What a ‘wada’!

 

 

vishrambaugwada

A chance visit to Vishrambaug wada got me thinking once again about how little we value what we have until it’s lost for ever.

What was once the residence of the mighty Peshwas of Pune, is now a dusty and dilapidated looking structure, its imposing carved wooden facade seems overwhelmed by the constant stream of humanity that passes it by. Most of it is now occupied by offices of the Municipal Corporation and we all know what bright and cheerful places they can be.

The stone steps at the entrance are littered with garbage and we picked our way across to reach two dingy looking flights of stairs leading to the ‘pradarshani’ or exhibition. Two men were seated at a wooden table inside a room that overlooked the quadrangle within the wada. The quadrangle itself was an enclosure with dirty stone tiles and random clutter piled in the corners.

We paid the modest entry fee and one of the men- an elderly slow-moving gentleman- heaved himself to his feet to show us around. The narrow corridors were dimly lit, there was dust everywhere, and a general air of forlorn neglect.

The walls had faded-looking posters with information about the history of Pune written in Marathi and (mostly) grammatically incorrect English with misspelled words sprinkled around. Our guide pointed to each and mumbled a few barely audible lines about them . We proceeded from one room to the next. The main hall had a seat where the Peshawa used to recline. It was a mattress covered with a tacky golden cloth and two side cushions of garish red. Some curtains hung limply from the pillars.

Our guide pointed listlessly to some carvings and paintings, mumbling all the while. By then I had stopped straining to listen and moved ahead while my companion attempted to follow what was being told. From the windows came the noise, heat and dust of the city.

We reached the end of our tour and paid the guide’s fees.  For me, the best part of the tour was when I listened appreciatively to my friend telling the guide and his colleague what exactly she thought of how the place was kept and how (badly!) the tour was conducted. She didn’t mince her words, decimated all their feeble protests and we marched out, picking our way back through the litter and the clutter.

Before we left, however, one of them told us that there was another part of the ‘wada’ that was much bigger and better maintained. It was opened at certain hours and lit up in the evenings. He also told us how to get there. But when we reached the other entrance, we came up against a large wooden door; firmly locked and no one to tell us how or when one could gain entry. We came away disheartened and resigned.

We bemoan the fact that the younger generation has very little connect to their history and rich culture. We talk about how important it is for us to rediscover our roots and take pride in the legacy of our past. But what we do have, we fail to preserve.

And this will be our legacy to the coming generations- these neglected, falling down relics and monuments where the history of this land played out itself.  It’s we who have failed our youngsters. Not they.

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Kaka, janaar ka?

auto

They are mostly a maligned lot, notorious for being rude, refusing fares, grumbling about distance and rigging meters. I’ve met my share of those and defiantly take cabs in front of auto stands.
But I’ve also met another type- they’re the ones who cheerfully take you where you want to go, enliven the journey with conversation, air their opinions and even share their philosophy of life.
The one I rode with today was one such. He began by asking me if I had noticed any benefits of the GST. Then proceeded to hold forth on how the rich were getting richer and the common man was being harassed. The local administration was giving him a rough time where he wanted to construct his modest dwelling on his small patch of land. He had plenty to say about bribery and corruption! All with a wry grin on his face.
When I reached my destination and paid him, he immediately handed over the few coins of change (many pocket the money and drive away). I wished him luck in the construction of his house. He wished me ‘Diwalichi shubhechha’ and drove off.
I’ve enjoyed some great conversations with such ‘rickshaw kakas’ which in addition to giving my Marathi a real workout, provide an insight into the lives of these indespensable men who get us where we want to go, at a reasonable fare and in a short time!
May they live long and prosper. And refuse fewer passengers!

Move On

“Like a roller in the ocean, life is motion
Move on
Like a wind that’s always blowing, life is flowing
Move on
Like the sunrise in the morning, life is dawning
Move on”

One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands.  It came to me when I woke up to this lovely image of three of my friends holidaying at the sea.

And it made me think once again of how imperative it is for working women to take a break and go away on their own. Just to relax and replenish. Shed the ‘mental load’ that we women tend to cart everywhere and even take to bed with us.

We wait for the right time, the right place to do things for ourselves. And while we wait, life passes us by and all too soon it’s too late. Let’s seize the moment and make it right. Right for us to travel, spend time with friends, spend time with ourselves. Unwind, lest we unravel.

Let’s move on.

move on

Parents of Millennials

It’s not easy being a parent. It’s uneasier being a parent of millennials.
Like someone has said – We’re the only generation that has to listen to its parents and to its children. Which means that we get it from both sides.

Our parents expected (and got) unquestioning obedience from us. But our children get away with doing the unexpected. The only thing that we can expect of them in place of obedience is rolled eyes and shrugged shoulders.

We have no tales of hardship or deprivation from our past; to tell our children and batter them emotionally. Our kids don’t have to hear any ‘when-I-was-your-age-I-used-to…accounts from us. As for the present, we’re tech savvy enough to enjoy the pleasures of online shopping, Netflix and social media networking. Which means we have to look for other ways of sending them on guilt trips.

Given the in-your-face ‘I’m single and lovin’ it’ attitude of many millennials, we may not have the satisfaction of passing on our hard-won wisdom of coping with marriage, in-laws and relatives. We can’t feel smug and tell our kids how we overcame all obstacles, about the numerous compromises we made and how they can learn from our experiences. These millennials are too busy charting their own course.

And finally, we have been deprived of the ultimate revenge that all parents dream of having, the biggest threat of them all, the Just Wait Till You Have Children Of Your Own clincher to every argument. How can we say this to a cheerfully childless by choice millennial? They’ll just laugh in our faces. Because they know the’re having the last laugh. And that, for me, is the unkindest cut of all. Not only are we going to be deprived of grand kids we can spoil rotten,who in turn would trouble their parents no end; we have to go on listening to our parents, who,along with our millennial offspring, continue to tell us how to lead our lives.

Well, I’ve decided. When I’m older, I’ll live by myself, do exactly as I please and not take any calls. Ha.That’ll show them.

The Archivist. (a tribute)

My father was a man of few words, but also a man who knew many words. He could read, write and speak Urdu, his English was impeccable, his Hindi fluent and he taught Chinese. His diction was flawless; all those tricky ‘k’, ‘kh’ ‘z’ and ‘gh’ sounds which are typical to Urdu, he uttered with ease and also managed to teach me some of them. His mind was a storehouse of idioms, jokes, sayings and one-liners, most of which he quoted straight-faced, whenever the occasion demanded.

He was also a man of many opinons. He could discuss politics, religion, ideologies, current affairs and sports at length. Some of his opinions could be quite tongue-in-cheek, but that never stopped him from voicing them. I remember once he wrote a letter to the editor of a popular newspaper, suggesting a remedy for the stray dog menace- round them up and export them to countries where dog-meat is a staple. Of course, that letter provoked a barrage of hostile responses, which he read with glee and then cut out and pasted in his scrap book. If he were around today and internet savvy, I’m sure he would be having a wonderful time poking fun at all the trolls that infest cyberspace.

Dad never threw anything away. He was an archivist by profession, before he became a lecturer. He believed in preserving everything. ‘Reduce, reuse and recycle’ was his mantra long before it became a popular text-book mantra. His study table drawers had a collection of containers with strange objects in them, some wrapped in used paper envelopes or oddly patterned plastic wrappers. Buttons, nuts, bolts, nails. pieces of wire, rolls of string, pens, coins, weird implements and tools- he had them all. What is more,he managed to find some sort of use for them too, blithely ignoring our shocked protests and pleas to ‘throw it away!!’

He had played almost every sport of his times (indoor and outdoor), and he was an enthusiastic player of tennis almost till he retired. He was a whiz at carrom, he taught me the rules of chess and he even explained to me in painstaking detail, the entire process of a five-day test match; starting from the players, to the first and second innings, interspersed with thumbnail sketches of the well-known cricketers of those days, just to illustrate his points.

I miss my father. I miss his wry humour, his kindness, his patience and his forbearance. I wish I had learnt more from him, asked him more questions, been more interested in what his life had been before I came into it. After all, my dad was an archivist; he worked to preserve historical documents, he also preserved memories. I wish I had tapped into more of them. My dad was an archivist, and he was also a keen photographer. I wish I had asked him more about his collection of old photographs. My dad was an archivist, he preserved so many scrolls, books and artefacts that he had brought back from his trip to China. I wish I had shown more interest in them other than that they existed.

My dad was an archivist.  And I wish I had delved deeper into all his archives.

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My dark shadow.

I have a little creature that moves around with me

And what can be the use of it, but to add to my misery

It lives in both my heart and head, and gets bigger when I go to bed

The scariest thing about it, you know is the way it quickly starts to grow

It can get all big and dark, and that is when it leaves a mark

At other times it’s so little, that it’s practically invisible

But it never leaves my side, I fear it’s always lurking near

It creeps into my thoughts so slowly, and within minutes its all tentacaly

It takes over my very being, even though it can’t be seen

I must confess I help it grow, by feeding it dark thoughts, you know

the ones that have ‘what-if’ and ‘what-about’ sprinkled all over and about

I try to hush it, tell it to go, but it simply seems to grow

It’s a monster from which I can nor run nor hide, because it’s forever at my side

For I’m the one who keeps it close, you see, and its name is ….ANXIETY.

Image result for anxiety

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat to live, but live a little!

Ok, so- how does this sound? Lightly toasted and buttered muffins, with a thick slice of spicy harissa grilled chicken in between, accompanied by the token lettuce leaves and dollops of sour cream and mustard to go with it. On the side, there’s a plate of golden potato wedges, fried to perfection and sprinkled with paprika, crunchy crisp on the outside and crumbly soft within. To finish off, you have a panna cotta that’s mildly sweet with a tinge of bitter coffee. It’s smooth as silk and light as air. The macaroons are a must- they’re nutty but melt in the mouth and the coffee flavoured ganache within is just right. All this washed down with sips of cinnamon coffee. Yes, I had (rather shared) all this last evening and it was a most enjoyable, guilt-free indulgence.

 

Whenever I try to go on a diet and cut out all sugary, fried  and starchy carb-laden food stuffs from my ‘must-eat’ list, I fail miserably. Because no amount of nutritious, healthy options can make up for even one bite of a fried potato or a gloriously sweet dessert.

Before all the health conscious weight-watchers start baying for my blood, let me make it very clear that I’m all for eating sensibly and I do know the harm that too much of spice, sugar and fats can cause. Yes, yes, ‘Nothing tastes as good as being slim feels’. Or being healthy, for that matter. But why can’t we aim at both? Why do we go from one extreme to the other?

We spend years bingeing on all the unsuitable, wrong foods and then, after the inevitable wake-up call given by our beleaguered bodies, we go healthy with a vengeance and eliminate from our lives anything that has taste, flavour or pleases the palate. Then we have to content ourselves with occasional sips and nibbles from the forbidden foods; while we plough our way through the raw, the roasted and the steamed. All topped with select fruits and nuts.

Life’s not all that great that we can get through it by denying ourselves the pleasures that it has to offer. And food is definitely one of them. Be it comfort food like hot dal-rice drizzled with ghee or just plain soup and and sandwiches; be it the sinful gluttony of junk food in a gooey, cheezy pizza or a plate full of spicy ‘chaat’, or choice gourmet dishes in a pricey restaurant, food is what makes us happy!! It brings people together because to eat is a great reason to meet, it’s a part of any celebration, no festival would be complete without it’s trademark special dish, it’s an excellent ice-breaker and conversation-maker (unless it’s taken off a particular quadruped- in which case it can be a ‘killer’). It makes life better!

So, let’s live to eat. But, let’s do so wisely and in moderation, so that we can live longer and eat more!

P.S I should practise what I preach!😛

 

Rain, rain, come again; come again and stay all day. Little Janu wants to play in the rain.

In 1986, following my father’s retirement, my parents and I moved out of our comfortable ‘sarkari’ bungalow into a housing colony being constructed on the stony, dusty and barren slopes of a hill on the outskirts of town. Being an upcoming neighbourhood, the infrastructure was poor at best.
The water supply was erratic, we were at the tender mercies of the local ‘gram panchayat’ whose first priority was the villages that came under its ambit, and not  this lot of outsiders who had muscled their way into its territory. There was no piped water into the houses; we had to fetch our water in buckets, by standing in line at common taps situated at various points. The water was supplied to these taps twice a day for a limited period of time. There was no lack of water, just the infrastructure to provide it.
In the monsoons, the water that came through these taps was a muddy chocolatey brown. There was plenty of it but it was completely unusable.
Luckily, in those days, the rains used to be abundant and Punctual. The rain water would fall from the terrace in an unending stream and flow past the houses, going chatter-chatter like the brook in Tennyson’s poem.
We decided to fill our buckets from Nature’s tap. As soon as the skies would cloud over, we’d gather our buckets and wait in anticipation. A few minutes after it began to rain, the water would start falling from the terrace and we’d race around the house, placing buckets at strategic points. Within minutes, all buckets would be sloshing with clear as crystal rain water. In no time, every empty containers in the house would brim with water, even as the rain fell in torrents outside. There was no need to ration the water as we’d do in summer, or to despair that we’d run out of water. All we had to do was wait for it to rain again. And when it did, one could hear the sound of water falling from a height into metal pots and buckets from the houses around us. Evidently, our idea had caught on! How’s that for rainwater harvesting? We didn’t have to save for a rainy day, it was the rainy days that saved us.
Image result for rainwater falling into a bucket
Switch to the dismal rain-less present. We have all the infrastructure in place to store, process and supply water into the houses of this city. We know how to harvest rain water, but we don’t know how to make it rain. The rains arrive later and later each year. We wait in anticipation when the skies cloud over and sigh with disappointment when the sun comes through without even a drop having fallen. Our children will not know the thrill of splashing in puddles while cupping their palms to catch the raindrops, they will first wonder how long it will rain and when it will rain again.
Image result for monsoon in india
And they certainly won’t sing ‘rain rain go away, come again another day’.

Making ‘khichdi’ out of a ‘khichdi’

‘Sabudana khichdi’ is a popular fast-food where I live. And by fast-food, I don’t mean whatever comes under the category of junk food, I mean food that can be had when one is fasting. Luckily, it’s not restricted to only those fasting times, it can be relished at any time, any day. Which is why it’s on the menu in a lot of eateries and also sold from roadside carts and shacks.

Making it, however is a tricky matter.  If not prepared correctly, it can transform into a gloopy, gluey inedible mess in minutes. Of course, there are those who airily claim that ‘It’s so easy, there’s nothing to it, I can make it in minutes, it always comes out well, my family Loves the way I make it etc etc…” (I hate ’em all)

For a reluctant foodie like me- who likes eating but doesn’t like cooking- making this dish has always been something of a challenge. Simply put, I go out of my way to avoid making it.

Which is strange, because at one time I could make it and very well too. I remember once bringing a large quantity of it for my colleagues at work; as a good-bye treat before I moved to another city. That was more than 10 years ago. After that something happened, and whenever I tried my luck at it, I’d do so with a lot of misgivings and What-Ifs. The result: Murphy’s Law would kick in and I’d be left stirring an unpleasant looking concoction that stuck to the spoon, plate and probably intestines like an adhesive. Just goes to show how negative thoughts can ruin the plate and the palate.

After a lot of prodding, accusing, guilting and reproaches from a daughter who’s crazy about this dish and doesn’t always get enough of it, I finally decided to take another crack at  it. Only this time, I threw out all the ‘Ifs and ‘Buts’ and kept only the ingredients. Much to my surprise and relief, it actually worked.

Lesson learnt: Don’t be afraid of making a mess. Just carry on regardless and it may not end up as a mess after all!

The ingredients: Each one, if not handled correctly can ruin the dish.

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(Click on pic to see captions)

And finally- the finished product: Sabudana khichdi with cool cucumber raita. Bon Appetit to me!

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Food and some -isms.

Watching food videos is a highly-satisfying, guilt-free way of indulging in some scrumptious treats without having to spend a penny or put on an inch around the waistline. Unless one considers the ounces gained from being glued to the screen for hours.

As a foodie, I take this particular activity very seriously. The other day I came across a video of  a dish named ‘Chimichurri Beef Roulade’ and the name itself was so quirky that I opened the link immediately. It’s made with flank steak, serrano ham and a chimichurri sauce, three things I am unfamiliar with, but I watched anyway.

As the video progressed, the familiar notification popped up ‘Advert will begin in 5 secs’. And sure enough, after 5 secs an ad of ‘Atta Noodles’ came over the screen. Manufactured, mind you, by a brand owned by a hirsute, saffron-clad yoga guru who is a celebrity in his own right.

The 10 sec ad concluded and the video continued; the thick juicy steak was seasoned, layered with strips of ham and chimichurri sauce (I like this name more every time I use it!), drizzled with oil and roasted till it had a golden brown crust.

Image result for chimichurri beef roulade

But I couldn’t get the ‘atta noodles’ ad out of my mind. It was so incongruously out-of-place in a food video about beef and ham that it left me feeling slightly amused at many levels. I watched the video again and this time it was interrupted by an ad of a popular Smartphone, so obviously, there are a number of them playing on a loop. The ‘atta noodles’ from that particular brand, in the middle of my chimichurri beef dish had just been a coincidence.

Which got me thinking…and wondering…food had always been such a safe, non-controversial topic of conversation. Once could discuss it for hours without hurting anyone’s feelings or sensibilities. The worst that could happen as a result of talking about food would be a food- binge.

But of late, I feel that this subject has been afflicted with many -isms; each of them bearing ‘x’ number of bullet points at which the owner can take offence. There’s vegetarianism, vegan-ism, environmentalism, food-wastage-ism, nationalism (ok, I sneaked this one in), fruitarianism and so on. And since one can never predict the route a discussion can take; it can be like walking on a minefield. Or treading on eggshells.

We have become vociferous flag-bearers of our many beliefs. From there on, to defending them, taking offence at those who are not in accord with them and then trying to convince them to (DANGER! DANGER! High-risk word coming up) ‘convert’ – one can hardly tell when a harmless discussion will turn into a raging debate because a certain person has taken objection to ‘y’ word mentioned, which has offended a sentiment related to bullet point 6.8 in said person’s list.

And of late, I’m beginning to feel that even when we talk of food, we need to watch and weigh our words. Who knows, we may end up having to eat them later. And no -ism can protect us from doing that.

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I tend to overthink. A Lot.