Amber of this moment

I’ve been contemplating a third tattoo on the side of my left wrist. I’m torn between “Courage, dear heart” from Narnia and “So it goes” from Slaughterhouse Five. It’s a little out there given that my profession expects me to be free of visible tattoos, but I think I look sufficiently serious and professional to slip in a bit of indiscretion. Like that partner with an enviable ponytail and that other partner with a glorious handlebar moustache. While the Narnia obsession has been around for a while (on that topic, you should read this Hindu and Biblical interpretation of the themes in Narnia) , I read Slaughterhouse Five only last evening. Started at the first page and kept at it till I finished the book. My first Kurt Vonnegut book, by the way. I forgot to close my window at 6pm and killed a number of trespassing mosquitoes, afterwards. So it goes.

“The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.

When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘so it goes.'”

“Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?”…”Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment.” – Slaughterhouse Five

Cook cook cook cook cook cook cook cook

IMG_0438.JPGWaking up to the Harbour bridge and staying in a studio apartment overlooking the Lavender Bay got me addicted to living in a lovely place and living on my own. Ever since I got back, moving to such a place has been on my mind. Recently, I came across a lovely studio apartment with a gorgeous window seat. The view is nothing spectacular, but the window seat stole my heart and bum space. What’s more, I have surprised myself by really taking to cooking. From jugaad cooking in Sydney (read toast, greek yogurt topped with bhujia), I have now progressed to learning to cook real food.

The first step was of course, being brave enough to stock up on the spices and putting together a kitchen from scratch. I picked up salt, chili powder, pepper, dhaniya, garam masala, turmeric, and sugar. Also picked up a tin of virgin olive oil (I love the Figaro packaging), maggi coconut powder (ready mix for coconut milk) and some ginger garlic paste. Half a kilo each of tomato and onions, 300 grams of brinjal and bhindi (ambitious!) made it to the grocery bag as well.

For the time being, I’m equipped with an electric stove, a hand me down mixie, and an air fryer. A couple of simple recipes I tried out this week:

Brinjal masala

Add 2-3 teaspoons of oil to the pan, and heat till you see bubbles begin to form. Add a pinch of garam masala, turmeric, and dhaniya powder to the oil – I have big fingers, and a pinch would be as much as the toothpaste you squeeze out of the tube to brush your teeth. Fun comparisons, eh. Add two 50 paise coin sized blobs of ginger garlic paste. Mix it all in and don’t let the masalas go brown (that means it’s burnt and you have to start over again). Chop onions and add them to this mix; push them around till the turn translucent as an oily window.

Dice brinjals and add to this mix. Stir till the brinjals are coated with the spices. Cover the cooking vessel with a lid and cook on low flame, if you want it to be a mash (you’ll have to uncover the lid later and mash it with the ladle). Add salt as per taste.

For the other brinjal in the picture, I just scored the inside of the brinjal with little X marks, and rubbed in all the above spices. Massaged it with olive oil, wrapped it in foil and stuck it in the air fryer for 15-20 minutes on 200. The skin was nice and burnt, and the insides were creamy. I’m thinking I’m going to try and replicate a babaganoush  with the insides next time.

Bhindi pyaaz

Follow the first paragraph of the above recipe. Dice ladies finger and add to the mix. Do not cover the cooking vessel with a lid as this will make it gooey. Toss it around till the the existing gooey stuff evaporates, and it begins to shrivel and brown at the edges. Taste one to see if it’s cooked – these are deceptive! Add salt to taste.

Mushroom coconut curry

Follow the first paragraph of the first recipe. Add diced tomatoes (or tomato puree) and cook till the oil separates. Pour 1/2 cup of water and when the mix begins to boil, add the chopped mushrooms. Now, I personally prefer to break the mushrooms with my hand instead of chopping them – this gives me nice chunky bits of juicy mushrooms. Add salt as per taste. Once the mushrooms are well cooked, take 1/2 cup of water in a cup, and add 2 tbsps coconut powder to it. Mix well till the lumps disappear, and pour into the gravy. Cook till the gravy becomes thick. I sometimes mix in a tablespoon or two of thai green curry paste, just after I add the tomatoes, if I am craving a green curry flavour.

Now, I do not know how to make rotis and I am not a big fan of rice. I’ve been sticking to couscous and it works very well with all the above.

One art by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant 

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Ruby stains

There’s something poetic about lipstick stains. Hauntingly beautiful reds on the rim of a coffee cup, perfect fiery pouts on a tissue, forgotten stories of scarlet on a shirt collar. The messy haired girl in a black suit and mustard shoes ordered a Toby’s Estate latte with two sugars at John’s for a Monday morning caffeine fix. She was sitting in a corner at Piato’s, reading the Book Thief last Sunday afternoon, and paused only to take pictures of her food. She insisted on sitting outdoors at Treehouse on a windy evening last week, and was quietly whispering something to the gentleman in a grey suit. She held a glass of wine in one hand, the wind was in her hair and a laugh played on her cheeks and in her eyes. She was strolling down Fort Kochi last night, in the arms of a man and wondering if finally she was really in love. These mundane moments, it seems, are her works of art and ruby stains are her signature.

It’s raining on my face

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Some songs stay with you forever. Some songs show up on your playlist on an otherwise perfectly happy morning, and reduce you to a sniveling mess. Some songs are both, they make you smile with anticipation when they start playing and when they play, tears cloud your vision like snowflakes on the lashes. And you have to look away, look up, look out of the window, hoping the person sitting next to you does not notice the fine shine of a fresh layer of tears on your eyes.

I have a whole playlist of these songs precisely collated and avoided so that I do not end up with leaky eyeholes in public. I do give my eyes the occasional cleaning behind closed doors though, with ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King, followed immediately by Jab Koi Baat from Jurm.

It struck me today how similar the songs are (apart from the fact that they both get my eyes sweaty). Not only do the songs have a common theme of companionship and togetherness, part of the lyrics are also so similar that it is difficult to believe this could be a co-incidence.

Stand by me:

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me
Stand by me

Jab koi baat:

Jab koi baat bigad jaye (When something goes wrong)
jab koi mushkil pad jaye (When in some difficulty I fall)
Tum dena sath mera, o humnava (You stand by me, darling)
Na koi hai, na koi tha (there isn’t anyone, there wasn’t anyone)
zindagi mein tumhare siva (in my life except you)
Tum dena sath mera, o humnava… (You stand by me, darling)

…Chaandni jab tak raat (Until the moonlight lasts in the night)
deta har koi saath (Everyone stands by me)
tum magar andheron mein (But you, despite darkness,)
na chorna mera haath
(don’t let go of my hand)

Slight rearrangement of elements, meanings and words, but you see what I mean?

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