Monday, December 29, 2008

Holidaying, our style

Spent Christmas in Washington DC. Rented a black Chevrolet-Cobalt and started out at 7 am sharp, Christmas Day, at daybreak. Reached Somerset uneventfully half-an-hour later. When we next took off, it was a full house (passengerwise and luggagewise !). Stopped for breakfast about an hour later, where the boys (Sabya Da and K) had coffee and cookies while Moumita & I settled for just the food part. Unexpectedly cheerful weather with lots of sunshine, a blue sky (a rare event nowadays) and beautiful cloud patterns high up above, looking like a customised ceiling. Quite a few toll booths and phone-calls-back-home-along-the-way (Moumita with Chaitali Di and us with the folks all assembled at Papi's place for the annual Christmas bash), drove into the parking lot of the Greenbelt, Maryland Holiday Inn, where we had one night's reservation. The usual ruckus centred on check-in time officially being an hour later at noon and our ( the boys' actually, we were busy checking out the Christmas decorations in the lobby and snapping away to glory) determination to pre-pone our entry, by hook or by crook.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Acorn Squash

Was a bit adventurous last time we did the grocery and bought an acorn squash. It looks eerily similar to a pumpkin but the very fact that it belongs to the squash family made me wonder whether I shouldn't cook it in the doodh-lau/doodh-jhinge fashion. Searched the net for recipes only to discover the immense versatility of the vegetable. It can be be made into a stew, a soup, a curry, a non-veg accessory and so on and so forth. Its 'velvety and buttery taste' however manifested itself in the best way possible once I had taken the risk of cooking it in the pepe ghonto manner. It proved to be a resounding success. Which was a big blessing, considering the trouble K and I had incurred in the mere cutting and peeling the vegetable. The rind had been too tough for the average peeler while our desperate dashes and spirited flourishes with the knife would have put even the most seasoned fencer to shame. The interior again was a mellow orange-yellow and couldn't have been told apart from that of a pumpkin. After the cooking was complete, we realised there was even a beautiful fragrance to the steamed vegetable. But our pre-cooking struggles would probably discourage us from a repeat experience of the same, however wonderful the end result turned out to be.

This is the description of the vegetable that I found in a website, in case any of you would like to know more :

Acorn Squash - Easily found in supermarkets. As its name suggests, this winter squash is shaped like an acorn. It's easy to slice into halves and fill with butter. A small acorn squash weighs from 1 to 3 pounds, and has sweet, slightly fibrous flesh. Its distinct ribs run the length of its hard, blackish-green or golden-yellow skin. In addition to the dark green acorn, there are now golden and multi-colored varieties. Select acorn squash with as much green on the rind as possible. Available year round.
I don't think I agree with the 'it's easy to slice into halves' part. The rest is ok.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rising costs and real fun

Brookside Gardens has decided to introduce separate heat inflow and water outflow meters in each of our apartments. This means that they have very considerately decided to not increase the monthly rent for the following year but burden us with excess expenses instead, depending on how hot/cold a climate we'd rather live in and how wisely we'd be utilising one of the world's most precious natural resources. They cite increasing utility costs on their front as justification. Rubbish. All they want to make is more money out of their tenants. But they do reserve the right to introduce new and alter old clauses in our 13-month apartment lease (why on earth did we agree on such a long one !) and so all we can do is grumble and sulk. And of course shell out more money at the end of each month. Damn.

Anyway, thanks to the notice we received from them informing us of little or no water availability from 8am to 6pm from the 10th to the 16th, we had to reschedule our daily routine, getting up at a painfully early 7 am and going to bed with babies at 10 pm. Hummmmph. It also meant doing bizarre things like taking a bath at 7.10 am, going back to bed at 8.30 am (after K left for office) and filling all available juice bottles and the bath to the brim with storage water for emergencies. No wonder I wasn't in the creative mood for quite a few days. The most annoying bit was that the plumbing lot (doing the water meter set-up) decided to turn up on the very last of the allotted days. Naturally, just my luck. The good part was that K had come home around lunch, feeling feverish. So I could take a nap while he supervised the maintenance guys. Not that they seemed to be waiting to take orders, trampling all over our freshly vacuumed floors and carpet in the very shoes they must have traversed numerous restrooms in. Eww. Gross. I think I'll do another round of vacuuming before we return the apparatus to the Shindes.

Returning to the former weekend. Friday evening was spent at Walmart, where we bought new beige-grey floor mats for the car besides a small pack of 200 buttons (in every shade you can think of) and a set of 24 spools of thread (rainbow hues) and three needles, each of the two costing just 88 cents. Also did some gift shopping, consisting of a beautiful set of bath toiletries in lavender (my favourite fragrance) for Moumita's b'day (long overdue, as it had been on 27th Nov) and a make up accessories set for Mitu. K had developed a crick at the waist (God knows how he managed so much activity at office) and was groaning and moaning in pain, but was extremely generous and waited for me on a seat in the ladies' shoes section while I tried on some of the cuts that appealed to me. My sincere efforts to discourage him, saying that it wasn't an emergency purchase, gave way before he insistence. I suppose he too (like me) is tired of seeing me wear everything (trousers and jeans at the moment) with a single pair of white sneakers. I was so glad that there are so many beautiful designs in my own size. It is tough to find any decent design in my own size in any good shoe shop in India. I always end up frustrated, hurling expletives at the genetic map that has endowed me with my big feet. After trying on three new cuts in my favourite neutrals (grey, beige grey and navy), we decided to look in the boots section. I love boots but don't want to buy something that won't be of much practical utility in the tropical climate when we return (oh, don't worry, my shoes do take a long time to wear out) and so, K and I hunted for something that would fall somewhere between an ankle boot and a pump. We found the perfect pair in a beautiful dark tan. The name of the model is 'Shani' (bizarre, to say the least) and it's a (gasp) size 11. Well, 10 was a wee bit tight and so I decided to not take chances. Here it is :

I helped K with dinner preparations after we finally arrived home. K did an excellent chicken curry (attested to by the currently much commented on photo of K in my orkut album) and we had rice instead of ruti while watching 'Major Saab'. Aaaah, nothing as good as our traditional mangsho bhaat.

Spent the entire Sat morning helping K to vacuum the place with the help of the Shindes' vacuum cleaner, which is weirdly different from the Eureka Forbes vacuum cleaner I've been used to all my life. The latter was a compact horizontal apparatus in a dirty chrome yellow and beige and I was glad that it was Baba who did the vacuuming most of the time, since I have a colour fetish and can't function when objects and accessories around me aren't my colour. Mamoni has got the hang of it by now but the rest of the world probably hasn't. It's a skeleton in my cupboard, if you will. But let's not meander. The Shindes' machine is vertically structured and an understated red and black (photo below). No wonder I was disappointed that I wasn' t the person allowed to do the vacuuming (to be honest, I was talking nineteen to the dozen with Titai and didn't even notice that K had begun !). But I did at least prove useful with moving things around and re-placing them after K was done with the whishing and whooshing. We both felt rejuvenated after the whole process, believe me, for some obscure reason, it actually felt cathartic.

Took a short nap after watching half of 'Dhonyi Meye' on the laptop while blowdrying our hair (did it for K too, who was amazed at all the extra hair he seemed to have developed at the end of the session, provoking much mirth in me). Had to go to Walgreens around 6.30 pm to replace a large plastic container that used to do double duty as the flour bowl and the marinade tray. Found one slightly smaller but almost a replica of the former. Then did a tour of the locality, taking photos of Christmas decorations for the folks at home. Almost froze to death at Adamsville, where my passion for photography took precedence over my sense of numb fingers and a bare head. An early dinner with shorshe begun followed by the online form submission for my EAD did wonders in warming up the body and cheering the spirit.

Sunday morning, following breakfast, was a mad scramble to complete preparations for the cooking of lunch (K did all the cooking eventually, helped by my cutting and washing and getting the ingredients ready) amidst Skype-chatting with Ma-Baba-Mitu, giving them a virtual tour of the entire apartment via webcam and feeding instructions to the GPS for our afternoon destination, the Regal Commerce Center 18 in North Brunswick. We managed to turn up late for the 2.20pm show, thanks to my misreading GPS instructions and consequently missing turns at two consecutive points (it was my first day after all) but luckily made it with enough time in hand for the 2.55 pm (which thank goodness, also offered low ticket prices at $8 each).

'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi' being a Hindi film, one can make a good guess at the nature of the audience that day. They turned up in true desi style, late, the fat people armed with more fat (disguised as popcorn and colas) treading on exposed toes at the last moment and sharing the most eventful details of their rock-star lives into the opening credits for a good 5-7 mins. Until King Khan appeared. Then there was pindrop silence. As if someone had just silently ordered everyone to stand at attention.

It was a totally-feel-good knockout slick commercial package that clicked. Quality acting, excellent Salim-Suleiman music, a fresh female face with a figure-to-die-for and that surpassed by her being a miracle of a model who could act and act well too, at that. Kajol (a classic, gasp, wow, with still that figure !)-Bipasha (understated and charming)-Lara (sultry seductress)- Preity (pretty-as-a-picture)-Rani (disco diva) guest appearances, witty dialogues, a strong sidekick in the form of Vinay Pathak (capitalising on the critical appreciation of 'Dasvidaniyan') bringing the house down with a paisa vasool Bobby-the-faithful-hairdresser-friend-with-outrageous-hair-and-role, colourful cinematography and a simple plot with excellent handling did wonders for us all. Down to the toddler who insisted on changing his seat at the climax and forcing his poor harassed father to sit on the stairs between the aisles and watch the last few minutes there with him. The four of us (esp Moumita and I) laughed helplessly throughout and I cried twice, which means that it was a hit for me, at least. That included crying at the sight of the Golden Temple and the beautiful natural landscapes of Punjab, which all of a sudden aroused an intense sense of nostalgia within me. If it wasn't due to Moumita's wonderful collection of snacks (including a deliciously fluffy homemade cake and scrumptious kima patties), I might have been a soggy heap of tissues at the end of the day. However I cheered up enough to negotiate GPS directions more successfully this time, reach home by 8pm and turn in by 11 pm after watching the rest of 'Dhonyi Meye', which proved great fun. K had enjoyed it enough to voluntarily call up Sushmit and give him his impression of the entire experience. We are already making plans for a Christmas excursion with the Maitis. The only unpleasant part was K's persistent complaints of feverishness, which did actually result in his feeling queasy enough to work from home half of Mon and the entire Tue.

P.S : This is for the dance-challenged, who like me, just can't get enough of the song 'Dance Pe Chance'. With lyrics like these (and a dance instructor like Anoushka for the guys), we too might possibly have the chance to achieve stardom !

West to West, on the East

This made fun reading, so I give you the link. Interesting that such perceptions do prevail among our parents' generation. One hopes our generation would definitely have a different take on this !

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just wondering...

I always thought your best friend could be your best critic as well. That means, the BF is privileged enough to tell you all the things you would detest hearing about yourself from other people but which nevertheless happen to be true. And the BF always gets away with the diatribe of character-analysis (more like assassination, initially, to the person who's at the receiving end) because the 'victim' knows that the BF is a BF because he or she wishes and means the best for him or her.

So now, if your BF does something nasty and hurtful to another friend of yours, would it estrange you forever from him or her if you confronted him or her with the enormity of his or her action? And if you are scared to do so, would you really be a BF ?

It's an issue I'm reflecting on right now. And a related one, namely : 'Customising Ethics to Suit Yourself'.

N.B : I personally think I'd prefer honesty to cordiality or politeness or whatever it is that keeps you from speaking out. More so if I'm anyone's BF.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Time to think and act...

I found the first link on Sunayana's blog and found it impressive enough to re-use it on my own. Here it is.

And this is another video that arrested my attention during its circulation throughout orkut. I was moved to tears and have ever since been making serious efforts in everyday life to do my own little part in preserving the earth's depleting resources.


No, this is not about terrorist attacks in Mumbai. It's about my fortifying my wardrobe with suitable stuff to ward off the winter. K teasingly calls me a 'guti poka' during this season. For the non-Bangalis, that translates as the silkworm, a street-smart insect species which retreats into hibernation during unfavorable points and emerges much later, when the scenario looks better and less bleak. This is the coat in which I've already braved an entire evening of persistent snowfall on Saturday and thanks to it, actually managed to find the whole experience enjoyable !

Friday, December 05, 2008

Making an effort...

Have finally taken Barnali's advice and emailed a couple of poems to a couple of e-magazines of a good standard and reputation. Have also mustered enough courage to send a photograph I took to another e-magazine of a slightly more multifaceted nature. Am keeping my fingers crossed.

Tried my own version of rajma yesterday night as K was dead tired, having had a long day at work. It didn't taste as good as the one K prepares, more so as I decided to experiment with it, leaving the methi out at the end. I think I'll leave this particular dish to K, in future.

We've been watching 'Oye Lucky Lucky Oye' in instalments (we are so lazy, OMG) over the past two days. Couldn't care less whether it turns out to be a hit or a flop. It's racy and ridiculous and roaring fun. Am loving it !

Am reading Coetzee's 'Slow Man'. I have a bit of trouble concentrating when a concrete plot goes abstract, but then, having read 'Foe' during my MA has managed not to totally unnerve me. Plan to finish it soon. Hope it ends as brilliantly as the other novel did. I remember having been impressed enough to churn out an appreciably large term paper on 'Foe' for our PoCo classes. I must have been really inspired, now that I think about it.

A huge heap of weekly shopping illustrateds await my inspection. This time, there's also a Holiday Gifts Special booklet from Walmart. I guess their Christmas is equivalent to our Durga Pujo. In terms of meaningfulness, I mean. I just realised my vocabulary is getting limited. Must catch up on my reading. The more you read, the better you write, I've always noticed.

Jhinuk has written a funny post on Srinwanti's orkut-related problems on our group blog. Had fun reading it. To think Srin hadn't know so long how to change her profile photo when we people have been vain enough to change ours several times in a week itself. Come on Srin, all you need is just ask ! LOL.

Have been GTalking with Ma and Mitu for the third day in a row now. Am on top of the world. Nothing like family gossip to cheer you up when you're alone at home.

Took some new photos of this place (home) and uploaded them on orkut (where else? !). They look much better, now that (1) we have a few more things to fill up the rooms and (2)I had the intelligence to use the flash.

Rony-Tanima and Pintu have finally been able to see both the photos and videos of Siddhant that we took during our recent trip to Atlanta. Picasa seems to have introduced a new set of options in terms of album accessibility. Well, at least they made sense to me. What with the new Gmail themes, introduction of video chat by Google and now this, I love the very name of Google. Oh, and I even managed to locate our block in Salt Lake in Google Maps. The place has finally received its due in the virtual world. Hurrah !

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Before I leave...

Yesterday we completed watching the last instalment of Dasvidaniya. I have been thinking ever since about my wish list. So many things that I should have to do in order to settle my accounts in case I need to leave before time. I certainly won't be able to limit my list to a mere 10 things, unlike Amar Kaul. So many debts to own up to, so many apologies to acknowledge, so many moments to rewind to and re-create. To learn Spanish. To learn salsa. To publish an anthology. To become a Rabindrasangeet singer. To complete reading the entire Agatha Christie collection. To have a child of my own. To resolve my parents' conflicts forever. To listen to all the secret sorrows Mitu (my sibling) has been piling up against the world and would only care to share with me. To take my mother on a long holiday to some beach. To confess to Baba the tears I've secretly shed every time I've argued with him. To tell Brinda, Sanjukta, Sohini, Sharmistha, Shobhana, Indranil, Rashi, Pooja, Tua, Ayantika, Shonali, Swarnadeep, Nilanjana, Debarati, Barnali and Moumita how they have all somehow contributed to making me a better person. To tell Bubun/Angshuman (my cousin) what a difference his mere presence or absence can make in my life. To tell K what he means to me. To just let life know how much I enjoyed the warmth of its embrace.

I think I'd better get down to it before it's too late.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

To Rashi, With Love...

The Art Of A Good Marriage

Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow old.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.

Wilferd Arlan Peterson


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