Sunday, October 29, 2006

What the hell was she thinking?

The above picture and related article is from the rediff website.

Who the hell wears a leather jacket and boots in Mumbai's weather? I am not going to waste my time commenting on what she has worn. All I can say that the wearer needs to take a Style 101 course. If some designer/stylist (?) has dressed her then she needs to fire her/him immediately!

To those who are Bollywood virgins or are too embarassed to admit (like me, depending on whom I am talking!) that they watch Bollywood movies, this is Aishwarya Rai, beauty queen and an Indian actress.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Humanizing pets

The below pictures are from an email someone forwarded to me. It contained photographs of puppies with cheesy captions. I thought some of the pictures were cute so I have them here with my captions! By the way one of my pet peeves is when people treat their pets like humans; that to me is taking the term "domestic animals" a bit too far.

Mommy look what the stork brought...

How the hell does one use this?

Am I pretty or what?

White is "in" this fall!

Jesus! Why do I have to dress up for Halloween?

What? The pillow was too hard!

I can't wait!!!! I will be able to drink in three human years!!!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday lunch the Thai way

My husband and I love Thai food, actually I am wrong we just love food. Anyway we especially love their green and red curries. Savoring those curries is an orgasmic experience. My husband always laughs whenever I say this. It reminds him of Meg Ryan in the restaurant scene in “When Harry met Sally.” The famous scene where Sally (Meg Ryan) and Harry (Billy Crystal) are arguing over a man’s inability to recognize a fake orgasm and Sally claims that men cannot tell the difference. Ryan, who is fully clothed and eating her lunch, to prove her point demonstrates the skill as other diners watch. The scene ends with Meg Ryan casually returning to her meal as a nearby patron places her order: "I'll have what she's having."

Anyway we either go to Siam in Lambertville, NJ or Thai Village in Princeton, NJ. Siam is wonderful. The ambience is rather simple but the food and service is outstanding. It is a BYOB (bring your own bottle) place. The only problem is that it is rather small and is so popular that you have to make prior reservations on weekends. So if you crave for Thai food on weekends then you cannot satisfy your craving unless you are ready to wait for a few hours! We also go to Thai Village in Princeton. This restaurant has had mixed reviews but I simply LOVE their green and red curries. This place is unpretentious in a rather pretentious town like Princeton. Again it is BYOB, moderately priced and the ambience is very simple but the food is very good. My husband loves Pad Thai but according to him this place doesn’t compare with Siam. I beg to differ though!

Anyway so today we decided to go for a late lunch. The place was rather empty barring a few people. As soon as we entered we noticed an Indian couple, who noticed us as well and kept staring at us. Whenever people look at me, I usually nod at them. These guys obviously didn’t quite understand basic courtesy. The woman had a dour face and kept on staring while the guy (according to my husband) was checking me out from the corner of his eye. Note to self: Don’t nod at FOBs EVER (being a FOB myself I can say FOB without it ever being offensive to anyone). We settle down near a window and two tables behind us is a chatty group of three Americans, two guys and one woman. They were older probably in their late fifties and appeared to be the intellectual types. One of the men apparently loves the sound of his voice. He was talking nonstop the entire time. The Indian couple leaves in a little bit and there are just the five of us in that restaurant.

The three patrons were already eating when we walked in but I could hear them better than my husband, who was seated across the table. This man was holding a monologue and was talking about himself. We were forced to eavesdrop but got so bored. There is only so much one can listen to other people’s stories about themselves. Anyway very soon our order arrives. I must say that their service is very quick. By the way the guy was still talking loudly and we were both very annoyed. The red curry, as always, was excellent; I love the flavor that Thai basil renders to the dish. I again make that comment to my husband about how this is so orgasmic. My husband starts laughing again. He jokingly suggests that perhaps I should try the Meg Ryan scene so that the loud talker behind us shuts the hell up!

I am savoring the lovely aroma and I am completely engrossed in my food and therefore neither do I hear my husband nor the people behind us. After a few morsels the only sound I heard was my teeth chewing and felt my taste buds registering the various flavors. The annoyance was replaced by sheer bliss! I didn’t care about where this man went on vacation or what the hell he did in Africa. Oh by the way the guy reminded me of Peterman from Seinfeld and my expression was just like what Elaine had, whenever Peterman started narrating his escapades in exotic locations! To all my Maharashtrian readers, don't you think Seinfeld's humor is a lot like our own, the late Pu La Deshpande's humor?

Saturday, October 21, 2006


(The above photograph is of the rangoli pattern that I made for Diwali. I got regular earthern lamps and decorated them and then burned tea lights in them. Traditionally one uses earthern lamps with a cotton wick and oil)

Diwali or Deepawali is a major festival celebrated by Hindus all over the world. Holidays like Diwali makes one reminisce about the wonderful times spent with one's loved ones. This is especially true for all expatriate Indians. For the past few years I had had some professional commitments which made it impossible to celebrate Diwali. All we did was buy sweets and go out for dinner. Besides the past few years we have been visiting our families during Thanksgiving so it wasn’t really a big deal. This year however we won’t be going to India during Thanksgiving and I was determined to continue my family tradition. Also Diwali fell on a weekend which made it possible to have a traditional Diwali.

Today is Narak Chaturdashi. This day commemorates Krishna’s victory over the evil demon Narkasura. Chaturdashi means fourteen in Sanskrit. It is the fourteenth day since the full moon. In the evening people decorate their homes with rangoli, decorative lamps (called Kandeel) and oil lamps. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) visits your home. People also have Lakshmi Pooja (or prayer to Goddess Lakshmi) in their homes or in their offices/place of work. Tomorrow, i.e. October 22nd, when the moon completely wanes, would be the official Diwali day! Another important day is the day after Diwali, which is "Diwalicha Padva" in Marathi or "Balipratipada" in Sanskrit, which is the beginning of a New year and on this day married couples celebrate their love for each other. The festival ends with Bhau beej, where women celebrate their love for their brothers.

Traditionally in Maharashtra during Diwali, people wake up at the crack of dawn and take a ceremonial oil bath which is massaging with scented oil and using an herbal concoction called “utane” in lieu of soap. This is made of sandalwood, camphor, rose, orange skin, turmeric etc. There was one custom that we followed as children on Narak Chaturdashi, which was to break this tiny melon like fruit/vegetable which is called “kareetee” in Marathi (I think). This fruit symbolized Narkasura.

For me, diwali meant the early morning bath, wearing new clothes, and eating the various goodies that my mother painstakingly made with help from her two maids (whom she had trained so well). The lovely rangoli patterns that we would draw with our mother and of course not to mention the fire crackers. My mother is very artistic and would make Diwali cards at home. My older sister and I would help her in that as well (my younger sister cannot draw to save her life). My father, like all fathers, would enthusiastically buy different types of firecrackers for us. Of course we didn’t have a brother and were so girlish that we were happy firing delicate pretty crackers as opposed to the loud resounding firecrackers that are so popular in India! Another important day for us was Bhaubeej. Since we did not have a brother all my cousins (from my father's side) would come to our home for Diwali without fail! We would have a major bhaubeej luncheon party at home. My cousins would then fire the loud resounding crackers, which we girls were too scared to fire! We also got teased a lot by our cousins, which seemed annoying then but brings back fond memories now. We never missed having a brother because even today I know that my cousins will always be there for us! My mother's three brothers would come to visit us in the evening and my father would go and visit his two sisters in the evening.

By the way there is nothing like an herbal concoction for your skin. "Utane" exfoliates and moisturizes as well and has this lovely mild fragrance. This is a kind of product Bath and Body works can only dream of carrying in their store!

Anyway this evening, we went to the Hindu temple for the Lakshmi Pooja. It was really nice to see a lot of people dressed up for the festival. We came home and had a wonderful vegetarian dinner with some nice White Zinfandel. I must add that Riesling, Vouvray and Zinfandel's are my three favorite wines with Indian food. These wines complement the spicy flavors of our food really well. Of course I am not an oenophile or a person who has pretentions about understanding wines but this is my humble opinion!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Reminiscing the days left behind

I read this blog regularly and yesterday's post mentioned about using the friday word "left behind." Therefore here is my post using the word left behind.

It is raining since morning. The leaves are changing color and the weather is rather nice, neither too cold nor hot and humid. I am craving for some chai, vada pav and kanda bhaji (onion fritters. Vada pav and kanda bhaji are popular snacks in Mumbai). I want a nice hot chai with masala and ginger.

Whenever it rains I always reminisce about Bombay and my student days (it wasn't called Mumbai then). Whenever there was a huge monsoon downpour, classes would be suspended. The train service used to be super-slow but regardless my friends and I would still go to college! Not because we were interested in studying…NO! Instead we went to college because we wanted to just hang out with our friends. Therefore, my friends and I would take the train at our usual time, around 7AM, which would reach Victoria Terminus (V.T.) Station (now Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (C.S.T.) Station) around 9AM (thanks to the torrential downpour). We would then go to the library, where we could leave our bags with the attendants. Of course you had to be reading or studying in the library to leave your bags as these attendants had a major attitude! Therefore we would then hang out for about fifteen minutes pretending to study but actually waiting to see who braved the monsoon downpour to come to school. Then one by one the group would quietly slip out. We thought we were being so slick but I am sure the attendants knew about this all the while and just indulged in us! We would walk all the way over to Girgaum Chowpatty, which is quite a walk from V.T. (I still prefer to call it V.T. as opposed to C.S.T. as the British built Bombay and we have to accept our colonial history and not be in denial of it! In addition, Pratapgad was not renamed Victoria Fort by the Brits so shut up Shiv Sena).

Anyway there is nothing like watching the Arabian Sea in the monsoon with the waves surging passionately towards the shore, lashing at the rocks. We would sit there for hours enjoying life's simple pleasures. Over chai and pav bhaji from Sukh Sagar, we would discuss architecture, politics, our dreams, and tease each other. There was no point taking umbrellas during such downpours. We would be completely drenched in the rain but it was so worth it!

This morning I was reminiscing those days of innocence, hope, simple uncomplicated friendships that I have left behind. I have moved on geographically, intellectually and have matured in my tastes yet the green chai latte that I am having right now does not quite cut it. I do miss the flavor and taste of the decocted chai from the local chaiwalla!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Project Runway Finale!

L to R: Jeffrey, Uli, Laura and Michael

As I had blogged earlier, I hate reality TV but love Project Runway. Last night was the finale and typical of reality TV drama they hinted that Jeffrey…oh my God…. might have outsourced his garments. Laura, whose brain does not have a mental edit option, blurted it out on last week’s episode. So last week they ended the episode on that note! Yawn…. Laura will be proved wrong and Jeffrey will be the hero who wins the competition. Guess what? That is exactly what happened.

So now moving on to the substance of the show: The 12-piece collection designed by the final four.

Michael: I really wanted him to win because I loved his work and personality. His collection however was such an anti-climax from the show! Some of his dresses were too sexy almost bordering on trashy! Maybe he was trying to make a bold statement, who knows. One could be bold but yet have taste!

Uli: She got rid of her typical “hotz veather” inspiration visible throughout the competition and despite staying true to her tropical theme did a collection sans prints and with lovely subdued colors. Being a woman she understands women completely! Of course her collection did not have a range. She wore pants but did not design a single pair of pants!

Laura: Very elegant clothes! Again all her collection was in black and there was no range, as all her garments were evening wear. Elegant but so predictable, there wasn't a surprise element, which is not good for a competition. But hey she got a chance to show her clothes at Bryant Park! I loved her elegant yet kid friendly apartment and the fact that she is not the typical New York nouveau rich biyatch. I do love her candor!

Jeffrey: I am sorry but I have a soft corner for this guy. I agree that he is rude, obnoxious but perhaps that is just a defense mechanism. We saw his soft side when he was with his kid. He, like a phoenix, has risen from ashes to establish a successful business in LA. His collection was very creative, not my aesthetic personally, but must give credit for his range. He deserved to win!

This season is over and I can go into Reality TV hibernation until the next season. Those of you who are project runway virgins here is the official website and I found another catty blog this morning which makes fun of the designers etc.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How could someone be so ignorant?

When I was in graduate school a few of my classmates would organize happy hour. On a nice sunny day, which were far and few in between, we would go to an outdoor cafe, which was famous for its Sangria. Out of all the international students, I was the only one who would join the group. Anyway most of my classmates were very cosmopolitan but there were some people who were clueless about anything outside their own familiar surroundings and I have one such incident that I must share with you.

One nice sunny evening a few of us from our program were hanging out at this cafe. One of my classmates, who was originally from upstate New York, came up to me and asked, “So Sai you don’t celebrate Christmas, do you?” I said, “Well I do, but just the secular part of Christmas.” Then he asks, “ So what are you, a Muslim?” I said, “No, my parents and hence I am a Hindu.” He asked me with a confused look, “What is that? Some form of Islam.” I choked on my Sangria and started laughing. I told him, “Are you serious, you don't know?" He said "No, I am from upstate NY so I don’t really know too many people who aren’t white."

I wasn't being condescending but I just couldn't resist asking him,"How can you be so complacently ignorant? Is ignorance a statement that you are trying to make?"

He might have grown up in a homogenous environment but he spent six years in this university town doing his undergraduate as well as graduate studies! I was nonplussed by the fact that he did not even care! I am not sitting on a high horse judging this guy because I think it is OK for people to not know about other cultures. But you can always ask questions before putting your foot in your mouth. Wouldn't one want to open their mind and try to learn about other people and their culture?

That made me think that this guy, despite living in such a liberal, cosmopolitan and a very intellectual environment could be so complacent in his ignorance. What can be said about an average Joe?

On the other hand maybe he was just making a very profound statement. Afterall we are same in the eyes of God and different religions are means to reach that one end. Maybe he was espousing the traditional Indian belief of "Sarva Dharma Samabhav" (everyone is created equal) and I just did not get it!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Retired life: leisure or loneliness?

Last evening my husband and I went to the temple. We were listening to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s CD and my husband was totally engrossed in the rendition of the raag “Yaman Kalyan” and was singing along with the maestro. Anyway he pulled into the parking space, turned off the ignition and consequently the CD was off but not my husband. Blissfully unaware of his surroundings, he continued singing. From the side view mirror I saw an elderly couple holding hands walking up to their car, an old Cadillac. Their car was parked to our right, therefore to my side. The wife was wearing a saree while the husband was wearing a tweed jacket. He walked her to the car and opened the door for her. I told my husband, “Oh look how chivalrous of that man to open the door for his wife. That is so old school. They don’t make men like that anymore.” Of course my husband was still negotiating the “swara,” so was oblivious to me, but as soon as we both stepped out, he suddenly realized his surroundings and stopped singing. The gentleman looked at him and said, “You have such a beautiful voice.” My husband, basically a very shy guy, was totally embarrassed and replied, “I wasn’t singing.” Since I love embarrassing him I said, “Sure you were” and then I looked at the gentleman and said, “Yes he was singing and thanks a lot for your compliment. I agree, he does have a lovely voice.”

So he laughed and introduced himself. He asked my husband, “So are you a Maharashtrian?” My husband just smiled at him and didn’t answer. He asked my hubby his last name. So my husband told him what it is. Those who are from Maharashtra (this might be true for the rest of India as well) would know that last names are typical to one's caste. My husband’s last name however is not a typical last name found in his caste. Anyway this gentleman said,” Oh wow so are you from the XYZ community” My husband said, “Well I really don’t understand castes but I don’t think so.”

My husband and I were brought up by our respective parents in a very cosmopolitan environment, so we do not care about provincial issues like caste, religion etc. Incidentally my parents and hence I, do belong to the XYZ community, therefore I smiled and told the guy, “If you are looking for someone from that community, then look no further” and extended my hand to shake his. He started laughing and said, “Well actually I belong to XYZ community as well so I felt a sense of kindredship when I heard your husband’s last name.” So I laughed and told him what my husband's caste was. Incidentally his wife belonged to the same caste as my husband. So he called out his wife's name and she stepped out of the car to talk to us. They were quite excited to meet us. I must add that in their generation it was rather uncommon to marry outside one's own caste. We chatted for quite a bit with them and then they left.

My husband asked me later, “Since when did you start caring about people being of your caste or Maharashtrian for that matter?” I told my husband that personally I don't care at all but the couple belonged to a different generation. They were in their seventies. They moved here, to the United States in the fifties. They were here at the time when there wasn’t any technological development; therefore they might not have been able to speak to their parents that regularly. They might not even have visited their families that often. Who knows perhaps we might have reminded them of themselves years ago. Since we spoke their language and were from their respective castes, they might have felt some kinship towards us.

The lady invited me to her home and said in Marathi, “Come home sometime, I will make “poli-bhaji” (typical Maharashtrian fare of bread and vegetables) for you.” This sentence spoke volumes of loneliness to me. They were retired. They might not have too many friends living near them. People move a lot in the United States. It is also said that the friendships established in our youth last the longest. Also as one gets older, one reverts to one's childhood or anything that is reminiscent of one's childhood. Language is one of them. Perhaps their kids might be very busy to visit them that often so they must be lonely. I think about my parents in India and realize that they are living in familiar surroundings. One does not face this kind of loneliness in India as there is a support system over there. As it is this country is hostile to the elderly, who aren’t considered productive and therefore not useful (this is a generalization and not everyone thinks like that but I could go on about issues faced by senior citizens). I can imagine what it must be for someone who did not grow up here! I don’t think their kids must be callous at all, but they just must be very busy with their own families and careers. It is not their fault; it's just the way things are that it cannot be helped!

Maybe I should take up her invitation to have “poli bhaji” sometime. Who knows when I am old and lonely I might want that too.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bollywood Friday

I saw Dil Chahata Hai (2001) last evening. I had gone to see it in 2001, when the Indian Students Association at my university had screened the film for all the desi students. It was held in one of the large lecture halls in the Engineering school. At that time I was a graduate student and was far more interested in writing my paper than any Bollywood movie, so half-way through the movie I was completely overcome by stress and the prospect that I might not get an A, which at that time seemed far important than some stupid movie! I did not sit through the movie and I could not remember anything about it. Anyway so I saw it again last night and loved it.

I loved the pace of the movie, subtle emoting and a very contemporary story. These guys could be your buddies from school. Saif and Akshay held their own opposite Aamir Khan, who from what I hear is apparently a very selfish actor. Farhan Akhtar has maintained the tempo and you are hooked on to how the story unfolds throughout the movie. Normally I hate song sequences but in this case, not once did I not want to sit through the songs. I enjoyed the movie thoroughly.

Farhan Akhtar will be doing a remake of “Don” with Shah Rukh Khan. I have absolutely no doubt that his remake would hold its own against the original, which was such a super-hit film. From the description in Wikipedia, ( it appears that he will be adapting the movie to the contemporary times.

My generation has grown up with Amitabh Bachchan’s films. I guess Farhan’s film would be our generation's homage to the legend. I do have serious doubts though about SRK holding his own against his predecessor, the Big B. Those comparisons would be inevitable and I feel that it would be an uphill task for the King of Hamming to literally fill the big boots of the Big B. Perhaps Aamir or Abhishek could have been a more appropriate choice, but one never knows.

It is scheduled to be released during Diwali, which is next week. I can’t wait to see it or perhaps I should wait and see what the reviews are like first. :-D

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Shish Taouk and Saffron Rice

The above photo was taken by my husband to commemorate my occassional spurts of culinary enthusiasm :-D

There was this nice Mediterranean/middle eastern restaurant near my town. This was owned and run by an Egyptian and had the most delectable fare! Our discovery of this restaurant was serendipitous as it was in a nondescript location. We got hooked on to their yummy pita breads, hummus, and kabobs and not to mention their heavenly baklava. It was kind of pricey, given the location and ambience but perhaps this might be due to the fact that NY Times raved about it.

They had an open kitchen and I loved to watch them cook. I had befriended the hostess who was Egyptian as well. She thought we were Pakistani and always called my husband “Khalid.” We never corrected her or clarified to her that we weren’t Pakistani or even Muslim for that matter. In fact last year for Ramadan she told me that she had biryani, tandoori chicken and kabobs for Iftar and that I could order if I wanted since it would be too much for a working woman to cook at home. I told her that we don’t fast which was half-truth, as I never disclosed the reason why. Anyway a few months ago the owner told me that he was planning to return to Egypt and that he was selling the place to some other person. He said that the restaurant would still be middle-eastern though. We checked it out under the new management and were quite disappointed. So I decided to try out Shish Taouk at home.

Shish Taouk,” I think means “skewered chicken pieces cooked over charcoal.” I had got the recipe from a Lebanese classmate. I love collecting recipes but most of the time I am too lazy to try anything out. Anyway it is served with rice, garlic paste and salad. The restaurant used to offer a platter with pita bread and hummus. I was quite pleased with the result and hence sharing this recipe on my blog.

Shish Taouk

2 pounds of chicken (boneless, skinless breast meat)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, ground into a paste
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder (I lightly roasted the cumin desi-style but it is not required)
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (recipe calls for cayenne pepper but who the hell cares)

Mix oil, garlic, lemon juice, and spices in a large bowl. Cut chicken into cubes, then add to the bowl, stirring to coat the chicken with marinade. Marinate it at least for 3 hours.
Put chicken onto skewers. Grill over hot charcoal for 10 - 15 minutes OR broil in the oven, turning frequently and basting with marinade. I added tomatoes and capsicum to the skewer as well.

Serves 4.

This was served with Saffron rice and garlic paste, recipe as given below.

Saffron Rice

2 cups Basmati rice, pinch of saffron, 1 ½ cups of water, ½ cup pine nuts and salt to taste. The recipe calls for butter but I didn’t add it, yet it turned out well.

Garlic Paste

1 cup whole blanched almonds

3 tbsp white bread crumbs

4 large garlic cloves crushed

2 tsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tbsp hot water

Grind the almonds, add the bread crumbs, crushed garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper to it. Mix it very well in a food processor OR a blender. Very slowly add the olive oil to make it homogenous. Then add the water and blend it in. Refrigerate it for at least two hours before serving.


Iceburg lettuce and julienned carrots; dressed with lemon juice, salt and pepper for that kick!


Good night....sleep tight....don't let the bed bugs bite

One evening, this past may, my husband and I had gone biking on the trails. It was a warm day and I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless top. We returned home around sunset. I had a crab salad for dinner. The next morning I woke up with rash on my left arm. I was not sure if it was due to poison ivy or the crab salad. Anyway I tried home remedies but to no avail. The rash started spreading to my right arm, left leg, neck and even had to my face.

I panicked and went to the doctor, who was clueless as to what it was. He prescribed some ointment which despite prescription benefits cost me around 10 dollars. I used the tube within a week and I went to get a refill, I was told that I was back too soon and that I had to wait for another two weeks. When I asked him what the cost was sans prescription the pharmacist said it is 250 dollars. Whoa.....WTF....hearing that caused me to break into cold sweat. There was no generic alternative available as this medicine was imported from Germany (I think). Frustrated I went home and tried an Ayurvedic ointment, "Kailas Jeevan," which gave me some relief. More power to Kailas Jeevan! I also found out that whenever I wore long sleeves, the rash would subside. Therefore in summer I wore a long sleeve tunic, pajamas, and went to bed every night hoping for the best (pun unintended).

Anyway a few days later, my husband broke into a rash as well. Love is….breaking into rash together! One night he woke up scratching and switched on the bedside lamp to find an insect crawling on the bed. He caught hold of it and squashed it. We both did not know what it was but suspected that it might be a bed bug. Of course we had no clue as to how a bed bug looks; therefore did a google search and VOILA…. bed bug it was! We called the pest control guys immediately the next morning.

After that, were the nightmarish four months of my life! We could not sleep on our bed anymore. Therefore, we started sleeping in the living room. Bad idea! Those bugs spread from the bedroom to the living room!! They were in our closet…. they were everywhere…they were the bane of our lives. We threw our wooden bed frame and replaced it with a metal one. We got rid of a lot of stuff from our home. We packed our clothes in black trash bags and left them out in the sun, on our patio. We cleared off our closet, vacuumed our suitcases, and put everything out in the sun! Our place was a BIG MESS. Both of us are so particular about things being in its place and overall neatness that it was horrible living like this. We felt like refugees living in shelters. We had become so paranoid that we saw bugs everywhere!!!

We had the first treatment in early-May. The pest control guys did not give us proper directions as to what we had to do post treatment. We had locked the bedroom and had confined ourselves to the living room, kitchen and of course the bathroom! It was such a nightmare! Two weeks later we saw some bugs crawling in the living room. We called the pest control guys to inform them about this. They told us that this was natural and that the first month the treatment would be bi-weekly and then it was monthly, depending on the extent of infestation. We had our last treatment in mid-July and an inspection in August.

It took us almost two months to put everything back in order since then. We had to get rid of a lot of stuff. The funny thing is that according to the pest control people, we did not have a major infestation or something that is considered a serious infestation! I shudder to think what it might have been, had it been a major infestation. Another mystery is where the hell did those bed bugs come from in the first place! Apparently bed bugs have resurged in the United States in the recent years.

As I write this blog we have been bug-free for more than two months! My husband still keeps a flashlight on the nightstand. This morning around 5AM, I woke up to find my husband with his flashlight investigating the picture frames above the headboard and the mattress for bugs. I could not stop laughing because I realized that the bed bugs have totally encompassed our lives since the past five months. So even if my skin itches due to dryness…we get paranoid suspecting there might be bugs!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ban on Child Labor

I was reading this article on the BBC news website,, regarding the ban on Child Labor starting on October 10, which is today.

I have mixed feelings about this law, as on philosophical and intellectual level, I do believe that children are our future and that they should not grow up being deprived of their childhood. I do not however believe that just passing laws would be an effective measure. People for the most part break laws. In an overpopulated country like ours, human lives have no value, not unless you are somebody! This is the stark reality. Just passing laws without any solutions do not make sense. People will flout the laws. Unless social welfare programs are implemented to rehabilitate children laws like these are futile! If you see the states that have maximum child labor are the poorer states in our country. Dire poverty and lack of education forces these people to send their children to work. We need remedies to go to the root of the issue not just some superficial laws that can be broken.

In India, as in any democracy, we do have laws protecting the rights of our citizens but a few of them are not implemented. There is no simple explanation for that. I would like to add though that given the feudal mindset, many are not even aware of their fundamental rights! Case in example is that selective abortion or abortion of female fetuses is a crime in India. However this article,, talks about female infanticide in India. This is so barbaric and shameful. Even today in India there is such a high premium for a male child. This is a culture that worships Shakti or the female aspect of divinity and yet kills female fetuses. Ironic, is it not?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Which City do I belong to?

Someone emailed this link to me ( and I found most of the quizzes rather lame. I love cities and therefore took this one and here are my results.

You Belong in Paris

Stylish and a little sassy, you were meant for Paris.

The art, the fashion, the wine, the men!

Whether you're enjoying the cafe life or a beautiful park...

You'll love living in the most chic place on earth.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pennsylvania Countryside

We went to Lancaster County Pennsylvania, which is famous for their Amish population. The website is

These are few photographs from the different Amish farms as well the scenic countryside on our route. Notice the horse-carriage parked on the side of the street near an Amish farm.

My husband was a little nervous because we were the only non-whites in a homogenous white population. Nevertheless people were very polite and a lot of them waved at us....totally unlike New Jersey!

Covered Bridges

As mentioned in the earlier post, we spent the day at Lancaster County. This county is also famous for its covered bridges. You can get more information at

Notice in the third photo there is a Amish horse carriage sharing the road with cars.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Unwarranted Attention

I was reading this post on Sepia mutiny website One of the bloggers has posted one of her unpleasant experiences as a woman living in Washington DC. Every woman would identify with her and would commiserate with her.

I have lived and worked in Mumbai where it is kind of common for a woman to be at a receiving end of all kinds of catcalls and misogynist slurs. Most of the time it is the petty rickshaw drivers and quite a number of times there are the so called “respectable white-collared” older men. I can most certainly pinpoint to what part of India most of them come from but I do not want to use this forum for stereotyping at all! Those of you who are reading this blog and are familiar with Mumbai will know what I am talking about.

I survived in that city with the most lethal weapon, a sharp brass kada (which is like a bangle). It worked wonders on any gropers or perverts who would try to come too close to me. I think these perverts have a secret clique where they probably warn each other about women who hit back. Because after a while these incidents stopped or rather there might have been the few perverts who commuted around the same time as me and were at a receiving end from me! From my experience I have realized that one has to be really tough no matter how scared one might feel. We all have Durga in us and that avatar does come out when provoked! This of course worked in Mumbai, where this concept of respecting your “maa” (mother) and “behen” (sister) is still prevalent thankfully.

I also lived by myself in the United States in a university town (considered a safe town). Nevertheless the downtown area had a few homeless people who would pass some disgusting comments. I have had similar experiences in New York as well. I prefer to ignore than bandy words with such scum bags. That they are living such pathetic lives is revenge, good enough for me! I live in the burbs but have had my share of unwanted comments from men. Part of my job requires dealing with the public, and if someone as much as dares to make unwanted comments, I always have the iciest tone and very scathing comebacks, without losing eye contact. It always shames them into an apology!

Regarding the so-called “respectable gentlemen,” from experience, I do know that being assertive is a first step towards standing up to these jerks. These are cowards who do not have any respect for women and do look for victims who can be subjugated. A stern look with an assertive body language works when dealing with such people. But with drunken jerks or frat boys, just walking fast and completely ignoring them is the best tactic. Also one should be aware of one’s surroundings!

I have attached this website which has tips for women to stay safe. The URL is I would never want to be scared, which means that these cowards win because they have managed to subjugate us! I would, however, recommend exercising prudence and basically have a common sense of not venturing out alone in unfamiliar neighborhoods late in the evening, not talking on the cell phone or giving any signs that smacks of vulnerability. Also if possible do let your friends or anyone else know where you might be. Given the emotional scars and trauma that such incidents inflict, CAUTION is the best remedy!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Project Runway on Bravo

I am not a fan of reality TV but Bravo's Project Runway is an exception. Last night’s episode was a reunion with all the 14 or was it 16 designers. I love the final four and among them Laura and Michael are my two favorites. Michael because he has inherent talent and all his clothes were amazing! My favorite, however, was the one he designed for the black and white cocktail dress challenge. He thought outside the box and was the only one who had designed a white cocktail dress. Laura is an architect, and I identify with her design sensibilities and her personality in many ways. I love her outspoken and opinionated demeanor. Last night, I loved the way she tactfully defended Jeffrey regarding the infamous Darlene episode.

Jeffrey…. has had too much flak from the others regarding the Darlene (Angela's mom) episode. Agreed that he over reacted and was rude…. but most artists are emotionally high strung and this is exacerbated when you work in a high-stress atmosphere with little or no sleep. No one mentioned the fact that Darlene was an extremely difficult person to work with (of course most clients are and the client is always right). This however was a competition and what Darlene did was very sneaky. I would be mad too if my client were to tell my boss that she did not like my design in my absence, without giving me proper information and being uncooperative. Of course being a real world situation, I definitely would not have the same choice of words and tone like Jeffrey. Then again we are different individuals under different cirumstances. In addition, her comments about his tattoos and general appearance were in bad taste. I really was so annoyed when she cried. Give me a break! Besides Angela irritated me to no end, give it a rest sister! Go back to your organic farm and design those stupid bubble skirts with doilies. I am not a Jeffrey fan but I felt bad for him in that episode!

I loved the fact how Angela was booted out after going to Paris and then called back for the cocktail dress challenge and booted out again! I took perverse pleasure when that happened to Angela…I know…I know…bad Karma! Well her design for the cocktail dress would be an excellent take on a french maid's uniform for a Halloween Party. I loved Kayne…colorful Kayne. Vincent scared the hell out of me! I had a classmate who was like that. Later we found out that he was under medication for depression. Anyway I enjoy that show and love Tim Gunn. Auf Wiedersehen until my next post!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Long distance relationships

One of my friends got this wonderful opportunity on the West Coast, which basically meant leaving her life here on the East coast; consisting of her parents, current job and fiancé and moving across the continent. She was expressing to me her concerns about long-distance relationships and the fact that her fiancé was not too excited about this prospect. She was weighing the pros and cons of the situation and wanted my advice regarding the matter. Had she to make a choice, she wondered, what should she choose? So of course I am the agony aunt who would rather be a sounding board than play a role in her decision-making. Although I have my own views and experiences, I have decided to keep mum!

My take is that long distance relationships are extremely delicate and difficult but not impossible. One need not sacrifice their personal life to advance their career. One needs a supportive significant other, who is mature enough to realize that it is equally important for the other person to realize their dreams. I speak from experience as I have had a long-distance relationship myself. My husband was in India while I was pursuing my graduate studies in the United States. It was a very difficult situation, given the time difference and the geographical barrier.

Nevertheless, the things that really kept me going were his trust, commitment, love and faith! All was not hunky-dory; there were times when we faced a huge communication gap. This happened despite the fact that we used to email each other three-to four times a day and chat online all the time. I used to hang out in the library in between or after classes, writing my papers, doing my research while chatting online with my spouse. This was basically to keep each other abreast of the daily happenings in our lives.

Of course there were moments like during the Christmas holidays in my first year, unused to the severity of winter and general loneliness, when I wanted to pack my bags and return home or a feeling of immense sadness whenever we hung up after speaking on the phone. Anyway what helped us the most was communication and more communication, even disagreeing and arguing over the telephone like one would face-to-face. The conclusion was that instead of getting divorced, as predicted by a lot of "well wishers," we ended up respecting and valuing each other more. When you are away from your loved ones, you realize how much he/she means to you and how empty your life is without them! Hence both of you make an extra effort and work really hard to nurture and strengthen the relationship. One should follow one's dreams and if the other person truly loves you, he/she will let you go. If one chooses to forego their dreams, just to please the other person, there is a possibility that one might regret it later.

In my friend’s case if she chooses to move to the west coast, it will still be the same continent, same country, a three-hour time difference and just a seven hour plane ride. I am comparing this with my situation; across two continents, different countries, ten and a half hours time difference and a 22-hour plane ride! Before marriage if she has had to give up on her dreams then post-marriage she would have to be ready to sacrifice a lot of things just to please him! What is left of her life and individuality? Perhaps this separation would prove to be a good time for her to step back and see if this person is right for her. Perhaps she will realize that he is the one and the job isn’t worth it and decide to move back here. Perhaps she will realize that he is not worth it at all and stay on there. One would never know this until one leaves familiar surroundings and takes that risk. She has to weigh both the options and decide what path she wants to take. As long as she is true to herself she will not regret her decision later.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Marathon Cooking Session

These days my cooking is dependant on my mood rather than the fact that I must make something as there is nothing to eat at home! The entire summer we have been surviving mostly on salads, thankfully none of the recipes included Spinach. By the way Spinach is safe to eat again ( Of course I would have occasional spurts of enthusiasm. Nevertheless, those were few and far in between.

Yesterday was one of those rare moments of culinary inspiration. After two months of strict vegetarianism, I was craving meat. I got some lamb shank and decided to cook it the Moghlai way but improvise it a little to give my own personal touch. I also made kadhai chicken and paneer with peas. I made the garam masala myself at home (I don't like the readymade masalas). I am sharing the lamb recipe with you.

Lamb with Gravy

Garam Masala:
2 tsp of black pepper
2 tsp of Cinnamon
1 tsp of Cloves
1 ½ tsp of Brown Cardamom (4-5)
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp Bay leaves (crushed)
Mix the above ingredients, roast them lightly with a drop of oil, and after they cool, grind to make a fine powder.

Lamb Marinade:
2 lbs Lamb diced in cubes
3-4 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tsp red chilli powder (depending on your taste and tolerance to spice)
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp of the above garam masala
Juice of one lemon
Salt to taste
Mix them and leave refrigerated for at least an hour. Normally I pressure-cook the meat (two whistles) but this time I used the soup-pot. Soup-pot is ideal as you can cook on low heat with very little oil and the flavors blend in beautifully.

Ingredients for the gravy:
3-4 tsp Oil
One pinch of asafetida (an amazing digestive)
5-6 medium-sized red onions, ground to a paste.
1-inch ginger & 5-6 garlic cloves: Either Julienne or grind into a paste in the grinder.
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chilli powder

2 tsp mint chutney
1-cup low fat yogurt
5-6 almonds, ground to a paste
Mix the mint chutney, yogurt and the almond paste.

½ cup raisin & a pinch of saffron.

Heat the oil in a pot and add a pinch of asafoetida. Add the onions and sauté them until it becomes translucent. Add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté very well until it becomes brown in color. Add one tsp of red chilli powder, 2 tsp of garam masala and keep on sautéing. Add the yogurt, chutney and almond mixture and mix it well. Add salt to taste. Then add marinated lamb and raisins.

If you have already pressure-cooked the lamb (half-cooked with two cooker whistles) then it will take around forty minutes to cook the entire dish.

If you will be using a soup-pot then, put it on medium-high for about half hour to forty-five minutes and then reduce the heat. I have an electric stove therefore it took around an hour and a half to cook the meat. The meat cooks really well without tenderizer and also requires very little oil. Garnish with a little saffron and fresh cilantro leaves. This goes very well with Basmati rice or roti. You could have tomato and onion salad to the side. Bon Appetit!

One of my American friends who is an excellent cook and with whom I swap recipes all the time, suggested that next time I should use a crock-pot. I was thinking to myself that it would make a nice Birbal ki Khichadi....he he he.