On saying bye to our tomato plants …

When we started growing our own, we started with an expectation (and mostly hope) it would account for a small portion of weekly veg intake. We have been blown away by how misplaced we were. And that is saying something because home gardening is not so much about meeting your produce demands as much as as it is about nurturing and experiencing the joy of growing and eventually savouring. Ofcourse, the last step of the journey is important and especially more so when you are a beginner. We are. Because, if we ran too much before we could walk, it could in many ways influence how we saw this whole exercise. Trust me, I started with a fair few losses and this has been nothing but overwhelmingly encouraging. The key is to not let an attempt define your next. It is hard but it is true. 


Five days back we started seeing blight on some our tomato plants. Ofcourse I had not used any resistant variety (determined to not use anything that was modified or made of chemicals) and the only feed I used was compost and some manure. While I am not surprised about blight hitting my tomatoes, I am taken by how quickly they consumed my babies. The plants in modest pots and bags gave us a lot, a lot. But regardless of the yield, I had developed a strong love for them and to see them go I front of our eyes has been devastating. 4 empty pots stand bare on our portico. The place where I would start my mornings looking for new babies. I distinctly remember seeing the first babies form on the first of our tomato plants. I distinctly remember feeling impatient at how slow they were to grow, a vague fear engulf me as I wondered if they would fall off in the rains and strong winds we went through.

My fears, I can happily look back now, have been allayed over and over again. We have plucked a lot of tomatoes from the beautiful plants.

And a couple of days back, we plucked our last.

Time and again I realize how much I signed up for when I sowed the seeds. And it was never just about the tomatoes. But I will do it all over again. And take better care.

Of simple meals and a simple recipe

For a long time now, I have tried to grasp the meaning of simple food. You see this plate here ? Rice, tomato rasam, a roast pappad, some palya which by the way is what I made of some of those gorgeous runner beans that our neighbours gave us – this meal is my meal, it is the kind of meal I grew up eating and it was a full meal. I don’t ever remember thinking of this as a simple meal as much as I thought of it as a staple. On the other hand, simple has a sort of a happy connotation to it too bringing up associations with what we now deem to be simpler times. Is today a simpler time of tomorrow? Which kind of leaves me in a dilemna – all the subjectivity around simple apart, what is a simple meal to me, today? Is it my everyday meal? Or a meal that comes together simply? Perhaps a meal with few easily available ingredients? Or is it a meal one can make sustainably, consistently? 

But here is what I chose to do as this plate stared at me – dive into my rasam rice with gusto. It did not answer my question. But when the smell of the ghee tempering invades your kitchen, it is best to keep matters simple and enjoy the meal. Simply put, it is as simple as that.
But I’d love to know – what is a simple meal to you? Can you define it?

If you are curious, here is how I made this meal.

Runner beans Palya

Our lovely neighbours Da and Ce gave us some of the best runner beans we have had – tender, crisp and absolutely delicious with all the added happiness of having been grown with tonnes of love. Have you even seen the smile that lights up Da’s face as he talks about his love for runner beans?

You need:
Runner beans – about 300-400 gm
Fresh/ desiccate coconut (fresh is amazing, I used desiccate as that is what I had) – 2 table spoons (or to your liking)
Tempering ingredients: 1 tablespoon oil (sunflower or coconut), 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 tsp cumin, a pinch of asafoetida, a couple of dried red chillies torn into rough bits, half a tsp of methi/ fenugreek seeds, 1 tsp urad dal/ channa dal or a mix of both, curry leaves.
Turmeric – a pinch.
Salt to taste

Method:
1. Chop the runner beans small.
2. Take a wok/ kaDai and bring to heat. Meanwhile keep the tempering ingredients ready.
3. Once hot, add a tablespoon of oil (I used sunflower but coconut oil works great too!) add the mustard, cumin, fenugreek and let them splutter, add the chillies, asafoetida and the curry leaves and sauce for 5-10 seconds. You don’t want to burn them 🙂
4. Add the chopped runner beans, turmeric and give it a good toss, add a bit of salt (to hasten cooking and for the beans to get some of it in) and sprinkle some water, give it a mix and cook on medium heat. You can cook this covered too but just keep checking in between.
5. Once the beans has cooked to a bite (we definitely don’t need them to become mushy!), adjust salt to taste, add the coconut and mix well. Turn off the heat. Your palya is ready!


Quick Tomato Rasam

This has to be one of the easiest ways to make a quick rasam. Ofcourse, this calls for having rasam powder or sambhar powder at hand but it comes together so quickly, so I highly urge you to have some in your pantry. I use the one that ma makes and gives me every time I visit her but you can always use good quality commercially available ones from MTR or GRB or a brand you like. Ofcourse one can go on about the joy of using a powder that is handmade but some of the commercial mixes are not that bad and while it may make a difference in the taste, I still believe that a rasam made with a good quality store-bought rasam mix can still be comforting 🙂 I will never forget the copious amounts of rasam we had during the brief but heavy snowfall that 2020 brought with it here in Surrey. See for yourself.

You need:
Tomatoes (preferably sour): 300-400 gms chopped into small chunks
Tamarind paste or tamarind water from pulp (skip if your tomatoes are super sour, mine were not so I used tamarind for tanginess): to your preference. I used 2-3 tsp of paste, we do like it quite tangy.
Tempering ingredients: 2 tablespoons ghee, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 tsp cumin, a pinch of asafoetida, a couple of dried red chillies torn into rough bits, curry leaves torn.
Corriander leaves torn to small bits – to your preference but highly recommend keeping the stalks.
Rasam powder/ molaga poDi/ sambhar poDi – 2 tablespoons (this depends on how spicy you want it to be and the powder you are using ofcourse, use your discretion :))
Salt to taste
Water – 2 cups

Method:
1. Heat a deep bottomed vessel.
2. We start with the tempering so add ghee, let it melt and heat up. Then, add mustard, cumin and once they have spluttered, add the torn red chillies, asafoetida and curry leaves. Sauté for a few seconds.
3. Now add the tomatoes and sauce for 3-4 minutes. Let us become slightly soft but not too mushy.
4. Now, add water, tamarind paste and mix well. Bring this to a rolling boil. Once the tomatoes get cooked and the raw smell of the tamarind paste is no longer present, then add the rasam powder/ molaga poDi/ sambhar poDi and keep on boil for 3-4 minutes.
5. Now, add salt to taste and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
6. Finally, add the torn coriander leaves and stalk, mix well and bring off heat. Your rasam is ready!

Dig in 🙂

Air-fried khichDi cutlets

I must start by saying this – we are khichDi lovers here. While I can do with an extremely simple moong dal khichDi sans any vegetables, K loves it when it has some potatoes, chole and garlic. But one thing we always agree on is hot, slightly soupy khichDi that we can devour by bowlfuls regardless of what meal it is.

But here is the thing – when you cook in a famished state, even your poor sense of proportion takes a further hitting which is how I ended up making an entire pot full of khichDi that lasted two servings each for dinner, a serving for breakfast and another generous bowl smirked at us as if daring us to finish it. Now, we are not ones to give up or throw away perfectly normal food (and definitely never khichDi), so this is something I am so proud to have made – a perfectly healthy air-fried khichDi cutlet if you can call it that! I cannot urge you more except to share how I made it and sincerely hope you make some extra khichDi or give this a go when you make something with the consistency of a khichDi like pongal and have leftovers. They sort of remind me of one of my favourite Italian snacks – arancini.
Please treat this more as a method/ idea than a recipe to follow to the T.

Here is what you need:

Leftover khichDi – I suggest you keep it in the fridge to let it thicken (if it was soupy to start with and you probably would if they are leftovers anyway)
Finely chopped onions (optional)
Finely chopped green chillies (optional and to taste)
Rice flour – About 1.5 tablespoon (just to make sure your khichDi can come together like a ball and also crisp nicely).
Panko bread crumbs – 1 spoon to mix in the khichDi (again for crispiness) and enough to coat the khichDi balls with it. You could perhaps replace with java/semolina/ suji but I have not tried this.
Cheese of choice, I used cheddar – cut into small thin strips to place in the centre of the khichDi ball

Method:

  1. Take the khichDi out from the fridge and ideally you want it to be slightly clumpy but if not, we can always add more rice flour in the next step.

2. Now add finely chopped onions, green chillies, rice flour and panko bread crumbs.

3. Mix it all together and make a ball with it. Add more rice flour if needed so it comes together. It will be a bit sticky and that it totally fine.

4. Make a small dent in the ball and stuff it with a cheese bit and close it.

5. Roll this in some bread crumbs to coat it.

6. Roll them all into balls like above.

7. Now place them in the air fryer. Brush it with a little oil (but this is not necessary as the balls crisp regardless from how I have tested them). I used Ninja food that has an air crisp function. But any air fryer will do. Set the temperature to 200C and crisp it in 10 minute increments. Check every 10 mins, turning it over. Mine took 25 minutes. If you have made smaller balls they need lesser time, this is something you will know based on your air fryer.

8. That’s all! Serve these gooey centred khichDi cutlets with piping hot chai. We had ours with the absolutely delicious masala chai that K makes.

I have a little video on instagram walking you through the process with the reveal of the crunch and everything!

Other ideas/notes:
1. You can make this with pongal or similar pressure-cooked mixed rice recipes that hold together.
2. Add more veggies, nuts, shredded cheese or stuff with paneer – just anything you like!
3. Coat it with sesame seeds for that flavour or roll it with rava/semolina/ suji for that crispiness instead of bread crumbs.

On the journey to growing my own.

Yesterday we finally picked the first of our zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes and these finger chillies. We have been harvesting a variety of veggies and fruits for a while now but the excitement and tingling that I feel every time I pick something off a plant is very much the same : surreal.

There is such a thrill and joy to this whole process of plucking fresh produce off a plant in your garden. But there is so much more to this whole journey that often culminates in your kitchen, palate and ultimately tummy or your neighbours’!

Last year, I started noticing a lot of interest in gardening in general. People I randomly stumbled upon online and our own neighbours had something going for them in their backyards and in their frontage. It was also when I started watching Monty Don on BBC, the nation’s gardener as he is sometimes fondly called. Little did I know then that becoming engaged with gardening meant an unavoidable rendezvous with Monty. As he weeds and crafts and creates his magical garden in Herefordshire, that seems to stretch endlessly, I saw myself mindlessly scrolling for more and more of other people’s journeys in their gardens. We had started thinking of moving homes but every house we viewed was viewed with a renewed interest and vigour and the promise it held for having a little patch someday. I wanted that joyous ride. That moment when I would wake up to sun-kissed tomatoes. That high from keeping the bees busy. The desire was always simmering but it threatened to no longer wait. So, while we waited to find our home, I sowed some potatoes out of desperation in a pot in our little backyard. Instead of appeasing me, it only fuelled me to do more and left me feeling a longing more than ever. 

As if on cue, everything in the universe conspired to give us the energy and space to pursue this desire that now had assumed dangerous levels of fantasy. And trust me, it has been every bit the joy ride that I had conjured in my mind. While I admit, I was initially more into this “grow your own” having watched those tempting videos of people picking a bunch of zucchinis, a basket of tomatoes and making cucumber salad with cucumbers from their greenhouse, this whole journey has taught me more. Much more than I imagined.

For starters, it has made me physically, mentally and emotionally more agile. As I started sowing seeds, my days would start with me rushing to the storage shed, radiators and possible warm spots in the house to look for any signs of germination. I caught myself walking in and around the garden mentally calculating the space, number of containers I needed, possible beds to create/ clear, reading and researching catch-crops and about rotation and soil pH, ways to get the pollinators, what crops paired well and what I should avoid and the like. What started off as a very calculated, prepared, conscious series of steps from textbook and videos evolved into being more attuned to what the seedlings and plants were telling me. The nervousness and trepidation started getting replaced by a sense of faith in my own ability to listen to our plant babies and confidence to address whatever it was that ailed them and to do all with a sense of surety that I felt the plants would feel reassured by. They were in the safe hands of parents who loved and learnt more about them. Ofcourse, I have had heartaches and trust me I had them early and felt them so much more back then as I watched a series of seedlings rise up and give up on me just when I started to feel happy. It is such an obvious truth that you will lose some seedlings along the way and yet going through this has been such a fundamental lesson in learning to let go or learning from them and moving on.

At a time when a lot of the world was worried about being cooped up at home, gardening and growing their own has offered a lot of respite and excitement and it has been refreshing watching people become attuned to nature and life around. There is a lot to be said about the joy of creating, nurturing and being on that parenting journey and my moments and experiences with my plants have reinforced all of it and somehow managed to make me marvel at the obvious. It is a wonder I hope to forever cherish, many zucchinis, tomatoes and cucumbers later.

On ma’s puliyogre gojju.

As if there are not enough reminders of how long it has been since my last meal in Mysore home, ma’s puLiyogre gojju/puLikaachal is now teetering between dangerously low and tearful levels. I am very good at making things last until my next trip back home usually but who am I kidding? The pandemic has thrown any semblance of such pride in the air. And am not over reacting. I can learn to make this myself and try to recreate ma’s presence like I do with a lot of my cooking but I refuse to. Not this time. Those dabbas of poDi and uppinkai and thokku and gojjus that I carry from home after my father carefully double and triple packs them and meticulously weighs them so I never have to suffer at the airport are my way of having ma in the kitchen, in those jars with their lids tightly shut only to be embraced every now and then, preciously, deliberately and very very conscientiously. There is a lot of love that goes into them, there is a lot of excitement in making them and a lot of satisfaction in them being being used to make a meal. Objectively speaking, making a great gojju or pickle is not something only mothers can do and yet to me, they are unparalleled. Colour me sentimental and overcome by an extreme longing for home, but what is my food without it? 

Blood orange almond cake

A couple of weeks ago, I chanced upon beautiful Ippolito oranges in my local supermarket @waitrose . These were my first ippolitos and I loved how they blushed from atop the shelf amidst the satsumas and clementines. While we enjoyed juicing two of them, I really wanted to bake a single flavour orange cake and found a couple of ideas on the net. This orange almond flour cake is adapted and slightly tweaked from Louise’ idea  @nordickitchenstories to create something K and I would enjoy which meant keeping it less sweet and slightly altering the proportions of almond flour and all purpose flour (APF). The cake calls for making an orange caramel glaze (highly recommend you to not skip this ofcourse). I love that the peel of these oranges were ever so slightly bitter and lent such a beautiful flavour and taste to the cake – the sweetness of the glaze and the slight bitterness of the slices with the peels on and that texture! The almond flour being finer than almond meal but coarser than flour makes for a lovely texture – while we enjoy a luscious moist cake, we love trying different textures and ingredients in the cake base and this is a good tip that you can try with other flavours – am thinking coconut , vanilla or another citrus like lemon ! This recipe uses almond flour which is finer and this was blanched (no skin) so if you do substitute with coarse almond meal, there is a risk that the cake may not rise or hold together since the particles are coarser. We enjoyed ours with Greek yogurt but you can do cream fraiche too! 
I love inverting my cake tin and uncovering the pattern of an upside down cake. I have baked a few but there is always a nervous excitement as I peel away the parchment paper – it is a pattern I have come to love finding, a pattern of baking I have come to love.

Ingredients for the cake: 
2 big juicy blood oranges/ sweet juicy oranges 
100-120 gm caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
100 gm almond flour
80 gm plain flour
3 eggs
50 gm butter – melted
Some finely minced ginger – about 1.5 tsp

Ingredients for the orange caramel glaze: 
100 gm caster sugar
1 big blood orange 

Making the orange caramel glaze:
1. Heat 100 gm of golden caster sugar in a pan until it starts becoming brown and gooey and smells caramelly. Take care to give it a mix as it melts so that it doesn’t burn.
2. Once the sugar is all melted and it is a brown thick liquid, add the juice of an orange – this will be spurt so be careful. The melted sugar will set as one big caramel lump now – so just keep mixing and breaking that lump on medium heat until it dissolves. If a small lump is left just take it out and enjoy the candy.

Baking the rest of the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 160C. 
2. Peel two oranges and cook in hot water for about 15-20 mins until it is soft. Chop it into mushy chunks and keep aside.
3. Line the based of a baking tin with parchment paper and grease the sides with butter or oil.
4. Slice one of the oranges (With the peel, if blood orange, the peel is less bitter) into 2-3 mm slices. Place these slices on the parchment paper on the base of the tin. 
5. Pour the glaze on these slices. 
6. Now mix all the dry ingredients. Beat the eggs with sugar until thick, light and fluffy and fold the dry ingredients with the melted butter, orange pulp with the egg sugar mix.
7. Pour the batter on top of the oranges and bake for 35-45 mins at 200C until a toothpick inserted at the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let it cool and enjoy with cream or yoghurt or honey!

Brown butter banana bread

Happy Banana Bread Day!

Brown butter banana bread – has quite the zing to it, does it not?

I totally think banana bread deserves a day to be celebrated – in a pandemic, it brought together a nation and people from different corners and there was a camaraderie as people baked and shared and liked each others’ banana bread on the gram and perhaps elsewhere. There are very very few people I know who dislike or don’t care much for it but there is otherwise an ubiquitous love for this extremely endearing bread that doubles as cake and is inviting as a breakfast (when toasted) or as a dessert (perhaps with ice cream?). It is also the most hospitable bread – welcoming chocolate chips with as much gusto as walnuts and dates and well, your pantry is your limit, really! This time, I went for a decadent brown butter banana bread. Having baked a batch of brown butter cookies, I had this sudden brainwave to make banana bread with browned butter and sour cream. If you are looking to make this, here is what you need:

Ingredients:

All purpose flour – 170 gm
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Sour cream – 150 ml
Browned butter – 100 gm
Caster sugar – 60 gm
Ripe medium bananas – 4 (reduce a banana if you add 2 eggs)
Honey – 30 gm (replace with maple syrup if you want to skip/ don’t have honey)
Maple syrup – 30 gm (replace with honey if you don’t have maple syrup)

A word on sweetness – adjust this to taste. We like it just sweet and nothing too cloying. Also, the bananas were quite sweet themselves, so play with sweetness according to your preference.

Method:

1. Mix 170gm flour, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt in one bowl.
2. In another bowl, mix 150 ml sour cream, 100 gm browned butter, 60 gm of caster sugar, 4 mashed ripe medium bananas (reduce by 1 if you add 2 eggs), 30 gm honey, 30 ml maple syrup. Taste the sweetness as you add the sweeteners (t must be pretty sweet at this point as you will add this to the flour).
3. Now fold the dry flour mix into this without over mixing it. Bake until the insides are cooked and a toothpick comes out clean.
4.Let it cool while walk around frantically waiting to dig in and then waste absolutely no time ! 

Do not worry if it appears a bit dense the next day, just toast it or warm it for 20 seconds in the microwave and it will be delish. Add anything you fancy but just bear in mind the sweetness and it is simple because in the eggless version, you can taste the batter as you go. I would love to try it with jaggery and coconut and make it a rasayana-bread.

You know how they bake cookies during house shows to make it smell warm and inviting? I would totally bake a banana bread 🙂

I have been reading (3) on Audible…

I say reading but I actually mean “listening” to audiobooks.

Indistractible by Nir Eyal

I listened to this on Audible @audible_uk as I went about my tasks. It is great to listen to in the author’s voice. The main message is: figure out what you want to do, schedule that, and don’t be distracted.

What you want to do can include a wide range of tasks and Nir Eyal drives home the point that when you are doing these tasks, don’t let other triggers and thoughts distract you from them. Sounds simple? If only doing it was as easy. Nir offers some very doable suggestions and advice on how to go about being less distracted. He offers a well laid out discussion of different triggers of distraction – from your own mind to the world around you. He has some handy tips on how to address them before they happen at times offering a cultural context (not very in-depth though). I have actually implemented some of this in my work and find them helpful though I do have a long way to go. 
There is nothing earth shatteringly “new” in this book but it has the kind of reminders we all seek at some point. Reading it will give you the chance to reflect on how you prioritise your life, how and why you get distracted, and how to refocus on what matters. Since the fundamentals of what he writes are probably known to you already, it is the refreshing of your memory and the act of reflecting on your situation as you read that would make the book worth your time. As a bonus the book is short and easy to read and I think reading it was worth my time.

Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou

I listened to Dr. Maya Angelou narrate “Letter to my Daughter” in her brilliant motherly voice. Voice is so powerful and to listen to an author narrate their own writing especially non-fiction is something I really appreciate. This is a collection of essays, wisdom, stories, call it what you will but it is writing borne of a life-time of reflection shared so simply and hence beautifully. It has all the intimacy of a conversation. This is a book as much for daughters as sons. I said this of Adichie’s “Dear Ijeawele” too because I think it follows quite naturally that lessons for the daughters must be known by the sons too. Angelou narrates seemingly simple snippets with the most profound epiphanies and sometimes it is you as a reader who has to interpret and make of it what you will and what it means for you. Some of my favourite bits (this was not easy to choose) were parts where she talks of fighting to win where it matters, simplicity being the epitome of sophistication, finding friends in strangers – but my favourite takeaway was about courage being the biggest virtue because one needs it to practise any other virtue – be in kindness, beauty, wit, mercy and I think it made most sense to me given where I was at the time of listening to this book. The events are not necessarily in a chronological order but it did not taken away anything from the experience because they stand alone. This is my first experience with her writing, it is simple and spoke to me so I really hope to read more of her works.

I have been reading (2)

Commute by Erin Williams

I had a personal target to read more graphic novels and comic books last year, a genre I tremendously enjoy. So I started March with this and am sorry but this was a big letdown. I sometimes refrain from sharing books that did not work because I feel it may work for someone and I often think that my opinions will not particularly help someone. But this sort of bordered on botheration for me and I wonder if it would trigger some readers. I picked this book up from a bookstore in a train station and read most of it on the commute. The positives: I admit I liked the simple sketches and the way the book is laid out. I like how this could have been pretty powerful – I loved the title and felt it would touch on all those moments during commute that one has felt threatened, the different encounters and circumstances on a commute as a, in this instance, a woman. While Erin has been unflinchingly honest about some of the issues and thoughts, stereotypical as they maybe, I was really disappointed that she picked up different “issues” such as objectification, self worth and left them hanging in the air without unpacking them enough or exploring in its entirety sometimes sending across an incomplete undesirable message. I want to be understanding in that the author has tried to show instances of oppression that she faced as a way to talk about some other women too. But her takes on fear of being fat and undesirability and its links to loneliness leave one wanting for more clarity. Being brutally raw and honest is appreciated especially given how painful it must have been but it was vague and many times un-relatable and just did not do it for me.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

Every now and then, you come across a story that moves you incredibly and leaves with an unparalleled sense of joy – this was one of them thanks to S on Instagram. The story revolves around a mathematics professor who after an accident, ends up with a memory that lasts 80 minutes. After having a few housekeepers who do not seem to stay for long perhaps given the special circumstances, there is one housekeeper who walks into the Professor’s life along with her son (with whom the Professor develops a wonderful bond, caring for him as his own) and what follows is a series of beautiful moments between them. The professor’s love for and faith in math is so deep and eternal that it is hard for the housekeeper and her son to not be influenced and wrapped it in its magic. It is a story of living life by the day, savouring the present, in the little moments that Ogawa etches so beautifully thorough the book that I had to keep reminding myself that it is not a memoir. The references to math are particularly enjoyable and left me wanting for a teacher who could have shown the magic of numbers the way the Professor did. So content, that is what the book made me feel.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

“It’s easy to become anything you wish . . . so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.” This line really stood out to me in the book but I didn’t know then that this truth wove together the three seemingly disjointed stories of the 1) legendary Money King, 2) a second generation Chinese-American kid and 3) a white American kid whose Chinese cousin ( a stereotypical character) comes for a visit. They are presented as different stories that come together in the end and that really caught me by surprise though I had read the foreword and knew that they had something in common. I was talking to a friend about how this is a thought provoking exploration of immigrant experience in US – the overwhelming need to fit in and the struggles of imbibing a new cultural identity starting from learning a new language to all the daily struggles.
The book really had me engrossed. The author, Gene Luan Yang does such a great job of deconstructing stereotypes and highlights the everyday pressures to assimilate to the predominating culture albeit at the cost of one’s individuality. The illustrations particularly the expressions of the characters are so well done. This is an author I’d like to read more from – take a bow, Gene Luan Yang!

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

I first read James Herriot in 8th grade. I stumbled on his book at Manasa Library, my local library which was as big as a local grocery store and housed some of the best treasures that I cherish to this day. I don’t know if it was Pa or me who picked this one up but there has been no looking back. I have read a few of his works and this one is a gem, like them all. His words and work offer an escape to Herriot world – over the hills in Yorkshire Dales that is full of deep love for animals and life itself. These are the stories that give me solace and company no matter the tumultuous times. His books are wonderful in that, they are not unputdownable. Infact they are the opposite. You can read one of his hilarious accounts of delivering piglets at 3 in the morning or an incredibly moving story of an animal he had to put down (thankfully these are fewer) or his humorous and poignant interactions with the farmers in Yorkshire, and then heave a sigh of contentment and go to sleep only to come back for another tale the next day. His tales are episodic and unforgettable. He sketches the personalities so well in all his timeless stories, that I have “met” so many of the character in his book. I read some of these stories to Mili and K on some of the nights before we go to sleep and it elevates our mood so much. Herriot is so endearing and I love his works so much, that I know we’d be really good friends when we meet someday. 

So tell me, what are you reading?

A note: Just do it, already.

I truly miss those days when I would look forward to coming back from a trip or excitedly go through an experience all the while rejoicing in the fact that I can write about it, reflect on it and read what another reader may have to say. Somewhere along the line, PhD happened and there was a lot of writing, reflections and critiques happening in the academic world, I met new people, learnt new stuff about the world and myself, travelled way more than I imagined and loved every single bit of it and my previous blog that I was decently consistent with, became forgotten. I always sought that enticing pocket of time where I could sit down and write to my heart’s content and express myself in the best way possible through words. That, my friends, clearly did not work. The thing is – I just had to do it without thinking too much into making it the best. Somewhere along, the boundaries between writing to express for myself and writing to express to the world became blurred and it is an everyday act of unlearning for. I often struggled struggle to find a balance between making a perfect start and just starting. It baffles me because I can be so impulsive at times and yet there are instances when this spontaneity alludes me and when a false sense of seeking perfection engulfs me. If anything, living through this pandemic, as privileged as it may be, has taught me to “just do it”. The start needs to be made.

Somewhere along, Instagram came along offering the chance to share bite sized reflections and some sneak peaks to moments. They may not capture the entire picture (ha!) but still, it felt good to immediately jot down my thoughts as and when I desired and share a moment as and when I wanted and of what I chose to. But my utter disregard for this space causes a niggling feeling every time I think of it. It isn’t that I have not much to say. Au contraire I have lots to say but I am also aware that writing down sometimes means teasing this jumble of thoughts and lending clarity to them, an act that requires patience and also time. In a way, this sort of commitment has kept me off too, I feel. It takes some dedication to listen to your thoughts, separate them, organise them and lend words to them. The more I think of this, the more I feel this is a basic act of survival and to me, happiness as well. And so it is, that I make another start with renewed vigour.

With this space, I wanted to document thoughts, travels and tit-bits as I manoeuvred through life. I hope to do that more in the days to come. All those travels are not going to write themselves, will they?