Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thanks ...


When I first started blogging, I had to ping the Mr. everytime I posted a new article, asking him to go and read it.

Then I sent the link of my blog to a couple of close friends - who would often mention something about what I had written in their emails. It gave me a lot of happiness - to know that there was somebody who regularly visited my page. In fact, they would "bug" me to write if I did not write for a week or so - I love you girls for sticking by and inspiring me to write more ...

Slowly I started to visit other blogs, dared to leave my comments on a couple and was so elated when she regularly visited my blog and dropped a comment or two.

Then came Jihva food events and the few times that I would shrug off my lazy shroud and cook up something to participate in it, I would have a few visitors dropping by and leaving sweet notes on my blog. That is how I got to know this lovely lady, whose food pictures and unique recipes are just out of the world.

And today, she gave me my first blog award! I am soooooooooooooooooo happy ... (add more o's to that so) ... Thanks dear friend for this honour.

I would like to share this and pass on the happiness. I would like to give this to
Kumari - she was the reason I started blogging.
Ram - a dear friend who writes good articles
Hampa - the organised nomad
Gomathi - who writes from her heart.
P.Siri - she keeps dropping rare pearls on her blog.

Firsts ...

"Firsts" in life are so special and will always remain a dear memory. Suddenly today I got reminded of many of the Firsts in my life.

The earliest "First" I can remember now is my first cycle - which I got when I was about 8 years old. I can recall very clearly appa teaching me how to ride it, how i would take the bike out when we moved to a new place in order to "impress" people and make friends with them.

The first "thing" that I made - of course with appa's help - was a kaleidoscope for my S.U.P.W(don't ask me the expansion - it was just a "timepass" class we had in school) class, when I was 10.

Strangely I don't recall a bit of my first flight alone when I was about 8 or so. Those days it was cheaper to take a half ticket for my flight, than appa or amma coming to drop me at Chennai (for vacation) - take a week off and then come back later to pick me up.

I remember my first trip alone in the public bus - when I was in Class 8 - to amma's office which was at the other end of the town.

My first Barbie came a bit late in my life - in Class 8 - because that was when amma and appa could afford to be a bit extravagant - but it was welcomed very lovingly though late.

I remember noting the date (i think it was March 25th) of the first "ring" our first telephone gave in my dairy. Those days having a phone in your house was so rare.

My first scooty - when I close my eyes, I can picture it exactly as it looked - i got it on July 12th (the b'day of a close friend - who became a close friend during that year).

My first BPL taperecorder came home when I was about 15 or 16. It was the best companion I had through the 4 years of college.

College gave me two of the most lasting firsts in my life. My first touch of fame(like I never knew before or have known after), and my First (and everlasting) Love ...

It was a Thursday morning - the second class of the day - when the marks for the Chemistry paper were given out - the 1st set of exams I wrote in college. This mark decided the fact that I topped the exams - I was #1 in college. I was so elated - I wanted to shout out loud - call my parents - jump around in joy - and all I could do was write a few "Thank you" notes on the last page of my book to God and my parents with shaking hands. This started a series of firsts - and I left college with 4 grand medals and a photo on Page 3 of "The Hindu"! To this day, I don't know what the hell happened to me in those 4 years of college, which made me perform well in those exams. Some say - I was just purely lucky - and had no real talent! Hmm... I wonder...

I don't remember the day when I saw my first love - how strange - we interacted with each other in such a causal manner, talking about the time for a class that we attended together - not knowing that 3 years later we would become the most important person in each other's lives.... I remember our first fight - over a silly red shirt he wore one day. I remember the first time we held hands. I remember our first movie - the first song we heard together....

There are some bad "first" memories also - which teach you the most important lessons.

I remember my first "lie" which landed me in huge trouble - when I was in Class 6 or 7. It embarrassed me in front of my mother and taught me a very big and important lesson - it is always better to speak the truth and face the consequences that tell lies and get caught in a tangle of more lies trying to support the first one.

Sometimes life becomes too busy and I don't make note of a new "First" and it slips out of my mind too. It saddens me later to think that I missed on it. Life is just one - every single thing that happens in it is so remarkable - I wish I could make a note - a written note of every single thing that happens to me.. Atleast all my Firsts...

Blue Blue Blue ...

I am just so tired of feeling blue since about two weeks. Just nothing seems to be giving constant happiness (guess there is nothing of that sort). The Mr. has started saying amma's dialogue "Why do you have to overanalyze things so much? Why do you think that things have to be so special for you? People lead lives just like this . Wake up, eat , get ready , go to work, come back, cook, spend time with family and sleep. Why does this have to be so difficult for you?"

I don't know .... Sometimes I feel it is my own self who makes myself feel so miserable. I always have this "something missing" sort of feeling. What is it - I can never put my finger on it! Grr.... I am beginning to dislike my own self...

I am missing folks at home, missing my childhood, missing andhra , missing telugu, missing college.... just practically everything. Amma and appa who have gone back to india - don't exactly give me a comfort feeling of wanting to go there and 'settle' down. (I wonder - will we ever get 'settled' in life ? What is settling in the first place?) . And there seems to be no point - other than money and a personal comfort life - here. But are those two things not the most important in life ? I don't know ...

A friend of mine - could say - ex-friend - called me 'Ms. Polambal' (Ms. grumble). Guess that is what I am - a big crib-pot .... TCHA! What a stupid post!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What’s in a Name?


Quite some months ago, the Mr. got a forward about “The Secret of Mallu Christian Names”. We laughed and laughed and even today it is a standing joke at home. You can read it here.


Over the weekend, we were browsing some sites and came across a Mohanalal program being organized in many parts of the
US. As we scrolled down the site, we came upon the names of the Contact persons and broke into a riot of laughter. Why? See this:


Why in the world would any set of parents name his or her child this way? People who know the meaning would not. People who don’t – well I don’t think it is such a fanciful name that anybody would yearn to name their baby.

One evening as the Mr. was signing out at the security gate, the guard asked him how he would pronounce the name of the person who had signed out just before him. The Mr. read it – “Ishith”. The Guard said – Yeah I wondered why would somebody call their kid “I” “Shit” ! Americans generally don’t care for the extra “h”. So, I become “Vidiya” instead of “Vid(H)ya”. I am sure Ishith’s parents would have never dreamt that he would grow up and go to the US of A and he would be made fun of for his name.

Reading all this – I guess it is safe to go with time-tested and well known ‘existing’ names, instead of being smart and trying to come up with new ones that might fire back on you sometime.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Upma Kozhakattai




It is long since I participated in a “JIHVA” event. When I saw that the ingredient for September was Rice – I knew it would be too bad to let the chance to participate go by.

Rice is the staple food in most of the South Indian homes. Personally I feel that there is nothing to beat the smell of freshly cooked rice – the whiff from the white pearly steam that comes out when you open the lid of the vessel containing rice that you put in the cooker or from the vessel that you cook directly on the Gas. Ummmmmm heavenly. When it is hot, just plain rice with a dollop of Ghee mixed in it also taste like the best food on earth. Rice that has been stored for a day, eaten with thin curds is considered one of the best ‘cooling foods’. Then there is my all-time favourite – Thair Chadam (curd rice). There would probably be no Tam-Bram who does not like this ‘symbolic-recognition-of-tamilians’ curd rice!

Rice is also considered as an auspicious food item. In Kerala, it is the first solid food that is given to a child. When the Child is 6 months old, there is held a ceremony called “Choorunu” – all the family members assemble in a temple (usually Guruvayoor) and feed the baby solid food for the first time – rice and paruppu.

The recipe I am going to share is a snack made out of rice primarily. It is one of my favorites. Thanks to amma’s trip to the US – I was able to get the recipe from her, in person.

Ingredients


Plain rice (eg. Sona Masoori) – 1 cups

Thoor dhal – 2 Tbsp

1 Tblsp Pepper seeds

Soak the two for about 20 minutes, wash clean and spread it out to dry on a towel. Add Grind the dried rice and dhal coarsely.

Note: If you want to store this powder for using it later, make sure the rice and dhal are bone-dry before you grind them.

For Seasoning

½ cup grated coconut

Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp

Split urad dhal – 1 tsp

Red chillies – 3-4

Salt – to taste

Curry Leaves – 4-5

Asafoetida – to taste

Oil - 2 tsp

Heat oil in a Kadai. Add the Mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add the split urad dhal. Fry them gently till they turn brown. Add the curry leaves and split red chillies.

Measure 2 cups of water for each cup of the mixture and add to the kadai. Add asafoetida to the water and let it boil. When it starts to boil, add the coconut. After a minute, add the dry mixture. Cook on medium heat. When the rice and dhal mixture is cooked well, take it off the stove. Cool it a little and then take small portions of the mixture and roll into small balls.

Steam the balls in the cooker, like you would steam idlis. After steam starts to come out of the cooker, reduce the flame to medium and cook on for about 4 minutes. Hot Hot Upma Kozhakattai’s are ready.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Customer Service



Disclaimer - This article in no way is aimed at throwing opinions about a particular race of humans. It is solely based on my experiences and my version of the events.

I always thought i did not like Italian food. But during our endeavours to get amma-appa to sample different cuisines I found that I did like the Salad , breadsticks and Eggplant Parmiggiano - a bit too much - and even started to have a craving for it.

So, I dragged the 3 of them to Olive Gardens yesterday evening to satisfy my palate, when this incident happened.

We had often heard of excellent customer service in most American restaurants - we got our chance to experience one yesterday.

We had ordered , amongst other things , a veggie pizza. This was the last item that the waitress was due to get. When she first brought it, I saw some wierd moulds of things on it and got a slight suspicion and asked her - She apologized and took it back and came back immediately. Kneeling down in front of our table, she apologized profusely that the cook had made a mistake of giving us an "Italian Sausage" pizza and that they would take the pizza off our bill and give us a free pizza. After ensuring that it would not affect her own salary, we said Yes.

About 10 minutes later, she came back with another pizza and a big smile "Hope this one looks as good as what you wanted". It looked fine. When the Mr. started to cut slices, we realized they had made a mistake again - this was as a Pepperoni pizza ... Guess it just was not our day. She was appalled at this and took it back. She came back and after apologizing profusely asked us to choose some desserts which they would give us for free. We were already so full and did not really want anymore, but still we took a "Tiramasu".

Seconds later, the manager came back - took up a chair and sat in front of us. "I am so ashamed of what has happened. It is not as if we run a French restaurant, we must know how to make a good pizza atleast. Please give us another chance to serve you better. The next time you come around, just call me personally - my name is Betty - I will make the pizza myself for you. I am going to take the whole bill on our name, however since Michigan laws prevent us from taking off the Wine charges, you will have to bear them".

We were so impressed by the honesty with which she spoke. She took the entire blame on herself and made amendments for a loss which we actually did not incur. No doubt , we were not entirely satisfied with the whole episode - but the way the waitress and the manager behaved did not leave any black mark about that restaurant in our mind. We knew that any other time we would not hesitate to be back there again.

This incident brought back to mind a couple of others that had happened few months ago.

The first one was at an Indian Grocery store. This one served Samosas and Chats to be eaten there itself. We ordered two samosas and instead of taking it home decided to eat it there. They had not given us any sauce with the samosa. Since they had chutneys prepared for the chat, we asked if we could get some. The owner rudely said that they don't give free chutney for Samosas. The Mr. said he would pay for the chutney. The owner got annoyed and said - There is so much hard work that goes into preparing those chutneys, we cannot spare them for giving it away with samosas just like that. We tried to explain to him that we were willing to pay - but he just would not listen. It put us off so much that we decided never to go there, even if we were lured by the good chats that he made.

The second one was at an Indian Restaurant. We had ordered Masala Dosa - the dosa he gave contained huge chunks of potatoes that were only half boiled. We did not complain during the meal - put aside the potatoes and ate the dosa (Enna pannaradhu thalai ezhuthu ... kya kare apna kismat kharaab tha). But when the waiter came to take away all the plates, the Mr. could not hold himself and just casually mentioned the same to the waiter. Immediately the waiter turned defensive and said - Masala dosas are supposed to be made that way only. ( The other statement he did not say, but was evident on his face was - if you did not know this , then you morons should not have ordered it). We were not complaining or making a fuss, neither where we looking at getting our money back. All we were doing is making a suggestion to him - why could he not have taken it a bit more graciously? All he had to say was - Oh! is that so ? Sorry sir, we will take care of it next time - he does not loose anything right? After all he runs a restaurant to serve us customers only - he does not do any charity to me?

A Customer will be willing to pay the money, if he feels it is justified and worth it. No person would want to cheat and get free food or service. All he expects is to be treated good and be given his money's worth. Why is that so difficult to understand? Why is it so difficult to give a smile to your customer and apologize if something went wrong? Don't we do that ? If you made a mistake in your work - don't you say sorry to your boss or co-worker?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Expressions



Carried stopped by at my desk today morning and gave me a cute little “Thank You” card.


All the ladies in the office – which was quite a number , about 20 or so, got together and arranged for a ‘Baby Shower’ for her Last Thursday. It was lunch in this place called “Country Buffet” – where you can “eat-all-you-can” for just 9$. Unfortunately, as usual, the choice for Veggies is limited – though the dessert table pretty much compensated this deficit. All of us were quite generous and had given her really good gifts – a Stroller, a rocking and musical swing and couple of dresses.


What I loved about the whole thing was – how eagerly she opened all her gifts and how she did not hesitate to show her real feelings. She had tears of happiness and gratitude in her eyes and she looked at each one of us when she said her thanks. Often I have noticed this about Americans – they do not feel ashamed to show out their feelings in public – especially the good ones. If you are wearing a nice dress, or some piece of jewellery that they liked, they will not show their appreciation with big expressions and loud “Oooh!s” and “Aaahs”. If they are happy about something that happened, they would talk in length of their happiness with animated faces. If they meet somebody after a long time, they would not hesitate to give a warm hug and shout out loud. If they are too happy, they would not mind crying out in the public – warm happy tears of joy.

Coming to the act of today morning’s – when was the last time you saw somebody hand you over a “Thank-You” card for something that you did? It is such a small thing but it makes so much of a positive difference I feel. There was definitely a smile on my face when I got that card and read that hand-written note that she had put in it.

Expressing oneself is so vital for relationships to bond further, I feel. Mostly Positive expressions . Sometimes it is better to keep negative expressions in check.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Movie Weekend

It was Amma-Appa’s last weekend in the US. The depression has already started to sink into me slowly – a week from today there would be so much emptiness in the house. I guess this was a hidden reason why none of us wanted to do ‘Something’ over the weekend.


I took them around for a round of last window-shopping and we all sat and watched a couple of movies, while munching some tasty and crispy vadas that amma made. Ulundhu vadais are my favorite. This time for a change we added crisp cabbage into the dough and it was so tasty. It was probably for the first time that all 4 of us were sitting at home and watching a movie end to end. Just shows how busy we had been the past 3 months, ha ha, because before amma-appa came to the US – watching a movie at home was almost like a daily ritual.


The first one we saw was ‘Prestige’. I have been wanting to see this movie since a long time. Of late I have become a huge fan of “Hugh Jackman”, so have wanted to see this movie for that precise reason. And it turned out to be a really “Magical” experience. One of the often used dialogue in the movie applies a lot to the audience – “Watch Closely!”. Yes, you must watch closely else you will miss the essence of the movie. It is a tale of two magicians, their magic tricks and bids to out-do each other to declare their “Prestige”. The movie starts off with the explanation for what “Prestige” is all about and why it is so important for a magician - A magic trick involves 3 parts : ‘The Pledge’ – where the magician shows a simple thing and promises to turn it into something extraordinary; ‘The Turn’ – is when he performs the extraordinary ; but that is not enough for it can be done by almost anyboy – what matters most is the last part ‘The Prestige’ – where the magician performs something so shocking that it holds you spellbound and makes you acknowledge his “Magic”.

The movie shifts between the present , the past and, the past in the past. So, be sure what you are knowing what you are watching J. I have always felt that there is a mystical feeling in stories that are told as a flashback. The lead characters have played their parts marvelously and pretty convincingly. The role of Scarlet Johansson seems to have been patched into the story. Well actually that role is quite significant to put across one “Particular” point (I won’t divulge that – for it will give the movie away) – but the director did not utilize it well. The director has built the suspense in the movie very well, surprising the audience with the explanations at every stage in the story – giving one piece of the jigsaw puzzle each time – and finally revealing that one most important heart piece at the very end.

If you are the kind of person who loves to guess what happens at the end, there are enough clues sprinkled all over the magical journey to comprehend what is cause for the “Prestige” of the actors. A “Must-See”.


The second movie is one that the Mr. and me have seen quite some time back and we liked it so much that we got it for Amma-Appa to watch. A fantastical comedy called ‘Groundhog Day’. The tale is all about how one day keeps repeating again and again and nobody but the grumpy, self-centered protagonist can realize it. The first 25 minutes of the movie is very puzzling, but it slowly sinks into you. He attempts, initially, at finding out what is happening and then moves on to unsuccessfully ‘use’ the situation to make his producer fall in love with, then sinks into frustration at not being able to change the situation, and finally decides to utilize the golden “Opportunity” given only to him to “Do good for others” – something which was never a part of his personal agenda before. A very heart-warming tale set in a small town in Philadelphia, with all simple real characters – is what the movie is all about. Bill Murray plays the lead character – does a good job of it- though I wish his face would show more emotions instead of wearing the same expression for every scene. Andy Mc Dowel is the cute little producer he falls in love with – her “Bunny teeth” grin and Cotton candy hair just manages to charm you. A Feel-good movie, this one is.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Oh So long!

It has been ages since I wrote anything here. I somehow am facing a huge block in getting a topic to write about here. Just about anything I think of does not seem inspiring enough to write about – or may I am not even thinking of anything … Everytime I visit those wonderful bloggers who regularly update their sites, I feel so ashamed of myself – for letting those friends down who open my blog atleast once in couple of days to see if I have written something there…. But it just is not happening… Anyway I decided to shake myself up and atleast write about what’s been happening in the recent past to me..

I finally did it! I changed jobs – got rid of all the murk that had got over me in my previous work… remember these “Queen Crib” posts? I quit my last job on Jul 27 2007 – a very significant and remarkable day in the calendar of my life’s events. I bid farewell to the place – not physically – that I was working in for the last 6 and half years. Though I had been wanting that for – oh so long a time – when I finally put in my 2 weeks of notice – it all seemed quite strange. I was feeling a bit nostalgic and sad! I guess no matter how bad a thing is, if you have “had” it for a long long time, you feel atleast a small twinge when you let it go. And it was not as if my company was Bad – just that I happened to be at a wrong place at the wrong time and working under the wrong person. Pity unlike Maths, two negatives could not make a Positive … no wait I have 3 negatives – so there you go – that proves that I did the absolute right thing by quitting that place.

Wish I had had a break – alas! – I had to join work on the Monday after itself – Jul 30. In a way I am not complaining. The new place, like anything new in life, seems fine – for now (oh! Oh! Hope the Mr. does not read the last two words … hee hee). A Small firm – giving one more visibility – loads of Indians around – all the more to chit-chat with. Works looks ummm fine for now. Come on – my inner self tells me – you should grown up and be mature… drop that “for now”. Because there is nothing in life that is “Forever”! What is “for now” is what is needed. Who cares about “for later” or “for ever”!

On the Personal front – things are pretty much the same – wonderful …. Early mornings start with all four of us sipping delicious teas, sitting on the couch, and watching “Putham pudusu” and Solomon “Pappaya” (as the Mr. calls him) – on Sun TV. Then the rush hour to office – while appa so sweetly packs fruits for us and amma makes smacking breakfast. Then starts the counting –down to time to leave for home – evening tea and snacks – arratai arrangams (our discussions) – walks around the apt complex to shed calories – or appa-mappilai’s swimming trials . Ah! Life is bliss!

In all this, I am stuck with the problem of not being able to think of anything to blog! Upon popular demand (read as request from 2 loyal friends) – I am posting this … hoping that this would act as the needful “kick on my butt” and make me write more ..

PS - the Garfield image is how I am behaving right now!