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Friday, 24 August 2012

The "Just Married - Please Excuse" Contest

In the year 2001 we were impoverished newlyweds. We had just squandered whatever little wealth we had amassed as singles on our wedding and honey moon and in our attempt at lavishing away the little that still remained in our banks, we were holidaying in Mumbai.
Riding high on romance, we decided to travel the length and breadth of the city by local trains. My newly acquired husband was a little wary but I overthrew his doubts with my enthusiasm.
My travel apparel drew a hesitant murmured protest from Mr Tactful as my white T-shirt and blue jeans clashed violently with my glittering chuda, excessive sindoor and bright red lipstick, but I breezed past him.
The crowd in the train allowed us to stand at a decorous distance when we boarded. In a few stations time we were romantically close and then we were claustrophobically wedged. I was on the verge of breathing my last when a considerate co-passenger announced that we were near our destination and we began inching our way towards the door.
As I moved, I was thrown forward by a sudden jerk.  As fellow passengers steadied me, I was horrified to see my lips imprinted in stark red on a sparkling white shirt. Time stood still and luckily the train stopped as well.
Sandwiched between the glares of the new legal claimant of my kiss and its latest inadvertent recipient – I sheepishly stumbled out onto the platform. A steady stream of our hurried apologies followed the receding train and we then burst into laughter. 
 Wordlessly -I retired my bridal facade that day in deference to the uncomfortable questions my victim may have had to endure.
Cold coffee with ice cream
This can also be called the life saver shake. When I was the shy young bride who managed to successfully burn dinner beyond recognition – this drink would double up as dinner and save the day.
1.     Pour a glass of chilled water and a glass of chilled milk into the blender jar of the mixie.
2.     Add 2 teaspoons full of coffee powder and 2 tablespoons of sugar to it.
3.     Blend well. If you don’t have a mixie just go for the blending with your bare hands. It works just as well.
4.     Taste once and add more coffee or sugar as required. Blend again.
5.     Take 2 tall glasses and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to each.
6.     Pour the blended cold coffee to the glasses.
7.     Serve with a stirrer or spoon

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Speechlessly in love : My entry for the get published contest

The idea - Introducing the protagonists, the theme and a bit about the story

Eleven years into marriage and I am still unsure whether love really exists. I am happily married yes – but I do wonder sometimes if I am in love. Was I ever in love? What is love anyway?
If love is the giddy feeling that smothered me several times before I decided to get married – then I am certainly not in love with this man. If however, it is the feeling that even though I may detest the sight of this fellow human being at times, I just cannot imagine life without him – then I would say I have been in love ever since I ran into this awkward man eleven years ago.
Ours is the most unlikely combination. He is reticent and prosaic. I am vivacious and romantic. If love stories are about communicating – ours was one where despite the profusion of communicating devices, we had nothing to say. In retrospect it was probably just as well - considering how little my husband has to say (at least we had something to talk about after we were married).
Ours is a love story that needs to be told - if only to dissuade the love struck from hankering after fairytale romances. An arranged marriage, a mini swayamvar, a fauji who shocked everyone with his inane practicality, a girl who insisted on a fairytale wedding and a comedy of errors that ended in - happily ever after.
What makes the story real

It is a story that convinces you that marriages are scripted in heaven and do work even though they look slightly unreal when they are played out in 3-D on earth.
I am inspired to strike the keys on my keyboard - by my beautiful marriage, my comical wedding and the desire to dispel the myth of the much hyped fairytale romances.

This is my entry for the Harper Collins Indiblogger Get Published Contest which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and Harper Collins India

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Independence Day - the Tata way

A sleepless 14th August night in the heavily surcharged atmosphere of expectation - was the norm when I was growing up. Independence Day always left me breathless with its promise.
I didn’t know much about what independence meant in those days, but I could feel the tears that were just beneath the surface in my mother’s eyes as she spoke about that day in 1947 when they listened with disbelief as the news of freedom travelled to them many hundreds of miles in distant Kharagpur from Delhi. As the long play record of patriotic songs trilled on continuous replay she told us about how the streets were filled with a joyous madness when independence was announced.
Her sentiments would probably have remained alien to me had it not been for the Tatas who even thirty years later managed to inject the same mad enthusiasm and patriotism into this national holiday. If you lived in Jamshedpur it was impossible not get swept up in this wave of patriotism.
In our little town this was not a day for sleeping late. We would patter out in our pyjamas at 4 AM to watch the Prabhat Pheri as senior school children paraded the roads of the town.  As the Prabhat Pheri permeated our sleep drenched eyes it would dawn on us that the long awaited day was finally here. Frenzied fights would ensue as we fought to get to the bathroom first in our rush to be the first ones to be dressed for the Flag hoisting and our faithful record player would be silenced in deference to the patriotic songs now booming all over the TELCO Colony. Even the worst cynics would be forced to sing along.
As we threaded our way through the sea of people on the way to the stadium, we would buy armloads of paper flags and wave them high in the air. Then inside the stadium, my parents would have to struggle to keep us in our seats through the flag hoisting and the march past of the twenty odd schools and ten departments of Tata Motors. They would finally relent and lift their restraining hands as the crowd favourites – the canine section and the live band went past.
There were no televisions to drag us home and a palpable sense of regret pervaded as the ceremony wound up. Reluctant to go back to the mundane, little groups would crowd into friend’s houses and breakfast with more tales of those years before 1947.
Now – so many years later – when my eyes cloud with tears every time I hear the Jana gana mana my heart fills with gratitude for those lessons in patriotism that the Tatas taught me.  
This semolina pudding was my Mothers Independence day favourite - probably because you can make large quantities in minutes.
Semolina Pudding
1.     In a pan mix 2 tablespoons of sooji with a glass of milk
2.     Add sugar to taste. I add less than a tablespoon because I am not a  sweet lover
3.      Put the pan on the gas and allow the milk to come to a boil. Stand right there to avoid a mess.
4.     Once the milk boils – lower the flame and simmer, stirring continuously.
5.     The mixture slowly thickens.
6.     When it starts going “phut – phut” turn off the gas and transfer the pudding to a bowl
7.     Put the bowl in the fridge to chill.
8.     It can be served hot but I love it chilled.


Thursday, 9 August 2012

My salvaged ego and eggs

Assam was magical!
In our help’s tiny house behind ours, two birds ruled the four human inhabitants - Mithu (the parrot) with his tart admonishing and Kholi (the hen) with her demure coaxing.
They subjugated us as well, because the chiding and cajoling continued day long, as Mamun went about her work in our huge house. We were wary of Mithu’s sharp tongue, but were completely bowled over by Kholi’s decorous directives.
Vying for Kholi’s attention as she followed Mamun around the yard was a favourite pastime, and each of us imagined ourselves the chosen ones - until one day, our pride was dealt a sudden numbing blow, when Kholi decided she had had enough of us . Mournfully - we ousted humans, brought in a cock.
We, the spurned lovers found the new entrant’s strutting insufferable, but oblivious to fragile crashing egos, Kholi was instantly enamoured of the brutish disposition of our competitor.
Injury compounded insult as His pompous majesty crowed himself hoarse every hour with cuckoo clock like accuracy to stoke our guilt about the hours we were whiling away and the precious minutes  we were wasting in bed after the crack of dawn.
Soon Mamun looked exhausted, Mithu looked bleary eyed and we looked guilt ridden. Kholi thankfully in her glowing happiness at last laid eggs. As she contented herself with warming her eggs we quickly banished our rival to the village.
We were triumphant – Kholi was back!
Kholi gave us lots and lots of eggs. These fertilized ones that she warmed hatched into chicks but before and after the arrival of our arch enemy, she gave us lots and lots of unfertilized (vegetarian eggs) that we relished.
Baked Eggs
This is my favourite when I want to eat something different without expending too much energy
1.     Take a Microwave safe glass bowl (small katori) and break an egg into it.
2.     Top the egg with grated cheese.
3.     Add salt (add carefully – cheese is already salty) and pepper.
4.     I like it runny so that I can dip in my toast, so I add 2 tablespoons of milk. If you don’t want it runny skip this.
5.     Microwave for 1 minute at full power.
6.     Eat it hot with toast!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Hunger, sleep deficit and Biryani

The year 2000 for me is clouded in an exhilarated sleep deprived haze. As an intern that year, life was a heady cocktail of emotions. Elation at finally being a doctor was mixed with generous proportions of despair at still knowing too little and fogged out everything else.
The incomparable intoxication of sleep deficit ruled and left room for little else. One memory that does stand out though – is that of lumbering noisily up the stairs to a first floor apartment in Frazer Town. A bunch of us would arrive there sometime in the late afternoon – invariably unannounced, insatiably hungry and unerringly boisterous after hours of being cloistered in our white coats. Triumphant survivors of self generated near wreckages of the wards we were posted to.
As we pushed open the door to the apartment oblivious of the existence of non – intern life on the planet, we would run headlong into a beautifully serene sight. Razia Aunty would be seated on the corner most sofa with her head covered, her eyes on the Quran and her beads in her hand. One look at us – dishevelled but proud, battered but not done in yet and she would quickly stall her prayers to rush into the kitchen to put together a meal.
Everyone has their own Ramzan memories and this one is mine. All through the month of fasting when she wasn’t cooking for her own family she would conjure up these wondrous meals for a bunch of hungry aspiring doctors so that they could revel in their few successes and go on to greater ones. Today’s post is just for you Aunty.
Ultra quick Biryani
1.     Wash and clean Curry Cut chicken (chicken with medium sized pieces basically).
2.     Measure out 2 cups of rice. Use the best Basmati with the longest grains that you can find.  Wash the rice well and place it in a strainer to drain off the water.
3.     Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pressure cooker. Fry a chopped onion till it turns golden.
4.     Add a tsp of ginger garlic paste
5.     Add a chopped tomato – followed by a good amount of salt. The salt should be a little more than you would normally add to a curry because the rice will be added to this later and needs to get salted as well.
6.     Wait for the tomatoes to lose all their water and become a thick masala.
7.     Now add Shahi Biryani Masala and fry a bit. You get this heady aroma.
8.     Now add 4 cups of water to the masala and add the chicken.
9.     Give the chicken one whistle in the cooker
10.    Allow the cooker to cool and then open
11.   Add the washed rice to the cooked chicken and mix
12.    Now cook the rice in the same cooker without the lid on.
13.     When the rice is done, mix well with a fork and serve hot