Monday 25 February 2013

A sorted-out 7 yo (I think!)

Ads graduated from bedtime stories quite a while ago and for the last year or more, his bedtime routine has consisted of either a quiz (we ask him questions on a mutually-agreeable topic) or else a "discussion". The latter again involves a specific topic on which we have a free-wheeling chat of sorts. Nothing very elaborate, 10 minutes tops is the usual duration because we have to start sleeping and therefore the same topic may be continued for as long as a week depending on how interesting it is.
For the last few days, we have been talking about religion. What it is, why the need for religion, the different religions practised in India, and so on. Naturally, we have also talked about evolution and God and faith (mine, his and the world's at large!). Last night, he floored me not once by twice by saying something that was not just extremely insightful but totally unexpected for someone his age.
#1 - During a discussion on the negation of the theory of evolution by conservative Christians, he said: Only fools think they know everything. It was almost telepathic, because just then I'd been about to say something on the lines of - Only fools think they have all the answers, the wise man is full of doubts.
#2 - We were talking of the commonality between all religions and I told him that all religions seek to answer just a couple of fundamental questions, and then I casually asked him whether he could think what this question was. Pat came the reply: Who am I?
His prompt and ready response shook me up. How did he know? We'd never discussed this with him before. How had he cracked this most fundamental question of all? Who am I? Why am I here? To what end?
I find it very hard to reconcile this kid with the kid who fights over the last piece of chocolate with his baby sister and who throws a fit because I gave her 3 kisses and gave him only 2! I feel like saying - Dude, you cracked the meaning of life! You cannot, simply cannot, be acting like this!
Oh well - that's what makes life with Ads so interesting :)

Sunday 17 February 2013

Movies, cheesecake and work

It's been a busy week or two. We had the happy entirely novel experience of having S working out of Gurgaon for the entire week, and of course we all made hay while the sun shone! The kids and I got to spend quality time with dad/husband. We watched movies, went on walks, played board games, ran errands jointly - it was so much fun to do the normal mundane things!
Talking of movies, Lincoln was a wonderful watch. Daniel Day-Lewis was brilliant - what an actor! I was left spellbound by the many shades he brought to the character of the great American President - his humor and wit, his gentleness, his oratory, his fits of depression, his political genius. I could not but help but notice the parallels between those stirring times and the present day American context - the rivalry and later, mutual respect and cooperation between Lincoln (the little-known lawyer from Illinois) and William H Seward, his Secretary of State and an illustrious NY Senator who was defeated by Lincoln to win the Republican nomination. The shenanigans and antics of the legislative process have been brought out beautifully - times have changed but politics has not!! No surprise that Day-Lewis has won the BAFTA Award for best actor and I have my money on him to bag his third Oscar as well.
Special Chhabis was another entertaining, crisp and edge-of-the-seat crime caper, witness to some fantastic acting especially by Anupam Kher and Manoj Bajpayee. Even Akshay Kumar (gasp!) put in quite a creditable and understated performance. We enjoyed the movie thoroughly while getting annoyed with the side love-track and couple of totally unnecessary songs.
There was a Valentine's Day party that my friends and I threw for ourselves :) We all dressed up in red and had a lovely potluck dinner, accompanied by tons of gossip and laughter. I'm so lucky that I managed to find such a good fun group of friends in Gurgaon. When we moved here 2 years ago, I did not know a soul. As you grow older it becomes more difficult to make friends, especially if one is, like me, not a natural extrovert. But with 2 young children, living in a cocoon is not an option and one is forced to socialise with other moms and force-fit oneself into some sort of loose network. Sometime you get lucky and meet people who you like and who like you back, and sometimes it's just a marriage of convenience. Fingers crossed for the new environment and new people in Bangalore - the bar has been raised!
My second time with making an Oreo cheesecake - a no-bake, no-egg affair this time - lip-smacking delicious! It was my contribution to the Valentine's Day potluck and the oreos on top are a feeble attempt to create a heart-shape :)
And oh yes, the most important update for the last! :) I quit my job! The small non-profit which I was a part of, has most of its work in Delhi and there was nothing I could have done out of Bangalore (except fundraise maybe, and I did not want to do that even if the option had been offered to me). The last year has been a lot of fun but there's also been a lot of stress. The overwhelming feeling now is one of relief. The sense of freedom is just wonderful. I have to wonder - what does that say about me and my approach to paid work? I would be less stressed if I was a SAHM, that's for sure. Would I be more fulfilled or less? Would I be happier? Having been on both sides of the fence now, its very disconcerting to discover that I still don't have the answer to those two critical questions. The most important learning I've had in the last year has been that flexible working hours aren't some kind of a holy grail. Sure, it's pretty cool to be at the door to receive your kids with a hug and a hot drink (and it makes you feel sooo saintly!!) but the craziness that precedes the rush back home and the physically-present, often-mentally-absent state that I am in even when I am with Ads and Y.........well....clearly, it's not ideal. Ok, there is no ideal, we all know that.
So, at this point, there are far more questions than answers. More than enough fodder for another long post! I'm spending the next month prepping for our move and hopefully all that clearing of junk from the house will go hand-in-hand with some clearing of mental cobwebs as well :)

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Papad ki sabji and misc.

When the breaking dawn sees you in the kitchen, having already finished baking a pound cake, mixing the batter for chocolate cupcakes and the cooker whistling away in preparation for a batch of sweet pongal, then it's party time for my kids :) It has been raining cats and dogs here since yesterday and so I magnanimously decided to keep the kids home from school (had to extract a promise from them that they would play amicably together and allow me to work for a few hours, otherwise I was driving them to school myself, rain or no rain!). 
Sweet or chakkarai pongal is one of my favourite sweets, and no one makes it better than my mom. After years of practice, I guess she can make this dish in her sleep and it tastes absolutely delicious even though she does not add dollops of ghee to it. Warm and mushy or cold and firm (which is the way I like it), it is the perfect comfort food as far as I am concerned. It's been frustrating for me that I can never get my sweet pongal to taste as good as my mom's (it doesn't even come close). I always console myself by blaming the quality of the jaggery, rice and dal...everything, in short, except my culinary talent :) This year, 2013, I am going to crack this recipe!!!
Today, the kids had requested burgers for lunch so I was wondering what to whip up for myself. Something really quick and non-fuss. Aha! Papad ki sabzi! The first I heard of this strange dish was from my Marwari friends who claimed it was a lifesaver when you were short of time and/or there were no vegetables in the fridge. Having tasted it once, I was hooked. The recipe I used today was different from what my friends told me (they skipped the curd but added tomatoes) but the popular internet versions all seem to incorporate dahi. I finally used Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe here.
As expected it was absolutely yum and I definitely plan to make more of this dish. It may be a mundane dish for a lot of people but it's definitely a novel delicacy for me! Here's a pic of all the ingredients simmering away :)
PS: The only thing to remember is to go easy on the salt. I forgot that the papads themselves have salt so the dish was a tad saltier than I like...but my salt tolerance is very low so it might be quite ok for most people.
PPS: This is to be eaten hot with rotis. The besan can make it pretty smudgy after a bit, but I guess that can be rectified by adding water and boiling again. I saw several recipes that did not use besan so that's another option.

Monday 4 February 2013


Another practical, control-the-chaos-in-your-home-with-kids kind of post, which appeared on Mom's Diaries.
Surely kids have way too many toys nowadays? How does one keep the clutter under control? The task can seem pretty overwhelming at times. Yet, it all boils down to some commonsensical strategies.
Me, I follow the mantra of Reduce, Rotate, Recycle, Donate.
1. Reduce. Just buy less. We’ve all noticed the 80-20 rule. It’s just 20% of the toys in the toybox that get played with a lot or most of the time. The rest seemed to be played with only when other kids demonstrate an interest in them! My husband and I have almost completely stopped buying toys for our kids except on birthdays and maybe Xmas. There are no impulse purchases. The children get a lot of toys anyway as gifts and I have a hard enough time dealing with those, thank you very much. Plus most of the habitual gift-givers know that my children adore books so that’s what they get a lot of nowadays (so now we have book clutter instead of toy clutter….which does not seem so bad!).
Additionally, with toy libraries mushrooming nowadays, it is easier not to buy new toys and gizmos. I sometimes miss my mom's club in the US. One of the cool things they used to do is to have a toy swap every 6 months. Everyone (we had more than 50 active members) brings their unwanted (in good condition and cleaned/sterlized) toys to a common place. You get to pick other kids' toys for your own kids and vice versa. All the toys left at the end of the exercise would be donated to charity.
2. Rotate. Put away half of the 80% toys in a box somewhere. Pull them out after a few months and put the rest of the toys in storage. Keep rotating toys every few months and they’ll always stay fresh and exciting!
3. Recycle. The kids get to choose which birthday gifts they want to give away and which they’d like to keep. The ones they don’t care for are gifted to kids who would want and enjoy them. We try to gift thoughtfully and not palm off unwanted gifts to other kids.
4. Donate. Extra toys and games are always donated at the end of the year. They normally get passed on to the maid’s kids, a needy NGO, a Xmas drive or to younger neighbours and cousins – wherever the toys would be ensured of a loving welcome.
So how do you de-toy-clutter your home?

Saturday 2 February 2013

Delhi goodbyes#1 - Kamla Nagar and saree shopping

The countdown to the move has begun and one of my priorities is to complete my list of Delhi to-dos, be it shopping, eating or sightseeing. I'd been toying with the idea of buying a typical saree from these parts, you know like the ones seen in Bollywood movies :) The problem really is that coming from the South, one's taste seems to be more subtle and less inclined (or very wary of) bling. It has been pretty amusing to see my Marwari and Punjabi friends cock a snook at my beautiful Paithanis, Kanthas, Pochampallis and Kanjeevarams (these are priceless heritage weaves people!!!) while lusting after net, georgette and supernet sarees which seemed excessively showy, blingy and shiny to my eyes.
But now that I am leaving, I thought I must buy atleast one of these sarees. A souvenir from Delhi must be obtained! Something typical, yet subdued enough to appeal to my taste. So some friends and I took the metro to Kamla Nagar where the shopping (and chole bhatures and panipuri) is supposed to be out of this world!
Having been to the shopping hotspots in Delhi like Lajpat Nagar, Karol Bagh and Sarojini Nagar, I wasn't expecting too much but was pleasantly surprised by how large and well-stocked the market was. We bought a lot of stuff but the main agenda was saree-shopping. The ones that I liked, my friends were doubtful about.
Hame Marwari colour dikhao, bhaiyya, was their refrain; while I pressed for more sober shades, less kundan and silver work, more brocade work and embroidery - in short, as un-Marwari as I could get!
Needless to say they preferred a bright blue and parrot green saree for me while I finally went with a heavily embroidered dark green and beige combination :)
We rounded off the day with a spot of chole-bhature (awesome!) and some freshly squeezed sugarcane juice.
A day well-spent :) Leaving you with some snaps.
Checking out the wares

This was the line for the chole-bhature. We waited for more than 30 minutes to attain nirvana!

More sarees