August 28, 2011

10 day challenge: Four books

Books. The very word conjures up so many memories. I don't remember the first book I read or held, but I do know that my parents instilled good reading habits in me and my brother. I remember them buying Childcraft series for us, which in those days costs 12K. They also subscribed to Reader's Digest, and for years we archived them in the house. In 2000, we discovered magazines dating back to 1993 and realized it was high time to give away some of them. I remember reading novels late into the night, when my father would discover that I was still reading at 1am he would tell me to go to sleep. "Five minutes baba", I would say and continue reading till 4am, satisfied that I had finished the book:)

Our school library also housed a good collection of books. It is through the school library that I fell in love with Nancy Drew, Famous Five, and Secret Seven. Oh! How I loved those cute gangs and their parties with cookies and lemonade.

Then I reached college and discovered Sidney Sheldon, Arthur Hailey, Jeffrey Archer, and John Grisham. I think I have read all of their novels. Of course, my college buddies also introduced Mills and Boons, and I remember reading a few of them and wondering about love and romance:) I still remember spending hours and hours near Churchgate station and picking up books for cheap prices.

I have always been lucky to meet people who are passionate about reading and I often wonder about people who don't like to read. Some people find libraries boring, but for me they are a treasure trove of discoveries. Books have never let me down in my entire life and I consider them to be my best friends. I wonder what my life had been had I not discovered the wonderful world of books and what one can learn from them.

This post is about four of my favorite books. Again, it was very difficult to choose just four amongst the thousands that I have read. But still, here's an attempt:
  1. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: I haven't read a more touching book till date. I was horrified to discover that at an age when I was roaming around freely with my friends, a girl much younger than me had spent years trapped inside a cramped apartment. Anne's writing and its simplicity made me feel as if I was experiencing what she had. I would highly recommend this book to everyone.
  2. Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer: I love reading this book over and over again. The climax is superb. This was my first Jeffrey Archer novel, and the rest I read didn't match up.
  3. Not without my daughter by Betty Mahmoody: An amazing story of an American woman, trapped in a foreign land and her courageous attempt to escape the country with her daughter. I read this pre and post giving birth to my daughter. The latter reading touched me even more than the first one as I could totally connect with the author. The Bollywood attempt at adapting this story (Shakti) totally sucks.
  4. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: I loved all the characters in this book; each and every one is so different, yet so special and convincing. Ashima, the mother who leaves her homeland at a very young age and settles in a foreign land. Accepts staying there, yet, no letting go of her roots. Ashoke, an intelligent professor who loves reading books. Gogol, a true ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) in his earlier years, soon transforms into a total American. Jhumpa hooks her readers right from the first page, wonderfully builds up the story, and leaves them with a satisfying end. Read my review here.
Other favorites include To kill a mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Godfather (Mario Puzo), The Final Diagnosis (Arthur Hailey), The Hindi Bindi Club (Monica Pradhan), 2 States (Chetan Bhagat), and The Client (John Grisham).

See you next week with my list of three movies.

August 22, 2011

10 day challenge: 5 foods

Ask a foodie like me to list only five favorite foods and she will scratch her head so many times, that finally there would be no hair left on her head. Don’t worry, I haven’t turned bald, but came close to going bonkers thinking of this list.
I thought of looking up the real definition of foodie: a word that everyone throws around a lot lately. So, I googled “define:foodie” and the result was “a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking.” Do I fit into the definition? Definitely:)
I was not much of a junkie as a child. But I sure turned into one after I joined Ruia for my junior college. If there are restaurants like DP’s, Mani’s in your vicinity, who’s to blame if you start eating outside food regularly? Then there was the vada pav wala outside King George school. Walk a bit further and you reach D Damodar: another favorite snacks place. I and my friends were in love with the samosa, kachori, and sweet pattice. So much so, that I and my best friend B, dreamt of marrying Damu’s son in the hopes of getting a lifelong supply of samosas:)
I am lucky to find a soul mate who also happens to be an ardent foodie. We have tried Mexican, Ethiopian, Chinese, Mediterranean, and Italian. We hope to try Japanese, though we know that there are very limited options for vegetarians.
As I have said before, this list was a toughie. So I finally closed my eyes and thought of five foods that immediately came to my mind:
1. Pav Bhaji: I can’t recollect when, where, how I ate my very first pav bhaji. But I love it so much, that I won’t mind eating it every day for the rest of my life. It’s healthy, as it brings together all important vegetables. My daughter also loves pav bhaji.
If you don’t mind extra calories, try Sardar’s pav bhaji near Tardeo. It’s loaded with butter. I could manage to eat only one pav.
I like the home-made version better than the restaurant ones. I have noticed that restaurants add food coloring to get the rich, red color. I have never eaten street side pav bhaji .
2. Pani Puri and all chat items: It would be injustice to the other chat items if I say that I like only pani puri. So I have to declare that I love all of them. Pani puri, bhel puri, sev batata puri, ragda pattice, dahi batata puri; I am drooling just by writing all this:) I have to admit that till I reached 10std, I couldn’t eat pani puri. Apparently, I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to gobble down the whole puri. It used to break to pieces, and that’s not how you eat it. I also don’t like chilled pani puri, which is why, I didn’t eat pani puri in Delhi.
For me, the ideal pani puri is the one with small puris (I instruct the bhaiya to choose the smallest puris), hot ragda, and tangy and spicy chutney. To finish off the lovely treat, a masala puri with potato, sev, and spices is an absolute must.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, and supposedly not allowed to eat outside food, I made my mom prepare bhel puri, pani puri, and sev puri at home. There was only one condition from my side and that I was I could eat unlimited:) Of course, the home made chat food doesn’t taste that much great as the one that the bhaiya makes for you. And there’s that old joke that it tastes great only because the bhaiya’s sweat adds flavor to it! Gross, but maybe true!:)
3. Vegatable Pulao and Tomato Saar: This one has been a favorite since childhood. My mom makes the best pulao and tomato saar in the whole world! I just love the combination. Hot, steamy, white pulao, mixed with vegetables such as cauliflower, carrot, and peas reminds me of India’s flag. Top it with some really hot tomato saar: a wonderful blend of boiled tomatoes, coconut, and garlic. This simple, quintessential meal has been an all-time favorite for me.
4. Vada Pav: Now, who doesn’t like this one? Probably no one who has tasted it. I can name at least 10 places in Mumbai where I have tasted really good vada pav. Add to this list the ones that mom makes. Me? I am not much of a frying fan. In the sense, I love eating fried food, but don’t love standing next to the stove, frying stuff for hours. So I make vada pav only once in a while.
We have a vada pav vendor right across the street where my mom stays. And I always used to make my kid brother get vada pav for me. My brother has this photo of me on his digi cam. I am looking really cross, crazy, and irritated because he wouldn’t get vada pav for me when I was pregnant. He always teases me with this photo.
5. Gulab Jamun: I do like sweets, but can’t eat them in unlimited quantities. The one sweet that I can eat limitless is gulab jamun. I have my mom make them for my every birthday and no birthday is complete without eating at least 20 of them:)
There, you have it! Five foods that I can eat over and over again, without getting bored. Five foods that I can gobble in unlimited quantities. I know the limit is five, but I would just like to mention that I also love bhutta (corn), pakoras, mattha (spicy buttermilk), chips, jalebis.
I loved writing this post, though it was a sweet torture. I am surely going to make all the foods listed above in the very near future:)

August 15, 2011

10 day you challenge: 6 places

I know I am terribly late with this post. I also know that my 3 comrades have finished writing their posts on time. It wasn’t that I was extremely busy over the weekend, but I just didn’t write it. By the time I realized that I hadn’t, the weekend had waived goodbye. Anyway, here’s my post: better late, than never.

6 places for me are 6 places where I have been and liked. If I were to die, I would ask my loved ones to scatter my ashes at these 6 places. Sounds too cheesy, eh? Without much further ado, here they are:

  1. Mumbai meri jaan: Yes, Mumbai is truly a jaan (life) for everyone who has spent a better part of their life in it. I had never left Mumbai for a good 27 years of my life. I was born in Mumbai. I did my schooling, college education, graduation, first jobs all in Mumbai. My favorite place in the whole world is my parent’s house in Mahim where I and my brother grew up. As I write this post, I wish I had a remote control which would take me to my mom anytime I feel like, and let me enjoy “maa ke haath ka khana”:)
    I love Mumbai with its noise, pollution, crowd, competition, festivals, train rides. I love the fact that people from so many different castes, religions, backgrounds, cultures gel and stay in Mumbai. I love the enthusiasm of Mumbaikars.
    My heart breaks every time I hear of a terrorist attack on Mumbai. What option does the average Mumbaikar have other than carrying on with their “spirit”? I hope and pray that these stupid terrorists attack stop and that Mumbai is left with peace and harmony.
  2. Mulund, Mumbai: “Home is where the heart is”. Even if we are in the US, and happy where we are, a part of heart is in Mulund where we live.
    My aunt lived in Mulund. My earliest memories of Mulund are associated with summer vacations when I and my cousins visited my aunt. We used to stand in her balcony, call out to strangers, and then duck down when they looked up. It sounds so silly now. However, it gave us endless joy at that age. Mulund reminds me of convincing my aunt to give us Re.1, so that the four of us could eat pepsi colas. It reminds me of watching Ajooba, eating chips at 2am, and having stupid fights with my cousins.
    Luckily, we bought a house in Mulund. It is in Mulund that we started our married life together. We learnt to set up our house, take responsibilities, pay bills, buy groceries, and start a family. We are blessed with wonderful neighbors and a superb group in our complex.  We celebrate all festivals with zeal and have a wonderful time together.
  3. Kanyakumari, Tamilnadu: I strongly believe in destiny and also that if you truly wish something, it will come true. I had attended a family function, just two weeks before my HSC board exam. As I was hurrying up my lunch and wondering how I would complete the pending studies, the lady sitting next to me mentioned about a camp to Kanyakumari. I had always wanted to visit the southernmost tip of India. My ears perked up and I gathered all the information. Soon, after my exams, I attended a 10-day camp to Kanyakumari by Vivekanand Kendra. It has been more than a decade since I attended that camp. However, what I learnt there, our daily schedule, the places we visited, the talks I shared with my friends, are forever itched in my memory.
    We had a hectic schedule which included getting up at 4am; doing yogasanas; completing chores such as cleaning the library, serving food, cleaning the mess; maintain absolute silence for half an hour; lectures on life and time management by the Kendra people; and indoor and outdoor games. We learnt valuable lessons and interacted with a lot of people. I remember waking up at an obscene hour to see the sunrise. We saw the first rays of sun, saw the sand from three different oceans; and watched in absolute awe and wonder. I want to visit Kanyakumari again, and I want to take my daughter with me.
  4. Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu: We went for our honeymoon to Kodai and fell in love with the place. I find it hard to believe that it was five years ago. After much deliberation and wondering if we could afford or whether we should afford a five-star, we booked our stay in Carlton: a five-star resort by K Raheja. It was one of our best decisions ever. The hotel, the food, the weather: everything was just so perfect.
    Ours is a love marriage. So we didn’t go through the whole “getting to know each other” phase on our honeymoon. We are foodies and thoroughly enjoyed the hotel’s buffet. We cycled around the lake. My husband had just finished a photography course and he made me stand clutching pine trees, while he spent 15 minutes adjusting brightness, composure, focus, and what not. Of course, I would have several spectators, wondering what I was talking to a tree, when in fact, I was telling my husband to hurry up. Those are our best memories ever. We took boat rides in all types of boats: paddle boat, motor boat, and the shikara, which made us feel like we were in Kashmir. How I wish I could turn back the clock and relive all those golden moments.
  5. Louisville, KY: The first place where I spent major time outside Mumbai. Came to Louisville in Sep’06. Spent a year-and-a-half discovering that I could remain sane without a job. Yes, I was on H4 on my last trip here. Louisville is a quaint, small city in Kentucky, just an hour from Cincinnati. There are lots of Indians in Louisville, which is why; at times it becomes difficult to believe that we are in US.
     My trip to Louisville gave me the opportunity to spend quality time with my husband, start this blog, discover my love for cooking, learn cake decoration, learn how to make bead jewelry, make and nurture friendships, and realize that there are a whole lot of things to do without a job.
    This is our second trip to Louisville. This time Louisville let me realize one of my dreams: work in US.
    I think I would have been lost in a bigger city like Chicago or New York. Louisville is a great place to be.
  6. Las Vegas, Nevada: We took this trip in Dec’07 and it has been one of our best trips ever. The first time I saw the strip, my mouth fell open just seeing all the lights. My God, I had never seen so many lights in my life. I loved Vegas with all its grandeur, glamour, and shine. All the casinos are beautiful. I have so many memories associated with Vegas. The Bellagio falls, the gondola ride in Venetian, seeing Phantom of the Opera in Venetian, I would definitely love to visit Vegas again. Now, when I see any movie filmed in Vegas, I smile and feel happy that I got to visit Las Vegas.
I realized after writing my list that out of six, two of my favorite 6 places are in Mumbai, the other two in Tamil Nadu, and the last two in US. I am sure that if I visit Europe or Egypt, I will add them to this list.
Hope you enjoy reading this post, as much as I enjoyed recollecting my memories. See you this weekend with my list of 5 foods. Boy, five is a very, very small number:)

August 7, 2011

10 day challenge: 7 wants

I am done with my 10 secrets, 9 loves, and 8 fears. It’s time to move on to 7 wants. Well, 7 is a very small number for the things that I want.
There’s stuff that I wish every day, like ready-made homemade food; 16 hrs of sleep; hot, relaxing, bubble baths; no morning rush; no unexpected problems.
Then, there’s stuff that I wish every weekend. Like a robot that will take care of the piled-up work such as vacuuming, laundry, cleaning the furniture, paying bills, organizing wardrobes, cleaning the toilets, checking for grocery, buying grocery, cleaning the refrigerator, ironing clothes, making preps for the coming week. Lots of “me” time for reading and relaxing.
However, this post is going to be about my ongoing wants. I am going to do some cheating with this post and use sub-bullets to cover many wants under one big headingJ I played fair with the earlier posts, so it’s ok if I cheat in thisJ This one’s going to be a long post for the obvious reasons.

1.   To get the same parents, husband, daughter, brother, SIL, and best friends in all future births. I would also add my former boss, AP to this list. I am not even sure if there’s after birth or anything like it. But if there is, then I would definitely like the same set of people in every birth.
2.   To complete all projects that I start: Started a lot of things, finished some. Spent 6 years learning Bharatnayam, didn’t finish it. Spent a good amount of time learning yoga and gymnastics, hardly practice it. Spent some money learning how to bead, still am lazy to bead every weekend. Have lots of wonderful ideas. Don’t have the motivation and energy to execute them. My want would be to finish every important thing that I start. To have boundless energy, motivation, and enthusiasm.

3.   To get serious about my health
a.   Never to have common cold again: I am extremely susceptible to common cold. I get it from anywhere, anytime. I have it for months and months. When I was pregnant and couldn’t take medicines, there was a time when I had cold for whole 2 months. I do not have sinus; it’s just that I catch cold very fast. Spend an hour in the pool, the next day I will start sneezing like crazy. I hate it. I hate having a runny nose, breathing through my mouth; I would want to increase my resistance power and never get the stupid, irritating common cold again.
b.   Start exercising: Not to look slim, but to be fit. I am fed-up of falling sick for stupid things. Need to exercise, stop eating as much junk food, and stop procrastinating going to the gym.

4.   To work on happiness project: I am at that point in my life where at times I think that life has no meaning. What’s the use of slogging, earning all that money, bothering about bills and retirement; if one fine day you are going to go away from this earth? Of course, life is beautiful. But what is the use if we keep worrying?
I learnt about
the happiness project and want to adapt it in my life. Not follow it completely, but take the main things. For example, spend half-hour each day to do what makes you happy.
5.  To learn to let go: I won’t and don’t preach “Forgive and forget”. I will never be able to forgive some people who have hurt me immensely. I also won’t preach “Let go of your ego” or something similar. I think everyone should have some amount of ego, or would it be self-respect? But I would definitely like to learn to let go of small things that bother me endlessly. Like a relative’s rude remark, someone not replying to my email, someone’s sarcastic comment. Once something happens and I feel bad about it, it should go away from my mind. Vanish. No pondering, bickering the next day. If I am able to achieve that, my life will be much better.

I also want to learn to stop getting hyper on futile things. What if we reach 15 minutes late, what if we don’t cook today, what if we Learn to take a deep breath and think “what’s the worst that I can happen if I or we don’t do this”? Most of the times the answer is not severe. If I am able to achieve this, my life and those of everyone around me, will be much better.
6.   House stays clean at least for 5 hours after I clean it: I spent 3 hrs last Saturday to clean my apartment’s hall and kitchen. I scrubbed the kitchen cabinets, cleaned the furniture, vacuumed the hall, and mopped the kitchen. All this on a Saturday afternoon when the very creatures (my husband and daughter) who make mess in the house, took a jolly good nap. They were both snoring! Their snores and peaceful sleep aggravated me and gave me extra power to do the cleaning. Once they woke up, husband said something on the lines of “wow, apartment is looking as good as new”. Within the next 2 hours, I saw that the house started returning to its earlier messy state. He kept books here and there; she spilled stuff here and there. Gone was my 3 hrs of hard work. There’s no point in setting rules if no one’s going to follow them. It’s not that they don’t help me. My daughter keeps her toys in her toy chest most of the days. But she’s two and a half; she spills stuff on the furniture and carpet.

It’s not that I am a cleanliness freak. But I do get upset, hyper, and depressed in varying degrees when I see mess in the house. My want is that my house stays clean at least for a decent period of time after I have cleaned it.

7.   Global warming: This one freaks me out and has been a major topic of thinking. Notice how all the weather conditions have become extreme? Extreme heat wave, heat warnings, high heat index. Extreme flooding, rains; regular tornado warnings.

All this, thanks to global warming. I am trying to do my bit to save the earth. I am careful about using water and using power only when it’s necessary. I do not print pages and pages of documents. I switch off lights when I leave a room.
I want everyone to get serious about global warming. If each one of us does his part, maybe we’ll have the Earth as a healthy place for our next generation.

Phew, what a long list!
See you next week with my list of 6 places.