Category: nostalgia

Of Diwali Traditions Old and New

Of Diwali Traditions Old and New

Traditionally Diwali has always spelt A.C.T.I.V.I.T.Y since I was a child. We would get swept along on this tidal wave as the adults sat around budgeting, making lists, shopping for clothes and estimating the number of visitors.

Most of all I remember the food

My grandmas and my mother would get together along with the house help and cook up a storm in the kitchen. By the time Diwali came around, we’d have huge boxes full of all kinds of sweets and savouries that would last through the month.

We’d hang around the kitchen…

..pestering them for ‘something to do’, beyond the picking and carrying and fetching. Most often we were handed over forks or knives and we would sit happily pricking the mathris readying them for frying. Or we’d get to work on the gujhiyas cutting them with the help of moulds, getting out perfectly formed semi circles. The adults worked far more deftly without the moulds.

My favourite memory…

is that of my grandmother sitting out in the courtyard frying gujhiyas in a large kadhai (a wok) on a coal fire. My sister and I would hang out of the huge windows of our room that opened out into the courtyard. It was me more than my sister. Food never was quite her thing like it was mine. My grandmom would hand over one to me, its delicately flavoured khoa hot and runny. And I would happily risk burning my tongue as I’d bite into it. Nothing ever tasted quite as good.

After I got married..

..I tried my hand at making gujhiyas and it turned out an epic fail. Each one of them burst out into the oil spilling all their contents and effectively putting me off festive cooking. I didn’t much mind. All I did was go looking for the shop that sold the best ones (by that I meant the ones closest to the kind my mom made). And that was how it was for many years.

However now, as the children are growing up, I am beginning to feel sorry for that lost tradition, among many others. I’m sorry they will never experience the bustle of a busy kitchen fragrant with festive smells, that they will never get to sample a hot gujhiya straight out of the kadhai. And I wonder if, in an attempt at simplifying the festival, I have taken away the essence of it.

In an attempt at simplifying Diwali have we taken away the essence of it? Click To Tweet

Perhaps I have. Could I have done it any other way? I’m not sure. Not as far as the cooking goes that’s certain, that really isn’t my forte.

We have however, set up our own traditions – clearing our cupboards, redoing the house, painting diyas, making rangolis, having our own small puja followed by visiting friends and neighbours. That’s not too bad I assume. The children, of course, have no idea what they’re missing, as for me, I still miss the ma ke haath ki gujhiyas.

Linking up with the Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge #writebravely #writetribeproblogger

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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Of friends and friendships

Of friends and friendships

Really, writing a post on friends and friendship is so very hard. Not because one doesn’t have much to say but because everything that one would say has already been said, over and over again, till all that remains is a bunch of tired clichés.

I’ve written about it often enough too. Friends have helped me become less judgemental, more accepting. They’ve helped me try out new things, offered a shoulder to cry on, heard out my rants and made me stick to resolutions.

As you grow older you move on from having a single all-purpose BFF, so to say, to a vast category of friends. As I try to write about some of them I’ll go with those that are top of my mind now.

It’s been a week since I got back from my hometown but I’m still a bit hungover so School Friends are bound to top the list. They are the best kind, aren’t they? I mean how can you not be friends with the girl whose plait got yanked by the teacher along with yours? Quite like Krishna yanked the reins of those horses in the battlefield of  Kurukshetra. School friends have been witness to the ultimate insults heaped upon you and not believed a single one of them. They are the ones who’ve known you from the time you were a plump tween battling the bulge and, if you are lucky, they are still with you as you turn into a middle age woman battling the bulge.

The thing is – to them it doesn’t matter.

They only remember you as the girl whose mum made the most smashing tiffin, the one who made a Bollywood parody out of Macbeth, or the one who could touch her tongue to her nose or one who couldn’t stop laughing even when she was sent out of class.

Those are the things that matter to them and that’s why they are special.

Neighbourhood friends were an integral part of my childhood but then as I grew and got caught up in academics and work I thought I’d didn’t need them at all, where was the time? Life seems to have come a full circle and I cannot imagine what I’d do without them.

 

Neighbours might not all be the sexy kind but they’re still a blessing

They are the ones who host you the time the door bangs shut just as you step out to put the trash. They also give you the number of the keymaker and assure you, you looked just fine in your frumpy faded nightdress. They take your couriers when you’re not around and even hand over the COD amount.
 They make rangolis at your doorstep and light diyas for you when you’re out for Diwali.
They’re the ones who hear/see your Taraka avatar with the children. They not only keep your secret but also keep loving you despite that.

How did I ever do without them!

And finally my very favourite kind – the Slightly Crazy-so-not-my-type of friends. This one is a bit of a peculiarity because you are pretty much poles apart and yet you connect at some strange level – the level headedness of one balancing the craziness of the other, mixing excitement and caution for a perfect cocktail that keeps you high but holds you back from going over the edge. These are the friends who got me to do things I’d never have done on my own. Things I would have wished I had done but never actually gone out and taken the plunge. But for them I would never have trekked to a fort with zero level of fitness, run a marathon (not a full one, just a baby one but id did get me walking), bought dangerously high heels or joined a Zumba class. What fun all of that turned out to be. I might soon be heading to Spanish class rather than slogging it out on Youtube as I’d originally planned.

Life would drab and dull without these crazy ones.

There, those are the friends I am grateful for today. Which are the friends you cherish most?

Linking up with Amrita for #ThankfulThursdays. Thank you for a fabulous prompt Amrita.

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Also linking up with Vidya’s Gratitude Circle Blog Hop. Do click on the link and head on over.

A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons

A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons

Picture Credit: PIXABAY
The other day I was at the vegetable vendor’s picking out well.. obviously – vegetables. As I moved to the tomatoes I was joined by a boy of about 14. He dug into the basket turning the tomatoes this way and that, picking out some then dropping them back, then picking out some more. Finally he asked me, ‘How do you know which is a good one?’
Deja vu struck.
While we were growing up we lived in a joint family. While my sister and I did our chores (my mum saw to it) most of the mundane outdoor tasks were handled by others in the family. It might have had to do with the fact that we lived in a crowded area and mum wasn’t certain we could negotiate the roads safely on our own.

One day, perhaps the house help wasn’t around or maybe because my mum decided it was high time I learnt to do this, she handed me a bag, some change and asked me to go buy vegetables.

I mean, seriously? Vegetables? The teen me was completely appalled. I could imagine going out and buying stationery or books or sweets or clothes. But vegetables? What a mundane, unfashionable, low brow task to be saddled with! My entire teen self quailed at the idea rejecting it outright.
I refused.
“If you can eat vegetables, you can go buy them too,” said my mum and I saw her face settle into that familiar determined look my sister and I disliked and dreaded. If you know even a little bit of my mum you will know she can really dig her heels in, specially  when it comes to, what she thinks of as, teaching us a lesson.
I didn’t stand a hair’s breadth chance. So there I was with the most embarrassing jhola (cloth bag) in one hand and the money in the other off to buy vegetables at Chantu ki dukan – that’s what the vegetable vendor was called! I bent my head, praying I wouldn’t bump into anyone I knew, as I threaded my way through the crowded street.
I cannot recall what I bought. I just remember picking up a handful of something, mumbling out, ‘Half kg of this’, handing the money and walking home in a blaze of self-consciousness.

And here was this boy, how easily he asked for my help and how gladly I gave it! Standing side by side in a rather companionable silence we picked out tomatoes. I wish I had been more like him when I was his age.

So dear H and N, here’s the lesson for the day:
People are more likely to offer help than laugh at us if only we cast aside our nervousness and ask for it. We might be laughed at for pretending to know something but the moment we voluntarily expose our vulnerability and  enlist someone’s assistance we create a bond putting them firmly on ‘our side’, so to say.
No matter where you are – at a new school, at the library or in the sports ground, don’t be too shy or scared to enlist people’s support, even if they are strangers. Ask for help and you shall get it in greater measure than you ever expected.
Have you ever been in a situation like this, where you’ve been to embarrassed to ask for help? Do share. I’d love to add your experience to mine when I talk to the kids.

Brothers and sisters and memories #CBF16

Brothers and sisters and memories #CBF16

About a year back the twins had to make a family tree and while helping them I found my side of the family far outnumbering the Husband’s side – my five siblings to his two. It was only later that I realised I had included my cousins in my count of siblings. But then the Hindi language doesn’t really have an exact word for ‘cousin’ and that’s how it was with us.
We didn’t live together but the summer holidays would see the six us of in our hometown. Since we lived with our grandparents our home became the place where some fifteen to twenty of us would gather for one whole month of crazy celebration.
It was an old house, not too large. We wonder now, how we fitted in. What’s more we managed with a single washroom between the entire bunch of us. (We now have two washrooms and three people in the house, with the husband being away, and yet there’s constant squabbling).
Studies and work finally put an end to the tradition and almost a decade rolled by since we were together. We tried to meet up a few times but the magic half-a-dozen was never complete.
Then last month one of our cousins was in India for a couple of days and we decided to give it a serious shot. We realised how hard it is for six people to drop their responsibilities even for the space of a single weekend!
One had to postpone dropping off his daughter to boarding school, another one rushed back from a a holiday with his family, yet another one wrapped up a seminar she was organising.
The Husband flew down to look after the kids(and attend a PTM that had to crop up just that weekend), while I was away.
After much planning and coordination we were there, together, in my aunt’s house. Nothing seemed to have changed. Of course the figures were fuller and the hair was thinner but that was about it.
US: Then and now and that quote is one of my favourites
It was like we’d never been away. We sat around the dining table and talked. Then moved to the verandah and talked some more, then decided to take a siesta and ended up talking again. 
It was two days of catching up, piecing together memories, one filling in details the other one left out, debating who’s fault it was in ‘that’ incident, digging out long-forgotten nicknames, laughing over incorrigible pranks, reminiscing about the time we smuggled cigarettes, got caught and got the blasting of our lifetimes.
And there was food —- enough to feed a garrison.
Those two pictures, taken at the same place, years apart, will remain one of my most cherished memories. Nothing can beat the warmth and affection built over years of togetherness and I shall forever be grateful for that. The memory of this trip will last a long long time but we’re not going to wait another decade to meet again. 
and also to 
Do click on the link and head on for a healthy dose of gratitude.

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