Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run?

Archive for April, 2012

It’s only words

Sometimes you can say all you want to, pause for breath, speak some more; nineteen to the dozen, maybe even twenty-one; and then come away feeling like you’ve been talking to a wall.

Or you could just sit back, keep quiet, listen, smile and fool yourself into thinking that maybe, just maybe, you don’t always need words to communicate.

Then sit back and let the song wash over you,

“Its amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word, you can light up the dark
Try as I may, I could never explain
What I hear when you don’t say a thing”


If ifs and buts were pots and pans

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve been staying alone at home and cooking for myself; two long weeks of a string of culinary experiments which, I’m surprised, haven’t killed me!

So what follows is a list of dos and don’ts and beforehand I told you sos.

At the outset one point must be made clear – that I grew out of the Maggi/ Top Ramen/ any-other-Ramen school of thought a couple of years ago. So, yes, adding veggies to Maggi does NOT count as cooking. Neither does egg-Maggi make the cut. Begone all ye Maggi fiends!

Oh, I’m ok with atta-Maggi though. No added MSG, high fibre, and so on and so forth…

So here’s my list. Its fairly generic but hey, if there’s any point in all of this that hasn’t been covered elsewhere earlier, remember, I called dibs on it!

The golden rule to avoiding frustration in the kitchen is this : Cookery shows lie; don’t believe them. You cannot put out all the stuff you’re going to need in cute little glass bowls before you start. Heck, nobody has those many little glass bowls. You cannot keep a kitchen counter spotlessly clean either.

But I digress. The list :

  1. There’s more to cooking than desserts.
  2. There are ways to cook beyond microwave ovens.
  3. The small and large burners on the gas-stove are not the same things. They are NOT interchangeable in terms of their roles. What happens on a small burner only happens on a small burner and vice versa. Things that happen on a small burner do NOT happen faster on a large burner. They get carbonified. I really cannot stress this enough.
  4. Things get wasted. The first and last Dosas will always be inedible. It’s true. The mummyji confirms this via phone.
  5. If it’s black, throw it out and start over. At any stage. [Ref. point 3.]
  6. Speaking of wastage, the friendly neighbourhood hopcoms-guy/ Sabzi-wala is evil. He will con you. He will slip bad stuff onto the weighing scale when you aren’t looking. There’s no better way to say this – he is evil. Really.
  7. Evil is different from wicked or mean. You can’t fight evil. Budget for it. Buy more veggies than you need; statistically, then, you’re safe.
  8. The internet is your best friend. Listen to it. There is a wide range in the IQs of internet users across the world and there’s something for everyone. Youtube recipes, however, is stretching it a little too far.
  9. Where the internet will not help you is in locating stuff in your kitchen. Clear polythene bags filled with unnamed white powders will lurk in unmarked boxes. Give up; go to the grocer, buy a new bag of whatever you need, and listen closely – put a sticker on it.
  10. Non-stick is your friend too. Be nice to it. No metal spoons on non-stick tawas.
  11. Oil is also a friend. Whatever you try, it will taste better with more oil in it, no matter what elders and/ or betters say.
  12. Oil has this bad habit though – when left unwatched, it gets hot really quick and begins to smoke. No, that’s not steam, that’s a precursor to fire.  Come to think of it, that’s actually how most things in the kitchen respond to heat. Hmmm…
  13. Speaking of heat, your left index finger is not the best measure of temperature. Not unless you value said finger, anyway.
  14. And while on the topic of measures, any assumption that you might make on the densities of most of the stuff you see in the kitchen is going to be highly suspect. The density of stuff is rarely 1g/cc even though everything organic has a lot of water in it.
  15. In an asymptotic sense, the density might only be (1+ε) g/cc with ε << 1 but the ε wields great power. You have been warned.
  16. Do NOT do this. Use a weighing scale and/ or a measuring cup. Really. This saves lives.
  17. There are few things better-natured in the kitchen than eggs. They survive well in the fridge with passable deterioration, you can always tell when they’re done cooking from the smell, they rarely stick to frying-pans, they work well enough alone or as a team and there is no known substitute for eggs in a cake. The works, basically.
  18. There are few actions more tragic than condemning a loaf of bread to the fridge, though. Be sure, what starts off as a fluffy, carefree loaf (see, they even call it that), is going to be a reluctant, ill-spirited, crumbly, compact mass tomorrow morning.
  19. Speaking of fridges, the fridge is not a black box. Stuff put into the fridge may not be forgotten and must be checked regularly. Rubbery carrots and wrinkly capsicums are gross.
  20. Oh, and finally, when in doubt – Upma. Always.

*Sigh*, Mommy, I miss you…


Why do so many people in the forinn seem to be carrying cameras everywhere they go?

Why is everyone always putting up photos, saying “Here I am, eating this, drinking that, looking cool and froody, with so-and-so and so-and-so’s untagged-but-much-prettier-and-much-more-interesting-looking-friend-who-might-be-the-one-but-who-you-will-never-meet?” Are we as a generation still so hung up on the fact that <fanfare> we’re going bravely where no man (among the people I know) has gone before </fanfare>? Look Ma, I’m being so cool right now.

Who are they trying so hard to convince that life’s awesome, they’re awesome, everyone they hang with is awesome, etc.?

Or are these pictures the magic glasses through which someone else is going to live the Amrikkan/ Kaneddiyan dream vicariously, and then turn in peacefully for the night, convinced that the kid is well and, well, awesome?

Or are we trying this hard to generate and accumulate memories, secure in the knowledge that everything ends; ash to ash, dust to dust, and all that jazz? That someday the music will stop?

I was once an obsessive photographer, and all I remember from each one of those occasions is sitting with my head up my rear end, wondering which way the light was coming in, which were the things that looked good in the frame and which weren’t – people included; playing the photographer of the group as much as being the photographer. Doesn’t anyone else feel that disconnect?

Why don’t people just be and just live?


Ironically, I’m writing this almost immediately after sending out an email to a bunch of people with a bunch of photos taken in college 6 years ago – photos I’m glad someone took then!

Is it different though, that said photos remained essentially buried for 6 years, till I dug them out now? And that there were only 7 people marked on that mail, rather than 517?


Happened to go to UB City, Bangalore’s swankiest and upmarketest mall, for lunch today. And whaddya know – there are people on the outside, taking pictures in front of the buildings there!

I’d like to say I was amused or saddened or reminded of the essential futility of all human endeavour or something like that; truth is, I was just relieved someone else was paying for lunch.

Us and them

RTE – So the Govt. decides every recognized school must have underprevileged kids in it at the State’s(?) expense.

Makes me wonder. INR 2.3 Lakh crore (that’s what, INR 2.3e12?) is the added expenditure that someone’s going to have to bear, most likely the taxpayer. For the average taxpayer who can’t really afford to send his/ her kid to one of them fancy international schools with their iPad-friendly curricula and annual-window-frame-maintenance-charges and fifteen-yearly-new-super-awesome-multimedia-auditorium-construction-funds, but must sponsor a fraction of another kid’s education there, that’s going to be one terribly bitter pill to swallow.

P.S. : A line in one of the foregoing paragraphs brings a joke to mind, one I crack often, rarely with any success : if you’re going to have to express money in scientific notation to make sense of it, you’re obviously in the wrong ballpark.


EDIT (18th April, 2012) : I’m just trying to figure the economics out. I’m not a snob; I’m only wondering who’s taking the hit here.

Considering the fact that 25% of seats go toward the RTE, in the absence of any immediate aid from the Govt., the effective annual fees for the rest of the seats just went up by 33%. Not a small amount.

Assuming that the INR 2.3 lakh crore figure was obtained on the basis of some average/ median value drawn up by a couple of bean counters somewhere, based on the balance sheets of a couple of aided schools, the average reimbursement forwarded to the fancier unaided schools will probably be far far away from the amounts the schools actually charge.

So who gets the raw end of the deal?


Everyone’s trying to bridge a socioeconomic gap upwards. Some of these bridges are state-sanctioned, some are not.


As an aside, everyone’s saying kids can be mean, to justify obstructing the RTE. Right premise, wrong take-away.

An example from Class 3 stands out, though. Boy in class began bringing a towel to school that he’d use to wipe his arm/ leg on being touched by anyone else in the class. Because he was a Brahmin boy, he told us.

Not the end of the story. I was the prick who stood up in Maths class and complained. Why prick, you ask? Because I pointed out to the teacher that his using the towel against me was unfair because I was a Brahm too…

Not that I was going to start bringing a towel myself, but at that age some similarities are easier to understand and some, more human ones, are not.


Does any of this mean I’m against RTE? Hell, no. I learnt some of the most important lessons of my life in engineering college where the social filters from school didn’t exist. Not the easiest time, but a profound one.

I’m just counting beans.


I love Pune. There’s something about it that says home. Crappy roads, crappy traffic, mean people who think they’re witty – I love it all. Must be something to do with knowing the language. Aapulki, they call it in Marathi, and I’m hard-pressed to find an English equivalent beyond “us-ness,” if that means anything.

It’s more fun observing people when you understand the things they’re saying. But then, I’m out of the happy little bubble that a lack of fluency in the local language builds around one, here in Bangalore.

These are people who speak the same language as I do, with minor differences in pronunciation and inflection. Except that they aren’t minor. They mark the line between two worlds. As I look on, there’s a subtle thought in my head, one that I can’t get rid of once I’ve thunk it, so to speak, that these people don’t really look like me or anyone I know.

And I wonder – if we’ve managed to make our divisions this water-tight, that you can look at a person and tell if he’s one of you or isn’t, hasn’t all this turned into some misguided attempt at eugenics?

Growing up

Once upon a time, I was a bad guitarist. A perseverant one, but a bad one. I stuck my tongue out and hammered away at the strings, trying very hard to get my left and right hands to work in sync while looking at only one of them at a time. At social gatherings, surrounded by uncles and aunties (which is how most social-gathering-cookies in my circle seem to crumble), I’d phase out, whip out my air-guitar, and struggle through chord changes.

I’d try progressions – C-F-G-C-F-G-C-F-G-C-F-G,  Am-D-G-Am-D-G-Am-D-G-Am-D-G, then the same progressions with barre chords, then non-standard progressions that I liked the sound of – A#m – F# – Dm (or something like that), and finally a sequential C-D-E-F-G-A-B. And then a sequential one with the minor chords…

Today as I sit with a friend’s electric guitar across my lap, and as he says to me, “Play something, play anything; just hold some chord and strum, just make a noise,” this thought runs through my mind, which I find extremely amusing – today I’m not even a bad guitarist; I’m not a guitarist.

And the thought is liberating.

Today, my evaluation of myself is no longer contingent upon having an additional displayable `talent.’ Which is not to say that a self-evaluation brings more positive results now; while my self-worth still languishes in the smelly regions of the ego’s netherworld, it’s only the decoupling that’s big news!


So as it turns out, my desk hasn’t had stuff moved off it since the middle of 2010 or so (I know because I found boarding passes from then; ha!). And amidst all the clutter, there’s a bunch of bookmarks.

Bookmarks! I had tons of them once. Bookmarks in the shape of trees and cars, bookmarks from shops (a surprising one being one I found in a second-hand book from Blossoms, bought originally at a bookshop in – wait for it – the WTC!!), and so on.

Now I just keep the bills and debit-card slips of the books I buy and use them as page-markers. Maybe I’m getting old and losing my sense of wonder. Or maybe I’m finally moving past the idea of the books I read being me…


Speaking of senses of wonder, has anyone tried the new Naturo guava flavoured fruit bar? Brilliant, I say. All the taste of the guava, minus the cutting and the crunchy seeds, but with the slightly grainy texture that comes through perfectly.

Brilliant. Just frigging brilliant.


Sometimes I shock myself thinking about how completely out of touch with some aspects of reality I am. Sorry about the Master Yoda like sentence construction but then I’m too bummed right now to try and reword that. So, anyway. Turns out you can buy a lot of veggies for all of INR 30; enough veggies to keep me going for a half-week, at the very least!

No matter that however carefully I cook said veggies they’re never going to taste like Bhetki Paturi at Oh Calcutta!, I’m slowly beginning to understand the scandalized looks I get when I mention their INR 750 / head dinners.

Sigh! I hate it when I regress to my stingy Maharashtrian genes…


Oh, and today’s paper tells me someone’s just come up with the idea of a 24/ 7 creche for couples getting shafted over promotions ‘coz there’s just the damn baby to go home early to, ya know. Apparently these guys send you video clips of your baby everyday.

Hmmm, watching videos of something you’d like to have but can’t really afford/ manage. Reminds me of something – whatitis, whatitis, whatitis?

AHHH, That’s right!! Youtube, you boneheads.