Sunday, July 27, 2014

A White lover's Essential Black list

There's this quote which goes "You can have any colour as long as it's black" which is a paraphrase derived from one of Henry Ford's quote. Black is a colour that signifies power, mystery, beauty and charm. So then how could I resist when Blogadda gave a chance to speak about the top 5 things I wished to possess and why.

I am not someone who would pick out something just because its colour is black. However, there ARE a few items I would want to possess...something new, something old, and something...well, black of course.
1. Homemade kohl my grand mom used to make: As kids, my mom always lined our eyes with homemade kohl our grand mom sent along. Pitch black in colour, glossy with a whiff of camphor, this kohl when applied gave a burning feeling followed by coolness.  This is the kohl my grand mom used to laboriously prepare for us. She used to credit our long lashes to the castor oil used in the mix, and told us that the camphor would help to cool our eyes.  We stopped using this kohl and replaced it with eye liners and commercial kohl a long time ago. Now that I am a mom, I wish I had her around to pass on these recipes as well as her wisdom.

2. My dad's black Scorpio: My dad bought his first Scorpio SUV in 2004, when I was still in college. It was the first time we had bought an SUV for our personal use and I was impressed by the intimidating look of the vehicle and the awe it inspired. From then, we have gone on many trips since then in that black Scorpio. I have always wanted to buy the vehicle off him in case he sold it. I had even dreamed of going on an All India road trip in that Scorpio. However, the vehicle was sold last year due to the heavy maintenance expenditure incurred every time it was serviced. As much as I wanted to buy it, I let practicality rule over emotions and let the vehicle go with a heavy heart. There are many decisions we make and then regret making; and this was one such decisions of mine. So, the next item on my items in black would be this.

3. Black pearl: An original black pearl is considered to be an extremely rare gemstone. Having said that, I want to own piece of jewelry made using black pearl. I have a habit to always placing everyone else's needs before others. This is something I don't mind but once in a while, I would want a reminder that I should love myself and take care of myself as well. The black pearl would be a gift to myself to remind me that I should love myself and that I am as special and unique as the pearl itself.

4. Black Labrador: I have always been a dog person and honestly believe that a dog is indeed man's best friend. I live in a rented apartment and cannot afford to own a dog currently. However, my dream has always been to have at least one dog. I wrote a story some time back and I wrote about a protagonist who owned a dog. The first image that crossed my mind was that of a black Labrador puppy named Rufus. Ever since then, I have wanted to have a Rufus on my own, and some day soon, I hope I will.

5. Black Trench coat: I live in India, a place where a trench coat isn't exactly a necessity. However, after watching heroines traipsing around in trench coats of all kinds in a multitude of romantic comedies, I have it decided that I must own a chic black trench coat. The pragmatist in me has already decided that I will use my trench coat as an LBD and kill two birds with one stone.

Of course, there are other items or rather experiences which has black playing a prominent place which I would love to recreate. These include the times I have sat with my uncle and talked under star studded night sky, the innumerable times when my cousins and I have spend the power cut time in dark listening to our grand mom's stories and the nights spend listening to the rain outside my bedroom windows. But of course, these are top five items in black that a white loving I would want to possess.

This post is a part of #WhatTheBlack activity at BlogAdda.com

Fragrances of Nostalgia

Smells have a way of whiffing past you when you least expect it. The tiny tendrils of a particular scent will tickle your nostrils and leave you happy, aroused, depressed or nostalgic. For me, scents play an important part in evoking memories from past, near and distant. The salty smell of sea reminds me of the seaside chalet visits I enjoyed with my parents, the smell of tube rose; of visits to funerals, the smell of sandalwood and camphor; of visits to temples.        

There has been a combination of scents that I have never forgotten and has always cherished. This heady combination has "Nostalgia" stamped clearly on it. Without further ado, let me take you down the fragrant path of memories.


1. Childhood: A two months visit to my maternal house was an imperative element of our school vacation for as long as I can remember. This visit was something my sister and I looked forward to because of the cousins we would get to meet and the extra attention lavished on us by our grand mom. We would be welcomed by the fragrance shed by allamanda, plumeria, ylang ylang and michelia flowers in full bloom. This fragrance would be interspersed with the fragrance from mango flowers, ripening mangoes and jackfruits from around. If this was the top and middle notes, the base note of this heady fragrance was the smell of sweets being in fried in pure homemade ghee wafting from the kitchen. It was this flavourful aroma that told us that we were home.

2. College Days: Back in college, our batch seemed to be the one which had gone on maximum number of out of the ordinary study tours during the three years.  One such tour was an overnight trip to Chimmini Dam and wildlife sanctuary. This trip was quite an exciting one for me as I had mostly done my schooling in the Middle East and being exposed to nature at this grand an extent was a novel experience for me. Additionally, my gang of tomboyish friends were the one eyes kings in the land of blind. So, this trip was definitely an adventure waiting to happen.

We were welcomed with a heavy downpour as soon as we reached the dormitory close to the wildlife sanctuary. The rain had left behind a trail of the smell of dry earth and dampness that just added to the wild beauty of the forest around us. The fragrance formed the backdrop to and evening that saw card games, antakshari, dumb charades and ghost stories told in whispers provide the much needed entertainment.

The next day, we were asked to wake up early for a morning trek into the sanctuary. We walked in groups listening to the guide explaining about the different trees and wild flowers. The rain from previous night had intensified the smells of resin, wild jasmines and wet earth. As we walked along, the guide stopped us and plucked a yellow coloured fruit off a creeper. "This is passion fruit", he explained as he halved and handed it over to us. "Smell it, and see how you like it", he continued.

As it was passed on to me, I took a quick whiff and the aroma hit me quite strongly. The smell was exotic and incomparable to anything I had smelt before. It truly felt like the smell of passion to me. The smell of resin, wild jasmine, wet earth and clear air formed the base and middle notes with the smell of passion fruit became the top note of the unique fragrance. The scent has stayed with me so much so that I have actually planted a passion fruit creeper at home and is eagerly waiting for the first bud to bloom.

3. Teenage years: As I mentioned earlier, I finished my schooling in the Middle East. As customary, we had our school days off on Thursday and Friday as opposed to the traditional Saturday and Sunday. However, my dad had his weekly days off on Friday and Saturday. This meant that when my sister and I got back home from school in the afternoon (school finished by afternoon for us) so that we could have lunch together. During vacations or the extended weekends, my dad would plan on impromptu morning shopping trips into the main city located 45 minutes away. This was quite extraordinary for us kids because most of the shopping is done during evenings in Middle East, owing to the extreme climate during the day times. Most of the people step out when the sun has gone down and the climate has cooled down enough.

 We would be woken up and herded to the bathroom by our mom so that we would hurry up and finish with our morning ablutions and dressed. My mom, already dressed in one of her many saris and wearing her favourite vanilla perfume would make sure that we were transformed from grumpy sleepyheads to chirpy, happy kids all set to go. There would be long conversations about anything but school on our way to the city, the car cool and filled with pine forest smell from the freshener and wafts of vanilla perfume my mother had worn.

The first smell to hit us as we stepped out of the car used to be the salty, musty air that is typical of seaside city. However, the moment we stepped inside the shopping mall, the first smell to welcome us would be the smell of waffle cones being cooked. The sweet, sugary smell would hit us so strongly that we would become immobile, in front of the ice cream counter, to be precise. This was the much required bribe for bearing with the torment of shopping for hours(or so we posed). Once the cones were bought, we would walk behind our parents silently, enjoying the taste of cool ice cream and waffle on our tongues.

The smells of attar, spices and frankincense mingled with that of rolls of fabric would cover us as we would walk through the malls. Dad would always find a specialty restaurant to have lunch at during these trips. He would also take us to gaming zones where we would try our luck at crane redemption game to get the soft toys. At end of the shopping trip, we would buy soft drinks, mostly Coca Cola to quench our thirst. The fizz and bubble and the smell would be enjoyed for a few seconds before large gulps emptied the cups.

The combination of vanilla perfume, waffles cooking, attar and coca cola still reminds me of the happier and simpler times so much so that I have armed myself with vanilla based perfume and a small bottle of attar, to recapture the memories. 

There are so many scents and smells that I can recollect and that would remind me of times, both good and bad. Right now, my favourite scent in the whole wide world is the one I keep inhaling as I hold my baby close to my chest. This, I am sure, will be yet another fragrance I will add to my treasure chest and keep coming back to every now and then, when I am in need of a little nostalgia.


This post was written as a part of Inspire a fragrance blogging contest (http://www.godrejaer.com/) conducted by Godrej in association with Indiblogger. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Human Touch

It is said that absence makes heart grow fonder. That might certainly be the case, but it doesn't save you from the grips of sadness distance from dear ones create. Technology has advanced considerably so that these days being away doesn't truly mean being away. We have mobiles, emails, voice chats, messenger services and social networking sites which has transformed our world into a kind of global village. Mostly, everyone and everything is within our reach any time of the day. 

Yet, there is one thing that all the technological inventions have failed to solve. It is the purely human feelings of despair and longing that is directly proportional to the distance between you and your family and friends. Sure, you don't have to wait for the letter that comes once in two weeks or the garbled voice echoing on the monthly trunk call any more. There aren't post cards, in land letters or cryptic short telegrams that you need to wait for with bated breath. Perfumed letters from lovers, lengthy letters with details of the daily life from moms to sons and notes with little hearts, rainbows and stick figures from grand kids to grandparents are things of past now.

  If you feel homesick, all you need to do is pick up your mobile and wait for your mom to answer your call. If you feel bored, you can hop onto a whatsapp group conversation with your friends group and plan for an outing. If you miss your lover or spouse working elsewhere, there is Skype or Gtalk that will allow you to gaze lovingly at one another while whispering sweet nothings. If you feel lonely, log into Facebook and browse, chat, post and let the world know your thoughts.   You see, we are always connected; always in touch.

The Zenfone contest conducted by Asus Zenfone (http://www.asus.com/campaign/zenfone/IN/) asked me to give my phone a super power. I consider my Smartphone smarter than me most of the time. These phones come equipped to guide you to your destination, suggest a great restaurant to try, review the latest movies and pick up a book and read when bored. But my mobile will possess the much needed human element; the complete use of our five senses.

Agreed, all we need to do is pick up our smart phone to talk to someone. Agreed, we have facetime and Skype app on the smartphones that allow us to have face to face conversations. Yet, when you are homesick though you want to hear your mom's voice; but you'd rather have one of her bear hugs. When you are bored, though  you can hop onto a group conversation, you'd rather sit cross legged and engage in friendly banter. When you miss your spouse, though you can video chat but you'd rather caress his cheek lovingly or hold her hand and give a gentle squeeze while talking.  When you talk to your lover with sound of rain in the background, you want to feel the coolness of those first drops and enjoy the smell of the first rain. You want to be able to enjoy not just the smell of your mom's cooking but enjoy the taste of your favourite curry. You want to not just listen to your lover's sound but feel the touch of his arm holding you close to him.

Having said that, the super power my phone will possess would be the ability to recreate the five senses which would humanise the conversations further. It is this human touch that would allow me to hold my friend's hand even as she sobs out about her heartbreak on a late night call,  allow my parents to hold my daughter when they coo to her on a long distance call and swat my sister lightly as teases me yet another time. 

 A combination of 3D Holographic projection, touch recognition and artificial intelligence would allow my Smartphone to add the senses of smell, taste and touch to my Smartphone's capabilities. This would mean that when I call home to check on my baby, I am not just listening to her cooing over the phone but hugging her close to me while breathing in her baby soft smell . On the much needed call post a fight with my husband, I would be looking into his eyes and not just apologising but giving a reconciling kiss to make things up. If I feel homesick, all I would need to do is dial my parents and receive a quick hug. If I were to ever miss my sister, a phone call would allow me to sit side by side with her and discuss life's quirks with her over steaming cups of strong flavoured coffee.  If my parents would want to meet their grand kid, their Smartphone would do that for them. Even as I look on with amusement, I would see my parents being transformed into little kids as they play with her from a different continent altogether.

With the world around us hurrying by in a mad rush, it is difficult to keep track of time that has passed by. It is not just time but precious moments that are lost as well. Busy dads miss dinners with family, working moms miss the first steps of their babies, friends stuck on a deadline bound project miss the Friday parties, aunts and uncles miss the wedding they looked forward to. But not anymore.

This new Smartphone would allow you to miss none of these beautiful moments that should never be missed. You get to be not just a passing spectator who views the videos and images captured but be a part of the moment. It would allow you to get the taste of panipuris your friend just shared with your holographic image, push back strands of hair from your baby's face, take in the smell of jasmines from your mother's puja room and lean onto your lover's shoulders and gaze into the horizon, irrespective of your location.

Not just that, this Smartphone will always ensure that you don't have to be worried about your sister walking back home all alone. You will never have to choose between an important meeting and a sick child to take care of. You will never have to miss an important lecture because you missed the bus. You will never have to fear that you are alone without any help in sight. Not when you have a Smartphone that will allow you to truly stay connected.


Zen is the state of being in complete and absolute peace. For a human being who stays outside the realms of mysticism and nirvana, this is the state achieved when you know that you and your near ones are safe and happy. And this is precisely what my Smartphone will help achieve. The state of peace and happiness knowing that being present is just a phone call away. 

This post was written as a part of ASUS Zenfone contest (http://www.asus.com/campaign/zenfone/IN/)

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Meal To Remember


A meal worth remembering is what I have been asked to write about as a part of Borosil My Beautiful Food contest. What makes for a beautiful meal, I kept wondering as I thought of the different experiments, successful and otherwise, I had tried out in my kitchen.

Would it be the time I tried to recreate the Pasta Carbonara i had had at a touristy restaurant long time back? Would it be the biryani I had made from scratch, following my mother in law’s recipe? Or would it be all my mom’s recipes that i have tried to recreate but never quite managed to...an important ingredient called mom’s love was missing, you see.

The realization hit me that a perfect meal becomes perfect, not just because of the food but because of the company. The interesting stories, a loving and appreciative gaze, the splutter causing ill timed jokes, gasp at the latest gossip, the sounds of gastronomic nirvana the first bite elicits...these are the herbs when sprinkled lightly brings life to a meal.

There are so many on my list of perfect meal, but I am going to go with the one I had with my friends, Rishi and Lori recently; the one where we celebrated laughter, food and friendship together before I started with my maternity leave.

Before I go on, I have to inform the reader that though the three of us enjoy good food, none of us are we can call expert cooks. We can only call ourselves survivalist cooks; we cook to survive! O when we plan for a girls’ day, we either plan to have pizza or chowmein delivered, or we step out and stop for lunch or dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.

Last time we decided to get together, I announced that we would go on and have a girls’ day in at my place, and I would cook...not just cook but make the best roasted chicken they had ever had. And not to stop at that, but to add to the menu potato salad and an orange cake too. I think I might be a closet masochist.

 I am assuming that it must have been the pregnancy hormones because i wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Rishi and Lori, knowing how pigheaded I can be occasionally, finally agreed to the idea with the condition that they would pitch in and help with the cooking.

Now that the stage was set, i got my husband to pick up the ingredients the previous evening, and promised myself that i will get started first thing in the morning. Of course, the first thing I did the next morning was answer my phone and know that Lori was 45 minutes away from my home.

I went to town with the garlic, trying to de-stress myself with all the chopping. There was butter to be softened, vegetables to be chopped, a whole chicken to be marinated and potatoes to be boiled; And not to forget the cake to be baked for dessert. Let’s not forget the cleaning and dusting which I had pushed down to the end of my to-do list as well.

When my friends walked in forty five minutes later, what they saw was me running as fast as a very pregnant woman can, trying to finish everything I had on my list. Friends being friends, Rishi and Lori jumped in to help me with all the preparation work.

So together we swapped gossips as we softened the butter, we laughed as we marinated the chicken with the mix of herbs, butter and garlic and we ooh-ed and aah-ed about the latest fashion as we chopped the vegetables.

Once everything was arranged, I pulled out my Borosil microwaveable dish and had the vegetables spread out in it. The onions, potatoes and carrots gave the right mix of bright orange, pale purple and light yellow as the backdrop onto which I gently placed my chicken, coated with the smooth buttery, garlicky marinade. Once it was placed in oven, I stationed myself in front of my microwave oven, praying and even secretly bribing all the Gods I knew so that it would turn out fine.

Once done, I had the chicken taken out of the oven in between the ooh’s and aah’s the smell brought about. Rishi and Lori had dropped what they were doing to come and gather around the chicken. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that we almost looked reverent, before breaking into idiotic grins. We had made a roasted chicken....a roasted chicken, all by ourselves.

The chicken, with pale yellow lemon wedges, pale purple onion halves and herbs peeking from the cavity it had been stuffed into. The butter had made the skin brown, crisp and glistening; almost begging to be crunched into. Beneath the browned skin, was the well seasoned and plump succulence waiting to be carved and served. The cooked vegetables, orange, white and mauve of the vegetables beneath the chicken created a vibrant backdrop. The fat released from the chicken had softened the vegetables as well, paling the colour but adding flavour. 

While the chicken had been cooking, we had boiled, peeled and quartered the potatoes for the salad. We had seasoned it with mayonnaise, flecks of garlic, shallot and other condiments. At end of the mixing, the bowl held a creamy combination of golden yellow potatoes mixed with flecks of white, green and mauve.
At the end of an hour and half, we had a plump, brown and succulent roasted chicken and creamy, soft as butter potato salad ready. Patience is a virtue, just not ours, you see...we had been poking and prodding the chicken for quite some time and wasn’t sure whether we could wait till the cake was made before digging in.  
For the sake of a perfect facebook post, we decided that we would wait until the cake was done. Thus began the next round of mixing, whisking and tasting. We measured out the flour and got the recently snowed look pat down for the kitchen counter. We mixed flour, butter, eggs, sugar and orange juice, taking turns to blend all of it until it resembled cake batter. Rishi being the only one with any baking experience, she supervised us all the while to make sure we wouldn’t end up with an orange rock. Once again, I had to go back to my Borosil microwavable dish to bake the cake. 

The house was filled with mouth watering aromas, making it a home which was reminiscent of my home from childhood. As the cake baked, we decided to start with the lunch all of us had spent so long to prepare. We got the food on the table which consisted of baguette cut into diagonal pieces, creamy potato salad resting in the blue ceramic bowl and the chicken, the jewel in the crown resting on the vegetables proudly.  We had the vegetables soaked in chicken’s marinade and fat and the baguette to accompany our meal. The chicken, salad and baguette were accompanied with more gossip and laughter, and washed down with red wine. Well, red wine for them, and orange juice for me, to be precise. 

Once the meal was done, we finished off with a big piece of orange cake just out of oven, its brown crust hard and the inside pale orange and soft.  The warmth of the cake was offset with scoops of cold vanilla ice cream bathed in dark chocolate sauce as we watched a romantic comedy we had found while switching channels. 

We cleared everything post our lunch with a smug smile which if translated would mean “oh yes, we can cook, alright!” It was the first time I had cooked with my friends, and the experience has made us decide that we will do more of such girls’ day in and try out recipes, the tasting at one another’s risk. 

This post has been written as a part of Borosil My Beautiful Food (http://www.myborosil.com/)