Tag Archives: Culture

Experiences And Challenges

4 Jan

While I’m certain there’s more to my life than blogging and recording my day-to-day activities, especially in the gastronomic area, it’s a privilege to find the time and space to do something like this today; an act I wish became a habit rather than the occasional whim it currently is. Of course that sort of thing requires discipline and a will that’s concrete enough to make one get into the habit of documenting; something I clearly lack even though I’m constantly making mental notes wherever I go or whenever I do something that is worth recording for keeps.

The past few days have been spent exploring the capital city and every experience brims with tales of character, stories laden with history and anecdotes ornate with memories. Delhi is historical in every sense of the word; a city that speaks through its being, a place that has more to tell you at every nook if you’re willing to stop and listen. I’ve been enthralled by its essence as much as it can be repelling, even. Like every metropolitan, here is a city that has space for everyone who cares to stay, explore and take from it all that it has to offer; even the numerous skeletons in its closets from times abound. I’ve never been a big city girl because I haven’t lived in one before. But there’s something so attractive, so magnetic, so enchanting about a big city, its messes included, that’s hard to resist. And it’s something I love, I’ve learnt.

My memories of Delhi go back to my childhood and my associations bring back waves of nostalgia that brim with warmth and a pull that’s hard to resist. It’s astounding how I have zero photographs of my experiences over the weekend that was; it’s simply an affair that’s too enigmatic to have you care about fetching your phone to capture it all. Hopefully there will be many more such experiences of walking the streets and gullies of this city; bursting at its seams with people, food, aromas, dust and of course a kind of dynamism that is only characteristic of India. It’s marvellous and addictive, captivating and fulfilling, soulful and spiritual, filthy yet so cleansing all in one. It’s a feeling very hard to come across and one that’s worthy of an embrace one too many. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about if you’ve visited India’s four ‘original’ metropolises – New Delhi, Calcutta (Kolkata), Bombay (Mumbai) and Madras (Chennai).

In between gathering experiences from my adventures outside our house, the challenge of cooking for two and sometimes one, as I’ve ranted about here, is ongoing, much to my fatigue sometimes. It’s a mammoth task because the threat of eating leftovers is much too painful to encounter and one that I don’t wish to cross paths with often (or at all, if I had the chance to). Finding variances in dishes to make something that we will both love and devour (because that’s what I’m gunning for) is a test of my creativity that is often-times successful, sometimes stressful. I’m taking it as a phase of learning so I can go out guns all blazing when the time comes. Of course I haven’t documented this side of affairs either; what with me being terrible and such a sloth, especially in this department. But never have I made such a variety of things to eat under such short spans of time; with the added plus point of devouring vegetables at a rate that astounds even my fussy mind. Call it winter vegetable love for all I know. It also gives me the opportunity to pile the husband’s plate with as many as I can, and then sneakily some more.

Off late, here’s what I’ve been making by the kilograms because we love it and because its all things lovely, peaceful, happy and, well, delicious.

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Hummus makes the world a sadder place; said no one ever.

Remember the million chickpeas I’d soaked earlier on? Well, guess where they came handy! While I haven’t made any notes on measurements, this dish/dip/sauce/goodness of heaven is the easiest thing to prepare.

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I began by soaking and then boiling a portion of chickpeas till they were cooked but not squishy-cooked.

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Then came a splattering of white sesame seeds that I roasted till they were the goldenest and fragrantest. They burn quickly and that’s something we do not want at all. So get them to become a lovely shade of brownish gold to help make tahini that gives you what I can only describe as the ‘boom’ to your hummus.

Blitz the sesame seeds with olive oil till you get a paste that’s thick and slightly runny – hello tahini!

Pile the chickpeas, about a teaspoon of tahini, some grated garlic, salt, a couple tablespoons of the water you boiled the chickpeas in and a very generous drizzle of olive oil and blend till you have the smooth wonder we all love to eat and embrace and dream about. Season with some more olive oil and herbs (if you wish, though there’s a bomb of flavours already in).

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If you’re rationing chickpeas or have boiled way too many than you’d prepared for (like yours truly), store the rest away for other dishes that catch your fancy and curiosity.

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I used my spare stock to make super quick chole (chickpea) preps that are suitable for snacking or even a meal accompaniment.

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I love this challenge and its versatility – it gives me the space to do as I please and more often than not, it’s an extremely rewarding experience. Of course if you’re the type that loves feeding people (and yourself), it’s a challenge and experience worth taking on.

Of course it’s another thing that I do not want to see chickpeas for a long time now.

Except for hummus.

Hummus for life and peace and love.

And hummus for leftover chickpeas you never want to see again.

Haha! Happy new year, folks!

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English, and then some…

24 Jan

I’ve always wondered about the concept of traveling alone. There’s quite some amount of romanticism attached to jetting off to unknown places by oneself, armed with just about enough self-confidence, courage and of course, money. I’ve seen people do it, have family who pushes for it (but who hasn’t necessarily done it), watched friends talk about it and certainly seen so much of it happen by means of photographs and anecdotes splashed all across Facebook. And read the many blog posts one comes across, especially if you’re a woman and preferably single…because what better than to just throw it all to wind and take off without being accountable or responsible for anyone else in your life, right? Talking of which, and to digress a bit, this was one piece I came across a while back and bookmarked in the hope to share it someday, with you. It’s about how every woman should travel alone. Do give it a read. It’s rather enlightening and refreshing and scary all in one.

Because we’re so attuned to doing things together with someone/people at almost all times (culturally, anthropologically and of course socially), there automatically arises a sense of adventure and novelty in venturing out alone or even doing things alone, to the point of attaching a sense of romanticism to it. Of course it’s a new feeling from the usual. Sometimes it is exactly what we need without it automatically becoming exactly what we always want. And so, I figure, we feel a certain romance about making new discoveries with our very own person, capacities and capabilities. Yes, it is a heady feeling to be able to stand out and feel a sense of victory for doing it all on your own, when the norm displays otherwise.

I fit somewhere in the boring norm of preferring to do things in company of others, barring the exception of shopping. I am a weird girl that way. And so it isn’t a surprise that I haven’t ventured out into foreign lands by myself with the determination to be the next best explorer my ego dreams I have the potential to be. I don’t say it’s impossible to do things alone, I certainly don’t. I just find it more appealing to be in (the right) company.

But it so happened that the time had come for me to take that step out, alone. And what have you, it wasn’t to someplace within my own country, but to Singapore. It was exciting and intimidating; the ratio of both being heavily skewed because really, the assurance of Singapore literally being the safest city/country in the world made all the difference. It was a lovely experience, I did things I wouldn’t be able to do in my own country/city without having to look over my shoulder or be on call with paranoid family at all times. It felt good to be out there like a small inconsequential drop of pollen flitting around a strange land. It was different. To be alone and not known was intoxicating because my travel came at a time when I needed exactly that. And soon enough, I was back here. It was perfect.

Before I realised it, it was time to be on the move again; this time to Thailand. I wasn’t traveling alone and the thought of more travel was too good to be true. But it was true and soon enough, I was in a country/city which seemed more foreign than I have ever felt in my life. Despite being in company, there was something starkly unnerving about the place…and that was this – the disappearance of something so innate and inborn (in my opinion); the disappearance of language; of a language I live in. And this realisation happened time and again when you’re down to your most basic form of communication; through gross representations of things you’re desperate to say via actions. And still being at sea. This isn’t to say that English is non-existent in Thailand. It is just that when something as basic as communication is impeded, it makes you realise just how we take things for granted. To assume things will be okay because we live in a bubble of a language thought to be global but really isn’t, is a rude shock for people as ignorant as me.

It struck me then that my travels to the UK and Singapore were such a breeze even in solitude because I had the biggest support and company of English. I definitely do not wish to sound or behave elitist because I do come from a culture and a country whose historical and cultural being is steeped in so much more than learning and understanding English. But Indians and our connection with English calls for another discussion that is empirically steeped in history and culture.

Maybe there is a reason why we’re told to take off alone. Because when you break the shackles of your own comforts of family, friends, associations and even spoken language, you find yourself standing on a ground that is at a level that enables your true sense of self-discovery. It is extremely unnerving and difficult. But it isn’t impossible. Because what I learnt when I was in Thailand, be it in company or alone, was that give and take all the strings that you hold on to or are attached to, you’re dealing with just another version of yourself out there; a self who shares a history of being closest to what you’re made up of; a self culture has taught us to call strangers. But if you are to look at it, we aren’t strangers at all. Because barriers of spoken language apart, something more innate and inborn took place; the exchange of wants, needs, feelings and to some extent, thoughts, took place. That through it all, communication took place. Because…

Twisted

7 Apr

I don’t know why I am as distracted as I am. Being a Monday and being normal, it’s only safe to assume that I do, in fact, have work lined up, all of which does have an expected completion timeline that really isn’t far away. But I’m finding it a tad hard to focus this rather normal Monday morning, or noon, as it were.

No, I’ve not had an overly mind-blowing weekend that’s left me hanging in the doldrums today. It was a rather decent week followed by a decent weekend that was just apt. And no, I have no tangible distractions that are contributing to this state of mind. There are no occupationally hazardously good looking/smelling men around, there is no good food, nothing. I’m seeking the help of my trance playlists to help pull me up and out and get that momentum going because none of us likes panic, do we? I’m sure we’d like to seal this day (and every other day) the way we would like to.

What has been on my mind off-late is, or could be, rather innocuous. It’s just the “normalcy” (I’m sorry if I say it ever so lightly) of being a girl that’s been playing on my mind this entire weekend. I haven’t suddenly woken up to realize my reality. It’s something that has been dawning upon me for a while now. Of course, I’m no feminist. Neither do I engage with or acknowledge chauvinists. I find the need to reiterate this every time because sometimes my views come across more strongly than they should. Given that I am as opinionated as I am, it doesn’t help to have the world be misunderstood by what I am or think. Because that’s my playground to play in.

It has dawned upon me that I really cannot just be what I want to be or do. I mean, I can. But I can’t. I have been brought up in and continue to live in an environment that gives me the freedom to be just who I want to be; that gives me the space to discover my individual self. And I feel blessed because, while this subject is so far removed from education or even class, I see so many who really never have a choice. Never. And so, I say, quite humbly, that I do feel blessed to have the choice to find my own path.

But do you also feel like every path you walk on also has invisible threads that pull you in all directions? That you really aren’t as free as you thought you were; that there are always some darned strings attached somewhere? I’ve been feeling this conflict off-late. While I have blogged about this earlier and wrote about it manifesting in rebellious, teenage-like behaviour, I do seem to see more and more of this feature becoming visible in not just the small things in my life but also the rather deeper things in life I thought I had somewhat figured out. Of course, there isn’t a standard set of rules I follow or a book I refer to. But it does get quite disconcerting when what you think and what you see and what you hear about don’t quite match.

For example, we’re told that it’s your right to go ahead and do exactly what you want to, that you have just one life and that you’ve to go grab every opportunity that comes your way, yada yada. But then when you set out to do exactly those things, there are those tiny but rather strong factors that do make you think twice and question yourself, if not hold you back completely. There’s so much of a discrepancy between what you should be, what you want to be and what your reality allows you to be. It’s frustrating. I’m not here to crib because that certainly has got us places. It’s just annoying to have your space but not really.

Living a conflicted amalgamation of what is okay and what isn’t okay by your standards and the standards of those who matter to you is tiring. Some people do it effortlessly because you compromise along the way. We’re not here to please everybody, but it’s important to know whom to drop along the way. When we openly and brazenly talk about not giving an eff, do we really, really not give an eff? Really?

How easy is that path to walk down? And if it isn’t easy, or hasn’t been, then why? That’s my question. That’s my conflict. Where do you draw the line and how soon?

You may wonder what this has to do with being a girl/woman. I say it because a) I am one and not the other, and b) because I’m at that stage of my life right now where I find it harder when compared to the opposite sex, only by comparison and not experience of course. What is okay for me isn’t okay for the other. And what is okay for the other is absolutely ridiculous to me. And I realize that there has to be compromise to reach that common ground which only seems either non-existent or so far out of reach.

I realize that if I truly do not want to give an eff, I need to stop and see what I’m truly deciding not to give an eff about. Because if I were to be ignorant and walk my own path, my own way, I doubt I’d ever get what I’ve truly envisioned for myself. They’re right when they say you’ve got to give to get. First give, at that. And if I’m to use my deductive faculties correctly, that means I need to give an eff first to not give an eff.

Oh, twisted, twisted life and its paths. You really never know what lies around the bend, do you? And is it that easy for a girl to break-off and really not give an eff? I’m in that super distracting moment, now. There’s no wonder.

 

PS, apologies (or not) on the random twistedness of it all. Thank you for listening, if you’ve been patient enough. :)