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.

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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.

Dear Tejaswee

Dear Tejaswee,
One of the few letters that I have been absolutely certain about writing since I read about the challenge, is this one. It is truly sad that we didn’t talk while you were still alive. It’s not that I didn’t know that you existed, I did read bits about on your mother’s blog and that was all of it. I know that there are many of us who would love to have known you from before, and it makes me wonder. Would you like have been different had so many different people been your friends? Would it be different enough, for you to have been here right now, causing me to write this letter to someone else entirely?

I still remember that night when I got the call from Shail Di. I was walking back to my desk from the office canteen when I answered her phone. Something about that call made me feel anxious, and I wondered if something had happened to someone I know. She told me in a very broken tone that you had passed away. Back then, a bunch of us were following your updates on your mom’s Google Buzz. I knew that you had not been well, and were later admitted to the hospital with Dengue. We had hoped that you would recover.

It is after this call that I started reading your blog. There are still times when I find myself reading your blog, knowing that there will be no new posts, but still chuckling at the ones that you had written. One of my fondest posts, is actually from your mom’s blog. She wrote about how you wanted something ‘nice’ to eat which would also be something unhealthy. She tried to offer all sorts of ‘healthy’ stuff like milk instead. Mothers, I know 😛 But you got it right, the unhealthy foods taste so yum. I want to high-five you for that.

Has anyone told you that animals love you? While pets do love their family members, what you shared with Proton and Sher Khan was just marvelous. One look at the lot of you together, and it is obvious that there is a special bond. A part of me is a little bit jealous too, seeing the way Sher Khan bonded with you. Isn’t he such an adorable cat?

The letter that you wrote to your future daughter, is one of the most beautiful pieces that I have ever read. It has such a free flow of emotions to it. I think why this letter is special, is the fact that you wrote it when you were a teenager yourself on the cusp of adulthood yourself. You wrote it in a manner that made one relate to their own life, and what they would like to have from someone older than them at such a point in their life.

You wanted to adopt a girl. It was your one resolution that you knew wouldn’t be broken. Now, a girl has a loving family because of you. A family where she will be loved and cherished as much as you were. Your legacy 🙂

Love,
Hrishikesh

Tejaswee Rao is the daughter of IHM. Fondly called TJ by friends, she died from complications as a result of Dengue. You can read the posts she wrote at her lovely blog. This letter was written as part of the 30 days 30 letters prompt: A letter to A Deceased person you wish you could talk to.

Dear Carrot Tyrant

I came across Shail Mohan in my early days of blogging around 2005 or 2006. Back then we used to blog on Yahoo! 360 (which was sadly shut down by the folks at Yahoo!). One of my early memories is that of her coming in my dream as a lecturer in college, who proceeded to order me to eat carrots as they are good for eyes. You may call her the Carrot Tyrant for that, but be prepared for any red bricks that come flying your way.

Dear Shail Di,

When I first saw you on 360, you came across as a person who was generous in the use of virtual red bricks. Soon my curiosity got the better of me, and I started frequenting your blog more. One thing lead to another, and a friend request later you were my adopted blog sister. And what fun times we’ve had since then.

I guess I was lucky that your (formerly) bald sister was in Baroda, which mean we could meet when you made your trips to the city. I loved the dosas you made for me. Having someone cook for you is such a delight, which is why those dosas were extra yum. Come think of it, it was my first trip to Baroda when I came to meet you.

Meeting her in person for the first time
Meeting her in person for the first time

 

What was even better that when you came back again, I had a job. This meant that if I couldn’t host you in my kitchen, I could at least take you out for food. I remember that you didn’t have ice cream, I should probably have had your share instead 😛 .

shailsev

But apart from the meeting in person, what we’ve really bonded over has been our conversations. I think you’re responsible for a chunk of my views changing when it comes to feminism. Reading your blog in the early days, made me see things that were so obvious but were either hiding in plain sight, or what I was choosing to be conveniently blind to.

I love your devotion to photography. I now know the names and identification of some birds because of the pictures you take. It is actually refreshing to see someone put in time and effort like this out of choice and not because they have to do it. You’re so lovely that you even brave out to take pictures of chameleons for me, in spite of the fact that you think that they’re icky at best.

When people say that family is not just blood, they are right. We’re example of the family we choose. I have always felt a form of kinship with you in a manner that you’re one of the few select people that I feel strongly about. Which is why I write this letter to you, the closest someone I have to a sibling.

With Love,

Count Santulan.

PS: I am not going to stop with sharing spiders on your wall any time soon. You’re going to have to put up with that for longer 😛

 

Written for 30 days 30 letters prompt: A letter to your sibling (or closest relative).

Other bloggers can share the links to their posts in the linky below:

30 Days 30 Letters

Letter writing was the best part about English exams in school. Apart from the fact that they carried the most marks for the least amount of effort, they offered me a chance to get creative in an otherwise short and boring exam paper. Where else could I ramble to the municipality about the dangers posed by the mosquito infestation I had made up because the society gutter had begun to over flow. I could write letters to my cousins making them jealous of the fictional snow ball fights I was having in Shimla while they had to make do with the annual weeklong trip to the beach.

There is truth to the fact that a vast majority of letters that I have written have been for official purposes, and most communications with family or friends being relegated to phone calls, chats, or the occasional odd email (which was to plan a time to come on chat). Of course nothing has ever stopped me from actually writing letters or emails to people, but I never came around to doing it.

During one of my searches for a quote, I came across a blog (which sadly no longer exists) and found that that particular post was a letter written as part of a prompt or writing challenge. This is when I came to know of the 30 days 30 letters challenge, where you write a letter a day for 30 days. Each day is associated with a different person. Some days are for specific people like your parents and some for people that you would associate with a feeling or emotion, like a person you miss the most. The list for the 30 days is:

1 – Your Best Friend

2 – Your Crush

3 – Your parents

4 – Your sibling (or closest relative)

5 – Your dreams

6 – A stranger

7 – Your Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/love/crush

8 – Your favorite internet friend

9 – Someone you wish you could meet

10 – Someone you don’t talk to as much as you’d like to

11 – A Deceased person you wish you could talk to

12 – The person you hate most/caused you a lot of pain

13 – Someone you wish could forgive you

14 – Someone you’ve drifted away from

15 – The person you miss the most

16 – Someone that’s not in your state/country

17 – Someone from your childhood

18 – The person that you wish you could be

19 – Someone that pesters your mind-good or bad

20 – The one that broke your heart the hardest

21 – Someone you judged by their first impression

22 – Someone you want to give a second chance to

23 – The last person you kissed

24 – The person that gave you your favorite memory

25 – The person you know that is going through the worst of times

26 – The last person you made a pinky promise to

27 – The friendliest person you knew for only one

28 – Someone that changed your life

29 – The person that you want tell everything to, but too afraid to

30 – Your reflection in the mirror

 

While I have been meaning to do this for close to two years now, I got the final nudge when sister of mine  (who blogs at Shail’s Nest) asked me for blog challenge suggestions. This was followed by a thinly veiled threat of me having to write for all 30 days should I choose to join in as well. Since my blog has been largely dormant for some time now, and I have been meaning to exercise my brain with this for some time, I agreed to join her in this.

What is interesting is that while you have to write 30 letters, you may end up to writing more or less than 30 people. This is because there might be a person whom you will associate with more than one prompt, or there might be two people you might associate with one prompt. I will start with the first letter some time tomorrow today, and link the individual posts to the list above as I move ahead.

If you like this, feel free to join in, add your name to the linkup below:

 

Jalaram Nasta House’s Sev Usal

Sev Usal is a spicy Maharashtrian dish. Sev is actually fried noodle like strands made of chickpea flour and fried, while Usal is a gravy made with white peas and chutneys along with spices and condiments like ginger, garlic, tamarind and so on. The dish is an incorporation of the two elements. While it can be had by itself, it is more enjoyable to be had with a bread bun locally called as Paav in India.

While Sev Usal is not a dish that is native to Baroda, people of this city have brought it as close to perfection as possible. In turn, the residents of Baroda have showered love by making it a staple part of their diet. A Sev Usal stall is common sight. In fact, in terms of food dishes it is considered by many to be the pride of Baroda.

Locally, Mahakali (named after the Hindu Goddess) is one of the most popular places to have this at. Such is the popularity that many more small time stalls bearing the same name or a variation of it have come up. However, my personal favourite place to have it is the Jalaram Nasta house which is also called Lalabhai’s Sev Usal centre.

Located inside a lane that opens to a road, it is not very easy to locate unless you’re specifically looking for it. I remember getting lost, the first time I went there alone without my friends who would normally take me there. It is marked by a banner in red with the name written in white in Gujurati.

lalaoutside

You will first be given a premixed dish to get you started with. If you ask for extra (and I always do), you’re first served the sev and onions, while the gravy comes few moments later.

lalsevdry

You can mix and match the sev with the Usal to get the combination you feel right. This is how I start.

lalatable

An important aspect over here is what is locally called the ‘Tari’. It is basically a chilly preparation made from oil, green and red chillies. It is very spicy, and is added on top at the last before mixing the whole thing.

lalatari

To be honest, this is one of the reasons that gives Sev Usal its signature feel and adds an extra dose of yum. And there, you finally have your Sev Usal ready..

lalasevusal

Feel free to dig in.. Part of their team was happy to be part of a picture that I took before leaving.

lalateam

The dish and the place are so wonderful that I take my guests and friends over to have a taste of this iconic dish. This is a picture of Shail di and me, when she had come to visit quite some time ago. Repeated comments as to how much younger she looks, may result in bricks flying in your direction 😛

lalashailandme

I am attaching its location on Google Maps for you to locate it.

 

Written for day 10 of the A to Z challenge.

 

The cameras that I use

This started as a facebook comment thread over a picture from Photography Tips which has the picture of the same object taken from 4 different lenses to show how they differ in the capture. It is a wonderful pic 🙂

In the comment thread, I had wished if  Hitchy, IHM, and Shail di could have a blog about the cameras and equipment they use. The idea was that photography newbies like me and others can see the different stuff these guys use. I have been capturing photos on the family camera ever since I was 14 or something, but I am not any good with the technicalities and details of it.

I have two cameras: my Nikon L110, and Samsung Galaxy Ace. Since my Nikon is in a different city as I have lent it to someone to use I am posting pics of my room mate’s Nikon L110. Yes, both of us have the same camera and gear, so it should suffice.

Presenting the Nikon L110:

Image

I got this for myself in December 2009 (I think). Its specifications are:

  • 12.1 Mega Pixels
  • 15 X Optical Zoom
  • NIKKOR 35mm equivalent lens
  • HD recording
  • 108.9 X 74.3 X 78.1 mm physical dimensions
  • weighs about 406 gms

Overall I find this to be a wonderful camera, and takes good pics in low light as well. The only catch is that although it has VR, it is very sensitive. If I don’t have very steady hands the images can turn out to a little blurry. However, if I keep the flash on with its flap on, the blur doesn’t come in. I use this camera for occasions like family/friends gathering or trips.

The Samsung Galaxy Ace:

Image

Image

I got this in August 2011. Its specifications are:

  • 5 Mega Pixels
  • 112.4 X 59.9 X 11.5 mm physical dimensions
  • weighs about 113 gms

This is my primary camera. Now now, don’t look at the screen like that. It’s a phone, I know. It is also a Camera-Phone. Since I carry it on me most of the times, I use it to take my general day to day pictures. As you can see the screen has two large cracks on it. It still functions as smooth as new. I plan to replace it with a Galaxy S duos some time soon.

The one I want: Nikon D3200 SLR:

Image

So, I am getting ahead of myself a little and would like to add this little drool and lust worthy camera. Since I am saving up for other things, I am not rich enough to buy this. I have linked its flipkart page to the title, so if some one is feeling generous enough they can gift it to me 😛

Please, if you wish do blog about your camera and equipment as well.

The pillow

He was lying sprawled on his bed when he felt the vibration. It was a tiny vibration and he heard the closing ding of the ringtone that would usually accompany it. This particular tone meant that he had received a message on WhatsApp. He cringed after he unlocked the phone as the white and blue light from it stung his eyes. After his eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the sudden influx on bright light, he saw that it was two in the morning. He was not surprised as some friend of his would be awake in the US and would have sent him a message. He slid down the notification bar and clicked the notification with his thumb. It was the picture of a pillow.

 A pillow? Why I am being sent a picture of a pillow, he thought. He looked up to see that it was from his friend Sara.

 “?” He pinged her back.

 “My pillow” was the instant reply.

 “Yes I can see that it is a pillow. I can still see” was his sassy reply.

 “Arrey baba, you asked me na , whom I love the most.”

 “So you love your pillow the most?” He got up and sat with his back rested against the wall. This conversation was getting interesting.

 “Of course”.

 “Why?”

 “Oh my pillow is so loyal. He didn’t cheat on me like my ex, he doesn’t lie to me, and is always there for me. Whenever I feel sad or weak, he’s there for me to cry upon. Whenever I feel happy, he’s there for me sleep with a content smile on.”

 “Wow, lucky pillow.” Luckier than him, he thought.

 “Now don’t you start feeling all jealous of my lovely boy friend :P”

 “Totally jealous :D”

 “So what are you doing now?”

“Wondering if you would rather send me a picture of yourself instead of your boy friend.”

 “Now? But I am already in the bed. Staring at the fan go round and round.”

“Yeah, bet the fan is hitting on you as well.”

 “LOL :D”

 

He wondered if that really did make her laugh. She had a wonderful laugh which was unrestrained. A nice loud laugh that came from the inside, he wondered if this was one of those ones.

 

 “I am feeling sleepy now. Do you want me to call you to wake up in the morning? “

“No.. It’s better to stay awake till 5 than to be woken up at 5. Good night, sleep well. You and your pillow.”

“:)”

 

 And the screen went blank as he locked the phone. He had close to three hours of time to kill before he would have to start getting ready to leave for work. He wondered how he should spend those three hours. He got up and went to the bath room to wash his face. He turned the geyser on, and let the bathtub fill with hot water. He went to the kitchen to grab cold can of cold cola from the fridge to drink as he spend time on his laptop surfing the net. He fired up his mail and facebook, and started to read a blog posted by his sister. It was a small piece of fiction about story challenge to be written on the theme of having received a picture message in the night.

 

He smiled. Here was a story he was more than happy to write.

 

Written in response to Creative Writing Challenge: 2AM Photo

Inspired from The message

(High on) Happiness

Have you ever had one of those days when you are happy? Not just happy, but high with happiness? When things just fall in place, when you meet nice people, eat good stuff, today was one such day.
To recount what lead to this day:
  •  I spent one entire weekend with mom without either of us saying anything stingy at the other.
  • We checked out some houses (we’re house hunting for a new place)
  • Mom made dahi puri for me in the evening. Now dahi puri is unhealthy because I have a sore throat, and the chutney and cold curd would not do me good. But eating unhealthy food is fun and she made it because I asked her to.
  • I spent some wonderful time at ‘The chocolate room’ in Ahmadabad. I had a large black coffee, an almond cold coffee, and a Chocó-chilli sandwich. It was a wonderful sandwich it had chillies and chocolate scrapings in it. The chocolate would clash with the chilly and it was oh-so-good. I got a nice table all for myself and wonderful internet speed to watch some of my favourite anime.
  • I saw this poster while searching for a new poster to buy. It gave me a sense of reassurance, that there is more to me than some of the problems I had recently started thinking on. 
  • On the way to Baroda from Ahmadabad I got a bus that had half the seats empty. I could sit on an entire three seat row all by myself and read. When the bus conductor turned off some of the lights he let two lights on so that I could read. He then got up from his single seat and sat on another empty row seat. Those of you who have travelled by GSRTC busses know of this seat. It is the single seat at the entrance which has handle bars in front of it for people to hold on to while climbing on/off. So when you sit on this seat, you can sink in a little and rest your feet on this handle bar. Such a comfortable position to read in. 
  • The window in front of me was open with a just little tiny gap that let a cool breeze in. The breeze would hit my naked feet and make me feel as if my feet were in a river of flowing cool water. And the best part was that no one complained about it or asked me to shut the window.
  • I thought of two women whom I admire. One is ofcourse this wonderful doting big sister whom I love as much as I can. The other is of course the is B to my A, the Alpha to my Omega, the Sheila to my jawani, the fevicol to my photo. They just cheer me up.
Now my views on god are not that religious. But if there is a god, I would give a nice tight hug. I would tell him to take some time off and come with me for drinks, my treat. I would ask him to listen to this song (Emotional Attyachar (attyachar is Hindi for torture) from Dev D). The song in itself is a sad song; however it has a special place for me. I had gone to watch this movie in a single screen local cinema house because we couldn’t get tickets anywhere else. Now this song has a nice beat to it. When this song came on screen I was just tapping my feet being as reserved that I am. But some guys in the audience just thought “Chuck it” and got up started dancing to have a wonderful time.
So the idea is to ask God to chuck it and not think of the people who are doing all forms of torture in his name. You know take a vacation with your goddess, and go relax and recharge. If you made this world, we gave it shape as it is now. You don’t have to take it on your shoulders.
Today is also an eventful day for another reason. The father of the Delhi-Gang Rape case victim shared his daughter’s name (Jyoti Singh Pandey). He said:

“We want the world to know her real name.

“My daughter didn’t do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself.

“I am proud of her.Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived theseattacks. They will find strength from my daughter.”

The word Jyoti is a Hindi word which means light. For some people, this case gives light and heat and casts out darkness and fear. Now I don’t her personally, but I cannot help but feel sorry. That in a free nation, this is the price she had to pay for being free, for just wanting to live her own life. You had every right to live on as you wanted, but a bunch of men thought you wanting to be free was an act of defiance against them, and raped and beat you to a painful death. They and other such people wrongfully believe that just because of being a woman, women have to yield to them as they wish.
I do hope that whether you’re reading this or not, whether we know of each other or not, that you have an equally wonderful day in your life.

Reading

There are advantages of having friends who share your passion for reading and among other things you never run out of goodgreat things to read. Today one such friend Ritu shared an article on facebook (which she was kind enough to tag me in).  It is “Which kind of book reader are you?” by the Atlantic Wire. The article goes on to describe different types of readers and their reading habits. Are you the one who will purchase books and then end up with a backlog or are the one who has them only to display them? And so on…  What about me, do you ask? (Well you are reading this, and should you continue to read this entry I gather you are interested in it.)
I have picked up books for various reasons. Quite a few of these books are in my cupboard because Landmark (the book store) is exceedingly close to my apartment. So every few days I find myself strolling in to the store because I ran out of stationery supplies, or need something for work, or am drawn to the large number of books there.  If there is a sale I pick up some of the books I have been wanting to read and since there’s a neat deal I stock them in my cupboard. Sometimes it is because I visit the store out of boredom or habit, and flipping through the books I find something that amuses or touches me. Then of course there are the recommendations from friends.
This has lead to a huge backlog of reading for me. Books that have been read for only a few pages before they were put on the table and then inside the dark forbidding chambers of my cupboard because I got busy with something, or found something else to read. Evil, I know. This is not just fiction but books on engineering and science that I picked up because I enjoyed reading about the subject, some management books that I refer when work gets boring and philosophy for my desire to study more upon it.
Right now I am reading ‘Krishna Key’ because I got it for review (yeay) from Blogadda.com. Since I am to post a review on it for receiving said book, ‘Fifty shades darker’ has been put on hold along (because I enjoyed reading ‘Fifty shades of Grey’, and wanted to continue the story). There is also ‘The Toyota Way’ which I am reading to learn different approaches that I can use at work. There is ‘God is not Great’ lying on the table as well which I had picked for light reading (and mom got scandalized).
Then there are a select few unique books that have not been completed for particular reasons. I received ‘The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest’ as a gift from Ishaan Lalit, and I read the first three chapters before I felt that there was too much a back story being referred to. Wikipedia enlightened me with the fact that since it is book 3 of a trilogy I got the feeling of missing the story. Although I thought the story would be revealed in detailed flashbacks, I have kept it aside for after I finish its chronological predecessors. There is ‘Love, Loss and Acceptance’ by Shail Di which I am keeping aside for reading when I can do its verses justice.  And finally there is Thermodynamics because I can’t wrap my head around the change in heat of the room when an air conditioner is turned on while a draft exists on the other side of the room. The AC is on, it is cooler, I am thankful, please get lost. Maybe It has also to do with the idea that I flunked the subject the first time I took it in college.
And before signing off for this, I would like to tell you about this little thing I have. I just love caressing and smelling books. Sometimes I pick up books and ruffle through the pages and smell the air as the pages flip by. The rustling noise and the sight of the pages go by is just so wonderful. I don’t do it all my books, but one day the mood strikes to do so and it always manages to make me sigh.