I am writing this from my couch, having taken a fair share of bites of this delectable and moist rhubarb and almond cake spiced with cardamom and subtly flavoured with vanilla extract. I love it. It reminds me of something, these flavours and the aroma. Does it smell like my kitchen after having made gulab jamun dunked in a syrup laced with cardamom? Or, does it smell like when I open a box of karachi biscuits? Or is it, the way the house smells when ma makes payasam on festivals? The slightly crusty edge along the top layer in all its toasted almond nuttiness with the vanilla and cardamom surely feels like a good day biscuit in flavour? The rhubarb is tarte and moist and blends so well with the cake. I have mixed some in the batter and some on top, like @florashedden did with hers. It is a brilliant method and I have only switched the hazelnuts for almonds, reduced the sugar, added in cardamom and done away with the sesame seeds. I halved it as well as am baking just for one. It has been a couple of years since I baked for one, especially with that one being myself. And this right here, on a sunday night, feels good and just the kind of high I need for the week.
Now, in my absolute desperation to nail what this reminds me of, I have eaten a generous portion of the cake. I can’t have the cake and know what it tastes like too, right?
I saw my first snow in Seoul in the December of 2013. I was with K on his business trip and we’d snuck in an extra couple of days and made the most of every evening together while I’d wander off in the day. I remember the moment I first felt the snow because I felt it before I saw it, incredibly light flakes almost mistaken for a drizzle as we stepped out of Myeong-dong station. I remember wanting to scream and no voice escaping me. And soon, we were in a flurry and I remember every encounter with snow after that as if it were yesterday. And yet, every new experience with it, fills me with a renewed sense of wonder and lightness. There is something about – it makes the day bright with its pale bluish white blanket on everything and the world seems light even as you prod through it. Unlike my first experience with snow, I don’t remember when I got into instagram but over time, it has given me such an incredibly lovely community. I feel really pleased that I know so many of you through a little detail in your life and a conversation in my inbox. Today, I woke up to snow and love and caution from the community on my account being compromised and I cannot tell you how special it all has made me feel. None of you needed to do any of what you did, is what I realize. I have reported accounts in the past and never thought much about it, but today as each of you told me that you did, cautioning me what not to do, it filled me with such joy. And I had snow to celebrate it all.
And that purple of Day 9 of Navratri is upon us in a flash. I say flash but I have lived these moments to the best I could and even if it meant spending a grand time on Instagram, it has been one with intent and mindfulness. It was not only a visual treat of sarees and colours that played as a film on my feed but a sense of community and collective spirit of coming together to celebrate. And it was a celebration at different levels and on different fronts for many of us. And #norulesnavratri made all the sense in the world. There was a purpose as I woke up, a colour to add to my day, a few moments of shringaar, an anticipation of words and a contentment at the end of it. There was a desire to relive memories, a drive to make more memories and somewhere amidst all this, weave stories we will live to tell another day. And somewhere along, for some of us, this was a creative outlet to express yourself in ways you felt like and send out your energy to the world and I, again, saw the power of a hashtag. There was inspiration in your wardrobe and on the internet and, corners felt like home – familiar and joyful. It was an opportunity to share a good word and trust me, I saw a lot of it just when we needed a lot of it. It truly did feel like #selfcarenavratri . And then, I had my personal highs of meeting and talking to people I have long admired, visit their homes from the convenience of my chair and also build relationships where I have sat in their presence and felt thankful. I am mindful this may have been a difficult period for some of us and I hope the positivity of celebrations touches us all. Constraints bring out a lot of creativity. But it is the community that has baffled me and left me with a hope and optimism that even amidst all the anxieties, there is someone out there who can be there for you, just a click away. And even though it may seem too simple to grasp and live on, let us not forget how these last #9daysofnavratri have made us feel and believe.
I brought out another saree that is a gift from another perima and this beautiful neckpiece earrings set that K gifted me for Valentine’s day from Madame Butterfly years ago. As I said, jewellery from K is a once in a while event but when he does, he picks the loveliest pieces 🙂 Apparently, K and his friend went out during lunch break and bought something for their partners for Valentine’s day from this shop at Marina Bay Sands. Just thinking of him doing something like that is an incredibly warm feeling. Madame Butterfly used to have a boutique at Changi airport (oh Changi!) as well and I have bought pieces for friends/ cousins when I would visit them and they would love it. Sadly, I haven’t seen this shop since a few years now and cannot seem to find much about them online either. The designs are so oriental and on rich bright glazed colours and they make a delicate statement. The saree itself is one of my firsts, a plain baby pink but with red-silver threadwork flowers on it. I got it when I was in 12th and it feels like a chiffon crepe but this is an overexcited-to-identify-the-material-me taking a guess so I would take my own guess with a pot of salt. I love it, I love how my perimas choose these sarees that one can overlook in a folded state but make for such beautiful drapes. Or maybe they just become yours. The last 8 days have made me look at my wardrobe with renewed vigour. I do sometimes wear a saree and spend some time in it, refold them to make sure they don’t tear along the seams, air them and sometimes just check on them. But this felt different. This reminded me of the abundance I am so lucky and proud of. Every time I took a saree out, it evoked an emotion and a story in me and how joyful is that? Not every object may come with a story, some you make as you go but it is these little stories, associations and emotions that make something inanimate, alive and yours. And the last days have again reinforced that.
I thought it is a great excuse to bring out this new handwoven Khadi with multi-palla from @hathkargha . The blue reminds me of the Bril ink royal blue that I loved as a school kid. Every time someone says “royal blue”, all I can think of is that pot of ink in the classic yellow packaging. Bringing home a pot of new ink was so precious and once in a while, I would get a new fountain pen, a Hero sometimes and opening the pot of ink would cast this smell on the study table that I remember to this day. And that ritual of filling your pens with ink! I continue to write in fountain pens though not as often as I would like to but I always have a pot of this ink with me and bring one with me every time I am in Mysore. Swipe to see the one I have with me now that pa gave me when I visited in 2019 🙂 I bought this saree in Singapore and it was a joy discovering khakis and linens as I continued to harbour my desire to wear them more often. It did not happen with all the activities and exchanges happening at school so here I am wearing it for an English autumn. The blouse is part of the saree and I wish I could show you what a fantastic job my favourite tailor in Mysore has made of it but that is for another day, I guess. The neckpiece is from @papreeka.store and I got it recently to celebrate something special. This multi-layered necklace somehow reminded me of something my paaTi had, as individual chains. I paired it with earrings from commercial street in Bangalore that I bought once upon a time. I love brass coz’ it ages so beautifully and it does not need much care and will always bring a rustic feel to it no matter how long it has stayed with you. This would be incomplete if I did not say a word of praise for the team at Papreeka – they have been absolute darlings, helping me track the order and also being very diligent with their communication.
Red for Day 6 of Navratri and today I brought out the Chanderi Shibori from @hathkargha that I purchased a few years ago when I was in Singapore along with a terracotta jewellery set that K got for me on a business trip to Kolkata from @biswa_bangla at Kolkata airport. It is really precious to me because it is not very often that K will pick up accessories for his wife without her being there but there have been a few exceptions and that makes these gifts extremely special 🙂 a bit about the saree – 2017 was a year I did a fair bit of online saree shopping for myself and loved ones. I was a PhD student living on campus and everytime I was called to collect a parcel, I would be so excited. The enterprises I shopped from were also very understanding and would hold on to each item I picked and only ship them together when it made most sense. Some (like @hathkargha a) would also get the falls and the edges of the saree done or even some embroidery on the pallu so when it came to me, it would be ready to wear. This shibori is a great summer saree, so light and weightless. But there is a chill in the air and I wore this earlier in the morning so I paired it with a sweater which helped. It is Day 6 already but what an absolute joy it has been so far❤
I am wearing this lovely easy-breezy saree that my perima gifted me. I do have very generous perimas and chittis who have spoilt me silly and I don’t want that to change ever. The transition to being given sarees from salwar materials as cloth gifts happened in college when I started having events to wear them to and I really enjoyed that phase a lot – you know how you wait to be an adult to enjoy certain perks ? This saree had my heart the minute I saw those dainty parrots in green, blue and silver. I decided to pair this blouse just so I could wear this lovely glass jewellery set I got from Murano from our X’mas trip to Italy in 2015. When we were in Venice, K and I visited some glassmaking centres and watched some beautiful glassware being made. Those colours, the craftsmanship blew us away every time the glass was blown! We could not carry back anything heavy and I spotted some glass jewellery in one of the boutiques attached to the glassmaking centre. It was quite pricey and I was not sure if I wanted it so after dilly dallying, we left without buying it. We had walked about a kilometre from the place when I could take it no more and K who very calmly professed he had seen this coming, told me to hurry along and get it before they closed. I ran. I really did. I will never forget that evening as I ran across a couple of small bridges and my absolutely pathetic sense of direction left me in peace for that one moment. When I went back, the owner was almost getting ready to close and he smiled at me and said, “Ah, there you are! I knew you would come back darling.” I could not say a word or smile. I just picked this up, mumbled a thank you and walked back with the nervous energy and excitement that had not left me and K was sitting on the steps across the bridge waiting. It is in these moments I have felt acute elation and I am aware I can never quite put them in words. Will you believe it if I tell you I have never worn this jewellery ever as I kept waiting for an ultra special occasion? But today? After a lot of what we have been through, today is the surest and most special occasion to celebrate, after all.
This saree is given to me from my mother in law for one of the events at my BIL’s wedding. It is sort of in between a yellow- orange and I love it. It is super easy to drape and looks even nicer if I had put in some effort to iron it. We were in Singapore when she got this and so she had gotten the blouse and everything done for me and it fits me to a T ❤ There is a little story behind the accessories too. I am wearing a necklace and huge earrings I got from Jodhpur when a group of my uni friends and I went for a classmate’s wedding there. We did a fair bit of sight seeing and I bought this from a small shop run by an elderly person. It was all of 150 rupees but has stayed with me all these years in perfect condition. I still remember the joy with which I brought home a piece of Rajasthan which has always meant a lot, bringing home a piece from your travels. We also had a lovely day today, as bright and special as the saree and the pairings.
I am wearing another of ma’s sarees that I flicked the moment my perima gave it to her when I was in university. It is so soft and slides off weightless. I know we have a lot of mix and match saree blouses now that really look stunning but I have a soft spot for blouse pieces that come as part of the saree. If you swipe, you can see the blouse that came with this and I got this stitched right away. It has been a while since I wore this so I was surprised the blouse still fits me. My perima had gotten some work done on it as well and as I took some pictures in our dining hall by the window, a million lights danced on the wall and it took me a few seconds to recognize that the sequins were dancing in the sunlight. K took some lovely pictures today but I am saving them for another day and sharing these timed selfies for today. For a while now, I have been thinking of a grey saree but somehow it never materialized but here is what I have realized – your saree will find you. They come to you in all forms and from all kinds of people, but they will find you when their time comes. And then they find their way to another.
I have a few green sarees and it was a bit of a battle between choosing my Nalli Silks saree from my wedding and a beautiful Godavari cotton and this. This is the first saree K and I bought together in Singapore for a puja. And it tickles me as I realise it is the last saree we bought together. I have bought sarees for myself after that but never with K. I think this is a good reminder to change that. So anyway, we picked this up in one of the shops in Little India. I had zero knowledge of sarees and weaves and K was just there because well, I had dragged him along though he did help me pick one. This has patchwork border and pallu and drapes so so easily. I have come to realise that draping takes 2 minutes or maybe 2 mins 50 seconds but getting a picture of yourself by yourself that does not just show your face takes eternity and I really had to squeeze it in my lunch hour as my tummy groaned for attention and it was quite gloomy outside. I wore my first necklace that my chitti gave me when I was in 3rd grade, it has stayed with me since and perhaps one can tell its age but for me, it will always be evergreen and the pun is not lost on me. Hope you are enjoying your Navratri, dearest people 🙂