Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I am coming back to my blog soon, but in the mean time

Happy Independence Day to one and all!!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Deja vu.

While I was cooking lunch today, my little son, E, comes up to the kitchen with a little Thomas the Tank book and sits smack on the floor in the middle of the door and proceeds to read his book. When he reads a book, of course, he has the book and I read it and mind you, in the background, I have 2 burners burning away furiously! What struck me most at this moment was what I used to do for years before I got married and became the mistress of my house and kitchen. As far back as I can remember, I have always studied in my aai's kitchen! I used to get all my books and "study" at the table while my aai went about her work. Then, a lot of other topics would come up in between me explaining the mechanism of action of penicillin to my aai. We would talk about the relatives and the gossip in town, about who was getting married to whom and who shouldn't be getting married, all the girl talk! I do not know how much I would really study at these times, but those mornings are a beautiful page in my memory folder.
Some days, my aai's kitchen would be replaced by my ajji's (mom's mom). I spent a few years with her and the same thing would happen there. Now, my ajji (who I am extremely fond of) is militant about waking up early in the morning. And of course, when i lived with her (in my late teens), I COULD NOT wake up early in the morning. But i would make an effort because then, I could sit with her in her kitchen, sipping hot coffee (with the book on my lap) and alternately study and talk to my ajji. I love my ajji and have spent the most memorable moments with her. I loved to hear her talk about religion, the puranas, the stories in ramayana and mahabharata and why we celebrate some festivals in a particular way. All these conversations always took place in the kitchen. I know my bro, A, who also lived with her for a few years tells me of the good times he has had in her kitchen.
I remember when E was but a wee one, I would put him in his high chair and roll him close to my kitchen island where I could talk to him as I got dinner ready. Maybe ,this is the start of a new generational kitchen talk between me and my little baby! When I read this post a few years from now, maybe I will have a million conversations to add to the story of Thomas the Tank Engine.
Here's to a long and beautiful tradition of kitchen talk with you, E!!! I can't wait for the stories.

Friday, June 1, 2007

I dare you - Most annoying habit.!

So, I was thinking the other day, (wo)man is such a creature of habit, isn't (s)he? If you analyze any one's behaviour in detail, you will find that people do not break habits. I remember a very interesting program I heard on NPR once where they were talking about why we keep listening to the same music over and over again. Why are we so averse to listening to something new? I can say from my experience that I do keep going back to my play lists. My brother, A, has tried, in vain, to introduce me to classic rock but that is one genre I haven't taken to, yet. I always go back to my western classicals and oldies -hindi and english and guitar. I guess it is about one's comfort zone. Familiar things bring with it a sense of contentment and comfort that new things don't.
Well, is it true of habits, too? Take for instance, any one annoying habit that you have wanted to change. Maybe not something as drastic as to quit smoking but something lighter. In my case, it is my consistent inability to keep things back where they belong after I am done with them. My mother tried to get me out of this habit as long as I lived with her i.e 22 years and my very organized and neat hubby has been trying for the last 9 years. I have come a long way but even now, i find myself working twice as much to clean up because the jars didn't make their way back to the kitchen shelf or the clothes are still on the bed. I used to excuse myself so far by saying that it takes longer and i am always multi-tasking since i have to do everything at home and then work. but now that the pace of life has slowed down a little, it should change my habit. Alas, it hasn't gone away completely. I catch myself throughout the day, but i still do it. I will keep at it, though and there will be a time when I will spend a whole week where every chore was completed, the first time around.
So, now that you have finished reading my sorry state, how about sharing the most annoying habit that you would like to get rid of? Go on, I dare you, spill your guts, do it anon if you want...will make for some interesting reading!

That was a long break!

I have not been well for the last few days and my blogging has suffered as a result. But today, i decided to get back at it anyway, in the midst of my sneezing and coughing!!
P has been very busy, as usual. With a final exam evry 6 weeks and a midterm, halfway between that, it is to be expected. E and I have been keeping ourselves busy with activities around the campus. The other moms and kids have formed a playgroup that meets thrice a week and the kids can play with someone other than moms! It is amazing how E is adjusting to life here.
I am thinking of starting a whole new blog tot alk about E! Whenever I start to talk about him, it is as if there is no end, i can go on and on and on. Also, I need a better way to chronicle his growing years than just random posts on this blog. The first year of his life has been noted down and photographed to the tiniest detail and i am falling behind, this year. So, look out for the link to the new blog.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Awesome Movie.

Just finished watching an extremely interesting movie called - What the Bleep do we know? Thank you, Mr.John G. Roberts for recommending this movie. It is very good.
I cannot claim to have understood everything that they talked about in the movie. After all, the people featured there were specialists who have come to their conclusions after spending lifetimes in this field. But whatever I could fathom, is sure to make me think about every action that I take. Maybe not every time I do something, but only when I am sitting by myself, quietly thinking or doing the dishes and thinking etc etc. My mind is racing right now with a lot of thoughts and I do not think I will be able to form a coherent critique of the movie. Suffice to say that the only thing I thought was a little out of place is how they started off with something as deep as quantum physics and moved on to something as commonplace as controlling your emotions. If you have watched the movie, you are probably screaming at the screen right now - " But that was the whole point of the movie!!" I know, I already said thatI did not understand everything they talked about in the movie. The part that I did was how ultimately your reality depends upon the choices you make about your actions based on the control you have on your emotions. What I need to understand is how this relates to quantum physics. And that will be my quest.......(if you think you can lend me a hand in my your comments..what are you waiting for?)

Monday, May 7, 2007

My hubby was on TV!!!!

It has finally happened!! My handsome and intelligent husband has been adopted by the media as the poster boy of ISB - brains and beauty!! I don't know how I will keep up with the fan mail now!
The local Gemini TV's program City Lights featured a bit on ISB and my hubby was interviewed based (among other things) on his unusual profile. They had bits on 4 students, from non-engineering backgrounds and 3 of them were returning Indians. It was really good to see my new home on TV. GO ISB!!!!

So after the euphoria of watching my sweetheart wore off, I realised that this was the beginning of our new life. What we left behind 3 months ago was so different from this and what ever is coming ahead, it is mind-boggling. I have a feeling that we are at the right place, at the right time. Yes, me watching the press release was preaching to the choir, but the student body of the Class of '08 is amazing. An ISB official said that last year they had 60% engineers while this year the number is 49%. More than half of the students are from non-traditional educational backgrounds. A look at the profile of the class shows a lot of returning Indians, too. Indians are coming back home looking to ride the wave of the booming economy. This certainly is a heartwarming trend as this has become a reverse "brain-drain". I hope more and more of our countrymen(women) consider the issue of returning home seriously and contribute towards taking India to its rightful place among the countries of the world - right there on the top!

Good Luck ISB Class of 2008.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Hara Dhania

My favourite herb.

Before there was basil, there was dhania (coriander). Growing up, I remember chopping up umpteen bundles of this fragrant, verdant ingredient to add finishing touches to my aai's fabulous cooking. Indian dishes of any sort are incomplete without the garnish of finely chopped hara dhania. It is also used to make chutneys and as an ingredient in koshimbir ( a maharashtrian variant of salsa or mixed chopped salad). This herb is also an essential ingredient in Latin American cuisine.
Here, I have 2 recipes where hara dhania is not used as a garnish but as an ingredient in the cooking. One of them is a variation of my aai's chicken recipe and the other is a simple dish introduced to me by my sasuma. Both of these showcase the versatility of this traditional herb.

Hariyali ghosht.

To make the masala:

Grind to a paste in the food processor,
1 large onion
10-12 medium cloves of garlic
2 inch piece ginger
2 green chillies(use less or omit completely as desired)
1/2 cup cleaned and chopped hara dhania (fresh coriander)

Clean and pat dry
1 - 1 1/2 kg mutton pieces

In a heavy kadhai(wok), heat
2 tsp oil (safflower, sunflower, canola or vegetable)

To it, add the masala and fry well till the aroma is released and the oil separates. To this add
1 tsp jeera powder (cumin powder)
1 tsp haldi (turmeric)
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp garam masala powder

Fry with constant stirring for 3-5 minutes. Then add the mutton pieces and coat with masala and fry for at least 10 minutes.

When the oil has started to separate from the mixture, add
1 cup yogurt, lightly beaten
salt to taste
Mix very well and then add
2 cups water.
Let it come to a boil and then simmer covered for 30-45 minutes till the mutton pieces are fork tender. (TIP : Ideally, this should be cooked in the kadhai itself, but if you are pressed for time, go ahead and transfer it to a hot pressure cooker and add 1/2 cup of water and let it cook to4 whistles)

Serve hot with raita and white rice.

My aai made this recipe mostly with chicken and she would make it with just the green masala. It is an awesome chicken dish that can be served as the main course or as a first course since it does not have a lot of gravy.The minute I put the masala in the oil, I am transported to my childhood, when every Sunday we used to have a non-veg lunch.
I have added the garam masala as I am using mutton (red meat) instead of chicken. The key step in making this dish as in all lamb/mutton recipes is to fry the spice mixtures and the meat very well. That helps to infuse the meat with the aromatic flavours and fragrances.

Masur Dal

Cook in the pressure cooker till completely done, (4-5 whistles)

1 cup masoor dal (red lentils) with
3/4 cup water

For the tadka:

In a hot kadai, add
1 tsp oil
To it add,
1/2 tsp kalonji
2 green chillies, finely chopped
cooked dal
1/2 tsp tumeric
salt to taste

Add just enough water to cover the dal and mix it well. when the water starts to boil add,
1 cup finely chopped hara dhania

Let the mixture simmer for at least 3-5 minutes. Serve with hot rice and fish fry.

This extremely simple dal dish has become one of my most favourite in the world. When served with fish fry and /or aloo-bhaja( bengali version of french fries - round instead of long and seasoned with turmeric and salt), it symbolizes the simple yet intense flavour of an everyday Bengali lunch for me. Adding hara dhania at the end of the recipe while the dish is cooking, helps to release the intense fragrance of the herb and gives this humble dish a whole new perspective. Thank you, Sasuma for introducing me to this way of food.

Chalta hai

I ventured out of the ISB bubble for the first time the other day into the city of Hyderabad. And my first impression, extremely well-managed and beautiful roads, not very unruly traffic and all in all, a pleasant environment. Of course, this description discounts the very hot and humid weather.The first thing we noticed about Hyderabad was how green it was. Considering that in the old parts of town like Jambaug, water supply is restricted to every other day, I was amazed to see how green all the medians and the lawns were. I could see the effort on the part of the authorities in trying to make this a greener and cleaner city than others in the country.
My foray was prompted by an urge to eat something non-Indian on the part of me and my husband. California has completely spoilt us, in terms of the broad palette that we have been exposed to. I cannot believe how we could eat just Indian food everyday of our lives for the 22 odd years before we left home! So, I had to find out about stores that would sell imported vegetables and the sort a la Pulse in Pune. I was told about a place called Pure n Natural and that is where I was headed. I did find an expansive array of really fresh fruits and vegetables and a lot of "exotic" ones too (e.g. avocado). But I also found a perfect case of "chal raha hai to chal ne do" attitude that is so typical of us Indians especially, in the market place.
This is a relatively small store, filled to the brim with merchandise. From the looks of the clientele, I am sure the owners/managers make a tidy profit out of this store. But the place is poorly managed. Actually I would say there is no management at all. It is one step above the retail vegetable vendors at Cotton Market in Nagpur. These are some of the things that I noticed:
  • There were too many employees than there should be. There were employees who were supposed to be arranging vegetables on the shelves. For 4 rows, there were 4 employees. This job could easily have been done by 2 people and as there were 4 employees in close proximity to each other, chatting up seemed to be the order of the day, rather than finishing the work at hand. In spite of the place being overrun by employees, nobody knew anything about the prices or availability of the merchandise. Neither me or any of the other 4 people who had questions got any answers. I understand that we have a huge population, but employing 3 people to do one person's job doesn't make business sense. And given the general work ethics of the populace, the job DOES NOT get done. I do not understand why they could not just have a hierarchical system, with a manager, 2 people at the 2 registers with 2 helpers to bag the goods and 1 person each for the 4 rows. Thus would make for a proper flow of traffic for the customers who would not be ducking sacks of potatoes and maneuvering in the 2 feet between the rows of vegetables to get to the fruits.
  • Another slip on their part is the absence of labeling on the shelves. I saw an effort to do so in form of sloppy, handwritten signs of chalk on slates, but even those were illegible. When you have a successful and sophisticated data entry, pricing and bar-coding system in place, how difficult is it to have proper signs so people can find what they are looking for instead of asking 4 different employees who usually don't know the answer anyway.
  • Young boys of 10 and 11 years of age were the carry-out helpers! And the amazing thing was well-dressed, educated looking middle-aged men and women did not bat any eyelid before letting these young children carry their heavy bags for them. Societal apathy?
This is how things have been done in the country and irrespective of the growth that we have seen in the past few years nothing really has changed. The "chalta hai" attitude will be the bane of the Indian society.
In spite of all my ravings, will I go back to the store? Till I find out that there is another store which sells mushrooms or red bell peppers of avocados, I will. And the owner knows that. If he can scrape the last paise of profit, what difference does it make how his store is run ? He may be living in a palatial mansion in Jubilee Hills but his store will have rotten vegetables on the floor. After all, how the customer feels and what kind of an experience the customer has are things that are best left to American companies, right? But what they don't realize is that these Wal-Marts and Sonys and Citibanks take this "customer satisfaction" issue seriously. And for the discerning customer these "soft" things will be important. So in the long run, the ill-maintained Indian store loses out to the firangi companies- and that too in the name of development.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Officially an ISB-spouse!

Today we had a get together of some of the spouses of the batch of ISB2008. It was a fun evening. What struck me most, as it has for the last few days, is the variety and the quality of the people who are inside this campus this year. Everyone from Orthopedic surgeons to Army officers and young Programmers to experienced scientists have found their calling at ISB. It has been a very impressive first week for me. The campus itself is awe-inspiring. If you talk to a group of students even for 5 minutes, you realize the high IQs around you. The simple fact that the students come here with a few years of experience under their belts makes for a very mature and calm student body.
All in all, my year at ISB has started on a very good note. Just have to find some grocery stores that sell meat and everything will be fine and dandy. I hope to use this time to put in some more cooking hours and try new things as well as explore the internet some more. Keeping the blog current will keep me on track and help me formulate my future plans.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I'm back!!

So, after all the dust has settled(pun intended!), I have come back. All the time that I was away, I kept thinking of adding posts to my beloved site but never got around to doing it. It will be an exercise in futility if I try to remember eveything and write it down now.So, will start from the here and the now.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

And now, the end is near....

After what seemed like a never-ending haze of bubble wrap and Scotch tape, we finally packed all of our belongings in 96 18 x 18 x 24 inch U-Haul containers, some furniture in shrink-wrap and stuffed them all into the shipping container. The combined hard work of me,my hubby and the unpaid worker we had(my bro), the last week, paid off in that things went quite smoothly considering how many aspects had to be co-ordinated. And finally, it's done! our belongings have been shipped, we have packed 6 suitcases and we are ready to go! Living in this empty apartment(or should i now say flat) for the last couple of days reminds me of the last days in our Dos Vientos house when we were packing and moving at the same time. I was quite sad to move out of the house that we had seen being built from the foundation onwards but there was a sense of nervous excitement that we were doing something new. Now the sense of excitement has been multiplied exponentially!!! We know we are doing something new and it will be fun.

One change i have noticed in me and so has my husband is how relaxed and happy i have become, especially when it comes to my little baby. Other than the first 3 months after he was born, i have not been with him 24/7 till about 3 days ago. Now there are no restrictions on my time with him , no looking at the clock all stressed out that i have to get him to school and then go to work and do the dishes etc etc . It has been truly amazing. Call me old-fashioned, but i really like being a stay at home mother and wife. Yes, it is the novelty perhaps but i feel like i have slided into this role effortlessly. i feel like i really have connected to my son and my husband in a very different way than what has been the norm so far. i know i will do something for myself once we settle down in India, for sitting idly at home bores me to death. But till then i plan to relish this experience to its fullest. i can understand now what my aai must have felt like when she was rearing us. I used to ask her if she never got bored and she always said that she had enough to do around the house to keep her busy. he was always there when we woke up int he morning and when we came back home. I remember how she would freshen up and get ready in the evenings before my baba came home. Our home atmosphere felt real! and true! Like this was the way it was supposed to be.
My dearest sweetheart has always been saying that things will change once we start this new life of ours, for the better. i always believed that they would because coming home at 9:30 at night 2-3 days a week , does not make for a very smooth family life. My feeling is that it is manageable if one person, ohiut of the couple, is always thinking about life outside the house i.e work and has to manage the stress associated with it. Now this can be the husband or the wife. we know a few families where the wife is a very, very successful professional and the husband takes care of the house and their children. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, the husbands in these case are extremely intelligent men. But when both the people bring stress home, that is when the family starts to crumble. When the family comes home, it is a place of refuge from the outside world. And the home is not just made up of material belongings. it needs a soul and that soul is provided by the mother (or the father) who is there to receive the family back home. I remember the feeling I used to get when we went to the house of my best friend in nagpur. Her mother worked and whenever we went to her house in the afternon, my friend would unlock the front door, go to the daark kitchen and help herself to the food that her emother had made in the morning. Maybe I was spoiled, but that sterile environment compared to my house made me take notice. I am not saying that women who work are bad homemakers or bad mothers. I have lived that life and I would say that on the contrary, they do twice as much as those who don't work full time outside the house. But I believe it comes at a cost.I will disagree with the popular feminist sentiment that we can do both the things and have a happy and satisfied life. But there are many stay at home mothers who could not be bothered to make a life for their family, so it goes both ways.
Anyhow as far as I am concerned, i have loved my 5 years of work as a pharmacist and now i plan to love whatever comes my way. My family has always been my priority and always will. My patients can get another pharmacist, but my husband has only me as his wife and my son has only one mother, ME.
this will probably be my last post from this "land of the free and the home of the brave". It will take us some time to get settled into a routine over at my in-laws' house and so will be a while before i can write again. But i plan to savour every moment of my return trip and have fun. after all, you only live once!

Friday, January 19, 2007

End of a chapter

So it has happened. my tryst with Longs drugs has come to an end. I bade farewell the day I finished 5 years with the company. no, my loyalty was not with the company but with my profession and my patients.
I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came in just to say goodbye to me, bearing lots of love and goodwill. the whole day all I did was hug people who might as well be complete strangers, other than the fact that i know everything about their medical history! It was a very gratifying day. I got a lot of email addresses and I have promised people that I will keep in touch. I hope I can keep my promise.
Through all these years, I always wondered whether I "do too much" for my patients, do I get too involved in their lives? My husband has told me on numerous occasions that I do more than I have to for my job. Hmm....that sounds familiar. I remember my aai saying something similar to my baba all along while I was growing up! If you know me, you know that my father has always been and will always be my role model. As I grow older and smarter(!?) I have come to realize that I am more and more like him and I am so proud of that fact. He has instilled the value of helping others in me so deeply that it has become a part of my personality. So anytime, somebody comes up to me to tell me that they appreciate me and my work, I mentally salute him, for it is his life and teaching that has made who I am today. Thank you, baba for everything that I can put in words and for all the other things that I cannot.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Where is home?

This was my last weekend at work and I was terribly sad. I do not handle goodbyes well. I get attached to everything around me fairly quickly and begin to consider it my own. Given this proclivity towards genuine attachment, it came as no surprise to me that once the excitement of going back to India subsided a little, I started feeling a tremendous void. i am already thinking of a world without all of my things, my familiar and comfortable life, here in thousand oaks. a life that i had painstakingly constructed for myself with my hubby and had coloured it the way we always wanted!
When I sat down to write this entry I thought of writing about things that I will miss about the US in India, the things that i love here. but then I realised i cannot compare the life here with the one there for one very simple reason. I do not know anything about the life there. I have been away from india for going on 10 years now. I am very different from the person who landed in a cream salwar kameez at NYC's JFK airport. And the country that I said goodbye to has gone the fastest and most noticeable change in these last 10 years. My exposure to the tremendously varied experiences in this country especially in California have shaped me and given me a maturity that did not exist 10 years ago. So when i tell people that we are going back home, i think to myself, "is that really true? do i really know what home is?" When we visited India for the few short weeks of vacation every couple of years,i could not wait to get back "home", whether it was freezing Pittsburgh, blowing Simi Valley or foggy Newbury Park. So now i am thinking i am going back home to India, a place that i think i know very well but do i? What i have decided is to consider this as a move to a new place, like all the others we have had so far, a new country, a new set of people and hence a new set of challenges. Keeping an open mind, free of preconceived notions and expectations will make my transition a lot easier than otherwise.
As for where my home is..........well, as some one rightly said....
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS! or in another, very familiar language, close to my heart...

Jahaan pe sawera ho, basera wahin hain!
Jahann pe basera ho, sawera wahin hain!


So, a new year all over again....sounds cliched, but its true, a time to look back at what has happened and a time to decide you are not going to repeat the same things again! All those resolutions that you were just thinking about for the last few months seem to line up in anticipation of fulfillment. But alas!!! just as promises are meant to be broken, so too will these resolutions be relegated to the interior folds of memory only to be summoned in exactly another year.....when another countdown in a drunken haze reminds you of another beautiful year gone by!!