Mine

How easily do they tell you in stories, that under the night sky all that you can see is magic but all that she sees is mountain, her mountainous marriage that is. Namrata shifts her gaze at him and asks him, “What do you want to talk about?”

Pranav wished he was as  systemized on this conversation as he is otherwise but his reflexes were betraying him, so he casually answered, “Anything and everything that we haven’t talked about.”

“Wouldn’t that be two years of our lives?”, she questioned him.

“What if I have been keeping things from you much before that?”, he asked her with a hint of jest.

“Have you?”, she inquired.

“Do you trust me Nam, at all?”, he asked her meaningfully.

“There is precedent to support that I should not.”, she replied sternly.

“Why do you think did I come with you?’, he proved her.

“I have wanted to know that.”, she answered.

“I love you.”,he tells her.

“I don’t know if that is enough Pranav.”, she replies.

“I try Namrata.”, he reasons with her.

“I do too. I try to believe that this is what love is going to be from now on. Love is sleeping in different rooms, it is avoiding each other every day for the fear of what our mutual contempt may tell us about our incompetency at this relationship, it is taking a trip holding on to the belief that we can redeem our marriage; it is walking in the woods discovering each other anew as if we haven’t been together for the last 5 years, it is looking for symbols in flowers, in songs, in a bottle of rum, it is hoping that simple words hold a deeper meaning inside. But I don’t know if this is enough Pranav. Because I don’t like that it will never be what it was before, that it won’t be Pretty Woman and champagne and cherries, that it won’t be unrestrained flow of words and emotions, that it won’t be rings of laughter that echoed across our home, that it won’t be going to sleep with my head on your shoulder fingers intertwined, that it won’t be the impulse to hold you purposelessly but possessively thinking that you are mine. I don’t know how to be satisfied with this when I have had more.”, she articulates to him.

Pranav looks at her, smiling  subtly he says, “I quit my job to come to Kashmir with you. So may be I am still yours.”

This is the 13th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.

Lessons

“Why did it have to rain today?”, quizzed Namrata.

“I wish I had an answer to that.”, replied Pranav as he flipped the pages of the menu,

“Why does it always rain at the wrong time?”, Namrata wondered.

“Maybe because rains have not stumbled upon the concept of time.”, Pranav told her cheekily.

“Why do my plans get soiled every time?”, she asked him.

“Excuse me, my plans?”, he remarked.

“Okay our plans, why do our plans get soiled every time?”, she corrected herself.

“Isn’t that a question that the Dark Lord should have asked the death eaters?”, added Pranav.

“Can we not do anything?”, she asked him.

“You, for one, can stop fidgeting.”, he suggested.

“Fidgeting, you call this fidgeting. This is a normal human reaction to a problem.”, she replied infuriated.

“Ah, how can I forget your penchant for ‘normal human reactions’.”, he said recalling her restlessness at the airport when their flight was delayed.

“Never miss a chance to take a dig at me, do you.”, she pointed out.

“Try my best not to.”, he affirmed.

tumblr_mex6txddus1qbnhtpo1_500

“Why haven’t we ordered already?”, she questioned trying to divert his attention from her.

“Because apparently you have better things to think about than food.”, he answered. Looking at the crimson in her cheeks building up, he decided not to test her fury any further and asked, “What do you want to have?”

“Momos”, she answered.

Shaking his head in denial, he told her, “I will choose to ignore that.”

Shaking her head back at him, she told him firmly, “Seriously, we cannot come to Leh and not eat momos. That is a crime.”

“You know I don’t like momos, unless they are fried and fried momos aren’t on the menu.”; he tried reasoning with her.

“My bad, I had forgotten about Punjabis and their penchant for fried food.”, she said playfully.

“Fine, we will order momos.”, he said before she could play another joke on his North Indian attributes.

“And?”, she asked him.

“Thukpa? I think we should try Thukpa; both of us can use some warmth.”, he replied.

She smiled at him and said, “Getting strong at your puns Pranav, but I am ‘not’ impressed.”

He smiled back at her and pointed out, “But, when have you been?”

“Never, really.”, she added.

“Let’s add crispy noodles and spring rolls to that.”, he suggested.

“How can I say no to that, ever?”, she remarked.

“Never, really.”, he added further.

 

She shifted her attention to the downpour again and said, “Imagine, had it not been raining we could have been in Booklover’s Retreat sipping onto a warm cup of latte and reading.”

With a hint of surprise in his eyes, he asked her, “Is that it Namrata? That is what you want to do in Leh, be in a book store that doubles up as a cafe. We could have gone to Cha Bar in Connaught Place instead, would’ve saved our parents a lot of money and us a lot of time.”

“Being in a book cafe in Leh counts as an important experience.”, she said in her defense.

He could not believe that she was worried about not being in a book cafe right now and she was defending herself on this. He then said, “There are a number of other cafe experiences that Leh has to offer. Right at this time, we could have been scoring some chocolate momos and sipping onto jungli chai in Bon Apetit as the day changed its colors, we could have been in Gesmos gorging onto Yak Cheese Pizzas because you do not get Yak Cheese any place else in this country, we could have been in the Apple Garden Restaurant and eat amidst an apple orchard because it is not everyday that we get to be in an orchard, we could have been in Old Leh walking our way to Lala’s Cafe where coffee and cake comes with a history lesson, we could have been in the German Bakery and eating possibly the most delectable apple crumble. So you see, it is not always experiences with books that are the ones to look out for.”

Namata could not comprehend if he was trying to lift her spirits up or subdue them further by apprising her of the many things that they could have been doing presently. She woefully added, “And now I feel worse, for missing out on everything that this place has to offer and dining in the hotel because it had to rain on this vacation.”

“Dining in the hotel does not take away from the fact that we are still in Leh which is perched at an altitude of 11,000 feet; the restaurant we are sitting in offers a fairly good view of marvel that this place is and if you could just relax and open your eyes to what are we surrounded with, this might come across as an experience to you.”, he tried explaining to her.

Namrata did not argue further, rather she was smiling. He asked her, “Why are you smiling now?”

“I was wondering that I have always been this impatient -which evidently is quite irksome to you-then how is it that you fell in love with me, at all?”, she quizzed him.

“You weren’t this impatient.”, he answered not sure of himself.

“Dates back to my childhood, I believe, impatience is thy second name.”, she told him funnily.

“Haha, I don’t know about impatience but it isn’t every day that you are this good on self assessment.”, he joked.

“Tell me Pranav, did my restlessness not bother you then?”, she questioned him seriously.

“I always managed to talk you out of it or redeem for a cancelled plan.”, he answered.

“How?”, she asked.

“Do you remember your convocation?”, he asked her.

“Ah, you missed it.”, she recalled.

“It was a long day at work, I could not bail out early. I missed the convocation and also the grad dinner date I had promised you.” he explained.

“I was infuriated.”, she exclaimed.

“You weren’t taking my call., he reminded her.

“Call? I had resolved to not look in your direction again.” she told him.

Pranav added, “So at around midnight, I came to your friend’s apartment with a cold pizza, a britannia cake and a bottle of coke to make good on the grad dinner promise and to make you reconsider your decision of never looking at me again.”

“The minute you started talking, my rage began to dispel and we ultimately ended up having a date in the parking lot.”, she confessed to him.

“That was a good date.”, he remarked.

“That was an amazing date. Come to think of it, we made a cute couple back then.”, she admitted wistfully.

“Come to think of it, ‘our love back then’ sounds so ancient.” he admitted with a sense of hurt in his voice.

“Sometimes the answers lie in ancient tales.”, she said purposefully.

“What are you talking about?”, he inquired.

“Maybe, we should talk.”, she suggested.

“Talk about what?”, he asked further.

“Everything that’s going on with us.”, she answered.

“You think that will help in dispelling our rage?”, he inquired.

“If not, relationship reconciliation talks in Leh sounds like an experience in itself.”, she responded chuckling.


This is the 12th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.


Image has been sourced from this link.

Presently from inside my head IV

  • Conversations are not my field of expertise, but I have a small advice. When someone calls you, talk to them properly. Talk to them without that air of withholding information, talk to them without giving them the impression that the call means nothing to you, talk to them without rubbing on them that you do not have time. If you are really busy, do not take the call or drop a message or make time later on and give them a call. Because on their end, they had made the effort to reach out to you and hostility was not what they were looking for.

img_3242-1300x866

  • Have you realized that we are constantly surrounded by people who want rationalize everything? It appears as if we have this unspoken obligation to analyze anything that is placed before us. For example, two months ago the internet was going gaga about the success of Pokemon Go- how it has managed to generate the numbers that it did within the first week of its realease. However now, every third day there is an article trying to unearth that why  have the numbers fallen so quick. My point is that it is not necessary for every game to appeal to all sorts of people alike. Just because a certain set of people do not enjoy it does not make the game flawed or the entire segment of augmented reality banal. I never found Temple Run or Subway Surfer or Angry Bird interesting but that does not raise questions on the game. The same goes for Pokemon Go and a lot other things that are incessantly being analysed every day rather than simply being accepted.
  • Something that probably most people do not realize about me is that all it takes me is a minute to feel sorry for people and their problems. I was watching the new Nescafe ad where a radio jockey is struggling to garner listeners for his morning program. I was sad for him. Like I was sad for Roger Federer when he broke into tears on losing the Australian Open to Rafael Nadal in 2009. The interesting bit is that I had never followed Tennis or Federer and his game. I just saw him crying and began thinking if there was anything I could do to save this man from this pain. I don’t know why I am writing this down but often I think that I should covey to the world that I am not as cold and unmoved you perceive me to be.
  • People have a checklist when it comes to looking for a soulmate; I do too. The person that I settle down for, should qualify on those fronts. Among other few simple requirements it includes a good sense of humor and  a patient ear to the many (albeit repetitive) tales I bring home every day. Lately, I have realized that one of the most important (and less talked about) considerations is that he stands by you during shifting homes or a white wash or wood work or any other renovation. He should help you in moving things, in sorting out what to keep and what to give away and in making space for perennially expanding belongings in perennially shrinking cupboards. That is the kind of person I want to be with.
  • There are days when I want to write to the Human Rights Commission talking about how my earnings befit below poverty line citizens and how my apprenticeship leaves no time for something as small as running an errand or how little is my work being acknowledged or how many explanations do I have to give for sick leaves. September is the busiest month at my work. For the uninitiated, I am working in Tax Audits and 30th of this month is the last date for filing of Tax Audit Reports. I have longer working hours (double of my usual) and working Sundays. Most people I know find the months of August and September exhausting. But here’s a secret, I relish Septembers. I enjoy that sense of urgency, the rush to get things done, that tension in the atmosphere- all of which you will never experience on the 1st of October.
  • Here’s a small something else about work. Last year at this time, all I wanted was to be better at what I do, to have a comprehensive grasp on taxation. I have that now, I understand things better and I have a more effective approach to any audit that I do. But I miss how work was last year solely because of the people I was working with, how light the ambiance was around this time last year. This goes on to show how conflicted I am as a person.

 

Transience- Tales from school

Apartheid; I read it again and it reads ‘Apartheid’. I don’t know what it means. I remember reading it in my social science textbook in class 10. I remember the word being thrown in a number of answers in school. I remember a teacher repeatedly explaining what it means and I remember thinking that given the frequency with which the word is brought up in this class it will take some hard work unlearning this. However, here I am, having completely forgotten the meaning of Apartheid.

barefoot-on-the-sand

I remember having participated in an inter school competition in class 11th. I was sitting in the waiting area with my team when a girl walked over and beamed- yes, literally beamed- at me. She was a friend from my science tuition in 10th. She hugged me and said, ‘Milna nahi hota kya’. I remember feeling warm in that cold foyer. I remember feeling welcome. I remember making a mental assertion that welcomes ought to be this affable, not any less. However, here I am having lost her and  her warmheartedness over the years.

In that very competition, there was a quiz round where in my desperation to win home a few points, I had given two extremely foolish answers. I remember growing red in embarrassment at the sheer stupidity of the words that had escaped my mouth. I had a ‘Sita’ moment, that is, all I wanted was for the earth to break upon so that I could rest inside its folds. However, here I am having forgotten that quiz, those answers and the desire to disappear over the years.

Once in class 7, I had stained my skirt on the second day of my period. The teacher who noticed it behaved as if she had never witnessed anything close to a period. Everyone in my class looked at me with an other worldly expression. I felt stung that day. However, here I am , having completely moved over that emotion.

I had moved to a different school in class 4. I was a quiet kid and I still am, meaning which seldom did I take initiative to participate in class discussions or in interacting with my classmates or a teacher. Often, my teachers would show surprise on how someone with such little zeal in class could score so well. My science teacher in class 5- who taught me Chemistry through the next six years- took special interest in me. She would constantly nudge me to answer in the class or pick a conversation with me or ask me for my notebook which no other teacher has done in my life. I always believed that I shall remain in touch with her. Maybe, I am too lousy at sustaining long term contacts or maybe I am incompetent in conveying my emotions – both the quantum and the content- to others, so here I am, not having talked to this teacher for for a good five years now.

I used to have a best friend in school. I called it quits with her in class 11. It felt how adults feel when they walk out of relationships. It happened because she never meant well or she never meant as well as she tried portraying. At that point in time, I had come to believe that I will never be able to trust another person, their words and their intentions. However, here I am, having set aside those beliefs and having fostered deeper connections in the aftermath.

In English, we were once taught a chapter called ‘The Address’, where a World War II survivor visits her former neighbor- who her mother had trusted with their belongings. However on coming across the artifacts , the cutlery in that cramped, strange environment she finds them alien. So she leaves the house abruptly and resolves to never see them again. I had written a short note on the story, trying to rationalize the myriad of emotions that take hold of the protagonist in that house. That answer was dear to me at that time. However, here I am, reading it again and again, but it just doesn’t appeal to me now. I stand as disassociated with the answer as Marga was in ‘The Address’.

You may wonder, why am I writing of all these long forgotten instances from school; only to bring home the point- that everything passes, whether good or bad, whether dear or heart wrenching, everything in our lives fades, first out of sight and then out of memory. As we make space for newer experiences and newer beliefs (and newer words) in life everything from our past grows smaller and smaller. Things in life have a shelf life and come to think of it, howsoever despondent my present seems to me presently, this too shall pass, soon.

f88296ec0eb9c913a97cbc6e9cfc25f0


These days, I am trying to be solicit hope, be it in positive experiences or in an odd trail of thoughts, like this one.

My life is a Red Velvet Cake- II

Here’s what happened so far,

Last December, I had decided to make a Red Velvet Cake on a whim. After a day of recipe hunting, when I arrived in my kitchen to do the actual baking, a new difficulty materialized at every step. Finally, when the butter was posing to be too tough to mix, I gave up and walked out.

When in Masterchef Australia, things don’t go well, contestants conveniently discard the batch of under cooked food and start afresh. But life isn’t Masterchef Australia; there was no way that I could walk out abandoning the half done ingredients without a huge bout of guilt taking control of me. That was a good 200 gm of flour, butter and sugar bound for trash only because I did not have the sanity to melt the butter before using it. So, I took a spoon and slowly began folding the curd mixture into the butter and sugar. I would swirl the butter, then even it with the spoon and then repeat the swirl.

As soon as the butter and curd made peace in the bowl, I added a teaspoon of vanilla essence and beat it with the electric blender once. One monumental task done, it was time for another, I had to add flour to this mixture. The consistency of the mixture was thick already, so I decided to approach with the flour in small portions because I did not have the time to afford another almost walk out session. I split the flour into 4 portions and added it one after the other, moving to the next portion only when the first incorporated well and smoothing out any lumps that occurred. Fifteen minutes in the calling a truce of the thick skinned ingredients, the batter seemed done. For the next step I had to mix 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda to 1/2 a tablespoon of vinegar and wait for the froth to rise before I add it to the batter. That is how the batter was done.

My brain still wasn’t convinced that I had come this far. So I continued to match the appearance of my batter with the pictures on Gayathri’s blog. Every time I looked at mine, it felt as it wasn’t destined for the oven to rise as a Red Velvet Cake but to solidify as bricks. There wasn’t anything wrong with my batter but that is how anxious I am as a person, I obsessively chase a catch in an entirely catchless situation. I lined the cake tin with copious amounts of oil and flour because now that I had inched so close to the victory I’d prefer it to be out of the tin. I emptied the batter into the tin, leveled it and placed it inside a pre heated oven.

Now that the cake was left to the mercy of thermal energy, I had nothing else to do but pray. Any prudent individual would begin working on the frosting however I decided to frantically walk between the bedroom and kitchen in the half hour that followed. Sometimes, it amazes me that despite of all those business studies lectures on aiming to be efficient – maximum utilization of time- my efficiency has only come to deplete over time. I checked on the cake once after it had been in the oven for 20 minutes. A gooey red line streaked the knife. I pushed the tin inside the oven again and then googled if opening the oven door during baking affects the process. Google cautioned me to keep calm and let it bake but given my impatient reflexes I checked on the cake again after ten minutes. The knife was slightly streaked this time. I shoved the tin inside, set the timer afresh for 7 minutes and turned away. The oven beeped as the timer hit zero but  I did not approach it as anything worthwhile in life demands standing time; if time is all it wants I will give it that.

I took the tin out of the oven, placed it on the platform and ran a knife through it which came out spotless.That, folks was nothing short of a miracle for me.

IMG_20151222_202829832
That’s how it came out of the oven.

Now that I had a red cake all I needed was cream cheese frosting for it to be Red Velvet Cake. So I opened the tub of that packaged cream cheese, scooped half of it into a bowl. I added half a cup of white butter, half a cup of sugar and a tinge of vanilla essence to it and began whisking it. I accept that this was not an Amul Cream advertisement where I whisk it once and the it fluffs up but I most certainly did not expect it to dilute further every time I beat it. On a closer look, I realized that the packaged cream cheese had tiny bits of ice in it which were melting with the whisking and making my frosting runny. I tried improving the consistency with more cream cheese and more beating which helped slightly but I never achieved the thickness and lightness that defines frosting.

What was done was done and for the lack of any handy hacks, I proceeded with the same frosting. Once the cake had cooled down, I cut into half laterally and spread the icing on top of one layer. I then placed the second layer on top of the first and with a wooden spatula covered the cake with cream cheese as best as I could. I continued spreading the cream cheese icing generously because there was a possibility of the icing to run down. Once the icing was done, I placed it in the refrigerator over night for the icing to set.

IMG_20151222_234606763_HDR
I made it to the finish line, (most importantly) with the cake 😉

I does not look very exquisite but it definitely tasted well and surprisingly so because cooking and I never go hand in hand.

Why I called my life Red Velvet Cake in the title was because presently my life is huge chunks of butter that I am trying to incorporate with flour and sugar and curd. On days, I feel like abandoning everything at hand. But I come back, make fresh attempts and even though the prospects don’t appear to be promising, I hope that their taste will not be any less heartening than my cake’s. So here’s to a shabby Red Velvet that holds the promise of a dainty future.


On a side note, my experiments in kitchen have made me realize that had I been in Hogwarts I would have failed horribly at potion making because of my lack of subtlety and my callousness with exact proportions.

What have your kitchen experiments taught you in life?


Read part one of this post here: My Life is a Red Velvet Cake-I

Pokemon Go is like Campus Placements

I was one of the earliest victims to have caught on the Pokemon Go bug. I had never watched Pokemon as a child. The only instance that Pokemon surfaced in my life was in class 6th, when I had to make a cartoon character on a chart paper as a part of holiday homework (don’t think of the rationale of that, holiday assignments are never meant to make sense). Being the artistically challenged soul that I am, I passed it on to my cousin who made a Pikachu and that is when I registered the existence of Pokemons.

Earlier this July, a friend told me about Pokemon Go, that how one can find Pokemons in real time as they move around in their city. And  from what I recall, I told him, ‘That is so cool’. I have read many articles on the game, talking about the rise and decline and the rise of Pokemon phenomenon, about how it affects our economy, about how the game is the fulfillment of every fan’s childhood dream- to become a Pokemon trainer. Everyone is trying to rationalize the breakneck success of the game, but if you’d ask me why I decided to play, the answer is simple, ‘that it’s a cool idea’.

The day I downloaded the game, I wanted to take a long stroll and familiarize myself with the ways of the game. But for two weeks I just could not materialize on that plan. I caught 3-4 Pokemons within my home but outside was quite a dismal story because I did not have time. The only way to accommodate it in  my day was to take a morning walk which I kept on avoiding for the risks involved. Yes there are lecherous men but at the same time there is a likelihood of bumping into many Aunties that I know. All it would take are a couple of namastes and halfhearted grins for my Pokemon Hunt to transform into a Main Milansar Hun Mission (I am Social Mission).

So last Sunday, my dad had a few errands to run; because I am jobless (or mostly deemed to be jobless) I accompanied him. While I was in the car I decided to try my luck at the game. Somehow, luck favored me- which is rare with games and me-because I continued to find Pokemons everywhere I went. That stroke of luck lasted the entire day. In between grocery shopping , catching a movie and dinner outside, I managed to find 40 Pokemons, right from the comfort of my car seat, which is ironic because the whole point of the game is to get people walking but hey I am lucky and lazy.

Yesterday was Sunday, the day when I am deemed to be most jobless in the week and there I was again, in the front seat of our car. I had opened the app and was watching the screen like a hawk. Yes, I know the phone vibrates when a Pokemon appears on the screen but I have spent a lifetime being wronged by games, I could not risk missing any Pokemon. In the 40-45 minutes drive, I could only spot Rattata, Pidgey and Spearrow, that is, the three most non exotic Pokemons out there. The oddity is that it was the same route as last week, where I had caught a Venonat, a Krabby, a Poliwag and an Eevee and today all that buzzed my screen was Rattata. On my way back I missed a Staryu because my screen froze (read, that last year’s update to Lollipop is a gift that never stops giving). The morning drive turned out to be a great disappointment.

Come evening and I was out again, this time with a definite goal- catch whatever that comes your way Palak. Before I initiate further, you should know that I am always running short on Poke Balls, owing to many injudicious throws in the beginning of the game and a general fault in my assembling when it comes to sports/games. So I had 10-12 when I left home and I continued catching Pidgey after Pidgey. With some 5 balls in my hand I took an aim at a Pidgey with Combat Power (CP) 57; it was a great throw  (this is a game terminology and not an attempt at gloating) but it broke free from the ball. I took another great throw but that wretched Pidgey escaped again. I had already seen a fair share of disappointments with the game since morning, so I was in no mood take a wound at my ego by the likes of a Pidgey. I took another aim, it dodged the ball. I took a deep breath, measured the throw and when I flicked the ball, the Pidgey was inside the ball. That is when satisfaction hit me, that I had a decent Pokemon to speak for the last 5 minutes and 4 lost Poke Balls. It was then that I could peacefully walk into the store my mom had taken me to.

I was helping my mother look for clothes when my screen buzzed. I was shocked to see that I was surrounded by 2 Zubats, a Pidgeotto of CP 146 and a Horsea of CP 76. Without waiting further I pressed on the Pidgeotto, took a aim at it and caught it. I kept my eyes closed for a second praying that it does not escape, is is likely for a Pokemon of high combat power. Unfortunately it did break free and when I moved finger to take another aim I realized that I had no Poke Balls. Being surrounded by 5 Pokemons and having no Poke Balls in hand, if that is not hard luck, I don’t know what is.

pixlr.jpg

While I was moaning over my loss on the way back home, I remembered college and placements. We had three tiers of companies for placement, the highest paying super blue, followed by blue and then light blue (because I don’t recall what that category was named). Any student could accept only two offers. Come to think of jobs like Pokemons, initially we save our efforts for exotic offers because who likes a Rattata right at the beginning. However when nothing good comes our way, in a desperate bid, we take a leap at the blue companies. Now picture yourself ecstatic at having earned two offers from blue companies and there comes a super blue Pidgeotto striking at your doorstep. But what can you do do now, there are no Poke Balls left.

What you have, is a curveball thrown at you maybe because life wants you to understand the virtues of patience or maybe because life is that insensitive friend who never misses a chance to take a dig at you. I don’t know what it is for certain, but I have decided to not squander away my Poke Balls in haste in Pokemon Go and otherwise in life.


This is my Pokemon Go story, maybe a tad dramatic but wholly authentic. Do tell me about yours in the comments.

My life is a Red Velvet Cake- I

Over a certain lunch in December, someone said Red Velvet Cake and by the night I had decided that I want to bake one. Before you read any further please note that I am not a sweet tooth, I am a morbid calorie counter, I have no special affection for Red Velvet Cake and my association with cooking begins and lasts with  watching Masterchef Australia every year. I simply acted on impulse because someone had recently pointed out that I never do a thing on a whim. But that is a story for another time. Right now, I want to talk about how I decided to bake a Red Velvet Cake on an impulse.

red-velvet-cake-3

So this was Monday midnight, when I had set myself a goal. To cook something, you need a recipe or be that skilled at cooking that multiple impulses lead you to culinary perfection. Since I fall in the former category, I began looking for a recipe. I needed a recipe that did not require eggs because my mother is a vegetarian. I found many, courtesy Pinterest and patiently read through each one of them to single out one from a blog called Gayathri’s Cook Spot. However her icing was quite an Achillean task to achieve for someone like me who displays not an iota of finesse in the kitchen. My search for a frosting recipe culminated on a recipe from Martha Stewart, which required me to whisk cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and vanilla essence. Seems easy, right; however not that easy if you have no clue as to what cream cheese is. Yes, that is how alien I was to the world of red velvet cakes. I did not know what the velvet stood for. From what Google told me, making cream cheese requires two days and I did not have two days because the things with whimsical decisions is that they vanish as swiftly as they occur.

Come Wednesday evening and I went looking for packaged cream cheese. A friend told me about a store that he believed certainly sold cream cheese. I believed otherwise because they had once given me clueless stares when I had asked for Parmesan cheese.As it turns out, they did sell cream cheese, however in a tub of the size that could easily last for two cakes. I bought that because I believe in excess and I did not have an alternative.

It was six when I walked in the kitchen. I opened the recipe on my phone, placed it on the shelf.  I took out three bowls, a cup for measurement, a cake tin, a hand beater and a couple of spoons. I took two deep breaths and contemplated if I should be getting into this. Before I could think any further, I peeked onto my phone for the first step. It said that I mix the essence and cocoa powder in one bowl, mix the flour and the baking powder in another and beat the sugar and butter in another. I measured out portions for the first two steps and mixed the ingredients. For the third, I wondered if I should opt for yellow butter or white butter. Lesson for life: never give yourself a choice Palak, because other people may rationalize between the options but you will go on to over think and you do enough of that already. Yellow butter it was in the end.

When I looked at the pictures on the blog, Gayathri seemed to have mixed butter without melting it. I followed suit. It took me two minutes to realize that this could be the downfall of this entire exercise, that there was no scope for refrigerated butter to mix with sugar, howsoever aggressively I beat them. So I let the butter rest for a couple of minutes and then tried softening it with a spoon. It took me a good half hour to beat the butter and sugar and I still wasn’t confident if it was the right consistency.

Next, I had to add curd to the butter mixture.That got me thinking, if I had enough curd or any at all. One glance at the top shelf and there was half a bowl of curd placed behind the milk container. I needed 3/4 cup of curd and I had 1/2 a cup. It was going to be 7 which meant I won’t be able to get anymore from the nearby market as well. Here is what I did, I beat the curd with a spoon for a minute and deluded myself into believing that this is enough, this is exactly what the recipe calls for. I then added the curd mixture with the beaten butter and sugar. The butter and sugar was a thick lump and I was having trouble in completing one round of mixing the curd into it. What the consistent effort of moving the hand beater gave me was red butter smeared hands, that began to slip every time I tried mixing and since I am not blessed with promising biceps, my arms began to hurt. I then took an electric blender but the blade continued to get stuck in the lump of butter.

One hour down, all I had achieved was butter on my hands, butter on the hand beater and butter on the electric blender. I wiped the butter on the mixers with my hand, washed my hands and then gave another try at it. It just wouldn’t mix. I wiped the mixer again and washed my hands. As I wiped my hands with the already crimson towel, I wanted to cry. Cry at my stupidity on believing that I could bake a cake, that too a red velvet. Cry at my stupidity on forgetting that I am not cut out for kitchen.

Enough had been done, I could not foresee any fix that would make this process easier for me. Lesson no. 2 of the day, some things are meant to be seen from afar and admired and not to be reproduced by your own hands;  Red Velvet Cake was that for me. If life was nothing but a piece of cake, then I could see nothing but trouble ahead.

On that note, I walked out of the kitchen.


Have you ever tried anything out of character? Did you succeed at it? Or did you give up on it as I did with the Red Velvet Cake.


Image has been sourced from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Presently from inside my head III

  • In one of the few interviews that I have appeared for, I was asked about my weaknesses. I had very confidently spoken about my introversion, on how I take some time in mingling with people. At that time, I would always imagine what a nightmare would it be for people to work with me. But lately I have realized I may not be that bad a colleague. Yes, I may not flash a smile at you as you begin at my office or swarm my way through your lunch table conversations. But I might come of help on that day that you are struggling, crack a joke or two in crunch hour and be a continued source of information ranging from office politics to Pokemon Go. Or maybe I am a nightmare – not the kind that haunts you for days but the one that you eventually make peace with.

tumblr_n7fgm42wxi1st5lhmo1_1280

  • I am not fond of my immediate superior at work, the woman that I have been reporting to for a year now. Our mindsets don’t match and our approach to work does not form a peaceful parallel. Naturally, I have never given her a thought beyond that office space and working hours. Last year, I had discovered a dear friend at work who left a month after we started talking. In the days that followed, I had felt a void. Like you have a joke to share but you cannot see the person who’d laugh the most with you or you are confused on a point but the person that you were least hesitant to approach is not sitting next to you. I would still reach my friend through a text or a call. But come to think of it, my superior has been working here for 5 years. She has seen many people come and leave, some of whom she must have enjoyed working with or conversing to. She talks lesser than she used you to last year and hers may not be a very pleasant situation at work.
  • I was one of the many unfortunate people who tried participating in Xiaomi’s 2nd anniversary flash sale yesterday. I managed to press the buy now button which led me to the Xiaomi Mi5 product page. I selected the model and the page continued to load for over ten minutes before I hit refresh. The app displayed the usual product page with a discounted price of 22,999. A friend told me that his app displayed out of stock the second it was 2 pm and that the browser’s timing was 2 second behind. On reaching the internet, I found many such stories where people with as fast as a 50 mbps connection failed to grab the coveted Rupee one deals. Some people verified the MIUI ids displayed in the winner’s list and as it turns out quite a many do not exist. Out of the hundreds of comments that I had read only two people claimed that they were successful in buying a power bank. The admin of Mi India’s facebook page continued stating that the stocks flew off in .01 second and there were other promising discounts that people should have a look at. But my point is, if that is what was meant to be the USP of the 2nd anniversary celebrations then why not be upfront about it. Why not publicize the discounts in the first place rather than putting up a farce in the face of a flash sale and tricking people. I know, rupee 1 is far too good to be true but that is how naive I am, I believe in good things and giveaways. I would have liked my belief to be upheld, even if it was for someone else.

Screenshot_2016-07-20-14-03-55

  • As a child, I may not have foreseen what I was going to become when I grow up but I had foreseen myself to be financially independent. I have always enjoyed saving whatever came to me as pocket money and then spending a part of that savings into a thing I sought to own. I am 23 and I am not earning. I am studying. I believe it takes a different brand of patience to be 23 and to not be earning. To be doing what I am not very confident about and to be believing every day, that this will fulfill at least one of my childhood dreams- being financially independent. I look at all the things that I can do, the places that I can be to, the products I could buy and how little have I earned in these years. I have not been raised in deprivation, my parents will happily buy me anything that I desire, I have a good amount of savings but right now I desire to freewheel with money and freewheeling with my parents’ money  will tantamount to one thing- guilt.

P.S. I think I am coming to enjoy writing in an unrestricted fashion because this lets me put whatever’s going on in my head to paper howsoever varied the thoughts may be individually. What do you enjoy more, writing with a sense of direction or carefree rants like this one?

Karaoke and Kinesis

Chand si mehbooba ho meri kab

Aisa maine socha tha

Hann tum bilkul waisi ho

Jaise maine socha tha

He sang to me as I scooted inside the gates of The Grand Dragon, Leh. His lips inching closer to my helmet clad face, his breath lingering on  my neck, his grasp slightly firm on my waist and his voice solemn, more solemn than with any other song that he had sang earlier. His eyes sincere as they met mine and his embrace reeked affection as he held me in his arms and shrieked gaily, “Yayyyy, we made it alive.” And then he withdrew, and then he was at the reception and then inside their room tossing his shoes in the air and then he slept. And she simply looked on, replaying the moment, the last song in her head.

moon-65957_960_720

Many many moons ago, Pranav had perched himself on the balcony of their honeymoon suite and sang for me this song. He had taken me in his arms and said, “I know this is not Kashmir but I promise that a day will come when you will have your dream. Perched atop a hill, I will nestle you closer and sing to you this song.”I had laughed then, arguing that my dream is not a five minute sequence from a Yash Raj movie. He had countered me, “If not yours, then this is mine, both a dream and a promise to you.”

It was his idea that we sing songs to keep ourselves engaged in the journey and so w had. He had sung a lot of old romantic songs, particularly Mukesh‘s because he was such an oldie with music. No tadak bhadak, just raw emotions and melody. I was enjoying the choices he was making with the songs. Because they were beautiful songs and beautiful songs are meant to be relished with every lyric. But never during those four hours, had an emotion stirred in my heart because at the end of the day, they were mere words strung together for recreation. Until he sung the last one and a box in the back of my mind flipped open, the memory resurfaced and a riddle took siege on me. Was it simply a song or was it a message that he was hoping to deliver in the guise of a song?

When they were getting to know each other better, Pranav would often remark what a nightmare must it be to born with my brain. The kind of brain that is always looking out for symbols. Every time I would over analyse a fact, a gesture an occurrence, he would chastise me saying that not everything is a code for you to decrypt, some things can be taken at face value. But I would make a mental assertion that maybe it is a code after all, a jigsaw puzzle to be brought to order. How ironic is it, that today he had played on what he once deemed nightmarish to earn a second lease on our marriage. That after all, I had left no doors for him to reach to me but through a code. Talk about friction, someone.

What if it was only was a song, an innocent song that was being read into excessively. Among the many things that we have both forgotten over time, the promise could have been one. When we had begun on the path of estrangement, he would tell me in the middle of arguments that my knack of reading between lines has deluded me into misjudging his actions and him; that it is this that will cost us our relationship. Come to think of it now, if it is that, what comes as natural as a reflex to me, then it is his words that hold veracity in the end. And this night has been nothing short of being a futile exercise in the hope of holding onto a relationship that I have rendered dysfunctional.

When did my life come to sound like Clouds in my Coffee? Deep poetic words ought to be liked on pages not begin to parallel your life. If only, I could stop thinking of this song, that would ease the muddling in my head. Once I had read on Quora, that the trick to stop singing a song was to think of how it ends. But before I can reach the end, I get stuck on,

Iss duniya mein kaun tha aisa

Jaisa maine socha tha

Haan tum bilkul waisi ho

Jaisa maine socha tha

 


This is the 11th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ Challenge. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.

 

Just in time

I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep.

Screw that, I want to sleep.

God, why can I not sleep.

Pranav’s brain was buzzing with continuous calls for sleep, “The last time I felt so helpless with sleep was in that wretched Economics class in 12th standard. I would sit and yawn incessantly during the entire class and imagine if there was a sleep suppressing device consisting of two small sticks that you could fit in between the eyelids. The sticks would hold the eyelids apart, thereby preventing them from meeting and making it difficult for a person to sleep. Fifteen years hence, and there is still no sign of such an equipment. God, what would I have not given to sleep then. God, what would I not give to sleep right now. Why am I never able to do what I want to do? Why do I always have to turn a blind eye to what I desire?”

“Pranav, be a man and let this be an exception. Be a man and follow your heart. Carpe diem, if all that you yearn for is sleep then you will sleep, right here right now.”

Pranav closed his eyes. He could feel his mind come to a blank. He was coming to enjoy the ease but his relaxed stance had let the motorcycle freewheel ahead. As the road turned slightly, his helmet collided with Namrata’s and  they were going to fall. He opened his eyes just in time to take control of the bike and save them from tripping. He braked and parked in a corner to catch his breath and recollect his thoughts.

leh-manali-highway-unusual-signboards1

Namrata got off the bike, removed her helmet and as she stretched her arms casually she told him,”Pranav, I know that there must have been a lot of occasions lately when all you must have wanted is to get rid of me; and if killing me is how you have decided to achieve that, I just want you to know that I don’t want to die in an accident especially not so far from home, especially in a secluded valley where my corpse will rot unattended for hours before a living soul realizes of my having passed to a higher abode.”

“Namrata, can you save the speech please. I did not intend to kill you, I just lost hold of the brakes for a minute, that’s it.”, Pranav rattled back at her.

“Don’t lie Pranav, I know you dozed for some seconds and you were knocked out of it when your brain cells registered that we are going to trip and not very pleasantly.”, Namrata asserted with confidence.

“That is absolute crap. You are sitting behind me, how can you say for certain that I was about to sleep.”, he argued.

Namrata smiled, she tucked a hair strand behind her ears and began explaining to him, “Pranav, you have a horrible hand at automobiles but what you have demonstrated in the past fifteen minutes with the Royal Enfield is even shameful for your grotesque riding skills. Now, renting a bike to Leh was your idea, so you’d commit your life to validate this idea; which means you should not be riding this bad. But you are, so that means something is meddling with your attention. On a usual day your brain is occupied with three things, work, food and sleep. You haven’t thought of work since the day we flew out of Delhi, you aren’t hungry because we just stopped at a dhaba an hour ago, which means this most definitely has to be sleep. You haven’t slept in the past three days, because we had an early flight, the next night you woke up at around 4am, the next night we had an argument and you spent most part of the night in some part of the hotel I know nothing of and then last night you woke up early to arrive at this amazing plan. All of this strengthens my theory that your brain wants you to sleep and you obliged to its demand.”

Pranav exasperated at her well founded theory, let out in a hurry, “You’d give anything to prove that riding a bike to Leh was a bad idea.”

“You think I need to voluntarily prove it. This was an exciting idea Pranav but not in your context. You abhor riding/driving and for you to ride a motorcycle from Pahalgam to Leh, for eight hours straight, on an uphill road, that does not sound anything short of torture to me.”, she told him.

Pranav was left with no energy to contest her theory. He sat down on the road and with his face between his hands, he agreed, “You are right.”

“About you having dozed off or this being a torture?”, she asked him.

“Both.”, he answered.

“Haha, I knew it.”, she cried out.

“Do you really think this is the time for your evil laughter and that ‘I told you so’ expression.”, he asked her.

“You dragged me out of bed at 5 to pursue a plan based on a 3 second impulse. I think I have earned a minute to relish my victory.”, she replied with an air of pride.

Pranav shook his head in disbelief. How important is it for her to be right, he thought to himself and called out”What a kid you are, Nam?”

“That coming from the person who drew up the most childish plan in the history of mankind.”, she teased him.

“Now that’s an exaggeration.”, he said.

“Who said I believed in subtlety and accuracy.”, she reasoned.

“You can take pride in your foresight for the rest of your life but right now we have to decide what we do next.”, he reminder her of the problem at hand.

“We have to keep moving ahead.”, she articulated without a doubt.

“But I can’t do this anymore.”, he informed her.

“But you have to.”,she stated matter of factly.

“At the cost of killing us both, do you want me to do that.”, he stated in a more matter of factly tone.

“Pranav you can’t chicken out of this plan in the middle of nowhere.”, she argued.

“We are in Dras, we can stay here for the night.”, he suggested.

“Do you know a place where we can put up for the night?”, she inquired.

“We can look for one.”, he replied.

“Another 3 second impulse, is that? What if we do not find a decent accommodation, we will have to revert to the original plan, go to Leh. So why take a detour?”, she contended.

“I cannot ride Nam; the odds that I will die with the monotony of riding are far more than the odds of dozing off while riding. Not that the latter is not lethal but the former has a more venomous factor.”, he explained to her with a tone of exhaustion in his voice.

“Wait a minute, why don’t you ride us ahead.”, he proposed.

“Absolutely not.”, she answered.

“Why not? You love roads, you enjoy every twist they throw at you and at one point you fancied taking an exotic bike trip.”, he insisted.

“That was 25 when I nurtured such fancies, much before my back began giving up on me in the absence of proper support.”, she explained.

“Oh Namrata, don’t present yourself as a 66 year old. You know you can do this and you know we have no alternative and you know it will be a delight for you.”, he said with conviction.

“Okay but only because you have left us no other options. But there are two conditions.”, she announced.

“What?”, he asked her.

“You cannot sleep and you have to keep me entertained.”, she told him.

“As long as I rid myself of riding the beast, everything is fine by me. Even not sleeping and even brainstorming what can I bring to the table for your entertainment”, he told her.

“Sounds like we have a deal then.”, she voiced out as she smiled and fastened the helmet on her head.

SONY DSC