Day 2 Navratri in green

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 🙂

Day 1 Navratri in yellow

Entering Navratri with one of my absolute favourite colours – yellow! 🙂 

I decided I would wear a saree only if I don’t feel too hassled with all the work meetings today and am so glad I did, because if anything, it brought me out of a state of daze (slipping in and out of online meetings does that to you on some days) and took me to the time I stole this saree from ma the minute her cousin gave it to her. I don’t think ma has ever worn this saree as I have preciously carried it with me everywhere I went. It is so light that it threatens to fall off me and the silver thread work that is barely there and yet so pretty always makes captivates me. This saree has seen through an invocation, a compering, a dance at a wedding and every time I realise how what we may call as material objects are so much more than that. I have so much to say but I have such an endless day ahead of me but I will say this again – I am so glad I did this today even if it means sitting at a desk and attacking tasks. I am fairly certain, it will be with renewed vigour.

Fall-ing for fall

There is something about fall that makes me do these captures almost every year now. As someone with intense olfaction and an undiagnosed synaesthesia, my senses are heightened when I see the leaves that seem to spread a golden carpet in our garden everywhere. The aromatic apparitions are coupled by strong emotions of course but that has not been seasonal. I try to keep track of what triggers what and where the cycle begins (?) but it is a complex web. Some of these are pure associations of a yesterday and I can discern those in a sniff. Like the pumpkin body butter that takes me to the streets of Auckland, the hand cream that takes me on a trip to Shropshire and a particularly green road that housed a teeny Dominos. There was a time I would buy a small perfume for every trip I made but eventually stopped. I realised the place brings with it, its own sensorial mirage and it is more lasting than anything money can buy. But this Kama Ayurveda oil surprised me – it takes me to the wire basket that my grandfather would carry, with several many paraphernalia all neatly arranged. He was an Ayurvedic doctor but the bag smelt of a mix of incense, old papers, freshly laundered garment and perhaps an uncture? But when I think of the bag, this is the smell I smell. And it oddly is also the smell I associate when I think of an afternoon when we made kohl at home with hibiscus. It smelt nothing of bringadi but that is also perhaps why it is a mirage. They bring me an overwhelming sense of comfort, despite what may seem like a sensorial overload. Something I have been going back to and will write about is also this beautiful book by Charlie Mackesy that I first saw on @namrathakumar29 feed. It is filled with the comfort and warmth that I can only describe through some of the above smells. I rarely write about this because it is hard to describe abstraction. So I dig into my Lara bar (stories I will tell you another time!) and watch the fleeting shower of leaves from my window.

Because a Bombay sandwich may be just what you need.

I did not eat a Bombay sandwich when I was in Bombay years ago. Is it just called a sandwich there? (laughs at own “joke”). I am not surprised though – I have not eaten a lot of *obviously-you-should-have-tried-that-when-you-were-at-X* dishes. I took my time appreciating regional cuisines and food in general. Now, it is the top web search I run when we travel. Travel? Okay, I hear you laugh – it has been a while since we travelled, but you know what I mean.

Having eaten this first time last year, I have often asked myself “How could I have not made a Bombay sandwich before?” I think it is my general disdain towards potatoes on most days (except in fries, of course). Now I have a deep love for bread in all its variety and it forms part of at least one meal almost everyday. Use white or brown, wholemeal or seeded, but do make this. Add beets if you fancy, or don’t, but make this. Make it yours.

This is K’s recipe and my execution and even though I assume you don’t need another recipe for a sandwich, I will go ahead and tell you anyway because I really liked it. 

A cheese version

All you need to do:

  1. Take a slice of bread with the crust/ borders removed (keep them aside to make crumbs or fry them and use in soups)
  2. Make a chutney of corriander- mint – green chillies- tamarind – black salt
  3. Slather a nice layer of that coriander mint chutney on one side of each bread slice.
  4. Delicately layer some boiled and sliced potatoes, slices of tomato, onion + sprinkle a bit of black salt + a slice of cheese if you like and cover with another slice of bread with chutney on the inside.
  5. Now slather (there is a lot of slathering, I know) the top of the bread slice with butter and heat some butter on a pan and toast this to a nice golden with butter on both sides.
A no cheese version I made a couple of days ago

I can understand if you feel an uncontrollable urge to eat this right off the pan, hot, gooey and fragrant. In fact, I would highly recommend you to. Unbeknownst to you, it may be just what you need.

Normalcy

Just a saturday out at Hengistbury Head on a cold, drizzly day.

Normalcy or normality is anything but that. It is truly something that I most strongly enjoy, crave for and pray for. Perfectly normal, routine days made of exceptionally special mundane acts. It is what I miss most when something abrupt strikes. It is what I am most nostalgic about. Sure, that thrilling day trip on that vacation 4 years ago is a grand memory to revisit and maybe even long for once in a while. But most often what my heart truly wants is all those everyday acts I do and did, that I no longer can. In these moments, I have found my way of making life feel grand. It is a tricky circle of realization – being or the fear of being deprived of something or someone tells you exactly what you love most. And a seemingly ordinary today is the grand memory trip of a further tomorrow.

Just need to remember to never forget that 🙂

My first saree

Somewhere this weekend, I spent some time in this saree that I want write about here (I have to give full credit to K’s endurance and creativity in capturing some really lovely moments).


You see, it was the first saree that ma and I purchased for me. Up until then, I was always whisking ma’s sarees for weddings, college events, everything. I used to stitch a blouse for myself because the kinds I would wear were never ma’s style but the sarees were all hers. 
When one of my favourite cousin’s wedding was fixed, I decided to buy a saree for the muhurtam and ma and I found this in the first shop we went to. I got an extremely elaborate blouse stictched for this with beads and ties and everything and I may have been as excited as the bride herself for this wedding day. I have a thing for white and cream sarees that have silver and gold in them. They are so regal and I love how they look on everyone I have seen them on.
I have such grand memories of the few of us singing “Sita kalyanam” and “Malai maathinal” and “Unjal aaDinaal” in all our jasmine, gold and saree clad glory amidst that sound that new sarees make if you listen. I remember so many moments from that wedding in such vividity and the saree is always such a big part of it. I even wore this as part of one of the smaller events in my wedding. 
I know not much about weaves and the saree continues to be a small part of my life even if it means just wearing it for myself on a random day for a few hours. It is perhaps the way it makes me feel, or takes me back or maybe just part of who I am. It is not one to dissect for today but I love this love and someday maybe I will have a slightly more academic interest in it or maybe not. But I know that when I drape a saree and sip a coffee, I will be comforted in a strange way that only makes sense to me.

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.

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?

Once upon a time during Corona (Chronicling COVID-19) – Part 2: Hopscotch along the sidewalks

As we step out for our walk everyday, we look forward some of the heart-warming, nostalgia-inducing scenes along the pavements that greet us with child-like enthusiasm.

It reminds me of my own childhood as I drew endless pictures and puzzles and hopscotches in our compound. We have a lovely pavement leading to a big square block that leads to the gate, back in our Mysore home. I remember drawing along every inch available with colourful chalks, as ma sat with her magazine and coffee sometimes asking me how I’d play that game. As my brother joined in, we divided the area into two or sometimes even made our combined game. We sadly, like several others, outgrew them. Or so, I thought.

But as we see these along the pavements, years later, now, I am overcome by a strong temptation to skippety skip and hoppety hop, and follow all those rules and when I cannot make it, even cheat a bit and plod on until I reach the star.

Is it strange that children and the child in the adult are playing outside more at a time where we are under house arrest?

This one’s my favourite – it asks the player to bounce 5 times!

To be fair, some children do play and cycle along the streets. I just had not seen these before. And it makes me wonder.

But I decide to not over think this. It is reassuring we have these games around. It is reassuring that children are around. They always always seem to find a solution to tricky challenges. It is reassuring that I retain my love for hopscotch and that I never outgrew it.

I have been reading..

Quite bluntly, I am no great reviewer of books (you will soon see that for yourself anyway). I think it is because I lack the patience to write a review before jumping onto another book wagon. But I do like a bit of reflection. And ever since Instagram has happened, I have been rather inconsistently microblogging (is that the word now?) and that quite worked out conveniently given how short my thoughts are, atleast when writing them out anyway. But I do want to document most of that here on the blog every now and then when I have a few books to talk about.

Ikigai – what a beautiful word, “a reason for being”, a purpose for living. I picked this book up at Blore airport. Having spent a few weeks with family after more than a year, I was ecstatic. I felt extremely energized and I picked this one up and read it in that enthusiasm. Naturally, I waited for a while to write this. Having read it in a happy frame of mind, I liked parts of it because they felt like summaries of concepts that map to a good healthy life – diet, exercise, community…. There is definitely bits to take away, ponder over AND most importantly, read more about. But to be objective, this book was a fair bit of a jumble drawing from schools of psychology to interviews with octogenarians in Okinawa to benefits of green tea? I felt there was so much to dig into and draw connections probably but it felt like a potpourri of good advice (a summary of concepts from Japanese culture) but never doing justice to something as deep as Ikigai. Most of it is through the authors’ lens as they experience the Japanese culture which makes it a a fair bit of “here are the takeaways”. Agreed, Ikigai itself is a topic so personal but the book left me wanting for a far richer narrative, more life stories (the interviews form such a small part of the book) and threads that connect our stories. I don’t know what that would exactly look like, but I wish this book had it.

I will admit that I sometimes start some books with a lot of hesitation. I do not enjoy pseudo-intellectual thinking and meandering for the sake of it that sometimes runs into pages and pages. And so, inspite of hearing amazing things about Kundera’s books, I started this with low expectations. It always helps to start something that way, doesn’t it? 
Kundera definitely goes deep into aspects of his characters. There are only 4 of them, none of them who seemed remarkable to me at first. But that is the joy of reading because you let the author and her/his words really tell you about them and get you inside their heads. I will give it to Kundera for his craftsmanship in the way he has presented little insights, hard-hitting, soul-crushing and poignant in parts. There are no endless paragraphs but when you reflect on the small chapters and some of those insights, the book feels impressive. One of the biggest dilemnas that the characters face is the one that haunts each of us at different points in our lives – the “what if” and maybe even the pursuit of perfection. But it is hard because, in Kundera’s words, “We can never know what we want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.” It is the irony of having a single life. For this very reason, one’s choices do not have a lot of weight in the grand scheme of things. The unbearable lightness of being. Somewhere along, different events occur that touch you and impact you in different ways and “relieve” you from this lightness. 
There are definitely parts in the book that I could not understand. I do not want to call it pretentious because after all I have only read this once so maybe a re-read would help, but I am not so strongly inclined to go back and read it again for the time being. The book definitely made me think, not in a life changing way but in a way that helps me appreciate the simplicity, complexity and beauty of abstraction and life.

I read this a while ago and I just cannot NOT share this here – please read this autobiographical memoir. I have tried to blink away my tears of joy and sadness and pride as I read this on my commute almost angry at myself for withholding from expressing what I felt so strongly about. It is incredibly hard for me to come close to describing the unparalleled joy that Kobayashi’s school Tomoe, a school set in railway carriages and nothing less, gives me. Totto-Chan (author Tetsuko Kuroyanagi herself) recounts the several little ways her Headmaster Kobayashi devised to make children feel special led by his strong belief in the innate goodness of children and his attention to them. The way the classes were organised, the farmer teacher, the sports day with specially created games resonated so deeply with me and while I am not ready or patient enough to speak of why this book is probably going to be one I will read and re-read for a long time to come, I promise to, someday. That a school like Tomoe with all its little stories of love, compassion, loss and rebirth, existed in Japan while the world was at war, with children blissfully unaware of the ongoings is heartbreaking and beautiful. The post-script is equally a joy to read and the students continue to have reunions every year on November 3, their Sports Day. Having worked in education, I know it is not easy to create a class or school, even the one that you strongly believe in. But Kobayashi was one of them who did. And to have it all taken away on a morning during the war angered and deeply saddened me. Wars have never done anyone or anything good. But I am happy Tomoe existed for those 7 years from 1937 – 1945 and that Tomoe’s story will live on in the hearts of the readers and inspire many even if only by mocking some of the systems we have. And this time, it was me by the window in a train reading about a little girl and her school set in railway carriages not so long ago. It really was a damn good school, you know.

I have a few more books to talk about but I think I will stop here for now and get to my little Prince 🙂