Archive | April, 2011

A Birthday celebrated with Rice Pudding, Kerala Style

29 Apr

It is that time of the year, when post 30, you fervently pray that people should forget your birthday. I turn 31 today. It is a bitter-sweet feeling. I am not overly excited neither am I under-playing it when friends and family call me to wish me a beautiful birthday. I have  never been excited about birthdays. Frankly, I think they are slightly over rated. I rather enjoy festivals and other important days such as my daughter’s birthday or my husband’s even than my own birthday. Do not know why but my birthday seems like  just another day to me.

I LOVE TO PLAN for others’ birthdays, anniversaries, last day in office and similar events. But when it comes to my own, I hate to do any planning for myself and I also do not expect anybody to plan either because it wouldn’t be as great as the way I do. Totally narcissistic. But I have high standards, what to do? 🙂

Post 30, cakes can make you feel, if not a little depressed, then definitely uncomfortable. How many candles are you going to light up there? 30 odd candles and then there is no space to put the knife through! So naturally, I did not order for a cake on this birthday. In fact, it is all-Kerala strike and hence there wasn’t even a question of ordering one or going out for dinner too. All celebrations are confined to my mum’s home. My mum being the lovely mum that she always is, went through the trouble of making a rice pudding. This is no ordinary rice pudding since I have had all versions possible ( north Indian, south Indian, west, and east too). She promised me that it wouldn’t be anything like I would have had before.

So while she sweated it out (literally) in the Kitchen I made myself comfy with a book. Around lunch time she asked me to come over to taste the divine concoction. It had an enchanting aroma and I guessed it was because of the rice being cooked in coconut milk ( traditionally it is milk that is used to make rice pudding). I quickly grabbed a bowl and dug in. Simply fabulous and like she said, it wasn’t like any other rice pudding. It had a melt in the mouth kind of texture with fried coconut pieces far and in between. It was simply perfect. The sweetness was because of all the goodness of jaggery and the stunning aroma was because of the coconut milk and cardamom.

It is anybody’s guess how many bowls I would have devoured. Who needs a cake when you have the yummiest pudding made by mum?

The bananas that you see in the background (photograph above) are organic bananas from my uncle’s farm. 

This modest seeming pudding is an explosion of flavour and in my opinion, a grand substitute for a birthday cake:-)

The Recipe for Rice Pudding in Coconut Milk and Jaggery


1 cup of rice (basmati rice- you need to break it up a bit by grinding for a bit in the mixer grinder. Need to be careful that they don’t become too fine else will be mesh and almost dissolve into the pudding)

5-7 cups of coconut milk ( either squeezed from freshly grated coconuts, like my mum did or use the ready-made varieties available in the market)

Jaggery(grated)-2 to 2 1/2 cups depending on how sweet you would like it

Coconut pieces – a handful ( optional)

1-2 tsp of cardamom powder

1/2 tsp of ginger powder ( optional)


Wash the rice thoroughly and throw it into a mixer grinder or blender to break it into smaller bits. .

In a huge vessel/pan, pour 2 cups of coconut milk and the broken rice and cook it in medium heat.

Traditionally, this recipe would require 2 coconuts which are grated and fresh coconut milk is squeezed out which is called the first milk. This would be thick and dense. Then a sprinkle of water on the same grated coconut to squeeze out some more, which is called second milk. finally, pour a little extra water on the grated coconut lump and squeeze out maximum that you can, which is called the third milk. The rice needs to be cooked in the third milk to start with. As and when the rice cooks, second and first milk are added after the addition of jaggery.  This is the foolproof way of ensuring the authenticity of the pudding. Only after I learnt from her the actual method of making this pudding, did I realize how much effort she had put it.

So for anyone ( like me ) who uses ready-made coconut milk right off the tin, this process would be way simpler. For ease of understanding, I have divided the 6-7 cups of coconut milk into approximately 3 lots. The first lot, like I mentioned above would be approximately 2 cups to cook the rice first.

To this,  now add grated jaggery. It is a joy to see it melt uniformly into the whiteness of the rest of the ingredients. This is when the pudding attains the chocolate like colour.

Time to add the next lot of coconut milk which would be 2 cups and let the pudding simmer. A beautiful aroma would waft through the kitchen as the coconut milk cooks the rice.

Finally, when the pudding seems to near completion added fried coconut pieces ( fry them in ghee/clarified butter for enhanced taste) and add the last lot of coconut milk to maintain the consistency.

You can keep simmering the pudding on low fire till you get the consistency that you prefer.

Top this with cardamom powder and dry ginger powder and mix thoroughly before taking it off the fire.

Let it sit for sometime and give time for the flavours to blend in. I loved mine chilled but you can have it hot and steaming.

So that is how I celebrated my birthday. My personal trainer is not going to be happy at all. I guess he might give me a break since it is my birthday. No birthday is complete without the round-up of presents.

I have to thank my mum first for gifting me a beautiful Tissot watch which I will treasure for life. It is an exquisite looking thing.

My dearest hubby, Amit- thank you for all the lovely books you got delivered home.  You are  a darling to have sent me splendid baking and culinary books and  a parenting book by Amy Chua called ” Battle hymn of the tiger mother”. For a laid back mum like me it is like a slap on the face kind of book. I love it!

My fantastic friend, Namit, cared enough to send me the book that I was so excited to buy but never got around doing so. He bought me ” Baking from my home to yours” by Dori Greenspan. It was such a  pleasant surprise. Thank you Namit

My darling friend Gayathri surprised the day lights out of me, by dedicating a birthday post. It is such a lovely gesture that it would very difficult for me to express how much it means to me. Thank you Gayathri.

Throughout the day, I recieved phone calls from school and college friends. I was touched that even after so many years, they remembered my birthday. Especially because, I haven’t let FB update it on my profile:-)

I was warmly wished by lovely twitter friends and lots of wonderful people on facebook.

Thank you all for making it so perfect. Though I am not the biggest fan of celebrating my birthday, what I excitedly count is the number of blessings that I get each year from these lovely set of people. Thank you all.

Last but not the least, my daughter gave me two meaningful pecks on my cheek and a big hug 🙂

For CSAawareness- Coping and Moving On

25 Apr

This post is a part of  the Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month initiative started by some fantastic souls I met on Twitter.  I have to extend my heart-felt appreciation to the CSA team who have relentlessly advocated this noble cause with unmatched passion and zeal. Through CSA team’s effort, I have realized and understood so much about my own behavioural aspects as a result of some untoward incidents that occurred when I was younger.

I read through numerous stories on  CSA blog  that each survivor has so bravely managed to convey. Each such story strikes a chord and somewhere I relive my unsure and unhappy moments with them.  When I was asked to submit a post for this cause, I went through many a sleepless nights. However hard I tried, I couldn’t remove the thought from my head and it kept coming back to me. I kept questioning, if only writing about it and talking about it would do any good?  That’s when my daughter came prancing around on her ballet toes and I decided to do this post.

Unsavoury events in the past have probably done a lot to turn me into the person that I am today. But it is only today that we discuss these issues more openly, with reason and empathy. When I was a child, I believe it was a taboo to discuss “such” things. As a consequence, inspite of a very supportive family it wasn’t possible to come forth to discuss, or atleast I believed so. Now when I sit back and think, as a child an unkind word, a rude gesture or a mal-intentioned touch were all slotted in the same category. It is difficult to distinguish one bad feeling from the other. While, as a child, I didn’t run to complain to my parents when my classmate pushed me to the ground for no fault of mine, I couldn’t or didn’t feel the need to rush and tell them about any other kind of issues I faced within the school or outside, even if it was sexual or intimidating in nature. It was much easier to either fight my battle OR  submit at times and then try to forget about it.

Over a period of time, as I grew up into a teenager, it was made evidently clear from discussions with friends, parents and teachers that it was completely fine to come up and discuss your grievances. During one such unsavoury incident, I understood a vital truth that even if you bravely went and spoke about your infliction, people ( read teachers and others) were more interested in the voyeuristic listening pleasure of details of the incident. When this revelation came to me, I immediately closed doors and decided to not let ANYONE have the pleasure of listening to my woes and convert it into a sensational gossip to discuss in their free time. As a result of this treatment, I quickly changed tracks and became the reserved person that I am.  People who think that they know me may laugh when I say this because, I might the one who sang the loudest at the back benches of the class, the one who participated in every competition, debates alike. But inside, I knew a constant turmoil that rendered it impossible to let my emotions out easily.

Because these incidents left an indelible imprint on my mind really early on, I was always on high alert, constantly gauging my environment and those within it. Nobody needed to teach me the proper way to sit, stand or behave as I was already conscious about my body and had a specific idea about how I needed to project myself.  As a young adult, I learnt to cope with these feelings of guilt and confusion by diving deep into creative projects. I played competitive sports, took dance lessons, exercised till there was no energy to carry on. This vigorous physical exertion made sure my mind was far from all the negative feelings that tried to creep up on me. But sometimes during the lowest points of my life, I have struggled to see the bright side of life and felt the demons rise again. I grappled and fought them till they were quelled again. In my own experience, there is actually no closure ever because memory seeks to find it from the deepest recesses in our most vulnerable moments. Even if  you confront your abuser it may or may not lead to any kind of closure inside your heart.

But I can confidently say, it is possible to slay these demons by always being CREATIVE- trying to learn something new, being true to yourself, and being optimistic about life in general. When I found it extremely difficult to handle my emotions I sought refuge in courses such as Art of Living and reading inspirational books. I also indulged in activities like baking, painting and martial arts such as krav maga. PHYSICAL EXERTION or building physical endurance made sure I felt confident about myself and able to come out of my body image issues. BLOGGING or expression via the written word has helped me de-clutter and de-stress the most. I never thought I would be able to vent out my emotions so easily post after post. But that I can, validates that all those who have problems with expressing their feelings would find it very therapeutic. This form of expression I discovered only recently and boy! am I glad that I found it.

This positive outlook has helped me cope with my feelings of anger towards my perpetrators.

Many times I have wondered why I took the decision to take a break from work and be at home with my daughter. The obvious reasons are that I want to see her grow and be around to be a witness to each of her accomplishments. I am eager to get back to work, but in my heart I know, I am not giving my best to the cause. Lot of thought and I realize somewhere I am scared to leave my daughter with strangers, when I go to work. I have to be around to protect her and her interests. Subconscious makes sure you do what you got to do.

But it is a  fallacy because I am not going to be around her all the time. All I can do is to equip my daughter with the right tools for life and to trust her instinct. To be able to stand up for herself and say no. To have the confidence to seek help in case the situation becomes difficult to handle. I for a fact, would always keep an open channel of communication with her right from the start. I would be around her as much as possible to keep her safe. After I read through most of the posts on the CSA blog, I have learnt so much about how important it is to earn my daughter’s trust and not take it for granted that she would turn to me when faced by a situation.

On a final note, it would have been easy for me to blame my bitter experiences on my guardians and feel resigned for the rest of my life. It was easier  an option to blame them but I know for a fact that they stood up for me whenever  they could whether it was about confronting an abuser  or reprimanding an eve teaser. It was still up to me to find my inner strength and move on. I wish and hope that each one of us who had the misfortune of being abused finds something  worthwhile that we can hold on to, get up, and move on.

This is my 100th post and I wanted it to be special. I am glad that it was for this important cause. Thank you CSA team for letting me contribute.

Apple Jelly Pudding

22 Apr

In my last weekly update I mentioned about an awesome pudding that I had made. I also immodestly raved about how I can say a good recipe from a bad one. Recall?

Well the post is not about my qualities of picking recipes but its about this fantastically delectable pudding called the Apple Jelly Pudding. I made this in haste since I had somewhere to go but the results were still stunning. This recipe I borrowed from Nashira’s food blog who is immensely talented and the photographs  on her blog are sensational.

Since this is an egg free dessert it was much enjoyed by my parents. My mum skipped dinner to have her fill and my daughter had it again as a mid night snack ( yea, she still keeps me up beyond midnight). My family declared this to be the tastiest pudding hands down. Thank you Nashira for sharing this fabulous recipe. For the topping, Nashira suggests a generous helping of carmelized cashews, while  I settled for some butterscotch chips. But my strong recommedation would be to keep up with what Nashira has suggested for topping, as laziness got better of me.

I hadn’t used china grass /agaragar before but this thing sets like a dream. I set the pudding in a big glass container and it plopped out without any hassles.

Without much ado, here is the recipe.

Recipe for Apple Jelly Pudding

2 apples
500ml milk
375g sweetened condensed milk – I used Nestle MilkMaid
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 teaspoon sugar
13g agaragar /china grass (a bit more than 1 ¼ cup when crumbled)
1 ½ cup water
For topping
½ cup unsalted cashew nuts, chopped
3 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ tablespoon butter

Place agar in a pan with the water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Turn down heat and leave to simmer until melted.

Meanwhile, bring milk to boil in another pan, and then stir in the condensed milk, sugar and vanilla essence. Now peel, core and grate the apples and add this to the milk mixture. Cook for 4 minutes.

Remove the melted agar from heat, allow to cool for 5 minutes, and strain the liquid into the apple-milk mixture. To prevent mixture from curdling, stir well to combine and immediately remove from heat. Transfer to a jug and pour into the cake mould or divide between small ramekins. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 4 hours until set.

To make the topping: In a small heavy-based saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Tip in the cashews and gently toss and roast for 2 minutes. Add sugar and gently heat until the sugar has melted. Take care not to burn the sugar-cashew mixture. Remove pan from heat when the sugar turns pale golden. Note that the mixture will continue cooking and turn a shade darker after removing from heat. Spread onto a piece of parchment paper or a lightly greased baking sheet to cool. Break apart.

When ready to serve, unmold the pudding and flip onto a plate. Sprinkle liberally with the caramelized cashew.

Its a genius this pudding. YOU HAVE GOT TO TRY THIS!!

Bedtime Stories

20 Apr

“But Papa, what would have happened if the thirsty crow wouldn’t have spotted any stones close by?”

Mithi’s Papa looked at his adorable four-year-old, all wrapped up in her Winnie the Pooh bed cover up to her chin. Only her tiny hands were visible that had clenched the bed cover with all the strength that they could muster. But it was her question that stumped him. How on earth did she start thinking about the “Thirsty Crow” story while he read her the “Three little pigs” story from her handsome, fully illustrated, sparkly fairy tale book? He garnered all the patience that he had since this was the tenth time she had interrupted his flow of words by her unrelated innocent questions. It suddenly worried him whether, his daughter, whom he had thought of being unusually imaginative and smart was having trouble focussing on the activity at hand. But he dispelled the baseless thought away when he looked  at the probing eyes waiting for his answer. He knew he had to invent one like the countless others he had before. But this time he decided to give her some logic to test whether she understood reason or not.

“Errr, beta, had the crow not found the stones to put in the pot, the story wouldn’t have existed in the first place!”

This answer seemed to please Mithi and she quickly indicated that he should continue with the rest of his story about the “The Three Little Pigs”.  By the time, he had reached the middle of the story, the tiny eyes had closed. Mithi’s Papa, got up slowly and placed her favourite dolly, Lola next to her and caressed her forehead before turning out the light in the pretty pink room. He closed the door after him and called it a day.

Mithi had an active imagination. So active that she enacted her imagination to see if it could come true. Most of all, she wanted to see if all the stories that Papa told her were actually true or not. She had asked him innumerable times whether these were only stories or was there really any ounce of truth. Each time, her father confirmed and assured her that these were true tales. She constantly endeavoured to put his hypothesis to test. She dressed up most of the times to be the part in question and enacted the whole story the way she understood it to be. She requested her Papa that she wanted to be the “Red Riding Hood” who out-smarted the wicked wolf. Her Papa, on the very same day, on his way back from his work, stopped at the General Stores in the local market and picked what had the closest resemblance to  Red Riding Hood’s attire  – A bright red raincoat. For the next few days, Mithi was seen strutting her red raincoat and talking to herself in front of the mirror, being the best Red Riding Hood, her Papa had ever seen. Mithi even buried a few beans in their backyard, to see if they were magical and turned into a giant creeper like that of  in the Fairy Tale “Jack and the bean stalk”. She watered it everyday and turned the spot into a muddy puddle and patiently waited for the creeper to grow. When nothing happened, she was disappointed but not for long as she would have found some other story to test. She even placed a pot of water near the Gulmohar tree  in her front yard. She strategically placed a few stones around the pot for any crow who was thirsty to drink out of the shallow pot. Crows did come around but flew away when they realized there was nothing of importance in the pot. After a few days, a silly crow managed to push the pot down to break it into many pieces.

Mithi’s belief that her Papa would only tell her the truth, made her stubborn when none of her ploys seemed to take effect. As a part of her afternoon play time, she and her dolly, Lola, put pieces of bread to form a trail so that “Hansel and Gretal” could find their way to her home and into her room. She waited for hours in her room playing with her doll house but Hansel and Gretal did not turn up. She then decided, it might be because they would have thought she was the wicked witch and wouldn’t want to make the same mistake again.  So she dressed up as a Princess with her tiara and got about playing the next story.

Mithi’s Papa watched her closely after he came back from work and worried that she was getting bored. Soon she might say that the stories were all untrue. What would he do then to put her to sleep. Surely, he couldn’t sing her to sleep. She might never let him into her room if he tried singing, he thought and chuckled to himself. He realized that Mithi did not have any companion  apart from her dolly, Lola. The place where they lived did not have many children around and so did not have any community playground.Mithi had to be content playing by herself in the garden, in front of their house.  He made a note to himself that he needed to look for another neighbourhood where Mithi could play with other children.  Anyways, in a couple of months she was going to start school so things would fall in place. He felt much better after that thought. That night he told her the story of ” Goldilocks and the Three bears”. This time she did not ask any questions but he could sense that she was actually visualizing the whole story in front her eyes. He wouldn’t be surprised if she asked for three teddy bears or for that matter a blonde wig to play Goldilocks. He only dreaded that she might try to paint her hair to look the part. Before that he needed to make sure she had the wig and the three teddy bears!

On one such night he had tucked her and retired to his room. He switched on the television to catch up on some World News. After sometime he felt weary and drifted off to sleep. It would have been little after midnight that he woke up with a start. He realized he had forgotten to switch off the lights in his bedroom. But before he did that, he had a strong urge to check up on Mithi. He strode to her room as silently as he could and crossed the hallway to reach the lavender painted door.

He was taken aback to see a faint glow coming from underneath the door. He recalled having switched off the lights before stepping out but the faint glow did not look like the one from the lights. He slowly opened the door and then he stopped on his tracks.

He felt his knees go weak and felt paralysed. The sight in front of him made his face go white with fear. He tried to enter the room but felt like a force was pulling him back. He called out to her but felt as if she couldn’t hear him at all.

He saw her hoisted in the air and bobbing up and down. He could see that she was still asleep and had no cognition of what was happening to her. That eery glow was coming off the space around her and it was as if she was in a bubble. His trepidation filled eyes observed that a long and almost endless creeper had broken the window glass panes entered her room to surround it from all sides. He felt he was going mad when he noticed three tiny pigs dressed up in a suit and prancing about on their hind legs. Just when he thought that the tiny black flying things were flies, one of them just flapped their wings right in front on him. To his dismay he realized what it was. It was a crow from his stories. The crow flapped a few more times and flew close to Mithi’s floating body. He screamed and screamed for her to wake up and run to the safety of his arms. It was then he saw two shadows in the darkest corner of the room. He saw a cloaked figure whom he instantly recognized from the faint red silhouette as Red Riding Hood only that she was faceless. The hood was hollow and only darkness seeped out of it. He didn’t have to think twice before he understood whom the gleaming green mean looking eyes belonged to.

Meanwhile the one of the miniature crows came back flapping its wings wildly.  It screamed the most blood curling screech which made the hair at the back of his neck stand. Suddenly he felt a cold wave wash his face and he woke up in cold sweat.

He immediately realized that he was dreaming. But his heart felt like lead and it hammered inside dangerously. He was unable to move for several minutes and sat upright in his bed thinking of the bizarre dream. He decided he wouldn’t be reading any mean bedtime stories to Mithi anymore since they had started to even affect him now. He felt he needed to check on her after the nightmare to make sure she was tucked in well. He silently made his way to her room and open the door. He saw her sleeping peacefully on one side holding Lola snuggly. Quickly he made a survey of her room and felt silly about his nightmare. He took one more look at her and felt a deep wave of love engulf him. Not wanting to disturb her, he closed her door and walked towards his.

While he switched off the lights to his room and snuggled under this bedcover he felt he had missed seeing something. But he again pushed that thought behind and closed his eyes. It must be his nightmare, he decided. Certainly there was nothing in her room that he should worry himself with. With this he drifted off to another fitful sleep.

Back in Mithi’s room, as she slept soundly with Lola in one hand, she was unaware of the presence in her room. In the darkest corner, there sat a hooded faceless figure and a pair of gleaming green eyes keeping a watchful eye on their protegée.

The Smashin’ Week

18 Apr

Disclaimer: Long post ahead.

After a lack-lustre last week, this week was brimming with stuff to do. A lot of it was happening for the first time. I have to admit, this recounting of the week gone by is a great mental exercise along with the promise to myself that the coming week would be better than the last one. Since long-term planning isn’t something I am good at or maybe it doesn’t work for me, I look forward to each week and in turn each day with equal measure of planning and anticipation of the unexpected.

1. Here, in the State of Kerala, the atmosphere was electric as the election season was on. Loud speakers blared the entire day and hoardings of young something candidates graced both the sides of the road. It was impossible to miss the fervent sense of purpose that hung in the air. I got the taste of the extent of how politics affected the common man in this state, when I was stopped en route to my driving class and was asked by some stranger whether I was going to vote. I was flummoxed to begin with but then managed to convey to him that I didn’t have the voter’s card for the State of Kerala. He seemed unconvinced and left me with a disdained look on his face. Whilst in the driving class, as I patiently waited for my theory class to start the fellow students asked me the very same thing. I went on an explanatory mode telling them about how I have an Uttar Pradesh voter’s card rendering me incapable to vote here. I could sense the utter disappointment in their eyes and the informal meeting was adjourned only after a lot of head shakes and comments of how one precious vote was lost. I felt like a total failure and shivered at the thought of ever confessing that I have never voted in my life. So finally all the voting culminated on the 13th of April and with it my guilt of never having voted. (Don’t anyone of you judge me. I have my own reasons of why I haven’t voted so far.)

2. The week also saw me writing an online exam to enable me a learner’s license. It was an experience to go to a government office, in this case a Collectorate’s office. I had to battle an insanely long queue for every single activity to reach the final goal. To add to everyone’s woes the weather was hot and sultry with no circulation inside the area where the test was to be given. Since this was the first time I had to interact with the government employees I observed the whole process where people had to appear convincing and a little servantile in the actions to get their work done. So yay! I got my learner’s after all and what it means was that I could start my driving sessions on the road. So the first and second class have already happened and my on road experience has been mixed. I am not terrified being on the road and I mind my own business by looking ahead and not bothering what vehicles are climbing from the side like aliens out there to attack ( Okay, I admit I am bit terrified but I pretend that it is still a simulator lesson going on. Seriously, it is easy to trick my brain. But don’t try it okay!!). I have theorized 3 driving rules and have decided to follow them no matter how the external factors influence the cruise.

1. Look straight ahead as far as I can see so that I have an 180 degree view on both side, even if hazy.

2. Keep my hands straight on the wheel

3. Relax my shoulders and keep my grip on the steering and gear a little loose to enable smooth maneuver and avoid strain.

These have worked for me but since only 2 classes have transpired, I would have to keep up at it. Driving in India/Kerala needs a different mind-set and an iron heart but I guess it all works out in the end.

3. Mimi’s NI( Naughtiness Index) has jumped to new levels all of sudden. She seems to be endowed with extraordinary stamina and a speed to match. She runs and runs and runs till the cows come home. Even after that, she shows no sign of slowing down. I feel that in certain characteristics it wouldn’t be wrong to say,” Like mother, like daughter” and it also proves that life comes full circle. Every now and then I see my mum smiling ( a little contemptuously) which says, ” Now you know, what it was like with you running around and not paying heed to anything”. I constantly worry about Mimi’s safety when she makes dare-devil jumps off the bed and the couches. In one such event, she dashed her forehead against the wood shelf  and now sports an ugly looking gash. It was terrifying for all of us but some ice packs and little ointment later she was back to her usual stuff.

She has also started to imitate our actions and apes us all the time. It is funny, really. She has also learnt a lot of new words in Malayam and understands most of the instructions. It is a joy to see her respond and how she celebrates each of her accomplishment by clapping hands and running round in circles. There is so much I learn from her. Being hard and self critical about myself all the time, hasn’t really done any good. I can be a little short sighted and neglect the fact that I have done a few things  in life that I could be proud of and should celebrate. But  years of such conditioning amounting to baseless self doubts and unnecessary complexes make it ever so difficult to appreciate what I am and I have achieved in life. But I have to thank Mimi for atleast making me aware of these disabilities. So to celebrate this new self awareness, Mimi and I shopped!!!

Well any reason is good enough to shop, isn’t it? We roamed about some local stores and struck some good bargain. I bought Mimi her third set of Pattu Pavada- which is an ethnic wear in this part of the country.

Mimi’s vaccination too happened in the week and she scared her doctor by not even flinching a bit while being vaccinated. She just strode off my lap once the vaccination was done and got around exploring the doc’s room. The doctor was shocked beyond words and was rendered speechless for sometime. I had a doubt whether the vaccination was actually administered or not. But the doc showed me the empty syringe. We all had a good nervous laugh about it.

4. I miss Amit a lot but I constantly get a feeling that he misses Mimi more than he misses me. I appear to be understanding but somewhere it does hurt me a little when he only wants to listen to what she has done and wanting to only see her on skype. Grumpy:-(. I think I have to understand what he must be going through and be a good sport about it.

5. 15th of April was our New Year and my ( and Mimi’s ofcourse) first in Kerala with my parents. So it was rather a special one. One of the rituals for Vishu includes looking at the “Kani” at 4:30 am in the morning. Kani is a paraphernalia ( all  items such as gold, yellow mangoes, yellow cloth, yellow flowers-  Golden shower tree called Konna in malayalam- and all things yellow are arranged in a plate). It is considered auspicious to see it the first thing in the morning. We were all dressed up in Kerala trademark white and golden get up. Mum had gone through the trouble of making “sadya”- traditional feast which included ripe mango curry, mixed vegetable called avial, sambar, chakka ( raw jackfruit) uperi, payasam ( rice pudding) etc. We had a sumptuous lunch after which it was difficult to keep our eyes open. It was a fantastic Vishu- New year for us.


Sadya- feast

6. 16th of April was the day my uncle ( my mum’s brother) was turning 70. It was a huge occasion and his sons wanted to celebrate it in style. All the relatives were invited for a grand lunch followed by a musical orchestra and dinner buffet in the evening. The only problem was the heat and the humidity. It managed to get on everybody’s nervous as we were drenched in sweat at all times and fans were absolutely ineffective. But the musical programme was enjoyable since some eminent music directors, playback singers and reality tv singers were invited to sing and perform. Mimi had a fabulous time interacting with her cousins.

7. Amidst all this drama  I managed to make apple jelly pudding. A detailed post about it would follow in the next one. It is one of the best puddings I have had till date. After having spent zillions of hours on food blogs, I have probably acquired the knack of selecting and distinguishing a good recipe from a bad one. For this reason,whatever I have tried making in the last few weeks has invariably turned out well. Touchwood. I hated it when many times in the past, I had so many failed attempts trying to bake and cook out of a bad recipe. But, now I know better.

8. Finally, the week was marked with some good news with BlogAdda featuring one of my fiction pieces as  Tuesday’s Tangy Picks. Some recognition definitely motivates me and pushes me to do better.

So that is how my week culminated and am already looking forward to the current one. Here are some photos of the fields around my parent’s home. My camera and my photograpy skills do little justice to the panoramic view.

The Afternoon Lesson

10 Apr

“Dulaariben!! Kem cho?”(Dulaariben, How are you?), said a small voice at the door.

Dulaariben pushed her round glasses that were dangerously close to sliding down, up her nose to see closely who was at the door. She knew who it could be who dared disturb her afternoon siesta. Her pet cat ( a grey and black stripped house cat) jumped from the bed and hurried up the door that was slightly ajar. She mewed and tried to push the door further to open. A tiny hand clutched the door and pushed it scaring the house cat. A dark-skinned girl of about 6 peeked inside with her brown inquisitive eyes. She was wearing her school uniform which suggested that she had just finished school and crept away silently without her mum knowing where she was off to. Dulaariben’s raised eyebrows changed to a creased brow because the last thing she wanted was the brat to come and disturb her peace. She called her the brat not because she was naughty. She called her thus, because she was inquisitive and harassed the feathers out of her with her tongue in cheek questions.

“Dulaariben, what are you doing? I finished school early today so amma told me to go out and play in the yard. I got bored so I came over.” To this Dulaariben got up from her comfortable couch where she was just about to go into a divine slumber. She ushered her in without a word. She feared that if she opened her mouth to talk to her, she would have to face the volley of nonsensical questions from this six-year-old. Just that moment, Mithoo screeched. Her beautiful green wings rattled the cage. Dulaariben went up to the cage and opened the tiny cage door. The brat came over to the cage and tried to put her hand in. On an impulse, Dulaariben pushed the tiny hand away just in time to save it from the nick from the ferocious parrot. The tiny form shrunk away from the cage.

“Dulaariben, you should set Mithoo free. She is a mad bird.” she suggested with some fear and anger. Dulaariben walked away and plonked herself heavily on the couch. She took her woollen balls from coffee table on the side and started to knit her half done garment. The brat, promptly, as if taking a cue, sat next to Dulaariben. Dulaariben moved a bit to accommodate the tiny tot. “Can I also help you? I help my amma all the time, but she says, I am more trouble than help.” At this Dulaariben managed to smile. Encouraged, the brat continued her monologue, ” I like coming here a lot. I also like the little swing that you have in your yard.” Dulaariben did not say anything and continued to knit. At this, the brat moved a little closer as if to whisper a secret and in hushed tones spoke, ” You know Dulaariben, my amma doesn’t like that I come to see you.” Dulaariben looked up surprised at the innocent candour. She smiled meekly and got up to go to the kitchen. The house cat and the brat followed. She took a glass jar from the top shelf and picked out some biscuits. She handed one over to the brat who grabbed it immediately and started chewing noisily. Dulaariben hated people who made a lot of noise while eating and it irritated her to the point that she found herself getting up from amidst even the most engaging conversation at the dinner table. But when the brat crunched her way to the biscuit, she felt a deep sense of joy spread through her heart. She took her hand and got back to the couch to continue her knitting project.

“Where is your husband, Dulaariben?”

Dulaariben looked up at the angelic countenance with a start and then turned mellow instantly. Finally she answered, ” I don’t have a husband, beta”. ” But why don’t you have a husband? Everybody has a husband!” Dulaariben laughed a hearty laugh and responded making the most earnest face,” Beta, even you don’t have a husband”. That answer seemed to stump the child and she shook her head in agreement as if she bought the point. She immediately got up and bade a good afternoon to Dulaariben and walked out.

As soon as the child left, Dulaariben sensed a sudden vacuum and felt as if something heavy had dropped on chest. She smothered the sob that threatened to gather and spill out into copious tears. She quickly stuffed all her knitting into a bag on the coffee table  and got up and smoothed her dress. She then quickly had her customary cup of tea and hopped on to her moped and sped away to the Vikas Kendra ( Development Center). She was the whole and soul of this budding community project in the town. She helped the rural women to make a living by helping them set up small cottage industries in their homes itself. She found this work deeply involving and satisfying. At the end of the day, she had a good nights sleep with her house cat in the tow.

It was particularly a very warm afternoon, one summer day. She was outside in her yard tending to her rose shrubs and picking out the weeds. She hated the menacing weeds and plucked them out with vengeance whilst spraying the insecticides on the rose stem and leaves.  The roses were her pride since they always won the “Best Roses” title in the flower show each year. Mithoo screeched flapping her wings violently which inadvertently meant that somebody or something that Mithoo did not like was making its way there.

“Dulaariben, kem cho?”

The brat skipped and hopped about some flower patches and strode towards Dulaariben. Dulaariben stiffened her shoulders and did not react to the tiny figure charging towards her. ” Can I help you Dulaariben?” the child offered. Dulaariben only shook her head and continued tending the roses. The brat sat down besides the hunched Dulaariben and grinned. She then offered to move the plucked weeds and shoved them in a bin close by. She came running back to her and started the one-sided conversation. ” You know, Dulaariben, amma was talking to the Hansa aunty next door.” She then looked up at Dulaariben as if asking approval to go on. Dulaariben’s mouth twitched a bit and that presented as a signal to continue the conversation. “Hansa aunty told amma that you had a boyfriend but he left you. That is why you did not marry! That is why you don’t have a husband!” Dulaariben got up with a knee jerk reaction and put her garden tools down. She raised her dupatta to wipe the beads of sweat formed on her forehead and then walked away from the scene, into the house. The brat followed sensing that she might have just have stirred the hornet’s nest unsuspectedly. She quickly caught up with Dulaariben and silently moved in with her, into the house. Dulaariben quickly wiped what looked like tears in her eyes and turned to look at the dark brown eyes staring at her. She spoke with a quivering voice,” You are right beta. I had a boyfriend and he left me. He left me and went  away never to return?” At this the concerned face nodded vigorously.

” But, Dulaariben, did you not get a husband to marry after he left?” Dulaariben got down on her knees to come to the same level as the brat and held  her shoulders to exclaim. ” I rather live alone than marry a loser who will hurt me again.”

“Monu, Monu , where are you?” a voice yelled from somewhere close by. The brat slid from Dulaariben’s grasp and rushed out without saying goodbye. Dulaariben gathered herself up and made some tea to quell the tide of emotions about to sweep her dormant world.

Twenty years passed since the encounter in at Dulaariben’s house that summer afternoon. Monu had long turned into a demure young lady married to a man her parents chose for her. The wedding was a grand affair where a lot of money and gold was exchanged for Monu. She was no longer a child but she still skipped and hopped in her heart. She felt the tingle in her body that a gushing bride feels when she goes to her new home. Her husband was highly educated and he even wrote letters to her during their engagement period. Now she was going to be by his side and life was only going to get better.

She carefully removed the bandage covering the wound in her leg. It was deep red, garish wound that appalled her. Her skin was marked with many such wounds. Two years into the marriage and she felt like a fly trapped against the window. Any moment someone would come and swat her away. There was always a choice of opening the window and letting her out but it existed only in her imagination. Her dream of a husband was actually a tyrant in disguise. He was a drunkard who once in a drunken stupor almost strangulated her. She ran back home to her parents, only to be sent back to compromise with the tyrant. She  felt trapped like a fly against the window with no escape in sight. She knew she would die if she didn’t escape as the tyrant was getting powerful by the day.

She was yanked back to reality by the phone ringing. She quickly rushed to pick it up fearing that it might her husband’s. Any delay in picking up the phone resulted in a disparaging attacks on her character and her family. She picked up and was immediately relieved to find that it was her amma at the other end. When the conversation ended, Monu felt faint. The phone dropped to the floor. She quickly bent to pick it up and rushed to her bedroom. There is buried her head and cried till her eyes were red. Her amma had phoned to tell her that her beloved Dulaariben had passed away. Monu felt weak and pulled the bed cover over her as if to protect herself from all the pain.

She lay there until dark and suddenly pushed the bed cover away from her body and got up. She lit all the lights in the house and quickly pulled out her suitcases. In matter of minutes she packed her stuff and called for a taxi to go to the railway station. She had some money saved for emergencies in a knotted handkerchief. She quickly stepped outside when the taxi pulled into the driveway of her home. She sat at the back seat in silence as tears kept flowing down. She wiped them with a purpose and remembered the afternoon with Dulaariben.

She knew what she had to do.

Badusha – Fritters in Sugar Syrup

8 Apr

My mum completes 33 years with her only employer, The Bank of Baroda. Things like this are unheard of these days. I thought it is a special occasion that deserved celebration.

picture courtesy :

I was contemplating making many things but when I browsed through Ria‘s blog today, I chanced upon this Tamil Nadu’s  Diwali speciality called Badusha. It looked exactly the kind of treat that my mum would love. She loved all the sugar syrupy kind of treats such as gulab jamun and rasagulla. When you go through a recipe, you faintly get an idea how much work it was going to be. Badusha didn’t look like it would need all that much work, so I gladly took it up. It took me exactly 45 minutes to finish  preparation plus cooking. It tastes divine and it would have even more if  I’d used clarified butter (ghee) in preparation and for deep frying. Sinful, isn’t it? But it would be worth it even if you had to run the entire day on the treadmill to wear it off.

I didn’t use clarified butter ( you can relax, hubby dear!!) but instead used vegetable oil to fry the fritters/badushas. I used some butter for kneading though which gave the fritters a fabulous texture.

Now for the recipe

Recipe for Badusha

Recipe source: Riascollection
Makes 8 nos. 

1 1/2 c All purpose flour/Maida
1/4 c unsalted butter
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp yogurt
2 pinches of baking soda
1/4 c (approx) water
Oil for deep frying

For the syrup:
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
5 strands of saffron (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice


  • Melt the butter in microwave. Add oil, sugar,yogurt,baking soda and whisk well.
  • Add the flour and mix well to make it crumbly.Add water to mix and form a dough.
  • Knead it till it becomes smooth, approx 2-3 mins or till the dough releases oil
  • Divide them into small balls and shape them (I got 8). You can shape them the way I did or just poke a finger into the centre of the balls of dough so that it has a depression in the centre. Cover it with a towel.
  • Heat oil, add a pinch of dough to it and if it floats to the top immediately, you are good to go. Do not let the oil heat up any more but if you did so, just add some cold oil to it and it should be good.
  • Add in 3-4 badushas at a time and take the pan off the heat,let the badusha’s cook in the pre-heated oil for 5 mins.By this time, badusha’s will float.
  • After 5 mins, keep the pan back on the flame on medium -low heat and cook till golden brown. It took me around 8-10 mins.
  • In the meantime, prepare the syrup by boiling together all the ingredients. As soon as you get it to a one-thread consistency, remove from flame and let it cool.
  • Once the badusha’s are fried, drain on kitchen towels and drop them into the sugar syrup immediately. Leave it for 1 mins. Remove and let it come to room temperature.
  • Store in airtight tin for upto 1 week. Do not store in refrigerator.

My mum loved it but skipped dinner because it was very heavy on her system (her words). Next time when I try this, I might use rose essence or even real rose petals to see the flavour difference. I used saffron here,and it rendered a soothing scent while it tasted as I said, before – Divine.

Mum will be opting for voluntary retirement, end of this month and it was is a very emotional time for her. Having given so many years of her life to one institution, it feels like leaving a family, to her. I asked her if she ever made a resume or thought of working else where. She said, during her time it was unthinkable. You choose to be with one and stick to it and then you wouldn’t need a resume.

In these times, I don’t know if this philosophy would work. I catch myself updating my resume every other day!!

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