Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Diary Of A Diplomatic Person

Just to be clear the Diplomat here does not refer to the official capacity of the word. Although the line of difference between the two is very blurred, we are going to dissect the anatomy of a diplomatic person – the person forever pleasing everyone by maintaining relationships and negotiating wherever possible. All of us have to be diplomatic at certain situations, however honest or blunt one may be. Like talking to your boss when he assigns you truck load of work before you go are planning a vacation. Your mind is full of abuses but you say “Yes Sir” with a smile. When your kids are fighting and you clearly know which one is at fault but you dare not take sides. Lest the other one hates you for the rest of his/her life. Now if these situations were not difficult enough, just imagine the condition of a person who has to go through the crossroads of being good or honest every single freaking day. Just imagine the amount of pressure, imaginary conversations, fights, accusations and going on in the brain of a true diplomatic person.

Contrary to what people might think and say it is NOT easy being a people pleaser. I mean yes, you easily get out of tricky situations, avoid confrontations and maintain that good person vibe but internally you are dying! Also not everyone is a people pleaser to earn brownie points or to be in the good books. Some people just can’t help being this way, it just the way they are wired. They lack the conviction in their minds and voice to put forward their opinions. Even if by some stroke of luck they manage to disagree, the manner will be so weak that the other person knows he has won the battle.
Although it may look very easy to win a battle of words with a diplomatic person but what really goes inside this persons mind is not that easy. There is a lot of could’ve, would’ve and should’ve out there! While this person tries really hard to avoid confrontations and keep everyone happy, he/she is at loss when it comes to controlling their own brain which works overtime with various thoughts, and muted screams of impatience. Avoided conversations leave behind a truck load of guilt which apart from the apparent restlessness also triggers anxiety, sleepless nights, conversations in dreams (if one manages to fall asleep) and in worst cases even depression. It is also accompanied by these side effects ranging from high blood pressure to stress and hair fall.

Image Credit-

Apart from mental trauma there are serious effects on the day today lifestyle as well. I mean if you are  a person who is efferent to saying no, you are more or less screwed 5 days outta 7. You are doing everyone else’s work by doing them a ‘favor’, frequency of which is increasing alarmingly. You are also working beyond your time and on weekends if required. Because since you don’t say No, everything is assumed to be a Yes. Sometimes you are meeting friends over dinner and drinks but would really want to be curled up in bed watching an old movie. Accompanying that pesky friend on shopping spree when you had planned to read that book you have been making eye contact with since months. Being in a half relationship because you just can’t break someone’s heart or bear the drama that comes with it. Pretending to smile and nod your head when you strongly disagree with someone’s religious or political views.

Can you imagine the constant control that a diplomatic person has to be in? The sheer amount of patience involved and not to forget the composure. I mean even I try to be diplomatic at times but alas I have no control over my face and expressions. My body language clearly gives away the thoughts I have going on in my mind. Hence I have a huge amount of respect for people who are so very in control of this body and mind. We may hate them at times, call them fake, weakling and what not. But we got to admit that there are some really strong qualities out there. Also at some point of time they must get so used to the drill that the side effects and mind-nagging would definitely have lesser and lesser impact on them.

Nonetheless, next time I spot a diplomatic-people-pleaser instead of the usual wrath I am going to show some respect and learn a trick or two!


Thursday, January 25, 2018

10 Reasons Why

I am very big on repetitions. Be it food, restaurants, books or movies. I love the comfort of familiarity that comes with the things that are known. Although I am always up for new adventures, a part of me craves tried-and-tested. When it comes to books, I just cannot not reread a book especially if I own it. Some people find it very weird but I just cannot imagine not re-reading a book I loved. Not only does it refresh your memory, at every stage you also tend to analyses the characters and the situations in the book differently, sometimes in the first read we tend to miss a lot of facts or not understand them at that particular instance. But when you read it again and this time already know how it ends you somehow understand the underlying emotions, little details and empathize with the characters a bit more. I read the book Jane Eyre when I was in 5th standard. Now obviously that time I could not understand the entire thing. When I re-read it 9th standard it was like I was reading a completely new story. Another reading fest in 12th standard made me notice parts which I had totally missed or thought to be inconsequential in my earlier reads.

Another book which I re-read at least once a year is Gone With The Wind. Now at some 1000 odd pages this is a brave task to intake. But I eagerly look forward to this task every year. I first read this book in 2008 back when I was in college and since I could not afford to buy the book I did the next best thing. Read the PDF version on my laptop, twisting and turning it at awkward angles in a quest to accomplishing something akin to “cuddling with the book”. I still remember when I finished reading the book. I felt like I just could not go on living normally, like nothing would ever be the same, like OMG. Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley, Melanie, Mammy, Auntie PittyPat all of them just kept revolving in head and dreams for days altogether. I knew that I had to re-read this book again. And I continued to do so on my laptop reading the same PDF. However this year husband has taken pity on my eyes and decided to buy me the real thing. Flesh and blood. So 2018 will be all about cuddling with my beloved Gone with the Wind.

The book reading is also followed by watching the movie, which is easily the best book-inspired-movie ever made. In a duration of 4 hours they have tried their level best to fit in as many important milestones as possible. This ritual of mine (of reading the book followed by the movie) makes me somehow ready for the year. Ready to face on new challenges and various ideas to execute them. There is just so much to learn from this book – perseverance, the love for home, starting up from scratch, the pain of hunger, the ruthlessness of wars, the damn Yankees, pretense of helplessness, beautiful flowy dresses and bonnets, tiny waists, mammy and the dreamy Rhett Butler. But none of this matches the love I have for the Ultimate Queen of Sass – Miss Scarlett O’ Hara. The scandalous, un-heroine, manipulative belle with zero fcuks to give. Whenever I read the book, I find Scarlett’s character like a breath of fresh air amid the overtly proper and sacrificing ladies. Published first in 1936, it is undoubtedly the most progressive and remarkable character ever written. Played with equal aplomb by Vivienne Leigh. Out of so many things to love about Scarlett, let’s go through some that make her so adorable and different from the crop of Miss-Goodie-Two-Shoes protagonists we are so used to.

Making the first move:

Now this is something which is still very touché. Should a girl make the first move or not? Well Scarlett did not give a damn and made her feelings very clear and demanded a reciprocation. She was snubbed and humiliated no doubt but at least she had the guts to try and find the truth rather than believe the floating rumors.

The super loser Ashley! How I hate him

Dance Dance baby:

Women are always taught to behave in a proper manner and never be overly enthusiastic about anything in public. Scarlett pretty much did not care about this rule when she danced away with Rhett Butler at the benefit to organize funds for the war. The fact that she is a recent widow did not cross her mind but she left others at Atlanta pretty shell shocked with her stunt, especially poor Auntie Pittypat who had to be revived with smelling salts.

She is wearing black because she is in mourning for her first husband.

The love for Tara:

The Irish blood from her father gave Scarlett a very strong love for her land. She did whatever possible to retain Tara with the O’Hara family. Also made sure to feed hungry mouths by taking charge of working in the cotton fields herself. She had to let go of vanity by exposing herself to sun and blisters. She even went to the extent of stealing her sisters’ beau so that she could extract money to pay off taxes for Tara. When I first read the book I found this action wretched but now I understand she did it only to save her homeland.

Running to meet her Pa, with the Tarleton twins behind

Curtains Down:

The idea to make a dress out of deep green velvet curtains was questionable but the result was very good. No two ways, there is just no one on this planet who would look as gorgeous as Scarlett in the iconic dress.

The epic dress, don't miss the smart use of curtain-tie


Clearly a definition of women of substance. Scarlett O’ Hara was not just about ball gowns and bonnets. She showed immense steak of strength when she acted as a nurse to those wounded in war. When she delivered Melanie’s baby without any help. When she took charge of Tara household after her mother died. When she started a business on her own. And I almost forgot, she also killed a Yankee. Well, Melanie pulled the trigger but she got the power from Scarlett.

The resolve to never go hungry again!


Before you all go Whaaaat?!!? Behind the shrewd, manipulative and mean persona there is a very tiny brink of Kindness. She always treats the darkies well. She even gifted her father’s gold pocket watch to Pork. Trusted Mammy more than her own sisters. She did hit Prissy a few times but then Prissy herself was up to no good.

Some chit chat with Mammy and Mel

Back to business:

In her resolve to never go hungry again, Scarlett rather than sit around waiting for her husband to get money got to her feet. Since after the war construction was at its peak, she decided to start a lumber business and made sure it flourished. Her going about alone to the workshop, negotiation deals with strange men and hiring ex-convicts as her employers made her the talk of town (not in a good way). But as long as her business was successful she never looked back. Too bad her husband number 2 has to die taking revenge for the attempted molestation on her. But then he gave way to husband number 3 – everyone’s favorite Rhett Butler so yeah!

The business woman in fabulous checks and collar

Got it, flaunt it:

When she married Rhett and had all the riches of the world, she did not hide her glee. She made it a point to build a big house, decorate it lavishly and most importantly rub it in people’s faces. She made it very clear when she told Rhett – “I want everybody who's been mean to me to be pea-green with envy.”


If looks could kill:

When Ashley and Scarlett were caught canoodling by India, it was sure that India (who already hated Scarlett for stealing her beau) would leave no stone unturned in making sure everybody in town heard of it, including Ashley’s wife. And as fate would have it Scarlett was supposed to attend Ashley’s Party on the same day. Although she did not want to go, Rhett forced her and made sure she looked her part of the other woman.
That smoldering glare though! And that dress!


The one liners:

Scarlett’s strength and wisdom came from setting her priorities correct. She never worries about trivial things and worries about big ones when she can handle them. She always addresses the elephant in the room and never minces her words. She has perfect words for each situation in her life. Some of the popular ones are – Oh fiddle-de-de, Tomorrow’s another day! Another famous line from the book is the one spoken by Rhett towards the heart breaking end of the story - “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."


Well that's all for now! Maybe I will add few more reasons after this year's read. Till then - tomorrow's another day and the South WILL rise!


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Social Media Etiquettes

When we were young, we were taught manners and etiquette. To say sorry, pleases and thank yous wherever required. I studied in a catholic school, where we started our day with moral science classes. They were and have been instrumental in building up a conscious in me. Our sisters and teachers instilled in us the belief and love for god. The advantages of discipline. The power of forgiveness, helping the needy, the value of cleanliness and most importantly respect towards all. Even when venturing into the professional life, we were given training on how to dress formally, how to communicate with clients, how to negotiate deals, the art of subtle email writings, perfect table manners and personal hygiene. For everything thing we do and any venture that we step onto, there is a code of conduct. A set of do’s and dont's that need to be followed. After all that’s the thing which sets up apart from animals.

But digitization has come up with such a bang that we had literally no time to prepare for how to present ourselves when online. With twitter and Instagram we can just follow anybody with a click. Gain an insight into their lives or whatever they choose to share online. There are many other mediums which give us an opportunity to share across our views with amongst a humongous audience. But do we leverage the benefit of this correctly? Now that’s a very debatable question. I have spent an extreme amount of time last year to analyze how people react and comment on various platforms. My focus was on comments and discussion forums on popular websites like twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Quora and of course Facebook. My observations from the entire case study was shocking, cringe-worthy, appalling and sometimes all the three.

So let’s dig a little deeper. Now we all have some fascination with film stars, cricketers and people in entertainment field. And we now have a medium to feel connected with whosoever we like. But some people choose this medium to showcase their crassness. The kind of comments some of them leave will make anyone flinch in disgust. The area of comments will vary from insensitive remarks to vulgar comments of sexual nature to making fun of body parts to moral policing or simply trolling. I fail to understand the pleasure people drive from this. Does it somehow make them feel powerful? Does belittling someone feel good? Is it just for the sake of doing it? Or is it fearlessness about the fact that the opponent is sitting miles away and hence harmless.

I understand we cannot love/like everyone and neither can be always agree with someone else’s point of view. But we can ignore or have a healthy debate. It can get heated but under no circumstance should it come to such an extent that you have to badmouth, abuse and bring just about anyone from mothers, sisters, relatives and even Gods into your fights. Which I must point are stupid to begin with. Now topics which I have observed to be getting into these ugly comment zones are – Hindu/Muslim, Kashmiri Muslims Vs The Rest of India (whom they funnily refer to as Biharis), BJP Vs Congress, Modiji Lovers (popularly known as Bhakts on Quora) Vs Non Modiji Lovers (who call themselves secular), North Indians Vs South Indians (The hate portrayed here by some is unbelievable), Feminists Vs Men-who-hate-them and also Salman Khan fans Vs Shahrukh Khan fans (I kid you. Not). There are huge threads of comments on posts over these topics. And by huge I mean HUGE (like Big Data huge). Comment-reply-another reply-abuse-abuse-MyReligionIsBetterThanYours-Reply-Comment-Abuse-AndItGoesOn….

Talking about myself, I have carefully spaced myself out from the spider web that’s posts like these. Once I left a comment on a discussion forum about Kashmir. It was more of my personal feeling and expression but within minutes I received a notification that someone had replied to it. So I open a very rude, unnecessary, attacking and totally uncalled-for comment. Now I could feel my blood bubbling with anger, cheeks burning with rage. So I quickly opening my MS Word and started typing my answer back furiously (MS Word because anger can cause some serious spelling and grammar mishaps!). Satisfied with my reply after proof reading I was just about to copy-paste when a thought crossed my mind. This man who has commented on my post unwarranted without any provocation will definitely do it again after I reciprocate. In-fact I was serving him with exactly what he wanted. Now he may not have a life or anything better to do but I sure did. It was almost 7 and I had dinner to prepare. So I did the unthinkable. I deleted what I had posted originally hence giving myself the much needed closure. Now many might call me a coward but I’d say - anything for peace man! I have no patience or time for this sh** in life. But alas, there are few very like me for others this mind throbbing scenario brings some kind of adrenaline rush.

Last year also brought about this phenomena of trolls & memes. Social media enthusiasts spent a major amount of their time tagging each other in funny relatable memes. As much as I love laughing over the cleaver ones, I cannot ignore the fact that some of them tend towards being highly insensitive. Very recently people has a gala time laughing and sharing funny-face-pictures of Junior Ambani. But it turns out poor guy is suffering from sinusitis and borderline asthma, hence was breathless during his speech.

Internet is a fabulous place. The social networking platforms are great when used in the right manner. But by being abusive, bullying, stalking, bad mouthing and talking nonsense, more than the other person you are harming yourself. Your credibility and your set of values are at stake.It just goes on to say that your opinion is not strong enough to make a point and hence you resort to the dirty tactics. Moreover you are making the entire experience of unwinding and browsing for a person who has had a long day (or starting his day sitting on commode) very very sour.

Now that I have spoken to my hearts content, I present to you some proofs that I collected along. After a lot of brainstorming and censoring presenting the few that made the cut. Please brace yourself for some hardcore abuses.

Le Sigh!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Age Of Innocence

Past few weeks have had me going back in time and reminiscing about my childhood. The good old days where I just couldn’t wait to grow up. I feel very lucky sometimes to have witnessed the glorious time of 90s. To have used and beheld so many things and phenomena’s which are close to being obsolete now. I can now totally relate to the times when my parents used to say things like “In our days…” I can understand their nostalgia, the precious memories, the little things and stuff which you want to hold on to.

But time is unforgiving. It goes on from one decade to another, blurring the memories and fading recollections. We get wound up so badly in our present and future and we have no time or energy left to visit the past. Though some people say that what’s done is done and no good can come out of dwelling in the past, I do not agree. Our past even though done and dusted has many things to teach. Past mistakes, thinner days, old friends, the naughtiness, bad fashion choices, the list to revisit is endless but eventful. It is very strange how sometimes a small inconsequential thing takes us back in time. A song, a particular smell or perhaps taste of something suddenly reminds of a time long forgone. Recently when husband was devouring crème rolls, I happened to take a bite. Having tasted it after ages, the taste reminded me of the time my parents used to treat my sister and me to crème rolls in a small little bakery in our hometown.

Surprisingly I could recollect tiniest details about this little expedition of ours after having just a bite of this crème roll. The four of us on the light lime green scooter, me standing in the front and my sister sitting in-between mom and dad. The goodies from this tiny bakery stared at us through the thick glass slight pale yellow with age. Sometimes we used to go to the STD PCO nearby and talk to our cousins, all the time nervously eying the running meter. Needless to say, STD calls back then were a splurge. You only made these calls on important occasions and kept them short. For detailed conversations you wrote letters. Envelope and stamps enclosed the love (and tremendous information) filled letters. Then that evening walk to post the letter in the letterbox. The excitement of posting a letter was nothing when matched to the excitement of receiving a letter. When I was little my father was posted out of town and I had once written him a letter. It was a stupid letter which basically rambled about my day at school, conversations with the teachers (which by the way I had enclosed in double quotes). But the letter was so special, my father still has it in all its glory! It is still a topic for many a laughs in the family. An SMS, ping, chat and email whatever you call it can never ever match the charm of the good old (but forgotten) letters. Whenever I talk about letters I am reminded of one of my English teacher at school. She once narrated her years of courtship with her husband. Separated by distance her lover used to write her beautiful long letters. Young and naïve, she used to sit down with the letter in one hand and a dictionary in the other to understand the beautiful but difficult English words he used in his letters. For me at an impressionable age, this was the most romantic story and gesture. I longed ever since to receive such letters but sadly never received anything beyond fraandship notes.

School brings out another set of lovely memories. Getting up early in the wee hours of morning, catching the school bus and latest gossip on the way to school. During peak January winters my mother used to literally bundle me up in clothes. Warmer, two sweaters, a blazer and finally a muffler. I used to wait while walking towards my bus stop for a turn which would make me out of sight from my mother. After crossing the turn, the muffler used to come off, next the blazer which was then casually hung and carried on my arm. I thought it made me look very cool. Thinking back, it probably made me look like a fool walking in foggy winters carrying a coat rather than wearing it. But then a 13 year old girl rarely feels cold.

On sultry sweaty summer days I was welcomed with tall, chilled glass of nimbu pani, which was followed by an equally chilled bath. Afternoons made the water in the overhead tank extremely hot so my mother used to store the water in a bucket and put ice in it. I just can’t begin to explain the feeling of freshness this bath invoked! Next on the agenda was lunch, closely followed by the afternoon siesta in a room cooled by a dessert cooler. That siesta, an inconsequential thing back then seems like a luxury now. Nowadays even on the days of holidays I rarely manage to catch a siesta because of numerous chores to do. After siesta and a plateful of seasonal summer fruits, it was homework time and also an excuse to call friends on landline under false pretensions of study related ‘doubts’. Ah the landlines. The glorious era of blank calls and prank calls. I have these fond memories of the times all my cousins and myself used to sit together and decide who to prank. Scripts used to be made, everyone was assigned a specific role to play. But then came caller Id and this fun thing was lost forever. I feel bad for the kids of today. They will never know the fun of giving a blank call to someone just for the heck of it. And with true caller identification, prank calling someone is just not worth the risk anymore.

This is me in my age of innocence, riding a horse in Pahalgam (Kashmir)

Another one! Trying to emulate Madhuri Dixit's Maye-ne-Maye step from Hum Aapke Hai Koun here

This was a time devoid of any distractions what so ever. There was no Wtsapp or Facebook or even Orkut. Hell, there was not even a stable internet or laptops for that matter. TV channels and programs were limited. Radio was all about Vividh Bharti. I have solved numerous quadratic equations listening to programs like Chitralok, Hello Farmaish, Hello Saheli, Pitara, Jaimala and many many more. My sister and I also had this in-house music creation method wherein we used to record good songs from radio in our old cassettes. This was a critical job, you had to be smart enough to understand the song about to be played from the description of the movie, music director and the singers they announced. Then you also had to take care to press the record button at the exact time when the RJ stops and music starts, the next step was of course to again be on your toes towards the end of the song least you capture the voice of the RJ! This phenomena took considerable amount of our time, much to the chagrin of our parents.

Evenings meant power cuts and homework under candle lights because inverters were a luxury almost unheard off. If someone had a generator back then, it was considered to be big deal. When it got too hot inside, entire family dragged chairs and hand fans to the roof in a bid to enjoy some (nonexistent) breeze. This was also a time for a tête-à-tête with the neighbors via conjoined roofs. Longish power cuts gave way to antakshari and so much fun that everyone went back downstairs with heavy heart when the electricity returned. Dinner time conversations were actual conversations because there was no cellphone and hence no distracted, monosyllable answers.

The life we lead now is definitely not bad, in fact far from it. Various gadgets and inventions have only made our lives easier. Who would have imagined booking a cab just by a few swipes and clicks back then or delivery of just about anything at your doorsteps. Everything is great but somehow there is a detachment. But then we never know what new inventions or style of living is in store for us in future. Least we can do is live each moment to its fullest, touch as many lives as we can, meet new people, create one beautiful memories after other. Whenever we look back towards the time gone by, it should always be with a smile.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

North and South at loggerheads

5 years 4 months and 23 days ago, I had this epiphany which made me drill down to the strain between the people divided geographically in the same country i.e. India. These geographic areas namely being the North and the South. The drill down was mandated at that time due to my sudden acquaintance with people from all across the country. Before this I had not interacted majorly (nothing beyond pleasantries) with anyone belonging from outside of Jammu & Kashmir. All my friends at school and college were from the city of Jammu. It is strange how we stay cocooned in our little world and we form a certain picture of the places and people that are not a part of our world. I had many pre conceived notions about people outside of J&K. But moving to a different place – a potpourri of all cultures and people from different ethnicity, taught me a lot. It taught me that whatever stereotypes of different Indian states I have in my mind are all bullshit. There are basically just two categories you can categorize people in – good and bad. Everything else is nothing but a sham. This was my belief until...

Until I was a spectator of the ground reality. So here I am reporting directly from the south. The notions and typecasts that the people here have about the northern states have invoked different emotions from me at different times. And they have ranged from funny to bizarre and anger to downright hurt. In general everyone’s good, helping and very sweet. But some instances highlighted to me the deep routed prejudice that seems to be etched in the minds of people. So here goes the first incident  that highlighted what people here think of us the fellow northerners. The atmosphere is light, coffee is strong, conversations flow and the topic somehow turns towards kids. A new dad comments on the pressures involved in raising a baby and how paternity leave should be introduced. I remind him that it was brought about in picture until Maneka Gandhi dismissed it by stating that men will probably consider it to be a vacation. The next statement I heard resulted in an open-mouth-for-30-seconds kind of situation for me. He said that she (Mrs Gandhi)  should not generalize men like this, maybe people from Delhi or Bihar do this but here people are decent and sensible. Even though the states he mentioned are considerably far from my place but I somehow sensed that he had just wanted to say “North”, people from North but refrained from saying it because of my presence there. I wanted to correct him, show my anger, and present him with convincing arguments to counterfeit his views but all these thoughts were so messed up in my head because of a burst of different emotions that I thought it best to be quiet. It was difficult but I managed. Also the tone of his voice had a strange finality to it, like this was it. Period. He had just assumed it to be the truth and it would be hard if not difficult to change his mind on it.

When my anger got cooled off, I got to thinking about how it was not his mistake. His negative opinion about men from Bihar and Delhi was not formed overnight. It was probably after years of hearing troublesome news and stereotypical images portrayed in the movies. Delhi is no stranger to bearing the brunt of bad reviews. From rape capital to arrogant people. Delhi is on the lowest possible position on any list. Similarly Bihar also does not top the charts on the popularity quotient. Any person from Bihar is inevitably assumed to be a gang member or a criminal or simply a laborer. While Bihar is comparatively a poor state with a considerable amount of lawlessness, it in no way signifies that it is devoid of decent population of people. People do not stop going to Mexico because of all the drug trafficking and crimes. Detroit is one of the most unsafe state in USA but that did not deter Chrysler to set up its business functions there. I happen to have met many people from Bihar in the last few years and they have shattered all the misconceptions and stereotypes I had in my head about Bihar. People from Bihar are smart, extremely sharp and intelligent, civil service aspirants, Dhoni fans, pronounce sort as short (which I find adorable by the way), have immense knowledge about politics and cricket, are extremely helpful and make mind-blowing chokha with sattu ke paranthe. I strongly feel we should stop using the term Bihari like a derogatory term and use it like we use the terms Gujarati, Marathi, Kashmiri, Punjabi or Oriya! Change starts with an individual and spreads slowly. It is really time we stop behaving like small scattered communities and come together as Indians. Stop saying things like “what is this North Indian doing here in South” and “Why is this South Indian in North”. We are Indians and we are entitled to visit and enjoy every state from ladakh to Trivandrum and everything in-between. I am beyond offended when people after hearing I am from Jammu & Kashmir comment “Goodness! You came here from so far”. All I can say is people can cross seven seas, go to the moon or even Mars but my two hop plane journey from my hometown is far!

Now coming to the other incident, this time we were coming back from lunch. In the lift slowing moving towards our destination, suddenly the lift door opens in-between and a girl walks in. She is dressed smartly and talking animatedly on the phone. She gives up talking on the phone after entering the lift and gets down one floor before our destination. As soon as she leaves, people around me start talking in telugu about the girl. *Something Something* North *Something Something Something* ridiculous *Something Something* fancy *Something Something* Clothes *Something Something Something* and laughing. I ask my colleague about the joke but he just shrugs it off. But I am far from shrugging it off, so I try to find the cause of the humor. The girl was dressed in a comparatively fashionable manner which makes her a minority in the crowd of simple dresses usually seen. But I must iterate that she was in no way dressed in an overtly fashionable way, trust me, simple shirt and trousers combo with open hair and a dash of eyeliner, which by the way is also my staple dressing style for office. Maybe that’s the reason why the joke on her pinched me. I just did not like that how they simply deduced that she was a Northie (as if it was written on her forehead) and used it in a very unpleasant way. I agree that there are certain telltale characteristics by means of which we can identify people of different sect but I feel that they used be used to admire different cultures and the ethnic potpourri we call India. We all feel that we as an individual and our culture is the best, there is nothing wrong in that though. The wrong comes when we decide that other cultures are blasphemous. It’s not just about Bihar or Delhi, people have something or the other associated with every state and sect. Even a corporate set up, which is supposed to be very Cosmo is not safe from the north south politics. It is a very general belief that a person from North, working under a manger from South is doomed. The reverse of this situation also holds truth. Go to quora or any major MNC’s confession page on Facebook, you will see tons and tons of stories on how a manger from North, did not recommend a South Indian team member for an onsite opportunity and how a South Indian manger gave a very bad rating to North Indian team member even though he slogged all year long! These stories are not entirely false, all this does happen, mostly because people are not given a chance to prove themselves and decisions are taken based on pre conceived notions.

Up until now I was analyzing the situation from a neutral state, which was equally distributed with people from all over India. But since some months I am a minority in a southern city and I feel like an outsider. Which is ridiculous because there should be no reason to feel like an outsider in your own country. I personally love being here, drowning in the culture and cuisine. I eat curd rice with the same gusto I have for rajma chawal. My family enjoys idli vada sambhar even more than aalu parantha. I am slowly warming up to South Indian movies as well and man, are they good! It’s the prejudice people have in their minds that leaves a bitter taste. This prejudice needs to be removed for good from all our minds irrespective of the topography we are in or belong to. So we need to stop making fun of people mixing gun powder with rice for lunch and similarly we need to stop ridiculing roti sabzi by saying its breakfast food. We proudly share the video clip from Namaste London in which Akshay bashes the foreigner and enlightens that India has more than 1500 hundred languages but we do not refrain from making fun of distinctive accents that people from various states have. We love imitating UK, USA, European accents but leave no stone upturned to humiliate our fellow people. We assume a girl to be “fast” if she is dressed in something that is outside our comfort zone, god forbid if she has a tattoo or something, which would border on being scandalous. Making judgments from afar without actually getting to know the person personally is more wrong that any word in my vocabulary can justify.

The bottom-line is there are no good or bad communities, there are no stereotypes and moreover there is always an exception to the rule. We are all individuals and while our culture, rituals and ethnicity define our lifestyle and habits, how we ultimately turn out as a human entirely depends on us and the etiquettes we have. Let’s have an open heart and embrace people as they are, strictly on the basis of how they are rather than from where they belong to.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Being Kashmiri And Dum Monj!

Recent shift in events have made a chef of sorts out of me. So while earlier my time was spent in reading gossip stories or series binge watching, it’s now replaced by recipes and subscription of various cooking channels. I have always enjoyed cooking, but only when it’s done leisurely. Cooking under pressure gives me jitters. When the time available is less, cooking seems like a chore rather than an unwinding exercise! Chopping and cutting drains out every ounce of energy you possess. When I found myself in this situation, I quickly switched on my Kashmiri brain and subscribed to Chandra aunty. Chandra Aunty has a Kashmiri pandit cuisine cooking channel on youtube and it has now become my favorite pastime!

Traditional Kashmiri recipes involve no onions or garlic (in some cases no tomatoes even!). You can pretty much do the math on how much time can be saved by Kashmiri style of cooking. Just put in the right proportion of spices, few sautés, some close lid cooking and you are done! The dishes can be made spicy or non-spicy based on your preference. Red base dishes can be made with fiery Kashmiri chilies, yellow gravies are made with turmeric and given a distinctive taste by the use of schonth (Ginger powder) and baidhyan (fennel powder) plus there is a myriad of yakhni’s which are cooked in yoghurt based sauce.

Schonth and Baidhayan
Now everyone knows the irrevocable love Kashmiri’s have for mutton. The traditional spread of mutton dishes (which form an intrinsic part of the wazwan) is quite well known and easily available almost everywhere. The taste may not be up to the mark but at least names like roganjosh, kaliya, yakhni ring a bell. A Kashmiri bell! What most people don’t know is the fascination Kashmiri’s have with some special vegetables. They have their zu (which roughly translates to jaan in hindi) in monj (Knolkhol/Kohlrabi), hakh (collard greens) and nadur (lotus stem). It’s not that these are the only vegetables we like, hell we like vegetables so much that we even cook fruits like ‘em. So don’t be surprised to see apples cooked with bringals on our tables. Quinces or bum chooth as we call it is again a very special apple dish. Then we also cook up plums with potatoes or ghaad (fish) or spinach. Aah the sweet sour taste of cooked plums! And don’t get me started on our lure with dried up stuffs, drying vegetables was a necessity in the valley because of harsh and extreme winters. As the valley was cut-off, there was a dearth of fresh vegetables, hence all the drying up veggies started from September. Even though Kashmiri pandits do not live in Kashmir anymore, the love for hoek suen (dry veggies) remains. So you just name it and we will dry it! – Bringals (wagan hacch), bottle gourd (aal hacch), turnips (gogji hacch), tomatoes (tamatar hacch), morels (kangucch), fish (hogaard), water lily/lotus stems (Bum) and the list goes on.

In this picture we can see tomatoes, bringals & turnips
 Coming back to monj, hakh and nadur. The immense popularity of these vegetables can be attributed to the fact that they are a part of quintessential Kashmiri comfort food. Sadly they are not so readily available outside of Jammu and Kashmir. And if by some good deed done in your previous birth you do manage to find them your Kashmiri soul will dance away in hallelujah. I recently had this stroke of luck while grocery shopping, I could not believe what I saw and shouted at the top of my voice whilst turning around to hubby – Moonnnjjjj. Only hubby was nowhere nearby and I literally scared the living hell out of the person behind me with all my shouting! Now to give you an idea moonj usually looks something like this (picture added below). However the ones we got at the store were devoid of leaves. So we decided to make dum monj out of them which does not necessitate the need for leaves. Contrary to usual monj preparation which does not use many spices, dum monj is an elaborate dish usually prepared on special occasions like marriage, hawan or any other time you feel like drowning yourself in oil and spices.

Monj with sabaz sabaz hakh!
There are many online websites, blogs and even you tube channels through which one can easily get access to popular Kashmiri recipes. But it is difficult to find recipes for some typical dishes which are not made often. I could only find a handful of recipes for dum monj, so that’s the reason I decided to document the recipe on my blog. Maybe it will help me build up dwindling traffic of my sad little blog!

So, here goes.

1. First of all wash and cut the monjh. Traditionally it’s made into thick circular slices, but I choose to cut them into cubes because well no reason, just like that. The upper part of monj known as monj gab has a very respectable position, it is like the chicken leg piece of monjh.

2. Next step is to fry the pieces. Since this recipe involves thick pieces, deep frying is recommended. I just shallow fried as my pieces were small.

3. Once all the pieces are fried up, take about two tablespoons of oil on medium heat and add 3,4 cloves, a small piece of cinnamon and asafoetida or hing. Now reduce the heat and add two table spoons of Kashmiri red chilli powder and about one spoon of ginger powder. Make sure to add masala’s on low heat or else you will end up burning the spices and also have a sneezing fit. This is a very critical step because how your dish turns out will depend on this step. Raang kadun as it is known is Kashmiri, it should look fiery red. I did not have Kashmiri chilli powder so my dish did not quite make it to the mark in looks department.

When your oil is at right temperature, the masala's will bubble away beautifully
4. Now that the the masala’s have been added let them be for a few seconds and then add two cups of water. Now increase the heat and let the mixture come to a boil.

5. Add fried monj now and cover the lid. Let it cook for around 5 to 10 minutes until the gravy thickens and monj softens. Check the monj at regular intervals using a spatula, just like you would check a potato. Do not overcook.

6. Serve with plain white rice and sabut moong ki daal for a wholesome kashmiri meal.

I have not used any baidhayn (fennel powder) or garam masala in this recipe because I did not have any. Not sure if it is used in the recipe per se but mine turned out just fine without them too. Also would suggest to make it atleast 2-3 hours before eating as all the spices really infuse together and the gravy thickens naturally by then.
Adding a picture of aal yakhni (Bottle gourd) which I made, because I am just obscenely proud of it. Recipe for this can easily be found online.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Year It Was!

Like all good things, this year too is just about to come to an end. With the year-end, we have also come to this blog's 7th birthday! In terms of content this year has been the most dismal for the blog. I have written very few posts, I mean like I can literally count them on my fingers. I have been busier, been without a laptop, without an internet connection and still managed to churn out post after post for my beloved blog. But this time despite no such challenges there was no fire to write for months altogether.

When I look back I can see multiple reasons that amounted to this very dry spell on Rendezvous. Firstly, I started year 2016 on a very low note. I used to consider myself extremely self-sufficient but early months of 2016 really showed me what loneliness could do to you. I was suddenly left alone in a very unfamiliar zone and I had no cushion to fall back on. There was no one to talk to or share. Of course, friends were just a phone call away but everyone was busy in their own lives. Then there was this immense work pressure at office for few months which was good for loneliness but drained out all creative energies I might have had.

To add to this I faced rejections about my writing and writing style consecutively and that too in the most unprofessional way possible. First happened last year so that’s old news. The latest one affected me more because the opportunity arrived through a friend. Now this person with whom I was working was all praises for my work, snippets of which he had seen and read on my blog. His expectations from me were very different from my writing style but I am always up for any challenge. His initial talks and discussions with me gave me an idea about his passion towards the ecommerce site he was planning to open. After some discussions I agreed to work for the peanuts (in the name of monetary remuneration) he was offering.

I started to received loads of work from him. This did not involve just writing but major research, googling, picture hunting, burning midnight oil and what not! And he was huge on deadlines, before even assigning the work he made sure to let me know the delivery date. Believe it or not I once literally slogged myself and did not sleep an entire night to complete the work assigned. I have never sacrificed my sleep for anything! Not my board exams, not even any of my engineering exams (however underprepared I must have been), not for any lover, not even during my sisters' wedding!

Well after this all nighter, I received a list of changes that Mr Wannabe Perfectionist wanted me to incorporate. And my friends, that was the last I heard of him. I mean from messaging me, calling me and emailing me 10 times a day, he just vanished away in reallly thin air! I assumed him to be busy or something and decided to take a chill pill. After a couple of weeks while chatting with the common friend I came to know that Mr Wannabe was not too happy about my writing skills and I did not match up to a picture he had in mind. So, he had decided to move ahead (without letting me know, of course). He also happened to mention to my friend about how he once asked for a quick result and I stayed up all night completing it. He apparently found it very amusing. On the other hand, I was far from being amused. But a lady as I am, I only swore under my breath and took it in my stride.

But this was highest level of unprofessionalism I have ever encountered, I mean I know I ain't no Margaret Mitchell but just at least let me know that you are not digging my writing skills, suddenly cutting all ties is not a solution! No one expects this kind of behavior from an aspiring entrepreneur. Last I heard his endeavor is not going all that great and I am not surprised about it!

Moving on, these episodes of my rejections somehow had a very negative impact on me. I lost the confidence on my writing skills and drowned my sorrows in TV series, Web series and autobiographies of Padma Laxmi and her ex Mr Salman Rushdie. But the more I read, more I started to miss writing. I always had this dream of writing for someone - a website, any magazine, any start up, mostly just anything. Although I have received many opportunities for the same in the last 2 years, it has somehow always left me incomplete. With the excitement and efforts that I put in during writing, the pain of rejection for me has double the impact. So, for the sake of my self-respect, I have taken a decision to be content with only writing for my blog. This blog has stood by me in my happiest moments as well as in my lowest of low moments.

So here’s to new beginnings, smarter decisions and no more letting people taking me for a ride! Happy 7th Birthday to Rendezvous and a very Happy Near Year to all of you!