Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Time Capsule

Usha has written a very beautiful article here about a Time Capsule that has been created by Yahoo. It is a memory Engine kind of thing , where you can post almost anything – photos, scraps, blogs – anything at all about anything and everything you think/feel/know – This Time Capsule will close itself in a couple of days and be lost in the sands of time – to be reopened maybe a decade or so later. The assumption is that things might be changed so much by that time, that the artifacts you are going to store in it now will become relics. And I definitely thing it might be absolutely the truth.
The rate at which life in general is growing, some event/custom/ritual that happened 10 years ago is no longer a part of our lives now. Usha asks – if there were to be a time capsule that would open say 100 years later what would you want to put in the time capsule. Here are some of the things that I would like to write down about for generations a century later to be reading about.

  1. I would give a write-up on what a sample work-day would look like, in different professions – a teacher, an engineer, a software professional, an ad agent, a housewife, a musician and so on.
  2. What are the sports that a Nation loves – eg. Indians are crazy about Cricket, Americans rave about baseball or basketball.
  3. A Write-up on each festival that is celebrated in a given state/society and what is done in on a festive day.
  4. Some pictures about the current trend in fashion – short sleeved salwars, churidars, long skirts, tight muscle t-shirts for guys, off shoulder dresses for little kids.
  5. The menu in a traditional wedding. Well, that I must say has changed quite a lot – no longer do you see “Ela chaapadi” in many wedding receptions – it is all ‘metro chapaddu’.
  6. What are the modes of communication – E-mails/ blogs/phones/cell phones?
  7. What are the most sought after places of travel?
  8. The TV serials that people are most crazy about now.
  9. What hobbies are kids mad about?
  10. The most popular food items in the town – Mexican ? Pav Bhaji? Road-side chatt/puchka?
  11. Current views on UFOs, what kind of governments should we have, robots

Oh! I could go on and on … but for now yup! These are what I can think of for now.

Friday, October 27, 2006

My Puja Room




This is on Usha's request! Some photos of my puja room, with our new idols - Saraswathi and Radha-Krishna.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Autumn in Michigan


The winds of Change are blowing. The trees are shedding all their apparels (leaves). Fall is “falling” off and winter is slowly creeping in.

The first thing I loved about the US of A when I arrived here for my first visit was – Seasons. If you have ever lived in Chennai, you would know of only one season – Summer, though you would read in your text books that there are 5 seasons. It is in this country that I could see the varied differences in these 5 seasons – spring, summer, Monsoon, Fall/Autumn and winter. The two seasons I love most are Spring and Fall.

This Fall Season we decided to put our big $$ investment to some use – our Nikon digital camera (for which we spent quite a buck). When I researched on the best places to visit in USA for Fall colors, I found that almost all of them were very far off from where we stayed, and we could not afford to “fly” at this time. So, we decided to drive to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan state to visit the Tahquamenon Falls.


After some rounds of “Are you interested/will they join us”, finally the participants of this ‘Program’ were decided – it was just two families – ours and Monica-Prasad.

So, on Friday(10/6) we started from here in their Camry(this was the deciding nail in the coffin to buy a camry). About 5 hours of masti filled journey ensued. This was the first time we were going out with them and were really surprised to find just how easily the two of us couples gelled well. Probably since we were in the same age group, faced similar issues during marriage and worked in similar kind of environments – we had plenty of things in common, to discuss, debate, laugh over. The last 100 miles was ruled by the boys’ best topic of discussion – how much their wives trouble them!

We stayed over at Mackinac city. It was 11 by the time we reached our motel and we were pretty tired already, but still we decided to go and see the Mackinac Bridge which we knew was decorated with lights by night. And were we glad that we made that trip. See these photos – what do you say?



After a scrumptious breakfast of golden waffles with maple syrup, boiled eggs, toast, pastries and orange juice we started off for the falls. The breakfast was provided complimentary by the hotel. There was an elderly lady making waffles for everybody and helping out in getting things that got over or anything else we needed. And she was making cheerful conversation with about anybody in the room. I was thinking – for something that was given free, she was doing such a great job. There are places you go where you pay out of your pocket and still hardly get a smile out of the people who serve you.

There are two falls in the Tahquamenon state park – the lower falls and the upper falls, separated only by 4 miles on road. The Tahquamenon state park itself is about 2 hours from the Mackinac City. We were forced to stop on the way to admire the beautiful colors on the trees, golden yellows, bright oranges, and glowing reds. After a while my jaw ached from shouting “Oohs and Aahs”! The Lower falls is a very small fall and can be viewed from a far off distance. One can hike for about an hour to reach to a point that is nearest to the falls (we did not do it). We Monkeyed around the place for a while clicking snaps. The best part of going with another couple on a trip is that you get somebody who can click snaps of both the partners together. This was something which we never had in our earlier trips – so all snaps would either have the Mr. or me, and very few that we were lucky enough to get people to click one of both of us would have either one of hands cut of, or trunks chopped and so on. The upper falls were more interesting and magnificent than the lower falls. It is more like a miniature version of Niagara only that it is pretty dirty. The local guy there explained that dark murky wood color of water was because of the dilution of the pigments of the fallen leaves. There was so much foam coming out of the water. This place is also one of the most famous fishing spots for whitewater fish.

After spending some leisure time there, and having a nearly-good (for vegetarians getting good food in typical American spots is kinda difficult) lunch we left this place and rushed to make it to the “Pictured Rocks” cruise about 2 hours from Tahquamenon – we just had about 2 and half hours in hand.

The “Pictured Rocks” cruise is a 2 hour 20 mins cruise on Lake Superior that takes one around rocks that have been shaped, scrapped and deformed by nature. There are huge caverns scooped off the sides of huge cliffs containing deposits of various minerals causing the walls to glisten with different shades. Some natural formations of the rocks are very beautiful to watch like one shaped like the side profile of an Indian. It was pretty windy and chilly to sit on the top of the boat. While returning back, we returned to the warmth of the inside of the boat and slept off. The end of the cruise is a small fall called ‘Spray Falls’. One amazing thing we saw was this tree, which is standing on the edge of a small cliff and derives its ‘food’ from another cliff by the way of its extended roots. Amazing ways of nature na?



The next day we went to Mackinaw Island. It is a very beautiful place. The only means of transportation on this island are rental bicycles or horse driven carriages. There is an 8 mile road around the island where one can rent bicycles and drive around, stopping at the different vantage points. It was a good exercise as much fun it was. Mackinaw Island is full of fudge shops. Americans usually say that Indian sweets are too sweet for them – then what about their fudge? The Mr. – who has a very very sweet tooth – could hardly eat one half of a fudge stick all by himself!

After a hearty ride of almost 3 hours, filled intermittently with loud Antakshri, we started back on the boat back to Mackinac City and back to the daily grind of life. Ah! What would I not give for a weekend like that again?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Happy Deepawali

I am always a day late in wishing :) , but then I write the post after the day has passed!
Wish you and your family a very happy deepawali. May the year be filled with good news, cheer, good health and hope.

Diwali (or deepawali as it is called at home) for me was always associated with 2 things - the "nalla ennai" bath early in the morning and distrubuting sweets (wearing new clothes) to all neighbours. I am not much of a cracker person - been always scared of even the tiniest vedi and after sometime the smoke starts to bother me much. For Diwali this was the routine - we would wake up early, at about 4 or so, amma would apply the "nalla ennai" (gningely oil) on appa's and my head, take an aarthi of us and shoo us into the bathroom for a nice "head bath". After the bath, appa would hand over the new clothes to amma and me (i always love getting new clothes hee hee) and then we would go down to burst the crackers. In Andhra diwali is celeberated in the evening. So, for all the years that we lived there, in our street we would be the only ones bursting crackers in the morning! It was a competition (unwritten) between us and the other mama living 2 streets away - as to who would be the first to burst the crackers in the morning ! Then would come the best part for me - "showing off my new dress" - as I would go around distributing the sweets and "karam" to all neighbours. Appa was so good at this - arranging all the sweets and savouries in correct proportions in individual bowls (based on the number of family members). After we moved to chennai, there was one more step added to this routine - packing stuff in little plastic covers for the multitude of relatives we would be visiting in the day.

This is probably the first diwali(other than those 4 years of college), that I am away from home. It was so lonesome yesterday morning - both of us missing home and all that. In the evening, we had a couple friend at home - it was the lady (Swathi's bday) - so I invited them over for some snacks. We bought a small cake for her and I made "Bread rolls" (recipe below). We got talking of this and that and our moods lifted up a bit. They insisted that we go out with them for dinner - so we made a quick visit to the temple and then went for dinner. By the time we came back home, we both had nice smiles on our faces and felt it was a good diwali we had had :)....

One of my friends fowarded this to me. It feels so nice to see that Indians are so much honored in this country - why not - they are closed to being the largest non-american population in the USA. At office also, all our non-indian colleagues were eager to know about what diwali was and ensured that they wished us before they left home on Friday evening. It gave such a nice feeling :).

Okay - now for the "Bread Rolls" recipe. This was my first attempt at them and they came out quite well - so I was really pleased :)

Ingredients

2 medium sized potatoes - boiled and mashed well.

Salt, Red chilli powder - to taste

Corriander leaves - finely chopped

garam masala - 1/2 teaspoon.

8 large bread slices

Oil - for frying

Procedure

Add the chopped corriander leaves to the mashed potatoes. Heat a little bit oil in a kadai and add this mixture to it. Sprinkle the red chilli powder and salt and mix well so that the entire mixture gets fried a bit. Just before removing off the stove, add the garam masala and fry for a minute or so.

Keep this mixture aside.

Dip the bread slices in water and squeeze the water out well. Spread them on a tissue so that it would take off the extra water. Place a little bit of the mixture in the centre of one slice and roll it and seal off the edges by pressing them together. Make sure you do this process one by one and not dip all the bread pieces into water at once, as bread absorbs water very quickly and it becomes tough to roll it if it becomes too soggy.

Place these rolls on a plate and refrigerate them atleast for 2 hours. This will harden the rolls slightly so that when you fry them, they don't stick to the sides of the kadai and also don't soak much oil.

Heat oil in a kadai and deep fry the rolls while slightly turning them from time to time.

And voila ! bread rolls are ready. You can prepare them in advance and heat them for a mintue in microwave when you need to serve them.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Our New Car

We bought a new 2007 model Toyota Camry yesterday – fulfilling one of our dreams ever – a long black car!( it all started when I saw the ad of Chevrolet Optra – the karva chauth ad)

The Mr. remarked – there is so much pleasure in materialistic things also :D… Definitely yes! We both were grinning ear to ear all the 13 miles back home from the dealership – for no reason. The Mr. drove in the new car and I followed him in our old Corolla – smiling at the way the bright shade of the Fall colors reflected off the shining black hood.

It was a thought was there in our minds since a long time to own a new car. In India, I would have never even given this wish a thought – because of all that I have seen in India – owning a car is a pain – and that too a shiny black one – it is a crime to own one! Within days of buying it, there will a couple of scratches, blotches of mud everywhere and the car would rattle badly within months (unless you lived in those suburb areas where they have laid road for the first time).

But US is the land of opportunities indeed! Added to that fact is that a car, in the parts where I live, is a necessity and not a luxury. So, when the Mr. had to change his workplace to a place about 40 miles from home, we longer could share the single car we have (I refuse to come early to work and leave late, especially when most of the days I sit swatting the imaginary flies).

The decision to buy such an expensive car and that too entirely on loan is something very scary – for me – somebody who never has taken any expensive decision in life (who took the decision to marry then?? Was that no priceless!). The Mr. did sufficient research, backed up his findings with facts based on real life experiences – I was nearly convinced – and then came the trip to UP(Upper peninsula) in Monica’s camry – and I needed no more convincing that Camry was what we needed!

It has sooooo much space – was my first reaction! We test drove the new Corolla just to see if it had anything different from our ’98 Corolla and the moment we sat in it we were disappointed – it was the same thing, just a bit more power and little elevation. No Sir, I want a Camry. Okay, kya lena hai who tho decide ho gaya, now kahan se laayenge paise? This is where I was amazed at the credit system of the US of A. No Questions asked - no layers of paper work - no down payment!
A simple background check and we got our pre-approved check for the entire amount of the car.

Now came the third and toughest part - bargaining with the dealer for the price. I must say that I really underestimated the Gemini hiding inside the MR. – is he a smooth talker and a tough person to beat in the duel of words? Gosh! There I was sitting open mouthed amazed at his verbal prowess, while the salesperson tried to convince him, coax him, anger him, and insult him to budge from his low price. Finally after 2 hours the salesperson had come down by 1000$ from his initial quote (he even brought the manager in between who even went to say – Sir, I don’t think you can afford this car ,you should be buying a lower end car only – the chit of that guy), we were only 250$ away from our mark. We walked out leaving our number on Saturday. And on Monday, the first thing the Mr. gets is a call from the salesperson to tell that he was agreeing to our price. Oh! What a sweet news that was. In two days, the deal was finalized; we got our car and are happy as can be.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

7 Cup Cake


The past two weekends and the week between have been really hectic, so did not find time to pen down anything. The weekend of Oct 6th we had been for a “Fall Tour” to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan(more on this in next post). The week between Oct 7th and Oct 14th was strangely busy (considering the fact that I am “Vetti” most of the time at work). This weekend was also satisfactorily busy – Saturday was spent at a friend’s house and yesterday we had a couple over at our place ( this was nice because 1) we like the couple a lot and they are good fun to be with 2) I got a chance to experiment on my culinary skills).

So, Friday night Reliance India earned a lot of revenue, when I was on phone with amma trying to get some recipes for “quick” sweets that I could make. I wanted to move away from the “comfort zone” that the easy-to-make MTR Gulab Jamun pack gave. So, I decided to make this very simple-yet-very-tasty sweet that amma would concoct at the shortest notice – this 7-cup cake. I would like to submit this recipe for the “Jhiva for Diwali sweets” held here.


Ingredients

Besan/Kadala Maavu/Senaga pindi – 1 cup
Coconut – grated fine – 1 cup
Ghee melted to room temperature – 1 cup
Milk – 1 cup
Sugar – 3 cups


Method
Mix all the ingredients, except ghee in a kadai. Pour ¼ of the ghee into this mixture. Mix all the ingredients well and cook on medium flame. Keep stirring intermittently for 30 mins or so later (the time is based on the electric coil heater that we have in the apartments in the US). Now the mixture will start frothing and start to come off from the sides of the kadai. Slowly pour the rest of the ghee into the kadai, while stirring continuously. Within few minutes, the entire mixture will harden a bit and become thick. Take it off the stove and pour it onto a flat greased plate/vessel and let it cool for about 15-20 minutes. While it is still hot, draw the lines with a sharp life to make small diamonds/squares. After it is cool, you can take out the pieces and store them in an air-tight container.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lage Raho Munnabhai


I wanted to write about this about 3 weeks ago, when I actually saw the movie, but never got to doing it. Now it is a bit of stale news, but then no harming in jotting what I wanted to say.
In a movie-world that has lost the meaning of comedy, amidst the hotchpotch sex-based comedies that the bollywood industry churns out every two months – comes a breath of fresh air – a neat “family” comedy called “Lage Raho Munnabhai”. Right from the first scene where the unsuspecting no-name character gets trapped in the parking lot, the giggles started in the theatre. The crescendo reached peak when Arshad Warsi so casually remarks – “Abbe Tu andhar aa raha hai ki bahar jaa raha hai”.

I felt that the movie outrightly belonged to Arshad Warsi – his dialogue delivery, timing and facial expressions. Not a single line of his missed the laughter-applause that the audience had to offer. I found his devotion to this “Bhaaai” so endearing. Wish I had a friend like that, who would do anything for me.

Sanjay looks very nice when he does these comedy roles that the action ones like Vaastav or the romantic ones like Saajan. I feel he is bearable in the Munnabhai role. I felt that he had more to do as a hero in Munnabhai MBBS, than in this movie – which has no center character that deserves applause.

Boman Irani IS ONE Good actor huh? Reminds me a lot of Utpal Dutt. He shines, as do his silky jazzy bright fluorescent clothes, as the “Villian” Lucky Singh.

Vidya Balan is like the fresh seaside breeze. Chirpy, bubbly and a wide innocent smile! She makes you heart smile when she fills the screen. Though I personally feel she suited traditional roles like the one in Parineeta more than the modern Jhanvi(that was a nice screen name). I was mercifully thankful that they did not disrobe her like Preity in Salaame Namaste. I also felt that never ending “Mummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmbai” could have been a bit shorter.

The best surprise package of the movie is “Baapu”. I later came to know that the person who played this role –Dilip Prabhavalkar-is a renowned Marathi theatre artiste. Wonder why nobody made a “Gandhi” movie starring him, I think he fits the bill to the T, more than the “Gandhi”Ben Kingsley.

Another real surprise package was the music – it generally happens that when you have these kinda tapori songs, you seldom remember them after you leave the movie hall. But this one stumped me – why else would I be going “Pal Pal” or “Aane Char Aane” from Morn-Eve and till the Mr. got crazy!
“Lage Raho …” has a very very catchy whistle tune and the casual tone of Rathod is simple superb. You can picture Sanju baba in your mind oh!so easily when you listen to this song.
The latest-craze-in-my-life Shreya is captivating as lyrically waltzes in “Pal Pal”. A friend remarked that this is a lift from an old Engligh song – well I am glad Shantanu decided to “lift” it, for I would have missed such a wonderful tune had he decided otherwise. Sonu indeed tends to become “ronu sonu”(the Mr.’s nick name for Sonu) at certain parts in this song. And sometimes he jumps over the edge when he says “Paaal Paal” rolling his tongue a tad too much.
“Aane Char aane” indeed makes me wish I could wear a hawaiian shirt and run around the sands of some beach. A nice jiggly-jig song with a lot of meaningful lyrics.
“Bande Mein” is a nice ode to MKG.

A very very entertaining movie that comes with a wonderful hidden message. Hats off to the director to have thought of such a unique plot. It is not often that you leave the movie hall smiling and at the same time pondering over what the director implanted in your brain. It brings a feeling into me that, if only we tried – nothing is impossible. I really wish somebody would do the feat in a government office (the one the old man struggling to get his pension does).

And ... oooh! Did I miss the "treat" in the movie ... Jr. Bachchan!!! I almost fell off my seat with surprise when I saw him. The look on the Mr.'s face was priceless. All he could say was "Yeh saala yahan bhi pahaunch gaya ... " hee hee .... Boy! I did love "LRM" ...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Happy Vijayadasami

Happy Vijayadashami to all of you and your family !

This year’s Navarathri was pretty much inconspicuous – more so because I really have never celebrated one entirely on my own. But it still had some of its special things – like the beginning of the 10day festival – with Kalpana’s Kolu. My boss at office, Kalpana, sets up Kolu every year (or so I am told – for this is the first time I went to see it), so she invited us home on the 1st day of Navarathri. The Mr. was all excited after seeing the Kolu and extracted a promise from me, that we will do something next year. I caught up with a colleague who recently quit our workplace and two-three other ladies also. It was nice seeing all sarees, beautiful bangles, jewellery – took me back home for a second . Kalpana’s home itself was so beautiful – it made the Mr. and me want to set up a house of our own soon – wonder when at all that will be. Well, in order that we don’t disappoint ourselves, we decorate our rented apt quite beautifully.

Yesterday was Saraswathy Pujai. Under amma’s instructions I put some books and tools in front of the Devi and the Mr. and I successfully completed a short pooja, stuttering out the slokams out of a tamil book that amma had given me. I tried my rusted vocal chords a bit and was so disappointed to realize that I hardly remembered any of the musical pieces that I once upon a time could recite at a moment’s notice. It made me want to rush back to Chennai and join music classes once again. Oh! I hate myself for not practicing all these years.

Today is Dasami. Brings back fond memories – every year I would run around applying chandanam and kumkumam to all the appliances in the house – the fridge, washing machine, sewing machine, the almariahs, mixie, grinder, TV, VCR, a couple of our shelves, the doors and wait patiently for the puja to get done, before rushing out to the Cellar to do the pooja to our vehicles (sometimes 3, sometimes 2). As a kid, I would love it when appa would give me a chance to take the scooter off the stand and run it a bit to crush the lemons placed under the tires. When he would start the car, I would love to hear the Squiiiiiish sound of the lemons and would circle around to ensure all 4 lemons were Squished.
In a hurry to come to work, I forgot all about applying chandanam to appliances. I made vella payasam, did small puja and rushed to work.

The Mr. called me to tell that one of his colleagues has given us a Saraswathi idol – how sweet of him. We hope to make it to the temple to close the Dasami on a nice note and to pray for new beginnings filled with nice things.