Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our songs

(I am very tired this evening so please forgive my typos)

When you have spent a substantial portion of your adult life with someone, it is difficult to have to be on your own. It is almost like amputating your arm and then going about life without it. K was not just my arm but substantial portion of my emotional being. I have tried to be brave and deal with it but I have moments of complete despair. Songs trigger off tears and so do random memories. Sometimes I keep long hours at work. About a month ago, I left my workplace rather late and was thinking to myself that I should rush home as K would be waiting for me. I rush to my car to realize that I have an empty home to go to. It triggered off a whole set of emotions…sorrow, anger and despair. I cannot express the pain that went through my heart and goes through my being from time to time. It is like taking multiple sharp knives and slowly inserting them simultaneously all over my body. There is no injury or blood but just excruciating pain. I started crying to myself and asked randomly to no particular person; do you even care what is happening to me? That very moment, my radio played Beatles “And I love her”, which was one of our songs. Then it played a few other favorite bands of ours such as Bad Company, CCR, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, etc. My mood changed suddenly to reminiscing about the pleasant memories of our life together. Then suddenly it played Air Supply! From tears I burst out laughing.

When I was in my teens and early twenties, the time before K came into my life. I used to listen to Air Supply. Initially when K was wooing me, he would woo me with food and music. Of course I used to completely ignore him and blow him off. He would be persistent and offer to give my friends and me a ride up to Dadar train station from downtown area of Mumbai. Those of you, who live or have lived in Mumbai, will know how annoying it is to take public transportation during the peak hours. Therefore I would grudgingly go with them because I was too lazy to take the train by myself. I never sat next to K out of spite and would sit in the back seat. It didn’t matter to K as he used to look at this opportunity to strike a conversation with me. He later used to tease me about how I was an “ice maiden” that he had to thaw!

Anyway on our drive through the crazy Mumbai traffic, we used to always listen to the “Sundown show” on the FM radio. They always played great rock music. I remember gradually falling in love with K over the music. My friend, to poke fun at me, told K that I listened to Air Supply and burst out laughing. I had always put up a front of being such a serious professional that I dig mushy music was almost comical to K. I was annoyed as my friend blew my cover. One time they played Air Supply’s “Two less lonely people in the world.” The others started making fun of me, while K looked at me through the rear view mirror and smiled his mischievous smile. The smile was sort of making fun of my choice in music but rather lovingly and indulgently. I glared back at him determined to never take a ride with them and be made fun of. The next song on the radio was Beatles’ “And I love her.” My eyes met K’s through the rear view mirror and he gave me the sweetest smile. That smile melted my heart and that was the moment I fell in love with the love of my life! Today all I have are memories of the glorious time we spent together. I will always LOVE you my dearest K. You taught me what true love is all about!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Surviving K

It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. That may be true however it is painful when death takes away the one you loved the most. I lost K, the love of my life, more than a month ago. I am devastated would be an understatement. However I thought to myself that life throws difficult circumstances at you. There are two options available, one is to get completely devastated and whither your life away while the other is to pick up the broken pieces of your life and move on. The former is easy while the latter is rather difficult. I have decided to choose the latter one. I have moments of complete despair interspersed with moments of love and hope. Most of all, I am trying to not lose track of my dreams. Tragedy took away the most important person of my life but nothing can take away the love we shared or the happy memories in this 14 year old marriage.

K died of sudden cardiac arrest. It was so shocking that I had a sense of calmness around me. K and I used to pray to Shakti and especially to Mahalakshmi. I have had tremendous faith in her. That fateful night after I called 911, in despair I was screaming for help and in anger said to her, “Do you even care about me and what I am going through?” That very moment an elderly woman walked towards me and asked me if I needed CPR. I asked her how did she know and she said that her daughter heard my screams. Anyway she came into my home and tried to revive K. The 911 team and first aid squad arrived and took K to the hospital. By that time I had come to terms with the fact that the love of my life may not come back to me. I had lost all my faith and was very angry. I even decided to leave Hinduism and convert to Buddhism to try to comprehend pain and suffering.

The other day as I was reliving the moments of that fateful night, I realized that this elderly woman came to my door walking. I don’t live in Manhattan but in suburban Jersey. What are the odds of people walking? Also the old lady claimed to be living two houses down but it has been more than a month since the tragedy but I have never seen her again! I then remembered that it is said that whenever Mahalakshmi comes to help her devotees, she comes in the form of an old woman! It reinstated my faith and the fact that K’s life on this planet was limited. All of us come with a plan and all of us have to leave. There is nothing we could do to change it. However K died in his own home and with the one who loved him. He died suddenly so it was not painful! I find comfort in that fact because I would not have wanted him to suffer indignities of being incapacitated.

K’s funeral was very intimate and very private. Hindu ceremonies are very morbid. I didn’t want K’s to be that way. I wanted the ceremony to celebrate his life. I had a ceremony with a priest, who actually has a PhD in Physics. It was true to K’s spirit as although he was a Hindu he didn’t believe in the ritualistic aspect of Hinduism. He was more spiritual. I would like to share the eulogy that I wrote for his funeral ceremony. It captures the gist of who K was as a person. The eulogy is as follows:

K’s name in Sanskrit means someone who sees beauty in everything. It also means someone who has beautiful eyes. Your eyes are a window to your soul. K’s eyes reflected the beauty in his soul.

K as all of you know was an exceptionally kind and generous person. He had such a calm and peaceful disposition that one always felt comforted in his aura. At least I did ever since I met him that day in December 1993. We met when I had just finished architecture school and had started working at his father’s ex-partner’s office. They say opposites attract and it was certainly true in our case. He was extremely shy and quiet while I just cannot shut up!

We became the closest friends. Actually we bonded over our mutual love for crossword puzzles that we would solve over the lunch hour. Most men woo their women with flowers and chocolates, K, however, did with food. K always encouraged and supported everything I did. He was a great son to his parents and a great brother to his siblings and cousins.

K was a second son to my parents after my older sister’s husband. My parents always said that they didn’t lose two daughters but gained two sons. K brought joy and happiness in our lives. He came suddenly in my life and left as suddenly on February 24, 2011. He brought joy and bliss for the 17 years that I knew him. He taught me what selfless love was all about so in many ways he guided me.

As all of you know he was reserved, however as some of you know he had a WICKED sense of humor. Therefore although my loss is irreplaceable, we must celebrate his life! K loved life too much and as his best friend Ganesh would agree, K would have said right now in a thick south Indian accent, “What to do? What to do? Enjoy only, no.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting Spooked!

While flipping through channels I happened to catch a program on Biography Channel on people’s real life encounter with ghosts. I am neither a believer nor a skeptic but have had at least two bizarre experiences that I think perhaps there is some truth to paranormal activities. My first experience was in the summer after we got married. My cousin’s client is a well known Indian jeweler. The jeweler had purchased a palace belonging to the Maharajah. This was the Maharajah’s weekend home and now was the jeweler’s. So the jeweler happened to mention to my cousin, that he could visit his weekend home anytime he wanted. My cousin decided to have a weekend family reunion at the jeweler’s place. So we were about six couples who went to the weekend home. Now we were NOT staying in the palace but the guest house near the palace.

The guest house was pretty large and could easily accommodate six families. Therefore my cousin decided that as K and I were newly weds, we would get the first floor portion of the guest house entirely to ourselves while the rest of them would be on the second floor. K and I were pleased with their generosity and thought that we would slip away, if we thought that my little nieces and nephews were annoying.

The architecture of the buildings in that estate was typical of Indian mansions and palaces from the 17th and 18th century. That place had history and you were reminded of it. I had told Kunal that every stone on that wall must have a story to tell. So we spent the day walking and exploring the area but returned to the guest house a little after 4 PM. I felt a heavy sensation in the home and so did K. We couldn’t explain this heaviness and attributed it to an old house. Both of us were skeptics so any paranormal activity was beyond our comprehension. We opened the windows to let in fresh air yet the heaviness in the air seemed to be there. The first floor of the guest house was huge with living area and sleeping quarters. It would have been a great romantic weekend if not for the heavy air that seemed to follow us around. We couldn’t stand being there so fled upstairs to be with the rest of the family. We spent the evening upstairs with the rest of the family. All of us laughing and joking and one of my cousin’s even made a comment about not freaking out if we saw a ghost. K and I just looked at each other. Anyway after dinner all of us sat chatting and exchanging stories and anecdotes. K and I had planned to slip out early but we just couldn’t leave our company. Both of us were uncomfortable to go downstairs and be there by ourselves. We however didn’t want to tell my cousins as we would then be a butt of their jokes. So anyway the evening progressed and everyone went to bed around 2 AM.

K and I went downstairs with a heavy heart. Both of us kept the lights on and tried to sleep. Both of us couldn’t fall asleep but soon drifted off to sleep. I was woken up by the loud howling of a dog. A few yards from the guest house were the servant’s quarters. The jeweler’s staff lived there. We noticed two Dobermans leashed to a tree. These dogs were acting rather weird and were howling in an eerie fashion. That completely freaked me out but still I didn’t want to wake K up. Invariably the howling woke K up as well. We were so nervous and just hugged each other. There was nothing romantic about that hug!

The worse experience was the bathroom. The bathroom was huge but when one walked into it, immediately one felt very claustrophobic. In fact I was so nervous to go to the bathroom by myself that I dragged K with me every time I wanted to use the bathroom. Anyway K woke up and wanted to use the bathroom. I actually was scared to be alone in the bedroom that I walked with him into the attached bath. It sounds silly and childish but to date there is no explanation as what and why the dogs were barking so eerily. Most importantly there is no explanation about the heaviness in the room and the feeling that we were continuously being watched. To break the nervousness I even made a joke to K that perhaps we were being watched from the other side's adult industry. It was the most bizarre night of our lives!

Anyway K and I couldn’t fall asleep and stayed up the whole night hugging each other. Neither did we hear anyone nor did we see any apparition. What we experienced was heaviness and complete discomfort. The next morning both of us looked awful. We got teased a lot by my cousins regarding our “staying up the whole night” but little did they know the true reason! I am not sure if they had any such experience but the fact is that we didn't stay on another night as originally planned...all of us just wanted to leave the place.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Perception and Reality

When I started my architecture school I had a lot of trepidation. I was 17 almost 18 years old at that time and had heard my school, although one of the best in India had a reputation for being very bohemian. I led a very sheltered and protected life almost verging on being smothered by my very overbearing mother. I always had my own personality and was very independent but you always are led to believe that your mother knows the best. So on my first day in school, I was pretty nervous and intimidated. I believe that there is safety in numbers so I hung out with a bunch of girls to avoid getting hazed by the second year students. Hazing or “Ragging” as they called in India was a part of the process of being welcomed into professional schools across the country.

My school had a substantial student population from other parts of India so we had two distinct groups, one who was from Mumbai and the rest was from all over the country. I being very talkative and friendly and also being especially talkative when I am nervous went around introducing myself. At that time, across the room I saw a very tall dark guy looking lost and a little out of place. He didn’t look Indian and looked very African. I could sense that he was a little sad, lonely and looked a little lost. I thought I might introduce myself to him. So I walked up to him and said, “Hi I am Sai.” He said, “Hi my name is MM.” So I asked him which part of the world he belonged to and he replied that he was from one of the countries in East Africa. At that moment, two other women walked over and introduced themselves. We asked him a lot of questions and welcomed him to India and to feel free to ask us if he needed anything from us. I had never met a person from Africa before and I was fascinated by his culture. I remember asking him questions about his language, what his name meant etc. I am a xenophile so I was thrilled to meet someone who was from a different culture and nationality.

India is a very racist country and makes no apologies about it. An average Indian is complacent in his or her biases. One could attribute that to centuries of casteism and exclusionary behavior of Hindus. However I think the underlying reason is ignorance and fear based upon perception. I remember one of my classmates telling me after she saw me talking to MM that I should avoid talking to “that African guy as who knows what mischief he might be up to.” Then she said that I might get a reputation as being easy. I remember being livid and completely infuriated about people making assumptions based upon their ignorant perceptions. To date I have not been able to comprehend the fact that how do people develop these “reputations”?

After my fourth year and before beginning my final year architecture, I had gone to New Delhi with a bunch of classmates to conduct research for my final year thesis in the summer vacation. I was at the School of Architecture and Planning’s library in New Delhi when by chance I bumped into MM. He had come to New Delhi straight from his country's capital and didn’t know his classmates were there too. He was very happy to see me as he felt like he “saw family in this strange place.” At that time he told me that he might have to take a break of six months from school as his mother was diagnosed with cancer and he didn’t want to be far from home. I remember feeling terrible for him. He was going to be in Mumbai for a week and then fly back home. I came home to Mumbai and wanted to invite him to my place for dinner as I thought he must be missing his home. I asked my mother if I could invite him home. She asked me if I were inviting him with a group of other people. I said that there was no one around as it was summer vacation and that I wanted to just invite him alone. My mother, being the overprotective and overbearing parent that she was, said that she had no problem if he were coming in a group but didn’t want me to invite a guy just by himself! I told her that I thought she was being ridiculous. Then she said, “When you get married, invite him to your husband’s home.” That was the end of the argument. To date I cannot rationalize my mother’s reasoning! If I wanted to do something that she didn’t approve she would end the argument with “do that at your husband’s home.” I must say that I have married a great guy and have been able to do whatever I please at my "husband’s home”!

MM did come back to school and completed his final year with us. Upon completion of our graduation, MM was leaving India to go to London for a bit. I bumped into him on my way home from school. We were excited about graduating and were talking animatedly outside my school’s campus about our career goals and what we were planning to do. I was oblivious to the fact that people were staring at him and at me as well until some random person commented to me in Marathi, “Have all the Indian men died that a woman of your stature is talking to this African.” He actually used a derogatory word to describe my friend, which made my blood boil. This random comment was from a puny five foot tall man who looked barely literate. I was livid and almost wanted to smack this person across his face. MM was blissfully unaware, as he didn’t understand Marathi, and continued telling me about his future plans. I didn’t want him to know about this hateful comment so I did not show any emotion and continued talking to him. We planned to stay in touch but of course that never happened as life takes over. This was prior to the internet days when you really had to make an effort to stay in touch with people.

Years later, I read this article about racism in India as seen by an African-American PhD student staying in New Delhi for a bit. This article reminded me of this above incident. I remembered my classmate who was so young when he came to India. Recently thanks to Facebook and my alumni network, I renewed contacts with MM again. After living in the United States for the past ten years, I am more sensitive about a foreigner’s experience in my country. Therefore I asked MM to give me an honest opinion about India and if he enjoyed living in India. He said that he enjoyed his experience very much as all of his classmates were very supportive. He said that he always remembered me and three of my classmates as the ones who welcomed him on his first day. However outside this comfortable cocoon there were not many Indian people who were nice to him and it was based upon their negative perceptions about his continent and their people. As it is with all perceptions, it was far removed from reality. I suppose he decided to take that in his stride and enjoy his experience nevertheless. He has fond memories and considers India as his second home. He wants to return to India and travel to explore the country and to places that he couldn’t visit when he was living there. I suppose MM is a great person and also we were very protective of him so didn’t let him know the mean and hateful things some ignoramuses said about him.

I have to say that the author of the article is right when he concludes, “In most nations, the path of ending gender, race and class discrimination is unpaved. In India, this path is still rural and rocky as if this nation has not decided the road even worthy. It is a footpath that we are left to tread individually.”

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Of Immigrants and Religion

Yesterday K and I woke up early in the morning and stepped out to do our errands, which also included a doctor’s appointment. We recently changed our family doctor as I wanted a female doctor. Additionally, I wanted a doctor who was not only from India but trained in Mumbai. I was fortunate to find one, ahh the wonders of living in New Jersey! So being Ms. Chatty Kathy, I broke the ice by asking her which part of the City she belonged to. I was pleasantly surprised to know that not only did she grow up in the same neighborhood as K but that she was fluent in Marathi. Those of you who are bilingual will know how great it is to be able to go back and forth in several languages. K on the other hand is reserved and doesn’t like to indulge in small talk or chat with people, which also includes his doctor. So after she examined me, she examined K and spoke to him as if he were her long lost brother. Did I mention that they both belong to the same caste? K shot me a glare as I walked out of the examination room with a broad grin because he would be forced to now have a conversation with her which was not related to his check up. After we were done, we stopped by to eat breakfast at a South Indian place. By far I was enjoying my morning as I spoke my own language at the doctor's and was going for an Indian breakfast! Who says that I am homesick for Mumbai anymore????

K and I go there pretty often when we crave South Indian snacks and I know that the owner is a devout Hindu as the entire day they play CDs with Sanskrit chants set to Carnatic music. In fact NY Times has given rave reviews to this establishment but has commented that it is pretty orthodox that they don’t like people getting their own alcohol to the establishment. So I asked the guy if they were open for business. When he answered in the affirmative, I like a complete smart ass, said, “Today is your lucky day as you are starting your new day with me as your first customer. You know I am like Goddess Laxmi, I bring prosperity with my footsteps.” (To those who are not familiar with Indian culture, they say that women are to be venerated as they bring prosperity. Of course women’s rights in India are a totally different story!) I was only joking but those who are from India will know that there is superstition in India among Hindu merchants about “bohonie” (as they call in the pidgin Mumbai Hindi) or the first earnings for the day. Anyway the kitchen had barely opened but he did not want to turn us away as we were the first customers. While we were waiting to be served, he brought out the hottest soup that ever was. It felt great to soothe our throats in the cold weather.I started asking him questions about when he started this restaurant etc etc. He was first slightly embarrassed and said to me "I am not highly educated as you people are so you will probably judge me." I said, “No but I am curious so tell me.”

He was born in a small village near Udipi in Karnataka. People from Udipi, as a source of livelihood, started Udipi restaurants in Mumbai. This is the equivalent to fast food in the United States. Anyway so this person started earning a living for himself by cleaning tables at a Udipi restaurant in Mumbai as a young lad. He rose to wait on tables and then to manage restaurants. He saved enough money to come to the United States and when he came here 21 years ago, he decided to marry an American woman so he could live here legally by obtaining a green card. He then started his own restaurant and sponsored his extended family who have settled here and now own restaurants all over the country. He said that the one thing he misses the most in his life is the fact that he couldn’t obtain an education. He thought K and I would judge him but actually I don’t. He took whatever opportunity life gave him to make a better life for himself and his family. In many ways his devotion to religion makes sense, because perhaps he must have sought solace in the philosophy. I think the man came a long way from being an attendant at a roadside restaurant to owning one in the United States. Being Chatty Kathy I continued telling him stories about K and my road trip to remote villages in Karnataka and the amazing vegetarian food we had there years ago. So at the end of the breakfast, K asked for the check.

He said that he was not going to take money from us as he felt that I was indeed Laxmi. I was thoroughly embarrassed by this and K was infuriated with me. K told the guy that he had provided a service and we should pay for it while glaring at me the entire time. Of course we walked out by quietly leaving a 60% tip. Still I felt like I cheated him as I was being completely facetious when I said that I was like Laxmi. I was teasing him about his devotion. To be honest, I practice Hinduism as well. I know Sanskrit, chant prayers every morning and also follow certain Hindu customs which are such a part of my so called “good Hindu upbringing.” That being said, my beliefs are very private that no one except my family and closest friends know it. I tend to make fun, albeit subtly, of those who wear their beliefs on their sleeve. For example a couple of years ago, I was working with a very religious coworker, a holy roller if you will. He always spoke about his christian beliefs (almost proselytizing) and when we become friends I used to tease him. Once he asked me, “you should ask yourself what Jesus or whoever is your Hindu Jesus would like you to do?” We were working late and it was almost 10 PM. I was tired and wanted to go home. So I had replied cockily, “I am sure Jesus wants me to go home, have a drink and sleep instead of talking about religion and faith.” So making fun of holy rollers comes very easily to me. However I have to be honest, this person’s naiveté and strong beliefs made me feel awful about my own cynicism.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Loss and Relationships

As always I had called to speak to my parent’s on Friday night. It was Saturday morning in India. From the tone of my mother’s voice I realized that something was wrong.. She however was assuring me that everything was fine. I goaded her until she finally told me that she had terrible news for me. I asked if she, my father and my sisters were all right. She assured me that they were fine but that my cousin who was in his mid thirties had passed on. It was my father’s older brother’s child. In fact my father’s older brother himself passed on when this child was a toddler.

My father’s family is very close knit and it includes the extended family as well. I have vague memories of my uncle as I was very young when he passed on. I do remember though that he was extremely mild mannered and the most gentle soul I ever knew. Unfortunately he was not as smart as my father. My father and his two cousins were overachievers and therefore were very successful. My uncle on the other hand barely finished high school and didn’t graduate from college. Unfortunately he made a lot of wrong decisions, which I remember used to pain my father. It was especially so as my father didn’t have his parents then. My father always tried to help him but somehow no matter how much you try to help others, it is unsuccessful unless the recipient takes it upon themselves to improve their life. When my uncle passed on, I remember how my father had cried to mourn the loss of his loved one. He must have thought that he was alone but he wasn’t. I, being very nosy, had snooped and was shocked to see this display of raw emotion from a person who always internalizes his emotions. That incident is etched in my memory.

All through my life, I always felt affection for my uncle’s family. I always thought that this particular branch of my father’s family was cursed. After my uncle’s passing his widow didn’t keep in touch with us. My uncle was previously married but had lost his two wives and this was his third marriage. The children from his first two marriages kept in touch with us. They were much older than my sisters and I but we had established a strong bond with them. The children from this marriage however weren’t close to us at all. That being said, I feel really sorry for the mother who lost not only her husband but her child. It is tragic but none of her children survived. All of them went into adulthood and died one after the other. She has outlived all of them. I cannot but imagine what must be going through her mind!

The last time I saw this cousin was 20 years ago when my older sister got married. He was very artistic. He had very shyly showed me his painting and I was surprised to know that he was left handed like me! So there was a feeling of affection because we are of the same blood but no memory beyond this one. Yet I feel sad for the loss of life. I feel sad for the hardships that he endured in his short life. As per my Hindu beliefs I do realize that it is everyone’s karma. They say that when you are born, it is predetermined as to what your life is going to be. However I believe in the law of probability that nothing is set in stone. Life gives you options and you make those choices. The choices you make and the end results is what your destiny eventually turns out to be. I think fate cruelly took away this life even before he got to live it.

I would like to end this post by quoting two verses or couplets (called shlokas in Sanskrit ; the liturgical language of Hinduism and Buddhism) from the Bhagavad Gita related to death:

"The soul is never born nor dies at any time. Soul has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. Soul is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. Soul is not slain when the body is slain."

"As a human being puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nailing Thai

Before you accuse me of nailing some Thai guy…let me specify that I mean the elusive Thai cuisine. As I had blogged here and here, I absolutely love Thai food. To me, savoring Thai red curry is pure ecstasy. I had made several attempts to try this at home. Although the results were satisfactory, I was not pleased at all. I wanted to nail the exact flavor as you get in a good Thai restaurant. Every time I went for dinner, I would savor every morsel and try to discern individual flavors and make mental notes. Flavors rendered to a dish due to ingredients such as lemon grass are easy to discern. It is extremely difficult to discern other subtle flavors and ingredients that are not common to Indian or western cuisine. One should also have proper recipes along with some explanation regarding the procedure.

Last week my coworker who is a gourmand told me about her unsuccessful attempt at Thai food. She thought that as an Indian and more eastern than she, an American with very a Waspy background, would be able to give her pointers. I told her that although my preparations are edible, I haven’t been able to nail the exact flavor. She came to work with fresh Thai basil from her garden along with lemongrass and handed them to me. She said that they could be of use to me. I took the ingredients with me and decided that I would once again attempt Pad Thai and Thai red curry over the course of the weekend.

I informed K about my plans, who was pleased as a punch and refrigerated a bottle of Reisling for us. The recipe for Pad Thai calls for rice noodles. I cooked it the way I would cook egg noodles or pasta, BAD IDEA! Rice noodles disintegrate fast and less is more in this case. So the dish was a big flop. I aborted my plans to attempt the red curry and drowned my sorrows in the Riesling. K said that I was being too hard on myself and that I should accept that Thai is not my cup of Thai iced tea!

The one thing I will not accept is defeat. I mentioned that to K. K’s response was that if we have access to great Thai restaurants why on earth would I torture myself to try all these dishes from scratch? K will never be able to understand the artistic pleasure I derive from my culinary endeavors. Yesterday I was in a great mood and decided to try one more time Thai Red curry and Pad Thai for dinner. On my way from work I stopped by at the Chinese store to get all the authentic ingredients. I do realize that there is a difference between Thai and Chinese cuisine, but this store is a one-stop shop for all things Asian! I was trying to locate red chili peppers. I approached one of the store workers and asked him in English, “Please can you tell me where I can get chili peppers?” The guy kept on staring at me and then said, “No English.” I saw a Chinese shopper in the aisle and requested him, “Please can you ask him on my behalf?” The Chinese man looked at me and responded in Hindi, “Do you think he understands Hindi?” I looked at the man completely embarrassed, as I guessed that he was either from Nepal or the eastern states of India that border China! I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me! I blushed and apologized and ran to the cashier with the store worker running after me. He asked rapidly in Mandarin (I am guessing, could have been Cantonese) and the cashier said matter of factly to me “Go Aisle 3.” It sounded more like a football warcry, similar to "Go Blue!"...who knows perhaps she was preparing in anticipation of the football season. The Nepalese or Eastern Indian guy was grinning from ear to ear. I just hope I never see the guy again.

I came home and made myself a coconut mojito and started cooking. You know ingredients are important but what is far more important is the procedure. I have to thank my mother for this, because my previous attempts at making Thai curry I heated oil in the wok. My mom advised that I should cook in coconut milk without oil. This was an invaluable word of advice as that was the procedure which gave it the flavor I was looking for. Also typical to Indian food, I would grind lemongrass in my red paste. That made the paste very stringy. My mother advised that I should tie a bunch of lemongrass stalks with a string and insert it in the wok and let it sit during the course of cooking the thai red curry dish. Once the dish was cooked, to remove and discard the lemongrass before serving!

The preparation and cooking time was about two hours but the results were outstanding. I FINALLY NAILED IT!!!! I will share both the recipes tomorrow. Right now I have only the photographs that I took from my Blackberry to share.