A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Lasting impressions

Posted by Pepper on August 20, 2016

Some people touch your life only for a brief period, but leave behind such a lasting impression that you end up remembering them forever. She was one of them. The first thing I did when I walked into college on the first day was to go through the list of professors who would be teaching us. And I saw her name there. Luku Sanya! She would be teaching us Effective Communication. Wow.

I was elated. When I told my mom this, she was as impressed. Ms. Luku Sanyal was one of the earliest faces of Doordarshan and one of the first English news readers of our country. Of course, she was a familiar name and my parents held her in high regard. She was the one who read the news to the whole country when Indira Gandhi was arrested. She gave news updates about the ‘Emergency’ in our nation.

I was terribly excited by the mere idea of being trained under her. Communication is my most favourite subject. And to have the fortune of learning from such a legend was too good to be true. I waited with baited breath for her to arrive in class on our first day. I distinctly remember the thump of my heart when she walked in. What an astounding personality.

I learnt from her later on that an “ordinary looking person can SCREAM personality”. Her words. She was the one who made me realise that it wasn’t about how good you looked or how pretty your physical features were. It was all about the way you carried yourself. And needless to say, she carried herself remarkably well.

Luku ma’am as she was fondly called, taught us Effective Communication for two semesters and Radio Studies for another. Since I have always been so much in love with the field of communication, I used to hang on to every word she said in class. I know I owe a lot to her. She greatly fixed my accent, diction, speech and language skills.

She taught me how to pronounce words like ‘jewelry’, ‘pronunciation’, ‘product’, ‘Wednesday’ and more the right way. Words that have a seemingly simple pronunciation but ones I realised I had been messing up all this while. Her constant reminders of “there is a difference between how you pronounce V and W” and that we should ‘Cut our lips when we talk’ to pronounce each syllable correctly will always stay with me.

I was intrigued by her life. She almost always had a cigarette in her hand, which she would duly finish in the department office before entering our classroom. For a woman in her late 60’s, I thought she was brave. She hardly discussed her personal life, but I knew she had been in a violent marriage.

A few weeks ago, I saw an FB post put up by one of our department heads that said that Luku ma’am was critically ill. A week later, we heard she passed away. Very soon, it was all over the news.

Times of India carried a piece.  “News reading legened Luku Sanyal is no more

DNA carried another piece. “Tributes pour in as legendary news reader, writer Luku Sanyal passes away

There were other articles floating around. I read all of them. I went back and read her earlier interviews too. For days, I couldn’t shake off that feeling of remorse. It still hasn’t left me completely. I think of her time and again. But now, that feeling of remorse is slowly being replaced by pride and gratitude. She was such an amazing person. She helped me build my skills. I take such pride in saying she was my teacher.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | Leave a Comment »

N for Nerve

Posted by Pepper on July 11, 2016

Mint is dark skinned. I guess it is quite evident from the pictures I put up. What I haven’t mentioned is that I am absolutely crazy about his skin colour. I think it is delicious. I call him by various names and his colour has been the inspiration for many. Other than the rich colour, his skin also has a smooth, buttery texture. I used to call him my ‘Dark chocolate’. Then I switched to ‘Butter’. Since I thought Butter sounded incomplete, I began to suffix it with ‘Singh’. I addressed him as ‘Butter Singh’ for a very long time. I also had his number saved under that name in my phone. Yes, he is probably the first Tamilian ‘Singh’.

After a point, I thought Butter Singh didn’t have a good ring to it. I changed it to ‘Makkhan Singh’. That name has stayed. I have to give him credit for responding to my calls of ‘Makkhan Singh’ without batting an eyelid. Sometimes I rub my hands on his bare skin and ask him, ‘Are you chocolate or are you butter?’, only to answer the question myself and call him ‘butter chocolate’, or ‘chocolate butter’, depending on what I fancy at that point. I often ask him what his name is, just to make sure he remembers his basics. He says something to the effect of ‘Chocolate Butter Makkhan Singh’. He knows he cannot ever utter his real name in response to my question, unless he wants to repeat the names I have given him a hundred times.

So, the point is I am in love with his skin colour. Of course, there are days when I actually poke fun too. I am not sure how, but he got a lot darker after we moved back from the US. I guess it has a lot to do with playing for hours on the beach, under the harsh Indian sun. He also refuses to use sun screen each time he goes to the beach, which is atleast 3 to 4 times a week, each visit lasting a minimum of 2 and a half hours. He is extremely tanned and I often pick at that. But, only I hold those rights. And our family.

I was in the kitchen with our cook the other day. She was telling me about a marriage proposal they had received for their daughter. In the midst of her story, she looked up at me asked me, ‘Aapne aapke husband se shaadi kaise ki? Aap gori hai aur woh saavle hai. Kya aapko zabardasti shaadi karni padi?’. It translates to, ‘How did you agree to marry your husband? You are fair and he is dark. Were you forced to marry him?’

I was totally unprepared for something like that. In that one moment, I felt enraged, offended and shocked by her audacity. What nerve did she have to say that? I didn’t even know how to respond to that. So I continued to be speechless. Was I forced to marry him? If only she knew how much we fought the world to be together. If only she knew how crazy I was about his skin colour. At that time, I chose to not reply, because I really couldn’t think of a fitting response.

I should have probably just laughed. I knew Mint would. But for that fleeting moment I had the desire to protect him from all scorn. Anyway, I did mention the incident to Mint later that night, and as I had predicted, he had a good laugh. Given our nation’s obsession with fair skin, I am sure a lot of people think he isn’t ‘good enough’ because he is dark, but this was the first time somebody said it aloud to me. I am glad it happened though. It taught me to not care. Next time I’ll just laugh.

Posted in Slices of life | 40 Comments »

Protected: Pause. Play. Pause.

Posted by Pepper on June 26, 2016

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M for Musings

Posted by Pepper on May 26, 2016

In the recent past, I’ve spent many hours contemplating about life. What is the right way of living it? Of course, I haven’t found an answer to that. But all my introspection has led to some clarity. I know in this life, we all strive to achieve one common goal. Happiness. But unfortunately, I think our idea of happiness is skewed.

When I ask myself what it is that makes me happy, I can rattle off a list. Wearing good clothes makes me happy. Eating out and exploring different kinds of food makes me happy. Reading good books makes me happy. Travel and holidays make me very happy. Every item on my list has one common requirement. Money. It almost made me believe that happiness has a cost price. Until I realised with a thwack one day, that it doesn’t. My happiness doesn’t need to be dependent on any external stimuli. In order to be happy, all I need to do is, well, be happy. It is simple and it is free.

The more I think of this life, the more worn out I feel by its complexities. All I really want is a simple life. I think I can find true happiness in simple every day living. I’ve reached a stage where I find myself unwilling to work under highly stressful conditions. Not even for good money. And I also seem to have developed a low threshold for stress. A work day that is longer than 8 hours, a bad commute, a mean boss, a very demanding work culture. For me, all of that equals stress. I see a lot of my friends voluntarily choosing this life. They get good money at the end of the day. The wake up at the crack of down, work hard in the morning to put together lunch boxes, leave their homes in a rush, go through a crazy commute, go through their work days, rush home, feel exhausted, put together dinner and then crash. That is their life on loop.

I’d rather earn less money and pick a peaceful job. These jobs would also pay me less. Simple living is based on the principle that by lowering our expenses, we can lower the time spent earning money. That free time can be used for a variety of purposes. I love the sound of wading through life at my pace, pursuing my interests and having time to volunteer.

I know it is unrealistic on my part to expect myself to embrace all ideas that Simple Living promotes. But I have started taking baby steps in that direction. I try to lower my consumption. I am going to try reduce my possessions. But I know there are some things I can’t give up. Eating out and exploring different food for one. But I am going to limit that activity to only a few times a month.

We also cannot eliminate debt from our lives. Not until we have cleared our home loan, which will take another decade. Until then, I can revisit my idea of happiness. I can try my best to simplify my life and cut down my wants. I know I am saying this now and I might completely change my tune when I am carried away by the glitz. But I am willing to consider this as an experiment and make a genuine attempt at embracing simplicity.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 17 Comments »

L for laughable

Posted by Pepper on May 24, 2016

bathroom

 

That is a picture of our shower area. I live with a ridiculous fear. I suspect somebody is hiding behind the curtain and waiting to pounce on me when I am in the midst of my business. I don’t know why, but I have always lived with this fear. Every morning when I enter the bathroom, I first peep and check to make sure there is nobody hiding behind the curtain. I do this every.single.day.

While I have always done a thorough scan of every new bathroom I enter (especially if it happens to be in a hotel!) before I even consider undressing, I find it absolutely ridiculous that I do it in my own home. It is laughable. It is embarrassing to admit. But I suppose all of us have some absurd fears that we simply cannot explain? Please tell me I am not the only one.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 13 Comments »

K for Kindness

Posted by Pepper on May 23, 2016

Mumbai is hot. That is an understatement. I see everybody around me perspiring and sweating it out all the time. While it is obviously very hot outside, it is also very hot inside the house. Unless you keep the AC on 24/7. And that is something I am not a fan of. There is something very unnatural and suffocating about keeping all the doors and windows shut all the time. So we try to cut back on our AC usage and only use it intermittently.

We try to get by by consuming a lot of liquids. Mint flavoured buttermilk and chilled lemon Tang. I have several cups of these a day. I’ve been meaning to cut back on the Tang, because oh the amount of sugar I consume everyday! But an iced glass of Tang is just what I need at times and giving it up has been tough. So the sugar overdose continues. I must at least try making up for it by going for extra long walks, but again, the heat is such a killer.

Anyway, this post isn’t about my coping mechanism for summer. It is about the birds and how the scorching heat and dry, acrid air makes them suffer. A while ago, we noticed a line up of pigeons fighting over a few drops of water in the balcony at my parents place. This water was toxic, dripping from our air conditioner. To watch the pigeons thirstily peck and gulp the few available droplets of carbonized water was heart breaking.

Ever since that day, my dad began to lay out a fresh bowl of water for the birds in the balcony. I was hoping to see more sparrows quench their thirst, but most days we just saw pigeons. I am a pigeon hater but the heat made me feel sorry for them. At the end of the day, my dad would take the almost dry bowl and replenish it with fresh water.

A few days ago, my dad had to leave the city for some work related travel. The sister was given instructions to water the plants in his absence. He told me to refill the water bowl for the birds. Unfortunately, I forgot to do it for the first two days. I would only remember at the end of the day, feel too lazy and decide to do it the next day. This happened twice.

The third day, I noticed the fully dry plastic bowl was lying upturned. The pigeons were back to gulping the drops of water that ran from the air conditioner. I kicked myself. The birdies must have surely been missing my papa. I set down the cold litchees I was about to peel and decided to first get the pigeons their bowl of water. This heat is particularly cruel to the birds. Us humans have destroyed their habitat anyway. The next time I indulge myself with some iced refreshments to beat the harsh summer, I’ll stop for a moment to think of the birds. And whether I have done my part for them ..

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

J for Jumble

Posted by Pepper on May 21, 2016

That is what my life seems like right now. Dictionary defines ‘jumble’ as “A confused multitude of things”. While my head is almost always jumbled at any given time, I am trying hard to straighten my surrounding. So how do I cut out the junk and jumble from my life?

There are a lot of things I can do, but I think I want to start with a few basics.

For one, I need to attack my closets with a vengeance. In Mumbai, homes are small and storage is always short. I don’t blame myself for having to stuff a million things into a tiny space. Organizing is particularly hard when you don’t have enough room. Things just find a way to a place in which they don’t belong. Before I know it, everything seems out of place. Sigh.

Anyway, so my first step is to sort through my wardrobe and simply reduce the number of clothes I own. No, they aren’t worn out. Yes, I still use them. No, I am not bored. I am simply tired of having to manage with such little space. The wardrobes are always in a state of disarray and I feel helpless. So one of my tasks this weekend is to pull out tees and other outfits that I think I should say bye to.

Here is my problem. And I think I may have mentioned this before? I don’t really know who to pass on my clothes to. I’ve always donated clothes to our domestic help and their kids. You don’t have to look too far most times. I will have a separate bag of clothes for them. Clothes that I know they will use and appreciate.

But a lot of the clothes I want to give away now are not ones that maids and their daughters would wear. A lot of them are tank tops, halters and other clothes considered ‘immodest’ by some parts of our society. Also, many of these are expensive labels and brands and I don’t feel like passing them on to people who will not value or even recognize them. I wish I had a cousin or a friend I could hand clothes down to, but I have nobody who is my size. So I have a bag full of some neat stuff that I am forced to give away only because I have no space to keep it, but I don’t think an NGO or a domestic helper would really appreciate them. Oh I wish India had a Goodwill. Let me think of what I can do..

Next on my list is sorting out the kitchen. Because of Mint’s crazy obsession with boxes, we have an entire carton of boxes that came as packaging for various kitchen items. He hates throwing any kind of packaging material and it gets on my nerves. Why add to the clutter? He thinks it helps us organize better when we are ready to move next. That logic sounds ridiculous to me. I wouldn’t want to keep a box that came with a set of mugs for 2 years just so we can use the same box to repack if and when we move. I feel stupid for having listened to him for so long. I think it is time to throw out (or put away to recycle rather) a ton of cardboard from our kitchen and free up some space.

And while we are fixing the house, I might as well get the water heater in one of our bathrooms fixed. We’ve not bothered to do that for the longest time. Since the in-laws along with Oregano will be visiting us soon, we will need both our bathrooms to be functional. More on the in-laws upcoming visit later!

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

Because some things shouldn’t be left incomplete..

Posted by Pepper on May 19, 2016

I started the A – Z writing challenge in November last year. To my dismay, it stands incomplete even at the end of 6 months.. I know, I should have at least tried completing it in April, when the entire world was on board. But I didn’t. I wasn’t busy. I wasn’t pressed for time. I was simply lazy. But things that are left incomplete continue to haunt me. And so I will attempt to finish this one more time. I will continue from where I stopped, of course.

The last time, I stopped at ‘I’. Hopefully, May will see me reach Z. Here are all the previous posts in one place.

A for All

B for Blessed

C for Cockroach

D for Dream

E for Exercise

F for Flight

G for Goals

H for Hope

I for Integrate

See you tomorrow, I hope!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

35 and counting..

Posted by Pepper on May 18, 2016

My parents completed 35 years of marriage a week ago. The sister and I call them our angels. We’ve had the fortunate of growing beneath their wings and we can’t feel more blessed. In my eyes, not only are they the most perfect parents, but they also are the most perfect couple. So much in love! They talk to each other at least twice a day on phone when my dad is at work. I hold them as a shining example every time I nag Mint. The guy is known to not answer his phone. Ever. Hmph..

Of course, we had to celebrate the parents anniversary. And after a lot of debating, we finally decided to go for a pool side buffet lunch. It was a relaxed Saturday and we had a great time. All through I kept thinking of what it is that makes the sister and I so crazy about our parents. After all, not all our friends worship their parents the way we do.

When I think of it, it isn’t like they made no parenting mistakes. In fact, I think they’ve even committed some blunders in the past. And no, I am not talking about dressing me up in a frock that had pineapples and the alphabet A all over it. (Seriously, why though?). I am talking about real parenting mistakes. For example, I distinctly remember being whacked by my mom on several occasions for getting a Math sum wrong. In my world, that is blasphemous! You cannot raise your hand on a child for a reason like that. My mum apologizes profusely now when I remind her. She believes she was stupid. The whacking could have deeply affected my psyche and made me fear Math for life. Or did it? I don’t know. But yeah, both mom and I agree that approach was terribly wrong.

My dad, he made mistakes of a different kind. He has always been over indulgent. He would drive the sister and I to school every morning just because the school bus came 15 minutes too early. We paid hefty bus fees and used the service only while returning home. So we wasted half of the fees for the sake of 15 minutes of extra sleep in the morning. I think I wouldn’t do that for my child. What about teaching them the value of money? If we are using our hard earned money to pay for a service, we should utilise it. And what about other life lessons we could have learned? Waking up in time and viewing that as a necessity. The sister and I could have grown up with a sense of entitlement because of dad’s over indulgence. Thankfully, we didn’t.

But, their mistakes apart, they did for too many things right. And most importantly, they acknowledge the mistakes they’ve made in the past. Growing up, my parents turned into our best friends. I’ve written several posts about how terrific they are. I don’t know how I would have turned out without them. In fact is it their awesomeness that makes me scared of being a parent myself. I feel unsure I can be such an amazing parent.

While the sister and I obviously consider our parents to be the best in the world (typical kids, aren’t we?), it is heartening to see Mint echo the same thoughts. He’s never really been very close to his parents, and it is only now that he realises how beautiful and strong a bond can be between parents and child. It has been wonderful to watch him develop a very intimate relationship with my parents. A relationship that is independent of me. He has his own personal relationship with them and I know he doesn’t care about them because they are my parents anymore. He cares about them because they are two people he respects and loves sans obligations. He does think they are the nicest parents ever, and that coming from him is wonderful.

So my dear Mama and Papa, your 3 kids are nuts about you. You’ve had a great run together. 35 years is big. Here’s to many more fun filled years..

 

Posted in Meet the family | 12 Comments »

Keep calm and.. moisturize

Posted by Pepper on April 29, 2016

Mint has terribly dry skin. The skin on his legs is completely parched. If you even gently run your nails around his ankles, you will see white flaky lines all over. The sight would make me cringe. I had been pointing out to him for years, that his skin needs intense moisturizing. But the guy would simply ignore my pleas and concerns.

Well, on second thoughts. He wouldn’t ignore them. He would promise to take action. I bought the best body butter I could lay my hands on (rich cocoa enriched with shea, I must add). Along with that, I ensured he had timely reminders from me. Please use it regularly! He would promise to do so but most of the promises would fall flat after he had used the cream once or twice. He simply couldn’t keep up. Moisturizing was never a part of his daily regime.

To make it easier for him, I bought a bottle of some nourishing body oil. Probably that was easier and quicker to use. Again, he promised he would use it but he was simply unable to live up to his commitment. I moved the bottle of body oil next to his shower area. This would make it hard to miss. It would be in a very accessible location. All he had to do was pat down some oil after his shower. As usual, he said he would do it. But after a month of me eyeing the bottle and noticing no change in the quantity it held, I decided to give up without even confronting him this time.

The last time we were in the US, I couldn’t resist buying a bottle of ‘Jergens Ultra Healing Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer’ for him. I don’t give up easily, you see. Maybe this one would help repair his skin, even if he didn’t use it religiously. It was a big bottle and I just hoped the extra weight in my luggage would be worth it. But who was I kidding? The bottle sat untouched on our dressing table for months.

Some time ago, I noticed those awful marks on Mint’s ankles again. Flaky white scrawling. It made me shriek. Enough was enough. I pushed him back on the bed, pumped some moisturizer onto my palm and applied it on his legs. To my relief, I could see an instant difference in his skin. It looked so much healthier with just one use.

That was motivation enough. I began to apply moisturizer on his legs every night. He would sit back and continue using his laptop, I would silently massage his legs. The boy got used to it of course. Whenever I asked him to do it on his own, he would grin and ask me to do it instead. This was my own doing. I knew it. He needs to worship me. I’ll let him know that I accept offerings in both cash and kind.

That is how our night time ritual began. It continues till date. And surprisingly, rubbing moisturizer on his legs is something I have come to enjoy myself. It is rewarding to see his skin heal, day by day. In the quiet of our air conditioned bedroom (for which we need to be so grateful! I keep thinking of how the homeless survive in this heat), with the calming scent of eucalyptus, and our bottle of Jergens, we find our solace in fixing things.

Dear Mint, just keep in mind though that without me in your life, you’ll have some rough times.

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 25 Comments »

Being stupid

Posted by Pepper on April 25, 2016

Time and again I find myself going ahead and doing things that have absolutely no explanation. These are the things that make my family address me as ‘mental’, or like my mom says, ‘crack’.

This time, it happened in my cousin’s home. The sister and I were playing with the said cousin’s kids. The young lad had a bow and arrow set that I was particularly fascinated by. This was no ordinary bow and arrow set. This one came with a laser beam that would help you aim and target. Very neat. The arrows were long and sturdy and had suction cups at the end. The suction actually worked, unlike the ones on the darts that I used to have as a kid. We continued playing for a while.

When it was time for the kids to be fed, the sister and I sat back and I continued fidgeting with the arrows. I don’t know what got into me, but I decided to stick the arrow in the center of my forehead and see how long it stays there. I forbid you from asking me why. Because, well, I don’t know. I am whimsical and feel overcome by strange urges.

To my surprise, the arrow got neatly glued to my forehead. So the suction works on all kinds of surfaces, I thought. I wanted to see how long it would stay, so I let it be there as I continued to chat with my aunt, who was kind enough to ignore it. The sister kept eyeing me suspiciously but chose to not say anything in front of the many people around. Half an hour passed.

We finally found ourselves alone in the room. The arrow was still sticking out of my forehead and she pounced on me. “Do you know how ridiculous you look? Stop being so mental in front of others at least.” Saying that, she grabbed the arrow and decided to yank it out without any warning.

The suction turned out to be more powerful than I thought. The skin on my forehead was suddenly pulled, tugged and stretched without any warning. It was stinging for a few brief seconds and then it was gone. But of course, I yelled at the sister and asked her why she would pull it out like that without warning. She kept muttering something about me looking exceptionally stupid.

And then after a few moments, she gasped and asked “What is that!”. Turned out, my forehead had a big round circular mark, where the arrow had been attached. Yikes! I waited for a few minutes and sent this pic to Mint on WhatsApp.

forehead

He decided to annoy me further by sending me this pic and said I could cite her as my inspiration for the new look I was sporting. Do you know now why I want to murder him?

usha

 

No offense meant to Usha Uthup. She looks great, but I think that look is best suited to her, and maybe a few others. Not me!

To my horror, the next day the circular mark had turned a bright purple. Every single person is curious to know how it happened. It isn’t often that you get to see such perfectly shaped scars. What is the secret? I tried telling a few people the truth, only to have them dissolve in fits of laughter. I could see the look in their eyes. The look that screamed, “She is such a lunatic.”

Gah. The world thinks I am stupid and now I have my stupidity stamped on my forehead quite literally. I knew it would leave its mark someday. It’s been 3 days and the bruise refuses to go. This makes the entire world question me. And then laugh at me. I’m sorry, I don’t know why sticking toy arrows on your forehead is not considered a part of normal adult behavior. I wish I could lie about how the bruise came but I can’t think of anything that will explain such a perfect circle.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 60 Comments »

A new decade!

Posted by Pepper on April 20, 2016

I celebrated my birthday a few days ago. I turned, wait for it, 30! I expected myself to be overcome by that feeling of alarm and dread. Because, it is 30 we are talking about. 30 is big. 30 is so big. I have a handful of friends who are just under 30, and they wanted to know ‘how it felt to be 30’. I have a lot of friends who are over 30 and all of them brushed if off saying it is just a number. I waited all day for that feeling to hit me. Some amount of fear? Some regret? Some uncertainty? Surprisingly, other than excitement, I felt nothing else.

In fact, I remember being far more anxious on my 20th birthday. Entering a new decade felt a lot more scary back then. I couldn’t believe the teens were over. I wanted to hold on to them some more. I just liked the idea of being considered ‘young’. It let you get away with being stupid. And here I was, crossing the 30 mark already. Not really much wiser. Time does zoom by. This makes me think I will be 40 in the blink of an eye. And I wonder how that will feel.

I have to say, I have over indulged myself this month. I told myself turning 30 will justify all that extra shopping I do. It is after all a part of some mega celebration. I started with the basics. I needed lingerie. My existing collection was in tatters, quite literally. Very unglamorous. A 30 year old has to shine inwardly too. So I bought myself some decent stuff.

I then moved to night dresses. My tees and pajamas are again, to put it mildly, quite faded and worn out. So new night wear was purchased and the old ones have either been given away or been converted to tools used for dusting. I am 30 and I deserve all new things now.

I have also been experimenting with lip colour. It has been a long journey. Using lipsticks made me feel supremely conscious and overdone. In a wannabe sort of way. I thought they weren’t meant for me. One of my resolutions this year was to feel more confident with lip colour. I started out with such nude shades, Mint would not believe me when I said I had a lipstick on. But I loved the nudes. They added texture and a very subtle colour to my lips. They were just what I liked.

Over time, I started playing with bolder colours. I used a radiant peach of sorts and when I got a million compliments for that, I went and picked out a red! I must say, I have used the red a total of one time. It still makes me feel like I have stepped too far out of my comfort zone, but I am told it looks great. Hopefully, I will stop being conscious. For my birthday, I treated myself to two new lip colours. One a nude and the other a vivid pink. They were so expensive, I was full of doubt. What if I buy them and never use them? I decided to squish the doubt and buy them anyway. Because it was my birthday! And buying them would be good incentive to use them.

Another product that I had been wanting to buy for a long time was a dry shampoo. I had never in my life heard of one until a few months ago. I was told it was a substitute for a hair wash. All you had to do was spray it on your hair and the oiliness would disappear. I couldn’t believe it! If there is one thing I hate, it is having to wash my hair every two days. If a product could let me cut back on those washes, I had to get it! And what better time than turning 30?

There were a lot of expensive ones available online, but since I was going to be experimenting, I didn’t want to spend too much. I bought this one after some consideration. Unfortunately, I don’t think this substitutes for a hair wash. Well, not for me at least. However, it does reduce the oiliness and fluffs up your hair to a good extent. I am guessing I will use it before heading out for unplanned dinners, when I discover my hair looks fairly sticky (common story in my life), so I will still call it a useful buy. Next time, I may just try another brand.

I am also happy to note I have changed my dressing style. Finally. After all those years of wearing jeans and nothing else other than jeans, I am finally comfortable with dresses and skirts. I have also developed a fairly good color sense and when I look back at some of the clothes I wore earlier, I ask myself ‘Why?’. I know the answer though. I didn’t care enough about how I looked earlier. I find myself caring a little more and taking more interest in my appearance in the past year or two. I like how I dress and look now. I think at 30, I am in a happy spot. So of course, I had to buy myself some new clothes too. And oh, since we were at it, I bought myself a lovely new hand bag.

And as an icing on the cake, I had to buy myself some good books. A 30 year old has to always have something interesting to read and stimulate her ageing brain cells after all. I bought ‘Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan and ‘The museum of extraordinary things’ by Alice Hoffman. Both the books seem pretty good and I am half way through Beside Myself. Maybe I should not be so reluctant to do book reviews on my blog. Considering how many books I read, it is strange that I have not posted a single review. Book reviews are something I find myself incapable of doing. Some day maybe..

The build up to my birthday was exciting and fun. On the actual day, I went out for lunch with Mint and a friend. This is one of the things we ordered. A platter with 14 dips. The place was on my list for a long time, so for a change I wasn’t very confused about where I wanted to go for my birthday lunch.

And here is a picture of me cutting my 30th birthday cake.

 

30cake

We headed out for a family dinner with my parents and sis after the cake cutting session in the evening. I had such a lovely day. It was all so different from my 29th birthday, where everything seemed to annoy me. I guess they are right when they say, “Attitude is everything”

Posted in Celebrations | 51 Comments »

Trip to Fort Bassein

Posted by Pepper on April 15, 2016

Despite having grown up in Mumbai, there are still several places that I never had the opportunity to explore. I thought it was time we start savoring the true flavors of this city. Discovering new places is one of our favourite activities anyway, so it would be a joyous way to spend summer. I started by making a list of the places I wanted to visit. Most of them were just day trips. One such place was Fort Bassein.

We expected it to be an hour long drive. Our aim was to leave by 8 am, but as usual, we ended up starting much later. After a quick breakfast, we were off. I was excited. We were visiting a place that contained years of history. The actual Portuguese name of the place was ‘Fortaleza de São Sebastião de Baçaim’. Bacaim turned into Bassein which eventually turned into modern day Vasai. Who knew a random suburb of the city held such ancient stories?

These ruins were the headquarters of the Portuguese rule in the 16th and 17th centuries! Here are some very interesting excerpts from Wiki. “The Greek merchant Cosmas Indicopleustes is known to have visited the areas around Bassein in the 6th century, and the Chinese traveller Xuanzang later on June or July 640. According to Historian Joseph Gerson Da Cunha, during this time, Bassein and its surrounding areas appeared to have been ruled by the Chalukya dynasty of Karnataka.

The coast of Bassein was first visited by the Portuguese in 1509, when Francisco de Almeida on his way to Diu captured a Muslim ship in the harbour of Bombay, with 24 citizens of Gujarat aboard. 

The Treaty of Bassein was signed by Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat and the Kingdom of Portugal on 23 December 1534 while on board the galleon São Mateus. Based on the terms of the agreement, the Portuguese Empire gained control of the city of Bassein, as well as its territories, islands, and seas. 

In the 18th century, the fort was taken over by the Maratha army under Peshwa Baji Rao’s brother Chimaji Appa, and fell in 1739 after a three-year-long campaign. The British shortly attacked and took over the territory from the Marathas as the price for supporting one faction of the Marathas against another.

I am extremely fascinated by historic monuments. So I was looking forward to the first glimpse of the place. It turned out to be pretty much how I expected it to be. Quite lovely! It wasn’t very crowded on that particular day, and we walked around making our way through overgrown shrubs. I was transported back to an era that held battles between the Portuguese, the Marathas and the British.

Here is a random mix of pictures. Some of these structures were the royal mansions, administrative centers  and other establishments of the Portuguese.

 

 

 

 

And some pics of us…

 

 

 

 

After our little tour, I was very excited about having lunch at the Mahila Mandal restaurant. This is a part of an NGO run by a local teacher, Mrs Indumathy Barve. Mrs Barve is 93 years old and still runs this establishment, employing 250 women. You can read about her here. The food served here is hygienic and absolutely delicious.

We ordered this thali and this plateful of awesomeness cost us only Rs. 55.

 

Each item was freshly prepared and packed with bags of local flavour. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh pickle. The thali was a no frills, home cooked local meal. Just the kind of food I appreciate! Of course, as per the law that governs my life, I had to drop some dal on my white dress. It made me very cranky, but thankfully I was able to get the stain off. It miraculously disappeared and I could rescue my dress. On the whole, it was a day well spent!

If you live around Mumbai and are interested in history and heritage, I recommend a trip to Fort Bassein. And while you are there, don’t miss the lunch at Shramik Mahila Mandal.

Posted in Slices of life, Travel | 10 Comments »

Some days are like that

Posted by Pepper on April 14, 2016

I’ve never been an efficient cook. While I can manage to cook a decent meal, it takes me forever to put it together. And when I see people who can cook for a group of 10 in an hour or so, I feel awful. I usually take about an hour or so to whip up something for 2 to 3 people. In fact, I find the ‘prep time’ stated by most recipes to be very misleading. Especially when it comes to Indian cooking. How can chopping all those veggies, dicing onions, preparing the ginger garlic paste take only 30 minutes? It takes me a year. Sigh.

I must say, my timing had improved a little when I was forced to cook everyday while we lived in the US. All those years of preparing meals all by myself had resulted in me being a little fast, or faster than my usual self at least. Unfortunately, ever since we moved back to India, I managed to unlearn all the skills I had acquired. All the cooking was outsourced. I still feel grateful when I am presented with a hot meal prepared by our cook. But I have to admit, I have lost touch with everyday cooking.

But of course, there are still days when I want to cook on my own. Because like I have said, although our cook has a steady hand when it comes to Indian cooking, she has very rigid ideas in her head. She refuses to explore or innovate. As a result, we are forced to eat not just Indian food, but Indian food prepared in the same way. Also, she has little to no knowledge of South Indian cuisine. Or any other regional cuisine for that matter. It is all completely alien to her. She refused to even believe that sambar was eaten with rice. She insisted sambar was had only with idlis and dosas, the way it is served in Udupi restaurants in Mumbai. Sigh. For a self proclaimed samhar saadam lover, such lack of knowledge was blasphemous.

And so, on some days I cook. It takes me forever, but I still think the effort and time I put in is worth it if it gives us a break from the regular fare. I also read so many food blogs, I feel overcome by the desire to try out the recipes I have bookmarked. Trying to ‘explain’ the recipe to our cook is a pointless exercise. Doing it yourself is far simpler. Ideally though, I should ask our cook to chop and get all prep work done. Unfortunately, I end up giving her a day off every time I decide to cook. This is because I feel guilty asking her to come all the way just for chopping a few things.

It takes me forever to dice 3 onions and peel a few pods of garlic. I time myself, I try so hard to speed up, but each time I feel let down and discouraged by the amount of time it takes me. And some days are worse than the others. Other than moving in the kitchen in an exceptionally slow manner, I successfully create one disaster after another.

Like the other day, I was excited about trying a new recipe I had found on some blog. I placed my laptop on the kitchen counter and plugged it in to a socket on the other side. As a result, I tripped on the charging cable and dropped the little bowl of yogurt I was carrying in my hand. It took me a couple of minutes to clean up the spilt yogurt.

And then, I tried to puree some tomatoes in the mixie. The result was a shower of tomato puree all over my face, my arm, the mixie, the floor, the cabinets and even the ceiling! Either I overshot the capacity of our mixer or I didn’t hold down the lid right, but the result was not pleasant. In fact it made me cry.

mess

 

After the hour long clean up session, I was beginning to question my own sanity. Why do I even attempt to cook when I have the option not to? Maybe I am incapable. Maybe these things are not meant for me. Mint got home exactly at that time and on seeing the bedlam, let out a laugh. Of course, I wanted to hit him for laughing at me. That night when he was clearing the kitchen after dinner (that we ordered), he came up to tell me that he could spot some dried red pulp on some cabinets on the other end of the kitchen. I sighed. Looked like I had coloured our kitchen red. This was going to need a few more sessions of cleaning up.

I’m not sure what changed by morning, but the next morning I decided I wasn’t giving up. I love food too much to do that. Instead, I am going to have to try harder. Let’s see how this goes..

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 39 Comments »

Living with anxiety..

Posted by Pepper on April 9, 2016

Some months ago, Mint came home and told me he was planning a trek to Sikkim with his colleagues. A 9 day trek that would take them through the Himalayan range. Typically in such situations, my initial reaction is to lose it and ask him to cut it out. Because I am by nature an extremely anxious person. The first thought that enters my head is: what if something goes wrong? Why expose yourself to dangers that can easily be avoided? How will I get by the days living with such intense worry?

Unfortunately, other than being an anxious person, I am also a fairly rational person and realise my own line of thought is at times quite ridiculous. I find it hard to justify my fears to my own self, let alone to Mint. Other than knowing the odds of something fatal happening were very low, I also knew living a life completely devoid of risks isn’t a possibility. And of course, we also have all those theories about space and letting your partner live their own life and blah. So this time when he told me about the trek, I said nothing. When he told me he was  booking his flight tickets, I said nothing. I remained silent as he went about making all his travel arrangements. He booked his accommodation, purchased the gear he would need be needing for his trek. It was all finalised.

And then two days before he was to leave, I broke down. I realised he would be going through completely uncivilized terrain and passing through settlements with no electricity. There would be no mobile coverage. The thought of remaining disconnected for days together when he was in the wild made me feel sick. I threw a fit and asked him to cancel his trip. He looked at me with disbelief when I said it. I was asking him to cancel a trip that he had booked over 3 months in advance, one that he was highly looking forward to, was fully paid for and would result in a complete loss. Yes, I repeated what I had just said. Don’t go.

He negotiated with me for a while, requested me not worry. When I would not budge, he agreed to cancel it. As usual, I didn’t know what it was that would make me happy. The thought of him going was killing me with worry. The thought of him not going was killing me with guilt. After a lot of turmoil, I turned around and asked him to go. Only to back out a day before he was to leave and create another scene. I screamed, accused him of not caring about me, being the most inconsiderate partner and so on. I knew I was being unreasonable but who is to stop me at such times? He was back to asking me if he should cancel his trip and I was back to saying no and then hating him for going.

We decided to have a good heart to heart on the evening before he was to leave. What exactly was my worry, he wanted to know. I thought for a few minutes, and then blurted out. I was worried he would die. There, I said it. Of course, he laughed and told me he was going for a trek, not on a war. Before you laugh at me, let me tell you anxiety is not rational. And it sucks that most people with anxiety realise how irrational their fears are. We had a good long discussion and he acknowledged my fears instead of dismissing or ridiculing them. Somehow that conversation put me at ease. I felt better after a long time and was able to let him leave on a cheerful note the next morning.

It took him two flights and a 7 hour car journey that went over the ghats to reach the place from where he was to start trekking. He called me the next morning before beginning his trek. I reminded him again that I expected to hear from him at least once in every 24 hours. If there was no mobile coverage in the area, he was to find a landline. He told me knew how worried I was and that was worrying him and making him uneasy. He wasn’t able to put his mind at rest knowing my condition. I promised him again that I would try to not worry.

And just like that, I lost all contact with him after that conversation. I waited for night to set in. Maybe he would call when they stopped for the day. He didn’t. I convinced myself to pull through the night. When I hadn’t heard from him by the next morning either, I was in a state of extreme panic. What could have gone wrong? I knew he would be making all possible attempts to call. So then, why couldn’t he? His phone was switched off.

One day stretched into another. By the end of the second day, I was sure I would not survive anymore. I kept calling him every 3 minutes, knowing very well that it wouldn’t help. I was trying so hard to not imagine the worst. What if something had happened to him? How would that impact me? Please God, make sure he is alive and well. I prayed with all my heart.

I was feeling physically sick by day 3. If something has happened to him and he is no more, maybe I will really not survive myself. How bloody fortunate I was to have met him in my life. Maybe I was so fortunate that it had to be short lived? He is the best thing to have happened to me. What if I have to spend the rest of my life without him? Oh my God! We have a massive loan that I will never be able to take care of single handedly. Well, I will sell the house immediately. But oh, what if I am unable to sell the house because the market prices are too low? The loan will not disappear. I will be ruined. I will be all alone. I will die too. Oh God. Stop! Stop! Stop!

On day 4 I decided I hate him. How could he subject me to this anguish for the sake of his own pleasures? He knows that I would be dying every minute. People who have partners with anxiety should try to curtail their lives and desires to an extent. Yes, this was his fault. I will never talk to him. Oh wait, I will not talk to him only after I know he is alive and well. Please God, just let me hear from him once.

He called finally on the 5th day. This time I thought I would die of relief. I had no words to tell him the kind of hell I had been to. Like I should have guessed, he could not call for all those days because he had absolutely no means to do so. No mobile network or coverage, no access to landlines. Nothing. I hated him for going to a place like that. These adventures are meant for people who are free and footloose. People who have no responsibilities and can live their lives with glee and abandonment. Not for people with massive loans and wives who suffer from anxiety disorders.

When I had calmed down though, I knew the biggest lesson was for me. I have always known my anxiety makes me deviate from my sense of logic. It begins to exercise a deep level of control over my every day life. For example, I still panic when my dad comes home two hours late and we aren’t able to get through to him. When other people would attribute it to heavy traffic and a phone that has run out of charge, my mind embarks on a journey of it’s own. What if he was in a accident? What if his phone was stolen? What if something terrible happened? How will we get through it?

I read in an article that having anxiety is like having a brain with a faulty alarm system wired into it. The alarm goes off in your head even when there is no real need for it to, even when there is no sense of danger. And then you spend your time freaking out knowing well that there is no reason to freak out, but being unable to stop yourself from freaking out. It’s like wanting to stop the blaring alarm that is causing a heart attack and driving you nuts but you just don’ know where the ‘dismiss’ button lies.

I know coping with anxiety has always been one of the biggest challenges of my life. But this whole episode has taught me that this isn’t a sustainable way to live. I will always be exposed to situations that have more questions than answers. But every time I face a question, I cannot let myself assume the worst answer, not even in my subconscious. I have promised myself I am going to try to be a more secure person. I know it will be a long journey, but the first step is making myself believe that I can do it.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour, Splashes of Mint | 45 Comments »

 
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