Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's cooking?

This blog is going to be a shock for people who know me well. My wife had a mild heart attack and other family members are still laughing so hard that we are contemplating medical measures.

Cooking, I am told, is an art. And I am becoming an artist these days.

For more than thirty years of my life, I had only cooked stories and numbers. I STRONGLY believed that cooking food is a waste of time and effort. I looked forward to the day when eating food would mean taking a few tablets. I maintained that I would rather die of hunger than cook for myself. I have lived alone on many occasions (in India!) and never considered cooking.

Time is one of the best change-agents © (Now that is an original quote and I intend to patent it. Any attempts at copying this without my written permission is illegal). People change, circumstances change, opinions change, beliefs change, over time.

So 'time' (read 'health') has made me cook in the past few months since I reached US in early 2008. I started off with ready-to-eat and easy-to-make stuff like noodles, pasta, french toast, omelette, upma, seva, dal, etc. And over the last few weeks, I have graduated to attempt my hand at dishes like potato subji, tomato curry, green peas masala, etc.

However, what gave heart attack to my wife was when I wanted to make bitter-gourd ('karela') fry this week. This is because I have never eaten bitter-gourd in my life, which is four or five times, without pouting and blaming my family of conspiring against me. Fortunately, I was able to give her cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) virtually since we were chatting on Skype when I popped the question.

I chose it because I eat my rice with curd and pickle and was thinking about options that would go with it. I had also got tired with eating potatoes and tomatoes only. My first attempt at bitter-gourd was not that bad, though it did get slightly burned (picture attached).

Considering that I hardly had any prior experience or inclination in cooking, I have made significant progress in the art of cooking (read 'culinary skills'). Therefore, I claim to be the upcoming artist to watch for.

Bitter-gourd fry may be one small step in the eyes of people who know me, but it is one giant leap for me!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Power of Mmmmm…..

Whoever thinks that the sound mmmmm….. (increasing in pitch) is just that, a sound mmmmm…..., is hugely mistaken.

My daughter, Niharika, who is now one year and five months old, has started talking proper words since the last couple of weeks (she even calls me and my wife by our names). However, for almost four to five months before that, all she would say apart from amma, acha, etc, if you did not guess it by now, was mmmmm….

If you therefore thought that she was not able to communicate, you are mistaken again. With just that sound she would very clearly communicate with everybody at home what she wants. Mmmmm….. in her language meant ‘I want that’, ‘I want to come to you’, ‘I am hungry’, ‘I am sleepy’, ‘I want to get down’, ‘I want to be picked up’, ‘I want milk’, ‘I want that toy’, ‘I want to go out’, ‘I prefer to stay back’, ‘I don’t like that food’, etc.

Moral of the story - Language is not a barrier if you are amongst your loved ones!

Where Left is Not Right

I got my US license in April after almost a month of driving. And within the first couple of weeks of getting my license, I managed to get my first ticket.

It was 6 am and I assure you folks I was fully awake. I had an overwhelming day ahead filled with meetings in San Francisco. I was to leave my car, considering my driving skills in US, in my senior colleague’s house, which is two miles away from mine, and to go in his car from there.

From Alvarado Boulevard, a road with reasonable traffic though empty at that hour, I turned left into Lowry. For almost 12 years before coming to US, I have driven in India where vehicles are driven on the left side of the road. Lowry too was empty and does not have a divider in the middle to separate the lanes. I, by habit and already thinking about the meetings, turned into the left side of the road. I was later on told by my US friends and colleagues that all of them had done this in the past, but then you are wrong only if you get caught. And like the rabbit that was unlucky and was killed for its foot, inspite of having more than one rabbit’s foot, I was unlucky too.

A cop was coming from the opposite direction in Alvarado Boulevard and he turned into Lowry behind me with his lights on. I, not realizing the mistake, drove on for about 15-20 seconds thinking about the day ahead, before I noticed the cop’s car on my right side (the ‘correct’ lane, by the way). My first reaction was to look for a vehicle ahead that the cop might be chasing. Not finding one, I looked at the cop’s car again in my rear view mirror to if he had his lights on. And at that moment, to my horror, it dawned on me that it was me whom he was chasing. And guess what, I am driving on the wrong side of the road!

By then I had reached the turn to my colleague’s house. I turned right into Larkway and kept to the right side (the ‘correct’ lane) of the road this time. I ‘hopelessly’ hoped that the cop would not be chasing me or that he would leave me seeing that I am on the right lane this time. But he came right behind me and stopped after I had stopped in front of my colleague’s house.

I stayed in the car and rolled down the windows, as I was well informed about the process thanks to my colleagues. The cop came up to me and asked in a polite tone whether I realized why I was pulled up. On my admittance that I knew, his tone changed to surprise as he asked why I did that. And when I replied that I am from India where we drive on the left side and that I was new to US, his tone changed to amusement when he replied that I could do that in India or even in UK but not in US. He told me that it was dangerous driving and it could have resulted in a head-on collision with a vehicle on the left lane that would not have expected me to enter that lane.

He took my licence and the registration/insurance of the car. He went back to his car and for the next 15 minutes was on his comp and cell, busy talking and keying away. I guess he was checking the information on the registration and licence. He came back, handed back the documents, showed me a slip which he said was not an acknowledgement of the mistake and wanted me to sign. I signed without reading as I wanted to get away as soon as I could. And the cop went his way.

My colleague, during the most part of our drive to San Francisco, admitted that he had done more mistakes in the first few months of driving in US (but he “did not get caught”!) and narrated incidents where he was caught, thinking it would make me feel better. But I felt miserable throughout the day and also the following few days, whenever I thought about it.

I received a notice by post after couple of weeks and had to go to the Court and pay a fine of $188. I also have agreed to take a driving class to avoid the points to get onto my licence.

Moral of the story – In US, right is right and 'left' is always wrong. Ask a Chinese or a Russian!

My Life's Jaunt So Far

My meaningless but eventful life has been a great roller coaster ride with very steep highs and very steep lows. Did I enjoy the ride? Till about 5-6 years ago, I think most of the time (even during some of the highs) I did not. But since then, I have started enjoying it and after my daughter was born 17 months ago, I love every moment of it.

I lived most of the first 17 years of my life in Ernakulam (or ‘Cochin’). The highs and lows of the ride were not very steep during those years. But life was not as placid as it was for most of my friends – it was action-packed with events like falling in love at an young age, stealing the question paper in class XI, organizing large-scale cultural and sports activities, dad becoming bankrupt, etc.

However the ride during the next 11 years was backbreaking with very steep highs and lows. Life really tested me with significant challenges during that period – derailment of my engineering education due to NDA admission which I eventually opted out, falling in love again, getting married, losing my mom, moving to five different places and working in six different firms (counting the two firms where I did my internship). Being highly sentient in nature, I developed both mental (stress, pressure, trauma) and physical (stess-related blood pressure, varicose veins, waist line expansion, lack of physical activities, etc) problems.

Life had stabilized in the past few years. But again, it has now reached a turning point with the US relocation. Is it for good or bad? Only time will tell.