start. May be I don’t want to start just because I have a network now which I can use. May be cooking for me is too personal. May be it is more about enjoying the process of cooking than about taking pictures so that I can blog. I can’t place my finger on what is holding me back. But something is. And by this point in life, I increasingly want to do only those things that I will be highly committed about. Someday perhaps…

So then what else? Apart from that we are slowly gearing up for the big visit to India in December. The countdown has literally begun.

That’s about it from me for now. What have you all been up to? Leave your comments and let me know how life is panning out for you all.

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.

731 days

My day started with a pleasant realisation that took me spiralling down the memory lane. A notification from wordpress that said I completed two years of blogging today.

2 years. 731 days. Many hundred hours.  And just as many memories. Days of lows and highs, joys and sorrow, exhilaration and tears.

So many things happened and so much changed that I feel compelled to stop here briefly and take a stock of things.

Two years ago when I gingerly began this journey, I was at such a stage in life, that I had completely lost my mojo. Plagued with self-doubt and confusion, I had completely lost faith in my decision-making abilities. I wanted a space to rant and vent my thoughts, a place where I could momentarily lose myself and escape from the normal go-to-office-come-back-home routine. A goal, a purpose, a thing…a ‘something’ that I could call my own. A ‘something’ that I was doing for the pure joy of doing, and without expecting much in return.

I knew nothing about blogging. Truth be told, I wasn’t even that much of a reader of other people’s blogs. I had just heard about wordpress being one of the new blogging platforms. I joined wordpress, because everybody else was joining blogspot. I didn’t know how to set it up or how it should even look like. I didn’t know that I could have chosen a name, other than my own, for the url. (Now I am stuck with my own name). I figured everything on my own, one small step at a time. I didn’t know if I will survive for long. And I definitely didn’t know if I will find any readers at all. The day I got my first comment (other than that of a friend’s), a first follower, I swear I could have jumped with joy. Even today, almost 15000 hits and 600+ followers later, I still feel the same excitement with every new comment and every new follower.

I survived. 731 days later, here I am. Blogging about life in general. My life, my observations, little tid-bits from Here and There. And it is so humbling to know that there are people who like this space, people who diligently read, who take their precious time out to comment each time I post something, who wait patiently for me to come back and talk when I disappear for days, sometimes weeks at a time. People who are patient, forgiving, encouraging, and motivating. People who have written in to me saying that they love to read my simple blabbering. Many lovely readers who have sent me texts and emails saying that they relate to what I write; that the easy-breezy nature of my blogs occupies their time when they want to relax and unwind.

And wasn’t that my only aim in the first place? I never wanted my blog be a place of serious discussions, arguments or grave topics of national/international interests. In my mind, I always pictured my reader reading with that tiny little smile on his face. My reasoning, very simple as it is, was that there are enough complex things in this world for a person to dodge. Let this place not be one of those. And your repeated trust in me makes me believe that I may have somewhat succeeded in this…umm this endeavour?! I thank you all for being a part of my journey and for being such a wonderful, motivating audience.

Even now there are days when I feel why bother, why write, is it making any difference to anyone, would anyone care if I stopped writing? After all, I don’t have a subject-specific blog. This is just a place for random musings. May be I should stop. But eventually, I always come around from these thoughts and remind myself that it doesn’t matter how many readers I have. What matters the most is that I write for my own joy and my peace of mind. This one thing I started in times of adversity has seen me rise from the lowest pits of darkness to the happiest days of my life. This blog has been my true companion. And as long as my heart is in it, I shall continue my affair with allthingsworldly. If I do stop, it will only be for the right reasons.

So what really changed in these 731 days? A LOT.  My life did a 180 degree spin. And of course the biggest has to be my MARRIAGE. I met TCG and knew instantly that he is the answer to all my prayers, and didn’t waste any time in making my moves on him and hooking up with him. Took a sabbatical from work, enjoyed that little time off with my lovely family before the D-day. 2 months later flew to NZ and crooned to a smiling TCG at the airport Saat samundar paar main tere peeche, peeche aa gayi…main tere peeche, peeche aa gayi, much to his amusement. Slowly setteled in to the ‘Kiwi” way of life, spent copious amounts of time looking for a job and landed one. Travlled through NZ, marvelled at the beauty surrounding me, basked in the sun and the sand, braved the winter, the storms and the earthquakes. Missed, missed, missed my family, my friends and my hometown Mumbai.

But the most satisfying part of this journey has been self-discovery. I finally acknowledged to myself that I love being in the kitchen. I love cooking. And I love dreaming about what my future may hold for me. I have spent half my waking-hours in the kitchen in the past many months, whipping up desserts, baking, cooking and trying my hands at many cuisines. There are so many new tastes that I have picked up, and so many new additions I have made to our diet in the past few monthts that I hadn’t done in all these past years put together. And it really helps that both TCG and I are always open to  experimentation. TCG is always very appreciative of my experiments in kitchen and hence I am always looking forward to try new things…for him.

For me, cooking is therapeutic, it gives me a high. It truly makes me happy. I always loved cooking but discovered this passion only lately. And it has all happened in these most wonderful 731 days (Things I am grateful for Reason: #23).

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.

Secret Scrolls message

You are receiving thousands of messages from the Universe every single day. Learn to become aware of this communication from the Universe, who is speaking to you and guiding you in every moment. There are no accidents and no coincidences. Every sign you notice, every word you hear spoken, every color, every scent, every sound, every event and situation is the Universe speaking to you, and you are the only one who knows their relevance to you, and what the communication is saying.

Use your eyes to see! Use your ears to listen! Use all of your senses, because you are receiving communication through them all!

May the joy be with you!

Rhonda Byrne – The Secret… bringing joy to billions