Memories Unlimited

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Always Something There to Remind Me.”

Memories are a weird thing. They come unbidden to you at the most inopportune of the times. Seeing a picture somewhere, watching a movie, some snatches of conversations randomly flying through your mind, any of this could trigger a memory event. And of course, who can deny the link between music and memories. We always identify some specific songs to certain specific events in our lives. Some songs remind me of teenage carefree days, some songs remind me of the days when I felt the world was at my feet, some songs belong to the days when it was difficult just making it out of the bed. These songs relate to the good, the bad and the best days of my life.

But the song which never fails to give me goosebumps is from a hindi movie called “Rang De Bansanti”, which means Color me Red. The song is called “Luka Chuppi”, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and A R Rehman. The song is about a mother missing her son, while he is away as he is in the Indian Air Force. While I love the entire song some of my favorite lines are: “aaja sanj hui mujhe teri fikar dhundla gayi dekh meri nazar, aaja na”- meaning; it is evening now, I am worried about you, and my vision is foggy with tears, please come home now. The other line that I love is when the son sings, “yahan sab kuch hai ma phir bhi lage bin tere mujhko adhura”-means; I have everything here but I feel incomplete without you mother.

When I first came to Boston, from Bombay this song always reminded me of my mother. Today this song still reminds me of my mom waiting for me and then it reminds me of those early naïve days in Boston, almost a decade ago. When I as in India, and if I was late coming home from work, my mother used to wait up for me for dinner, so that she could sit and tell me all about her day and ask me about my work. Today when I come back late from work, I know my mom isn’t with me waiting for me to ask me about my day and that thought breaks my heart a little. But we all have to grow up and fly out of our nests doesn’t matter how painful, but for those painful evenings there is always Skype to call and bug your mom so that she doesn’t realize how much you miss her!

For anyone who wants to listen to the song, here is the youtube link and the entire English translation is in the description portion of the video.

Vacation!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Journey.”

As a child, I traveled around India with my parents, visiting places from Kanyakumari to Jammu, Mysore, Calcutta, Darjeeling, Manali and many more. Then over the years with intrusions from life, the summer started getting shorter and so did the family vacations. We had small vacations here and there, but nothing as much fun as the summer vacations from school days. Then last year when I went to India I got a chance to go on a big vacation with my parents…and like an adult! It was fun to combine the Diwali festival, vacation and a friend’s wedding all in one trip to India.

The vacation started from Mumbai–>Jaipur–>Agra–>Delhi–>Amritsar–>Dalhousie–>Mumbai.

Jaipur: Jaipur is the capital city of the north-western state of Rajasthan. In Jaipur we first went to Amer Fort-one of the most famous forts in Rajasthan built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh. Then we saw the Jal Mahal (palace on water). Next day it was Jaipur City Palace, and Jantar Mantar (a world heritage site which has a collection of architectural astronomical instruments) and fantastic time shopping for some jewelry and rajasthani shoes in Jaipur markets.

amer fort far away view

amer fort gardens
Amer Fort Gardens

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Agra: From Jaipur we drove to Agra which is a city on the banks of the Yamuna river in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. It is famous for the monument of love-Taj Mahal and the Mughal Agra Fort. On the way to Agra from Jaipur we also visited the bird sanctuary in Bharatpur called Keoladeo National Park and the famous city of Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur was once a capital of the Mughal empire and has beautiful monuments built with a mix of Persian and Indian architectural influences. It houses important buildings like Jama Masjid, and the tomb of Salim Chisti-a Sufi saint and the palaces of Akbar’s various queens, including Jodha Bai-his Hindu queen.

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In Agra the next entire day was dedicated to the beautiful Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. I am sure Taj Mahal-one of the world’s wonder made entirely of white marble and precious stones needs no description other than it was more beautiful than I ever imagined it to be! Agra fort is actually more of a walled city and almost all Mughal kings have contributed to this series of monuments by adding and modifying some feature or another during their reign. Both these monuments were the highlight of this vacation for me, I enjoyed spending time looking around these old buildings and imagining how much history and change they have witnessed over the centuries.

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Delhi: From Agra we drove to the capital of India-Delhi. This city does not need any description, except that is also crowded and very confusing! We got lost while trying to find our hotel even though we were less than a mile from our actual destination! We did not spend much time in Delhi except at Qutub Minar monuments as it was more of a pit stop. Qutub Minar are 11th century monuments and definitely deserve much more attention than the 2 hours we spent there before our flight to Amritsar.

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Amritsar: It is a city in the state of Punjab. It is known for the Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple and the fact that it is less than 30 km away from the Indian village of Wagah near the India and Pakistan border. If anyone ever goes to visit northern part of India, golden temple in Amritsar is a must see spot. It is much more than just a shrine or a temple. It is one of the few places where I actually manage to feel spiritual-not religious, just calm and spiritual. We also visited it at night when the entire temple is bathed in golden light and with the calm chants and bhajans the feeling is almost ethereal.

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Dalhousie: This was the last destination in our journey. Dalhousie is a small town nestled in the hills in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh. My main reason for going to this city was to attend a very close friends’ wedding, and since my parents had been to this place either, we decided to attend the wedding and tour around the town. We drove from Amritsar to Dalhousie through these narrow hilly roads called ‘ghats’. It is a typical hilly town, with friendly people and amazing locales. The view of the mountains from my hotel room window was beautiful. Attending a friend’s wedding was without doubt the best part about this destination, beautiful location, beautiful people, food, clothes and close friends and family…what else do you need to make a journey worthwhile?

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While this post in no way does justice to my experiences on this 15 day vacation, I have tried to convey my feelings through this post and pictures. Maybe I will write a much more detailed post soon so that I can write about how did visiting a centuries old palace and seeing your best friend walk down the aisle made me feel!

Hi Past, I am Present

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Good Tidings.”

Meeting a 10 year old me- there is so much I could tell myself if only I had an opportunity to back in time. Firstly I would compliment her on excellent choice of beverage: Coffee! And then proceed to advise her, which she would probably listen to while rolling her eyes like any respectable 10-year old!

Here’s what I would tell her, “First of all kid, you will have to stop being defensive and learn to trust others, because once you can trust others, you will trust yourself and will learn to let go. Second most important thing is to learn to take risks. Kid, you don’t want to grow up like me afraid to take risks; once you learn to let go, you will start taking risks!

The most rewarding thing you will have is your family and the amazing friends you will pick up on the way. Even with your distrustful nature there will be those special few who will sneak by your defenses and before you know they will be a part of you, keep them very close and love them. Kid, you are going to grow up to be very complicated. You will love solitariness, but will still crave company of people, you will not trust others much but will be very talkative so you will need people to talk to, you will love to talk but will want to spend most of your time reading books, cooking and being by yourself! So you are going to have a lot of fun just being your unpredictable self. I can’t tell you everything, you will have to figure out your own joys, sorrows and heartbreaks. But I promise you, your life is going to get very interesting as you grow older, just remember to enjoy it!”

And I know in spite of giving all this advice to my younger self, she would grow up to be exactly like I did, because of course I am nothing if not contrary!

Food For Soul

Mouths Wide Shut

I am not a picky eater, unless you count being a vegetarian as picky. But I love to cook and like to eat! Food is a complete sensory experience for me, the beautifully coloured vegetables on the plate, the aroma of spices, the different tastes exploding in your mouth and the different textures belonging to the kind of food you are eating….it is a complete feast for your tongue, your eyes, and your olfactory receptors! It doesn’t always have to be fancy or exotic, it just has to hit the spot at the right moment. Sometimes a deliciously home cooked meal does the job and sometimes a fancy dish from an exotic cuisine is what you want, and sometimes a veggie loaded burger with curly fries is what you heart craves. Some of my favorite foods:

  • Like any Indian worth his/her salt the best kind of food is”Maa ke haath ka ghar ka khana!” Translation: home cooked food made by your mother! Some of my favorite foods are what my mom makes and exactly the way my mom makes them.

Veggie cutlets loaded with beets, potatoes, green beans, peas, spices, and coated in bread crumbs and shallow fried over stove.

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-Onion uttappas which are an Indian version of pancakes but made savory with rice flour, onions, tomatoes and served with lentil soup!

-Dhokla (it is a traditional dish from western part of India) made with fermented rice flour and steamed like dumplings…and it is absolutely delicious!

2)    I am a modest person, but not where my own cooking is concerned…and I love what I make! J Not always perfect and usually I like what I make. My cooking style is mainly adopted from my mother, but adapted into my current living style. I still make the traditional Indian food the way my mother taught me, but it is sometimes more garlicky and a bit more spicy. I also try to incorporate some the vegetables available here in US to replace the ones available in India and the results are quite fascinating for me.

– My veggie and cheese loaded nachos are my own absolute favorite.

– Roasted cauliflower curry is something that is partly my mom and partly me on the plate.

Cabbage salad with peanut dressing, is a dish I wouldn’t have ever eaten back home, but is something that I have tried to make after expanding my palette and eating style.

3) Other foods which I really love are the roadside food vendors in India. They serve all sorts of food: spicy, sweet, hot on cool winter days and cold on hot and humid Mumbai days.

– Bhel Puri/Sev Puri: Bhel Puri is puffed rice served with puris (kind of thick chips made from flour) It is then drizzled with tamarind and date paste, onions, coriander chutney, garlic chutney, tomatoes, mixed and eaten with the puri! Absolutely delicious and should be tried if you ever go to Mumbai.

– Pani Puri : These are circular puris (thin, hollow and very small orbs) and different from the puris used in Bhel. These are then filled with spicy water made from coriander, chillies and ginger, boiled potatoes and tamarind paste and then eaten as a full orb. Another delicious delicacy, which always tastes better at the roadside vendor.

There are many more exotic, vegetarian dishes to try out, not just from the Indian sub-continent but from everywhere else! Mediterranean cuisine is my other favorite simply because it has so many delicious vegetarian options. People often ask me, so how do you get your protein if you are a vegetarian? Simple: there are so many choices out there, beautiful lentils, beans, amazing array of vegetables, how can one be starved of proteins??

Food is a treat for all your senses and anyone who tells me they don’t care about food, and what they eat is, just sad!

 

Conversational Gambit!

The Daily Post

For someone as talkative as me, talking for only four minutes is a little difficult. Could a room full of strangers be interested in knowing about a confused Indian expat? I would say definitely yes, would I be interested in disclosing myself to a bunch of strangers, not really, as some things are better left unsaid. But if my years of working have taught me anything it is the art of small talk. Small talks – they are a great conversational tool; whether you are trying to prevent awkward glances in the elevator, when you are sitting with your boss at the company meetings, or when you are having a dinner alone by yourself sitting at a bar, or trying to mingle with a room full of strangers! I enjoy small talks with strangers, if listened carefully they tell you a lot about a person.

This is what I would do when if I were to enter a room of strangers; grab something to drink or eat and then scope around the place, looking for friendly faces to join in. On finding a good group, I would try and listen to the conversation for a bit. Then give my input to the topic and when I have their attention, introduce myself with my complicated Indian name. There would definitely be more than couple of “Excuse mes!” on hearing my name, with most people asking me to spell it or slowly pronounce it. Since it’s an exotic name there will be few requests for the meaning, and then some background information will follow. This will easily take up 2-3 minutes, which is usually enough to break ice.

These four minutes are good enough for superficial introductions. Any more information than this will not happen until it is a more personal introduction. After all a mere four minute personal conversation is better than 4 hours of online chatter that everyone indulges into these days.

Smart Write!

Overload Alert

There is so much information available today. Every device you open, every person you talk to provides you with a continuous information overload, from people’s private lives on display on Facebook to the world and celebrity affairs on Twitter, to continuous news monitoring on the e-newspapers. Everywhere you are bombarded by information! Ages ago in the world of only print newspapers, you wouldn’t hear of the news until the next day courtesy of all the reporters scrambling to finish their reports for the early morning edition. Today the news online get updated with breaking news all the time, there is no chance you will miss anything important!

Does all this information make you dumber? I believe information is knowledge, always usable. Whether it is the knowledge about latest celebrity troubles or world troubles, it can be used for conversation. Depending on the crowd you are conversing with, you could switch your topics around. Does so much information desensitize you? That is a resounding yes! The continuous inflow of violence, deaths and revolutions around the world are definitely killing the emotions. There is so much of this stuff happening around, nobody is shocked anymore. Instead the attitude now is that we talk about the events for about five minutes before moving on with our own lives and troubles. Something like this, “Oh one more killing! One more bombing! Damn shame. All right who is up for drinks tonight to celebrate my promotion?”

The information is so easily and so readily available, no one values it anymore. The biggest example is the use of the word “Google” as a verb instead of the noun that it is. Instead of saying, “I am going to search using Google,” Everyone says, “I am going to google it!” The current generation doesn’t even know that the information has always been available on their finger tips, just in books and not on their smart devices. I don’t think the information is making people lose their common sense, I think it is the fact that, it is so readily available that is making people dumb, because they have never had to look for it.

The information boom is a blessing and a curse, depending on the way one looks at it. Use it the right way and it is a tool, but if you don’t know how to use or what to do with the information you have, then no amount of it is of any use to you. The devices are getting smarter; from smart phones, smart TV’s to smart watches, and the people using them are getting dumber!