A mouthful of paan

Have you ever had a Paan? Typically it is made from the Betel leaf with all sorts of pastes and mouth fresheners slathered in. While it is common to have Betel nuts & tobacco in the stuffing (making it carcinogenic), one gets safer and tastier versions too. In fact it is not uncommon in this part of the world, to have the occasional paan to finish off the meal. In fact, paan has kept up with the modern times to incorporate chocolate, dry fruits, and other ingredients which were not available to us years ago.

A picture of paan by Charles Haynes @ Wikimedia

I am all about enjoying this occasional paan, but one of worst things associated with betel based paans is that after enough chewing one only has to spit it all out. Areca nuts and lime lead to a distinct red saliva. While many people are civil enough to spit in gutters, bins, & such, there are so many more people who just spit it out on the road.

 

Paan spit captured by Anna Frodesiak

It‘s common to see such red stains in the country, where people who are paan addicts spit out the quid remnants. The other day when I was waiting to cross the road and minding my own business, a bus sped by. A man stuck his face out the window and spat out the paan he was chewing, a large ball of red, disgusting, quid laden spit that hit me smack on the face.

Ugghh! I spent fifteen minutes washing and cleaning my face.

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Envy

How does one process the feeling of envy? Within itself, envy is very simple. Typically envy is the emotion one feels when somebody has something that they desire. There have been times that I have been envious of people, and typically those are times that make more sense. Sense in the manner that I can work the means out about. Things like people having a better phone, a car, a lovely set of jeans, a lovely spacious home, and such are easy.

I mean all things come for a price. If one is envious of people having things, one works out the price and the effort that goes into obtaining them. If you can, you make a transaction. If you can’t, you work a little extra for ‘x’ amount of days and then make the transaction. Those in want of instant gratification can utilize a loan, or credit and work it off later. The point I am trying to make is that if you’re envious for something you usually know what you’re going to have to do.

Of course there are things that one can’t work out the price of. When I am envious of someone being in the company of someone else, when the sense of longing for someone mutates into a feeling of envy on their being with someone else, how does one know what the ‘x’ is? How does one know what to do? How does one process that?

Catching a few winks

When I am coming back from work, tired from the day’s work, or when I wake up all groggy from having slept late previous night; the best thing is catching some winks. Years ago when I had started working in shifts, it would be common for me to fall asleep in the company bus. My commute takes around an hour, enough time to doze off.

It is an entirely different matter, that I would fall asleep within few minutes. Sleeping in buses has always felt so comfortable. So comfortable that I would sleep long post my stop and wake up in a further part of the city. One particular night I woke up at almost the last stop of the route, and had to walk for half an hour before I could get an auto to reach home.

I get these winks more often now, and I am not one to complain it 😀

A mini post, because I am just too tired right now.

Kindling in new times

As much as I love to read, I love buying books in advance more. If I read about a book online (Flavorwire and Buzzfeed), or receive a recommendation from a friend, I end up buying the book for a later read. It reached a point that I had used up all my shelves, racks and cupboard space for books. There were thinly veiled threats from the mother to do something nasty to the overflowing books.

Even after giving away some of my books, I still had many books left. Having read ebooks before, the transition seemed to be the natural conclusion. For a brief amount of time I did use my laptop for it, but long runs made it hard on the eye. It seemed that I would either have to cut down on the books future-me would purchase. A post by The Sister and another by a dear friend, made me smack my head real hard. A Kindle E-reader was the solution to all my woes.

While it was a simple solution, I tried to wait for some time to check if I realllllly wanted to buy one. The want to buy one persisted, but I would find some excuse or another to not end up with one. I even passed through 2 sales on Amazon without a purchase. When the year end was near, and the final sale was on, I couldn’t let the opportunity sleep. 2014 ended with the purchase of a Kindle Paperwhite and a beautiful brown cover

mykindle
My Kindle Paperwhite
Kindle with cover closed
Kindle with the cover closed

The cover flips open to also become a stand so that I don’t have to hold the kindle when I am reading. The strap goes on the reverse, and gives the option to slide my hand in it and hold should I want to.

Propped up
Propped up

This is going to be so much fun.

Mushroom and Paneer, with a dash of Jeera

I love cooking. If I didn’t have to do the dishes, I would end up cooking every other night. But, my tiredness from when I return from work, and said dislike for doing the dishes lends an air of purpose to my cooking sessions. These are the times when I don’t limit myself to something as simple as pasta or rice. Some of my favorite ingredients to use are mushrooms, tofu, and paneer (Indian cottage cheese). This is about one such time when I ended up with a surprise rendition of paneer.

When I used to share an apartment with the roommate, our joint grocery sessions would always involve generous stocking of the refrigerator with these. A particularly tiring day and a fully stocked refrigerator made me want to try out a spicy paneer and mushroom dish to accompany boiled brown rice. While the rice itself was very plain and easy to make, I went all ahead with the paneer. I took out spices from the racks that I hadn’t used in a while, cut up mushrooms into really thin slices, and used the stems to make stock instead of just throwing them away. The fact that fresh paneer was brought from the dairy instead of the frozen cubes made me warm. It’s not that I don’t like the frozen paneer we so easily get in the supermarkets, they just don’t stand on the same level as soft, fresh paneer straight from the dairy.

Slightly less than hour later, I was at the dining table staring at the dinner spread. A plate of cut vegetables with lemon juice sprinkled upon it, a small pot of starchy steaming hot brown rice, and a pan of the best damn paneer and mushroom gravy that I could have made. I picked the lid off the pan and just stared at it. I confess that it looked beautiful. A thick, brown, liquid broth in which swam tiny pieces of onions and tomatoes, as chunks of soft paneer gently floated to the top, joined by thin slices of button mushrooms. Thin wafts of steam were coming off the surface as a handful of cumin seeds (jeera) stood in abandon.

The cumin seeds were a nice touch. Their presence added more substance to a picture that would have otherwise felt incomplete. I remember to not have planned on using them, but it felt a very happy accident to have them. Something felt different about them though. Not just that I wouldn’t normally use them, they didn’t seem to look like normal cumin seeds. They were missing the multiple ridges that run across their length.

I then realized that I actually did not have cumin in the house, having finished my stock in the previous week. A brought a spoon full of it up to examine, only to realize that they were little beetles. The pests had infested a particular old batch of spice that I hadn’t used for quite some time. My feeling of joy at having made such a wonderful dish, was soon turned to disgust. I had almost ended up having bug broth for dinner. With Gusto.

With a feeling of relief that I had observed it before eating, I threw away the star item of my dinner. I made do with mixing a large spoonful of Chinese sauce with the rice, and a lesson to pay more attention to how I store and handle my spices.

Review: The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

What would you do when the family who you cannot be with anymore, comes back to you? What will you do when their ghosts join you in the garden for a conversation? Will you flee them, or will you think that you need medical attention? The ghosts of Thomas Eapen’s family came to him, and he sat down to have a chat. The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob has an interesting premise to say the least.

sleepwalkersguidetodancing

When Amina’s mother tells her of her father’s conversations with his dead mother, she flies home to Albuquerque to check on him. Life at home is not easy. It’s difficult to convince Thomas, a brain surgeon, that his hallucinations are enough cause to not put the lives of patients in his hands. Her mother Kamala however has better things on her mind, like the long pending marriage of her daughter. However when Thomas begins to become consumed with visions of their dead son Akhil in their garden, even Kamala is forced to make decisions.

Life has not always been easy for the Eapens. When Thomas brought Kamala and Akhil to America for a better future, his polarized his mother and brother. A family visit to India for a vacation leaves sour taste as the differences between them only seem to grow larger with the amount of time spent away from each other. A violent outburst leads to early departure for the Eapens, but comes back to haunt Thomas when a fire razes down the house with the family in it. His last memory of the family is the fight that made him leave mid-vacation.

Akhil is a headstrong teen who cannot come to terms with how things are. He continues to grow emotionally detached from the family, and finds comfort in his girlfriend, who sees the caring heart in him. Good times however are not long lived as an accident takes Akhil away from the family. His death becomes the start of the transformation of the family members.

The story jumps between three different times, with Amina being the constant point of view through them all, a reference through which we can see how the family members change. Amina is however not without demons of her own. A professional photographer, her claim to fame was a perfectly timed picture of a man jumping to his death. Her dealing with this brings back memories of her dealing with Akhil’s death when she had started to learn photography.

The story interweaves the three times intricately. Which is why when the story moves from Thomas and his brother Sunil’s fights in 1970’s to present day hallucinations of Thomas in the 90’s, and back to Akhil’s death because of Narcolepsy in the 80’s; it seems like a natural interweaving of story arcs. A river breaking into different branches, which along its length continue to meet and move away on their paths.

The book is an emotional telling about family. One of the key emotions in the book is that of regret. The regret of not being able to be a brother or son’s keeper, of not being able to pursue something of passion, and even the regret of not being understood. The reader goes through the same emotional turmoil as the characters in the book. A turmoil that takes seed and slowly grows till it begins to throttle them slowly.

The slow descent of Thomas into rejecting medical cure and accepting his hallucinations as a cure to his personal demons is moving. Within itself it is a moving tale of what a straight thinking person is willing to give up, but to look at how his decisions affect those of his family, and peel away the layers to their core, is nothing short of brilliant.

I will leave you with some select quotes from the book:

“We are all we have here. Do you understand? That is it. And we can all talk about old times and Campa Cola and wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back, but none of us ever want to go back. To what? To who? Our own families can’t even stand us for longer than a few days! No, we are home already, like it or not,”

“Weddings are about fantasies—you understand? Your job is to photograph the fantasy, not the reality. Never the reality. If I ever see another picture like that, you’re fired.”

“He’s fine,” Kamala said. “It’s not like that. You’re not listening.” “I am listening! You just told me he’s delusional, and I’m asking—” “I DID NOT SAY HE IS DELUSIONAL. I SAID HE WAS TALKING TO HIS MOTHER.” “Who is dead,” Amina said gently. “Obvious.” “And that’s not delusional?”

Starting to ramble

If I don’t count the 2014 review post, then it’s been more than a month since I posted here. I have had a busy time at work, with certain days involving more than 10 hours at work. Add to this an hour long commute, and I end up as an exhausted mess. I am thankful that most of these days are not back to back. A result of this is that I am now so used to the idea of coming back from work, cooking dinner, and then lying down with my laptop and spending time on Reddit or Buzzfeed. It’s more comforting than I had imagined it at a time to be. It’s also stopped to surprise me that I what do end up reading just before going to sleep, is vastly different from where I had started. It’s not that I do not have things to write about, it’s just that I feel that the posts turn out to be half-assed (like this post). I believe this has come from how comfortable I have become in just plonking my self onto a mattress and read away. Which is why when the sister asked me if I would like to ramble for this month, I said yes. I know that I have a history of taking up blog prompts and not finishing them, but try I will. I will use this prompt, which involves posting ramblings across the days of this month, to try and write all that I want to write. About the books that I read, the movies that I saw, the food that I ate, and maybe even about the dreams that I had.