Saturday, October 7, 2017

Mouthpiece #60

Say 'yes'
During any single day, the kind of activities we indulge in, has a big component of our own interests, preferences and likings. This is because, our inclinations comprise our basic innate nature and we tend to drift towards what feeds them. However, there are times when it feels that the demands of people around us (usually our dear ones) are expecting some adjustment in the way we want to spend our time or energy. I call it a classic stage setting for a mental conflict. 
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Hide and Seek
There is something very strange about grief. With time you feel you have overpowered it, you notice that perhaps grief has left your side after what seemed like just a big blob of time barely resembling days or nights. A daybreak starts getting noticeable again and so does a nightfall. It doesn’t go unnoticed that your mouth has not lost its ability to stretch itself into a smile after all. Once again you naturally start participating in the conversations that happen around you without the same getting phased out completely.
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What's cooking? Dahi-bhalle
Story behind dahi bhalle? Yes, in fact there is one, though a very small one. As I have mentioned earlier, there are some foods which get associated with certain places and certain occasions. Dahi-bhalle fall in this category as they were strongly associated with astami-puja at our home. Ashtami kanya pujan is done with traditional poori-chana-halwa combination and I remember how the same were prepared with highest degree of cleanliness and purity. Mummy was very particular about a few things. The kitchen should be sparkling clean before this puja, not even a single unwashed dish should be anywhere in the kitchen. The cooking used to begin pretty early in the morning so that puja is done well before school/office time. Along with the regular combination of poori-chana-halwa, dahi-bhalle were a part of the meal too. I did not much care about dahi-bhalle on any other days but they somehow held a great importance on these days which fall twice in a year.
Though this was not the tradition in my marital home but dahi-bhalle as chaat (with tamarind chutney) has been a regular feature on any special meals. The perfection of the bhalle is in their softness while retaining the shape intact.

recipe here...

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Mouthpiece #59

Sometimes one just needs a nudge for the deep-seated feelings to come pouring out. This happened with me recently when I was asked to compose an article on Bangalore for a prestigious magazine ‘Atulya Bharat’ and after writing it, I felt, perhaps this is what I have been wanting to do for a very long time. So here is a tribute to my soul-city : Bangalore. 
बैंगलोर - कुछ ज़्यादा अपना सा
जीवन पर्यन्त हम अनेकों शख्सियतों से मिलते हैं | कइओं को करीब से जानने का मौका मिलता है तो कइओं से सिर्फ औपचारिकता का सम्बन्ध ही बन पाता है | पर कुछ ऐसे व्यक्तित्व के मालिक होते हैं जो हमारे अति आत्मीय जन बन जाते हैं| उनके साथ चाहे कम ही समय व्यतीत किया जाए पर ऐसी अनुभूति होती है मानो वे हमें सदियों से जानते और समझते हैं और ऐसी ही भावना हमारी उनके लिए भी होती है| उनके साथ किसी भी औपचारिकता की कोई आवश्यकता ही महसूस नहीं होती| उनके साथ बात करना ऐसा जान पड़ता है जैसे हम अपने आप से ही बात करे रहे हों|

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What's Cooking? Samosa's Twin-Sister
If anything comes close to my all time favourite samosa, then it has to be aloo tikki. And if served with mildly-spiced chole, chopped onion, tamarind chutney, mint chutney, grated radish and curd on top - what else can one ask for? A perfect tikki brings about the perfect contrast between crispy exterior and the soft inside part. While samosa making is a little more involved and time-consuming process, tikkis can be prepared in relatively much less time for satiating the taste buds royally.

recipe here...

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Mouthpiece #58

Precarious first steps...
The first couple of pencil marks on a blank paper, in an attempt to begin a sketch; the first few stitches of an embroidery on a fabric laying the foundation of a beautiful tapestry someday; the first sparse strokes of a loaded brush hoping to give shape to a beautiful image on canvas; the first few disjoint sentences jotted down to build a fluid story over a period of time, the first few jerky steps taken, hoping to get in a rhythm of running and many similar such - all begin with a mixed feelings of unsureness and an optimism of seeing something getting created sooner or later.

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Psychological impact...
I feel, psychological influence is quite underrated. Sometimes, in very mysterious ways, logic and reasoning don’t seem to work at all. However, what can work as magic is the confidence that one seeks from the loved one in the time of personal crisis. I remember the time when I was coping with grief a few years back, dragging of days and nights during that phase is nothing more than a blur to me now. 

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What's cooking? Wheat-flour halwa
This dish has a very special place in my heart for many reasons. How can I forget that this was the first dessert that I attempted to cook independently and can still recollect those doubts that were creeping up almost at every stage of halwa preparation. It was the day when I was to remove my auspicious chuda (a set of red and white bangles that are traditionally worn in a Punjabi wedding and are taken off after minimum of 40 days) in US. I was advised by the family back home that I should prepare some sweet dish to offer to the Gods and to mark this occasion. In my parental home, Suji halwa was a regular but not the wheat flour halwa so I had not seen it being cooked from close quarters. But my fascination for wheat halwa had started long back when I partook it in one of the Gurudwaras in Chandigarh and later many times in Dukh Niwaaran Gurudwara, Patiala.

recipe here...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mouthpiece #57

I am who I am
I think I chose to let go of my “identity” when I quit the job to be a stay at home mom. Because usually what we do, forms our identity, especially in our society where the work is tightly associated with certain designations outside, monthly pay checks, growth in any organisation and climbing the ladder towards zenith.

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What's cooking? Vegetable pakoras
I very vividly remember those wintry and/or rainy evenings when the dinner used to be ‘something different’, different from the regular affair of dal-roti or sabzi-roti. Why not rice-dal or rice-sabzi because rice at night was quite unheard of, especially in traditional Punjabi households. But those evenings, followed by those dinners were, well, DIFFERENT because vegetable pakoras adorned the menu for those nights. The preparation for pakoras used to begin pretty early - vegetables were cut in specific shapes and sizes, besan (chana flour) was mixed in water well in advance, the batter was infused with multitude of flavors of - grated garlic-garlic, finely chopped green chillies and coriander leaves; and the mustard oil was heated up in a big wok. The whiff of flavours emanating from the kitchen used to be just too irresistible. I clearly remember how those minutes waiting for the dinner call were so killing. Now when I look back, I really wonder, how big and special were those little joys of life.

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Mouthpiece #56

Paradoxical or what?
न बाँधो इस अनवरत उन्मुक्त उड़ान को
समय की बेड़ी से इसे सरोकार ही क्यों हो ?
आंतरिक संयम को बाहरी चर्या क्यों,
मन के भावों को शब्दों का बाना क्यों ?

शायद कभी क्षितिज को न छू पाऊँ,
शायद कभी सबसे ऊँचा न उड़ पाऊँ,
शायद क्षमता की सीमा में बंध जाऊं,
पर मन की स्वछंदता को क्यों न पाऊँ |

लौट कर आऊँगी अपने घरोंदे पर फिर भी,
विस्तृत आसमान अधिक अपना सा लगे तो भी |
मन की एक तार काया के बंधनों से है जुडी,
चाहे बाकी सब अपने आशियाँ में हैं सिमटी |

This verse that I wrote a couple of years back, often comes to my mind whenever I introspect or rather open my eyes inwards. I do see myself as a free spirit that soars beyond all borders and boundaries, that cruises in a trans like peaceful state and to whom all restraints, whatsoever, are unknown.

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On Raksha-Bandhan
Came across this beautifully written poem by Prasoon Joshi, so sharing it here:
बेहेन अक्सर तुमसे बड़ी होती है,
उम्र में चाहे छोटी हो,
पर एक बड़ा सा एहसास लेकर खड़ी होती है,
बेहेन अक्सर तुमसे बड़ी होती है,
उसे मालूम होता है तुम देर रात लौटोगे,
तभी चुपकेसे से दरवाज़ा खुला छोड़ देती है,
उसे पता होता है की तुम झूट बोल रहे हो,
और बस मुस्कुरा कर उसे ढक देती है,
वो तुमसे लड़ती है पर लड़ती नहीं,
वो अक्सर हार कर जीतती रही तुमसे,
जिससे कभी चोट नहीं लगती ऐसी एक छड़ी है,
पर राखी के दिन जब एक पतला सा धागा बांधती है कलाई पे ,
मैं कोशिश करता हूँ बड़ा होने की,
धागों के इसरार पर ही सही ,
कुछ पल के लिए मैं बड़ा होता हूँ,
एक मीठा सा रिश्ता निभाने के लिए खड़ा होता हूँ,
नहीं तो अक्सर बेहेन ही तुमसे बड़ी होती है,
उम्र में चाहे छोटी हो, पर एक बड़ा सा एहसास लेकर खड़ी होती है |

Mouthpiece #55

बहुत याद करती हूँ

माँ तुम्हें मैं बहुत याद करती हूँ,
असीमित प्यार के भण्डार को याद करती हूँ |

तुम्हारे हाथों की गर्माहट को याद करती हूँ,
तुम्हारी आँखों के भावों को याद करती हूँ,
तुम्हारी प्यारी मुस्कुराहट को याद करती हूँ,
मुझे ‘बेटी’ कह कर पुकारने को याद करती हूँ,
मेरे अनकहे बोलों को समझने को याद करती हूँ |

मेरी गलतियों को भूल जाने को याद करती हूँ,
मेरी हर बात को मान देने को याद करती हूँ,
मुझे जानने के एहसास को याद करती हूँ,
मेरे साथ होने के संतोष को याद करती हूँ,
तुम सब जानती हो, उस भरोसे को याद करती हूँ |

तुम्हारे साये में बैठने को याद करती हूँ,
तुम्हारे किस्से कहानियों को याद करती हूँ,
तुम्हारे सुझावों सलाहों को याद करती हूँ,
बात-बात में बात कह देने को याद करती हूँ,
तुम्हारी सरल जीवनशैली को याद करती हूँ |

सालों ही बीत गए तुम्हें देखे हुए,
तुम्हारे होने की अनुभूति को याद करती हूँ |
माँ मैं तुम्हें बहुत याद करती हूँ |

Reading time...
Read ‘Same Soul, Many Bodies’ by Dr. Brian Weiss. His books dispel almost all doubts about soul being immortal and take up different bodies at the right time. His cases highlight the fact that what we are experiencing has explanation in our previous births. In this particular book, he is even able to make use of his progression theory on some of his patients to heal their present. An interesting read. Have ordered another book by the same author.

What's cooking? Rava idli
‘जैसा देस वैसा भेस’ - When in Rome, do as Romans do. I would rather modify it to ’जैसा देस वैसा खाना’ - When in Rome, eat what Romans eat. I don’t know about Rome but happily adopted this when we were in Bangalore. It is in fact a great way to make use of the local produce as well. Coming to Rava idli now. Idli’s various avtaars were absolutely unknown to me before Bangalore became our home for almost seven years. I especially liked a good number of options for healthy, light and not very expensive breakfast options that are available at almost every other corner throughout the city. I think this is true about most of the South Indian cities as well. There in one of the Darshini hotels we ordered Rava idli for the first time and there was no looking back post that. It immediately got an entry in my 'to try dishes’ that day itself. I checked with some of my friends for the exact proportions and ingredients. After many iterations over the years, I have come up with the following recipe which gives consistent results every single time. This usually works as a handy option when nothing else comes to mind. Moreover, it can be prepared quickly as one is spared of soaking and grinding part of the regular rice idlis.

recipe here...

Mouthpiece #54

आज फिर वही छोटी सी बच्ची बन जाऊँ,

जिसे प्यार से बुलाने के अनेकों ही नाम थे,
स्कूल में लिखवाए नाम को कम ही जानते थे |

जिसे झालर वाली फ्रॉक पहनने का शौक था,
फ्रॉक पर बने फ़ूलों से भी ज़्यादा खिला चेहरा था |

जिसे खूब ज़िद करना आता था और मनवाना भी,
जिसकी आँखों में ही बसते थे अनगिनत सपने भी |

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What's cooking in the kitchen? Classic Aloo-parantha
Nothing beats a good aloo parantha as a breakfast delicacy in Punjabi homes and the good part is, it can be prepared all through the year, as the main ingredients - potatoes and onions are always available.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mouthpiece #53

My elixir of life...
Over the years I have realised that nature inspires me in many more ways than one and I feel at peace just soaking the outdoors with an aware mind. It brings in me the realisation and the perspective of being a tiny part of something so grand, so magnificent. 

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Reading time...
I can hardly remember the last time I laid my hands on a seriously ‘unputdowanble’ book. Just happened to pick 'The kicking the bucket list’ while browsing the displayed books in a bookstore. Memory of those summer holidays came rushing back to me when reading unstoppably had become the routine for those two months. 

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Kitchen tales...
Garlic-pepper rasam
Over the years, I have seriously worked on perfecting this simple yet integral accompaniment of a South Indian meal. I do feel that now I can freeze this recipe for posterity.

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mouthpiece #52

When we covered Shimla...
As sun is shining almost ruthlessly on us these days, the other day I was trying to divert my mind to another extreme experience - of bitter cold. Yeah, I know, it wasn’t Arctic or similar such, but going by the range that I have seen in my lifespan, those few nights do qualify to be in this category.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mouthpiece #51

Me and My Kindle...
It has been over a year since Kindle came into my life. Initially I was super excited about it as it instantly became an epitome of instant gratification of the desire to read a particular book. Just a few clicks and one can get the pleasure of seeing the book downloading within a few seconds. It also gave me the privilege to switch among various books, which, of course, is possible with print books too but then one needs to make the effort to look where one left that book after the last reading. For people like me who are already knocking at the door of senility since long ago (or vice versa), sometimes this becomes a big challenge in itself and the urge to pick that book just fades away without leaving any remembrance even.

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What's brewing (err.... frying) in the kitchen?
Ingredients - 
Urad dhuli : 1 cup
Rice flour : 2 tbsp
Onion : 1 medium (finely chopped)
Green chillies : 2 (finely chopped)
Curry leaves : 10-12 (coarsely torn)
Asafoetida : ¼ tsp
Red chilli powder : ¼ tsp
Coriander powder : ½ tsp (chopped into thin slivers)
Cocounut : 2 inch
Salt : to taste

recipe here...
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