Food Encounters Of The Third Kind

Mum has left town this week so it’s time to play house-house again. I know what you’re thinking – how hard is it for a grown woman to manage a house? It’s not. What is difficult for a grown woman to manage, is another woman’s kitchen. Yes. We may share a living space. But when it comes to the culinary castle, my mother treats it like her personal kingdom and guards it jealously.

It is wonderfully convenient for me that she is such a good cook. So it really doesn’t hurt me too much to throw up my hands and concede the throne of Kitchendom to her. The trouble comes, when she has to travel for a few days. Unlike cupboards, study tables and bookshelves that can be locked away (What, you’re laughing at locking away a bookshelf? You must have never been a booklover then.), the food supply chain has to keep running. What to do?

In the early years, I shouldered the mantle of Temporary Kitchen Monarch. Naivete never had a better victim. All hell broke loose when I attempted to make a dum aloo, as a welcome-home, the day mother was to return. This being before the advent of Wikipedia and Google, I used a more primitive form of information gathering. I called my best friend’s mother. The recipe she gave me sounded simple enough. I was really quite proud with what turned out a few hours later.

Mother walked into the house. Stopped. Sniffed. Eyes bored into me accusing.


That incident has stayed a sore point with us since then and will probably go down in family lore. I deduced that she was smelling the garam masala (made from scratch using *I promise* vegetarian ingredients only). But maybe my Goan auntie’s recipe smelt like our Goan neighbor’s fish fry. Mother refused to touch a bite of the dum aloo. I protested, telling her that I had used ingredients from that very kitchen. I think she has never forgiven me for managing to turn out ‘non-vegetarian’ food from her very vegetarian ingredients.

Well, time to go. It’s been over 24 hours since mum left and the leftovers are nearly over. Weekend promises food encounters of the third kind. I better get my armour and shields ready. TO BATTLE, WOMAN!


One Day Past Thirty-Five

I wanted to write a post today but I’ve only gotten to it now and it’s past 2 a.m. which means it’s technically tomorrow but I’m still awake so I call it today. It’s Day 1 of being 35. I’m just past the mid-way mark of The Thirty Diaries. And 35 is the next landmark age after 30, so it feels like I should make a big deal out of it.

Celebrations. I’ve decided I’m going to have them as often and as self-indulgently as possible. Really. I now see the self-defeatingness of waiting around for other people to do something nice for me. And to hell with modesty. In fact, fuck modesty, I say. Modesty doesn’t wait around to cheer you up when you’re moping indoors, watching the grey rain outside your window (it’s always depressing weather on the birthday of a July person) and reading the one gift you got. This happened to me one year and I spent it reading a book that predicted my mood accurately – Misery. Modesty doesn’t rescue you from a broken heart and the pain of knowing that they were so petty, they couldn’t even bother to wish you a happy birthday. Two different years, neither man worth it (which petty person ever is?). Modesty doesn’t act as a shield from an insecure enemy hitting out unprovoked at you, stealing your work, cheating with your boyfriend and turning your friends on you. One year only and that was enough. I went underground all these times. I hid, I cried then I wiped my tears and went out like nothing happened. Like the fact that it was my birthday didn’t matter. Like the one ritual I was allowed to have to celebrate myself was taken away and it was okay. Never again. So, I say, fuck modesty.

This year I announced it to all and sundry. This year I threw myself a party. Actually, last year as well. And this year was a different one. Now, let’s see I’ve had a different thing every one of my Thirty Diary years.

30 was Pune, a love affair with a new city, dating for the fun of it and drinking beer like it might be worth drinking it.
31 was a home get-together with two friends and one interesting stranger. We began dating three days later.
32 was the confused cocktail of marriage talks, a trip to Kolkata and a surprise party thrown by him, a guy who hated parties.
33 was lying on the sofa, unwashed, hungry, tired, depressed, watching reruns of reality TV the whole day, with the phone switched off.
34 was dancing and drinking and cake and laughter with a new circle of friends and lovers.

And this weekend, 35 was a home get-together with good friends, brunch with the family, an evening out with my writers. All of them, my people, my world. My world revolves around me and I lead how people behave towards me in here. I must celebrate me and then the world will celebrate too – me and itself.

Adi grabbed me into a bear hug the minute it struck 12. Unfortunately I was wearing a spiked headband and it cut him on the chin, just as he hugged me. But he laughed and held up a bloodied finger and said, “Now I can say, I’ve truly shed blood for you!”

I also got birthday bumped for the very first time in my life. Hmph. I knew 35 would bring a lot of new experiences. I didn’t expect the first to be quite so, umm, undignified.

Netra gifted me a pretty dress. It’s lovely, I told her, but I don’t wear backless. You should, she said, when I saw this dress, I said it’s so you! I held it up, soft fabric caressing my face and I let myself sink into my NO. Many, many years ago an insecure man told me that I was ugly, that the heat rash on my back made me unattractive. And I never wore backless after that day. I had forgotten about that memory; it had lain in a corner, missed when I swept away all the other evil nonsense that he fed me, which had limited my life. And with that, I decided to let it go.

I wore the dress on my birthday, my back open to the world, literally and metaphorically. The only thing close to bad that happened, was when I was waiting for a friend at the National College crossing in Bandra. A strange man drove up, parked next to the pavement, rolled down his window and stared at me. I stared back at him till he stopped. But a few minutes later he resumed staring. I took a picture of him (with his license plate) and tweeted it. And then I forgot about it. Later, when I checked Twitter, I found RTs and someone offering to take legal recourse against the offender. So I took that action and then it passed out of my conscious thinking, without spoiling my evening.

My friends and I ate leftover cake. We walked around Bandra in the rain, mock-debating the merits of raincoats over umbrellas. We had chai and played ‘Whose line is it anyway’. We had pizza. And nobody told me I was ugly or attacked me. Instead, I got an otherwise reticent friend telling me it was ‘delicious’. :-D After today, I can wear my back with pride and more newly – with freedom.

The wonderful thing about celebrations of this sort are that the hangover lasts a few days. It’s carrying me wonderfully over self-defeating messages about the supposed stability and sobriety and maturity that 35 is supposed to be. I’m 35, not dead!! I’m still twinkling and sparkling with all the jokes, the affection, the unexpected wishes, the messages that people sent my way. I feel loved and inspired. What better way to start a new year?


Thirty-five, welcome in! Who’s coming with me?


I don’t feel so raw anymore.
I don’t feel so raw.
I don’t feel so.
I don’t feel.
I don’t.

Cruise Control And The New ‘Joy’stick

I live a charmed life.

I stumbled onto something I loved doing and that, coincidentally I was also good at. It happened late enough that I had had enough time to pick up an education and a world view so I wouldn’t grow up into a unidimensional adult. And it happened early enough that I hadn’t grown weary of mediocrity. I don’t have any real loans or bonds. I also don’t have a boyfriend or a house or a car. But all things considered, it seems to be a worthwhile trade-off.

Charmed indeed. Yet, most days I forget. I find myself tired, unhappy, unwell and sad. When I trace it back, I realise it’s because of bad eating and sleeping habits and a lack of exercise. There are external annoyances of course – an unprovoked personal attack (really now, I ask myself, you’re a digital citizen AND a woman, haven’t you gotten used to the idea that that is par for the course?) here, an unseasonal weather change there, Mumbai’s persistent pollution and traffic. But still, still, still, my ability to handle these is directly proportional to how well I manage my own well-being (food, sleep, exercise – the magic mantra).

I’ve figured out life comes down to these basics. It really isn’t about wonderful achievements, proven brilliance or unimaginable wealth. Happiness comes down to the ability to deal with daily realities of life, whatever those may be for you. And millions of human beings everywhere in every part of the world find their own unique ways to do it. It certainly can’t have to do with things more complex than food, sleep and exercise. These are what every human being has in common.

Yet, I don’t keep these on top priority and I frequently slip up. Why? I think we get used to being less than happy. We sabotage that feeling with excuses like ‘I forgot’ or ‘I got bored’.  I think I am starting to understand what the wise ones meant when they said it’s simple to be happy but it is very difficult to be simple. “I don’t know” is not a valid excuse anymore. The 20s were about experiences hitting like hailstorms, not being able to make sense, trying to get under cover and recover from the bruises of each. Post 30, I find I know myself, my body, my moods and my attitude a little better. Now to put that knowledge to good use – that is the challenge of the 30s.

By this time, one knows what one must do and how to approach it. New experiences bring up apprehension but even that is not unfamiliar. I know how to turn that into the drive for perfection. Unforseen setbacks, those are harder, but not completely new. The personal attacks, I’ve learnt to rationalise as other people’s insecurity and backhanded compliments. I’m learning compassion – this is new. And mostly it draws from the magic mantra of keeping myself clean from within – physically by not polluting my body with harmful substances but also mentally by not retaining anger, jealousy, grief or other harmful emotions.

I discover something new in the driving seat of my life – call it a ‘joy’stick . It’s so new I forget it’s there half the time. Then I discover it and grip it hard taking myself into excessive light-headedness. Then I pull back and let it drift. I’m learning a new control but I’m not a new driver. Happiness happens somewhere between delirium and stagnation. I’m not smooth but I’m learning.

I start to tie off this thought. When I end this post, I will shut down my computer. Outside the window, I can see it has begun raining. I won’t dip into sullenness, thinking of the muddy roads. I also won’t let myself whine about working on a Monday instead of going to the beach. I’ll pull on the brand new Crocs I picked up last week and ready myself for my next meeting – an exciting project with people I like and respect. And then, as I step out, I’ll remind myself to be happy. That’s my only real task for the day. Everything else is on cruise control.

The Anti-Love Fundamentalists

The people who espouse hookups are just as fundamentalist in their beliefs as the people they scoff at (the, till-death-do-us-part type).

The Marriage Fundamentalists impose tradition and religious rituals on every aspect of the male-female interaction. The Hookup Loyalists draw rigid boundaries on what may be said, done, thought and felt. Both of them measure ‘deliverables’, assess you for your result-worthiness and are ruthless in cutting you down if you don’t match up.

I don’t believe in the entire-family-dictates-the-relationship system that is so honoured by the great Indian value system. Astrological matches, bank accounts and family pedigree have everything to do with that system. It strikes me as brutally businesslike. So cold.

I also don’t understand the sex-no-strings concept as it’s getting pushed about. What is sex without sensation? How can you have a sensory experience when you dull your senses? To me, that’s like eating a gourmet meal with your eyes and nose shut and your taste buds dulled. And this feels transactional as well. Cold, again.

I think, I’d like to get to know people. I need to have an agenda-free conversation with a person to figure out (in conjunction with them) how we relate to each other and where we would like to see that conversation going. Isn’t this a fundamental human need? But neither system allows for this.

But more to the point, why does believing this make me uncool, boring or (yes, one person said this), not fit to be on the social circuit? The rabidity with which I’m hounded for my no-hookup belief, is rivalled only by the unbelievable pressure to get married, that I experienced in my mid-20s.

I’m afraid we’re a generation of people who’re chasing a strange notion of love, so we can pound it to pulp and burn its remains.

I Wear: Indian Wedding

*This is a sponsored post.

Two of my friends got married this week. I attended a ceremony that lasted over 6 hours, included a pheras-around-fire ritual, several small in-family practices, a wedding dinner and reception. And this was actually an Indian Wedding Lite. I didn’t have much time to dress or even plan what I’d wear, considering it was a speed tracked wedding (7 days to organise, invite and conduct!). Also, it was in the middle of a  weekday in oppressive, pre-monsoon June in Mumbai.

I went to my saree cupboard, of course. Sarees are my staple wedding wear. And the past year of saree experimentation have given me a mean confidence about a quick drape. I picked out an old favourite, my first ever Kanjeevaram saree, actually. I chose this one because its blue/green colour would be different from the traditional red/pink/purple hues that dominate Indian wedding guest attire. Also, with its stripy design and brown-gold border, it defies the kanjeevaram tradition of plain hues with gold buttis and  border.

I’ve been struggling to find good blouse alternatives for sarees and the last year has been full of experimenting with tee-shirts, croptops and even a blazer once. But for a wedding, I wanted to go a little more traditional (convention having being defied adequately in choice of saree). I wore a chilli green readymade silk blouse that I found available under a brand called Ethnicity. The fit is good, the colours vibrant and the design, just the right blend of saucy and conventional.

And finally (or rather, primarily), the accessories. The jewellery would have to be gold or close (I went with minakari) to match the saree border. My regular steel strapped watch would clash with the gold/yellow/brown tones. My latest timepiece came in handy. I have a new Jord Woodwatch in an unusual Cherry wood shade. It went beautifully with my attire. The watch is entirely made of wood, including its strap so it didn’t conflict with the material/fabric ensemble either. Here’s how I looked:


I Wear:

  • Blue-green striped kanjeevaram saree: Nalli, Chennai
  • Chilli green silk readymade blouse: Ethinicity (available in InOrbit mall)
  • Minakari jewellery: Central Cottage Emporium, New Delhi
  • Woodwatch: Ely Series (Cherry), JORD

*JORD wood watches can be ordered at their online store. The one I’m wearing in the photograph is here.ely-11-front-angled


Movie Review: Chef – Digitalia, Loss, Life And Some Food

Chef_2014I had a chance to catch an early preview of the movie ‘Chef’ last week. As it turned out, I got late and missed about 45 minutes of the movie. A few minutes in, riled, I turned to Rushina who was sitting next to me and asked,

“What does Hollywood have against the social media?”

She smiled and replied,

“Keep watching. Don’t judge it yet.”

I’m glad I did. Digitalia is the generational change of our times. And given how far-reaching its influences are, everybody who is living an active, working life is touched by it. We’re making mistakes, we’re experiencing calamities that should not have happened to us since we weren’t never taught about those realities. And then, we’re learning to cope and rise. It’s a classic human interest story; it’s not that new.

Chef Carl Casper is stuck in a prestigious job that he doesn’t even realize is making him unhappy. An unexpected episode has him losing everything he has. And the rest of the film is the journey about how he makes his peace with it. You will relate to this story even if you aren’t a foodie or a social media junkie. It’s about coming to terms with life’s less-than-perfectness, making peace with the mediocrity that is our own life.

Very definitely worth a watch. In fact, I’m going to go and catch it this weekend again (this time from the start). And now here’s the trailer and some places you can look it up online: WebsiteWikipediaIMDB


20 Steps: A Digital Love Story

1. He sends her a carefully worded to sound casual-but-smart message.

2. She replies with the digital equivalent of a laugh.

3. Encouraged, he does some more of that.

4. She chuckles (digitally, of course). He notices that her smile is crooked and that her teeth don’t quite line up. He wonders whether to judge her for not using Photoshop or be impressed that she doesn’t feel the need to.

5. While he’s thinking, she springs a snarky/smart/weird reference on him that makes him laugh.

6. Encouraged, she does more of that.

7. They continue in this fashion, trading funny lines, witty insights and an occasional urban angst reflection, that they agree (without words) to consider original.

8. The dating site goes down for 27 hours. They return surprised at the relief they feel that the chat history hasn’t been vaporised. But just in case, she says, maybe it’s not such a reliable platform after all? Sure, he agrees, how about moving this to chat instead?

9. They now feature on each other’s ‘Last messaged’ and ‘Always Show’ chat lists. Gripes about work, mid-morning panic pangs and I’m-so-bored-but-it’s-not-time-to-stop-work-yet chats feature on these.

10. Work hits. Life intervenes. Illness happens. Or, never mind that deus ex machina crap, it’s just a weekend. But she types his name into the search bar every now and then. And he stalks her photos on a lonesome Tuesday night.

20 Steps

*Image (without text) via thanunkorn on

11. 4 days later, a Hi goes unanswered. 2 days later the reply goes unnoticed. 3 days later a message goes undelivered. A week later, they are online at the same time but they don’t exchange a word.

12. 10 days later she says ‘What’s up?’ He replies ‘Same old’. Another week passes.

13. A month later, he says ‘Hey’. She replies (after 20 minutes), ‘How are you?’. They talk. It’s almost like it once was. Almost. But he’s texting a prospective hookup about later. And she is parallel-chat-flirting with a new crush/Fwb. There are no goodbyes in this conversation that is peppered by intervals of at least 5 minutes between each message.

14. Three weeks later, he messages saying he is going to be in her city. She replies “Oh cool”. No further communication.

15. Two days later she pings him saying she saw his profile on another dating app and isn’t it funny how things turned out? He replies with a smiley.

16. A month later, she notices his profile picture has changed to show a geographic landmark that she recognises from her own city. She chooses not to comment on it. She forgets about it.

17. He changes his profile picture back to one more his style, his city after 2 weeks. This time, there’s a girl in the picture as well, her head pressed close to his. Two weeks later, he notices the Facebook ticker shows her rapidly commenting and liking some guy’s status updates. His eyes move back to his feed before he can even think about it.

18. She receives a friend request from someone. It’s an old classmate. Among the 37 common friends, she notices his face. And she wonders if she should ask how they know him. She files it away in her head for a later, more casual conversation where it won’t be noticed. And she forgets about it.

19. He pings and says ‘What’s up?’. She says ‘Same old’.

20. Repeat from 1.


I also posted this to my other blog, XX Factor. If you’d like to read more on my take on modern relationships, do visit The Dating Game. Posts you might like:

#IdeaStory: Laughter


Her laughter
into a thousand pieces
that went skipping
over his wonder.

One stuck
deep in his heart
and bled when she left.

Social, Secretly Human

So I’ve been checking out some of the popular Dating apps recently. I was intrigued by Tinder, my interest part professional and part personal. The friend who told me about it also mentioned OkCupid, a service whose blog (with charts based on users replies to answers) intrigued me years ago.

My first impression echoed that of women across the globe. Men were falling over themselves trying to connect in some manner, many of them uninteresting, boorish and outright offensive. Despos, I decided and cut down my activities, even deleting a profile. This I’m told, is not unusual either, for women.

Recently though, I got onto the other app-of-the-season: Secret. Now this one intrigued me for other reasons. I started as an anonymous blogger, a state I tried to maintain for many years before having to ‘come out’ before I was outed more unpleasantly. Would other people finally get the lure of the shadows, I wondered. And the voyeur in me wanted to know what secrets people would share.

Secret turns out to be not at all like its almost namesake PostSecret. Or rather, it has the ‘dumb’ secrets that occasionally show up on that site in between horrific stories of rape and touching ones of unrequited love or physical disability. It also has the Twitterisms like slytweeting (slySecreting?), short form jokes and self-promotion. And finally after all that, comes a secret or two that gets lots of hearts and comments. The one I’ve been following says,

“I think I just went on a first date with my future wife.”

That secret actually went up weeks ago. But people showed up and offered support, empathy and interest. The author posted a little later on the thread with an update on how he (I presume) was feeling and about the girl. More comments. A few days later, more updates about waning interest. Commiseration and shared stories.

It made me think, what is it that reaches out and touches people uniformly world over? We are looking for companionship, for validation, for support, for empathy, for appreciation. We give it different names. We personalise this uniform need with our own individual nuances by defining rules for how we look for it and where we get it. But we are all looking for it. I don’t want to call it what I know you’re thinking. That’s an overabused word. You know it. And we all want it.

This was the first secret that I wanted to comment on and here’s the comment I left. I know it’s a secret but it is mine and I’m sharing it, in the way I shared my secrets years ago when there wasn’t an app for it – as IdeaSmith.

“Sigh. I wish this secret had come up a fortnight ago. Because that would be the date I went on and I’d say ‘I feel that way about you too’.”

Oh well. I’m looking as well. :-)


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