Lap it up…

My first instinct during a mentally bad situation has always been to run away. Go clear my head and then return. My upbringing has taught me to not indulge those instincts and stay and sort things out.

So recently when the urge came to pack my bags and go stay in Goa for as long as my finances would let me… despite it making sense to the people around me I confide in… I couldn’t help but wonder whether I’m still just running away. Today I realised i was.

Being from a very superficially close knit family, I’ve never had my own space. Our house was always full of people and we weren’t allowed to close room doors. Add this ruckus to the existing chaos in my mind… and well, running away was all I could think of. After I became independent, my need to get away increased with the realisation that I had gotten myself more entangled into this web without any awareness. I had more people in my life I was answerable to, accountable to. I had no time, space or thought that was mine.

Today I have successfully managed to cut all these people off. Undo the strings that were choking me to suffocation. And I realised, I don’t need to run away to goa. I can get my space wherever I am, agnostic of the conditions around me.

I will go to goa now… to write, experience, explore… but not to run away. 

Today swimming in the pool at my apartment club house which I’ve resisted going just in case I bump into humans… I took the first step to being me.

B. A lesson a day

​Week 2

Having moved into a comfortable apartment almost half a year back, I had snuggled cosily into the laziness that comes hand in hand with the luxury of being in a place like this and not having a regular job. All errands including necessary ones like getting the electrical repairs for the house done remained pending, until today that is. Repeated visits by the electrician provided by my apartment association led me to the local electrical supplies shop a zillion times. 

Bulbs. What use are these bulbs without new holders. Holders. How will you fix them on the wall without chakapiece (don’t ask!). Switch. How will it work without new wires. Actually the wires are fine. You need a new fan…  And so on until well prepared with a list of everything I could think of, vetted by my electrician I went for the final time to the shop and procured everything I needed. 

So today, unhampered by the relatively sad news I received this morning, I set about getting the repairs done. Telephone, fixed. Done. Carpentery work, done. Electrician… Aah the bane of my existence.

11am after repeated calls to the maintenance office, the dude arrives, waistbelt in place and looking mighty happy with life in general. He rants off a list of things he remembers from the previous visit and when I say I have all of them, he looks impressed. He then procures a ladder that almost breaks the one functional light in my living room, climbs up and starts to dismantle the lampshade and fix the multitude of things he asked for. Wires, chakapiece, holder, cover, light… And then he asks for the screws. SCREWS! The one thing I did not think of. I let out a sigh of exasperation. The dude gives me a look of pity and says, “Dont worry madam. I will get.” And then he rants off in the local tongue something about the association office. Exhilarated with the dude on the ladder swooping to my rescue much like a knight atop his horse, I danced with joy. Seeing the expression on the dude, I quickly regained my composure and asked if I need to call the association office and tell or ask them for the screws?

With a quick bounce he was on the floor yelling repeatedly in the local tongue again. When he saw my bewildered expression, he took a deep breath to relax himself and said…”Screw. Secret.”

Aah! So he would secretly procure the required screws and save me all hassle. My hero!

He then returned to fixing the other problems and reached an impasse. The switch was working fine. The wiring was ok too. Must be the regulator. “Need new regulator” He yelled with the same excitement that Archimedes had when he finally took a bath. Judging by my expression, the dude decided he better make the fan work before crazy lady screams… or worse, dances. So he fixed it directly to the switch and told me NOT to use it unless during an emergency.

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what constituted as a fan emergency. I understand our generation’s obsession with gadgets and luxuries. But would we really ever be in a situation where we just HAD to have the second fan in the room on? Or is it for a quick cooling down while wearing my shoes to step out? The 30 secs my lift takes to reach the ground floor also instigates me to switch the lift fan on. Why? When did we get this way? Is nothing ever enough? Or are we restless enough to need to do something or have movement around us all the time? I remember a time when I was a kid growing up in kerala and during the scheduled power cuts in peak summer, we used to sit outside on the veranda enjoying the evening breeze and lightly fanning ourselves. Have those days of simplicity vanished along with the feeling of communism?

Sigh! With my fan on full and the radio blaring music, I now sit and ponder. What a switch. 

Secret switches and fan emergencies. We learn something new everyday!

U turn

5 days of being strong and positive and happy and having a clear head and I crash again. Had planned to go on a trip to goa… to write, see, experience, feel, find myself. I obsess about structure and rules so much in my writing or acting that they end up being grammatically correct but soulless. Thought a trip where I go explore will help me find that soul. Find meaning.

I was so excited that I decided to leave asap. And today… I crashed! I’m sad, upset, distraught, lost. Don’t know what I’m doing with myself or life or what is the point of anything. Want to desperately chop off my leg or cut my stomach. Not for attention. Just for the actual act of cutting.

Should I still go. Should I stay back and try to find a job before I go bankrupt. Should I stop depending on my ex to help me out financially. Should I just end all these questions once and for all.

Everything has turned back again. I know it’ll pass. And I know it’s good. These bad days are good too. They are part of me too. But I don’t know how many more cycles before I go completely mad. Please turn back around life. Please.

#4 Scream your lungs out…

An icy cold shower, a pani puri hogging marathon and a tub of freezing cold ice cream after playing in the rain… Some of my best times have been doing one of these things, if not all. Something I started enjoying as a child and relished every time I experienced it.
So today when unexpectedly my mood became low despite the awesome day I had ahead, what did I do? I could have gone back to bed and lulled away time waiting for the day to end. Instead, I ordered a giant tub of death by chocolate sundae home and enjoyed the frozen awesomeness while watching my favourite show. Maybe the day isn’t all that bad after all…

So here’s to Day 4 of yummness!

A. Sounds a lot like cabbage

​I’ve always wanted to be a writer and a director. Needless to say I never had the talent or confidence to do either. So I got into acting in my spare time, since it came naturally to me. 

Recently in my spare time I decided to dabble in a bit of writing. I called myself The Columnist, mostly for the purpose of restraining my writing to the length of a column but also because it sounds pompous. Like I have a regular column in a newspaper or magazine. Like Shobha De. Anyway, since I still don’t have the confidence to go public with it, I thought I shall share it here. Shall try writing something once a week. Here’s hoping it works.

Week 1

Walking up the road from my house one afternoon to meet my mom at the junction to run some errands, I crossed paths with some school children playing holi on the pavement. To avoid getting colour on myself I stepped onto the road. Now, despite having a school and a moderately big apartment complex, this road has very little traffic or crowd, except in the evenings when it converts itself into a food street complete with food trucks and instant chaat shops and what not.

This particular afternoon, a lady on the better side of 50 was bent over sweeping the road in front of the school. Irritated with the noise the children were making and the numerous other worries that were bothering her, she muttered to herself as she tried hard to pull a rag that had embedded itself well into the tar with the relentless heat. She struggled valiantly with it with one hand, gripping the bag in which she collected the waste tightly with the other. 

Set your mind to it and nothing is impossible! 

The tar gave in, the rag came flying out and the woman looked mighty pleased with herself. I smiled as I watched this and was walking past her when she suddenly turned and threw the rag at me. I stopped for a moment, surprised by the mere unpredictability of the act. The woman realised her folly and apologised profusely.

How many times in life have we unnecessarily picked up garbage from somewhere and flung it on some unsuspecting victim? Tensions from work vented out on a poor waiter, doorman or even our own family. Stress of an upcoming meeting released on the poor cab driver stuck in the same traffic jam that will probably reduce his earnings for the day. He in turn will probably vent out at the next customer he picks up and so on… We all unknowingly pick up these unwanted pieces of baggage and pass it on. Its like the amount of baggage in the world is a constant and we are all a group of immature people playing passing the parcel with it.

The rag by itself was harmlessly lying on the road believing itself to be no different from the tar. Maybe it was harmful for the road and by clearing it up, the woman was infact doing a good deed. Possible. But why then did she not put it into the bag in her other hand that was for the very purpose of collecting garbage? Why think of throwing it on the road side and then collecting it while sweeping? Especially when you cant be sure that it will not fall on someone else in the meanwhile. Or fly away onto an oncoming biker’s face.

I paused for a moment, regained my composure, smiled at her and said, “Its ok. Its just a rag.” Here’s hoping that she doesn’t carry any baggage from that incident because in this game, when the music stops, there are no winners.

#3 My hole in the wall… Onam

Onam, a ten day long festival where religion, caste, creed, gender, age, size, wealth, everything is ignored and the whole state gets together to celebrate. And how! Cities light up with colourful lights strung over all the trees, small melas spring up in all open spaces with one scary fun ride after another, people roam around the city on foot instead of honking behind each other in mind numbing traffic and kids dressed in their new beautiful clothes run from one street vendor to another checking out their wares. Everyone is friendly, smiling and happy.

So you can imagine what a disappointment it would be for someone who grew up like that to be cooped up in a house because of the curfew imposed on my current city of residence due to the rising tension and violence regarding some government decision. I used to be a decently active citizen till I crashed, but this decision didnt even call for the violence it generated. Guess everyone was just waiting for an excuse to vent their frustration pent up over years. Sadly the people who worst bore the brunt of this expression was they themselves. And some people like me. Because trapped in my house without any home delivery service available or shops nearby that were open, was me with periods and no pads.

So, armed with cloth like women in most parts of the world still do… I set forth to make this day as good as possible.

Along with the fun and festivities, there is another thing Onam is very famous for. The sadya. A multiple course meal made with utmost care, extreme planning and oodles of love. The reason one dish follows another has a lot of ayurvedic logic along with the lay of the land and the conditions back then. But all in all it is one scrumptious package!

Now given the lack of provisions I had at home, I decided to instead make a traditional breakfast. Dosa with katta chammandi and chaya.

Dosa, a pancake made with rice batter and pulses have been a family favourite forever. The batter usually ground at home and allowed to ferment and rest over night is now available in easy to use packets. My mom used to joke that given a choice between her and dosa, I would choose the dosa. And she wouldnt be too wrong in assuming that😉
Dosas can be of a million different kinds and come November, I shall in detail explain the ada dosa. But for today I had the regular straighforward simple dosa.

Chammandi or chutney is a dip thats eaten with dosa, idli (steamed rice dumplings), etc. They can be of several different kinds as well but mostly all contain coconut. And katta chammandi is a hard version of the regular chutney that is normally consumed with rice.

Scrapped coconut, roasted red chillies, couple of green chillies, ginger, curry leaves, small onions, tamarind and a pinch of salt are ground together on an ammikallu or a stone grinder. The pestle, a heavy rod of stone is rolled over the ingredients on a slab. It doesnt grind them as much as it crushes them with the weight and mixes them together with the movement. My granny used to tell us how in her childhood when they cooked for dozens of people for each meal, she and her sister used to sit on either side of the slab and roll the pestle to each other chanting rhymes and poems. Those fun days of love, innocence and taste have been replaced by my super powerful mixer grinder in my single homeless house.

So, with a couple of crisp dosas made with ghee, a generous dollop of the chutney and a giant cup of piping hot tea, I settle down to some good music and my Onam breakfast! Here’s to another day of starting my own rituals, another day of conquering my demons, another day of making this house just a bit more of a home. My home! Happy Onam folks!

PS: What kind of a foodie would I be if I waited to click a pic before digging in?😉

#2 Into the wild… the return of the foodie

​After a decently long phase of being under the weather, I bounced back today. And despite having slept through half a day, I got a lot more done than most people do in a week. I finished work, cleaned up, cooked, blogged, exercised and settled down with a hot pot of black coffee to watch one of my favouritest movies of all times… Into the wild.

The questions the nag Chris, the reasons that make him go into the wild, the quest for the truth beyond love, hope, faith… are things that have plagued me forever. The guts to go hunting for them so drastically makes me understand the extent of his desperation. I will do it too someday. My version of the adventurous Alaskan journey.

Watching him roughing it out in the wild… cooking over a campfire… eating game… gave me a sudden urge to have meat. And what’s living if you don’t give in to your urges. So here’s to Day 2 of being a foodie.