Paying back my friends

Living in a hostel taught me quite a few things, and lead to some memorable incidents. It is one thing to have people as friends, but yet another to live with them. When you spend enough time living in the immediate presence of someone else, you get to see different shades of them you normally cannot. In the same manner, when you have some highs or lows in your life, you get to see a different part of people in the manner to which they react to your situation.

Hostel usually involved commuting weekly. We would leave from the college on Friday or Saturday to reach home by dinner time, and spend the rest of the weekend at home. Depending on which schedule our lectures were, we would leave back for hostel on Sunday evening or early Monday morning. This happened on one such Sunday evening when a bunch of us were heading back to the hostel. The evening commute train came in, and instead of patiently waiting for it stop and the passengers to get off, I ran along with the coach. Keeping pace with the door, I threw my bag in and slowed down as people started to get off. Moments later when I got on to the train with a grin, I found that my bag was not there. Someone had taken it with themselves.

After trying to search the train, and running around on the platform, I came to accept that my stuff was stolen. The loss of the bag in itself wasn’t that hurtful as that of its contents. Two of my favorite sets of clothes were in it, along with 700 INR. At that point, 700 INR was a BIG Deal for me. It meant nearly a month’s food. There was no point in waiting at the station, and I left with my friends in the train. I lodged a police complaint at the railway police station after getting down at my station and went to the hostel with my friends. I didn’t do anything that night, at once falling asleep on reaching my room.

700 INR meant a lot of things. First it was nearly the amount I would have spent on eating dinner for an entire month. I used up some of the allowances I had saved up to buy new underwear and socks. I had some of them in the bag as well. I didn’t even feel like asking mom for money (for it was no fault of hers), and planned on how little I would have to spend on eating, or what my new dinner options would be. In hindsight, all of it seems a very stupid thing to do. Nobody gets on a train like that, but that wasn’t something that I could take back.

The next day two of my friends offered me close to 500 INR so that I wouldn’t skimp out on my meals.  I was too proud to ask any one for the money, on account of how I had lost it. They simply told me to give it back to them a month or so later when I would be in a better position to do so. I almost cried when I had dinner that night.

In the same week, we found out that there would be an inter college technical fest and competition at a college in Ahmedabad. Being organized by one of the most reputed colleges of the state, many people wanted to attend it. It had events that I was looking to take part in, but being short on cash (the sign up cost was 500 INR), I just walked back from their kiosk in our college atrium. Another friend asked me about it and I told him about not signing up for it. As if my luck in good friends wasn’t run out, he quietly offered to pay my amount, while he himself wasn’t attending himself.

Later that month, when I did participate in some of the competitions, I managed to get an unexpected 2nd place with a cash prize enough to pay back all of the friends who had helped me out in my time of need.

Inspired by Housing.com about a memorable time my friends gave me the strength to go on with optimism.

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Of cakes that fall and rise

It is not a secret that I love eating. Cakes are inclusive to this love of mine. In fact not just me, but so many people love cakes that celebrations are not complete without cakes. Birthdays HAVE to have cakes for everyone most (I do remember a friend from school who used to cut pizzas instead of cakes). When I was younger, I would look at mum with my innocent eyes and ask her to bake a cake for me. Nothing fancy, just a simple vanilla sponge cake would do. To this day she makes a point to tell me that her arms and elbows would ache from all the batter mixing (her method involves mixing it all with hands for at least 20 minutes), and that she would never have enough cream left to make ghee. It would all end up in my weekly share of cake.

A dear friend of mine is a voracious reader, and a magic woman when it comes to cooking. I pity her neighbors who have to put up with the delicious aromas wafting out of her kitchen. Pure torture I tell you. As  good great as she is, she cannot exert divine control upon cakes to turn out how she wants them to. Not yet, at least.

One fine day, when she was busy making lemon cakes (for some Sansa Stark fans I hope), one of the cakes decided to be more than that. After all as Petyr Baelish teaches Sansa, “In the game of thrones, even the humblest pieces can have wills of their own. Sometimes they refuse to make the moves you’ve planned for them”. This particular cake came out with a big sunken cavity in the center.

The sunken cake

Not someone who will let food go to waste, she did what another friend suggested to her. Since this was a cake with perfect walls, she emptied out the gooey center and added chocolate to it. Instead of just a lemon cake, it was now a combination cake. Time and again I am reminded how wonders can be made of the accidents that befall us. The cake was soon packed and parceled to yours truly. I am having a bite of the solid lemon walls with a gooey, fudgey chocolate center. Absolute bliss.

Combo taste cake for the win

It is the best cake that I have ever had. I love the fact that it something that happened serendipitously. While it could have been another fallen cake, it rose to one of the first combination cakes to come out of the Weekend Kitchen. So much love for her :D. She is probably going to bonk me on the head for putting in A Song of Ice and Fire reference in this 😛

You can read her post about this cake at her blog here.

Dear (Ex) Roomie

Dear (Ex) Roomie,

While I’ve had many roommates over the years, you were the last one I shared an apartment with. It was an odd turn of events that I spoke to a common friend about wanting to shift to a different part of the city because I didn’t want to live alone, when we didn’t even know that we existed. Two meetings later, we had moved in together because we were looking for a new place. What followed was years of companionship and endless talks.

In spite of our initial observations of each other, it wasn’t difficult to start talking. Once we got on talking, one topic would lead to another and we would end up forgetting what we had started off in the first place. While it is rare to have this with someone, it is rarer to have it on for the amount of time we did. And I can say this from my experience of having gone through roommates. Compound to this the fact of our wide difference of beliefs and you have got some interesting conversations.

Of course I put up a lot with you because you routinely got me chocolates, the cookies from Karachi Bakery, jawbreakers and those big lollipops with swirls in them. I also like to think that you put with me because you were basking in the awesomeness that is me. There might be a difference of opinion on your part about that, but then that is ok. You must be confused by all the awesomeness that I speak of 😛

I fondly remember the nights we spent at Barista. Sometimes they would have loads of conversations while we sat on the ledge outside with our backs to the glass, and the other times we would spend time inside with hot chocolate by your side, and latte by mine; reading our own books instead.

It’s of course ironical that we don’t share apartments now is the opposite of the reasons that I moved in, that I want to live alone now. When under the same roof, we would always run into each other even with different work timings. Now that it doesn’t happen, we will catch up with dinner sometime this week then.

 

Written for the 30 days 30 letters prompt: A letter to someone you don’t talk to as much as you’d like to

 

Dear Bindu kun & Pixie

Dear Bindu kun,

I wrote a letter to you some time ago, because I had a brand new fountain pen and ink flowed from it so smoothly that I couldn’t help but write. Now that I am doing this blog challenge, I cannot help but write this as well.

We met as fellow members of a book group which I was inducted in to by my lovely sister after I had sent her a book. There are so many ways it could have not happened. It could have been a different book, or sent a different time, or perhaps she could have graduated to a Kindle sooner, or might have missed out her morning tea that day, but certain set of events took place in the right order, with the right people for me to have found you.

I have said this before, and I will say it again that I am in awe of you. How you are able to manage work, a family, consuming books with that voracious appetite of yours, and cook is beyond me at times. Particularly when I struggle with something like making Maggi on certain work days. While we are on the topic of food, the pictures of your weekend kitchen are just not fair. Nuh uh. How do you expect us to sit on this side of the screen, and look at all the delicious cakes you bake, and stews you simmer? The only silver lining is that we don’t have it as tough as your immediate neighbors who even have to manage with sounds and aroma of the food being prepared. Well boo-hooo for them.

Do you know that you’re the person who’ sent me the most number of books? I liked the irony of you having sent American Gods and Religion for Atheists together 😛 . Oh and the cake and cookies you sent around new year’s were absolutely yum. One of the few rare moments that my friends or colleagues were explicitly forbidden (and I saw to it) from having even a single bite of the load. I had it all for myself. My precious.

When we do meet, I am looking forward to your cooking the most. I want to take in the sights and sounds of you getting about to making food. I have always believed that cooking for someone, is converting your thoughts and feelings for them into something physical, and then sharing it with them. I am sure I would end up licking something shamelessly 😀

Thank you for the food, the books, and the friendship.
Love,

Count Santulan

 

 

Dear Pixie,

For someone who got so involved in naming a rat snake that liked to say hi to the sister of mine, you don’t like the crawlies so much. But they’re so cute, no? Scuttling towards you just to say hi or hug you 😛 . Ok, I will digress from this topic lest you get tempted to want to punch me. Not that you don’t have reasons already 😀

Someday, when I have saved enough money to, I would like to make a trip to your place. I would like to sleep in at your place at least once, so that I can wake up early and kick you awake, or just yank off the covers if I am feeling kind. On second thoughts, I might prod you with a stick instead so that you didn’t kick me when I do wake you up. Or we can let you sleep in peace if you’re willing to bribe me by making Akki roti and hot rasam. Yeah, that should work out real well 😀

You’re another person who’s like family but we haven’t met in the flesh yet. Had we been in the same city, I would be eating a number of meals at your place. Or call in with ice cream at impromptu times, because ice cream.  Then you would tell me off on how so much ice cream is not good for me, and would end up eating half of it so that I don’t have to eat all of it. Such a generous soul you are 😛

But seriously, you’re the person who genuinely cares about people in your life in a manner that is not over bearing, and makes one feel warm from the inside. When you do get here, I can dump a bunch of books at your place for you to read. Personal recommendations from my personal collection, that I think you’d like to read.

Thank you for sending me pictures of the creepy crawlies that you meet on your walks (and in turn creeping out your husband in the process). I promise to treat you to puffs and patisseries when we meet.

Love,

Hrishi

 

 

Written for the 30 Days 30 Letters prompt: A letter to someone you wish you could meet. Other bloggers can add their links to the linky below:


 

Dear Gigi

Dear Gigi,

Before I get down to saying anything else, I must thank you for sending me a copy ‘Of Marriageable Age’. I had spent years looking for it, but was not able to find a copy of it. You cannot imagine the joy opening your package brought me, when I finally held the book in my hands. I haven’t gotten around to re-reading it yet, just like I have not read Hedgehog yet, but I will do so in due time and have full joy in doing so. The fact that chocolates came along made time stop for a moment.

Sometimes it is funny, how facebook affects people. In this case, brought us together via common friends. While we are yet to meet in person, we have spoken so much that it would seem we’ve met so many times before, probably over coffee. You’d love that 😀 . For some reason, it seems so very natural to have developed this level of comfort with you.

You’re such a widely read person, and I understand that I am not the first person to tell you that, and will not be the last. I have a fondness for people who love to read, people who get absorbed in worlds that are not their own, and live the lives of others. It sort of makes you appreciate the things in life you wouldn’t otherwise.  Maybe someday I will get to read what you write. Not write in the book sense of manner, but scribbling and meanderings. They offer a much more insight into what goes in the mind of the writer, or so I think.

Some day, I imagine we will meet over pancakes, with some blueberries maybe. We could follow that up with a visit to the city museum. Remember the pictures that you had shared with me? It has such wonderful sights, and how the light plays with the carvings, shadows and stone playing with each other. I would definitely like to visit your favourite book store, and pick out a book for you. A nice hardback preferably. A book bought without any prior reading upon, except what the cover offers and the wonder of what the pages bring forth.

Perhaps when we meet, it will be like meeting an old friend after a long time. Maybe we will not just be internet friends.

Love,

H

 

Written for the 30 days 30 letters prompt: Your favorite internet friend. Others can add their links to the linky below:

Dear Pins & Ashes

I met Pins And Ashes in the comments section of one of my blog friends. We got along after we started talking about Cadbury Silk on her then blog post, which only had her mention it once it.
Dear PnA,

First of all, I want a Silk now. It’s almost 12 in the night, and I am craving for something sweet. The fact that I am too lazy and go get some from the store is another thing 😛 . It has been so much fun in this ride together. The times spent on chat, Whatsapp, group chats and phone were fun. What was even more fun was to have finally met you in person. I should however be thankful that I made it out of meeting you without being punched 😛

The idea of a best friend has always been interesting. The idea that a person gets along so well with another is so comforting at times. I should have realized this when you spent comments describing in detail the Silk you were eating, while I was reading that particular post. When we’re not talking about food, we still have so many things to talk about. I think this is why when we did meet in person, it wasn’t like meeting someone for the first time, but like meeting an old friend instead.

I think what I cherish is the manner in which we click together. One such moment that I am going to remember is when I was travelling from Ahmedabad to Baroda and we were chatting in a group chat and you told me that you’d message me in Baroda. What followed was a discussion about a secret trip that you had planned to Baroda, and the places we would hang out at. All this just to have fun and make others jealous. It wasn’t something that we had planned on, but something that spontaneously came to us both.

For a long time, I had been wondering what I would write to you in this letter. It is now that I realize that I am at this loss of words because we’ve never shied from telling something to the other at face (or screen). Which is why I think that there isn’t something ‘new’ for me to write to you that I wouldn’t express to you in one of our chats.

Love,

Someone who shares your love for chocolates.

Other bloggers who are participating can add their links to this linky:

Gokul Ras thad, a delicious discovery

I love those happy accidents when I find a place I have never been to before, and end up having brilliant food at it. One night, my old room mate and a friend came over and asked me to join them for a drive. Since none of us had dinner, the idea was to have something on the way. We had taken the old NH8 highway out of Baroda towards Ahmedabad. Around 9 kilometers on the highway, we stopped outside this place which we hadn’t seen before. Since the place had opened only two months ago, few people knew of it then.

Gokul board

I absolutely loved this idea of having small tents over each table. This way you can enjoy the cool breeze that is blowing, and yet maintain your small personal space. There are lights and pedestal fans inside the tent, for when the wind is not enough.

gokul tents Gokul tentThese are how the tents looks up close. There is enough space inside for a group of 6 to sit and eat comfortably.

Three of us were in the mood for Kathiawadi (belonging to Saurashtra region of Gujarat) food, so this is what we ended up ordering:

Wagharela Rotla (Broken flat bread that has been stir fried with spices and sauce)

Gokul rotla

There was Lasanya Bateka (Potatoes made in a gravy with loads of garlic)
Gokul bateka

The friends love Brinjal so we ordered Ringan/Baingan Bhartha (Squashed Brinjal)

Gokul bhartha

And some Ringad ane papdi nu saak (Brinjal Sabjee with beans)

Gokul brinjal

Of course we had piping hot rotis with fresh white makhan (butter) on them

Gokul rotibutterSince I felt adventurous, we had fried sated chillies (which I didn’t eat , and my friends had to finish)
Gokul chillies

And this is how my plate looked when we were eating.

Gokul plate

 

So, if you ever end up with a craving for Kathiawadi food, with some lovely ambience, I will accompany you here.

 

Written for day 7 of the A to Z challenge, 2014

 

A look back at the last 5 years

Inspired from the look back shared by Facebook on the occasion of turning 10, Aparna wrote a post with a look back on the last 5 years of her life. She went on tag some of her friends (including me) and I had committed to her that I would take participate and write a post of my own.

As part of the tag, I have to share:

1. Write 5 happy moments.

2. Write 5 sad/regretted moments. (Only place where you may write less – who wants to remember the sad moments)

3. Write 5 goals that you achieved.

4. Write 5 other events or moments you would like to share.

5. 5 other moments or goals you would like in the next 5 years.

Here are mine:

Happy Moments:

  1. I was promoted this year to the designation of Deputy Manager (from Assistant Manager). This was in light of the change in my job profile that had happened at the beginning of the year. The new profile has brought more responsibilities than the previous one.
  2. I finally bought a domain. Initially I wanted to by a domain based on my pen name, but it was not available. I thought over and came up with this domain name, and linked it to my blog.
  3. I made a trip to Jaipur, and spent time with my cousins. Helped mom in some holiday shopping just before Diwali, and spent quite some time photographing the streets of Jaipur.
  4. Surprised mom on her birthday by coming to Ahmedabad at midnight with a cake. Before cutting the cake, she took time to chide me for traveling at such an hour: P .After cutting the cake, she asked if I am hungry and would like a warm meal. I just ate more of the cake instead. The day was spent out, with me taking her to watch a movie and do some shopping.
  5. A friend from office invited a bunch of us to his place in the village. We took a road trip to his place. We started the day by spending time at the river bank. After all the fun and bathing in the river, I could steal some time to visit some cotton plantations, and mango orchards. We spent the evening under the open skies, in the comforts of a cool breeze. His family cooked a wonderful dinner using some traditional family recipes.

Sad/Regretted moments:

  1. I made a big mess of my personal finances. Took some stupid decisions, and some careless. The good thing is that most of it is in the past.
  2. Discussions that follow when people ask of my marriage plans. Sometimes it ends up with heated discussions with mom. The two of us have such different schools of thought about it, and I have to exercise self-control to no say something that will blow things up, and yet put my point across.
  3. Since I live in a rented accommodation in Baroda, I have to shift every year (or other year). I have lost so many things in said shifting process. A chopping board, some undergarments, chop sticks, topes, and more.
  4. I have been working for almost 5 years now. In my earlier days of the job, I had more free time and a freer mind at home to catch up on my reading and movies. I read more now than I read just after starting work, but am not able to devote as much time as I would like to.
  5. Not buying a house. When I had started my job, there were a couple of houses I could have bought via home loan. It was easier to manage the EMI than it is now, on account of their ever increasing price.

Goals that I achieved:

  1. Learn how to bake a cake. I can now bake a cake all by myself, without any help from mom. Earlier I used to help in the mixing of the dough, and everything else (including the proportions) was managed by her. Now, I do it all by myself.
  2. Learn how to use chopsticks. This has been more on account of finding a place called Jojo’s café in Baroda which serves wonderful momos and Thukpa.
  3. Restart blogging. I had given up blogging after Yahoo! 360 had shutdown. I have resumed, with this blog and one on Blogger before. While I am not posting as regularly as I did on 360 (where I posted on alternate days), I spend time reading and commenting on the blogs I follow.
  4. Running in Vadodara Half Marathon. I did not participate in the entire lap, but for the ‘fun-run’ lap. The experience was tiring, but wonderful.
  5. Buying a laptop and cell phone(s). I spend a lot of time with my laptop and cellphone, and before I started working the same were paid for by mom. It brought immense satisfaction to buy one for myself, and a smart phone for mom.

Other events/ moments:

  1. After living alone for about a year, I moved in with 2 roommates as it would mean getting a better place but at the same cost, since the rent would be divided. Have forged a wonderful friendship with one of them.
  2. After sharing a place for more around 3 years with him, I have now moved out and live in a different place alone. We didn’t have any falling out, and are still the same friends. Now that I look back, there were just so many things that I took for granted. We had a maid, so the vessels and clothes were washed by her. Sometimes he would pick up the glass I left on the table, or the pillows that were kept in the living room. It’s not that I didn’t do all that before when I lived alone, but to do so again after being used to not doing it, feels tiresome.
  3. Some of the wonderful chat sessions that I spent with blog and Facebook friends, whom I have not met in person. It is fascinating how one connects with another, and the flow of conversation that follows.
  4. After faithfully collecting issues of more than 5 years of the periodical magazine ‘Digit’ which covers computers and technology, I sold them all off. The collection was too much to manage as I was searching for things on the internet instead of going through its issues.
  5. I started watching Masterchef, and find it to be a reality show that is enjoyable because of all the food in it.

Moments or goals for the next 5 years:

  1. Learn how to swim. It seems so wonderful to be able to spend time in pools swimming instead of just sticking to the banks where the water is waist high.
  2. Learn how to drive a car. I know, this is embarrassing on account of me being an automobile engineer. I can ride a bicycle very well, but nothing more than that. It will also serve as a manner of convenience
  3. Learn to knead dough and make Rotis and parathas properly. As of now, I end up with too little or too much of it and make a big mess as well.
  4. Take a vacation to visit some of my blog and Facebook friends in person.
  5. Lose weight and get in a better shape. I am obese. While I haven’t bothered much about the appearance, but the fitness has begun to worry me now.

Happiness on a barbeuqe

Food has always been something that makes me happy. Some of my favorite memories are associated with it. I think I have now come to a level where food is something beyond the daily nutrition a body needs. It is a spiritual experience. Food is something that can make you salivate as you look at it, a mere whiff of well-made food can give you goose bumps, while taking a long slow bite will have you close your eyes and just get lost and the juices flow down your throat.

This post is about one of my favorite place to eat: Barbeque Nation (Vadodara). While I have been living in Baroda since 2009 started, and kept hearing rave reviews of the place I could only eat there a year after in 2010. It happened as a spontaneous decision, when I was discussing with a friend where we could get to eat some wonderful chicken. Twenty minutes later, we were giving out orders for juice at the place.

Let me tell you how the place works. You select one complimentary drink from the menu (and can order more that will be charged extra), while they start serving you starters on your table. The center of the table has been cut out to make place for a mini barbeque, where skewered foods will be placed with red hot coals below the grille. Let me tell you that their food is wonderful. One of the best I have ever had. My friend and I literally hogged our way through them. When we were about to be feel full, we asked for the bill to be brought in. The server who came asked if enjoyed our main course, which made my ears twitch and ask him where the main course was, followed by asking him if we would be charged extra for it (sheepishly so, I might add).

The main course you see, is part of the package. It is not served to you at your table, you have to go take what you want in your plate instead. There are salads, soups, daals, sabjis, some pulav or biryani of some sort. Rotis and naans are served at your table though. Yes, both veg and non-veg options are available in the main course as well. I had my second emotional surge when I saw that there was a big assortment of desserts as well. Belt loosening, salivating and becoming a poster boy for ‘kid in a candy shop’ later saw me eating even more. This is how it is at all barbeque nation places, and how I am each time I visit them.

I have been to this particular Barbeque Nation many times, and once to a different city as well. While the food was awesome at both the places, I have a soft corner for this on account of the fondness for the staff here who are ever so courteous and happy to serve you. No matter how packed the place is, their service and quality doesn’t go down. I have pictures of one such time spent there with friends, which I will share with you now.

nonvegskewer
Chicken, lamb and fish on skewers
Broccoli, mushrooms and some other vegetables
Broccoli, mushrooms and some other vegetables
Sushi
Sushi
Our drinks. I have a pearl oyster. Which had an egg in an oyster on a bed of ice
Our drinks. I have a pearl oyster. Which had an egg in an oyster on a bed of ice
Gulping the oyster
Gulping the oyster
Trying to have it all in a go
Trying to have it all in a go
The fish
The fish
This is the wonderful reaction to that wonderful dish
This is the wonderful reaction to that wonderful dish
Closeup of the fish. Don't ask the name, forgot
Closeup of the fish. Don’t ask the name, forgot
Friends having a go at the salads
Friends having a go at the salads
I love desserts, and they love me back
I love desserts, and they love me back
nirvanabbq
This is how I look when I am lost to good food

Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words -2. Day 2 prompt : Food

Chocolate Milk

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend of mine, and this is an excerpt of the conversation we had:

 

Me: Did you have your breakfast?

Her: No, I am waiting for *** (her husband) to give me my mug of Chocolate milk.

Me: He brings you Chocolate milk?

Her: Yes, every day.

Me: In the next life, will he marry me?

Her: HAHAHAHA

Me:  As long as he brings me Chocolate milk everyday.

Her: I will ask him.

Her: He said sure! He is game as long as it’s not me again.

 

See, I have such awesome friends. 😀

Also, in a hypothetical next life, a daily supply of Chocolate milk 😀