Archive | January, 2013

Guest Post: by Mom Gone Mad

31 Jan

From the land of fjords comes our very own desi girl Mom Gone Mad, gorgeous and talented in equal parts. I could read her ’til the cows come home. And then I’d have a giant burger and continue into the night. Vegetarians pliss excuse all animal-eating references.

~~~

After a fanfare-filled (yes, I blew trumpets in my own office. What do you think?) blogging premiere in 2005 and an equally meteoric burnout, I settled for writing for myself. Occasionally, I would also torture great and tolerant friends with philosophical treatises in the garb of e-mails.

I didn’t really begin to read personal blogs till 2007. Maternity leave coincided with my wonderful best friend blogging about her life with children. Through her blog, I stepped carefully into the strange and fascinating world of Indian mommy bloggers. A world of friendships, cliques, empathy, envy, support and spite. It spanned a complex spectrum of emotions, yet it seemed to inspire such belonging.

I quickly tired of the blogs that recounted the minutæ of daily life, but was drawn back to those blogs where feminism, current affairs, new parenting paradigms/challenges, food and humour were staple fare. I delighted in this newfound sense of community; the freshness of the voices, the compassion and the obvious intelligence in well-expressed posts. It was liberating to see a space so public for a kind of gendered discourse that had previously been confined to quietly exchanged confidences. I began blogging in late 2008 and slowly gathered the nerve to start commenting on my favourite blogs.

As is the case with blogs, you would read an interesting, insightful comment on a blog, entirely by happenstance, and proceed to click on the handle. There is no way to NOT click on a handle that says Orange Jammies. There is no way because these two words, well, they hold an entire world of favourite things. Of a fire that creates a mellow roast. Of cups of warming tea. Of warm flannel, delicious satin, worn cotton. Of long, cinnamony kisses.

The OJ space is one where you’ll carefully dry your feet before entering. It has its bright orange warmth and glow, a huge heart weighed with feeling and the rarest combination of tremendous dignity combined with a zesty wickedness. Oh, she’ll trip the light fantastic with her words, our OJ. She tweaks them, she teases them and she’ll make them do the most unusual, astonishing things. They will curl into some crazy shapes, those words. She can run literary rings around the best of them.

Yet, what I love the most is really quite simple.

I love how OJ loves. Her fierce and sure devotion to the things and the people she believes in. Her joy in the simplest, the best, the truly good things in life and her willingness to share of herself and her thoughts.

For better or worse, this is what blogging does to us. It gives us a strong sense of people, a sense of a connection. So much so, that if I really try, I can see OJ whipping up some world-class eeda in her kitchen, humming an ABBA showtune and sighing contentedly as the happiness of the moment surrounds her.

I hope you continue to bless this space for many more years, dear OJ. Maybe your fire burn bright and orange and may your jammies always wash soft.

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Guest Post: by Dipali

29 Jan

“Can you love someone you’ve never met?” asked a poster of ‘You’ve Got Mail’ back in 1999. As an almost-21-year-old, I wondered. Here’s Dipali, frequent commenter on this blog, and someone I have shared joys and sorrows with, making not meeting in person irrelevant.

~~~

I must give credit, or blame, for my involvement with the blogiverse (as you choose, gentle reader) to my older son, who has been a wonderful teacher to a fairly ignorant pupil. He has been responsible for bringing to my life Sufi music, the Kabir Project, many books and many authors, as well as the countless experiences a child brings to his parents’ lives. He also first introduced me to Salam Pax’s blog, way back in 2002, which I would read sporadically. He subsequently started a blog of his own, (sadly, mostly defunct now) in 2004. Which is where it all began, for me……

 
I’d read what he wrote, and then ventured onto his blogroll, to friends of his whom I knew. When we moved to Kolkata in 2006, I found myself fascinated by the few blogs I read. I took the plunge into what was, for me, virtually uncharted territory. The names of various commenters and bloggers were fascinating- Chapati Mystery, Lalita Larking (who lived in Kolkata and became my first real friend from the virtual world. Her early death was devastating to me, and to many others of her legion of loyal readers), Within and Without, Known Turf, Jabberwock, Three Drinks Ahead, and The Mad Momma.

Not only were the antics of the Mad Momma,the Other Adult, and the Brat, great fun to read, she also had a fabulous blogroll. Once again, it was the names on that list- Banno, Dala, Orange Jammies, Sunny Days, Karmic Kids, Falstaff, kbpm, and many many more, that were truly fascinating. I remember myself commenting, with great daring, on The Mad Momma’s blog, and OJ’s blog, and others, and being responded to with warmth. The personal interaction, the tossing around of ideas, the painful honesty with which some bloggers shared details of their lives, the sheer poetry of some bloggers (OJ and space bar in particular, at that point), and, overall, the abiding sense of community, that we were a bunch of like-minded people who could interact, regardless of the barriers of time and space……..I was hooked!

For a couple of years I found myself commenting frequently on a few blogs, and, over time, being encouraged to start a blog of my own. I wrote, on invitation, a guest post on Karmic Kids. I wasn’t booed off the ‘net! I commented some more. I finally started my own blog in August 2007. Over the years I have met many of the bloggers whom I have read, have formed close personal friendships with some of them, shared personal experiences (both joyous and painful) with the blogosphere, and have received great support from my readers during difficult times. There was tremendous solidarity when the Indian Homemaker lost her teenage daughter to dengue in 2010, and her own remarkable strength and wisdom during this difficult time was a great solace to many of us who grieved with her.

Blogging has given me wonderful friends across the globe, as well as in India. It has truly been enriching beyond belief. For people like me who are transferred every few years, blogger friends provide constant sustenance, as long as technology doesn’t let you down! There are some bloggers, like OJ, Mom Gone Mad, and Maid in Malaysia, whom I haven’t met yet, but I hope I will, someday. Some of the bloggers I know are now published authors, (Parul, Kiran, Yashodhara, you may take a bow) and I take great pride in their work, simply because I know them! Some published authors became personal friends after we interacted on the ‘net.

Once again, I need to thank The Mad Momma for writing about Gouri Dange’s book, 3, Zakia Mansion on her blog, which I appreciated and reviewed. Gouri and I have met, and seem to share many life events and interests, including the songs of K L Saigal, Sant Kabir’s poetry, and Hindustani vocal classical music.  The commenter who calls herself Peccavi was instrumental in my getting to know the Akatha Kahani team, which lead to two magical evenings at my home last January. The real life friendship with so many wonderful people has been simply amazing. We’ve also had some great blog meets in various cities, all memorable occasions, hard to explain to those outside this magic circle!

The criss-crossings and the links are now not always easy to trace. It has been a fascinating and enriching journey, on an ever-expanding train which has many passengers, and no limit to the number of bogeys/space available. Some do get off, caught up in other aspects of life. New ones come aboard, interactions happen, and this fascinating, magical, enriching journey continues.

Guest Post: by Aunty G

27 Jan

Kick-starting the first of seven guest posts (for reference, read this one) is our one and only Aunty G: limerick queen, top commenter on this blog, and my blog-mamma! 🙂

~~~

A request from OJ has just come
About how our saga had begun
So, here we go
If you’d like to know
In the next six verses, our tale will be spun!

 

The way I met OJ
Was fairy-tale-fey
I addressed a namesake
A serendip mistake
On a divine Navroze day!

 

She politely replied
That I’d misapplied
I returned the courtesy
Then burst the ecstasy
When complete names were supplied!

 

Co-incidences galore
Then came to the fore
She guided me to blog
Her praise I greedily did hog
Her friends added to my Y!360 score!

 

Eventually, I met my first blog friend
But that was, happily, not the end
Our families met too
The Boy also, before the ‘I do’
From then on, the love and affection could only ascend!

 

We share our sorrows and joys
She’s a daughter — I’ve only boys
Her writing I greatly admire
Gladly sink into WWNP’s quagmire
Then, limerickly, add to the comments my noise!

 

So, on this splendid 7th Anniversary

I wish that she be forever free
To weave her words
Like soaring birds
Blessings, and love and hugs from your Aunty G!

 

7 Years of Blogging: An Incredible Journey

26 Jan

Frosty beginnings

It was a wintry Boston day. The kind where the sky is azure, and the cold bites into your marrow decisively. Strewn around me were the material possessions collected over 5 years of living in the country, waiting to be crammed into two mid-sized suitcases and flown home with their owner.

“What is a blog,” I had asked him, and wondered if I could write one. The concept of readership didn’t cross my mind. Bored with the task at hand, I lined up my precious babies and took a picture. “Shoes Blues”, I labeled the post, and whined about whether they would all fit into my luggage and new existence.

I shut the browser, and shortly afterward, my bags, and watched as Logan airport dropped away.  I thought leaving America would change my life. The seed I had planted on the internet smirked at my naiveté and bided its time.

~~~

Germination

January 26, 2006, started a chain of events that I did not have the foresight or imagination to envisage. My quiet entrance into the world of personal blogs was encouraged by exactly two readers, the love of whom I will always be grateful for. Unexpectedly, the circle grew. Warm responses, delightful banter, and amusing comments from complete strangers ensued. My Yahoo! 360 circle of friends expanded into a co-ed dorm, where we all hung out, displaying our words and quirks in a manner so genuine and honest, it was impossible not to be touched.

Those first years were the most prolific. I blogged for the sheer joy of sculpting sentences, creating fiction, and recording life’s quirks. Quite simply, because I could. Mostly flippant even when I wrote from the heart, I took neither my writing nor its platform seriously (and still refuse to do so with the former). As I navigated the last years of my 20s, my little corner on the WWW became a repository of angst-ridden poetry, nuggets of fiction, and first date howlers. And looking back, how my connections sustained me! Aunty G, Manju, Mina, The Mad Momma, Sabiha, Dezann, Suzy Tay, Lonely Prince, Naoman, Sa’ad,  Rajashree, Shail, Summer, Mariah,  Anamika, Pallavi, Rajni, Anindita, Twisted DNA, Revathi, Amrita—bloggers, readers, compatriots all, their emails, comments and calls flew in from all over the globe, making me laugh with the race to comment first (FTC!! we’d shout), partake of their intriguing worlds, and thank the powers that be for this new dimension.

~~~

Born-again OJ

And yet, I took a break. Rather, was forced to by technical difficulties, as the 360 platform creaked to a painful end. Without their familiar home, the words went on vacation. (Okay, as did I—but they went first!)

Turns out it was only a quick trip around the corner, because six weeks later, this post went up, and I set about making this new home cozy and inviting. The neighborhood was more upscale and the living space plusher, but it lacked the casual, popping-in-and-out-to-ask-for-sugar atmosphere. But then you all arrived. So many quietly read and departed, making no announcement of their existence. (It’s still not too late, you know!) But some others, they said hello, and to them I am thankful. And to the odd troll who trawls through my posts, you do wonders for my hit rate.

~~~

Wired

Personally, my blogging journey has seen me through a long-term relationship, its gut-wrenching, soul-sapping end, the hilarity of the dating dance of my later 20s, my first meeting with the man you all know as the Boy, along with our courtship, engagement, and wedding, and seven years later, I stand before you as someone this busybee from Bombay least expected to morph into: a contented married woman in suburban California.

This virtual platform—not a jot less real than flesh and blood—watched me move continents (twice), re-embrace my city, only to see it receding yet again from an airplane 2 years ago. Through jobs and businesses, and changes in career and pace, Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas stood patiently on hand, as I force-fed it, ignored it, and worst of all, was indifferent to it, while life led me on a merry dance, and I, with my sixteen left feet, bumbled along.

I found myself eating gouda toasties and chattering with my mouth full (sorry, Nana!) to someone I met 7 minutes ago. I found myself finally putting into words the feminist ideas I witnessed growing up. I found myself published elsewhere, thanks to this unique calling card. I found myself face-to-face with the people behind monikers and pseudonyms to brainstorm how we could help 26/11 victims. I found myself refusing money to shove paid links down your throats. I found myself walking into a stranger’s home to check on her after reading just one heartbreaking post, and her wedding present to me affirmed my faith in my actions. I found myself on the receiving end of genuine affection. I found myself cheering on a queer woman I had never met in her struggle for acceptance. Truth be told, there were simply no strangers anymore. Blogging made me reach out, look within, and wear my heart on my sleeve. It brought me dear friends, some admirers (!), and enhanced my life in surprising ways, but the best gift of all was that it brought me home to me.

~~~

Did it really happen?

Make no mistake: I still write for myself. Very rare are the days when I give a thought to responses before hitting ‘publish’. But now I see blogging as something more than strung words, and would be foolish not to acknowledge the connections it has enriched me with.

To honor this gift, I invited 7 fellow travelers, all key to my online trail at some point, to share their thoughts on what this platform—and our connection— means to them. Over the next week and a half, these guest posts will appear exactly as they were sent to me, so you can witness how this phenomenon affected us all. The writers are human beings who amaze me, whose generosity with time and affection gives me hope for the world, and whose dexterity with the written word is a humbling experience. These are women of strength, of opinions and integrity, true citizens of this planet, and each one has warmed my spirit with her unique charm. I thank them for the pleasure of their company, along with the many unnamed others along the way, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear reader.

~~~

Kisses on the wind

This post would be incomplete without a shout-out to my most regular commenters:

Aunty G: You’re one in several billion, and your limericks make my day (and everybody else’s!)

Dipali: Big hug! It gladdens my heart that you’re somewhere out there.

Alice: I’m happy you find wonder in my land. (Couldn’t resist! :mrgreen: )

Sukanya: Being sincere and generous in equal parts with your compliments is a truly special gift and you have it.

R: In your comments, I see my younger self, and it’s great to relate. 🙂

~~~

Forward

Like all paths, this too shall end someday. Maybe it will be this year, or some years hence.  Regardless, in a life littered with unknowns, where pain and poetry blend, I am thrilled—and fortunate—and (insert your own word, I’m too busy mopping the weepies) that I went on this incredible journey of a lifetime.

Group hug, NOW!

Popsicle

24 Jan

Death comes in many flavors, like ice cream. There’s swift, silent death, like the swoosh of a bat’s wings, where you fly into the night, leaving trails of an uneasy hush.

There’s the long, spiral, slippery slope—gradual, painful, the life ebbing away oozingly, never quite dead, always getting there.

There are bursts and tumbles and explosive deaths, and you sizzle out of the sky like a damp squib, while they murmur platitudes in white-clad circles to those left gaping.

Death can be a stranger, unrecognizable around the corner, until you come face to face with his ghastly visage and you already know it’s too late.

Death is a seductress you want to succumb to. She’ll spirit you away to sensual things.

You wish you could pick your flavor. But in this here candy shop, you’re stuck with a cone, sticky stuff dripping all over your hand, until you reluctantly, resignedly, take a bite.

S For Swastika

21 Jan

Picture this: We’re having a conversation and I’m listening smilingly. Then you say “Anyways…” and I still smile. Because I willed that stretch of mouth to freeze, while inside, I took three steps back and flung my eyeballs around in a quick move to spy the nearest exit. Inside, I selected a well-sharpened scalpel and neatly carved the ‘s’ off the end of the word. Inside, I set fire to the letter, dropped it into the nearest trash can, put a lid on it, and walked away.

Oh but I’m still here, yes. I’m still smiling at you. Even though my body involuntarily shudders each time an “anyways” is thoughtlessly flung my unsuspecting way.

No, no, please. Don’t take the trouble. I’ll survive. The colorful inner life that results from this conversation is far more entertaining than what you have to say anyway.

Happy Hausfrau Series: Lagan-nu-Custard

14 Jan

Greetings from the home of the happy hausfrau! Don those aprons and follow me into the kitchen, chop chop.

Starting November and lasting all the way through February is the season for Parsi weddings and navjotes. The highlight of these events that host anywhere between several hundred to a few thousand guests, is the sit-down, four-course meal, served on banana leaves and rounded off with our recipe for today–lagan-nu-custard, which simply means ‘wedding custard’. A Parsi wedding is a not-too-frequent occurrence, and many a gourmand attempts to wheedle an invite, openly citing the cuisine as their reason for doing so. Now, whether you’re invited or not, you can make authentic lagan-nu-custard in your own kitchen!

First, the colony of characters:

colony ni gang

Starting from the left, top row: Mr. Makhania, Coomi Condensed Milk, Darabshaw Doodhwala, Vinifer Vanillawali, Safed Khansaab

Starting from left, bottom row: Ms. Skinny Badaam, Messrs. Edulji Eeda, Eski Elchee, Jerbai Jaiphal

Sigh. You need their passport names, don’t you?

Oh alright.

Here we go:  Butter (just enough to grease the baking dish), condensed milk, full fat milk (you can even use low-fat, like I did)-half gallon/1.89 liters, vanilla essence, white sugar, sliced almonds and/or pistachios, 5 eggs, powdered cardamom, powdered nutmeg.

Now, pour the milk into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Like so:

dairy queen

Switch/ pull off the heat.  Next, open the can of condensed milk and get down on your knees.

Coomi

For what we are about to receive

Let us be truly grateful.

And for what we are about to do

Turn the world momentarily blind.

Cue finger-to-lid-to-mouth technique.

Pretend you didn’t just read that.

Continue.

slurp

Turn off/remove from the heat and pour Coomi in. I once had a neighbor with that name. She married a man from Herzegovina and adopted his unpronounceable last name. Don’t you love how I’m so generous with other people’s lives?

Moving on….

soogar

Dunk 300 gms of soogar into the saucepan.

Soogar is swit and I’m a twit.

Give it all a big stir and turn the heat on. You can pretend you’re Gloria Estefan while doing this next step.

stir the heat around

Turn it up, turn it up, not upside down

Turn it up, turn it up, not upside down

Stir the heat around

Got to make the custard

Stir it round and round

Love to stir it

Love to stir it….

*waits for you to finish waggling rear end*

Now mi amigos, if the milk is slightly thicker and ivory in color, pull it off the stove and let it cool. And get to work greasing a baking dish with a stick of butter.

buttah

Like so. Ignore the chef’s desperate need for a manicure. She’s like this only.

Next, whack each of the eeda into a bowl….

edulji eedaVegetarians don’t look!!! Oops. Too late. 😳

5There were five in the bed

And the little one said

Move over, roll over!

And then there were four in the bed.

You can take the teacher out of school, but you canna take the school out of the teacher, no ma’am!

whack! biff! thwack!Beat the eggs and beat ’em good.

Once frothy, pour into the cooled milk (or the milk into the egg dish, whichever is larger)…

pour

And add the final touches to your piece de resistance…

viniferVanilla essence, 1 tsp. That hand model should be sued.

Eski

Powdered cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon.  Or edited out of the frame.

jerbai

Powdered nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon. Or made to wear gloves.

box

Whew!

Now get rowdy and beat it all up again.

dhishoom

If you’re OCD like someone I know, shudder at the splatter.

If you aren’t, proceed to the next step.

almonds

Add sliced/slivered almonds to the mixture and pour it all into a baking dish.

unbakedEet veel luke like thees.

Then, get ready to say your goodbyes.

adieu

There, there. Here’s a hanky. It’ll be back soon. In 45 minutes, to be precise. All golden brown and tanned at 350 degrees.

finale

And voila! Cool and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Serve cold the next day.

And remember, before your guests gather to devour, call out a resounding “JAMVA CHALO JI!!”

Enjoy. 😀

(Pictures courtesy the Happy Hausfrau’s direct beneficiary, a.k.a. the resident photographer, a.k.a. the Boy)