Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Art of Annoyance.

Art of annoyance? Really, it is. 

There is always annoyance in the world. She is annoyed at life, he is annoyed because there isn't enough time to finish the to-do list, she is annoyed because things are not falling into place, he is annoyed at how work is and this week most of my neighborhood is upset because it's going to rain on Halloween. As I write this post I am annoyed at how someone is turning the house upside down because someone said something about a project. Which project, who said what? I am not supposed to know, for he says he'll figure it all out. Yes, he will. He has to, I tell myself to let go for he is annoyed too. 

Reasons can be different, but how we deal with annoyance is the same for all of us. 

  • So I take a deep breath.
  • I remind myself that there is nothing I can do unless I am told what the problem is
  • I want to react, but decide against it. Mom wisdom says to just let it go. 
Anger, annoyance call it what you may but they are very interesting emotions.  They bring out the worst in us and yet sometimes from that annoyance stems the most beautiful ideas. Every wondered who made Velcro? How did the idea originate? Google it. 

Two days ago, I was pretty upset with things in general. It was a blah day when not much felt good.  Retail therapy seemed the only option. I fought every urge to go shopping, stepped into my garage and just started at the 6 sets of candles waiting to be painted. Yes, I create in the most uncreative place. I picked up the bright red one, stared at it and kept it back. Instead of picking up the paints, I picked up the broom at started cleaning the garage.  As I aimlessly swept the floor, I mumbled and jumbled to myself, clearly confused and annoyed. Then it happened. A kid in the neighborhood walked by with her grandma. The giggles of that unknown child snapped me out of the boredom trance.  I kept the broom back and went back to stare at the candles. This time I picked up the purple candle and gold paint.  Positioning my hands delicately on the candle, I let the color move, the sinuous strokes stayed small and looked dainty, I had just painted a rose bud.  

This wasn't something I had planned, it just happened.  From annoyance came art that I had never planned for. After that it was pure bliss. Here I am today writing a blog and wondering why I was so annoyed that day. Today it seems so silly.  This is what annoyance is. It's a fleeting feeling at the core, however we as humans make a big deal out of it.  We over process the information, imagine the problems and find solutions to problems that don't even exist. 

Before you start marveling at how brilliant I am, please make note that this wisdom is not age old. I am guilty of complaining or being annoyed at life for most of 2014.  It has taken me a very long time to accept some moments, but I think I have finally conquered the feeling and lately I proved it to myself by forgiving and moving on. 

Moving on is the key. It is a very hard thing to do, but yet is the key. The moment that has passed cannot come back or be changed, so why do we hold on to it so tightly? Why do we fail to recognize the magic of present and the hope of future? Why do we despair?  I don't have answers to all these questions, the only thing I have learnt in over four decades on this planet is that the key to most problems is better communication.  

We all need a confidante, someone we can vent out at. It can be friend, a sibling, a spouse, a parent, a diary or maybe a blog :)  

Just as we all learn differently, we all talk differently too. Some of us prefer to talk with words, some talk by exercising, some talk with gardening and some of us talk with art.  Let it be YOUR medium of choice but find that one medium. This medium will release you from the most unpleasant situations and take you to calmer and peaceful places.  

This medium will take your annoyance and create a poem, a flat belly, a blooming garden or a beautiful candle.  

It is called the Art of Annoyance.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Happy Diwali.

Smile a little, it's Diwali. 
Forget your sorrows, it's Diwali. 
Forgive, it's Diwali. 
You may or may not get a second chance, 
Celebrate, it's Diwali. 

The word Diwali conjures up the memory of lighting 100 diyas every year. My brother and I climbed roof tops and strategically placed the diyas. It had to be a total of 100. Why? No body knows, it was just one of those teenage fancies I had and my parents graciously obliged. Then we patiently waited for dusk, filled up the diya's with oil, added the wicks and lighted them. I remember running out onto the road, standing far back and admiring the labor of hard work and love. What took 3 hours to set up, lasted for but an hour and on a windy day, maybe a few minutes. Yet the effort seemed totally worth it.  Such is the magic of Diwali. It brings about a transformation unlike any festival in India, and India has a lot of them.  

Diwali, to me was never the religious holiday. Yes, there is a story behind it, but then that's what it is, a tale. I don't necessarily wear new clothes or buy new clothes. I don't necessarily make the umpteen dishes my mom used to make. I don't necessarily follow the auspicious time announced by the priests, and yet the magic of Diwali thrives. 

The magic of Diwali comes from reminiscing the carefree years of lighting diyas, jumping and dodging the sparkles from the Chakri and about all the love and laughter that echoed on every street, every corner and every home. The deafening silence of Diwali fireworks and diyas, the calorie watching and simultaneous eating of deserts, the helping hand of a stranger and the arrival of cousins from lands faraway is the magic of Diwali. 

Today, I sit miles away preserving my memories. The house sleeps and I huddle in my corner realizing that Diwali to me is about celebrating my cared for past, content present and looking forward to future. 

Diwali is about celebrating my roots.   

Wishing You and Yours a Very Happy Diwali and an amazing New Year ahead! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In My Kitchen...

In my kitchen, there are no recipes. 

Cooking for some is a chore with a sink full of dishes to clean, for some it is microwaving a pre-made meal and for some of us it is an art. I fall in the last category. A self proclaimed artist at soul, cooking is an art for me. I do believe that we eat with our eyes.

Art never followed any rules. The same holds true for my kitchen. There are no rules or recipes followed here. Yes, I do have a collection of cookbooks only because I love browsing through the vibrant colors and the brilliant plating.

Do you know that person who always chooses to bring drinks to a party because they don't cook? Ever wondered, how they survive without cooking? I do. For most it is the fear of "what if." 

I was 12 years old when I made my first dish; "Baigan ka Bharta." For my western world friends, it is roasted eggplant, mashed up and seasoned with carmelized onions, tomatoes, salt, cayenne pepper, a dash of garam masala and tons of cilantro.  The one thing that dish is not supposed to have is "turmeric," and that's exactly what I added.  My Nani said, "you never put turmeric in Bharta." Of course I knew that, but the damage was done. So I quipped.. really, I don't know Mom always puts it...LOL. Blame it on Mom, that's what 12 year olds do anyway.  

What if I add more salt than needed, what if it doesn't taste that good? These and more are kitchen fear factors. My answer, so what. So what if there is more salt, you can always add more stock or vegetables to tone it down. So what if it doesn't taste perfect, a pickle on the side or a chutney on the top takes away the imperfections to make a dish that is uniquely perfectly you.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. 
In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
                                                                                                         ― Julia Child

Throw out the what if's and bring in the so what's is the key to making cooking fun.

What does cooking mean to you? 

Cooking is a therapeutic for me.  It's a stress buster, an escape from the world. Back in the olden days, serving restaurant food was a luxury, today serving a simple home cooked meal to your friends and family is a luxury.  I am proud to say, be it a single family dinner or a multi-family holiday dinner, It's only home cooked food in my home. Yes, I have been told I am crazy for making everything from scratch, but then its craziness in a good way.

Cooking is satisfying.  My family gets treated to an a la carte menu every nite.  As long as I have their requests in by 5.00pm, I can give them food of choice. When my son was little, I learned the hard way that food cannot be forced down a throat. It has to be relished and enjoyed, only then does it bring in the benefits of healthy and nutrient rich growing, and so started the tradition of a la carte menu. Crazy again, yes.. but the joy of seeing my kids enjoying their food and licking their fingers makes it worth the effort.

It may seem like a lot of effort, but its not. A friend once told me, "you make us working women feel guilty." I told her, "I also have only 24 hours like you do, so don't feel guilty."  All it really takes is a well stocked pantry and some imagination.  I usually never plan a weeks worth of menu or grocery list. I buy what my eyes take fancy too and then when its dinner time, I open the refrigerator and make it work.  Over the years, I have some staples in my pantry and these staples make it all so easy. Trader Joes Red Pepper Spread is one such staple.  This little jar is magic.

A hearty delicious vegetable soup.
Every so often when I open the refrigerator there are ten different containers with left over food. What does one do? For instance, recently had lots of spinach dip and my favorite plain simple vegetable soup left over. I could have done sandwiches with the dip but the soup would still be the same. So instead, took the dip and made it into a cream of spinach soup AND took the soup, added some rice with a dash of some more spices and it made a scrumptious pulao. A completely new menu with the left overs. Yes, there is something about the upbeat jubilant homemaker in all this, but it is also very liberating to see an experiment come alive

Cooking is also love.  My daughter always wants to know what the secret ingredient is. My answer has been consistent; It's love.

So next time you are having a tired day, a blah day or a celebration day; step into your kitchen, take a look at your pantry, open the refrigerator and just stare at it for a few minutes. I am sure you will cook the most amazing meal your family ever had.

What did you say? You want a recipe.. free yourself of recipes. Through this space, I'll show you how.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

To Barbie or Not?

Barbie, it's just a doll.  You know it, I know it, We know it and yet we worry. Why? Why do we take an adult logic and perceptions and apply it to a toy designed for little girls.  

We, the women are intelligent. We know that no matter how hard we try, it is humanly impossible to have her phyisque. That perfect neck, the toes pointed out and heels that never touch the ground.. come on, it would take the act of god even for the most accomplished plastic surgeon to give that to a woman.  

We, the women sneer at those other women who buy Barbies for their daughter. We talk about how Barbie single handedly lowers and demeans our very existence and yet we crave for those flat abs and put ourselves to the mercy of green juices and detoxifications. 

We undercover the muffin tops only to whisper a hush hush wish for the perfect curve. The long tresses, the flaunting stride and the perfect twirl; yes we have always admired them, but when a doll does it, we scorn and despise. 

We who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, fire-fighters, astronauts, nurses, pilots, police-women, fitness experts, chefs, dentists, fashion designers and so much more choose to shun a doll and probably the only doll that has 150 careers on her resume allowing little girls to imagine and be anything they want to be. 

We the women choose to focus our attention on a plastic doll's over sized boobs and thin waistline and ignore the fact that the doll has embraced all the traditional male dominated careers and broken the plastic ceiling before the real woman did and then we stretch our vocal chords on how biased the corporate world is towards women and how under represented girls are in STEM based careers.  

Come on ladies, be serious. Do you really think a 4-5 year old focuses on the anatomy of a doll or the fact that her doll is the perfect companion to be anything that she wants to be?  Dolls don't create women who are anorexic, it is us and the world around us.  

Think about it, when we the women say that Barbie is ruining the self esteem of girls, aren't we are undermining the female intelligence? Don't you think your daughter is smart enough to know that Barbie is a doll and not a real human being?  Unrealistic beauty images are all around us, starting from your own friend circle. Come on be honest, I am sure you know her; the one who starves and sweats daily just to slide into THE dress and then waits for the likes and comments to flow in. 

Barbie is the least of our worries. We need to worry about ourselves, the women. 

If your daughter likes pink, let her wear it. If she wants a twirly skirt, buy her one. If she wants a birthday with all the glittery stuff, give her that birthday and celebrate with her. 

Allow her the freedom of being comfortable being a girl. Nature gave her the curves and the dainty look. Grant your daughter the permission to be demure. When she's ready she will adorn THE lab coat with pride and ease.