A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for July, 2012

When meat becomes ‘cool’

Posted by Pepper on July 27, 2012

I was visiting Mint last weekend. It was a fun weekend on campus and I was having a great time, but anyway, that is not what this post is about. Let me get to the point. Mint and I walked to the food stalls they have on campus for a late lunch. We invariably bump into other students every time we are there, so I expected to see a bunch of his classmates there, and I was right. We greeted them, took the adjacent table and ordered our meal. Conversations were light. The service was fast, and within no time, I had my order placed in front of me. As soon as I started eating, Mint’s classmate who sat across us, peeped into my plate and asked me, “Are you a vegetarian?” The note of alarm in his voice told me where this was headed. Sigh. Yes, I told him, hoping it ended there. But of course, it didn’t. He scoffed, turned to look at his batchmate, and asked him, “Yeh vegetarian log khate kya hai? Sirf paneer? Onions and tomatoes?”. It translates to – What do these vegetarian people eat? Just paneer, onions and tomatoes?. It made me see red, but considering he was Mint’s classmate, I could not give a very knee jerk reaction to his remark. So I gritted my teeth, smiled at him and said yes, paneer, onions and tomatoes are really all that we eat, you know. I am not sure he understood sarcasm. I hope he did. Either way, I felt annoyance surging inside me.

I have been a meat eater for most of my life. I was never too fond of red meat, but chicken was a regular. So was fish. Most of my friends are meat eaters too. There were a few who ate only vegetarian meals, and we always tried to accommodate each other. But at times, the vegetarians displayed the ‘I am holier than thou’ attitude and it would get on my nerves. You’ve made a choice, I have made a choice, let’s just suit ourselves. Why exert moral superiority? In all honesty though, those instances were few and far in between. I think most of my vegetarian friends knew how to mind their own business.

And then I was put onto the other side of the fence. While walking on the street one day, I happened to see a goat being slaughtered. I froze. It was barbaric. I couldn’t get the sight out of my mind. But more than that, what I couldn’t shake out of my senses were the cries I heard. It affected me at a very deep level. I continued eating meat for a while after that, but each time I ate it, I was left feeling uneasy and uncomfortable. So I decided to quit. What is the point in eating if I no longer enjoy it?

Ever since I turned a vegetarian, I’ve been dealing with a number of inconveniences. Mint, is a hardcore meat eater, and so we can’t share meals when we go to restaurants, without either of us having to compromise. For him, a veggie meal is a compromise. For me, a compromise means sharing a non vegetarian meal with him, in which I flick of all visible pieces of meat. Yes, I am not rigid like that. Other inconveniences include scrambling for food when no vegetarian option is available. This, I must say does not happen in India. But I have dealt with such scenarios numerous time while living in the West. Anyway, all these are the consequences of the choice I have made, and of course, I can’t blame anybody else.

We move around in a circle in which almost everybody is a non-vegetarian. Each time we are a part of a group dinner, people order a variety of appetizers containing meat, and a sole vegetarian starter for me. What gets my goat is that people keep pouncing on my limited mushrooms while enjoying their chicken alongside. Heck, that leaves me with nothing to eat! Please order a veggie starter for yourself if you want one. But most people think it is a waste to order anything vegetarian, and at the same time, when it is lying in front of them, they consider it their birth right to eat it, without thinking of the sole vegetarian there.

When people ask me if I am a vegetarian, I am almost embarrassed to say ‘Yes’. I spent some time thinking about it. I never felt apologetic for eating meat. Why do I feel embarrassed for not eating it? And then I realised, it is because of remarks from people like Mint’s batch mate. They make the vegetarians seem like a bunch of boring, uninteresting people who’ve never experienced the good things in life. Also, I suppose we operate under the premise that vegetarians are conservative individuals. Oh you are bound by religious shackles that prevent you from eating meat? You are not broad minded enough to not care? That makes you uncool! The meat eaters are supposed to be large minded liberalists who get to explore contemporary culinary delights, while we are deprived of the good things. And I think it is this underlying belief that makes it hard for me to declare my vegetarian status. Perhaps subconsciously, I do not want to be disassociated from the seemingly ‘cool’ crowd. If only I, (and the rest of us) realised these are only choices, and no one choice is better than the other.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 98 Comments »

Smiling beauties

Posted by Pepper on July 25, 2012

All of us love and appreciate greenery. Okay, let me say most of us do. But, many of us tend to be too lazy to care for it. I had a lovely backyard in my home in the Bay Area, and I could have turned it into a colourful garden. I never ended up doing it, owing to my laziness. It’s a different matter that we did end up being blessed by the appearance of pretty flowers, that rose from the ground (pun intended) almost magically.

Now that I am living at home with my parents, I get to reap the benefits of the seeds my dad sows. My dad is exceptionally fond of gardening. His plants are precious to him. He has added splashes of green to all the balconies in the house. None of us know or understand how to care for plants. So the onus lies solely on my dad. He cares for them single handedly. I’ve seen him spending hours, rearranging his pots, adding fertilizers, digging soil, trimming the plants and doing God knows what. Watering the plants is the first thing he does every morning. As a result, our home is always beautified by the different hues of nature. And my dad smiles with pride. We smile along.

Thank you dad, had it not been for you, our home would have been devoid of this beauty.

Posted in Small joys | 19 Comments »

A bowl of mixed thoughts

Posted by Pepper on July 18, 2012

One of those days when I really want to write a post, but I have no clue what to write about. So let me split my thoughts and write about, er, all that is going on in my mind.

– This weekend, my parents were in Nasik. (Or is it Nashik?) Which meant, the sister and I had the house all to ourselves. The girl pals came over for a slumber party. We had some serious fun. The highlight was driving out at 2:30 am to eat! Yes, we found road side stalls that sold Biryani and Pav Bhaji and Egg Burji at that hour. We settled for spicy egg burji with buttered pav that was toasted to perfection. What a delicious meal! Bombay never lets me down.

– We did some crazy things. One of them was going for the movie ‘Cocktail’. I came back with a splitting headache. I usually don’t voice my opinions where movies are concerned, but this time, I had to. The movie is sexist to the core. I have no tolerance for such themes. And oh, what irked me the most, the bad girl with a ‘loose character’ was called Veronica. Whereas the good girl with traditional Indian values was Meera. How typical! Have you noticed, how filmmakers always use Christian names for characters that are ‘fast’ with poor morals? Most of them are shown wearing tiny skirts and are called ‘Julie’, ‘Monica’, ‘Susie’, etc. I hate the message it conveys.

– Talking about sexist ways of life, I’ve been experiencing the biases from the other side of the fence. It so happened that I was driving back home late at night. I had to cross checkpoints where the police were conducting alcohol breath analyzer tests on all the drivers. The moment I reached the checkpoint, the cop took one look at me and let me go without conducting the test on me. I ignored it the first time. The second time, it happened again. I was let off without having to undergo the test whereas all the other drivers (male) were made to go through it. Why? The police believe women don’t drink and drive? How easily can this thought process be exploited?

– My mom and I were talking to somebody the other day. He told us he reached the destination in good time despite the traffic because he came on a two wheeler. My mom asked him, ‘But during the rains, isn’t it hard to move about on your scooter? Don’t you get fully wet?”. Highly embarrassed, I whispered to her “Mom, he doesn’t have a scooter. It’s a bike! A motorbike!”. To which she responded with a “Arey, a bike is also a scooter only no!”. We’ve been arguing ever since. Please tell me a scooter and a motorbike are not the same!

– I have been craving for good pesto and guacamole. I decided to make it myself, but to my dismay, I couldn’t get fresh basil leaves and avocado anywhere! After checking with our local vendor, I decided to try D-Mart. I was told they usually stock it, but it was unavailable that day. I went on to check Godrej Nature’s Basket, but they didn’t have it either. Ever since, I have been on the constant look out for those ingredients. They are never in stock anywhere. Would anybody know where I can get basil leaves and avacado in the Western suburbs of Mumbai?

– When exactly did the physical structure of coins change in India? At one time I could easily differentiate between the coins. Re 1 was easy to spot. Rs 2 had a distinct shape. Rs 5 had a distinctive thickness. Ever since I moved back to India, all the coins look the same to me. I spend a few minutes sitting at the back of cabs and autos, reading the numbers carved on the coins before I hand out the change to the driver. It’s annoying and I just don’t seem to get used to the new designs.

– I was sipping my coffee while browsing through Facebook. I noticed Facebook recommending a ‘friend’ to me. It was my maid’s husband. I almost choked on my coffee. And please tell me, how the hell does FB know I know him? No, we have no common friends!

Posted in Uncategorized | 70 Comments »

On rain

Posted by Pepper on July 9, 2012

It is bright and sunny and you think you are smart enough to forecast the weather, you venture out wearing a white tee worn over blue capris. You’ve worn purple lingerie inside, but hey, that is supposed to be a secret.

And then you realise you are not so smart when it begins to pour and you find yourself getting drenched. You panic, and look for cover. Because today is the day you chose to wear white, and you were stupid enough to wear purple inside, and if you allow yourself to get fully drenched, your tee will cling to you and become transparent and your bright insides will be visible to all, and then creeps on the road will lech at you, and some might even try and feel you up as they walk past you, and the rest of the people who don’t eye you lecherously will look at you disapprovingly and think you are a slut and..

I stopped midway. Did I just fear being labelled a slut? Why? What the hell was the definition of ‘slut’? Somebody who shows skin? Wasn’t I wanting to reclaim the word? I felt terrible for having thought on those lines. And why should I consider myself a victim, without actually being one? Why should I be walking with fear, when the perpetrators walk fearlessly? With those thoughts, I decided to walk home without a care. I straightened my sloping posture, looked straight ahead and enjoyed walking back in the rain, without caring about what was, and what could have been. And it felt bloody good. Oh sweet rain, thank you for washing away my fears.


It was pouring one night. We were looking for a cab. The streets were flooded. I had no umbrella and was trying to wade through water that rose above my knees. I could feel the slush and the muck beneath my feet. The pelting rain blurred my vision. In short, not a very desirable situation to be in, for ‘normal’ people. I on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed it. I finally got to the end of the lane that was relatively less flooded. My mother was waiting for me under a dry, sheltered patch. She saw me walk towards her, and noticed my squinting eyes, drenched clothes, droplets of water running down my face and asked me if I was okay. In response to that, I asked her, “Mama, can I please go back there and play around for sometime?” She asked me if I was crazy, and I smiled. Dear rain, you make me crazier than what I already am.


It was a dark, cloudy morning. I stepped into the bathroom and realised, I’d need the lights on that day. As I turned on the shower, it began to rain heavily. I could hear the drumming. The rhythm. The melody of rain. As I began to enjoy the clean, hot water from the shower running down my body, I felt grateful. For the home I have, the comforts, the convenience. I knew at that very moment, there would be a million helpless people battling the rain, some of them homeless, facing hardships due to lack of shelter. I thanked God mentally. I had protection from the rain and other elements of weather, I had hot water to cleanse myself with, and I had a clean, fluffy towel waiting for me at the end of it. This, among a hundred other things. Oh rain, you make me count my blessings.


That evening, the air was refreshingly cool. The rain poured. It smelt so earthy. The pretty flowers in our balcony were in full bloom. The sister and I stood there, watching the overcast sky, and feeling joy. Soon, it began thundering and lightening. We brought out the guitar and made ourselves comfortable in the balcony and had a wonderful time, with her strumming ‘I hear thunder..’ and other related songs. That evening was so magical, with the euphony of the rain and the sound of the guitar. Beautiful rain, you make me just so happy!

I’ve had the opportunity to experience the Mumbai monsoon after years. I remember longing for it last year. This year, I am totally living it up and I can’t stop smiling.

Posted in Small joys | 60 Comments »

Scoring new goals

Posted by Pepper on July 2, 2012

I’ve been feeling perplexed by this thing called ‘life’ for far too long now. What is the right way of living it? What should I be giving priority to? Often, I felt like coming to this space to write about issues that baffle me. But then, my mind was always too clouded. My thoughts lacked clarity. Today, I glanced at myself in the mirror. I saw a girl who looked very shabby, with a loose ponytail, strands of hair sticking out of all ends, wearing a faded tee and creased pajamas. I stared at myself. The image I saw represented my current life. Stray, unkempt and limp. And I said, enough. I need to take charge and set things right. Now.

Laying out clear goals is the first step towards change, I think. I thought about it for a while. After some quiet contemplation, I scribbled down these objectives on a scrap of paper. In order to help myself think critically, I am putting down the elaborated version of my new goals.

– I will accept my situation.
I chose to get married immediately after my Masters and move to a country that did not give me work authorization. It was a choice I made. To spend time living life with the one I love, traveling and just being a carefree, happy couple. But while I spent those years smelling the roses, everybody else raced past me. My career never really took off. So while I have been positioned at the start line, waiting for an opportunity to sprint ahead, my peers have whizzed past me at an alarming speed. Watching them makes me dizzy. I am in my mid twenties, waiting to start working, and my batch mates, who were sharing benches with me once are now holding managerial positions. Some of them really lacked potential (really!), and I cringe when I look at how far they have reached. Thinking about it is such a pointless exercise and a complete waste of my energy. The first thing I need to do is accept. Yes, I have suffered a setback in my career. Yes, it sucks, but there is nothing I can do about it. Yes, people who are far less capable than me are glowing in their shining corporate roles. Yes, I will always be at a disadvantage because of a late start. Yes, I gained some invaluable experiences in return of the few years I lost. Yes, it would have been awesome if I could have had both, like some people could have. A fun, care free life full of travel and other joys AND a good career. But I couldn’t have both. Now let me accept all of that that and move on.

– I will utilize my energy positively.
I need to find a job. I’ve had a stroke of bad luck when it comes to jobs. It’s very hard to find good roles, and each time I was made a decent offer, I could not take it up for some reason or the other. I was asked to move to Bangalore the last time, and I had to let it go. I feel at a loss now. I really do not know how to go about finding a job. Job portals, emailing my resume to friends, uploading it directly onto the company websites, I think I have done it all. Almost nobody wants to hire a ‘fresher’. I’ve been so close to giving up. But. I won’t. I know I can’t afford to. Instead of whining and cursing the system for being so stupid, I will use every ounce of my energy in applying for jobs, or thinking of how to apply for jobs more constructively. I know I need the money.

– I will try and understand how much money is enough money.
This is most important. I am not totally sure of what I mean when I say I ‘need’ the money. I have enough money to eat, and I do not have any living expenses at present. I am leading a fairly comfortable life. But then, I think of our expenses next year, and I feel giddy. We’ve routed a large chunk of our savings towards Mint’s MBA. We’ve just moved back to India, so we have to build our life here from scratch. Next year, we will either be renting a property, or buying one. We will be furnishing it and buying other home essentials. We will be buying a car. All of it sums up to an insane amount of money. How will we do it? I really do wonder. Is there any other alternative? Sure, we can choose to live a very basic life, and be content as long as we have food and shelter. But is that really possible? Both Mint and I are passionate about eating out and traveling. Both those passions call for money. And this is just us. If and when we have kids, the whole dynamics becomes a lot more complex. Sometimes, I think there is no end to what your definition of ‘enough’ can include. It is so easy to get sucked into the mania that surrounds us. In order to gain some structure, it is very important for me to set limits. As long as certain criteria of mine is met, I shouldn’t be striving for more.

– I will not compare myself to another being.
This is probably the hardest. I have never made any conscious comparisons. But they tend to happen, and most of the times they are so subtle, you don’t even know they take place. Today, people around me own posh homes, they go on international holidays every now and then, they lead indulgent lives, own multiple cars and then they call themselves ‘middle class’. It makes me gasp. If that is middle class, then where do we stand? What makes it hard is that I have to move around these circles, because these people are my friends from school, college and people I’ve known through other local mediums. I cannot live an isolated life. Neither can I cut myself off from this particular social circle. Today, a ‘catchup’ session means a setback by Rs 1000, atleast. If I have weekly catch up sessions with different people, I end up spending thousands on nothing but conversations. It does pinch me, while others can shell out the amount effortlessly. I visited a friend recently, and her home was done up so beautifully, it led to new desires in me. I am sure building that house took some solid money. Was I comparing myself to her? I am not sure. But it did, for a moment, instill new wants. I did assess my own ability to build a similar home. So I wouldn’t call it comparison, but when we are exposed to such riches, we build new desires, subconsciously. Because we know how good it can get. You need to be blind if you really want to tune out completely. And I want to work towards that. Without turning into one of those who doesn’t appreciate beauty.

Pretty simple, I suppose. Now let me see how successful I am in achieving these.

Posted in Slices of life | 98 Comments »

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