A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for March, 2012

Year 2 – Happy Anniversary, Mint

Posted by Pepper on March 24, 2012

Dear Mint,

It’s been two years. Happy Anniversary. Looks like I don’t have too much to say this year, because I said it all last year , because I don’t have the time to type out a long post this year, because, er well, this year seems to have been a replica of the last . Does that mean we did not really grow as individuals? Or does that mean we have learnt to keep the fun intact, despite some mental progress? People around us still think we’re kids. I wonder if that is a good thing.

The past year was quite crazy, wasn’t it? We had to take several crucial decisions, we had my mum visiting, we had, *gulp*, your parents visiting, we traveled, took a few holidays, we fought, we decided to go ahead with your MBA plans,  it was quite a ride. Yet when I think of it, I realise how little changed. Your obsession with sports and your erratic sleeping habits still annoy me. Your tolerance towards me and my idiosyncrasies still wins me over. By agreeing to move back to India for my sake, you let go of a lot that you held dear. Like always, you put my desires above everything else. I can’t thank you enough. I do hope we live it up here.

We’re starting the 3rd year of our married life in beloved Bombay, with friends and family, and I can’t be happier. I know we’re heading to a good place. Let’s keep rocking, the fun will go on.

– Pepper

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 48 Comments »

With that, we come to an end..

Posted by Pepper on March 18, 2012

to our stay in this beautiful country. This is the last post I am typing out from USA. Even saying that feels so weird. There were so many things I wanted to write about before we left, but our current state has been a little crazy. We don’t find time to eat and sleep. Writing is a luxury I cannot afford.

Both Mint and I have been so sleep deprived. Our nights are spent moving around the house, bubble wrapping the delicate knick knacks we want to carry back, measuring , sealing and taping boxes that need to be shipped, sorting out our stuff, throwing out junk, and doing other things I am too tired to write about. We’ve both been exhausted and thoroughly stressed out. Obviously, we jump at the chance of blaming each other for anything that goes wrong.

Mint had ordered a new TV that we planned to ship and we had a whole load of things kept for the last minute. We had absolutely no margin for error. But how could we forget the wise words, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. So, everything went wrong, starting from the word ‘Go’. We spent our day running around like headless chickens. And when I say running, I mean it quite literally. We were actually running from one place to another all day, tired due to no sleep, hungry and utterly exhausted. For certain reasons, we had to drag the packers with us. The fact that nothing seemed to work out despite our desperate attempts, and that we were paying the packers by the hour and wasting all that money in the process kept both of us on the edge.  Oh, obviously, we snapped at each other a lot.

The cherry on the cake was that we locked ourselves out last night, with the key inside the car, and both of us stranded outside, late at night. Murphy has to add his bit of course. It was pouring heavily. Our insurance company took a long time to respond. They had to verify certain details, since we were using a rented car. Also, there was a general delay because they had to cater to a lot of accidents that occurred due to weather conditions at that time. Which meant, we had no choice but to suck up and go through the entire ordeal on that cold, rainy, distressing night. After all that had happened during the day, the night seemed like a perfect ending. I was ready to smack Mint, and I know he was equally ready to smack me back. Had we not been so short of time, I might have actually laughed at our predicament.

We leave in a day, and we still have infinite amount of work to do. I know there’s going to be no sleep at all. I really wanted to dedicate a post to this wonderful country, but I guess that will have to wait until I get to the homeland. The US is very special to me. I wanted to do a part 2 of the list of things I will miss about this place, but I decided not to. How many things can I mention in one post? Let me just say, I will miss every little aspect of life here. Also, I was a little taken aback after seeing the comments on my previous post. In response to my list of things I will miss, almost every comment said “But that is available in India”. I wondered if anybody even understood my sentiments. Yes, things are available, but certain things are special to us because of our own personal associations and they can never be replaced, no matter how good the substitute is.

Let me talk with a reverse example. While living here, I always missed India and considered it to be so special. There were certain things I missed more than the others. The Indian street food and chaat for example. Does that mean there is no chaat available in the US? Heck! It is available! In the Bay Area especially, Indian food is found in abundance. But is the chaat as easily available? Do we have stalls on the streets? Does it taste the same? Is the price the same? No! So despite it all being available here, I miss the chaat and the street food I found in India. The entire experience is so different. India will always be special, and nothing can compare with it. So yes, in the same vein, I know global food is available in India, but it has a lot of limitations. I will always miss the variety and the ease with which it was found in the US. It is special to me and no, it is just not the same in India.

I can go on with my examples. I can talk about how much I missed Marine Drive while living here, despite California being full of beautiful beaches and water fronts. Marine Drive has always held an irreplaceable place in my heart. So I hope people understand my sentiments when I say I will miss certain things about the US.  Because they too are very special and hold irreplaceable positions in my heart. I don’t care if those things are available in India. I know they won’t be as easily accessible to me there, and they won’t feel the same. And just because I say I will miss certain things about the US, does not in any way mean I am not excited about exploring everything that India has to offer. My current nostalgia about the US and my excitement about India are independent of each other. Trying to equalize the two is pointless.

It’s time to say good bye to this place I love.  Adios USA. You’ve been very good to me. I love you and always will. I know we will meet again. Hello India, here we come. I can’t wait to embrace you with open arms.

Tada folks. See you on the other side.

Posted in Slices of life | 26 Comments »


Posted by Pepper on March 15, 2012

The word has a different meaning for different people. I use it rather sparingly. At one time, I would go a step ahead and say “I have only two friends”. The friends here, being the 2 BFFs. My relationship with them is what defined the word ‘friendship’ for me.  So I really didn’t think anybody else fit my idea of what I called ‘friend’.

I met BFF # 1 in school. A common love is what brought us together. We were in Std 9th. We would both sit on the last bench, hide our novels under our textbooks, alert each other if a teacher happened to pass by and generally have a good time. Soon we started meeting after school hours and became thick pals. We introduced our sisters, and from then on, we traveled all over Bombay with our little sisters in tow. So much so, that when we reached grade 10th, our parents were worried about the time we spent chit chatting with each other. We knew each other’s family really well, including our respective cousins, aunts, and other relatives. When after grade 10th we had to go to different colleges, we wondered how we would have the same amount of time for each other. But what do you know, we continued hanging out the same way. Till date, it hasn’t changed.

I met BFF # 2 in college. We lived really close to each other, and our regular commute by train is what really brought us close. Slowly, we started spending time in each other’s houses. Our families become friends thanks to us. We went to college together, studied together, did our projects together, hung out in the evening together and got acquainted with each other’s families. Before I knew it, she was elevated to ‘best friend’ status. At this point, I was confused.  BFF # 1 was still my BFF.  Can a person have two best friends? I didn’t think so. Eventually though, I convinced myself that it is really possible.

No other person came close to these two BFFs. Like I said, I started telling the world I had only 2 friends. The rest were my ‘hang out buddies’. Slowly, I started realising that my definition of the word ‘friend’ had to expand. There were a lot of folks who were more than mere hang out buddies. I then started including a handful of other people and called them ‘friend’.

Even so, I always thought I had very few friends. Maybe 6 or 7? I am very stingy and don’t use that word easily. The rest, still fell into the ‘hang out buddy’ category. Is it just me, or is it really hard to make true friends after a certain age? While you are younger, there is a certain innocence that facilitates bonding and friendship. Now, I am always conscious of what I speak. I make sure I maintain some distance, because adults don’t like others stepping into their personal territory. The limitations, boundaries and expected code of conduct make it extremely hard to cross a certain level. As I grow, the number of people I know and hang out with increases, but the number of friends I have remains constant.

Now when it is time for me to leave this place, I look back to think of the number of people I will miss. I did have quite a few ‘hang out buddies’, but *very* few ‘friends’. In fact, when I moved to the Bay Area from Ohio sometime in 2010, I will say I had no friend. Of course, I talk about my definition of ‘friend’. And then she came along. She left a comment on my blog one day, saying she was a lurker. I followed the link to her blog, and left another comment saying,  “Are you telling me we live in the same desi town? Aka the Bay Area..? Are you still here..? And you had the audacity to lurk on my blog? Come on out, I can do with some friends”. That was sometime in early 2011.

She sent me an email, and after a few months of coordination and planning, we finally had a chance to meet. I liked her almost instantly. She brought along one of her home baked goodies for us. It was some wonderful chocolate flavoured banana bread, along with a note that said “Cheers to a new friendship!”. Soon, we started chatting daily, and then moved to phone calls and meetings that got more regular as time went by. When I look back at the fun we’ve had in all this time, I smile.

I can without any hesitation, call her a ‘true friend’. She’s been there, all along. She’s that girl pal with who I would enjoy my Friday dates, hit the mall, demand one of her famous chocolate cakes, explore restaurants, snuggle up on her couch and watch tv. If she went to the farmers market and saw some interesting stuff, she’d pick it up for me too. She is the one I stayed with while Mint was away, and I would wake up to freshly made ginger tea every morning. Oh did I say her tea is to die for?

It felt like I have known her for ages. That is the impression I lived with. A few weeks ago, we were at a salon. I was getting my hair cut. The lady who was working on my hair asked us how long we’d known each other. I had not really thought about that. Before I could respond, she said “a little less than a year”. That was a revelation to me too! Less than a year? Really? And when I back tracked, I realised she was right. We met for the first time in April last year. Or was it May? We’ve sure come a long way, in such a short time. When I think of the friends I will miss, she features on the top . The Bay Area would never have been the same without her.

Posted in Friends | 6 Comments »

It’s what brightens me up

Posted by Pepper on March 9, 2012

For a while now, I have been feeling very low. I’ve been surrounding by sickness, death and misery. Yes, me and my family are safe and sound, before you ask. This has more to do with my friends and other people I know and care about. Most people close to me would know exactly what I am talking about. The current scenario impacted me so deeply, I would spend hours in silence, contemplating the meaning of life, questioning my priorities, feeling the pain, shedding silent tears, trying to come to terms with human mortality. It was a departure from my usual self. My skin was breaking out, at it’s worst. The pain on the right side of my neck and shoulder area got so acute, I couldn’t even turn my head. My right side felt paralysed.

And then today, after a long time, I feel happy. I am not quite sure why. But after being wrapped in a blanket of gloom, I think I really appreciate the brightness. Small joys go a long way.

For starters, I woke up with no pain at all one morning. I wondered, how it miraculously disappeared. It felt like a big weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Now I can actually turn my head to the right. I am so grateful.

Mint got back two days ago. That was my biggest relief. I was pacing around the house anxiously, on the day he was to return. When the bell rang, I practically flew to the door. Seeing him standing there with a smile on his face made my heart burst with joy. I am so happy to have him back. He bought a lot of nice things for me.

I now own a brand new laptop, though my current one is barely 6 months old. Mint was ordering a new laptop for himself, and he randomly decided to order two. Sometimes I think our parents are right, we do spend too much. But then, never mind. My new laptop is making me happy.

Mint’s travel schedule had been very hectic, what with him visiting four countries in two weeks and juggling between so many time zones. The day he came back, he decided to take a ‘5 minute nap’ in the afternoon. I laughed, knowing very well what it would result in. I kept waking him up every 15 minutes, because I didn’t want him staying up at night. He wouldn’t wake up at all. Finally after about two hours, I brought a glass of water and splashed it all over his face. It’s something I have always wanted to do. And splashing his face with cold water when he was asleep gave me immense joy. What fun. I am a sadist, I know. Of course, it worked. He woke up, wiped his face and smiled at me. His reactions, or rather, his non reactions always disappoint me. Had he done it to me, I would have screamed murder.

We have so much of travel in store for us once we land in India. During the first few weeks, we will be flying from one city to another. Fun and tiring times lie ahead!

Thank God it’s Friday. I plan to shop and eat out and meet friends and sleep in and get some work done. Happy weekend!

Posted in Slices of life | 32 Comments »

I will miss

Posted by Pepper on March 7, 2012

Every now and then I realise with a thwack in the centre of my heart, that my days in this country are truly limited. The overwhelming realisation makes me want to pause and look around my surrounding. I feel the need to capture every bit of this place, to record it, to preserve it and carry it back with me. I have now started appreciating all those little things that I took for granted here. I have been compiling mental lists of things I will miss. I thought jotting it down on the blog would be a good idea. Sure I will miss the clean air, the easy, hassle free life, etc. Those things go unsaid. But today, I am talking about the little obscure things that aren’t too noticeable from the surface, but add a lot of value to your life.

– The ‘In Sink Erator’. I have never been able to handle choking drains in kitchen sinks. And no matter what we did in India, the drains in the kitchen would choke up periodically. Nothing grosses me out more than seeing spoons floating in the midst of plates and other food waste. Even the image makes me want to throw up. We would take so much care to ensure all the food remnants in our plate are disposed in the garbage before we put our plates in the sink, but how much can you really avoid it? Particles of food would invariable slip into the drain and clog the pipe line. I came to the US and noticed one magic button next to the sink. The kitchen sink is starting to accumulate water? No problem! Press one button and it all vanishes in a few seconds. Like Wiki says, the “InSinkErator’ is a food disposal system that works by grinding and shredding solid food waste. It was the end of all my woes. I carelessly dump the used plates in the sink without bothering to clean it thoroughly, without thinking about the about the choking drain. That one button would take care of it all. Perhaps that technology is available in India too, but I know it won’t be affordable to us for a long time.

– The gorgeous colours on the roads. I see pink trees around me. Wholly pink with not a shred of green. Some are light pink,, some are  bright pink. Sometimes I see red coloured ones. Sometimes they are full grown trees with nothing but tiny white blooms. There are so many colours, the trees look so fresh and beautiful. Taking a walk is such a delight. As opposed to the muddy green, deoxygenated looking  trees in India. I will forever miss the beauty of this place.

– The bath tub. Honestly, that was one of the biggest fascinations I had when I came here. The bathrooms in India are tiny, compared to what they are here. There is no separate bathing area in most bathrooms. The bathtubs were such a treat. The showers are powerful. I have spent hours soaking in a good bath. I know going back to India means saying good bye to the bath tubs.

– The food. Both Mint and I are hardcore foodies. We love eating out and we’ve surely lived it up. The diversity of this place makes sure we have innumerable cuisines available to us. American, Italian, French, German, Mongolian, Greek, Mediterranean, Turkish, Vietnamese, Burmese,  Mexican, Peruvian, Ethiopian, heck even Somalian! You name it, and it’s there. Our weekends have been so much fun. We’ve spent a lot of money eating out. Each time I felt the pinch, but each time I ignored it. And I am so glad. Where else would we get to try such diverse food? In India, from what I have seen, we have Indian food, and then we have ‘Non Indian food’.  This usually includes pizzas, pastas and a random mix of a few other things. I bet if I told somebody I felt like eating a good Somalian meal, people would just stare at me blankly. There are so many restaurants that I love around here. A couple of them enjoy the ‘favourite’ status. How much I will miss them! Sigh.

– The attitude of the people here. People in this country follow rules, even if there is no fear of them being caught. A stop sigh means stop! Doesn’t matter if there is no car in the background. Nobody honks. Ever. A pedestrian is treated with utmost care and respect. The other day I was sitting at a coffee shop. I saw a girl crossing the road using a ‘cross walk’. She was walking at her own sweet pace. There were cars lined up, patiently waiting for her to finish crossing. She walked so slowly, she started creating a traffic jam. And yet, every single car waited patiently for her to stroll across the road. Imagine eight cars waiting for one pedestrian to cross leisurely.  This is such a common scenario here. I can just imagine the impatient honking and abuses the girl would have been subject to had this happened in India. I know I will sorely miss the attitude of the people here, especially when I am living in the midst of impatient, intolerant and ruthless Indians who break rules all the time.

– The dryer. Again, this might be available in India now, but from what I have seen, most people only have washing machines with inbuilt dryers that are not powerful enough. The clothes come out damp and have to be put up on the clothes line outdoor. I absolutely love the feeling of fresh, clean laundry tumbling out of the dryer. The clothes are actually warm and scented. We turn the dial to “Perm Press” and most of the times, the clothes come out with no creases. We then put away our stalks of fluffy, clean clothes inside our closet. Sometimes I hug the tees that have just came out. I love feeling the warmth and inhaling the scent. I will surely miss the feel of warm, freshly laundered clothes in India.

I hope to do part 2 some time soon.

Posted in Slices of life | 58 Comments »

I feel so frozen

Posted by Pepper on March 5, 2012

I don’t know what to do.

Posted in Chaos | Leave a Comment »

When I try not to judge..

Posted by Pepper on March 1, 2012

A while ago, in one of my posts I had expressed my distaste for Grammatically incorrect English. I would find myself judging writers/authors/bloggers who would write carelessly and shabbily. From then to now, I have come a long way. I judge less. I try hard to restrain my temper and go past the recurring errors . For one, I have realised my own hold of the English language is very mediocre. I cannot judge others when I don’t have a very high standard myself. I break Grammar rules several times. For example, I have often started a sentence with the word “But”.  There are other errors I have noticed in my writing. If I can forgive myself, surely, I should be able to forgive others.

My mom, has an exceptional command over the English language. Her written English especially, is very impressive. I remember her helping me with my school essays. She taught me to write. While I could not reach her level, I did reach a level higher than my classmates. That doesn’t say much, because their level was far too low.

We spoke a hybrid mix of Hindi and English. My mom always urged me to speak coherently in one language, which was really hard to do. While she tolerated me speaking informally, she would not tolerate faulty writing. I was 6 years old when I was given this assignment in class. We had to write 5 lines on ‘My Pencil’. One of the sentences I had written was “My pencil ka point was broken”. Till date, I have not forgotten my mother’s expression. She seemed to be stricken with disgust due to my usage of the word ‘ka’ in a school essay. “Don’t murder the language”, she would often tell me. When we write in English, words like “ka, na, re, yaar, haan, toh and other Hindi words are prohibited.” She would keep asking me to respect the language, and I think I inherited her distaste and aversion towards careless writing.

I realised there were two kinds of people. Ones who genuinely didn’t know the correct usage of English words. They had to fall back on using words from a language they were comfortable in. And then there were ones who just didn’t care enough to speak English the right way. I call them ‘uncaring writers’

I don’t judge people who belong to the first category. Maybe they couldn’t afford studying in a good English school. Maybe their comprehension abilities weren’t sharp enough. Maybe they had a poor grasping power. Maybe the environment they were in was not conducive to learning and speaking English well. There could be so many factors that could have contributed to their inability to speak English correctly. The point is, they try to speak correctly, despite all their limitations. I really appreciate that. Maybe that is why I forgive myself. I know my English is just about average, but I try my best to not write carelessly.

Regarding the second category of people who posses the ability to speak correctly with some effort, but the ones who think it is okay to murder a language, well, I try my best to not judge them. I swear I try. It’s very hard for me to read something that is full of slang expressions. People who annoy me the most ‘r ppl hu tak n type in tat sms lingo’. I get so riled up, I want to slap them. And then there are other people who are writing officially, but their writing is so informal, so adulterated with other languages, that it isn’t even English anymore. It breaks my heart and makes me want to cry. English is such a beautiful language, and see what we are reducing it to? I want to go and tell those people to respect the language, especially if you are writing officially, that it is not okay to kill it, it is not okay to be lazy, it is just not acceptable. I don’t have much respect for a writer who consciously disregards the language protocol. When I see professionals flouting the rules in official mails, it makes me see red.

Unfortunately, there is a large audience out there who can actually relate to this emerging colloquial style of writing. They find it easier to understand that writing, they can associate and connect with it, so that kind of writing is actually appreciated and encouraged. It angers me even more. I worry about the future of the English language in our country. Why, oh why are people writing in a manner than is so appalling? Why do they slaughter English so mercilessly? Why do they think it is okay to do it?

Is there anything I can do about it? No. Should I really be judging them? I guess not. We all have a right to exercise our own beliefs. I can do what I think is right. So I will of course, continue to refrain from using that annoying sms language, I will try to write as correctly as I can. When others choose to murder my beloved language knowingly, I will close my eyes, deep breathe, count one to ten and move on without judging the choice they have made. That is my resolution for the next one month. I hope I succeed. Wish me luck. It’s a big step.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 55 Comments »

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