Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Colors of Caprice

This post probably gives the average reader, an insight into the character that built me. But on careful analysis and observation, if one has the tenacity for such things, then you will find that we are all not that very different. Somehow, at the end of the day, when we sit on the arm chair and experience a 'Total Recall' we feel that our childhood, adolescence, adulthood, youth and middle ages were not entirely different from those of the guy next door. 

As inquisitive and active people, we all have or would have had hobbies. Something special that you used to do other than the regular games of Ludo, Snake & Ladder & Carom during the hot summer days and a game of cricket, 'lagori', and dodge - ball (Choorchandu) while the weather had been less harsh. 

I peek into my early childhood days makes me smile at my innocence, conformist attitude and naivete. You know, kids always imitate each other, just like monkeys do. We only see one in a hundred or so who have striking features of individuality. I do not mean that the kid who imitated others ended up a loser or the kid with a personality of his own, ended up a CEO of a company. No, that is not the case I want to think and damage my brain cells for. 

As a single kid in a nuclear family & both parents working, I was always left at the mercy of my surroundings for the development of my imagination, intuition and emotional intelligence. No doubt, our schools try very hard to fire up the child's imagination right from Kindergarten by placing cute little chairs and desks painted in bright lead laced paints, sparkling hoops, colorful balls and the likes. We have craft classes, painting & sketching classes and also gym classes where the child chooses his or her area of reckoning. Some kids take to craft & arts like fish to water and some people take to sports like they were born on the track & field. 

I, on the other hand, was a Jack of all trades, not to sound like a narcissist. I did not say I was particularly excellent at everything, but I did try my hand with all things, though I could not find a paint brush or a cricket bat that I would hold for the rest of my life. 

My earliest hobby would definitely have to be sketching & coloring. I was pretty 'OK' at it, yes, I can say that when I flip the pages of my old drawing books my mom and dad have so carefully preserved even to this day. I was not a imaginative artiste. I sketched life as I saw from my own two eyes. I was a mere photographer. But hey, that soon passed. 

My primary hobby of sketching, was soon taken over by collecting dolls or 'action figures' that boys of my age about 20 years ago used to call, to mark a clear distinction from the ubiquitous Barbie dolls that the 'girls' used to play with. Those were the days I pestered my hapless parents to buy action figures of the 'Masters of the Universe' and 'GI Joe' series, not to forget countless other small figurines of animals, dinosaurs - a fad among children after we were exposed to Steven Spielberg's 'Jurassic Park'. 

Peer pressure would be the rational explanation that any child psychologist would love to give, but I call it 'marking of territory'. It was obvious that you had a reputation to maintain and certainly if a kid's parents would shower him with such junk, he or she was 'special'. 

My aspirations soon changed when I realized that the shops charged my folks a bomb for those pieces of plastic. I immediately abandoned that hobby & developed a new, less expensive one. Collecting 'Nestle' stickers that were found in their wide range of chocolates. A large collection of unique stickers would yield you a toy car laden with a bunch of Nestle goodies. I spent a jolly lot of my folks' money and yet could never get hold of that 'prize', even after spending hours and hours of recon work finding out which of my neighborhood kids or my school mates had the sticker which was missing in my collection. 

End of that story, my focus soon shifted to collecting other stickers which I would use to repaint my dad's 'Godrej Almirah'. A living proof to my crazy schemes is the defaced doors of a perfectly good steel cupboard which we have now dismissed to our cellar as they were starting to look hideous. I remember, we used to subscribe to these cinema glossies 'Star Dust' & 'Cine Blitz'. There used to be some senior girls in the school van I used to take, who were crazy about certain Bollywood heroes and even heroins. My Marketing instincts had kicked in quite early and broke a deal with them. I would provide them with cutouts of their favorite actors in exchange for stickers that I could well.. stick on to the cupboard. This went on for a while till my father felt that I had become a little old for pursuing such silly hobbies. 

End of that one too! Next I took to collecting images of cricketers, domestic & international and paste them on books and noting down key statistics. I would spend hours alone in my home, scouting for different pictures of cricketers. I had even forced my parents to change the newspaper from the Times of India to the Indian Express & Deccan Herald since the latter two carried bigger & more colorful images of the sportsmen. I had made about 4 volumes of the cutouts when I soon got over this hobby too. 

My next hobby was also more of a conformist one. Collection of 'cricket cards' that would be given away with the purchase of a certain bubble gum brand. I don't remember having chewed on so much flavored rubber ever in my life than while in school. I still have bundles together of useless postcards & pocket cards carrying cricket statistics, lying somewhere in my house. 

Next was the collection of 'Tazzos' a new fad that had caught the Indian kids by their tails. We would gorge on trans fat and salt by destroying air filled packs of 'Cheetos' and 'Lays'. This hobby, I should confess, did not last longer than a few months. 

Engineering sizzled out many a hobby as poor wannabe engineers hardly get time off from weekday classes, tuition, internals and so on and so forth. 4 years of hobby - less life extended to another 2 - 3 years when I had to settle down in my career. With a job comes money and with money comes more expensive hobbies. I started collecting movies with a passion so strong that it would consume a major part of my free time. More than a thousand movies later, this hobby saw it's end when my wife put a full stop on my mindless expenditures. 

Now, that I have come away from home, I found out that I can write quite decently and developed the hobby of blogging and even ventured into story telling. How long will this continue, not even I know! Perhaps my wife has the answer. LOL! 

I am sure, that most of you would also have felt nostalgic after reading this post. You are welcome to share something about your hobbies. Did you abandon your hobbies or still pursuing them? 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Kitchen Chaos

This one was long over due! It has been 9 long months since my sanity kicked me in the shins and bade goodbye. 

September, last year when I was packing my 2 bags of modest man luggage i.e. my neatly pressed 'formal' shirts - pin striped, plain, checkered & with some obscure designs and similar looking set of trousers, some comfy inner wear and some nice thermal wear to armor myself against one of the harshest winters North India had witnessed in over a 100 years; there was a grunt of dismay and disagreement that had been brewing inside my dear wife. 

"How will you feed yourself there? Let's go shopping" was her plan for me. 

Now a good 9 months later of experiencing bone numbing colds and dehydrating summers, my sanity that had so abandoned me was slowly returning and soon I will be off to the Garden City to enjoy good life with my wife of 2 years. 

But before doing that, I do want to gain some credit for the efforts that I put in to feed myself in this great city called Delhi. 

Since birth I had never ever been separated from home for more than a month's time & my short term migration to Delhi were my baby steps towards real independence. It was scary. The average human psyche always yearns for independence and yet somehow when it gets it, it retracts its hard stand as the fear of unknown takes advantage of its vulnerability and naivete. 

Technology is the greatest gift man has given for himself, though he has messed up the world equation in his spirit of invention and advancement. Being a South Indian, I can never be kept far from rice. Lo Presto! the wife took me to a store that specialized in household items. It was an all new experience for me. All those stuff in the kitchen actually came from such well lit, air conditioned showrooms I thought when I was taken across aisles and aisles of kitchen goods. My wife and my mom - in - law spoke amongst themselves in a language that was alien to me. 

They were experts when it came to selecting the right 'dosa tawa', 'frying pan', 'ladles' & some other stuff; for which I don't even recall the names. Finally, they selected a most efficient and cost effective electrical rice cooker made for India from the stables of Japanese electronics major, Panasonic. 

A lot of local research went into finding out the best cuisines that could be prepared with this portable rice cooker and on a small paper, my wife wrote down some basic recipes which I could try. Once in Delhi, when I set up the rice cooker in my new found rented home, I felt like I was born to cook! Start anything new with the enthusiasm of a professional who gets paid in millions for doing what he does best; that was my mantra. 

I soon realized why kitchens the world over are the strong holds of women folk. They are wired to calculate the right amounts of rice, water, salt, veggies, spices, garlic paste, etc etc! which is right for a single person who could consume the product without having to visit the toilet repeatedly throughout the night. 

My first few experiments in the kitchen were disasters, just like Ram Gopal Verma's movies. New found land was murky and dangerous. Earlier, I used to run miles at the mere sight of onions and a knife and now I was there, tears flowing from both my eyes, chopping those underground tumors to little pieces - just as the recipe said. 

My first dish ever was a dish made of Tomatoes, onions, lentils, garlic & ginger paste [ready made obviously ], Soya bean oil and of course Rice! I was cooking up a storm. Though the Japanese electronics major had provided enough safeguards to ensure that the cooker did not catch fire and burnt the whole building down, I did my best to singe the rice to a dark brown color and the rice looked like it was dipped in dark Belgian chocolate. A quick visit to the hotel in the nearby market provided temporary relief while the cooker rested in the kitchen sink, topped with water mixed with an excess of Pril - dishwasher. 

Cooking Indian food is especially hard for people like me who wear spectacles all the time. Regular checking of the cooker to see if the rice is boiled well enough gets your glasses all steamed up within seconds and you end up with temporary blindness. Similar experiences when you are chopping onions, when you rely on the eyes on your fingers to guide the sharp edged knife and yet many times my confidence in my circus acts of cooking blind folded ended up with cuts on my fingers and only in Delhi did I regularly taste my own blood when I had to lick my wounds, just like tigers and lions do after a hard fought battle. 

There is also some fun elements to cooking especially when you are cooking with oil. I just loved the chitter - chatter sound that the cooker used to make when I dropped sesame seeds  into the hot oil. It was like watching a ballet in motion, as the seeds danced effervescently and rose to the top trying to escape the stage. The amazing aroma that the onions and the garlic exudes when the oil burns into their stomata. 

Soon, I befriended the kitchen's denizens and I was sharing some of my own recipes with my wife who was pleasantly surprised to hear about my various adventures in the kitchen. These experiences have definitely made me a wiser man, wise enough to respect the woman's dominance and to give her complete freedom and space in the kitchen. Men were made to appreciate the cuisine of his lady and that is what I intend to do on my return home. 

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
Harriet Van Horne