Saturday, May 30, 2009

Some Romance Shomance in the Cynic Household.

So the hero had been battling a rather tough week at work, and I, in the spirit of providing some wifely support and encouragement decided to make him an some chicken dish (big fan of chicken he is), as a good prelude to a relaxed weekend.

Now the thermostat on the Cynic Cook-o-meter has only two settings – viz. Explosive (the cook) or Explosive (when the cook is the experimentative mode, and thus, there is high probability of the blender and the vegetables and the environment blowing up). Friday happened to be the former so a new a new dish was destined to be born.

So anyways, cooking happened – I have named it Braised Pepper Chicken* . Miraculously turned out quite interesting and I called up hero to apprise him of the fact. I have standing instructions to tell him important details like this – that ways, he can spend the entire day in pleasurable anticipation.

Hero came back from work, and the first thing he did was demand a sneak preview of the meal.

A little later, and I was sitting on the couch contemplating the meaning of life, when he came and sat next to me. He hmmed and hawed a bit, in preparation to telling me something important. After a while, he turned to be with an absolutely mush-oozing out, Bryonically romantic expression on his face and looked at me soulfully and whispered those magical words...

“I have been waiting all my life....”

I waited expectantly, thinking the way to a man’s heart IS through his stomach after all.

“....for this braised pepper chicken”

I did say, I was not even in the running against chicken didn’t I?

P.S.*I have just learnt the meaning of braised and I want to use it. Ha!

P.P.S. That sounds like a good title for a ballad no?

I have been waiting all my life for a braised pepper chickin',
So brown and crispy, it’s just finger lickin’.
The thought of it, makes my heart keep tickin’
My finger licking, heart tickin’, braised pepper chickin

I SHOULD write lyrics! Maybe I shall compose this, after I am through with Mary had a little lamb...

P.P.P.S Edited to convert chicken to chickin' at the proposal of young million-different-people

Tuesday, May 26, 2009



After six months of knuckle breaking classes and exercises which involve contorting my fingers into un-genteel, unladylike claws (for purposes other than cattiness and/or Mumbai local trains that is), I have finally learnt how to play Happy Birthday on my guitar.

Am I rocking or what?

Keep an eye on this space, by December I should have cracked Twinkle Twinkle – and hold your breath, I might even be grooving to Mary had a little lamb.

* Deep bow * (Or should that be curtsy? Hmm.)

P.S. And to think I was taught Happy Birthday on the recorder when I was seven and played it by ear on the synthesizer when I was nine. I used pick up all these songs just by listening to them when I was a kid and play them. Somehow, I seem to have lost the knack. Hero's tone deafness must be catching. (Unfair you say? What is the fun of having a spouse if one cannot blame him for random stuff eh?)

P.P.S I KNEW I should have learnt the piano.Hmpf. After all, better a middling, middle aged Mozart than a swinging, septuagenarian Santana.

P.P.S Sigh.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Statutory warning: Slightly self indulgent post ahead.

When I was about eight or nine, my parents got me the Children's Britannica encyclopaedia. I had already started my love affair with books and one of my favourite haunts at that point was the school library ( I was abroad at that time - so enormous school, grounds, libraries and the works) - sitting on the bean bag in the kids section and getting lost in some Enid Blyton or the other.

The encyclopaedia was quite intimidating early on - twenty glossy, crimson, hardbound books embossed with gold lettering and thus, were relegated to the highest shelf in the library where I could look at them but could avoid reading them. Then for some reason I decided I wanted to do a (self-motivated) project on France I clambered up on to the showcase using the lower shelves as foot holds and took out "P" to search for Paris and instead I found the other Paris (of Troy) thus starting off the other great love affair of my life- that of all things mythological.

Something about the whole Trojan War fired my imagination – a whole world full of gods and goddesses – colourful, flamboyant, manipulative, and magical – completely unlike the rather passive awareness of the Christianity which I had been exposed to at that time (did not have too much awareness to the Hindu pantheon beyond my mother's evening diya ritual).

And I devoured every single (extremely sanitized) article in sight in the encyclopaedia – the cross references, flipping through each page trying to find something I had missed. Looking at Roman mythology but slightly contemptuously (after all, it was but a copy of the Greeks, but with different names). I had favourites – Athena, Odysseus, and Artemis – and the ones I didn’t like – Aphrodite, Pan.

And eventually moving on to Egyptian (Isis and Osiris), Norse (Freya, Thor and others), Indian and my eternal obsession with Celtic and Arthurian legends – especially of the Avalon and the Lady of the lake. (Incidentally, my first choice for a blog name WAS Avalon – which was also my chat alter ego for many years. Unfortunately it was not available). The idea of a mystical, mythical island hidden to most, the tales of Morgan le Faye and the complicated relationship with her half brother Arthur, Nimue and Merlin - has just captivated me for so many years – much more than the legends of the knights.

What I find most fascinating about these is the fact that while they are so geographically distant – there are such recurring themes amongst all of them. The Gods of elements (which I suppose one could argue was inevitable – since the elements were what people were exposed to) but then you take the Gods like Pan, Loki and maybe a Narad - the mischief mongering theme? The ambivalent relationship between the king of Gods and his siblings and father? Athena and Saraswati- both goddesses of wisdom in a sense, would have an appropriately equal importance in their respective pantheons I think. The constant death-rebirth theme (Osiris, Persephone – and most interestingly the Jesus as well).

Maybe consciously or unconsciously all follow the Jungian archetypes – the hero’s journey, the patriarch, the maiden, the earth mother within the main and sub texts as well.

I suspect this mythological hangover from my childhood has also led to the curiosity about theology in young adulthood – whether it’s Hinduism or Christianity (never got any decent books on Islam though) and even medieval history. It’s a strange paradox therefore that I got terrible grades in more contemporary history which we had to study.

Some random trivia to end this post - most of the days of the week are named after these mythological Gods. Saturday, Sunday, Monday are easy but what about Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday?

P.S. Disclaimer: I have NOT researched this article. It has been written from whatever minuscule knowledge I have garnered over the years – and I have forgotten much more than I remember. This is not an academic treatise but rather, online musing about a topic which has enthralled me for many years. Any inaccuracies please excuse!
P.P.S. I might continue this post with Hindu mythology - some of the sub texts, symbology and rituals are very, VERY interesting.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Excuse Moi

All hired lackeys of the corporate world have at sometime or the other in their lives wanted to play hooky from office for no urgent, obvious or necessary reasons.

If you haven’t, then you are a conscientious, front bencher and are a disgrace to civilization and should go and chullu bhar paani mein doob maro. Or maybe you are one of those enterprising entrepreneurs’ types – in which case, would you by any chance want to give me a job? Preferably one with little work and lots of money.

Anyways this urgent urge to bunk and revel in nothingness typically strikes a person after a few months of diligent hard work. If you are like me, it probably strikes once every two days.

However the unfortunate reality of the today’s work place is that when you get struck down by this itch, the jailors (in their better moments known as bosses) do not say “Go forth child and revel in nothingness”. They considerably more likely to try and squeeze out the last drop of work out of you – even when you quit work and start employment elsewhere. (Happened. Fact!)

So with this backdrop, taking random days off – is an exercise in tact and restraint – often dissimulation (though I prefer to call it inventiveness) ranging from the inane to the bizarre.

In the quest of spreading knowledge through my continuing educational series (Part I and II) on things they don’t teach you at B-schools, here are the Cynic’s illustrative examples to bunk office when you absolutely don’t have to.

Illustrative example #1:
Let’s take the example of a female worker, A. A wants to take leave to go watch a movie. A has a male, single, long suffering boss – B.
A sidles up to B one day dons a pained expression and stutters out “Er..B?”
B: cranky from odd shift hours looks up “Yes?”
A: “B – I’m not coming in tomorrow”
B:”Huh? Sez who?”
A: (triumphantly produces the rabbit from the hat) “Have a gynaecologist’s appointment!”
B like all single red-blooded men, is scared shitless of doctors of the female species, gulps and runs for the hills (after sanctioning leave)

Illustrative example #2:
Let’s say there is a girl C in her early twenties. She is serving a notice period on her job and has a particularly nasty, sadistic boss – Mrs. B. Mrs B. Has had a baby so she works part time and hounds C the rest of the time.
One Friday afternoon Mrs. B has a pedicure and wants to leave early. She envisages a brilliant opportunity to get C into work on Sunday and informs C of the same.
C then blushes coyly and mutters “I am sorry Mrs. B – I can’t come to office on Sunday because I have to go out with my mother”
Mrs. B does some rapid mental calisthenics – young marriageable girl, mother and has eureka moment “MUST be boy viewing” she decides.
Proceeds to make inquiries “Is it a boy – tell me what does he do?”
C demurely looks down and knots the fringe of her dupatta and whispers “No, no ...Nothing like that” and proceeds look as bashful as is possible.
Mrs. B pounces on that “Of course it is – Look LOOK you are blushing”
And then magnanimously proceeds to allow her the day off and hounds C on Monday for details (non-existent of course)

Illustrative example #3:
Take any young worker – let’s call him D. D calls up and informs the boss B that he has an accident on his bike ( on the way to work – such a conscientious worker he is) and will therefore be unable to make the regular appearance at the workplace. B, who happens to have a conscience rushes off to visit D and see if there is any major damage. D hearing of this impending visit – decides to put a splint in his arm and proceeds to tie it up – and thus gets out of working for not one or two days – but many, many days.

Illustrative example # 4:
Let’s take the example of worker E. Worker E decides that he wants to get multiple days off but at intermittent intervals . Thinks deep and hard about what can possibly require urgent attention and presence every few weeks?
First occurrence “Have to go to bahargaon for property matters” ( Parul, bahargaon works with people like us too!)
Second occurrence “Complications happened in property – have to meet lawyer – only available date"
Third occurrence “Need to go to court”
Fourth occurrence “Affidavit”
And depending on how good you are, you can use this excuse for a guaranteed seven to eight times on an average.

To be continued: How the work-shirking cynic gets paid back in the same coin by the maid mafia.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Closed Door Crossroads

Yesterday S and I happened to be talking about this guy we know - he is maybe late twenties/early thirties, small town, close knit family, typical Indian upper middle class, defence kind of background. His family is on the quest of suitable bride for him – and nothing to stop him from getting a “good match” – he is reasonably intelligent, educated and good looking.

However, his peers are fairly certain that he is a homosexual. He has never dramatically “come out of the closet” or anything like that – but the indicators are there.

I was just musing to S wondering what fork would he chose in life – would he get into the societally conventional marriage with some girl, and live a life as per the “acceptable” norms and thereby probably living a confused and conflicted life ( not to mention the wife’s!)?
Or would he choose to tell his parents and family, face opposition, ostracization, guilt and heartache – and yes, the burden of disappointment of breaking radically away from the life he has led so far – as the doting beta and the ‘good Indian boy’.

Either ways, a terrible choice.

It takes tremendous amounts of courage in India for anyone to “come out” (As an aside, why on earth are the terms aligned to homo-sexuality so shifty sounding – “coming out” sounds like someone is crawling out from some dark underbelly, then you have the “straight” folks as opposed “queer”)

But why it is that people are so homophobic and so quick to condemn and deride homosexuals?

S hypothesized that even educated people still think it’s a condition that is catching and contagious – hence it’s much easier to revile than accept. Because something that is despised holds a lesser lure. Could be a possible explanation, yes.

Could be the crass media and societal caricatures- – the insensitive Kantabai and variants. The only half sensitive movie I recall was probably “My brother, Nikhil”. And the stereotypical imaging of a gay guy being less than a man and a lesbian woman being less than a woman – both occupying that gray zone between the genders is such a farcical, nay, hurtful fallacy.

But I would have thought most people (at least the so called educated folks) know it’s say like being left handed – you can force someone to write with the right hand, but doesn’t make it easy or smooth or well, right.

I think about this bloke, and I wonder, that if because of the taboo he does chose to get married to a girl – what kind of life they will lead. The constant senses of being trapped in the wrong role in a play – where you are acting out something but don’t really know the lines, don’t belong to the character, but cannot get out nonetheless. And the tragedy for the spouse as well for being forced onto a stage, mouthing words which lose their meaning and their relevance.

Or the alternative, where he will be definitely splintering (if not breaking) his family’s heart by choosing to live his life on his terms. One could ask whether the parents will not find happiness in the child’s happiness. But the reality is that happiness is a composite of so many things – and it’s really not as self-denying as one would like to believe. Parents have a lot of emotional investment in their kids – and the payoff ( though many would hesitate to label it as such) is in the child living the perceived right life – (study well, get a good job, marry, have kids, take care of parents etc etc). So something like this perceptually reflects on their self perception of having raised the kid right.

Coincidentally, after this discussion, today’s Sunday times carried an article on Gay marriages – and how it had been celebrated with family and priest and the trappings. I think most of the examples were in the US. But a heartening read for all that.

Maybe, just maybe, that will be the norm in a few years.And kudos to the people who have had the courage to come out - it cant be easy.

Ed Note: I thought many times about whether to post or not to post this . Because the fact is while I do know a few homosexual people, none of them actually shared the problems/issues . So whatever I write is the outsider perspective – which might be completely wrong and completely biased. So if I tread on any toes, apologies in advance - that was not the intent

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cynic in Cucina

So Parul tagged me the other day to come up with a compendium of domestic disasters. Actually she might have meant only one - but I suffer from a problem of plenty so I thought I would let the readers chose!

...should I write about the time, I forgot to put the water in the pressure cooker while making rice? And about how I felt so smugly complacent when I smelt burning stuff. Secure in the belief that I had nothing on the gas that could burn?

...or about the time when I got onions and potatoes and kept them in a plastic bag in the store-room and cheerfully forgot about their existence, until strange overpowering smells started taking over the household? I learnt that onions die agonizing deaths inside plastic bags.

...or would it be more spectacular disasters that would make interesting reading? The time I nearly set the curtains on fire while happily leaving oil to heat in pan and cutting onions into interesting shapes to entertain myself while completely oblivious to the fact that heated oil lights up like a bonfire?

...or the fairly recent soup experience, where I put hot palak into the mixer only for the lid to blow up at rocket speed. S walked into the kitchen to see me standing in the middle of a lake with stuff dripping down my hair and a fairly bemused expression on my face staring at the mixer lid on top of the cupboard. ( Incidentally I still bear the scars of this one!)

So which shall it be?

P.S. People, can we have some visits onto the bhajifried blog please? And more importantly, can we have some guest contributors? We might run out of recipes at this rate. Hmpf.

Edited later: I forgot to tags the folks aiyo rama - dear readers, please take it up and let me know!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Random Thought in the middle of the night: Digest 4- Mocktails Mock tales

What would be the non-alcoholic version of Shandy?

Lemon Barley Water

(Muwahahha. Sorry been inflicted with gallons of the above mentioned liquid thanks to the kind offices of friend Doctor Dee. Also medication. Also all sorts of medicine reactions)