Category: Lucknow

Life’s better with friends #GratitudeCircle

Life’s better with friends #GratitudeCircle

The irony of life is that each time one makes a rule to handle it, it goes and does something (quite on purpose, I’m certain) to make that rule completely absolutely redundant. That’s its way of keeping us on our toes. A not very nice thing to do, but that’s how life is.

If you’re one of the few sweet wonderful people who have been dropping by my blog despite the minimal activity here, you will remember I mentioned that for some time I had been feeling friendless and lonely. Anyhow, so then I went ahead and decided I’d try to make my own happiness. And I did. I took myself to lunch, went for solitary walks, crafted a little bit, did some neat bit of colouring, read, had mini binges on Netflix (Gilmore Girls which, by the way, is a fabulous series) and I was quite happy.

The kids got this beautiful colouring book as a gift. They could not truly appreciate it since it had quotes from Alice in Wonderland which they haven’t read. So I appropriated it right away and have been having fun with it.

Just when I thought I was in a good space by myself, all manner of friends, delightful ones at that, began to show up in places I’d never imagined, as if to convince me that life really was better with friends.

As I was ending my walk one morning a couple in our complex carried me off for another round. I’d known them for a while but never really interacted much with them. I have no clue what made them overrule all my ‘nos’ and drag me along.

With them I discovered this huge tract of land, barely a five-minute drive away, and had the most delightful walk. I have to admit I enjoyed their company almost as much, maybe more. Only rarely do you meet a couple so positive, so happy, so mutually appreciative of each other. I felt blessed to have been included in their little circle with a standing invitation to join them any/every morning.

Then, I bumped into another acquaintance/friend and we got talking. As we ranted about life, specifically the kids and the education system, it turned out her daughter was facing the very same issues as mine. There really is nothing more comforting than meeting someone with the same stresses as yours and trying to figure your way out together. And so we fixed a coffee date which I’m looking forward to.

Oh and the biggest biggie of all – I went to my college reunion. That should ideally have been a whole post in itself but the writing slump I’ve been in, took that away from me. When first I heard of the meet I was quite certain I wouldn’t go. And then my sister who always begins with ‘Don’t go if you don’t want to but think about it’ and then proceeds to work on me in insidious ways, did just that. Before I knew it I found myself booked to my hometown. As usual my sister-in-law stepped in to take the children for four whole days. I maintain I struck gold when I married the Husband as much for him as for his family, maybe a tad more for his family considering he’s not around too often these days and his sister is there. Always. So there I was in Lucknow revisiting the campus, interacting with teachers but most of all spending time with old friends.

Time had chipped away at the cliques of our youth, mellowing differences, easing friendships, letting us laugh at shared memories. All in all I totally root for reunions.

I know this is turning out to be one long rambling post but I have to mention this last incident. Early last month my site was hacked. In complete panic I reached out to my service provider and to their credit they sorted me out in a jiffy but at a bit of a cost. Later I found out a lot of other bloggers had faced the same issue and unlike me they reached out to other blogger friends for help and managed it with much little stress and at a lower cost too.

Sigh!

It didn’t even occur to me to ask for help. I wonder why, in times of crisis, I only tend to draw up on all of my own reserves and can think of no one at all. That’s something I need to remember. In the words of JK Rowling:

Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.

Replace ‘Hogwarts’ with ‘life’ and I have my November lesson.

I’ll end with a great sense of gratitude for friends and acquaintances this November. Without them it would have been a dull dull month.

PS: Thank you all of you for helping me with N’s pen-paper Vs Tab decision. I’ve decided to stick with pen and paper for now and give her the tab during the holidays when she would probably/hopefully be doing more writing. She’s also writing in her journal so that’s something.

 

Linking up with Vidya’s Gratitude Circle.

A time for family and friends

A time for family and friends

This last month, the month of May, has been filled with so many blessings that I’ve lost count. It is by far my favourite month of the year. It’s the time I am truly home, among extended family and childhood friends. The days are about reunions and getaways, about reinforcing age-old bonds and rediscovering the flavours of childhood, of leafing through photo albums and laughing at our tiny ponytails and large bell-bottoms.

There wasn’t a single morning, afternoon or evening when I didn’t have someone around, when I wasn’t planning a meet up, a movie or a dinner. Many an evening, my plans would dissolve into nothing because someone would drop by with the ease and comfort born of years of familiarity, the kind that needs no phone call, no appointment.

The children oscillated constantly between the various homes. The FIL took upon himself to tutor them in Math during the mornings, a family tradition of sorts. Their older cousins have all had to put up with his tenacious love for teaching Math. Despite plenty of good-natured ribbing and calls of ‘It’s your turn to get caught now’, he persevered and surprisingly enough, the children complied without a murmur. That there was a constant supply of laddoos and pedas might have helped.

The children also developed a severe case of ice-cream insecurity. The moment the tubs showed signs of finishing they’d sound an alert and sure enough, one doting elder or the other would order out another.

One night they were carried off to a wedding by my sister, their first ever. I stayed home enjoying a chat with the in-laws. They came back tired and completely overwhelmed, yet thrilled at the colour and the crowd, the food and the festivities and the excitement of it all. ‘The bride was epic,’ pronounced N. She had never seen such finery except in films. Meanwhile, H said the buffet was the best.

I had set myself some tasks for the month including blogging and figuring out some technical concepts which I normally do not get time for. None of them got done. I have to admit the first few days I was a trifle unnerved with this total lack of order, something I normally strive hard for in my routine. It was strange not to be worrying about the children, their food and their studies, specially after a rather stressful year. Bad habits stick on so hard, isn’t it?

Then somewhere along the way I let go and decided to go with the flow. Then on, I had the best time ever.

Sometimes it's best to go with the flow. Click To Tweet

We went off to spend a weekend at my cousin’s farm and then in the middle of all the craziness, we  managed a two-day trip to Agra. The six-lane Yamuna Expressway meant that we could travel the distance in about four hours. Everyone had cautioned us that it would be too hot, that the children wouldn’t be able to handle it, unused to such high temperatures. We decided to go on anyway and I’m glad we did. We spent the mornings and evenings visiting the absolutely stunning monuments and stuck to our hotel room during the hot afternoons while the children took to the pool. It was as idyllic as it could get.

I often talk about how much I love my hometown but it’s the connections and warmth of relationships that continue to make it special – a place where friends are family and family are friends.

Linking up with Vidya’s Gratitude Circle

Food and fitness in Lucknow

Food and fitness in Lucknow

I’ve been trying rather hard to keep an eye on my weight this year with some decent amount of success. But then the children had exams and they seemed to need help the moment I put on my sneakers for a walk. The stress of it all meant walks and exercise took a backseat.

Moving on – right after the exams came vacations. We travelled to Delhi and then to my hometown and that meant F.O.O.D.

The first morning in Lucknow I woke up to a pile of jalebis and khastas at the breakfast table. I’ll probably need to do a whole post on the Lakhnawi jalebis but for now let me just say that they served to kick off my food fest. It would have been absolute blasphemy, not to say inconceivably rude, to not be ru-ba-ru with my old favourites. If you’ve been with me on Instagram you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. While the children waded through cartons of Amul Icecream, I renewed my friendship with Lakhnawi sweets – malai chamcham, kaju pedas and motichur laddoos. That’s not to say I didn’t sample the ice creams. This season the Caramel  Cookies flavour from Amul absolutely topped my list.

Coming back to Lucknow, the chaat here is something else. The pani puris are perfect. As Goldilocks would say – not to hot not too sweet, they’re just right. And there’s matar – boiled and mashed white peas fried over a low flame in lota-fulls of ghee (The chat wallahs actually keep a lota full of ghee on the edge of their giant tawa). When it’s garnished with crisp crushed papadi, green chutney, fresh coriander and long ginger juliennes, it’s a party in the mouth.

Matar

And just when the party’s getting too hot you take up a pattal of sweet cool kulfi topped by pista flakes and two types of falooda.

Kulfi with two kinds of falooda

Then of course there’s the ma-ke-haath-ka-khana, my favourite – jackfruit fried to a crisp in mustard oil and singhade ka achar (water-chestnut pickle) – I’m not even sure many have heard of those. My mom, the strongest advocator of healthy eating and the loudest YOU-NEED-TO-LOSE-WEIGHT voice was torn between serving up my favourite foods and exhorting me to not binge. That was seriously funny.

Deep fried jackfruit fritters

Oh and this isn’t really a food thing but I have to make a mention. Each year sometime in the month of May is the Bara Mangal – a grand celebration of Lord Hanuman. I’ve written about it here. Numerous pandals serving free food and drink come up overnight, every Tuesday for a month. It might essentially be for the poor but the puri-and aaloo-kaddu ki sabzi one gets at these pandals is absolutely delicious. No matter how hard one tries, it is impossible to replicate at home. A bit like the kada prasad one gets at gurudwaras – it never tastes the same at home. So every Tuesday my lunch (and sometimes evening snack) menu had puri-subzi.

 

Aloo puri, the staple at Bara Mangal

To make matters more complicated, my sleepy hometown is slowly awakening to diverse cuisines – national and international. So we also have to do cafes and coffee shops, sizzlers and mocktails, fine dining and lavish buffets.

Sigh!

Did you see that? This was meant to be a stock-taking post on food and fitness but fitness seems to have taken the far back seat! This, right here, is what my problem is. I need focus, focus, focus!

For the first few days I managed to stick to a morning walk. Since my two homes – the in-laws and the parents are really close by the walk worked well because I’d start off from one place and drop by at the other for my morning cup of tea. But then the charm of lazy morning conversations took over and the plan went bust.

Now I’m back home and just as I was gathering the courage to step onto my brand new weighing machine the maid did the disappearing act (yet again). I’ve been spending my days mopping and dusting, lunging and squatting more than I’d ever done in my one hour a day at the gym. So my fitness routine should soon be on track. It is true, you know, what Coehello or SRK or whoever said – The Universe does look out for you if you want something with full shiddat.

What’s more my evening walks are beginning to make me happy. The nights are turning cool with the monsoon expected any day now. The days when the wind Gods are happy it’s an absolute delight to be out in the open with my iPod. Most importantly I get to switch off for those thirty or forty minutes from the chaos up at home.

While on fitness – I’d love some help on healthy salad recipes. Do leave them in the comments. Any other happy low-fat diet ideas would be great too.

Linking up with Shilpa and Bellybytes for #FlavoursomeTuesday. 

The Hugging Trees #ThursdayTreeLove

The Hugging Trees #ThursdayTreeLove

We found these trees in Lucknow’s Lohia Park while we were there this summer. Can you see there are two of them? I loved the way they seemed to be hugging each other, so close that one can barely make out which is which.

The trees capture the essence of my hometown which is a perfect blend of religions and cultures and languages, merging them all inextricably in its famed ganga-jamuni tehzeeb.

The park is absolutely delightful and I wish it were closer to where we live but we do make it point to go there at least once during our visit.

That’s all from me for now. I’ve been unable to write anything at all this past fortnight. I seem to be suffering from some kind of blog-existential-angst. However, I do know I’ll get around it sooner rather than later.

Till then, you guys have a good weekend.

Linking up with Parul’s #ThursdayTreeLove

Food on my mind

Food on my mind

I like food – most kinds, as long as it is vegetarian, since I gave up meat over a decade ago. So basically I am grateful for all kinds of food, home-made, store-bought, gourmet, roadside all of it. I am someone who can binge even on plain paranthas and pickle, roti and baingan bharta or dal and rice.

Choosing a favourite food is like choosing a favourite from among your children. Click To Tweet

However, that won’t quite do since in this post here, I am trying to narrow down my preferences to three foods I am grateful for, just three. I’m giving you this background only so that you appreciate the effort as I try to pare down my list.

Here goes:

Food for the taste buds

My first pick is a treat purely for the taste buds. If you’re not from Lucknow you’d probably only have heard of paan ki gilauri. And that, dear friends, is gross injustice, to this decadent dessert special to my hometown – the malai gilauri or the malai paan.

What is it?

This delectable sweet has a thin layer of malai, folded like a paan (betel leaf) holding within it the most delicious filling, topped off with chandi ka vark. As the soft layer of malai begins to melt in your mouth you get the crunch of mishri and dry fruits along with a delicate flavour of kewra, rose-water and saffron. It is way more sophisticated than the regular khoa- sugar sweets, truly Nawabi, just like the city, a party of textures and flavours in the mouth. Each time I take a bite of it I am grateful for a little piece of my hometown that cannot be replicated.

Food for the soul

Here’s another one from my childhood. Meet tehri – my comfort food. It isn’t a pulao, it isn’t a biryani and it isn’t masala rice. It is just tehri.

What is it?

A rice dish flavoured with whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves) cooked together with salt, turmeric and vegetables like onions, cauliflower and peas. One of my happiest childhood memories is of winter days when our high-ceiling house would get just too cold and we would pile our plates with tehri and step out to eat in the garden with the warm sun for company. The best thing ever about this one is its utter simplicity. Anyone, just about anyone, including me, can get it right and it cooks in a jiffy. I even taught the husband to make it and that is saying something. Since I became a mom the days I come home tired and hungry I am grateful for this simple flexible dish and it always comes to my rescue – my go-to meal when I want something delicious super fast!

Food for the (peace of) mind

Lastly, I pick this universal favourite, one that I’ve learnt to be eternally grateful for specially since the twins came along. Chocolate. If only you’d have seen the storms this one has averted – it has calmed screaming children, sorted fights, wiped tears, expressed love, cheered up the saddest souls and don’t you dare bring in that whole spiel about bribes and children. Sometimes one needs a bite of happiness to keep one’s sanity. Cakes, cookies, pastries, mousse, doughnuts or plain simple bars – chocolate has never failed me. So yes I am and shall always remain grateful to chocolate in all its myriad avatars.

Note: Re-reading my post I know why I have never been able to kick off the weight and am almost tempted to go back and change at least one of them to a soup or a salad but that would be dishonest of course, not to say grossly unfair to my true loves.

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Linking up with Amrita, TinaDeepa and Mayuri. for #ThankfulThursdays.

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On my other blog: Beat About The Book

The Forest of Enchantments – A #Review

The Forest of Enchantments – A #Review

Mythology tells timeless tales. Which is perhaps why, we never tire of listening to these stories from our childhood. Or perhaps the charm lies in the voice of the storyteller who brings something new, something unexpected to the tale; a new perspective perhaps or a poetic narration – something that makes the same old story […]