Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year to youzz

K’s friend has invited us over for New Year and this time I have no excuse of portfolio etc. and will have to go! Therefore this evening K and I went to get some wine for the party. I thought that the store might be closed for New Years and I don't want to bring in 2007 in sobriety. Since my mother doesn't read my blog it is all right for me to declare that there is some possibility that I might be drunk on Sunday. To my older sister who reads my blog regularly….calm down…. I won’t be drinking all the wine by myself. As you very well know sister, I cannot drink more than two glasses so as your son says “Just relax Ma!” Besides I will need alcohol to survive the other guests that will be invited (I am only kidding)! Since K and I never drink and drive, we might be staying overnight at our friend's place.

Anyway at the store we go to pay with my wine selection. The woman at the counter had a bad haircut….mullet gone wrong! Anyway she says “Are you all set sweetie?” I said “Yes” and then she said “Youzz twos have a wonderful new year.” I reply, “Wez twos will certainly have a swell new year…..wishing youzz a great new year as well.” I suddenly felt a sharp pain….on my arm…..and I look at K, who is glaring at me. I tell him in Marathi that since I bruise easily I could accuse him of domestic abuse. He replies “If that lady were to attack you… would take weeks to clear off your black eye. People would still look at me accusingly.” Anyway since it was mullet gone covered her ears and probably she didn’t understand no foreigner’s accent….therefore all is well that ends well. I don’t have no black eye!

Wishing you all a wonderful new year! I hope you make resolutions tomorrow that will be broken on January 1st....of next year you silly people! In case you care or want to know 2006 was a rather difficult year for K and me but we made it through! We don’t know what 2007 holds for us but we don’t really care! New Year….bah humbug.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Second Childhood

This is a family photograph taken years ago on vacation. I am the dork in the center with the big hair. Here's a family that doesn't smile for the camera! We don't say "cheese," just eat it!

As years pass by I have started to realize that roles get reversed and children become parents to their parents. I don’t think parents like it because they want to be your providers but things and equations change. I am a second child and I have always been very close to my father. I am very attached to both my parents and my sisters. Sometimes I have to remind myself that my life is with K!

Yesterday at work I get an SMS from my sister, who lives in Bombay, to check my email. So I check my yahoo account to read that she wants me to scold my father for doing something rather childish and irresponsible. Of course it wasn’t anything serious but you know how daughters can be. She also said that she cannot do it but since I can get away with a lot of things with him, why don’t I call him up and scold him? My older sister has been very close to my mother compared to me and of course I have been closer to my father compared to the other two. So of course I go home for lunch and call my sister up to ask what actually happened. She tells me and it amuses me to no end as it is indeed true that old age is nothing but second childhood!

So I call my parents up and my father fortunately picks up the phone. I start talking to him and instead of scolding him….start crying and tell him how hurt I am that he doesn’t take care of his health. I told him that I constantly worry about his and mother’s wellbeing and this kind of irresponsible behavior is not helping me at all. He actually apologized to me and said, “Sai bai (his nickname; bai means woman in Marathi and is added to a woman’s name as a form of respect and also is a term of endearment) I am sorry but I promise you that I will be more responsible” etc. I hung up and called my sister and said that all is well! She started laughing when I told her what I did. I also realized that I am turning into my mother. Like her I have turned emotional blackmailing into an art form.

I have realized since the time I was a toddler that I could melt his heart with my tears….and it works every time! It worked with Sister Marcia in the kindergarten class as blogged here and it works now as well. This time however I felt very guilty about doing that. My conversations with my parents and siblings always amuse K because he shares a different relationship and dynamics with his own parents and siblings. When I told him in the evening what transpired, he started laughing, “Oh my God….you are so manipulative. Thank God this behavior doesn’t work on me.” (Yes, K that is true because I haven’t disclosed what behavior works on you! *Evil grin*) But this time the tears were genuine because I am worried about them and the fact that much as I would like to be there for them I cannot! I called them up again last night and again this afternoon during my lunch hour. Finally my mother told me, “Don’t call us….we will call you.” I guess when one’s own parents say this; it speaks volumes of one’s stalker-like behavior! They might not get a restraining order against me but most definitely might start screening my phone calls!

PS: I am so glad that they are not internet savvy and therefore don’t read my blog.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Staying awake with cheesy Bollywood songs

This past weekend I was working on my portfolio, basically compiling my professional work until now. Since when, shall not be disclosed as I don’t want to date myself. Anyway I had made a portfolio a few years ago but it was prepared using Adobe Illustrator software. I have Adobe Photoshop at home, which although manufactured by Adobe is a raster program as opposed to Illustrator, which is vector. Uh-oh! I just out-geeked myself on this blog! K who at times is geekier than me rushed to my rescue. He is my knight in shining armor. He saves me from dragon like computer softwares. It didn’t work as I lost a lot of data. K suggested that I go to FedEx Kinko’s and just get a printout.

So Saturday evening we brave the last minute holiday shoppers to go to FedEx Kinko’s on Route 1. By the way someone told me this joke the other day; Brittany Spears has turned her husband from K-Fed to FedEx. I know….I know it’s not that funny but I still chuckled. Anyway I find that it is 40 cents a minute to use their graphic software. The desi in me, who looks for deals and bargains true to my desi-ness, had a mild heart attack. I told K that it is not worth it and I will go home and redo my portfolio. K, who cannot understand my kanjoos (miserly in Hindi) behavior, shakes his head in total disbelief. In my defense, I have a brand new printer and software so why in the world would I waste money at Kinko’s. So I am up Saturday night finishing stuff up. I spend the entire day Sunday and up Sunday night, finishing all the odds and ends. Fortunately I always make copies in triplicates so had CD’s floating around. I just could not remember where! Compiling stuff is a very tedious and time consuming process. I spent the entire weekend doing that as opposed to celebrating. We were invited to my husband’s friend’s home last night but I had to cancel. K went without me. Therefore the 2006 award for “Loser of the Year” goes to Sai from Sai Speak! (Taking a bow admist applause)

It took me back to my architecture days, not my loser behavior but staying up. My friends and I would stay up nights working on our assignments and listening to music and drinking umpteen cups of chai. One of my friends had his own studio in the building that his family owned. We all would work there as it was more fun working in groups as opposed to individually and also that it was easier staying awake. Our friend’s father was the sweetest. He would, as opposed to my friend’s mother, wake up at 4 or 5AM and make coffee or tea for all of us. He was an architect too therefore we all took him back to his student days. We would listen to Pink Floyd, Doors, Def Leppard, Zepplin. After a while, we would listen to cheesy Bollywood songs from the 80s and make parodies on them. Also one of our classmates was a lousy singer but we had convinced him that he sounded like Kishore Kumar, therefore that was one of our favorite exercises, to ask him to sing and make fun of him.

I also remember one incident when my friends and I were working on a class project. We were supposed to go on a field visit around 6AM so we needed to shower and eat something. My three friends and I decided to go to my parent’s home, which was the closest. The guys in our group told us that we girls needed their help and challenged us to walk by ourselves. My three friends and I got really angry and decided that we would walk and that we were self-reliant women who didn’t need men in our lives. So we set off at 4AM to go to my parent’s home, which was a ten minute walk (I lived in a very safe neighborhood that’s why all this bravado).

It was a balmy January morning. The only people on the road were the doodhwallas (milkmen). There was absolutely no one on the road except stray dogs (Stray dogs are a menace in India and a controversial issue in India, because of Maneka Gandhi and others). Stray dogs can be very territorial. One pack, consisting of five dogs, came towards us barking. I was ready to pass out with fear and my friend hissed….they smell fear so get a hold of yourself! Well anyway it took us half an hour to get to my parent’s home, as we took a detour, instead of the usual ten minutes! At the end of the exercise we felt really great that we crushed our classmate’s egos and relieved that the expression, barking dogs seldom bite, is indeed true! When we reached my parent’s home, my mother asked us who dropped us home. I said we walked and she started laughing and said to me, “Really you, of all the persons, braved the stray dogs?”

Last year when I went to India, I actually got a few 1980s Bollywood hits (not the cheesy ones though) that my friends and I used to listen to. K asked me when on earth I would listen to them. I did, last night and it was brought back fond memories of the good old days.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

How to catch a predator?

I am not sure if you guys have seen Dateline NBC's series "To Catch a Predator." This is a sting operation where there are hidden cameras and decoys used to catch potential internet sexual predators preying on minors. There are critics of this program who feel that the channel is more interested in ratings that justice. You can read the wikipedia entry here. This program after a while became repetitive and we stopped watching it. Soliciting sex with a minor is a serious crime and such predators must be severely punished for robbing a child's innocence! Parents also need to be careful and monitor their children's online activities and who their "online buddies" are.

However there are a lot of dark humorous moments which I thought I might blog about. One was when this one guy had an explicit online conversation with the decoy, posing as a 14-year old girl who is home alone, and then drove 100 miles to the house. When accosted by Chris Hansen, this guy defends himself saying that he came here to just talk to her and find out if she was all right since she was home alone! Now that is one good samaritan one shouldn't have anywhere near their children. One other guy, who was facing conviction for pedophilia, came to see this other child before going to jail the following week. Now that is an example of productive time before introspecting one's action. *rolling eyes*

Then there was one guy who had watched the show previously and come to see the decoy posing as a minor. When accosted he recognized Chris Hansen and said "Oh you are Chris Hansen and I am on national TV. Well I just came here to talk to her." I later told K that he looked so dense that he must be probably thinking, "Gee mom.... look I am famous. I am on National TV and you thought I would never leave the basement. I am sure grandma must be proud. Now all the bullies in high school who gave me a wedgie must be so jealous."

There were two desis as well. K and I were totally startled when we saw them. As if pedophilia is restricted to certain regions! Anyway one of the guys actually undressed completely as soon as he entered the home. When accosted he also said that he was here to talk. You know perhaps he mistook this place as a nudist camp or perhaps he thought he was modelling for an art class (Eww that was so disgusting!). The other desi guy claimed to be a "respectable man with a wife." Well creep, you have just changed the definition of respectable and you deserve this humiliation!

I happened to catch a glimpse of this evening's episode where the guy was caught twice. His reaction on seeing Chris Hansen was "Oops!" I thought to myself, "You are busted, pervert! Now rot in jail!!!"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays

The above picture was taken by yours truly.

This morning when I stood on the weighing scale I reached a conclusion that the universe is conspiring to make me fat! I have a sweet tooth. I love all kinds of Indian sweets (called mithai) except Agra Petha and Karachi halwa. I will throw up even if I look at those two! I love jalebi…. I can eat and lose count of how many I have had. By the way jalebi and samosa is my favorite combination and so is the traditional Gujarati breakfast of "Fafda-Jalebi." I love gulab jamun, motichoor ladoo, mysore pak, kesari (saffron) peda, rabdi (thick sweet milk flavored with essences), kulfi, malai (cream) burfi, sandesh, Shrikhand, misthi dohi (sweetened creamy yogurt from West Bengal) etc. So basically sweets panning the entire Indian subcontinent. You name it, I love it! By the way I cannot believe the entries I found for desserts online. Some desi foodie must be updating Wikipedia. Those of you who are not from the Indian subcontinent you can read here.

When I was a child, my maternal grandmother would make these delectable sweets (including the amazing mysore pak and jalebis) but she was pretty strict about the quantity. She wanted to instill discipline in her grandchildren and also the fact that too much sugar is bad for your teeth. My grandfather would always sneak in something extra for us. It was his bribe so that we never tell on him to our grandmother the fact that he used to hide and smoke. My late grandparents were so cute together. Both are deceased now but I still miss them!

As I grew up and got more sophisticated in my taste I included desserts from other parts of the world to my list of favorites. Therefore, I absolutely adore crème brulee, cannoli, bakhlava, and even babkas (especially chocolate). Not to mention chocolate mousse, carrot cake, red velvet cake, white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies etc. At my work place during the holiday season two of our secretaries who are excellent bakers always get homemade Christmas cookies. One of them makes the most amazing rum balls. By the way there is nothing like alcohol to survive the craziness at my workplace. The other one came in this morning with a fabulous fare. I tried to be good but then I am only human.

If that is not bad enough, a few days ago our cleaning lady at work who is from Poland introduced me to the wonderful world of Pierogies. She had made spicy ones with sauerkraut filling and potato filling. Out of the blue she comes to my office with a box for me. I could see a layer of butter sitting lazily on the top and challenging me! I asked her why she went through all the trouble. She said that I have a nice heart and that she wanted to thank me (or rather give me a heart attack). I asked her what she was smoking to think that I was nice and that whatever she might be smoking would be illegal in this country. I informed her that I have a reputation to maintain as Ms. Mean and that she should not go around spoiling it! Anyway K and I binged on them and I asked her for the recipe. Of course I just love to collect recipes so K if you are reading this, I won't be making them anytime soon.

This morning I went to give her a Christmas gift. She had sweet pierogies, with a nice berry filling and topped with whipped cream and also some homemade cookies. I wanted to be good and not have them but hey! Tis' the season to be jolly. Therefore, I stuffed myself and now I am feeling rather guilty. I am a person who wants to diet, lose weight and stay slim and trim but people around me just don't let me be!

Anyway Happy Holidays to all of you! Hope you all make to Santa's nice list and not get any coals in your stockings.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Friday Word: Bell

Sanjay's post usually mentions the Friday word. This evening, however I happened to read Maggie's post which mentioned "Bell" as the friday word. It is the holiday season and since the year is ending in less than ten days, I thought I might include one of my favorite childhood poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). Today I snicker at my naiveté but then it is such an endearing quality that children possess and lose without fail on adulthood.

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Among other things:

Bells have a lot of significance in Hinduism and Buddhism. There are different symbols of worship in Hinduism; bells, sandalwood, camphor, light, incense. In any temple at the time of prayers ringing bells accompany the chants. This is done to shut out any external sounds and to make your mind concentrate. In fact there are bells of different sizes at the entrance of every Hindu temple that devotees ring before entering the sanctum sanctorum. The sound of the bells is supposed to be healing and is supposed to offer mental peace.

When I was a child I loved jumping up and down to reach out and ring all the bells. My father would pick me up so that I could ring the ones that were out of my reach. I was at the temple a few weeks ago and saw a five year old kid who had come to the temple with his very pregnant mother. He wanted to ring the bells and she obviously couldn't oblige him. I offered to pick him up so that he can reach the bells. The sound of the ringing bells and the child's peals of laughter were like music to my ears. His laughter reminded me of the joy I felt as a child while ringing the temple bells.

The above picture is of yours truly taken ten years ago at Swayambhunath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. I was walking behind few Buddhist monks, who were chanting while ringing the prayer wheels. I do not have a single photograph of a Hindu temple bell hence the above image.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Employment for Generation Next!

My alarm is set to NPR and every morning the damn radio goes off without fail forcing me to get out of bed and drag my feet into the shower. Sometimes if we forget, the alarm goes off on saturday at an unearthy hour as well. Since K is dead to the world and snoring away to glory....I am forced to walk to the radio and shut the blasted thing off! Sometimes I wonder what he dreams about; probably a world sans Sai and full of Victoria Secret models, Shakira, single malt whiskey and by the way did I mention NO SAI to keep tabs on him! When it gets cold I want to hibernate like a bear and not do anything productive for three months.

Anyway I digress, the reason for this post is that I heard a segment this morning on video resumes on "Morning Edition." You can read the article here. I have also included below the video resume that I thought was the most humorous and creative.

To be honest, this is a substantial risk a prospective candidate would take. It is rather creative and clever for a person who is just out of college to do that. For someone who is seeking a job change mid-way in their career a video resume like this could be professional suicide. Then again it depends on the candidate's field and the employer's sense of humor!

PS: This segment reminded me of the character Elle Wood, brilliantly essayed by the very talented Reese Witherspoon, in the movie "Legally Blonde," where she sends a video essay to obtain admission into Harvard Law School.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Appearances are deceptive

When I started working a few years ago, I realized that few members of the support staff would not take directions from me. I am the only female professional at my work place. They would take directions from my male counterparts but never from me. It was an incredibly difficult time for me. There was one particular person who especially was very rude and very coarse in her mannerisms. I attributed it partly to xenophobia and partly to a very patriarchal upbringing where men took decisions.

One afternoon I had a particularly difficult time and I lost it and of course gave her a dressing down. The following weekend my husband and I had gone to spend time with his old friend from Bombay. They had organized a dinner party and we met a lot of other couples. One of the guests, who is a successful gynecologist, did her residency in New York. She happens to be from Bombay as well. We started talking and I happened to mention this episode to her. She said that such insubordination happened to her when she was doing her residency. She was new in the country and that time the nurses and other staff would never listen to her and would make her life very difficult. She gave me advice on how to deal with the situation were it to happen again.

My husband overheard her advice and told me that I can kill more flies with honey than a swatter. K also told me to treat it like a lesson in interpersonal skills. Anyway I decided to implement K’s advice and started being extremely polite yet firm with this person. Every time she was rude, I would find humor and tell her off without getting ego into the picture. K’s advice paid off and I have learnt how to deal with people in different situations.

Gradually I got to know the person and realized that what I considered rude or impolite was normal conversation to her. She didn’t know anything better. I also found that appearances are deceptive and the tough girl is just a façade and in fact she is very sensitive. As I got to know her I found that she was in an abusive marriage. What really shocked me was her inability to walk out of it. She has children but I don’t think a violent atmosphere is conducive for a child’s development. I haven’t really understood why she cannot leave the guy. Of course it is none of my business therefore I never pry in her personal life. This afternoon, however I saw an extremely vulnerable side to her personality and my heart goes out to her. Beyond that rough exterior lies an extremely vulnerable person whom life has been hard to. Life is never easy on anyone so one has to accept challenges and take decisions to the best of one’s abilities. Also one must learn from one’s past mistakes and move ahead. In this case I do hope that God gives her the strength to take some tough decisions to change her life.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Methi Keema

It is rather funny that after bouts of complete vegetarianism K and I start craving meat. The longest we have gone without meat is six months. Of course K and I consider fish to be vegetarian….vegetables from the sea ;-) Anyway, yesterday we decided enough is enough and that we have got to eat some lamb. Also I had bacon and sausages at my office Christmas breakfast and that annoyed K because I don’t let him eat bacon and sausages. To appease the guy I decided to get some ground lamb meat and make “methi keema,” which incidentally is his favorite. I love New Jersey because you can get excellent lamb meat here thanks to the desi population. Anyway I am sharing the recipe with you. I am too lazy to take a picture therefore there are no images in this post!

METHI KEEMA (Keema means ground meat and of course methi is fenugreek)


2 lbs ground goat/ lamb/beef
½ tsp asafetida
1 bunch of fresh fenugreek leaves finely chopped
2 tb sp Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
5 cloves of garlic, 2 inch garlic, ground to a fine paste
5 onions finely chopped
3-4 tsp Garam Masala (I make Garam masala at home and have the recipe at the bottom of this post. You can use the readymade ones from the store. Roasting the spices is very therapeutic for me)
2 tb sp oil
1-2 tomatoes finely chopped
Turmeric Powder
Red Chili powder

Whole Spices
1 tsp of cloves, 4 bay leaves, 1 tsp of peppercorns

Marinate the ground meat with turmeric (an excellent antiseptic), red chili powder, salt and juice of two lemons. Lemons get rid of that peculiar smell of meat. Set aside for at least half and hour.

Heat oil and add asafetida, when it starts crackling add the whole spices. Add the onions and sauté them until they are transparent. Add the ginger and garlic paste and red chili powder as per your taste. Then add the finely chopped methi leaves. Add the finely chopped tomatoes, peas and the keema. Saute this very well for about ten minutes and then add the garam masala and salt to taste. It takes around 45 minutes to cook meat. When meat is cooked added kasuri methi for that added flavor of fenugreek leaves. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

Serve with roti, naan or parathas.

PS: Fenugreek leaves are optional and you can make this dish minus that ingredient as well. The taste does not get compromised.

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
1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp Bay leaves (crushed)
1 tsp Mace
1-2 star anise
Mix the above ingredients, roast them lightly with a drop of oil, and after they cool, grind to make a fine powder.

Among other things:
I am pleased to read that justice has been served in the Jessica Lal murder case. For those who are not from India or weren't living in India, this was a big case in 1999. The late Jessica Lal was a model who was bartending as a favor to the owner, Bina Ramani, who is some socialite in New Delhi. After the bar was closed some guy, who was the son of a politician from the state of Haryana demanded a drink and when it wasn't served, he actually shot the poor woman! This episode sent a chill down everyone's spine. There was a lot of mudslinging with accusations that Ramani was operating a bar in her restaurant without a license and also accusations of tampering of evidence etc. Anyway after seven and a half years of legal battle, the killer has finally been convicted! You can read the article here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Urban lexicon

I started working a few years ago at my current job. My boss, coworker, our attorney and I had gone for a conference to Atlantic City. We had left early in the morning, around 6:30 AM. Since I cannot eat that early in the morning, I did not have anything but a cup of tea. By lunch time, around 1PM, I was ready to pass out with hunger! Anyway the four of us decided to have lunch in a restaurant that they had had lunch the previous year. They asked me if there was a place I wanted to go to. I was new in the United States (had been here only for two years), absolutely brand new in Joisey and of course it was my first visit (and only one so far) to Atlantic City; so really didn’t know anything to offer an opinion. Most importantly I was too hungry to even care where I ate!

Anyway we took a bus and after a short ride went to the restaurant, which is located in one of the hotels. To our dismay it was closed for renovations. It was almost 1:20 PM and everything around me including my boss’s bald head looked incredibly edible. The only place that was open was Hooters. I was the only woman in that group and the rest barely knew me. They became incredibly uncomfortable and asked me what I wanted to do. They were game to going to any other restaurant. Of course I had not been to Hooters before and had no idea what it was. There was a picture of an owl so I didn’t know what the fuss was and told them that I was very hungry and I didn’t care where I ate! Our attorney apologizes to me once again and also says that his wife will throw a fit if she comes to know that he ate there. I didn't realize what he meant and was thinking to myself, “She must be a snob.” I was so hungry that I didn't notice anything around me and was waiting for my order. Anyway the food arrived and it had my undivided attention. Half way down the meal I was satiated (American portions throw me off completely) and started looking around me. It was November and I noticed that all the waitresses were in tank tops and short shorts. I thought to myself this is bizarre, aren't these women cold? Our waitress walks over to the table and bends down to serve us. I notice her twins hanging out and also that she had worn panty hose under the shorts. I thought it was rather bizarre that she was dressed like that.

Later in the evening my boss, co worker and I were driving back home. My boss apologizes once again to me about having had lunch there. I told him to not worry about it and wondered aloud what “Hooters” meant. He blushed and turned a deep crimson and told me that he cannot tell me and to ask my husband what it meant. So I get home and tell K what had transpired and then ask him what “Hooters” meant. K fell off his chair laughing. Today I have added hooters to my urban lexicon along with knockers and jugs. Knowing my personality it was very amusing for my husband that I ate there. But then they say ignorance is bliss!

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Caste and caste-based reservations have always been a controversial topic in India. People have strong views depending on which side of the fence they are. There is a hunger strike in Delhi with doctors from the prestigious AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) protesting against the bill that reserves 27 percent of college places for "low-caste" people (In that there are categories like "Other backward classes" (OBC), "Scheduled Castes" (SC) and "Scheduled Tribes" (ST) etc.). You can read the article here.

The fact is that Dalits are still treated very badly in India. I have included this article about an incident that happened sometime back. This despite the fact that Dr. Ambedkar, born a Dalit, rose against all odds to architect the Indian constitution and India has had a Dalit president as well. I suppose it might be difficult to completely get rid of two thousand years of biases from the Indian psyche. I remember this story from Mahabharat when Dronacharya asked Eklavyya, a tribal archer, to give him his thumb as "guru dakshina" so that he cannot be superior to Prince Arjuna (I cannot believe that I found entries for all the above on Wikipedia).

Caste biases are a regressive aspect of India and it is still alive and kicking in the 21st Century. The atrocities and heinous crimes commited under the name of caste by the so called "high castes" cannot be denied. The question is that is reservation an efficient way of helping the underpriviledged sections of society? Is that an efficient solution to the problem? Does it help the most deserving candidates to get ahead in life? In addition, accountability is the biggest challenge here; of course this is applicable to anyone in public service in India, no matter what their caste.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Friday Word: Gold

Sanjay mentioned "Gold" as the Friday word. Here is my lame attempt at poetry (I know I suck but it's my blog so I shall do what I please). Unlike the previous one, this one is not poking fun at my spouse.

Golden rays of the dawn
Shining on your skin
The hope of new day
Past the darkness and despair

Move on to where you are set
Divinity showing you the path
Armed with experiences of yore
Making you wiser than before

Gold which is called “Kanaka,” “Survarna” in Sanskrit has a lot of significance in Hinduism. Also Ayurveda extols the virtue of gold. Wearing gold on your person is supposed to have a healthy and positive effect on the individual. Shree Suktam of Vedas is a hymn to Goddess Lakshmi; in that her brilliance is compared to the sun and one of the stanzas say that she shines like gold. This hymn is supposed to give peace, plenty and all around prosperity.

When I was studying Sanskrit in school, I used to be influenced a lot by the “Subhasheet mala,” which translates as “String of Good speech/thoughts.” There was one about gold which was rather poignant. I am writing the gist in English as I cannot write in Devanagari on this blog for two reasons; one that I do not have the font and the other is that I cannot remember it verbatim (Damn it I have been bugging my mother to put together and send me some basic Sanskrit books but she has been slacking off). Anyway it says that gold glitters so does brass, but then what is the difference between the two. When put to test under the fire, gold shines and comes out even brighter.

Among other things:
I love sunrise; the golden rays of light accompanied by the sweet scent of dew and the sound of birds chirping. It is such a treat to your senses. In India, I especially loved listening to the melodious cuckoo during the summer months. This along with the golden colored, succulent Alphonso mangoes made it worthwhile to endure the hot and humid summers!

I painted the above landscape a few months ago on a Sunday morning. K and I went biking on the trails. I had taken my easel and paints much to his amusement. Just so that he doesn't make fun of me later, I painted for an hour, early in the morning before biking. I also took a picture in the morning light and finished the rest from the picture in the afternoon.

If you have endured this blog and read so far then I am sorry for posting touchy blogs for the past few days. I promise you that I will soon be back to my irreverent self.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sorry I love my Saree

This past saturday, K and I went to Circuit city to get me a printer. Anyway the store was jam packed with people buying stuff and I bumped into a few desis, where else but in the computer section. This is height of stereotyping! Anyway I was accosted by an ever zealous Epson salesman, who started extolling virtues of an Epson printer vis-a-vis a HP, which is what I was buying. I was in no mood to listen to any sales talk so play dumb by telling him in the thickest possible Indian accent that I really can't speak english and don't understand anything about printers. I point towards my husband, who irritates me to no end because he is like a kid in a candy shop whenever we go to any electronics store, and ask them to talk to him. I take my preferred printer and walk up to the cashier and wait in the long line. The reason for doing this of course is so that the guy starts bugging K who would then get the hell out of there! K glares at me and if looks could know what I mean!

While we are waiting in the line, our physician, who is from India walks in with a woman wearing a saree. I point him out to K and we both assume that perhaps he has some relative visiting from India. We greet him and he introduces us to the woman, who incidentally is his wife. They have been living in the US for the past 35 years. I was so surprised that she was wearing a saree when it was 20 F! The doctor was wearing a sweater, scarf and a leather jacket and gloves and this lady was wearing a saree with just a winter jacket. I really cannot understand why some Indian women wear sarees no matter what the temperature. This was a casual saree that our mothers would wear in India and not something festive.

I remember a few years ago my childhood friend got married in Indianapolis in the month of January. He married an American and they had the tedious Hindu ceremony in the morning, which started at 8 AM and ended at noon, followed by lunch, church wedding at 2:30 PM and then the reception in the evening. The previous day there was a massive snow storm in the mid-west and it was freezing cold. I remember wearing a saree the entire day and how I almost died of hypothermia! I cannot understand how these women can tolerate this temperature. People who live in colder parts of the country like Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh don't wear sarees but clothes that help them adapt to the cold weather. So then why would a person, who has lived for a major part of her life in the States, not want to give up her saree which is designed for the tropical weather? Enquiring minds want to know.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Girl Child

When I was growing up, my younger sister and I had an elderly lady take care of us. She had a few grandchildren, one of whom was my sister’s and my playmate. He was a few years younger to us and used to play with us. He was quite bright as a child but later did not finish his high school education and now has become an alcoholic. This is such a typical scenario with domestic help in Bombay; producing children is a national past time and invariably these women work as domestic maids while their non productive, alcoholic husbands abuse them. This lady’s youngest granddaughter, who is around 12 to 13 years younger to me, was a toddler at that time. She would accompany her grandmother to our place. She was such a cute cherub; my sisters and I loved to fuss over her.

Few years ago, my mother needed some help and asked this woman to find someone for her. She suggested the cherub, who was fourteen years old then. Her grandmother wanted to get her out of school so that she could earn money and contribute to the family kitty as her father and older brother were both alcoholics. My mother offered to take her in our house and insisted that she goes to school. Education for girls in India is free till the 12th grade so my parents did not have to pay her fees. My mother decided to put her salary into a bank account and take care of her school books, clothes, food and other expenses. This girl is very pretty and since she was in her teens, my mother was concerned about her general welfare and environment.

She completed her High School Certificate a few years ago. She is rather timid and my mother insisted that she gets a college degree so that she can get a better job and have a better life for herself. She is an extremely mild mannered and a very loving girl so we all have a soft corner for her. She started studying part-time; earning and learning. Meanwhile her father took off in an alcoholic stupor six years ago and has not returned home till date. No one knows if he is alive or dead! Her brother gets fired from every job as he is dead drunk most of the time. This girl is the only one in the family who has completed her education and in fact will sit for her Bachelor of Arts exams soon. Of course education in India is subsidized but in her case it is creditable because she decided to pursue it. Life offers you opportunities, one just has to recognize them as such and grab them.

My mother told me this morning that this girl has got engaged recently. Her alcoholic brother, like a vulture, came to my parent’s home to find out how much she has saved up all these years. My mother has told the girl that she will be giving it to her and not her brother. Since she will be starting a new life, she needs whatever help she can get. Most importantly she has earned it all herself!

When my mother had an accident a few years ago, she took care of her as if she were her own mother. I will always remain indebted to this beautiful child for that one reason only. She will be getting married in June 2007. My mother informed me that she has decided to make her some gold jewelry as well. She will leave Bombay and therefore won’t be working for my parents. My parents are rather old now and my first question was if they found a substitute who would take care of them? My mother told me to lead my own life in America and not bother about theirs. I realized that my parents are so attached to this child that they look at her as their fourth daughter and not a domestic help. In my defense, this is a perfectly logical question. Shoot me for being a concerned daughter!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tortugas Mexican Village

In a very pretentious Ivy League university town like Princeton, there is a small Mexican restaurant called “Tortugas Mexican Village.” I think they own two other restaurants; one is in Trenton while the other is in Collegeville, PA. The one in Princeton is located on Leigh Avenue, between John and Witherspoon Street. This is a BYOB place, very friendly and casual ambience and is moderately priced. We usually carry Sangria with us. If you are looking for something sophisticated then this is definitely not the place for you but if you are looking for excellent Mexican food then you are in the right place.

Usually it is very crowded during the summers with a long wait. Last night we called around 6 PM and were told that we could come in anytime and there was no wait. Well they always say that and you invariably have to wait. In addition, they don't take reservations. So anyway as soon as we reached there, my husband drops me off and tells me to get a table while he found a parking spot. There was no way we were going to wait outside freezing our posteriors off in 25F temperature. This time they were right because it was rather empty. I tell the woman, “table for two” and she points me towards this uncomfortable corner next to this table for eight where a lone guy, who was a walking advertisement for "Abercrombie & Fitch" catalogue, was sitting by himself and talking on his cell phone. I ask her if there was some other larger table available, pointing towards the empty tables for four all over the place. She says, “don’t worry you can sit at the table for two because that corner is heated.” I sigh and think to myself “Oh boy….another communication gap.” I close my eyes and say “Mesa grande” hoping that this is what it translates as larger table in Spanish. Suddenly her eyes light up as if she has had an epiphany and she replies in English, “Oh you want a bigger table??” I smile and say “Por favor gracias” and am taken to a nice, cozy corner far away from the A & F guy who very soon had his other gang members join in. There is no way I would be bothered with another round of “totally” “whatever” “awesome” or “like so awesome.” I am sorry people but I am a crank who needs to concentrate on her food, especially guacamole!

Anyway they serve you a round of tortilla chips and zesty homemade salsa on the house before it shifts over to tamales, chicken with guacamole sauce etc. They also have Americanized dishes like burritos, fajitas, tacos and also a few vegetarian options, which I have never tried as the only vegetarian fare I would eat is Indian. They have rather large portions and you invariably end up taking a doggie bag. You can check the menu here. The service is quick and the staff is very warm and friendly. The only annoying thing last night was that K is a fast eater while I take forever to finish my meal. So the guy cleared K's plate and then assumed I must be done as well. I was so busy chatting that I didn't notice till K told the guy, "Wait! She is still eating so don't clear hers as yet."

I would say this place serves the most authentic Mexican food, north of the border. How do I know? When I was living in Michigan, I worked one summer in Detroit and my friends and I used to often go and eat in Detroit’s Mexican town area. I absolutely loved the food and this place reminds me of that!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Word: Dark

Sanjay mentioned "dark" as the Friday word. So here is my lame attempt at it. Since it is my anniversary today, I thought I might dedicate the following poem to my husband.

Darkness of the night
The tenderness of your touch
The crescendo of your breath
As deep sleep envelopes

Your snoring is too loud
Wakes me up like an alarm
Oh my God I must sleep

Its only 3AM.

Among other things:
The word "dark" invokes a lot of emotions. It reminds me of the evening, a few years ago when I learnt that my mother had an accident. I had called her and she told me that she and my father were stepping out to visit their friends and to call back later. I had told her that I wouldn't be able to call her for a week as I was going out of town. I called my parent's home ten days later to find that she had an accident that very evening while returning from their friend's home and that very moment she was undergoing surgery. I was kept in the dark by my family because they didn't want me to worry. It really made me so angry at her, my father and my sisters for treating me with kid gloves.

I remember going to visit her a few months later and was so shocked to see her look so emaciated. I had a nickname for her, I used to called her "Jhaadee," which means plump in Marathi and it broke my heart to see her so frail. I had to compose myself and not cry in her presence. She wanted to hold me close while I pulled away and made excuses. I went to the bathroom and cried my heart out and then spoke to her with a very composed voice. I made fun of her and teased her a lot but I am sure she knew that I was hiding my emotions. She was at that time staying with my older sister. Later during the week I went to my parents home, which looked so empty without her. I saw her walking stick and the disability railing that my father had put in the bathroom for her. I realized at that time that the roles had reversed and that I must try and be their support and not vice versa.

Speaking of more positive things, I love dark chocolate and walking on the beach on dark starlit nights. Like all children I was frightened of the dark but loved to harass my older sister, who needed complete darkness while sleeping, by turning on the bright light at odd hours at night.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It will be ten years tomorrow!

This Friday I will be completing ten years of wedded life. Wow my husband has tolerated my craziness for ten long years. The poor guy needs all my readers’ sympathies. So if you want to comment on this post, please don’t wish us for our anniversary but instead congratulate him for being patience personified! If you want, you can also convey your heartfelt sympathies to him; that is fine too because he absolutely deserves it. On his behalf let me tell you that he has had to incur his share of losses; he once had a curly mop of hair but he is quite bald today. The process of balding started before he knew me but accelerated since December 1996 and has continued to date. The poor thing knew me for three years prior to marriage but didn't quite know what he had bargained for. Living with me has caused him to tear his hair out!

No silly people, this isn't my wedding picture. Neither was my wedding a child marriage nor were we betrothed at cradle. This is my picture taken at my cousin's wedding. I was four at that time and his picture was taken seperately by his parents that same year. Last year I had scanned all our childhood pictures and I played around in Photoshop to make some cheesy photographs. This is one of them. I have my wedding pictures but I don't have the patience to scan them. Besides you guys are better off not seeing dorky pictures of me and my husband.

In case anyone cares or wants to know, I had a typical Maharashtrian wedding, which was long, tedious and ever so boring. Why did I go through it? I was offered a choice to go for a civil ceremony but I chose this because I didn’t think that the traditional wedding would be so tiring. After enduring the ceremony I made my own conclusion as to why the divorce rate in India is so low? It is because no one wants to go through the wedding ceremony ever again.

Since we had to sit by the fire for the rituals, the smoke got into my eyes. I had to get my contact lenses off and literally everything was a blur. I also remember stumbling while walking around the fire. I cannot remember how many times we walked, was it three times, was it five times or was it seven times? To both of us the entire ceremony seemed like an eternity! My hubby then suggested that I should wear my glasses and I glared at him and hissed “NO” and thought to myself, “God doesn’t the guy know anything about me? Give me a break! I will not wear my nerdy glasses on the most important day of my life.” Stumbling and not recognizing my guests was a preferred choice to 20/20 vision.

Love is blind because he endured my glare, gave me a sheepish grin and actually didn’t run away halfway through the ceremony! What if he would have run away from the ceremony? Would they have made a movie “Runaway Groom," the male Indianized version of the Julia Roberts movie Runaway Bride? On second thoughts perhaps he did want to run but since Sanskrit chants are so soporific, he was half drowsy and therefore couldn't escape from the trap. Well it is too late now; he is imprisoned for life with slim chance of parole. He had his chance then and he blew it!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Random Rant

This post is a random rant about absolutely nothing important but just me venting about one of my pet peeves. You have been forewarned so go ahead and read it at your own risk.

I am usually asked this question, “ Where are you from?" There is nothing wrong with the question and it is perfectly okay to ask a person this. So then I respond by saying, “I am from India.” What really amuses or annoys me depending on the time of the month is when I am told, “ Wow really…you don’t look Indian.” So I usually reply by saying, “ Gee I don’t know whether you are meaning to compliment me or insult me.” Then I am told “Well you look a lot different than what we expect people from India to look like.” (YES! this happened to me this morning!!!) I get that or similar variants of that sentence. I sometimes respond with an incredulous look, “So have you panned the entire subcontinent and done a study on how an Indian is supposed to look?” Don't people have a mental edit button that will edit stuff out before they blurt out word vomit? Let me tell you this dear readers, I have the map of Maharashtra stamped across my face and since Maharashtra is one of the Indian states therefore I definitely look Indian!

A couple of times I have also been told that I am too tall for an Indian woman. So was there a study conducted that measured the height of each and every female in India or was there a random sample taken and a statistical analysis done, which concluded that anyone above a certain height is too tall for an Indian woman! I feel like responding, "Well you ignorant morons I am an Indian and I love the fact that I belong to the subcontinent and do have a strong sense of my cultural background. It is just that I do not wear it on my sleeve." Since I have a mental edit button I generally keep mum and ignore people. That is fun part of blogging, you can rant in relative anonymity!

The one fact that confirms my Indian genes is that I grew vertically in my teens and then in my late twenties and now thirties I am expanding horizontally and I have absolutely no control over it! Those are my 100 percent Indian genes right there....there you go.... you have the proof, happy now?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Reminiscing Goa and the Goan Shrimp Curry

This picture was taken by yours truly at sunrise. This is the backwater at Baga beach. I was planning to paint here but then slacked off.

Whenever it gets chilly, I crave for the tropical weather. I miss the warm yet balmy nights in Goa. The sweet scent of the beach and the sound of the sea waves lashing at the shore. As you all know there is a cold wave in the tri-state area so that feeling of reverie was intensified since yesterday. When I think of Goa, I think of the fresh fish, beach, feni cocktails, peaceful and friendly Goan people and their sushegat lifestyle! Sushegat which is derived from Portuguese, means relaxed. Regarding the famous Goan feni there is a famous mantra of the Goans in Konkani, "Kaju che soro jevok boro," which means cashew feni is very good for your health! I prefer coconut feni to cashew, which is too dry for my taste.

Everything translates to food for me and of course to my husband, who is a firm believer in Sushegat lifestyle! Nothing fazes the guy, which always irritates the hell out of me (those of you who know me stop chuckling). Anyway I made shrimp curry, which is his favorite, this evening for dinner. Of course that surprised the hell out of him as I don’t cook on weekdays, especially something arduous and time consuming as Indian food. Cooking for me is very therapeutic and calms me down a lot, so whenever I am stressed I love to cook to unwind. It works wonders on my mood.

The Indian food that we get in restaurants is the typical north Indian fare and the south Indian snacks. Maharashtrian food is so underrated. A lot of my non-Indian friends are surprised that the food cooked in our home tastes so different from what is obtained at Indian restaurants. Anyway the curry turned out rather well and therefore I thought that I might share this recipe with you. It was made in very little oil. The traditional recipe calls for a lot of coconut but I used canned low-fat coconut milk and it turned out just fine!


1lb shrimp
Marinate the shrimp with a teaspoon of turmeric, red chili powder and a juice of one lemon and of course salt as per taste. Set it aside

For the curry:
2 onions
1 tsp peppercorns
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 cans of coconut milk.
½ tsp asafetida (an excellent digestive)
1 table sp oil
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
2-3 table spoon tamarind paste

Grind to a fine paste one onion, 1 tea spoon of peppercorns, and 2-3 cloves of garlic. Finely chop the other onion and keep aside.

Heat the oil in kadhai (wok) at high heat. Add asafetida to it. When it starts crackling, add the finely chopped onion and the paste of onion, pepper and garlic. Sauté until it becomes colorless. Add one teaspoon of red chili powder, turmeric powder and mix it well. Lower the heat to medium. Then add the marinated shrimp and sauté it well. When the shrimp gets half cooked (within five minutes), add the coconut milk and tamarind paste. Cover it and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. The cooking time depends on the kind of stove you have. It cooks faster on an electric stove as opposed to a gas stove. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.

Serve hot with plain white rice.

PS: I used 'Kokum,' which is dried sour plum like fruit typical of the coast of Southwestern Maharashtra and Goa in lieu of tamarind paste.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Big Apple: The Mecca of Commercialism

I went to NYC last evening to meet a very dear friend of mine, who was visiting from out of town. So I take the train in the afternoon and was planning to nap. Anyway I was rudely awakened by this gaggle of girls (calm down language-nazis or English majors I do know that it is a bevy of girls) talking nineteen to a dozen about the most inane things. They weren’t sitting anywhere close to me. They were at the other end of the car! Of course I abandon my plan to nap and eavesdrop. I am entertained till they get off at Newark Airport station. I must say the trials and tribulations of teenage life in America! In case you are curious, they used “like” in every sentence. I started counting and then lost count of it…totally.

Anyway I get off at Penn Station and I am overwhelmed by the shoppers pouring in and out of Macys, Lord and Taylor and all the other stores nearby. This reminded me of the Hindu pilgrims at the Kumbha Mela and Triveni Sangam. To my non-Indian readers, you can read about Triveni Sangam here and Kumbha Mela here. I was right after all they were all retail pilgrims paying homage by cash or plastic in the commercial Mecca of the country.

Time Square: Of course I took this photo during the summer. There is no way I would have gone there last evening.

The entire area was a sea of human beings. It felt like “Amchi Mumbai” (our Mumbai in Marathi), except that no one pushed the other and the weather was quite chilly. The desi in me, rather the pseudo chai latte drinking desi who would rather have chai-valle ki chai (ubiquitous tea vendors in India), was craving for a hot cup of chai latte. I walk into a Starbucks and I am surprised at the line, which went right up to the street. I open the door for an elderly lady to do some “Mitzvah” and people mistake me for a doorman or rather a doorperson because a bunch of teenagers walk in and people start walking in and out totally oblivious to me. Finally a gentleman sees my predicament and runs to my rescue and holds the door for me so I can get in! There are two long lines and I am curious what the other line was for. I found out that it was to go to the ladies room. Anyway I was in no mood to negotiate the long line, to get my chai and not go to the rest room silly people, so I decide against it. I start walking to the place that I was supposed to meet my friend.

While walking I am accosted by this street vendor. He asks me if I wanted a Louis Vuitton or a Fendi bag. I look straight ahead and say no thank you. He then says you are beautiful….can I take you on a date? I say no thank you and start walking faster. Of course he leaves me alone. I wasn’t in any danger or anything but still I call my husband and tell him what just transpired. My husband says that I should have given the guy 20 bucks and said here first go buy yourself a decent meal and then think of asking me out. We both have a good laugh. Trust him to bring humor into any situation!

Later I caught up with my friend who told me that there was a mad rush to see the Christmas tree and decorations at Rockefeller Center. Anyway the rest of my evening was wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. By the way I hate the burbs and love the City with renewed vigor!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Word: Candy

I read this blog regularly and today's post mentioned about using the friday word "candy." Candy, when I hear or read that word, it makes me happy. It is comfort food for adults as well as children. I think it links us to our childhood and through candy we hold on to our childhood and the child in us. It is so essential to retain some idealism in the otherwise cynical world of an adult. I have found some information about etymology of the word "candy" and other information, which can be found here.

I have two childhood memories that are so vivid and significant regarding the same. When I was in kindergarten I really hated school! I was more absent from school than attending it. I loved studying and my mother would teach me at home. We had a class picnic and my father drove me to school because I invariably used to miss the school bus! I used to do that on purpose. My dad gave me this piece of hard candy and told me that the picnic will be fun and I shall have a wonderful time with my classmates. I was all excited and chewing on the candy when he pulled into the school where all the kids were assembled to leave. As soon as I saw my school principal, Sister Marcia, I threw a huge tantrum. Her habit used to scare the hell out of me. I was not sure at four if she were a male or a female and that ambiguity scared me. Anyway I caused a fracas and accidentally swallowed the hard candy, which got stuck in my throat and that made me cry even more! My father could not bear to see me cry so decided to take me back home, much to the chagrin of Sister Marcia. Therefore, that is one memory that I associate with hard candy. Had it been my mother instead of my father, all she needed to do was give me one hard look and I would just have kept quiet!

My parents and their friends would go on annual vacations to Mahabaleshwar with their respective families. That is one childhood memory I associate with candyfloss! My parents were pretty strict about eating from roadside vendors. Mahabaleshwar however was an exception. We would eat that and roasted corn by the beautiful verdant Venna lake.

As a child I was obsessed with colors and forms. I used to watch the street vendors selling candyfloss and the entire exercise would have my rapt attention. Also the color change of the sugar crystals from the gaudy pink to the most beautiful pinkish hue would never cease to amaze me.

Last year I attended the Indo-American festival at the Hindu Temple in Bridgewater, NJ. Among other snacks there was this vendor selling “Buddi ka Baal” (candy floss in Hindi). I insisted on eating it and the fact that I was the only adult doing this didn't bother me one bit. I savored every morsel, which brought back wonderful memories of my childhood.