Monday, December 14, 2009

Annt Mein Kuch Nahin Rehta, Sirf Shabd Reh Jaate Hain (Nothing Remains In the End, Only Words Remain)

Was talking to a friend some time back. She was distressed and upset about the way she has been treated by some people. While talking to her, she happened to mention one thing, which is mentioned in the title. She said, that in the end, after one's physical's self ceases to exist, nothing and absolutely nothing remains. What one remembers a person is by the words s/he spoke. A small sentence, but so profound and so true.
If you sit back and think, this means a lot. In a way, it also impacts the way we live right now. We all know of close family people or friends who we may have lost. The reason they remain in our memories, in our thoughts is because of what they used to tell us or would have shared with us. Sounds cliched, but the reason we remember even those who didn't amass a great amount of wealth is because of the people they were and the words and thoughts that made them. Why then, do people spoil relations of a lifetime for materialistic pleasures?
Is it that difficult to be a good person? Which makes me think - 'being good' is very relative. Is it a case of 'easier said than done'?
This conversation made me think more on the lines of 'What does a person want to be remembered by'? 'Why are relationships more complex'? 'Can a relation be improved if one consistently keeps harming the relation?' It's not like we don't know that what matters eventually is the person who you are and that is how you'd be remembered. Yet, knowingly and unknowingly, people spoil and break ties. Why?

Marriage Matches May be Made in Heaven, But ...

Most girls have always dreamt of a particular way of the way they want their marriage to be. And for a lot of them, since they've quite young, they have an image in their mind of how the event would be. It is after all, one of the biggest days in their life. In some Indian cultures, it is said that birth, death and marriage are the three biggest things in a person life and one has no control on the three of them.
Have been noticing for some years how stressful planning a marriage can be. I want to divide this blog entry in two parts - on the financial stress and the overall stress that comes in to being with planning a wedding. Marriages in India are increasingly about keeping up with social norms, doing things at a wedding because other friends did it and to avoid adverse social gossip. In the recent past, have seen families where a marriage was going to take place and the bride-to-be or the parents took a loan for the wedding. The money would be used to get the trousseau, get gifts for the family and the new family, get jewelry for the bride, paying the rent for the marriage hall and much more. Have seen some cases where the bride and groom or one of them didn't want an extravagant wedding, but had to have one to fulfill a family's desires.
I have heard instances where after the wedding is completed, it is not that easy to pay a loan off. In India, with everyday living getting more expensive, re-paying the loan amount taken for a wedding is definitely not easy. And in the end, how much ever one strives for perfection and keeping up with the times for social events like this, those who want to find faults will still continue to. Someone told me that they took a loan, but felt that rather than respect everyone's desires, they should have kept it simple and not taken hefty loans.
I was talking about this with A, and he felt that what was the point of taking a loan for a wedding when a marriage itself is the biggest things and that is the thing of utmost importance. Couldn't have agreed more on that.
The next point is about the stress of a wedding. Makes me wonder when people say just a week or a day before their wedding as to how stressed they feel about wedding planning. Completing minor things like arranging decorative plates, decorating gifts, adhering to dates and times given by both sides of the wedding parties, coordinating things, maintaining tempers at home and also coming to a consensus on important things regarding the wedding. Marriages are meant to be enjoyed. Going back four years, when A and I got married, I think our parents and both of us were pretty care free and actually relished the time with both families. People stress about purchasing the right things, giving gifts to the new family of an appropriate value and which will be appreciated also and much more. A friend mentioned recently as to how she is looking the months to come as she'd be married and she no longer would have to worry about going home and plan for the wedding. She can sit back and take time out to enjoy with her friends now!
I am not against the excitement and happiness that comes with planning a wedding. Or against having a gala wedding if one wants. It is all about personal choices. But what makes me write this blog is when it becomes burdensome and stressful for the family and ceases to be a joyful way to plan a wedding. One does that only to keep up with the times. And that is what I've been noticing a lot in Indian families in India as well as here in the United States. More than anything else, it is the institution of marriage that is going to be cherished for a lifetime.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Facebook - Over The Years

The Facebook portal is not even ten years old! It was founded in 2004 by Harvard graduate Mark Zuckerberg. It catered primarily to high school and college students. In a short span of nearly six years, this social media site is now accessed not just by these two groups, but also moms and dads, grand parents, recruiting agents, teachers and others.
In random and not-so-random conversations with different people, I came to know of different reasons that people would join Facebook. "I get to see photographs of students I had taught several years back," said one of my teachers, who is now a 'Friend' on Facebook. A grandmother was once telling me that she joined Facebook so she could see the latest updates from her daughter and granddaughter. She added that, "I can even add comments on those photographs." In the past one year, have seen people in their late fifties or sixties as new entrants to Facebook. After hearing stories of how their children connected to some long-lost friends or acquaintances, they too joined Facebook to meet their friends with who they attended school about 40 years ago!
One dad was very surprised when his daughter, who was going to the dorm in Freshman year showed him the picture of her new room-mates, who she had not even met or contacted virtually at all. In her curiosity to know about them, she found them on this portal.
This portal is also used by those who want to spread awareness about social causes.

Be a little careful as you set yourself up in the virtual world. It is not new now that potential employees will check you on Facebook before they call you for an interview or just after one. This will give them an idea of who the 'real' you is! A word for the wise, as is being told by several people is that keep your 'Internet' image clean. It always helps to Google yourself once in a while!
I had a positive experience myself. Before I went for an interview for an internship, I came to know through Google of a school alumnus who had interned there previously. But didn't give me any contact details of her. Wanting to know her experience at that place, I entered her name in Facebook, and there she was! I got a prompt reply from her after I messaged her through this social media website.

Changing Times

This blog once again talks of the times back then and now. Growing up, I had seen aunties (Indian term of addressing a lady who was about your mother's age, or older or a bit younger), my mom included who were home makers. I remember thinking when I was young that it was not easy for my mom to manage home, cook two square meals, help N and I with homework, be socially active and do a whole host of other things.
My mother was a graduate from one of the well-known colleges of Mumbai. She always missed the opportunity of working professionally. And would tell both of us that wherever you are when you grow up, it is very important to be financially independent. And this was not just for the monetary aspect, she gave us that advice so that we can fend for ourselves, are capable of standing on our own two feet and in the process learn the lessons of life also. When I worked in Mumbai and even after I started working here in the United States, I feel that those words she said all those years back are still so relevant!

I feel so proud when husbands now support their wives to pursue their career opportunities. Again, these are things that a lot of us had not seen when we grew up. I was so happy when R would support M to start applying for jobs and help her create resumes for different jobs she applied for. Now that she has one, R guided M to approach the subject of a salary hike to her bosses.
In another instance, P would take mock interview sessions for H when she applied for admission in school. He would also drive her to and fro from where she had to practice for those entrance exams for admission in the school.

Our close friends P and U also have a similar story. P is very accomodating and would urge U to take a breather once she is home from work than enter the kitchen to make rotis (Indian flatbread, made of wheat flour). "We can eat frozen food tonight," P would say. But U being U, she will go the extra mile to eat healthy!

A himself has been so very supportive and encouraging when I am in a new field altogether and need more time to study, or am tied for time as I juggle work, classes and home. Like several other men, he is absolutely fine with not getting home-made rotis seven days a week or having the house spic and span. I remember he had signed me up to attend a journalism conference even before I came to the United States for the first time as he felt it would be ideal for me to start building contacts in this field. For him, it is much more important that I do something meaningful professionally and achieve something. There have been times when am busy or just don't feel like it, he would cook for the week.

These are signs of how times are changing, how relations, priorities and aspirations are evolving over time. More moms back home would be proud of what their daughters and sons are doing to achieve something they always wanted for themselves and their children also!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Misconceptions Galore

How many times have we seen really bizarre questions being asked about a particular country? Ignorance doesn't seem to be the only reason for this. Over the course of nearly four years in this country, I've seen that people in the United States and people in India have several misconceptions about the other country.
I must have easily been asked more than a dozen times if my writing as a journalist in India was in English or my mother tongue. When they would know that growing up in India, I have been speaking English since I was three or four, it would surprise them to no end. And then questions would come up like, "You learnt English, but did you also write for English newspapers and magazines?" "How is it that people in India would speak and read English and not just their own language?" I would reason with them initially, and then learnt to decipher with who to reason, and who to just smile at when they asked this question.
I have also come across those who say, "But people in China do not speak English. How do you?"
Another extremely common question asked is, "Do you still see camels and elephants on the road everyday?" There are so many people who fail to keep up with current developments and know that India has developed by leaps and bounds in the past decade.
M once told me that when she said that she didn't eat chicken regularly in India, her colleagues remarked, "Did you not eat chicken regularly because India is a poor nation and you wouldn't get it often?"

On the other hand, I've seen people from India have misconceptions about the United States as well. My mother was really happy to see that families here make the effort to spend time with their children. She really liked that parents would take their toddlers to the library on a weekend or take them to a park or that parents and their adolescent children will go together to a restaurant. Like a lot of people in India, she too was under the impression that in this country parents have their own schedule and children are on their own and that a healthy family life was difficult to have here.
I'll again bring up my trip to India. Even when I lived in India, I never really developed a taste for alcohol. When we would go for dinner to family friends' houses, uncles and aunties would offer wine or other alcoholic drinks and I would decline. They wouldn't say anything, but their look said that if she has lived there, then also why doesn't she drink alcohol? Why would they think that just because I live in America, I would enjoy alcohol?

A tells me that we have to tell one person at a time what the ground reality is and that that is the only way people know what the base reality is. Will keep updating this post as I come across more of such discussions

House Help - How helpful?

Coming from India, I was used to seeing house maids or baais (as they are called in India) in and out of my house everyday. I could say that almost every house would have house help to aid with laundry, house cleaning and dishes. For those who have never had maids at home, it could be a little daunting. I would like to say that if you're thinking that having a maid at home to do all the chores will make day-to-day life very smooth and leave you spare time, then please re-consider your thought.
Residents from this southern part of Asia will have very interesting anecdotes to tell about their house help. The first step to having a maid is to find one. And in Baroda where I grew up, this was a steep task. Once you found a maid and the tough task of negotiating the rate was done, then came the training part. Every mom wanted her house chores to be done in a specific manner. It would be at least a couple of months before the maid was set in her routine.
Then comes an interesting twist. Almost everyone faces days when you have become dependent on the help and have set your routine according to theirs. One fine day the maid doesn't turn up, without any notice. All hell breaks loose at this point. The women of the house have already wasted time waiting for the baai to turn up. When he/she doesn't, they nervously think how to finish all those chores of doing the daily laundry, cleaning the house and doing the dishes.
This waiting and then nervously coming up with a plan to do chores on my own is one thing I am glad I don't have to do over here. Having lived with and without a house help now, I am glad to do things on my own now. I don't end up wasting time micromanaging the help, coordinate my schedule with theirs and also supervise their work.
On my trip to India this summer, I saw that several of my friends invest a lot of time just instructing the help what to do for one particular day, come up with work just to keep the maid occupied and managing the one or two house helps that are there at the same time. As V very aptly said, "When you know that there is no one to help you, you just do things on your own. And because of this, I like the routine that people are set in, in the United States. It doesn't go haywire." This is so true. At least you do not get dependent on someone and then have almost a panic attack when the dependent person is not there. And when you do your chores on your own, you are bound to do them nicely.
I saw a whole new dimension of house help in Mumbai. Maids will drop the children to the bus stop and pick them up when they return home from school. When a family relative told some mothers of her daughter's classmates that she will not have a maid to do that job and that she'd rather drop her daughter herself at the bus stop, the mothers didn't like it. It was almost a norm for kids to be dropped by the maids.
Though there are times here when we do miss house help. Like when a child is born and you need sleep and don't really want to spend time in the kitchen, you are bound to do that and do the laundry and run the dishwasher also! Or during parties or family functions when there is immense work load in terms of cleaning the house, getting the silverware out, and more. But then there always will be pros and cons to any situation.

Writing this blog took me back to all those years when there would be house help and then not have them at the most crucial time like N's wedding or an illness or having guests at home. It also reminded me of some of the nicest house help who I will always remember fondly. It brings a smile to my face when I remember of those phone calls my mother would make to neighbors or they would call my mom and say, "My maid is not here today, if yours does turn up, can you send her at my place for some time. I really need help today!" Here's to all those wonderful memories!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cooking Made Easier With Everyday Products

On my trip to India during the summer, I decided to make quesadillas for A's parents and my parents. His parents had them before, but my parents had not. The night before I wanted to make them, a very simple thought came to my mind. Cooking in the United States is way more easier than it is in India.
My mom soaked red kidney beans overnight, so I could use them for my dish the next step. This was the first step that would be avoided if I were here. Get a can of Bush's canned kidney beans, open the can and your beans are ready to use. The next day, I made salsa from scratch to put in the quesadilla. I make that here also, but again, a step that can be very easily avoided if time is a restraining factor. There is no dearth of getting salsas - whichever ones suit your palette - hot, medium or mild, chunky or not. You do get ready made salsas in India, but cost was a factor and a more important factor was how much were my parents going to use after I left!
Next was shredding cheese. Because of the size of packets of cheese you get there, we just decided to get a block of cheese and shred it. This was not bad at all as it hardly took any time.
In the evening came one of the most tedious tasks. I am sure several people would not make quesadillas if it were not for the ready made corn or flour tortillas. Since those were not available there, mom and I made them, just the way we get it here in the store. We made the dough, she rolled the tortilla and I semi-cooked them and wrapped them in a piece of cloth.
I made a kidney bean and veggie filling for the quesadilla.
After all these steps, I was ready to do the simple task of making the dish, that is not at all time consuming. The efforts were paid off as A's and my parents thoroughly enjoyed the quesadilla. When I was patting the quesadilla on the pan, my mother quietly quipped, "No wonder everyone makes this so often there. Everything is ready-made, and so naturally it is easy for you to make this frequently!" She sure was right on that one.
The biggest benefit was that I got to cook with my mom, spend time with her, and relive memories of the past when we'd just sit in the kitchen as she would cook and we'd talk!

If you give a moment's thought, it is not just quesadilla that makes cooking easier over here. Most dishes are not just fairly easy to cook, but not time consuming also. Students, stay-at-home moms, working mothers, dads and others do not have time to spend in the kitchen and cook for a couple of hours. So many things are at our disposal, at a reasonable price also. Things like canned beans, chopped lettuce and other greens for salads, pasta sauces - alfredo, marinara, chopped vegetables ready to throw in the pan and saute, and so many other ingredients can be incorporated in everyday dishes to make cooking quicker, healthier and easier. We tend to take things for granted, but like other situations, when you do not have something, you then realize the value of it.

Despite the ease of cooking here, people tend to eat out a lot. In the recent past, A and I have met friends and other acquaintances who said that when they consciously make an effort to eat home-cooked food, not only does it make them feel better health-wise, but also makes their pockets better too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Public Mode of Commuting In Two Countries - Similar, Yet So Different

There is something about public mode of commuting that I really like. When living in Mumbai, India, my daily commute involved traveling by bus and train or only a bus ride to go to work and return home. A lot of people would complain about traveling in peak hours in the morning and in the rush-hour traffic in the evening, but I liked it.
I distinctly remember hoping to get a window seat if I took a bus and just getting lost in my thoughts for the hour-long ride. If I took a local train back home, then I would generally stand by the door and enjoy the cool breeze waft through my hair. Mom and I took a train ride on my recent trip to India and like old times, I stood by the door. It felt the same.
Have been a regular city bus commuter here also for almost a year now. In the morning bus, either I study or just enjoy the rising sun and still get lost in thoughts! In several ways, commuting is the same in India and here in the United States. There is the same rush-hour traffic, same way of people trying to balance themselves, as well as their hand bags, bags or purses and also hold on to the steel rods for support. Another similar aspect is how people become bus-buddies or commuting buddies as you travel at the same time in the same bus.
What is different is that if you are in India, people generally sit next to a person already sitting. Over here, you'll sit on a different seat than on a seat where someone already is sitting.
I noticed this thing during last winter's snow storm. Buses were running late by almost 45 minutes because of the snow storm. When the bus finally arrived, it naturally was over crowded and people were relieved to get on the bus. I remember having a bag pack and a hand bag with me that day. With those two, I balanced myself to stand as there was no room to sit. I stood that way for more than an hour till my bus stop came and I went home.
Had it been India, there would be 'aunties' or even young women or men who already had a seat, and they would offer to hold your bag, so you could stand comfortably, especially knowing that you'd already stood long to get on to this bus.

Another interesting aspect of taking the public mode of transportation in India is getting an opportunity to hear about people's stories, how their day was, and other similar things. It happens here also, but is lesser. People here would talk in more hushed tones than in voices that would be audible to several others.

I traveled by train almost everyday when in Mumbai. There was so much to see and learn from the vendors who would hop on the train with their ware to sell. The difficulties they faced, their trials and yet have a smile on their face. Young girls would come to sell hair clips, fancy rubber-bands to put in the hair, safety pins, earrings and much more. They would put their ware in saree boxes and move from one compartment to the other.
Others would get food items to eat, or sell plastic covers for books, plastic covers to put ID cards, fruits of the season and much more. Not only was it enterprising they sold products that are important for daily life, but it was a learning experience of sorts to see them work hard. This kind of an experience is difficult to get here. I didn't see much of this even when I traveled in NYC's local trains.

One of the biggest lessons I learnt taking the public mode of transport was street smartness and being alert. They are key things to traveling safe and enjoy it (if you are like me!) as you go to work or come back home!

A Boy or A Girl?

I have not read a lot about this or even heard about it in discussions. To start off, there are ten expecting moms I know who are going to deliver between October and December of this year. Three have already delivered beautiful babies. Two are girls, one's a boy. You may wonder the reason I started delving in to statistics. There is a reason for this.
It's not recent, but for several years, I have heard and am sure several others too have, that when a lady is expecting, the family always tells the to-be-mom that they want a boy or that they want a girl. Have noticed this across various nationalities and cultures. Jumping a little from statistics to biology, a woman has two X chromosomes and a man has an X and a Y chromosome. X is responsible for a girl and Y for a boy.
So when the crucial deciding factor is in the hands, rather chromosomes of the dad-to-be, I wonder why most of the times he is always kept out of the picture when it comes to people's preferences for the gender of an unborn baby? It may sound feministic, but I am just trying to put a fair, valid point. I have written blogs raving about talents that men have. Even otherwise, am not trying to put up a feministic viewpoint, but an observation I've had for several years.

This really makes me wonder why a woman, who is going to be a mother, who already is experiencing several unique challenges, have to face one more, where things are not even in her control. And like me, many of you would have also seen how young as well as senior people still have the want of a boy in the family. Or some who've had all boys really desire a girl. And once the baby is born, if it is a girl, even in this day and age, there are people who are not as joyous than if it were a boy.
They say times are changing and things change with time. Sure they do. And some remain the same also. Hopefully, more people will vocalize their desires for a boy or a girl in the right direction and tell the right person.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Social Groups: A Result of Different Age Groups

It has happened to me often during social get-togethers that I feel I do not fit in the right group. While discussing with a friend from Connecticut once, she too felt the same. We are married women, but do not have kids yet. So M and I both felt that we feel ill-fitted in the group of married women, but they have little children. Their talks revolve around what the baby is eating, his or her sleeping habits, new things it has learnt or for that matter new things parents learnt from the child! I do not have kids yet, and can relate to the talk only to a certain extent.
And then is the group of people who are in their early 20s, but not yet married. I relate more to this group, as they talk of their activities over the weekend, shopping, or guys they liked. During one of my conversations with M, she once said, 'I can definitely say that oh this boy is good looking and all, but beyond that I don't think I'll be interested more'. Which is so true. These girls are talking about going out on dates, other girls that the boy may like or more. Although we can only contribute to some extent, we enjoy listening to these talks.
And the third group is of aunties - who are our mothers' age. I enjoy talking to them, can relate to what they talk, but again, I am not their age yet!
What A and I felt some weeks back is that there are groups of people who are in the same boat as we are. And when we are with that group, it is so much easier to connect with them. They are at the same phase of life, getting their priorities straight, know what they want to achieve, but also know the road ahead is long and not so easy. We are glad we have that group and know we can look to them when we just need someone to talk to!
I am sure a lot of other people have also noticed the different groups that just seem to form in a party or a social gathering. They mingle with others also, some with a little effort, some do that effortlessly, but at the end of the day we all have our own groups, where we find that comfort level.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Learn Cooking from Those With The 'Y' Gene

It seems I am getting nostalgic. Must have told my mom so many times that since I moved to the United States, which is nearly three and a half years back, I must have not just learnt different amazing recipes, but practical kitchen tips from men. Coming from a state in India, where a vast majority of men never entered the kitchen, even to make a cup of tea, it still surprises me and makes me so happy to learn a lot of cooking from men.
'A' himself is such a good cook. I always saw how my grand mother would toss the vegetables in the pan with one flick of the hand. And then after all these years, 'A' taught me how to do it. And then there's 'N' from Connecticut. What an amazing cook. He would call the entire gang -- almost 8-10 of us at his place, only because he wanted to cook. He would make the best appetizer from karela, by stuffing it and coating it in seasoned bread crumbs and baking it to make it a healthy appetizer!
I have to tell this anecdote of another friend from CT, who is such a natural cook. If you see him cooking, you know that it is in his genes. The entire gang was up at his place in Boston for the July 4 weekend. After seeing spectacular fireworks by the river, hunger got the better of all of us and we thought of going to a Diner. Most of them were closed on account of July 4. We headed back home. At 1 in the night, he made the best rajma (kidney beans in an Indian gravy) and rice. And guess what, that too without onions and tomatoes as he didn't have any at home. He made eggs-to order and heated up some leftover Thai curry that he made the previous day.
I must have thought of this occasion several times when I am bored, don't want to cook or am missing on some ingredient. It just peps me up and I no longer worry how my food will be.
I also learnt how to make daal (Indian lentils) in a jiffy from him.
After seeing the attitude of several Indian men in India and in the United States towards food and having the ability or inability to cook, I respect men who dish out amazing food. And that too not because they have to do it, but because they want to do it!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time Management - The Indian Way

I had always heard a lot about Indians being known for not being punctual and that to a large extent, it is considered fashionable to be late. For people who do not know, IST is sometimes an abbreviation for 'Indian Stretchable Time', instead of the real 'Indian Standard Time'.
I had first hand experiences of people being late on my recent trip to India, about two months ago.

S called and said 'I will be there in ten minutes for sure. Can't wait to see you'. So I reach there by that time and am waiting for her in the sweltering July heat. 15 minutes have passed and there is no sign of her. I message her and ask if she is going to get late. The reply is prompt. 'Will be there in five minutes. Another 7-8 minutes and still no sign of her. I call up now. "I am leaving home now as I was forced to eat lunch". At this point I am losing patience for standing in the heat for more than half an hour. After that phone call, I decide not to call and just wait till she comes. I was losing patience faster and faster. 'Bas two minutes and I'll be there'. She finally came almost ten minutes after that. In all, I must have easily stood for 50 minutes in the sun.
I was livid and couldn't help but get mad at S although I was meeting her after more than three and a half years. I can understand that you have commitments and get late. But how much time or money does it take to just call or text a person and inform that they are running late. And that is not expecting a whole lot also! Anyway, after the meltdown, I had a great time with S and S. And we caught up on what's going on in our lives, and that we're happy where we are.
This was my first stint with punctuality or non-punctuality should I say

About a week after this, I am supposed to meet P at a restaurant at 1:30 in the afternoon. We are to meet at a popular restaurant, where it is difficult to get a table. And once you get a table, you eat your meal and leave. I reached around 1:45 PM, having been re-educated about punctuality already. I wait for about 15 minutes and then get a table. There is no sign of P at this time. It is half an hour beyond the time we were supposed to meet. I keep calling and get a call waiting. Finally around 2:15 PM, he calls and says he is leaving and was caught up in a phone interview with a person he was trying to get for some time. Again, because of the delay, I spent less time with P. Once again, no heads up that he was getting late.

My third stint was on my birthday. Another friend S was going to come around 3:30- 4:00 PM to wish me. This was coincidentally my last day in India before I took my flight to come back home. S is known to not keep time. But there was no call from her at all till about 8:00 PM. She of course didn't come till 4:00 PM, but no call after also. She called around 8 and said if she could come at 9:00. I had to say no A's parents were to come for dinner. She finally came after 10:00 PM that night. Once again, no information or notice that that person was going to be late - not by half an hour or so, but by a full six hours!

Why do people fail to think about other people's inconveniences? Why do they not think that other people are on tight schedules also, if not, tighter also? Why not spend a Rupee and just inform the other person that they're running late. Beats me how being late to some people makes them think that they are really busy and gives a sense of superiority. Have seen people in India and here in America who are professionally and socially at a much higher level, yet really respect time. It really is not very difficult to keep time. Try it.

The Diminishing Tradition of Pickle Making

Each family has some special things that are passed on from one generation to the other. Be it heirlooms, grandma's stories, family secrets or delectable recipes. Talking about food, when discussing with friends yesterday, we all realized how there are some recipes that might not be a part of our generation.
For instance, pickle and condiments. Our mothers laboriously toiled literally for days on end to make the most delicious pickles. They would make several different types of pickles - from shredded mango to pieces of mango, making and sweet, sour and spicy pickle. To add to that, the enthusiastic mothers also made different types of lemon pickles and many more. Anyone who has grown up in India will know that it used to be a project for the women of the family to sit and peel all mangoes, then cut them of almost the same size, leave them in the sun to dry for some time. Some other steps included mixing these pieces or shredded mango in the syrup, tying with a cloth and putting them in the sunlight for the sugar to melt.
The pickle was ready to eat two to three days after it was prepared and transferred in large jars. And this pickle would last the family for an entire year. To come to the point, some mothers still go through this laborious task of making pickle or achaar as it is called in Hindi. Some mothers don't if they have an empty nest at home and they have no one who would relish the pickle anymore. Some mothers make it despite having an empty nest. They would send it to their sons and daughters in other countries and give it to their relatives or friends. While talking yesterday, it made me curious as to how many children of my generation actually know how to make pickles. I am quite sure that if we were given just raw mangoes and some spices, we would not know how to proceed with it. It is a tradition that will not be carried forward for a very long time. There are several reasons for that. One is that the weather required to make these pickles is not there in other countries where the children may have settled.
The second reason is that time is a very important criteria in today's world. Gone are the days when mothers spent hours doing kitchen chores. Today, men and women do not make that a priority. Which brings me to the point that priorities have changed. And a very big factor is the ease with which ready-made food is available.
While speaking with friends yesterday, we were discussing that Swad, Deep and Sanjeev Kapoor's pickles are really delicious. It has become very convenient to just purchase a bottle from the shelf of an Indian store and you have pickle ready to be eaten. About 10-15 years back, this was not even thought of. It was only mom's pickle that went with the school tiffin box and for meals at home.
Our mothers learnt the art of making pickles, papads, and other annually made recipes from their mothers and their grandmothers and it was on passed on to them also from the generation before them. Some mothers still ask their children what they want to eat and in spring would make that pickle. That's where the pickle making translated from just a task to more than that. It's the sentiment of making so that everyone would enjoy it. Sadly, it won't be very long till the wonderful way of making pickles will be known only by reading in books and the Internet and not be seen as we did.

Of Doting Dads

We all come across situations and conversations that take place and they pass by as time goes. But then you still think about those moments and ponder about them. These couple of instances are something on those lines.
My husband and I met a family friend of our relatives over dinner one day. The friend, a person who muse be in his late '50s or early '60s has a daughter who is expecting. His wife passed away nearly fifteen years back. His daughter wanted to eat 'paapdi no lot'. A person with some knowledge about Gujarati food will know that 'paapdi no lot' is a dish that is not easy to prepare. He was absolutely calm about making it and didn't fret at all. He simply said that his daughter wanted to eat it and so he was going to make it.
He didn't have all ingredients to make it, so he took some from our relative. Almost a week or so after this incident, I still think about this incident. The girl is extremely fortunate to have a father who is tending to her needs in such a beautiful manner. I see more and more of how wonderfully fathers of all ages take up responsibilities of their children.
In another incident, a nephew was inviting his uncle to visit the United States. His uncle lost his wife nearly five years back and has two unmarried daughters still. He told his nephew that when he comes to the United States, then like several Indians who visit there, he would need at least three months to meet all relatives and visit places. But then he added that he will be able to do this at ease when both his daughters get married. "I have to get them both married first. Only then can I come there." Yes, it is natural for him to fulfill the responsibility as a parent, but it's a different thing to be so caring and do it with so much love and affection.
We all have our stories of dads and their children or incidences that stay in our minds and we ponder about. Put them in your comments if you feel comfortable about that. This blog is for my dad and all the wonderful dads who reach out to their children in their own special unique way

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The City of Mumbai That Is

When I lived in Mumbai, I used to go home to Baroda almost every fortnight. I used to meet with my friends during the Saturday and Sunday I got and then Sunday night or early Monday morning, I would head back for Mumbai. You know you have entered Mumbai the minute Mira Road station arrived. It’s a different feel altogether. The urgency people have in their steps, the pushing around to rush in the train that arrives every three minutes and the noise – all this and much more tell you that Mumbai has arrived. Whether you are alighting at Borivli, Andheri, Dadar or Mumbai Central station, the situation or rather the chaos is the same. The coolies are jostling to get inside at the same time passengers want to alight and walk towards the exit.
It is chaotic, it is dirty, people do push and you realize how people smell and have a sticky skin, but I still love the city, almost three years after I left it to come to the United States. I became a part of the spirit of Mumbai while I was there and it still lives within me. Mumbai’s made me a more confident, out-spoken person. I learnt one of the most important characteristics inherent to the city – to be street-smart and bindaas. How I love the cool air passing through my hair as I stand next to the compartment door of local trains and the enthusiasm with which the road-side keepers sell their wares – be it fresh vegetables or fruits, or daily home-related things like clothes line, soap bars or even lingerie for that matter.
This is only the beginning of how it feels when you enter this gigantic city. Yet you feel that you are a part of it. Although I have never grown up in Mumbai, I still feel that way. Here’s to the city and the indomitable spirit of it!