Saturday, January 28, 2012

my workspace is my entire home, 
but, my haven is my kitchen
 because the kids and dog are not allowed.
 my venting space, my calming zone and my dumping ground.
changing, evolving along with me.

let go


a bright morning


Sunday morning tea

to think
window dressing changes

part of every celebration and after

before he started school, he was my little helper

trh - kitchen
lots of light every season

"unless one decorates one's house for oneself alone, best leave it bare, for other people are walleyed".
where it all began

Friday, January 27, 2012

being the domestic Goddess

so, this is what an intervention looks like, i lamented. the tv remote was lost. lost, in this itsy-bitsy apartment and try as i might i could not locate it. neither could the husband. the blackster could not have eaten the whole thing, definitely not in less than two hours.

then, where could it have gone, i thought, looking around my house in disarray. complete disarray! not just because of the 'search.' back in the last week of last year, my domestic helps's husband pass├ęd away and she left the city. 

luckily, the lady coming in to make chapattis for the evening does the dishes. but, despite all that i did, i had nothing in control. i felt ragged with the labour of vacuuming, swabbing floors, windows and fans, sorting and folding laundry, which on most days were the lady's prerogative. clearly, i am at my best while delegating. 

in a household with two children, a dog, a parrot that is brought in the house thrice a week and an inefficient lady (that would be me) in charge, keeping up with the chores was a daunting and almost impossible task. but, more scary was the question, where to start?

trh - domestic goddess

and, like the modern woman of this generation, i googled. but, sieving through all that massive load of information made my head reel. but, start i had to, and have things in control as soon as i can. the husband's frown would very soon erupt into something really bad. focus, focus, focus!

the one thing i didn't have. i was like a kid with ADHD at my tasks. finish the task you're at. finish it. put away and clean up as you go became my mantra for the day. all i did for two-three days was complete the chores i did. make tea, wash saucepan, put away strainer, wipe counter... then, sit and sip. for every task.

it did little to cut down my workload but did not add anything either. the huge task now seemed doable. another word, repeated ad nauseam, in the organizing blogs i read added meaning to my life. schedule - from which sprouts routine and discipline. and, since i am hardly a diva in the kitchen, the first thing i got done was a menu plan for the week.

with that the grocery lists, vegetable shopping and kitchen were almost sorted. almost because, skipping one day was the unravelling of more than a few days of work. have improvised now to make double the portions and freeze. baking has to be fit in, somehow. first, let''s get the house in order!

a note to self...

now, i could not rid myself off the habit of delegation, i found easy prey. till now, all they had to do was put away their toys and shoes. everything els,e super-mom (behind whom was super-duper cleaning lady) did. they are now capable of putting soiled clothes in laundry basket, the daughter has learned to pack her bags according to the day's time table and they both shower by themselves on alternate days.

after both kids left for school by eight in the morning, i was left redundant for the day. i stopped sleep-walking only about noon. i am trying hard (still) to incorporate vacuuming before breakfast and before i am all pooped. light work like watering the plants, some lunch prep, making beds, sorting and folding laundry... simple, simple, simple, is all i can manage at this time.

and, then, suddenly its like i am on auto-pilot. lunch gets ready, pick up kid 2 from school busstop, feed him, mop floor, grab a bite, pick up kid 1, feed her, dinner prep till the evening help comes in. she takes over the kitchen while i get the washing machine running, iron uniforms for the next day and then, take on homework head on, with very little on the mind.

since said remote was still missing, i had only the net for entertainment and research i did. i already had  the first step of the flylady nailed when both kids started school. but, i also discovered that every third surface in my house was a hotspot for clutter. again, the flylady had me believing her at point 11 :).

dec pala 020

following her 'shiny-sink-rule,' i have designated a hub, a pretty surface in every room. so, the dining table in the dining cum living room, the bed in our bedroom, the window seat in the kid's bedroom and the work counter by the kitchen window have to be clean, pretty and ordered at all times. that is the rule, though, i have ways of bending it.

the system is slowly beginning to work smoothly. there are more days when i have zero control over things than days where things seem to fall into place. in every corner, i find potential to optimize space and find something, sometimes more, to throw. really, how she crammed all our stuff neatly in this little box of ours, i'll never really know, our morning help.

soon, maybe next month, i'll start the in-depth cleaning of every nook and corner. till then, am discovering my limits, exceeding my expectations sometimes and everyday my respect for the homemakers who do it all by themselves and the working women who have to come home and start another job all over again increases by bounds.

dec pala 012

it would have been easier to hire another domestic help, but, for the fact that all ladies are scared of the blackster :(

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

a winter afternoon

my body racked with cough, my head throbbed. the mind wanted nothing, but, my tongue craved something sour, ekdum chatpata. add to that, 'mouna ragam,' my favourite-est tamil romantic movie was playing on one of the channels. this craving for the sour will be my downfall, i thought, sipping my cup of ginger tea, sighing in the momentary relief to my throat.

movie over by ten am, breakfast had and cleared, the long hours of weekly power cut loomed ahead. of course, the blackster must bark all the time someone sets foot on our floor. the quiet was now beginning to jar and bring on more coughing fits. the craving refused to subside. i did not have it in me to go out for pani puri.


i couldn't help but smile at how my seven-year-old daughter was a pro at eating pani puri. and, the meetha chutney is for wimpy kids! my fiery girl likes her plate with a bowl of the theekha pani. a Sunday ritual most weeks, sharing plates of pani puri after tae kwon do class.

that reminds me, last week, S told me she wanted to eat vada pav. i was ecstatic... but, she wanted the ones that children in her school bus ate to curb hunger pangs on the way back home. reminded me of the insane cravings and mind-blowing taste of the bread pakodas and imli chutney in my school days. fine, i said, ask how much it costs. one, two, three, four, five, six rupees, she said. the next day, she bought me half of her vada pav, telling me she knew how much i liked these things. though, i think, the taste did not meet her expectations ;)


oh well, these thoughts were making my cravings worse. i wanted to, i needed to relllish something real bad, real fast. instant flashback to bus stop two-three days ago followed, the tastebuds already playing havoc with the brain circuits! the friend from Jharkhand had shared am easy-peasy recipe for tomato chutney that she said would keep in the fridge for weeks.

let about a teaspoon full of cumin seeds sputter and smell wonderful in some heated ghee or clarified butter. put in coarsely chopped tomatoes and cook covered till the oil separates. add jaggery to taste and some red chilli powder, if you so want. let it all cook and simmer, with an occasional stir, till it is reduced to a jam-like consistency. add one crushed cardamom, stir it one more time. there, its done.


now, this cough and raspy throat and blah-some mood and all, i felt the need for some more punch. like it didn't hit me at the back of the throat very well. all i could rummage and fish out in my teeny pantry was sesame oil. a swirl of it in the chutney added a smoky flavor and a kick that reached right to the nose.

not only that, i felt tons better. cooking without exact measurements, adding according to the taste and smells, was almost meditative. i should do this often, i thought. no, not cooking up a storm without a printed recipe or proportions... don't be scared, am not that foolhardy. but, cooking in the quiet. without the drone and exclamations of the news channels, or the background music of the cheesy serials, or the medley of songs belted out in the new Sony Mix channel. cooking with my thoughts. right!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

R.I.P  dear, dear cup. 

you have been with me for a little over four years. 

that is like half my married life!

your pain

what's the fuss about?

my reward




the drama queen emerges :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

i thought about this long. my first memory of omelets is opening the Indian Railways breakfast packet. i loved them better than the poori-aaloo breakfast. it is still vividly clear, how aromas wafted and met in the railway coach, making hunger pangs rumble in time to the clickety-clack of the train. how we would wait  for the man from the catering van and clear away the books, newspapers and puzzles on our berths...

    and, then, i have to skip almost a generation to my college days. the time i spent five years in a vegetarian hostel. egg curry on wednesdays and chicken curry on Sundays. i am not joking, but, i have dreamt of eggs fried sunny-side-up in the night. for real.


    there used to be an omelet and fish-fry stand that opened at night across the street from our hostel. those were the days when cell phones were as large as cordless phones and rarely seen. we used to scream our orders to the omelet wala from the corner most room on the first floor. sadly, the warden headquarters were also on the first floor, so theses antics did not last long.

    his omelet had none of the frills. he beat the eggs in a steel tumbler, added finely diced onions, green chillies, salt, pepper and fresh green coriander. they arrived in the hands of the hostel watchman, wrapped in small squares of banana leaves and newspaper. made us feel like princesses. these hot and aromatic omelets costing Rs 4. though, i wonder why we ordered at all. we'd just gobble our rice, watery dal and bhaji and save the omelet for last.


    in the last year of college, we moved to our new house in the middle of a rubber estate. we city-bred people were pleasantly surprised to find mushrooms spring up and abound after a thunder storm. no kidding. there were streams of white amidst the jungle greens and fallen leaves the morning after.

    a prized and long-awaited delicacy, mom would peel and slice the milky-white mushrooms and freeze them after blanching them in turmeric and salt water. this is what was left after giving and sharing with neighbors and relatives living nearby. and, she would put these mushrooms in the after-church omelets on Sundays.


    it used to feel like the mass will never end on Sundays then, what with the long sermon and someone always wanting to have a word with the parents after it. now, i love to go Sunday mass because i get to meet so many people once every few years. 

    little kids in frocks have grown into lanky, self-conscious teenagers. the teenagers are married or working, suddenly very proper and grown-up when they come to talk to you. the folks aging, changing ever so slightly, but, still eager to meet the one among them who has returned for a little time. her growth, her children.

    the mushroom omelet ritual continues for the adults. my kids prefer their daily morning staple of idli-sambhar. i relish my Sunday breakfast of years ago. and, always with an extra cup of tea. all the more so because someone else is brewing it for me :)


this omelet i made because i thought i'd die of hunger at around 10.40 am this morning.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

keep calm,
drink tea
and, carry on :)

dec pala 021

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday mornings

have a sense of freedom. five days of controlled, disciplined mornings, lunch boxes, calming tantrums, making school sound like a fun place, over and over again. by the time, i've waved at the second school bus till it turns the corner, all i want to do is do 'nothing.' hence, hot, straight from the kadhai (wok) vada pav from the stall a short walk away for breakfast.

Friday breakfast

ginger tea with potato slices fried in batter

green chillies deep fried and sprinkled with salt

waiting to be filled

right about where i stand

usually, i am craving school by Saturday lunch!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

another year

filled with promise, the excitement of a beginning. so many things to start anew. so many ways to improve and so many plans. at the end of every year, almost everyone is bubbling with positive energy, hope and happiness.

but, this is the time when my pessimist self raised its head, teasing me about the resolutions made, broken and sometimes forgotten! then, that lazy self of mine, yawned and joined in reminding me of the effort of thinking up resolutions, the huge will power needed to get by each day and that thing always, always out of my grasp. yeah, perseverance!

and, then, self-realisation spoke wisely, into my heart. you shut yourself too much, she said. it is true, i thought, i wait for those extra-ordinary things to happen and get blind to the beauty and grace around me, because it wears the guise of the ordinary, the mundane.

dec pala 007

be open. accept. take in. revel. or grin/grimace and bear it. as the case may be. fill myself with things happening around me and to me. laugh unconsciously. cry fully. get pleasantly surprised. be caught in the moment. 

when most of my days closely resemble each other, days, months and years don't matter a lot. moments and people do. and, i want to be empty, so i can be fulfilled.

have a lovely, abundant and peace filled year ahead, dear wonderful people.