Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Good Year!

As I was looking at the calendar today I realized how time flies. And as usual, I drifted into the thoughts of the year that passed by. Memories, events, mundane things, exciting moments, re-unions, new friends, new places…the year was filled with all this, and more. No better opportunity, to jot down all that, than now.

Well, my year started off with a bang, in more ways than one. I was jobless by choice (see the catch), ‘just married’ to a nice guy (you know how difficult that is), and was looking forward to my honeymoon (always wondered why it is called that). I was a ‘one week old new bride’ and was in Palakkad (Kerala), Vinay’s hometown, on the 31st of Dec last year. I always wanted to go to Kerala, especially the backwaters. And that exactly was his wedding gift to me. We took a house boat from Alapuzha to Kumaragam. The beauty, the peace and the simple form of nature, captured in the camera, does not reveal its true self. It is beyond beautiful!

And then came the time for reality. Vinay had to leave to get back to Saudi and I had to wait a little more than 3 months for my visa. I used this time to get to know my in-laws, make a trip to my hometown (Vizag), spend time with my cousins (which I couldn’t do when I was working). But, after a while it started getting to me. Not that I wanted to get out of there, I just wanted to get here to him. After all ‘Home is where the heart is.’

On day one, both of us made a pact never to sleep over a fight. It’s a different story that we did not have a single fight till today. Contrary to what people say, we believe that there are a lot of other ways of making a marriage interesting. Then why fight? Save up the energy for some more laughter.

Inspite of Vinay preparing me for life here I got a major cultural shock. But then I thought to myself, ‘One needs courage, love and commitment to live in a place like this’. Besides, I can always say ‘Been there, done that’ about this too.

I was sure I was going to have a good life with Vinay. Him being a simple, uncomplicated and a focused guy I knew I wouldn’t have to struggle keeping our lives simple. But what I did not anticipate was the amount of humor our lives would be filled with. Even through my PMS he manages to make me laugh and I manage to make him meditate through his PMS (Post Marital Stress…remembering important dates and all that.)

I must admit that I was excited about donning the role of a home-maker. Ofcourse there is quite a bit to do in the house, and then I can, anytime, sit back and enjoy a hot cup of tea without thinking of getting back to my ‘desk’. I learnt lots of new recipes, made some of them, read quite a few books, did a lot of catching up on movies and took lots of un-interrupted naps. Now, is that not a luxury? I learned Malyalam well enough to converse with my malayali neighbor. Made a few friends, saw some new places and ate new cuisines. And above all I learnt never to say ‘never’.

We took a trip to Dubai and had a gala time. The dune bashing, camel ride and the desert camp were a once in a life time experience. The Lebanese food is rich and bland with a variety of salads. Bahrain is another place we have been to. Have been there 3 times, over weekends, to get recharged. The last time we went there, we saw ‘Dostana’. How I miss watching a movie on large screen, with popcorn and Pepsi.

Over the year I lost some weight and again put on more than what I lost. Experimented with my hair cutting it shorter than I ever did. For the first time I experienced the temperature above 50 degrees and now below 10 degrees.

One thing that I used the maximum this entire year is Vinay’s laptop. From blogging to chatting to maintaining my calendars and reminders. He probably noticed that I was more dependent on his laptop than I was on him. He said I deserved better and bought me my own. He gifted me a Sony Vaio in Luxury Pink for our anniversary.

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate my year a 9.5. Its been a good year for Vinay too. A 9.5 apparently. Stating that, could I ask for more!?!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chinese. Tadka marke!!!

Last week we went to “Pataya” for dinner. No Nooo, not the Bangkok Pataya (how I wish). Pataya is a restaurant here that serves “Authentic Thai and Chinese” food.

I like Chinese food and the Manchuria is my favourite…chicken, veg, dry or wet…I could finish my meal with just that. So when the waiter (a Filipino) appeared at our table we ordered, in a flow for, a Saudi Champaigne (it’s a fruit based drink with a light appleey and strong orangeey flavour. Quite nice.), some noodles, spring rolls and chicken manchuria-wet…and then…
Waiter: Please repeat the last one.
Me: Chicken manchuria-wet.
Waiter: What’s that?
Me: Sorry?
Waiter: What is manchuria wet?
Me: What is manchuria???
Waiter: Can you show on the menu?
Vinay: Sure. Hmmmmmm(going through the menu). Not in the menu.
Waiter: Sorry! But what is Manchuria?
I shot a glaring look at Vinay and said, “What is manchuria???? Did he just say that? And they don’t have it in the menu?”
Vinay with a smirk: “Yup.”
Me: Is this a Chinese restaurant?
Vinay: Apparently. And he is still waiting to take the order.
Me: Tell him something. Anything. I don’t care.

Vinay asked for some dish from the menu and the waiter left, still wondering what I asked for. You don’t have to look into the menu before asking for a Manchuria or even noodles when you go to a Chinese restaurant. They have it.

I was confused. How come he did not know what ‘manchuria’ is? I always ate it with Chinese food. Every Chinese Food stall fellow in India makes it and he makes it best. And why was Vinay smiling?? He was smiling at my reaction. A combination of shock, disappointment, disapproval, confusion, wonder, pity…all at the same time. What a horrible sight that would have been to witness and he still managed to smile (a strange sense of humor he’s got.) I cribbed all through out the dinner and on our way back. Vinay also wondered how they were clueless about even the term Manchuria. Not serving it is one thing and not having heard of it is another. It is Manchuria god dammit!

The first thing we did after reaching home was look up for manchuria in Wikipedia. The search talked about China but there was no mention of food. Hmmmmmm???!!!??? Next search – ‘Chicken Manchuria’….and there it is… “Indian Chinese Cuisine”. An adaptation of Chinese seasoning & cooking techniques to Indian taste. This cuisine is believed to have developed by the Chinese migrants in Calcutta.

Wow!!! What I really liked all these years was Indian Chinese (alias Chinese Fast food)?!? What I really enjoy is the deep orange/red coloured chicken Manchuria dry with roasted curry leaves sprinkled all over. The really thick gravy of garlic chicken with more garlic than chicken. Chilly chicken with lots of slit green chillies and dry red chillies poured over it. And the really really greasy noodles (with a slight burned flavour). And even in a place where we get ‘Andhra meals’ we can get chilli chicken. And don’t we love it!?!

How much we Indian’s love our masala’s and tadka’s. We even have our pizzas with masala’s. We have kadhai paneer pizza, chicken tikka pizza, tandoori, kheema do pyaaza.
I have heard someone once say ‘less cheese and more chillies please.’

Indian Chinese-what a contribution to the world of food! And anybody who loves street food will agree with me. I personally, am a big fan of the Chinese, tadka marke!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Friends Lost and Found

You know how they say that time heals the wound but leaves behind a scar. I think there are exceptions. Or, may be, the scar is just imaginary sometimes!

Aruna and me were inseparable for 3 years. We spent most of our evenings together and most of our weekends too. Her parents would let her only to my house to spend a night and the same was with mine. Other than her I have never had a ‘night out’ or a night study session in any other friends’ house ever. She never ever spend, as much time she did in my house, in any other friends of hers.

Both of us met in our colony temple where we were forced to attend a ‘puja’ by respective mothers and we bonded the moment we met. We were a match made in heaven! You know the Parents knew each other, we met in a temple, liked each other kinda stuff ;). We were together all the time...evening walks, together to the temple, movies etc. We talked about embarrassing stuff, secret crushes, ‘Ahhhhh I love him’ kinda stuff, gossip, craft work, home work, assignments (we had quite a few subjects in common) and a lot of other girl stuff and shared all our secrets. We were possessive about each other.

I met her friends from college and she met mine. Her friends had become my friends too. And then, something went wrong between the two of us. I absolutely had no clue what and why? We just grew apart. We didn’t see that coming. It happened so suddenly that we didn’t even realize. I guess we were so possessive about each other that we started growing insecure as and when more people entered our lives. And for some reason we chose not to talk it out. We probably were scared to hurt each other…and we ended up doing exactly the same. Our friends noticed we had gone cold on each other but we didn’t act upon it.

Through the years we kept in touch, through calls and emails once in a while…but were very cordial and composed. 8 passive years have passed between the two of us. Two week ago she emailed me some of her latest pics and while I was seeing them I felt a deep pain in my heart. God I missed her. And I wrote to her all that I felt about us. It was like waking up from deep sleep. How I missed her through the year and how stupid I had been to just let go of our friendship and how much she had ignored me all these years. I poured in all my vent up feelings not expecting anything from her but just because I wanted her to know how I felt.

It probably was one of the best things I did. She wrote back a long email expressing all that she felt and it was exactly the way I felt. She was sorry that she let go of me without an attempt to question. She had the right to. It was awesome to know that we still meant to each other so much. We agreed that both of us were fools not to have kicked each other in the butt and say “What the hell do you think you are doing?” It was a miracle mail that we had exchanged. Since that day, we have been filling each other up with every single detail about our lives, our respective husbands and how we met them, our daily routine, pictures etc. Its exactly the way it was 8 years ago (except that we share woman stuff now not the girl stuff as much ;) ) We started off from where we left. And that I think is amazing. No hard feelings and no explanations. We are back with a bang!

Its nice that we all grow up. And it is important to learn as we grow. Its nice to be possessive about someone you love. But it is also important to know when to let the rope loose so that we don’t lose the person. That applies to everybody in our life. Today my relationship with my friends who matter and my husband is so strong that nothing or nobody can make me insecure.

Both, Aruna and me have realized this today and are in a much ‘better place’. The one thing I wish I could do today is hug her!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My freezer gave up :(

I had never thought I would have a freezer stacked with frozen food. I grew up believing refrigerator freezers are for making ice cubes, storing ice cream and for a quick chill. Frozen meat?? Nahhhh….meat shops are always around the corner.

But here in KSA, its so so so hot and humid that I feel guilty asking my husband to go buy stuff, and we women here don’t have the freedom to do our own grocery shopping. So we thought why not just stock some in the freezer. That’s a sensible win-win solution…until my freezer gave up yesterday.

I was in the mood for some ‘chepala pulusu’ (fish curry Andhra style) and went to take out some to defreeze and goshhhhhh…for some reason my freezer wasn’t working. What do I do? I immediately googled ‘Freezer breakdown frozen meat’ and got no solution I liked. So, I boiled the peas, made chicken biriyani and mutton curry. And yeah there were a quarter kilo prawns that I boiled with salt and pepper so I could put ‘em back in the fridge. Three pieces of fish which I fried but somehow had a feeling it got spoiled. I threw it away :(

I have no problems cooking. I love cooking. But this was ‘forced cooking’. I had no choice. I couldn’t let all that spoil. We couldn’t even share the food with friends as a bachelor friend of my husband and a friend of mine with a family are both away on a vacation. So I cooked it all and I don’t have to cook for atleast 3 days. So I think for some time I will stick to fresh meat. (My husband will have to sweat some more).

And yeah, I forgot to mention the chicken mortadella and thank god I have a two door fridge!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What’s the matter with me???

My husband says I remind him of Monica (from FRIENDS) most of the time. No, I didn’t have a boyfriend named Richard. Yeah, you guessed it…I am a bit of a cleanliness/neat freak. Not because it’s next to godliness or something but because if its not clean there are more germs there. Right?!?

My kitchen sink needs to be dry and shining, my kitchen towels washed every second day, soap dispensers near every tap in the house, tissues at hands reach. It’s a good idea to wash even a spoon everytime before you use it (maybe a cockroach crawled over it). A cupboard once opened needs to be closed and everytime I step out of my front door I need to wash my feet. And, don’t you ever walk into my house with your shoes on.

All this wouldn’t have sounded weird if I didn’t just love eating the roadside food. I just don’t like the idea of ordering pani puri and eating it from a plate. They taste so good when that fellow makes it at the speed he does. The pav bhaji outside ‘slim gym’ in Vizag, wada pav outside Churchgate station, kulfi on SG road in Ahm’bad, bread omelet in railway stations, onion samosa in cinema halls. Sometimes you find some vendors making rounds on a cycle in your colony selling hot idlis with yummy chutney (my brother says their secret ingredient is their unwahed hands…yukkkkk).

How come I don’t think of the cockroaches, the dirt and the germs when I eat all that stuff ? It is weird. It is unreasonable and irritating. I know. I tried to understand the psychology behind this but failed. So did my brother and now my husband. So now my husband and I made a deal…he does not talk about ‘germs and unclean hands’ when I eat the tasty roadside food and I don’t bug him with the ‘wash your hands, clean the spoon, close the cupboard’ stuff (it’s annoying and I am trying really hard).

BTW- I don’t eat the ‘saunf’ that comes with the bill or at the counter in restaurants…how many unclean hands must have gone into that???

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chai piyo ji, accha chai piyo ji!

Plain Chai, adrak chai, elaichi chai, masala chai, Irani chai, pudina chai, lemon tea,black tea, green tea, ice tea, SP tea, strong tea, light tea and then ‘bed tea’. This is a completely different kind of a chai. No matter what kind of tea, it always tastes better when you have it as bed tea. You get what I mean ;).

When I was a kid I used to hope I had a mild temperature once in a while so I could get to have some tea (part of Tender Love and Care). That’s what most of us hoped as kids I guess. I used to hate exams but looked forward for the study time because my mom would give me chai hoping I would stay up late to study. I used to stay up, to have chai. I used to wake up early to have it. My little brother and I used to wait for my grand mom to make us something she called ‘biscuit tea’ (2 drops of tea in a cup full of milk). The feeling that tea was in there was enough to make us excited.

I have a liking for the street vendors chai. Especially like the glass tumblers they give it in. I also love the kullad chai. During my PG a friend of mine and me would have 1 by 2 every hour (am not exaggerating this).After every hour we used to rush to the chai bandi which was run by an aunty (we called her that too). During my last job, there used to be this boy called ‘Naidu’ who used to bring chai in a flask from some small tea café, twice a day. Mind you, our office did have a Coffee Day coffee machine, but we took into the taste of tea brewed in the same dish for a whole day. Suddenly he disappeared breaking our hearts. And soon we all saw a ray of hope at the street corner, our new ‘adda’. It brings back such nice memories now…even during the hot summer Swathi, Divya, Rachael and me used to go for our daily ‘chai and nankatai’ sessions. Gossip, movie reviews, boss bitching, reasons why con-calls are a waste of time, client dissection, sale strategies (ones in marketing would know this). I wish some day the 4 of us can again go for one more session.

Frankly, I am more of a coffee person, but tea is what I just need some times. Adrak wali chai for the tired times, elaichi chai when in a romantic mood, masala chai during winters, pudina chai with Shalini (she makes it damn good), plain chai with Britannia Marie for chit-chatting afternoons and bed chai on weekends.

BTW- did I mention that my husband makes very good chai!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rasammmm yummmmm....

I was having rasam for lunch today and wondered why it is not as famous as the South Indian Sambar. For some reason rasam has always received a step-motherly treatment. According to me, rasam is one of the most ignored/under-rated recipes of the south. For those who are not familiar yet, it is ‘The Soup’ of the south. Probably has the least nutrition value among other famous dishes, but tastes better than most.

The Malayalees and the Tamilians call it Rasam (more popularly called), in Andhra it is Chaaru and Saaru in Karnataka. There are a lot of varieties of rasam and different parts of the same state have different versions of the same variety. That shows how versatile rasam is. Some of the more popular ones are the plain rasam, pepper rasam, tomato rasam, lemon rasam, mango rasam, Ullava chaaru, ginger rasam, garlic rasam and coriander rasam.

My all time favorite is the Pepper Rasam (miriyala chaaru). Pepper rasam tastes best with mutton fry and my mom knows the secret recipe (slurp slurp). One of the tastiest rasams I had had in the recent past was the one my mom-in-law made from ‘Rasakoot’. It is a Kerala rasam powder that comes in small packets and is found in the typical Kerala store. She discovered this ‘magic in small packet’ when she went to visit her sister in Mumbai (Ironic nah!)

Rasam is truly one of my favorite items in a South Indian meal. It is easy to make, tastes awesome, smells delicious, one needs no culinary skills to make it and you can get as creative as you want. Try this instead of regular dal while having rich spicy food, it helps in easy digestion. And it can be stored in your fridge for a week. After all it’s just spiced tamarind water. By the way, no matter what type of rasam you make, do not forget to add a pinch of hing. Eat it with hot rice or drink it just like that. Next time you have flu try this instead of the regular chicken soup.

Actually, don’t wait for the flu. Just have it…just like that!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What’s here for the boys?

In my last post I talked about what life here in KSA is like. And we all agree that this place is unfair to women, with all the restrictions and the forced dependency. The Shiv Sena (no offense) would probably think this is how the youth of our country should be too. And the hard core MCP’s (with all offense) would think this is how women need to live... "They don’t need freedom and they don’t deserve a driving license."

But what’s in here for the boys?
This place is the oil treasure of the world with a lot of industries dealing with oil by-products. My husband’s company (which is a huge petroleum based company) does not have a single woman employee. Well, most companies here are like that. All they can see around in their office is male population. Isn’t that horrible? Would they have the desire to look smart left in them? Wouldn’t all of them enjoy some female attention at work? Isn’t work place more fun when there is a mix of the sexes? Don’t the chances of having a female boss make work more challenging (most guys find it stressful)?

There is no concept of ‘catching up with old friends over a drink’ (unless you are talking about a variety of tea, coffee or a non-alcoholic beverage).

Boys, even men, can’t get a glimpse of a woman. They are all covered head to toe. They don’t know what their female cousins look like. All they have is images of how they looked as kids. Imagine a boy growing up not knowing what his dad’s friend’s daughter looks like. Can you imagine what it is like for a boy not to know what his sister’s best friend looks like? Imagine your father not knowing what you grand mother looks like. Imagine a little boy not knowing what his teacher looks like.

So I feel it’s not all that bad for me here. I can atleast look at other smart men, admire their broad shoulders and comment about their bellies to my husband. My poor husband, all he can do is look at a cute kid and wonder what its mom looks like ;)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Life - The Burkha Way

Have you ever imagined what life was going to be if you (I am talking to the women) could not step out of your house alone? If there were no movie theaters in your city? If you (women again) were not allowed to drive? You can either be a doctor, a nurse or a teacher ONLY?

I never even thought of something like that, until I came to live it.

I am right now in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with my husband who is here on a project. He has been here for close to a year now. We got married in December last year and I joined him here in April. And the day I arrived here I realized how much I took a lot of things in life for granted.

The day I landed here we stepped out for lunch at about 12’ish. I sincerely wore my ‘burkha’ (which I bought before coming here). The Muslim and the Saudi women here need to cover their hair too. The others are spared (Thank God for small mercies!). We were walking to a restaurant closest to our place and I can’t explain how I felt…I don’t know if I was confused or scared. There was not a single woman on the road but there were men of all ages and sizes slowing down on the pavements and on the roads to ogle. Not that there are no women here, but seeing a women on the road, in the afternoon on a working day was not usual here.

It did not take me too long to learn the Do’s and Don’t’s of this place as there are very few do’s. This place has no movies or pubs. Photography in public places is prohibited. Shops and restaurants close during the “Salah” (the prayer time). Women are not allowed to drive and the career options for women here are being a doctor, a nurse or a teacher only. No access to Orkut (you read that right) and you will rarely find a woman walking alone on the road, no matter what time of the day.

Every restaurant here (even the McD and KFC) have a separate sections for families and bachelors. There are some eating joints exclusively for bachelors and shopping malls exclusively for families.

I know all this sound funny, idiotic and stupid. It is. And a lot of you would be thinking why on earth any woman would want to go to a place like this. The answer to that, I guess, is ‘priorities’.

I worked for 5 years away from home, partied with friends, had girl’s night outs, and never needed a man to pay for my dinner. And I decided to get married when I knew I was willing to put ‘family’ on top of my list. And here I am with the love of my life enjoying every bit of what life offers while we are here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My First Post

Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and now Karan Johar too started blogging. So I thought high time I should start too.
Ok, the actual reason why I thought of blogging is because I have a lot of free time these days. I want to read, write and communicate more. Also I guess this is a nice way to write what I think in general about simple stuff in life. That's what most people do right? And all said and done, it's nice to have a personal space in this Wide Weird World ;).... Just Like That!