Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Card games

Today, we sat around in a circle and played cards, A, S, G and I, and for a little while it was like old times, like they hadn't all moved away, like nothing had ever changed or could. Reader, I have a confession. I don't really like playing cards. As my companions will readily tell you, I really suck at card games anyway. But I still play, because I love spending time with them and they love cards. We played one game, then one more, then another, easily losing track of time as we slipped back into old modes of talking, old jokes blent with new stories. They've been halfway around the world, I've been here.
I messed up game after game and we laughed at my clumsiness. I lost G (unluckily doomed to be my partner in several rounds) several points and she grew quite exasperated, albeit affectionately so. There was no time for nostalgia, during our busy, funny game. It was only when I said goodbye to them and shut the door on the chilly night air that it hurt, a little. Ah well, I shall see them again tomorrow.
It's New Year's Eve. What plans, Reader?

Monday, December 21, 2009


Has it already been two days since I last posted here? I'm so sorry, Reader. First I was busy being coddled for the mildest of colds, then I got to baking in earnest, to the exception of all else. The result, a caramel cake that oozed salted butter caramel on being squeezed, iced over with a poured chocolate ganache and dusted with sugar sparkles. The cake was in honour of S's birthday and was greatly appreciated. I could barely taste a bite though, I seem to have developed a temporary revulsion to all things butter. That tends to happen to me on days when I've spent the previous day baking batch after batch of brownies, three apple pies, several batches of caramel, and stirring an unnaturally orange moong dal halwa that dripped ghee.
I seem to have precious little left to show for my labours though. It is all gone now, just a few depressed looking brownie crumbs left. And that makes me happy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sick at home

At home, even falling sick is awesome. A combination of several late nights and early mornings left me with with a raspy throat and a rather watery nose this morning. All I had to do was cough once in front of Amma, I was immediately coddled, besieged with offers of besan halwa and sour plums, wrapped up warmly and propped up before the TV and my word on what we would watch was law.
I feel almost regretful that my mild little throat infection departed by evening. It should have lingered around longer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Memories and pie

A came over today. We sat on the swings hung under our Banyan tree and tried to see how high we could go. We baked apple pie and ruined a sponge cake. We talked and reminisced and laughed and it was lovely. Apple pie and memories make a glorious combination. It's not a culinary revolution, but it's warm and comforting, like the company of an old friend. There's something so comforting about apples slowly simmered in caramel dusted over with cinnamon. The raisins we shook in grew soft and plump in the oven.
It wasn't perfect, the crust was a little tough, but we didn't care. We ate it with strawberry ice cream and scraped our plates clean.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Today, I stood in a cloud of cinnamon.
Reader, I dare you to find a better smelling cloud. I was powdering the cinnamon to spice the apple milkshake I was making for K. When I opened the food processor this fine brown dust flew all around me and I just stood there and breathed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hot chocolate

I'm back home Reader. It all happened very suddenly. One moment I was pondering what happy moment I would tell you about today and the next, I was packing my bags and my heart was singing.
I reached home by around 11 in the night and surprised Amma and Appa. It's humbling how happy I could make them. Then K threw a tantrum, so I stood in the kitchen at midnight and boiled milk for hot chocolate. It was when I watched the chocolate make brown swirls in the white milk that it all sank in.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I went on a trek with R today. We woke up for it at 5:30 am, I stepped on a snake, got a giant blister and cussed a great deal. But it was all worth it, because we got to see this:

More photos on R's blog.
Edit: All photographs were taken by Ravali. She's totally awesome. I myself am sorely lacking in the artistic department.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The movies

I was feeling a little lonely today, so R and A took me to watch a movie. We watched a movie called Rocket Singh, and Ranbir Kapoor makes for a totally adorable young Sikh boy.

I don't know about you, Reader, but I watch movies very rarely. And the ones I do watch are the fantasy type, the sort that are impossible in normal life, that require a suspension of reality, What are movies but a means of escape: to lose yourself in a fantasy land for a brief period of time When the credits finally roll, I take a deep breath and walk out the door marked with the green Exit sign. And when I'm walking out, sometimes it's gleefully, when the movie has inspired me to try something new, to apply something gleaned from it to my own life. And sometimes it's reluctantly, like I need more suspension time, like three hours weren't enough. But those realistic movies, the ones that try to imitate real life, I tend to avoid them like the plague. I get quite enough reality, thank you very much.

I don't know if I'm making much sense right now, Reader, I'm rather tired and confused. I realised this movie-watching fact about myself only today, as I sat in that darkened theater, reclining on my 180 degree seat. Oh but, whatever the movie: surreally fantastical or viscerally real, one really can't reflect too hard on it when reclining on a plush velvet sofa that at the press of a button rocks you to and fro at an almost reclining angle.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The absence of pain

"Joy is not the absence of pain," says Ayn Rand. I say, pshaw. I'd been having a splitting headache all day, Reader. The kind that makes even smiling feel uncomfortable, the kind where you want to lie curled up in bed, your head wrapped in pillows, desperate for sleep or oblivion. Well, I finally fell asleep at eight, which is why I'm up now, at 3 am and annoyingly perky. My headache's gone, I have lots to do and I'm happy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I was walking on the pavement along IIT’s main road today, playing this game ‘Crazy’ on my cellphone. It’s one of those battleship style games, where you have to eliminate blue moles with your cannon. I find myself curiously addicted to it. So when I felt a spattering of water droplets, the first place I looked was up. I hadn’t expected rain. Turns out, it wasn’t rain. It was an impromptu fountain from the very holey rubber pipe that had been left to water the grass beside the pavement. I stood there in that gentle fountain for a minute, eliciting curious glances from passersby. It felt good.

I remembered how K and I used to make fountains with the water hose while watering our vegetable patch in YOL. Race, our dog, would run wildly about, trying to dodge our fountain, digging up all Amma’s carefully planted peas in his frenzy. I remembered Holi celebrations past where R and G and A would hose me down till I lay on the ground covered with grass and mud, begging for mercy. I remembered giggling madly as we dropped water balloons on the heads of people walking below, on our street in Delhi.

Then I glanced down at my phone and found that the blue moles had killed me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cherry Red

Who says happiness can't be packaged. In this case, it came in the form of a small golden tube in shiny pink casing, that smells like raspberry jelly and is filled with Shade# 352, Cherry Red. I've wanted to try red lipstick for nigh on two years now and yesterday, finally I took the plunge. Reader, did you know how many shades of reds there are out there? I most certainly didn't. There are reds with blue undertones and orange highlights, glossy reds, sparkly reds, matte reds, liquid reds. A red for every skin tone. Cherry happens to be mine.
I wonder if I'll ever have the courage to wear my red lips in public. Still, I'm wearing them now, while typing out my report to you, sneaking occasional glances in the mirror. Perfectly happy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No Reason

Must one always have a reason to be happy? Because today, I'm happy. I've been smiling a lot and not just because of that hilarious episode of The Big Bang Theory that R and I watched in the morning. I've tried analyzing it, but I'm not sure yet why I'm happy. So, I think I'll just go with the flow today.

It's a lovely day, the sun is just setting and the banyan tree outside is alive with roosting birds. R and I are about to embark upon an expedition in quest of eye makeup and water chestnuts. I have several essays to write when I return and perhaps a day long expedition to Pune to plan. I'll be up half the night, staring at this white screen. It's a nice life.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thanksgiving and Chennai

Dear Reader, I don't know if you've given up on visiting this space lately. You had every right to, I've been terribly neglectful. I've been busy and the last few days have been a little hard so I turn back to you again. I realize how selfish I sound and I'm going to try to make it up to you by finally telling you all about Chennai. It's a post I began writing up a while ago, but only today finished. But first, there are several wonderful people I wish I could thank over and over again. I don't know if all of them will even read this blog, but I need to do this anyway, so I never forget how lucky I am to have them in my life. Call it my own little Thanksgiving if you will, which true to form, comes several days late.

So thank you to A, who left everything to be with me and to P for sharing her so unselfishly. To R who called and texted and always said the right thing and to V for being so nice, just like he always is. To G who scolded sense into me time and time again (she never gives up on me) and N who I must state, looks absolutely adorable in a formal skirt and R who always has far more fascinating things than placements to talk about. To A for the promise of black and white cookies and K, whose phone call meant more than I can say. To Amma, Appa and Ken, you folks are my rocks, and since this is creeping into dangerously sentimental territory now, to all of you, too many to name, who are far too good to me. I don't deserve you.
On to Chennai then.

Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems - but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible.
-Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

Oh Reader, I have so much to tell you! Let me begin at the beginning. I must admit, this time I entered Chennai with a good deal of trepidation, my memories of last time seemed almost too good to be true and I was misanthropically suspicious of them. But it was lovely, lovelier than I remembered. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The beginning.
My flight took off from Mumbai airport, which I reached after a particularly harrowing auto ride. By the time I reached the airport, I was more than glad to leave Mumbai- with its polluted air and choked roads- behind. I watched from the airplane window as the thousands of twinkling yellow lights of Mumbai bled into the night, turning it curiously red. Then as we rose higher and higher, the red faded into black and we were away.
I went home first- Amma and Appa were away at a dinner party when I reached. I was all alone in the big white house. It felt strange. Then Amma came in and hugged me and I felt home again.

The next morning, I went to the Mahaveer Institute of Technology, a name the students abbreviate to 'MIT', which lay in a village 40 kilometres and a dirt road away. I gave the TOEFL at MIT, feeling curiously self conscious when I had to air my views on Mumbai to a dusty looking microphone. On the bumpy ride back, I had a great deal of time for thought and I felt my worries for the future leaving me one by one, bump after bump. The rest of the weekend at least, was mine.

So we took the night train to Chennai. It's been a while since I was on a train and it was fun, the clatter of the rails forms a rhythmic accompaniment to thoughts, investing them with the sort of circularity that makes the airiest of thoughts profound. From the window, I watched glimpses of peoples' lives: children playing, a ceiling fan turning, a woman laying the table, like a movie reel with the rails for background score.

I turned in soon in the middle berth and thought about that ancient Chinese form of torture, where they imprison a person in a room neither wide nor high enough for him to ever stretch out completely. We reached Chennai by eight in the morning and the platform was bustling. I heard loud expletives in Tamil and smelled coffee and sweat and jasmine. Prabhu Anna was there to receive us and he was as entertaining as ever. He's the liveliest of my cousins, guaranteed to have anyone in splits within moments of meeting them.

(Reader, I'm going to change tack slightly now. I just realized that if I give you a blow by blow account of everything I did, this post will take forever, and you, who don't know my cousins, will be bored quite silly. So instead, I'll just give you the highlights, shall I?)

So there was Patti, who seemed happier than ever before, to see me. It came as rather a shock to me that my very presence could make someone so happy. She held my hand and wouldn't let go till I was called away. Then there were my cousins, Krithika Akka (the bride whose engagement I was there to attend), Ambika, Kripa and Aru, who did their best to teach me four Tamil songs in less than an hour and never smiled when I stumbled. There was curd rice and sevai, to be eaten with my fingers, off a banana leaf and godumai halwa and therati pal, childhood treats I've sorely missed in Mumbai. There were glimpses of Chennai, mostly gathered from the window of a car as we drove past: billboards selling kanjeevaram sarees stiff with gold lace, men in veshtis, their foreheads smeared with ash, a bullock cart holding up the traffic on a highway and everywhere, familiarity. Try as I might to deny it (and I have tried, several times) this place is familiar. There's a place for me here, even though I've never really lived here, even though I speak the language stumblingly, at best. I understand now, what Appa told me of the ties of blood. They've withstood all the ill treatment I've given them. So I wore a purple saree and a bindi without being asked, wore jasmine strands in my hair and I was a Tamil girl for a day. No amount of rebellion can stand up to love.

The next day, I scrambled desperately, for more images, more memories, to get my fill and keep me going when I returned to another, far more alien metropolis. I memorised the feel of the sun, burning down in December, and the golden ceiling in Ananda Bhavan, I read the newspaper listings of music concerts longingly and wore the golden earrings that Patti gave me, proudly.

Too soon, it was time to leave and I promised to return soon, very soon. As my flight rose over the city, I pressed my nose to the window and caught my last glimpses of the city: buildings and bullock cards, colonies and parks, then hundreds of toy-like houses with crisscrossing roads. We rose higher and higher and flew through a cloud and Chennai disappeared beneath me in a puff of white smoke. We kept rising, above the clouds that were whipped into fantastical formations like the airiest of egg whites whisked by the wind.

Then, two hours later, we descended and the night turned from black to red as it bled back into thousands of twinkling lights.