Monday, July 11, 2016

Disappointment

Today  I will not care about the accuracy of my grammar and tenses and my political correctness, today is about my disappointment in mankind.
I turn 31 today. It is a birthday filled with sadness, regret, hopelessness, and above all, disappointment.
For quite a few months I have been contemplating closing my Facebook account, but the thought of shutting the door on my batch-mates, teachers and acquaintances kept me from taking the step. What had triggered the thought in the first place were the amounts of intolerance and thoughtless comments, pieces of news in form of video and blogs that exemplify inhuman behaviour against women, children, animals.. basically the vulnerable section of the society. I had had enough.
Recently, an incident concerning my alma mater, Delhi School of Economics, Department of Geography, was in the news. A student of the final semester propagated some fake news of her having broken the record of the highest scores ever achieved. It's appalling, it's a betrayal of trust for the student's classmates and professors, not to forget her immediate family. I do not support this act, obviously. I also do not support the public shaming, that has happened over the course of this incident.
Everything playing out on Facebook, on such a public forum is quite a scandal. When a student has made a mistake, it is the responsibility of the department to take action. If there is any condemnation to happen, it has to come directly from the department and its spokespersons directly at the culprit. I did not like it when a professor revealed the real marks on the public forum, I did not like it when questions of values and responsibilities were brought to the forefront with such judgemental attitude.
I question the maturity and values of the student as much as the members of the faculty. I ask, was it necessary to humiliate the student on such a public forum. The girl has now deleted her Facebook profile. I am forced to fear for he life, I fear she will contemplate taking her own life. And I believe my fears are not baseless.
I do not know this girl, my values also tell me that what she did was wrong, but mistakes are a part of life. Mistakes demand punishment, but what punishment is this where I, who doesn't even know her, pass judgement on her actions from a few Facebook comments?
When I said that understanding and support is also important in this situation, I was told that our society is very supportive, but values are equally important. I am sorry to say that I do not believe that our society is very supportive. Which society are you talking about? The society that still thinks depression is an excuse? The society that kills her own daughter in the name of honor? The society that calls my friend 'kasai' in the name of caste? The society where you publish the marks of a student on Facebook comments?
From a small lie, we go on to bigger lies to cover the initial small lie, and that happens out of fear and vulnerability. I am asking as a recently turned 31 year old, is your maturity level commensurate with your age? How do you measure maturity and responsibility? Let's bask in someone else's mistake and feel good about how YOU never got caught!
The other news that has completely caught me off guard is the recent release of the Hindi Movie Sultan. The misogynistic message of the movie ( I confess I haven't watched it, but read several reviews and the plotline) hardly made my educated friends' and family's eyebrows twitch and that brings me to the subject of how ingrained misogyny is in our society. How we expect the woman to give up her olympic dreams to settle down with a man who thinks "no means yes" , and I do not even want to go into the subject of SALMAN KHAN! Thanks, but no thanks.
I am disappointed in you, in me, in all of us!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Stories of my Coming Back

I have often heard that one should not take anyone for granted. But, it is often the case that we do, especially the ones closest to us. We feel that our loved ones understand us and that they would wait for us to return to them. Such a fate has befallen me and my blogging space.
Do not think for a moment that I do not care, I have enquired of it's health and well-being from time to time; I fell into a lazy routine where stopping for a longer conversation was too much work. 
I will not lie, I wouldn't say that the thought of severing all ties hadn't occurred to me, but I stopped myself the moment I thought about all the memories I had collected, my myriad states of mind etched onto this space, the thought of losing it all with a click of a button jolted me out of those dark thoughts. I realized that this blog is like my Pensieve. 
So, I am back to my virtual witter space, thought I will dust it, remove the cobwebs and gather it up like a baby close to my heart and have a little cry.
Now, to some actual updates. Master's Degree has been received and enough driving classes have been taken that I would easily get an Indian license right away - but not enough for Germany. At almost 31 years of age,  I am searching for a real job for the first time in my life. Life is not as miserable as I want it to be - oh how one craves the romance of a miserable life!
There were times in my life, including my childhood, when I found a lot of joy in cooking. I have always been very fond of eating well, but the joy of cooking had left me in recent times. I am glad to say that I have found it again. 
To say that I find the grocery stores here uninspiring is an understatement. Finding ingredients to try new recipes, to not get simple things like boneless chicken thighs just depress me. However, a month back I discovered a website called Marley Spoon, who deliver ingredients and recipes to your doorstep. Exotic recipes that you would be afraid to try on your own trying to gather all the ingredients, buying a whole bottle of something that will never be used again, the idea of waste looming large - all these things have been solved by Marley Spoon and other start ups around the world providing similar services. You will not have any excuse to not try cooking something unknown anymore. Over the last three weeks I have made Italian, Middle Eastern, Asian and Mexican dishes, which turned out delicious and you are cooking with fresh produce, locally sourced meat and fish, some of the things organically grown and produced, spices that you have never cooked with before like Sumac, Bahrat, and take this Panch Phoron was also included in one of the recipes involving Masoor Dal (Red lentils)
I go back to the kitchen now, excited to see what the outcome will be, whether I will enjoy eating it and be able to replicate the dish as close to the finished product on the recipe cards. I take numerous photos and send them to my family every other evening to show off a little. So, I thought I might as well document my kitchen escapades on my forever neglected blog space. 




Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Nabokov's Questionnaire

I came across this questionnaire on a fellow blogger's site Abantor & here are my answers. I have tried to answer them as truthfully as of this moment, a different mood and a different situation could warrant a different set of answers... but for now here it is

A Questionnaire for the Immodest and Curious - Vladimir Nabokov

Name, patronymic, last name: 
Deepanjana Majumdar 

Pen-name, or a preferred pen-name:  
Raka

Age and preferred age: 
29 and 27

Attitude to marriage: 
so far so good

Attitude to children: 
My attitude to them depends on the parents of the said children

Profession and preferred profession: 
Professionally being trained to be a geomatics expert (whatever that means) In another life would love to be a writer or involved in performing arts!

What century would you like to live in? 
Would have loved to live my youth in the 1960’s, seems that the world was much more liberal back then or too involved in sex, drugs and rock’n’roll to go to war! mid 20th century onwards, better sanitation, improvement in life expectancy etc. etc.

What city would you like to live in? 
New York/Paris/san Francisco

From what age do you remember yourself and your first memory? 
Don't know if I really remember it or it’s an effect of the story being repeated to me multiple times, I don't trust my memories, I believe most of it is made up. But my maternal grandparents’ house features in a lot of them.

Which of the existing religions is closest to your world-view? 
None

What kind of literature do you like the most? What literary genre? 
Since one of my favourite books is a Roman á clef I would name that, I also like Bildungsroman and crime fiction. I believe our preferences change with our experiences in life.

Your favorite books: 
The Fountainhead, The Bell Jar, Gone with the Wind, We the Living, P.G. Wodehouse

Your favorite art: 
Photography and Indian classical dance forms

Your favorite artwork: 
The Swing- Renoir and Water Lilies -Monet 

Your attitude to technology:  
Necessary evil

Do you appreciate philosophy? As a form of scholarship, as a pastime:  
Yes I do, I like to discuss Ideology, philosophy gives a structure to thought.

Do you believe in progress?
I believe in evolution, if that encompasses progress, then yes.

Your favorite aphorism: 
You made your bed, now lie in it

Your favorite language: 
That would have to be Bengali and English - Urdu comes a close 2nd.

On what foundations does the world stand? 
Big Bang

What miracle would you perform if you had a chance? 
Eradicate hunger

What would you do if you suddenly got a lot of money? 
After giving some away to cure diseases and provide food to the hungry I would travel the world with the rest of it.

Your attitude to modern woman: 
Good on you mate!

Your attitude to modern man: 
About time!

What virtue and vice do you prefer and disapprove of in a woman? 
multitasker and fickle

What virtue and vice do you prefer and disapprove of in a man? 
their ability to chill out and their cluelessness.
I think I should mention here that I wrote the above answers in all seriousness but I don't think men and women are that different and it is hard to generalise.

What gives you the keenest pleasure? 
travelling

What gives you the keenest suffering? 
children suffering

Are you a jealous person? 
No

Your attitude to lies:  
I sometimes prefer to hear a lie than the true.

Do you believe in love? 
Yes- all kinds of love

Your attitude to drugs: 
We wouldn't have any groundbreaking music and art without them. 

Your most memorable dream: 
Being lost and cant find my way back home.

Do you believe in fate and predestination? 
In the loosest possible sense.

Your next reincarnation? 
Inanimate object

Are you afraid of death? 
Je ne sais pas

Would you like man to become immortal? 
No

Your attitude to suicide: 
More painful for those who live on.

Are you an anti-Semite? Yes. No. Why? 
No, if I were an anti semite I would be anti a lot of other ethnic groups and communities too… I am anti nothing. 

Do you like cheese? 
No

Your favorite mode of transportation: 
Train

Your attitude to solitude: 
solitude is an absolute necessity for personal growth and creativity. 
Man should be comfortable in his own company. 


Favorite menu: 

Bengali food, like mom makes and grandma made

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Winter is Coming

No, this is not an episode of the Game of Thrones, I am merely stating a fact. As I sit at my dining table looking out the window I can sense the doom and gloom. The sky is a pallid grey, the young trees that had been planted in the winter of 2012 on our street are quivering and shaking before the wind that threatens to cut short their spring, the young man braves the chill with a cup of vending machine coffee in hand, donning the hood of his red jacket as he walks away
My late breakfast of blueberry yogurt and müsli now seems inadequate, the heart desires warm pancakes, but I still have some coffee in the thermos left to take the edge off. 
Generally, I should not be complaining, it has been pretty mild here till today,  it has rained everyday for the last 2 weeks, yes, but the temperatures had been warm enough. This city gets very little to no snow in winters, but it is not a very inspiring winter. If it is going to get cold, I may as well have some snow, no wait, what the hell am I talking about ? With the entire city dug up and under construction snow is going to be a terrible idea- mixed with dust and mud and construction material, no, let’s scrap snow from the agenda.
I shall brave out this winter like every other winter, basking in the glow of a summer well spent, loving and being loved by the crown jewels of our royal family, my 2 year old niece and a brand new 4 month old nephew. The nephew who loves being sung and talked to and the niece who has a particular disposition of being goofy and naughty in the most charming way possible.
I realized that I have to keep this last summer well chronicled for I do not want to forget the times spent with the kids, who happen to grow up so fast that already the timeline of funny incidents and moments are starting to blur. And don’t get me wrong, the babies are great but the times my sister and I spent sans babies were hilarious… checking out chic restaurants, drinking before noon, pretending to have sex and the city moments with outdoor seating, olive branches and bougainvillea blooming around us and Mercedes convertibles parked at the street corners, realizing that it is so overrated when the wasps/bees will not hesitate to paralyze you for the entire duration of your meal. Watching 2 hour movies stretched over a few days, eating amazing fresh pasta every evening for dinner and countless ice cream outings to cover for the entire year; wildberry lavender has spoilt me for any other ice cream/gelato in Germany, perhaps, I need a trip to Rome to renew my faith in gelato. The account of the summer shall not be complete without mentioning the absolutely heavenly shopping spree we went on avec babies, while one held the baby the other tried on clothes, beautiful, shimmering, life assuring apparel. The shoes and bags have been reserved for another summer.
An overnight trip with the babies that was incredible, challenging and love inducing all at the same time. A particularly memorable moment was when my sister went to meet her advisor and my niece was with me on the stroller fast asleep, I sat in the rest area of a museum a little apprehensive about how she would react if she woke up in a strange place with mummy not around, but when she did eventually wake up and I unstrapped her from the stroller to pick her up there was no sign of worry on her face, we sat together cuddling and indulging in #selfies till mummy was back.
The farmers’ market, local coffee bars, fresh made mini donuts, my niece’s equally edible face coated with sugar from the donuts, late American brunches and fried chicken, express wine tasting at Whole Foods Market rendering us (mostly my brother in law and I) completely drunk and giggly and not to forget the birthday party of the year for the diva aka my niece entailing the kids having a great time, the adults getting some much needed alcohol and the most delicious and beautiful cake.

It was a summer one wouldn't want to forget, reliving it over and over in one’s mind to stoke the fire, to surpass the winter, to get over the gloom, to love life as it is. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Je ne sais quoi

There are times when dark clouds loom over one's head and the world seems like a big bad place to be in, one might even wish that it would be all over, the world would come to an end as he/she knows it. There are emotions one can feel that have no name. Moments of great joy and prospect of  something may  transform into feelings of bitter disappointment and hopelessness.
Sometimes, when one is too deep into it,there are moments when one can feel trapped and liberated all at once followed by numbness and stillness. Things can sometimes seem to move so fast that it gets hard to breath, and at other times in slow motion when you just want the moment to pass by in stead of dragging on. 
Talking about it never translates the gravity of the situation, but it will make one wiser when one hears the words tumbling out of his/her mouth with no restraint, or one can hope to be.
Human capacity to feel and over-feel, think and over-think is immense, it is what gives shape to language and to literature. The thinking and feeling and imagining of writers have given a lot of us a lot of pleasure and pain. We stepped out of our comfort zones through these pages of greatness, we cried into the pages staining them, kissed some and left lipstick stains, we have even torn out some of them (I know you have) to have it always on your person. Sometimes we have carried a book around for ages without reading them but received some sort of satisfaction just having it around.
I think and over-think, I feel and over-feel, that is the reason I sometimes write and sometimes do not write. But I will not give it up for anything, even when they sometimes pull me by my hair and drag me through the roads of shame, guilt and pleasure. I have daydreamed about writing one day, perhaps I never will in this life but I will continue to read and dream, play around with the ideas, explore and imagine and feel them taking shape before they sublimate in my mind's eye.
There will be a love story, there will be a song, lines of magical poetry- there will be sensual pleasures of smell and taste and rhythm- I will see bright and radiant colours of this ephemeral existence, I will feel the elements on my skin- the burn of the sun and the grit of the sand. I will remember the days that gave me love and freedom. I will celebrate. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

In a Soup

After a few weeks of non-stop indulgence and gluttony I thought it would be good to start cutting back on all the rich and potentially harmful diet I am so fond of. I had been sifting through a cookbook bought around Christmas after having a version of Lasagna at a friend's place for dinner. She later revealed it was from a book called the complete low-fat cookbook; she is diabetic and this particular lasagna omits the heavy bechamel sauce I don't like, and replaces it with some semolina cooked in milk to coat the top, giving it a structure and texture after the baking. It was after this meal that I took a look at her cookbook and decided it order it on Amazon.
Don't be deterred by the Low-fat bit, I have never come across a low-fat cookbook that features such deliciousness. It has a number of Asian recipes, including Indian that appeals to most palates, they are mild and innovative, uses different kinds of proteins and vegetable, and has an entire section on desserts, yes, you heard right!
So, after the general skim through I zeroed in on this Broccoli-potato-coriander soup because I had the ingredients at home, looked simple enough to make and it had potatoes in it, we know potato makes everything right in the world. Yesterday, after household chores I set out to making this promising soup. We were watching a movie at 19:15 at a theatre close to home so I wanted dinner to be ready when we got back. 

After the cutting, chopping, seasoning I put the lid on of the saucepan and waited for it to cook; in the meanwhile, I got the food processor ready and made myself a beautiful cup of tea, the tea set a Christmas gift from the friend who made the Lasagna.

Once the vegetables were cooked I poured it into the bowl of the processor, put the lid on, pressed the 'on' button and nothing. I unlocked the bowl from the main unit, opened the lid, poured the soup back into the saucepan thinking the blade may not have been correctly placed, so did it again, poured the veggies back in, closed the lid and switched it on again, once again nothing happened, only the light was on so I knew there was nothing wrong with the power source. By this time, I was deeply disturbed, the expensive food processor, a gift from my sister, was only half a year old and I attempted to make the soup because I had the food processor and now it was betraying me. I was emotional and upset. I abandoned the whole thing, switched off the lights in my kitchen and went away to watch the movie... by the way it was Philomena in case you are interested to know.
While walking back home we stopped at a turkish food joint and got ourselves some dinner. Soup was not going to happen.
Once back home I tried to go though forums online to see if there was something that could be done to the food processor, everyone on those forums said to make sure that it was placed correctly, all the parts were locked into their positions and there were 'click' sounds etc. and I couldn't find a fault with my arranging of the bowls, it wasn't the first time I was using it. 
Around 12 a.m. when I was lying in bed trying to sleep a thought came to my mind... was it because I had not closed the feed chute? I hadn't done it because the vegetables were right off the stove, it was piping hot and closing it off would've created pressure so I had decided to leave it open only covering it with a tea towel. Eureka! I knew I had the solution and smiling to myself drifted off to sleep.
Today morning I went into the kitchen and the first thing I did was to go to the food processor, pour the soup stuff into the bowl again, close the lid and close off the feed chute and switch it on, et voila! It worked! 
I took some of the mixture out into a small saucepan and put the rest in the refrigerator, something more had to be done to it before it was ready to be eaten. Oh and was it yummy. I am not a soup person, except chicken hot and sour or sweet corn soups at Chinese joints in India, read Kolkata, but, I absolutely loved this one, it is heavy enough to be had as a meal in itself and one could serve it as an appetizer in smaller portions with some crunchy fried bacon on top for some punch.

Here's the Recipe:
Ingredients:

500 gm broccoli
cooking spray
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tsp.  Ground cumin
1 tsp  ground coriander
750 gm Potatoes, diced
2 chicken stock cubes
1.5 cups skim milk

1.Cut broccoli into small pieces. Spray the base of a large saucepan with cooking oil, the place over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Add 1 Tbsp. water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened and is lightly golden. Add the ground cumin and coriander and cook for 2 minutes.
2.Add the potato and broccoli to pan, stir and add stock cubes, and 4 cups of water. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Allow to cool.
3.Blend the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Return to the pan and stir in milk. Slowly reheat, without boiling. Stir in chopped coriander and season well before serving.

My own twists: I don't have cooking spray so I added a tbsp of olive oil. Added some whole cumin and dried thyme in the hot oil before I put the onions in. I did not have milk at home so I added some natural yogurt at the end. I also like some heat so added some chili flakes and a generous amount of crushed black pepper. The addition of yogurt at the end gave it a lightness and a well rounded flavour.

Dinner tonight is a whole roast chicken, it's the first time I am going to cook one, so be prepared to read about it.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Powerful and Godlike

A couple of days back a friend, who also happens to be my namesake, said that I should write more about drinking. I literally laughed out loud at her suggestion, the reasons being that there really is quite a lot that I can write about alcohol and what goes around it but also because I think I have developed notoriety in relation to alcohol.
It's not because I have a drinking problem (I know, everyone with a drinking problem says that) but because I can talk about it freely. I can say "let's meet for a drink" any time of the day not meaning "let's get drunk". I can hold my drink quite well, except the hindi filmy hiccups once in a while and I am usually game- if someone wants to share a pitcher of Guinness I will take it, if someone wants company for a tequila shot, I will do it- what I mean is that I am not finicky.
That does not mean that I don't have my preferences- on a normal day I usually prefer a beer, like a lager (pilsner). In a pub atmosphere or in large groups of people when I need to make a drink last a while, when it's warm or there is greasy pub food, beer is my mate.
As I live in a country that hasn't heard of air conditioning, heavy and dark beers that have a higher sugar content can get uncomfortable to drink in hot summer months, although that sort of weather only lasts a very brief moment, pilsners are the only sort of alcohol that one can drink if they don't want to pass out. In the cooler months you can bring out the large varieties ranging from the hefeweizens to the smoky malt beers, from the stouts to the Ales.
In cool cafes, with low lights, smooth jazz and a hum of conversation, when I feel sophisticated, I crave a glass of Merlot in winter and Chardonnay in summer.
There is something about wines that transport me in time- I feel a Downton Abbeyesque charm around me. Talk of red wine always makes me envisage the sommelier going down to the cellar to collect a 15 year old bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that has now mellowed with age, him blowing out the dust off the bottle, carefully uncorking and decanting it to get some air into it and pouring it from an heirloom crystal decanter to our glasses. Alas, we can only afford Cabernets that are usually only a couple of years old, the tannins still strong in them and too dry for my taste so I stick to the smoother and fruitier Merlots that wine snobs may look down upon. Although, there are times when I enjoy Pinot Noirs too, known commonly as Spaetburgunder in these parts of the world, they are made of grapes that are difficult to grow, so only a limited amount of Pinot Noirs are produced each year making them a little expensive, but they too are light and fruity and easy to drink, they can be very versatile, and pair well with varieties of food.
Now, I leave the cocktails for very special occasions, such as, when I am meeting girlfriends after a long long time or when the meeting is set for after-dinner in a bar, that's when the cosmopolitans or the martinis go around, I love a Bombay Sapphire(gin) martini extra dirty- meaning a splash more of the brine in which the olives sit, but it's a risky drink to order if you don't know how good the bartender is and where the cosmos can come out as cranberry juice with the essence of vodka. When in doubt order a Gin/Vermouth and Tonic- simple and easy.
Alcoholic drinks most often do their duty as a social lubricant, they help me have conversation with people that I am still not that close to, they happen to bring everyone's guards down and be more spontaneous. Sometimes I enjoy music more when I am slightly intoxicated, but it has never been anything more or anything less.
The culture in Italy and France of having a pre-dinner aperitif that can consist of an Aperol Spritz in the former and light white wine with cheese in latter is followed by a pairing of wine with the dinner makes drinking alcohol as natural as going to sleep at night. I have very rarely encountered a drunk Italian, though I don't doubt there are a few.
On the other hand, in Germany, when you walk by the parked cars, if you look carefully there is always at least one crate full of beer bottles stacked away in the boot. When I meet German or European friends anywhere outside they are usually carrying a backpack that has a bottle or two of beer in them, just in case!

I would like to leave you with this quote from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.”

Goodnight!




P.S. As I am writing about a substance that is often abused by the young as well as the old, I need to indicate that it is only fun while it is in moderation, excess or binge drinking can be embarrassing and harmful for the one who is drinking and also for their close friends and families.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Quaintrelle

The absolutely fascinating period of exams are on. This time at a foreign university (my first), making it slightly more mesmerising. People can rediscover themselves at a time like this, these times can bring with them a revelation. We come to know exactly how much the classes preceding these exams have been meaningful, how much the students paid attention and how effectively the teachers imparted their knowledge.
Just like there are two sides to a coin, this situation also has two sides to it, we (the students) think the teachers had been ineffective and they(the professors- they like to call themselves that ridiculously old fashioned way) believe we failed them by not working hard enough or  not being smart enough.
I have never been very academic, never been much of anything really, but more about that later... so the idea to get a second master's degree was to give myself some credibility and a kick start to a career I never had. But being back in school makes me question my decision. I like being busy, I like to get work done, I feel good after I have successfully completed a task but being a student is a role I could never embrace successfully- I always felt out of place, trying to follow, trying to conform and trying to run in a race.
Most of us never end up doing/being what we really enjoy like to do/be, I blame it mostly on the lack of courage.
The learning by osmosis is the knowledge that is retained, an  information delivered in an atmosphere of fun is willingly assimilated. Sometimes the Umgebung where information is shared matters more than the nature of the information.
I believe I was born to be, what Baudelaire called, a flaneur, the person immersed in life yet detached, the person of leisure, the urban explorer making unintentional contributions to psychogeography.
There probably comes a time in everyone's life when they ask themselves the deepest question of all- what the hell am I doing with my life?
I have asked myself this question a thousand times over, I haven't found an answer yet. May be, someday when I reach that place 'where the mind is without fear' I shall stroll the streets of the city, free and exuberant... what I should be doing with my life.

p.s. historically, there is debate about the existence of female flaneurs, because of how the city space is conceived by genders differently... but this is not a research paper and if the idea exists there is someone out there who has been able to conquer gender issues.

Monday, October 21, 2013

There She goes Again

 For a while the weather hadn't been something to write home about, it had been dull and dismal, the cold, damp air doing nothing to one's mood. My booted feet squelched on the wet and muddy leaves gathering on the steps in front of the university building as I walked into my department to attend early morning classes, clinging onto my thermos of coffee, the only source of warmth. This had been going on for almost 3 weeks, the same bleakness in the air when a brief flurry of wind blew away the remaining weak, yellow leave still clinging on to dear life..
But today is what an Autumn day should be like in my mind, clear blue skies, sunshine, sparkling golden leaves and a nip in the air.
I have friends who adore rain, who are inspired and rejuvenated by it, but I believe that the damp and constant drizzle that go on for days would  fail to evoke any inspiration even in the most ardent of rain lovers. The monsoons and the torrential rains are very different kinds of rainfall, the kind that romances and trysts are made of.
I, on the other hand, am a sunshine lover. On balmy, hot days when a floating cloud provides respite from the scorching sun , the relief felt for those few moments is incomparable and without the sunshine I wouldn't have known that there's solace to be found in the shadows.
I love shadows that the sun casts, as a kid I would try to walk over my shadow, I had walked a little quicker hoping it would help me beat my shadow to wherever I was going.
On winter days blankets toasted under the sun can thaw the coldest of hearts.
Mornings that do not start with a blush against the horizon never feels like a new day with nothing separating the day from the night. A start of a new day has too much significance, metaphorical as well as literal, and when the heavy clouds darken the day I feel like I carry the previous day's onus.
A warm and sunny day makes reading a delight on cool grass, it makes wearing wide brimmed hats fun and loose flowing dresses fashionable whereas a cool and sunny day makes picnics and outdoor activities bearable.
As life imitates nature I have had a partly sunny with chances of thundershowers kind of a year, it's been mostly fun and some tight spots I have been able to wriggle out of, I am back in University, still paying off the installments for the not-so-new-anymore-kitchen and finally made loads of friends. 
Alot of travel/in-laws visit/adjusting to a new city/missing old city had kept me from assimilating all that was going on around me, finally the beginning of classes and a rigorous routine is actually starting to feel like it is having a normalizing effect, feels like what life should be, a little bit of order in the everyday chaos. 
I know winter's not faraway and I am gathering whatever sunny bits I can to keep warm and give me enough enthusiasm so I can wake up in darkness to attend 8 a.m. classes.
In the meanwhile, I hope you guys are enjoying the new seasons of Homeland and Downton Abbey and perhaps going a little nuts waiting for the new season of Sherlock, believe me when I say that I am ready to write a letter to Mark Gatiss asking him what's taking him so bloody long!



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry on

Waking up in a strange bed, in an unfamiliar room- sleep last night was elusive, interjected by restlessness.The streets this morning look dull and the sky is a flinty grey. I can hear the pitter patter of constant rain, a drizzle, but never pouring down unabashedly, as if it is waiting eternally for someone's arrival.
We drink our coffees, bite into something sweet purely as a complement to the strong, black brew. Ready to go on our exploration, we quietly close the door behind us as we leave the strange dwelling for the day. The drizzle not being a deterrent, I let it lash on my face, I had abandoned my glasses for the much disliked contact lenses so that the water droplets wouldn't come in the way of my eyes and the sights that lie before me. 
We are walking down Potter Street, ironic, I think, as it could've been Privet Drive. In the tube we count the number of stations we would need to pass to reach our destination. A little girl beside me is playing around holding the handrail and in her playing she lightly kicks the bag lying between my feet. She apologizes in a voice as sweet as honey, I am not used to such polite manners, I smile and mumble that it's alright clearly impressed by the little girl's etiquette. Gradually it dawns on us that the low hum of conversation is not in a foreign language, so used to drowning out conversation around us we had done the same here and suddenly we find out that we understand the words, it makes me want to eavesdrop, sure that I won't be hearing any ill about myself.
We are eager to reach our stop where we have to change trains to our final destination. We have to get off at Baker Street to change trains. Baker Street, Baker street, I wonder... isn't that where Sherlock Holmes lived? I am as thrilled as a child, lost in my thoughts of a Victorian London. The cobbled stone streets, the horse drawn carriages, the defiant, genius and petulant man who is Sherlock, all just becoming floating images in my head. We finally reach and I see red and green profiles of the man himself with his signature pipe all over the tiled walls, how exciting it all is. We clamber down the escalator to the platform all the while stealing glances at the tiles that are swiftly disappearing behind me. Oh! it is such a rush!
We finally reached in front of the Palace gates where the changing of guards will begin in about an hour, throngs of people have gathered, the street in front us is cordoned off. We wait at the gates, people have started to push, I panic, crowded places have never been my scene, I get away from the gates towards a fairly open area. I know I can't see much of the happenings in account of my height, or the lack thereof. But I soon realize the guards are not holding my attention at all, it is the building in front of me that is of much more significance to me. It is surreal being there, knowing that previous occupants of that palace were our Colonisers. The relationship is rather complex. There is a true love-hate relationship in my mind. There is an obvious attraction, far more complex than the attraction for other tourist destinations, yet there is a latent dislike. It truly is a baffling feeling. I mean, I am thinking all of this in, what originally is their language, English, but it is mine too, and yet I do not belong.
I wonder, is the hate because I do not belong? They were in the city I grew up in, I haven't seen them there, they have left what to my eyes are vast opulent (and ignored) colonial buildings covered in years of dust,that look wholly out of place in the bustle and poverty of central Calcutta (and I call the city by the name they gave it ) and we carry some pride about them in us, we proudly tell people that Calcutta was the first capital of India under the Empire. We have walk down streets named Curzon, Russel, Middleton, Elgin; we have been taught by Anglo-Indian school teachers, we've worn dresses tailored by them, we know 'Our Father..' by heart and sang Christmas Carols and after all of this shared history we still do not belong. 
With these thoughts in my mind we walk along lanes looking at the sights, I feel distant yet something entices me to go on. 
I think of the realities I have experienced through the world of  Literature, all the journeys I have been on, of human emotions and life in another world. Though universal in appeal the descriptions were most definitely of the cultures, geographies and lives of this land and so familiar did I get with them, that, unknowingly, I have had an identity crisis all my life. 
The Indian immigrants are an inevitability, they are a part of the country, they have been embraced by society, nowhere is the curry as popular as it is here. Yes, I think they belong here. We argue, we debate, we discuss- we theorise our relationship but we cannot deny the relationship, we have unquestionably influenced each other. We say they stole our Koh-i-noor but in turn they gave us chicken tikka masala, which is more of a personal favourite.
While thinking of such complicated thoughts we have walked past many a famous landmarks and we find ourselves inside Harrods. I get the hint, it is time for me to indulge a little in the luxuries of life, except it is too crowded to even get a place to stand. The smell of food inside makes our stomach rumble with hunger but there is no place to be found here to perch ourselves and get a bite or two. I suggest a pub should be the place to be. We haul ourselves out on the street and take a ride in a black cab to reach Covent Garden. We are lucky to find a place at a pub and we plonk ourselves down faint with hunger. The man at the counter is chatty and polite, he asks us how our day has been and I am thrilled to have understood everything that he said and that I can answer his question without so much as a thought. We pick fish and chips and chicken tikka masala with our preferred choice of Ales, life is good. I calculate in my mind how far the second hand book shop would be from the pub and decide not more than 10 minutes. Stomach filled and mind refreshed I am ready to go shopping. As we reach the shop recommended to me by someone, I see that it is quaint and packed full of books of all subjects. At the back they stack rare books, 1st editions and signed copies, a little beyond my budget, so I happily scour the general section and pick out 6. Joyful is the word I am feeling, with my exploits in hand we head back to our dwelling which could be No. 4, you know where!

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Love(s) of my Life

I was never one to believe in the phrase "absence makes the heart grow fonder," so I decided it's high time I haul myself to the Blog space before the readers move on to greener pastures. 
A lot has happened in the last 4 months as you can well imagine.

For starters we have a new addition to our family, the cutest bundle of joy, my itty bitty niece who turns 3 months old in 10 days. I spent the first 2 months of her life by her side trying to convince my sister to give her to me, of course it didn't work so now I feel bereft without her! What I did manage to do is insert a middle name of my choice, a way of enforcing my existence in her life. She is Nandana Malini Mukherjee and she has us all wrapped around her tiny little finger. 

Three others who need a mention on my blog are the three kitty boys my sister has, Calvin, Hobbes and Casper, those three own us- they are my sister's crown jewels and bundles of joy. This year was the first time I got to see them and I can confidently say that I now know the meaning of true love.

Moving on to the next big thing, we are moving from the extreme east of Germany to the Franco-German border in about a month, two chambers of my heart are heavy for having to leave the city I called home for the last four years whereas the other two, that belong to my french alter ego, are fluttering (as opposed to jumping, as I am sure the french don't jump) with joy. Tres bien, I say!

The other great love in my life right now Homeland.If you haven't watched it yet, do it right now! Apart from a a captivating, multi-faceted story line it has renewed my love for Jazz music. Sometimes I just want Claire Danes to shut up so I can hear the background music a little clearly. They have done a great job with it, the music forming such an integral part of the program giving a layered structure to the story and characters, especially Danes'. It is pure torture waiting for new episodes, it is like waiting for a call from a lover you know you will never get, yes I have got it that bad!

Ok have to rush now, got Lunch date with a friend, making the most in the time have left in Paradise City.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Untitled

Virginia Woolf once said that a woman must have money and a room of her own to write fiction, I feel it holds true for blogs as well in my case. I particularly need a room with a view, either a snow capped mountain or a rumbling sea full of waves. 
The last month and a half had been intensely busy, to say the least, My in laws were visiting us for the first time in out 4 year marriage and it was an event of sorts. The preparations had been going on for weeks for them as well as for us. We had to get the house in order, the guest bedroom tidied up and the refrigerator stocked. The only thing we couldn't get in order was the weather, this year summer has been playing hide and seek so the in laws has to embrace the cold and wet which certainly needed some getting used to.
We had certain trips planned for this period and while all this was going on I had my online course on Literary Theories going full swing. Some days I would catch up on the studies while my mother in law cooked lunch and it is so comforting to know that you are going to have at least a three course lunch that you haven't spent half a day cooking. 
Finally, they left the Sunday past and the house suddenly drowned in silence and inactivity. No more waking up to voices from the other room full swing in discussion about nothing early in the morning, now the dishes remain piled up in the sink, no one to fight with over the washing and I have my coffee by my bedside table, sipping on without any company except my faithful laptop that still lights up to see.
There is an odd sort of comfort in knowing that life has a way of falling back in its old routine no matter how the last months or even years have been spent.
We spend our time planning and looking forward to things like vacations, family visits and birthdays etc. which come and go and leave a certain vacuum as the occasions and festivities end. Early morning around 4 today I was woken up by a strong flash of lightening followed by  the crackling of thunder, I instinctively got up to close the window of the bedroom expecting rain. When I got back in bed, there were still flashes until the showers started and the thunders waned, so all I could hear was the constant drumming of the rain on the ground (I live on the ground floor). It made me think of a new dawn, that we would wake up to and start new plans, new journeys and await pleasant surprises and unexpected guests. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chocolatey Goodness

June is supposed to bring with it the joys of Summer, unfortunately it feels like we have been put through a time machine and have landed up a few month ahead into the gloomy and wet coldness of November. The only source of comfort is in the home and the hearth. So, to keep warm I could think of nothing better that cranking up the oven and baking so the house smells warm and sweet and buttery.
I ticked one other Nigella Lawson recipe today, the chocolate and walnut brownies.
Apart from following the recipe to the tee I did a little temperature tweaking advised to me by my friend cum lil-sis who is a pastry chef.
So here's the recipe :


375 g soft unsalted butter
375 g best quality dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
500 g caster sugar
225 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
300 g chopped walnut

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 180C / gas mark 4. Line your brownie pan - I think it's worth lining the sides as well as the base.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based pan. In a bowl or wide- mouthed measuring jug, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.

When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar, and then the nuts and flour. Beat to combine smoothly and then scrape out of the saucepan into the lined pan.

Bake for about 25 minutes (I baked mine for slightly longer). When it 's ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle is still dark, dense and gooey. Even with such a big batch you need to keep alert, keep checking: the difference between gungy brownies and dry brownies is only a few minutes; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.

The little change I made was, I preheated the oven to 370 F and  baked it for 5-7 mins then I reduced the temperature to 350F, this ensures the crusty top and gooey middle.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The City and I

Hey everyone, this is definitely one of those dear diary moments. It is my first blog post from the Blogger application on my mobile, so three cheers to that. Well, the reason for my doing so is because I am on a 'Sex and the City' marathon on my laptop and did not want to open a different window to type this one out and multitasking is the modern equivalent of efficient, right?
I have always claimed to be a city girl, as you all know, I have flourishingly managed to stay afloat 5 glorious years of my adulthood in the Indian Capital and I do hail from the former Indian capital but since my move to Dresden I have, slowly and unknowingly, got detached from big cities. Don't get me wrong, half a million inhabitants is not small by any means (in Europe) but when your public transport is rarely 5 mins late, it loses its big city status. Unless you are sweating with worry, looking at your watch every 2 seconds, running across streets in a frenzy to reach your appointment in time (not because you took too long to get dressed but you are always stuck in traffic) and you are able to hail a cab from wherever you are, it is not a big city.
Okay, all this is coming from the fact that we are visiting Kolkata after a colossal 1.5 years and I am wondering if I will be able to tackle it. On one of my recent trips to Berlin I found myself slightly out of depth and little weary of seeing so many people at one place and while I say that I should also mention that Berlin has only 3 million inhabitants which is just about a quarter of the number of people living in Kolkata. I know it is all about getting used to something but I want to land and takeover, I want to paint the town red (not the commie way) and I want to feel like I had never left.
It will also be my first winter in India after three years. I have fond memories of my friend's mother getting me my proper, thick, Delhi-winter blanket which I treasured and curled under on those chilling January nights, the heater-blower whirring away in some little corner, and of the late foggy night strolls at the S-block park with cups of spiced ginger teas. I am guessing I will not be feeling the same chill this time around but I am sure to get a cup of one of those overbrewed teas the Firangs call Chai Tea Latte.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Domestic Goddess in Me

It is 11 a.m. on a dark, rainy, cold 'autumn' morning in October. The husband is well on his way to yet another office trip and I have managed to a steal a day from my German-ridden week. Not that it is a first but today feels slightly ceremonious. My breakfast sits on the bedside table- a soft mauve yoghurt bursting with flavour, lightly specked with crushed blueberries, and on the bed I have the latest acquisition of a book that actually is signed by the author herself, a very dear friend. I feel rather guilty for beginning to read it so 'late in the day', but to be honest it is this book that has made me break my spell of inactivity on the blogosphere.
It has nothing to do with the book per se although it is the use of adjectives and the detailed descriptions in the book that made me want to describe something as well, something I have been feeling so strongly about the last couple of weeks.
Today I am writing about one of the simple joys of life that for some turn into one of life's banes- cooking. In my family the women are, as Nigella Lawson says, "Domestic Goddesses" in the kitchen. Where my mother never ceases to amaze me with her enthusiasm to cook , my sister impresses me with her culinary range. I think it is my Grandmother to who we owe the development of our taste buds and our inability to tolerate uninspired cooking (there is no denying that we are food snobs). What I really want to say is that I wish I could combine my mother's fearlessness in the kitchen with my sister's versatility. I do consider myself to have a knack for cooking but the joy soon turns into a never-ending dread when it comes to the regular everyday cooking for the fuelling of the body. It has to be agreed upon that it really is hard to keep the recipes fresh and nutritious without making it too boring. It is this insipid feeling of chore that ultimately makes me feel too lazy to cook, hence the presence of used Chinese take out or pizza boxes in my kitchen.
The recent health-consciousness has made us cut back on eating out without giving too much thought to the alternative i.e. 'eating in'.
A couple of weekends back we had invited a family over for dinner, and while preparing the menu I decided to make a Tiramisu for dessert. I soon realized I had no Brandy/Marsala/ Rum at home, so in the process of looking for alternatives I chanced upon a Bailey's Irish Cream Tiramisu recipe on Nigella Lawson's website, now the irish cream I did have. Very tentatively I went about the process and after making it sit in the refrigerator for a day when I finally tasted it I had pleasantly surprised myself. What I realised from this experience was that special, interesting food are not necessarily a result of a Herculean task. The normal chicken curry needs more ingredients and patience than the Tiramisu. The weekend after, I baked an orange marmalade pudding cake from Nigella Lawson again to take to a party.I felt inspired and I was bursting with energy. I think, baking gives me an adrenaline rush. Today I am going to roast some chicken with thyme for dinner. It looks like Nigella Lawson is turning out to be a saviour, she has made me want to go back to the kitchen and experience the feeling of accomplishment. I just wish I had more pots, pans and various other kitchen appliances- not to forget the kitchen of dreams. And maybe some sunshine to light up the kitchen.