Gray Days

Posted October 5th, 2005 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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I have horrible news. It has begun. It is the start of all bad things to come……

Let me tell you what I mean. The other day I was blissfully returning home after completing my grocery purchases for the week. I was feeling especially virtuous cos I had packed a whole supply of green vegetables and really cut back on the meat. Seejo was just about to start the car and before that he gave a casual glance towards me and remarked” Do you know you have a couple of white hairs?”. I dismissed it immediately…ofcourse with the sun angled so, its just a little tanned …and even if it is so its all because I have to live with you”. There, I thought that will shut him up!.

Not Seejo….He flipped down the car mirror and pointed it out to me. Yes there they were…two “silvery” threads….I did what I had to do….yanked them out….and examined them closely. The roots were still black….but midway they started changing color.

That was a few weeks ago. I had already dismissed the white hair as an aberrant incident, but I couldn’t do that any longer. For today, I found a few new white strands. With the amount of hair that I leave on the carpet every day and the few remaining aiming to turn their color, all I can say is that the future looks very very gray.

House Painters….

Posted September 21st, 2005 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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From the moment we stepped into our house, Seejo’s latent handyman tendencies resurfaced with an interest in home improvement. After considering and discarding several wild ideas that he had to “improve” the house (replacing all carpets by hardwood floors, replacing the stairs with wooden floors, kitchen gardens and so on….) he settled on a slightly tamer idea to paint the house. After hours of bargaining with Seejo who was all set to color transform the entire 3 floors pronto, I cut it down to the main living area and the kitchen. This was our first do-your-own project. Seejo was super-excited and even I was a bit eager to start just to see how this project would turn out.

Americans make do-it-youself projects quite simple. All the raw materials are available in easy kits, directions and helpful hints are present on the internet. The most difficult job was to select the color shcmes in each of the rooms. So then followed days of color coordinating, choosing the exact shade of green that would go with the curtains in the living room, selecting the right hue from amongst the 500 shades of green that were on display in paint catalogue, figuring out the contrasting color that could be painted on the two pillars that separate the dining room and the living room. Much can be said about our marriage that survived these intense discussions, the distribution of workload and the erratic temper.

Then there were a few days of prepping, moving all our furniture into different rooms, taping up the edges, covering the carpet etc..The whole process took about a month of paint flecked clothes, aching arms, colored patches on parts of my body that should have had no contact with paint, and massive cleaning process. I almost think I have an alternate career, I think I’ll make a great manager for painters. Seejo can do the work and I have a veritable talent in shouting out orders. Though I have to admit, albeit very very reluctantly, that after we finished the living room and the dining room, there was a feeling of achievement.

But the bottom-line is painting is hard work and house painters: well they are sexy only in  porno movies.

Yeh Tulsi Mere Aangan Ki

Posted August 19th, 2005 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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IMG_5507Technically its not my aangan, its just the deck of my townhouse and its not exactly tulsi either … its Italian basil…but hey this is our first attempt at gardening. Now that we had our own house with a big deck and some land around it, we deciced to try our hands at gardening. Like all Indian families, the first thing we planted was the “kadipatta”. It’s a tough plant to grow, for it requires tender care and grown agonizingly slowly which does not exactly maintain the interest in gardening for an amateur gardener. However for people used to 2 rupye ka kadipatta, to buy a bunch at 3$ seems like a wasteful extravaganza. So we planted the kadipatta , watered it regularly , fed it fish emulsion and waited for it to grow.

In the meantime, we planted Italian basil, tomatoes,IMG_5503 cucumber, mint and green chillies. The mint grew like a wildfire, the Italian basil in spurts, the tomato was a late bloomer but now we officially have 7 baby tomatoes on it. The cucumber died while getting repotted and the chillies threatened to grow but don’t seem very eager to do so.

IMG_5506But enthusiastic beginners that we are, we water them regularly, feed it the appropriate plant foods, examine every leaf every day and even remark on the growth to each other. “Look, the kadipatta has a new leaf”

Missing Mumbai

Posted August 15th, 2005 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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Rainy days and occasional floods are common for people in Bombay . In fact most people look forward to them, despite the potholes, late trains and the occasional flooding . When I heard about the rains in Mumbai, last week I was not very concerned. Mumbaites are not new to floods, there is always one every year, when drainage systems, the government and the rains combine together to force people to stay in offices for the night, or walk a few miles in muddy water.

But then slowly as reports trickled in I realized that this was no ordinary water logging. This was so much more. And that’s when I really missed Mumbai. I miss Bombay on most days. I miss Mumbai more when it rains. But I miss Bombay the most when Bombay is faced with some sort of disaster. It seems odd to miss being in a midst of a natural disaster and miss the fact that you could not experience it. But that’s what I feel ( so did Vidya, when I talked to her). I know that people have suffered like never before, I know many who have walked for an entire day to reach home. I know people who have lost a lot of personal belongings, I know people were worried about friends and family. I know people had one hell of a terrible experience. I know its stupid to wish that I was in the midst of this.

But call me crazy, I missed being surrounded by dirty smelly waist deep water. I missed being part of the group of people walking home in waist deep water, holding hands with those around you, so that if one of you steps in a pothole the others can pull him/her back, I missed the stink of dirty water, the sight of how water swirled with filth and scum at certain spots. I missed being part of the crowded trains being surrounded by the musty damp smell of other half-soaked passengers.

And now as Bombay limps back to life and heart warming stories of Mumbaikar spirit surfaces, I sit here and miss the fact that I am not in Mumbai and I am not part of this part part of my home.

How to Get Rid of Your Inlaws

Posted August 1st, 2005 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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First things first: Hindi films do not portray the truth. . If you were a Hindi film heroine who cautioned her diabetic father-in-law from having nuts and chocolates, you would be praised for taking care of in-laws. “Kitni sayani bahu mili hai”, they would beam, “sasurji ka kitni seva karti hai”. Those are films. In real life, you become a clutch-fisted daughter-in law who can’t spare a few dollars to buy a packet of nuts. In a Hindi film a daughter –in law who cooks and prepares delicacies is lauded as the ideal bahu and ghar ki lakshmi. In real life, you become a show-off and a know-it all.

Inspite of the food that is served to me everyday without entering the kitchen…sometimes you long for the time that there were no in-laws in the house…But….But then I have found a way to get rid of inlaws so all frustrated daughter in laws please pay attention…the secret is about to be revealed!!!

Last weekend we visited New York city . MIL looks shocked at the site of smoking females. “Do females smoke as much as males here”, she asks me. I am not sure how to respond to the question. Yes, I reply. She shakes her head but to my relief doesn’t ask me any more questions. She has already commented on the clothes (or lack of it) that the American women wear. “Not decent at all”, she says. “They look very ugly.” I try to explain that according to American ethics skin display is not bad. And just because they display skin doesn’t make them any less moral. But no chance….She is already shaking her head again.

We roam around NYC trying to “see” all the must see sights. Unfortunately, there is a parade down one of the main streets. There is music dance, people waving flags and lots of traffic commotions. We stop a bit by the roadside and watch the people walk ..some on elaborately decorated floats, some on stilts and some on foot holding banners. The first few banners contain innocuous signs such as “ Tunisia for equal housing” or “ Argentina for equality”. International parade for equality…nods my Father in law with a know-it –all look. We hope to get them out of there before they notice that all the floats have rainbows as the leitmotif. We did not realize that it was the Gay Pride week and this was the gay parade !!

Lets go lets go…Seejo starts hurrying us. We are trying to get to St. Patrick’s cathedral…supposedly the largest cathedral in USA . To Seejo’s dismay the parade passes right down the street. We had to wait by the sidelines watching the parade and waiting for the cops to allow us to cross the street. By this time, the international contingent is over and the nationals have taken over. Very colorful nationals. In all sorts of dresses and non-dresses. Men wearing the shortest of shorts,Tall women wearing shimmering two piece bikini like costumes ,with high heels and weird head gears with feathers and flowers, some others wearing peasant costumes.

“These women” comment my MIL. The country should stop these kind of women parading wearing almost nothing and thrusting their booties. I had to change her opinion about American women. So I casually mention that these are not women you see, they are actually men. She looks at me open mouthed. Men??? Why are they dressed this way then…Whats wrong with them… I look at Seejo for help. Seejo pretends not to notice me. I try to explain that some people like to dress as women. She cannot understand it. America !!!! she says.

The church is closed. Presumably due to the parade. We try to explain that its closed to visitors on all Sundays but they repeat….its due to the parade you see…We nod our heads not before noticing the next floats were from devout religious gays, advocating gay priests and gay gospel music.

We escape into a side street and spot an Indian restaurant. Any thing to get away from the new York heat we say. And the parade echoes everyone mentally. We eat a delicious buffet. Inlaws are finally getting something good to eat. We orders a special order of chillies for the table. Ah! They say….American food, uncooked meat and pieces of bread…no spice no taste …Poor americans.

We are going to wash our hands after the meal. Several parade-ers are taking the opportunity of having a drink at the bar. My MIL crosses past them fast. I turn to look at a tall man in a Spanish costume arranging her lipstick near the entrance. “Pretty dress” I tell her. “Thanks she responds in a gruff voice. MIL is convinced that it is a man now. I move towards the rest-room . It is filled with men adjusting their makeups pulling up their bustiers and examining their panty hose.

MIL refuses to enter the rest-room. We go back and sit at the table waiting for the contingent to pass. She wants to go and wash her hands. Before that she wants to make sure I am not scared. “Are you scared of them?. No I reply. Seejo is laughing….why should she be scared….But MIL doesn’t bother. The next time she gets up to wash her hands she makes sure that there si nobody on the way and then she takes FIL with her….

Just for safety!!!

So the moral of the story….want to get rid of your inlaws….Take them to NYC and make sure they can see a gay parade!!!!

Berries and Barbecue

Posted July 18th, 2005 by Deepa and filed in Food
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One of the advantages of staying in suburban Germantown is its close proximity to farms. The honest-to goodness real farms where cattle graze, fresh vegetables are grown and corn is harvested. Very close to our house, is one such farm called Butler ’s OrchardIMG_4616, which has this excellent scheme of pick-your-own-crops. Last month the crop was strawberries, this month it is blueberries. Santhoshettan, Reeja, her parents and their daughter Anjali accompanied us as we pretended to be farmers for a day. We drove to the farm which is less than 2 miles away, past the farmer’s shop and then up the gravel path looking for arrow signs that said “Blueberries”. A farm-wagon took us the rest of the way into the blueberry bushes. Armed with white plastic buckets (almost similar to the palmolin tin cans used by the budding wicket-keepers on the Bombay railway tracks) , we attacked the bushes with great enthusiasm. Blueberry grows on bushes about 3 feet in height in deep blue clusters rather like grapes.

We filled our buckets, gathering the purple berries easily, some found its way into our stomachs. The blueberries were bigger and sweeter than the ones packaged in our supermarkets. Within 30 minutes we had filled both pails and were ready to leave.

That evening , we had decided to have barbecue for dinner. The previous owners of our house had left their grill to us and we were eager to test it out. Kababs, fish and “bhutta” were on the menu. Seejo’s mom had marinated some king-fish in our deep freezer.

IMG_2446We started by pan-frying the fish in the gas grill. Then next to go inside the grill were chicken and paneer kababs. Tender chicken pieces alternated with red and yellow bell-peppers, red onions and paneer chunks marinated in a mix of spices that nobody would be able to reproduce. Each skewer had a different blend of spices. While the chicken was being cooked, I quickly grilled some asparagus and mushrooms (sprayed with olive oil, seasoned with pepper and salt). The final item on the menu was corn. It was days since I had authentic grilled bhutta….and the gas grill worked perfectly…As the corn popped, the weather darkened, and rains started to drizzle….transporting me instantly to Marine drive…So that was the menu of the day, accompanied with virgin margaritas and topped off by rum and raisin icecream liberally garnished with blubereis.

Books: No better book to read this week than Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

I don’t think its possible to dislike a new HP book, at least for a Potter fan who has been waiting for 2 years to see what whether the boy-who-lived is reaching closer to killing Lord Voldemort. However this book does sag in the middle, as though it was straining to leave Hogwarts and plot did not fit into the linear narrative that the previous 5 books followed. The Dursleys-Platform93/4….first day of school…new DADA teacher…Halloween…Hogsmeade…Christmas…Big finale…end in infirmary…back to Kingcross. The most exciting moments of the book happened outside Hogwarts. Even Quidditch matches were boring (and that’s saying something), although partially alleviated by Luna’s excellent commentary. However the book picks up towards the end towards an exciting and climax with the death of Dumbledore. Rowling manages to keep the story on course. The pieces are in place for the final book, and the stage is set for a treasure-hunt sort of finale.

.Positives:

The best feature of the book is the growth of Harry’s character, from a young boy to a angsty teenager to a mature youth and finally at the culmination of this book a determined young man ready to accept reality

Fleur’s character: It rocks!!!

Horcurxes: What a fantastic idea. JKR deserves half her fortune just for coming up with that idea to end this series with.

Apparation Class: Excellently portrayed

Dumbledore’s death: Not the fact that he died… but the fact that she wrote his death. JKR wields a mean pen and she is not afraid to use it!!

Negatives:

Less screen time for Ron and Hermione: Till now the books don’t show Harry having superpowers, just good friends who help him and essential good qualities. So Ron and Hermione are important parts of the Harry Potter books. This book sidelines Ron and Hermione to romantic subplots mainly for comic relief while all the action is provided by Harry

Relationship between R/H need not to be pushed so much while H/G happenned a bit too quickly.. no scene detailing why Harry fell for Ginny, .(May be I am just hard to please).

Movies: Caught up on a lot of movies this week, compensating for not watching a Hindi movie in 2 months.

Mumbai Express: Nice story, very slow screenplay that totally ruins the movie. A few scenes however are wonderfully done.

D: Not bad

Bunty aur Babli : Rani overacts a lot, Abhishek Bachan is wonderful, the cons that they pull off are not entertaining, scenes with Amitabh rock.

Kaal: What did they think when they made this movie??

And Once Again

Posted July 1st, 2005 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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Two years ago, when I was still a student at the University of Virginia I used to write a weekly mail to a few people chronicling my adventures for the week. As student life ended and working life fell into a mundane routine, I stopped these mails because after all there was no point in telling the world that I cooked methi-alu and that I discovered yet another new web-site for desi jokes on the internet. Work was interesting but I was not going to report the details there for obvious reasons!!.

Now about three years later, I feel like renewing the writing if only to create an online “pensieve” to prod gently so that it may reveal the name of the restaurant that served excellent kababs in Philadelphia and the way I rang in the new year in 2002. I have decided its time to stop thinking about these vignettes as a boring read for other people, but more as a means to record my own memories.

So here is to another beginning!!!