Friday, January 30, 2015

Blueberry Muffins

I love blueberries. Unfortunately they are not easily avaiable here.
My mom has been on a lookout for them, for me, for the longest time possible and she finally got them in Aurangabad - the dried ones.
She kept a packet for me!

When i got it back home to Pune, i knew i had to make blueberry muffins!

Here goes...

Blueberry muffins
Serves : 2 adults who love desserts and don't want to share! 6 muffins!

Ingredients :

All purpose flour - 0.5 cup
Whole wheat flour - 0.5 cup ( you can skip this and add 1 cup all purpose flour, if desserts don't push you on a guilt trip!)
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Salt - 1/8th teaspoon
Granulated sugar - 3/4th cup
Milk - 1/2 cup
Oil - 1/4th cup ( i used normal cooking oil)
Egg - 1
Blueberries - 1/2 cup ( or more, there is no such thing as "too many blueberries" )


1. Preheat oven to 180C
2. Add hot water to just about cover the blueberries and let them soak for 5 mins. (this is only if you are using dried ones)
3. Bowl 1 : Combine Dry ingredients (first 4)
4. Bowl 2 - Combine wet ingredients. Whisk the egg before adding
5. Combine dry and wet ingredients. Drain water from blueberries and add them and mix properly.
6. Put in muffin tray / holders
7. In the oven - for 20 mins with both heating grills (top and bottom) on. Last 2 mins just keep the top grill on.
8. Insert a knife and check. If it comes out clean, remove the muffins
9. Let them cool and then attack ( i normally skip the let them cool phase, its just too hard!)

Thursday, January 29, 2015


She sat by the window, staring across the sleepy town. It was 6 am and the quiet of the night was giving way to another day. Things were stirring to life, the smell of tea wafting in through the open windows, the mist, slowly lifting its veil to reveal a peaceful neighborhood.
She liked living here.
It was calm and the people were friendly. At her age, it was more than she could hope for.
But the proudest part of her being was her family.

She was 83 years old, and it was at moments like these, spent in solitude, contemplating her life and introspecting, that she truly felt grateful. She knew her health was failing and she had gracefully accepted that she may not live much longer. Cancer was not easy to deal with, it killed you from the inside out.

She had been a strong, independent woman. Married at an early age, as was the norm in her times, to an exceptional man, who encouraged her to study and work, she was well educated and held a PH.D. She loved music and cooking. She drove a car at an age where you could count the number of cars in your town on your fingertips. She had recently stopped exercising.
Looking down at her frail hands, she thought it was a cruel way to die for someone so full of life.

Looking back on her 80 years, she figured there was not much that she had not seen. Life never seemed to happen to her, she made it happen whatever she did, wherever she went.
She looked around her room. Pictures of her late husband, children, grandchildren adorned a shelf. Her dresser and cupboards were neat and immaculately kept. She was very particular, far before the term OCD was popularized, she embodied it.
Her constant companion, her TV, sat in front of her, staring at her blankly. She wondered how something this drab and standard, could transport her to a whole new world when switched on. Like most people her age, the television was more than just entertainment, it was a way for her to forget her loneliness, her illness.
Her eyes settled on the old sewing machine kept in the corner. It held many memories and before she could have a chance to explore the depths of those, her room door opened and in came her son, carrying her tray of tea and three marie biscuits, exactly what she had every morning.
She smiled.
She came from an age where men did not enter the kitchen and had adapted to an age where her son made her tea and brought it to her every morning, because no one else got up this early in the day.
This was the highlight of her day, and her son the highlight of her life. He talked, she listened, nodding occasionally and some times her thoughts drifted away from he was saying. She was content just looking at him talk. The sound of his words was not needed to comfort her. She was proud of him, in a way a mother is proud of her son. She felt satisfied in knowing that she had brought him up well - the way he provided for his family, married the right girl, fathered two beautiful daughters. She was not worried about him, no, after she was gone, he had a wonderful family who would take care of him.

And as she thought about her granddaughter, her thoughts moved to where she was. She was to get married in two days and there were so many things that seemed unsaid, so many words of wisdom that she still needed to impart, to look at her granddaughter one last time and tell her that marriage is a mystery, it seems tough in the beginning, but if you hang in there, it only gets better.
She remembered how a few months ago, the fear had gripped her. Her granddaughter was going to be married and she realized for the first time, then, that she may not be able to go because of her deteriorating health. The travel would take four hours and everyone knew she would not be up to it. But she wanted to go, with all that was left in her, she hoped to. She had thought about her diet and her medicines, and wondered if there was anything else that she could do to make her feel better, so that she could undertake the journey.
And with each day that passed, she realized she was fighting a losing battle.
She prayed, she whined, she willed and she cried, but the cancer seemed reluctant to relent. So cruel, so heartless, she had thought.
And when things had gone downhill, she had made a promise to herself that even if she couldn't attend the wedding, she would not let go. She would hold on till the special day. There were days on which she felt like giving up, giving in to the pain.
She still held on.
She couldn't talk much, but she understood everything. Her daughter had come to stay with her during the course of the wedding, when her son would not be at home.
She held on.

The day of the wedding, she looked out the window from her bed. She couldn't get up, but she knew it was going to be a warm, beautiful day. She said a little prayer and closed her eyes again. She was feeling tired.
But she held on.
Her daughter came in and told her of all the things happening down there at the wedding. A real time update and she marveled at modern technology. She drifted off to sleep intermittently.
But she held on.
She held on till the moment her daughter told her that the wedding had taken place, her granddaughter was married.
She felt happy, she was joyful, she was grateful, but above all she was relieved. If she could have performed a victory dance, showing her thumb to the cancer, she would have. But all she could manage was a weak smile. A smile that showed very little, but hid a bucket full of emotions.
She waited patiently for her son to return home, and in the stillness of the night she quietly slipped away, surrendering herself into the arms of darkness.

Setting herself free into the realm of the unknown
A life of dignity, a life full of love,
We all remember you, and miss you
A wife, a mother, a woman of strength
But above all else
My Aji, My friend. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Watching the world go by...

I cannot sit still.
I need to keep moving, keep doing something - anything - but I just cannot keep still.
It also comes from a very wrong notion of - doing nothing amounts to laziness.
I recently read an article in TOI about how there are two kinds of people - people who like everything organized and their lives are planned and the other kind - who just go with the flow taking on things as and when and if they come. So, the article points out if you are in the latter category why try and change your self to fit in the first. If you live by chaos - so be it!

While I disagreed with many points in the article - indiscipline cannot be a way of life. You have to make an effort to be disciplined to lead a better life. Laziness and inability to plan your life - not the minute details - but plan to some degree - cannot be called a way of life. No one will be able to live like that. And my last objection was when the author equated discipline and spontaneity on opposite sides of the same line.

But I did understand the main point - and I quite agreed with it. In an effort to plan and organize and do something there were so many moments of solitude, of peace that I had let pass. In an effort to meet social engagements and fulfill all social responsibility, there were so many moments with myself that I had let go of - one being the time to sit and write in my blog!

I have cleaned, and organized and set house systems back in place and met everyone I was supposed to meet and went to Aurangabad and set up my work and attended a wedding or two, but since I have been back from my holiday, I have not felt settled! Settled into my old routine, into the calm state of being. It feels like living somebody else' s life and wanting desperately to get back into yours, not knowing how.
Till now, that is.
The reason why I haven't been able to settle down was because I was busy doing so many things - one after the other or even all at once - that I did not take a single moment to sit down, sit back and notice the old way of life - and try and slip into it quietly cherishing the time I spent away from it and feeling the old routine welcome me back. Instead I dived into it, making a big splash, showering water all over the surrounding, trying to get the most done like it was a race and finding out at the end of it all that the mucky puddle that I dived into was never my calm sea of routine and way of being anyway!
So spontaneity and chaos are important no doubt, but make sure that is what you actually need. For all yiu know, like me, you could be really craving a send of familiarity and a need to be with yourself.
I had never sat down just for a moment, for a moment with myself. To let myself soak in everything the way it was around me. To not creat chaos and shake things up but to be calm and silent and at peace with myself.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

No religion owns me

Given the hateful atmosphere, now is the best time to don the hat of - "i do not belong to any religion" or "no religion owns me".
With this you are on safe ground, for the time being at least.
You are like the neutral oasis of Switzerland in the religious world war.

For if you are bound to any religion, with it comes the automatic denunciation and intolerance of other religions. With it comes a heightened sense of sensitivity to any syllable spoken about your religion. Being A Hindu, or a Muslim or a Christian means the ability and willingness to defend, even the most ridiculous of practices, the wholehearted agreement to forget humanity in the pursuit of becoming warriors for your religion, fighting for something that you may not understand completely in the first place!
But you only know it has to be defended, whatever be the cost.
It means being rigid and uncompromising, belittling anything that does not conform to your practices and beliefs. Being religious, today, means being strong, strong and angry in the face of any criticism thrown your way, being serious and throwing out our sense of humor, the one aspect that makes us human. The inability to provide benefit of doubt and the thorough confidence that the other religion was borne just to mock your own.
Religion today means curbing logical thinking and restricting expression. It means living in constant fear that a rational human being with a swish of his pen on the paper will be able to obliterate my religion, that has been passed down generations, for centuries. All in seconds with a flick of a pen.

I cannot be a part of such a feeble institution.

Religion is one aspect of a multi-dimensional human being. In fact, religion should be a very private and personal aspect of any human being. It is what dictates a person's actions and motives and from deep within. Why would you want to announce your religion to the world? Worse still, why would you want everyone around you to share the same deep well of inner peace and happiness. Isn't that something unique? Something that only you and your God should know?
Religion is like wearing an underwear - it is best if you have it to support yourself, but would you really want to go flashing about your support system in public? Making yourself vulnerable to cruel attacks and jokes? And will one size fit all? No! Wouldn't you customize it as per your size and taste? Then why the logic that something as indefinable and intangible as God and inner peace will be found by all by practicing only the one "true" religion? How will one religion fit millions of people?
Worse still, would you want to know what kind of underwear your neighbor was wearing and if it matched yours? And if it did match yours, would that make you happy?!

Religion is supposed to make life simpler, to make living hopeful. Not to ruin and kill lives.

Religion was borne out of a need to bound communities together, to have a common thread running through a system so that people helped one another. Worshiping uncertain natural elements was a way of conquering fear and showing unity in the face of uncertainty. Religion brought a sense of order to civilization, it put some external limitations in place within which a community could prosper.
What it did not account for was the fact that not everyone wants to be held in the same place by a same set of beliefs.
Something that defines, can also restrict. And anything that restricts is to be overcome.
Right now people in power want to restrict, to curb anything that might upset the balance of power, but rebellion is an inevitable consequence of restriction.
Divisive policies work for only so long, majority of humans cannot bring themselves to kill other humans, it is the minority that we abhor and the media covers, because it is shocking.

I was borne a Hindu, but i am not one.

For to be Hindu today means i have to hate Muslims and Christians and Jews and mock their theories of God. I cannot make fun of deep beliefs of people and their ideas of God. I respect them, just as i expect them to respect my views. I cannot target people because they do not follow my religion, or because they laugh at some of the seriously ridiculous things in my religion.
I refuse to be acknowledged based on what i believe in and what i do not. I cannot let religion be a distinguishing line for categorizing people.

Because religion is what people practice, not who they are.

Source: Indiatimes

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ringing in 2015

This time we began 2015 in...Ethiopia...with a group of friends and Sagar's cousins. And hence the lull in activity on the blog!
2014 was all about good health and hard work at the office.
The plan worked out pretty well, a healthy lifestyle with yoga and aerobics, healthy food habits, more time in the kitchen, fresh food, organic food, fitting into old clothes, general upkeep of health all resulted in a highly satisfactory 2014.
Work seemed pretty set with good delegation, team work and newer avenues.

If 2014 was all about myself internally, 2015 is going to be all about experiences externally. An attempt to reach out, far beyond normal grasp, learn new things, experience crazy stuff, more outside the home than inside.
This is not a resolution, but just a general view of how i want things to shape up with my life. That is what i do every year. Think of what the next year is going to be remembered for.

2015 began quite distinctly in Ethiopia (travel blog of my Dubai and Ethiopia trip coming up soon. If you have read my South Africa travelogue you will know how long it takes to make myself sit and write about places and itineraries. Writing about these holidays makes you want to return to them!)
We went there with absolutely low expectations, the idea was just to go and meet friends stationed there and spend new year eve with them. But it turned out to be so much more...charming, quaint, laid back, warm. A perfect holiday.
A complete contrast to Dubai, the first destination in our two country holiday. Dubai was fun in its own way - glamorous, abundant, luxurious and bright!

2015 is also going to be about experimenting - in the kitchen. Trying out new ingredients, making that extra bit of effort to go to Dorabjee's ( far away. well..not as close as my neighborhood grocery store anyway) every month and getting new ingredients home. Expect a lot more recipes on this blog!
And this means more recipe book shopping! Yay!

Also, my quest to learn French will continue, albeit more seriously this year.

One thing that is not going to continue into 2015 is the incessant online and offline shopping. Unpacking my huge suitcase with my holiday shopping and trying to fit it into my already over stuffed cupboard was back breaking. After a careful analysis, i know i do not need a single pair of shoes, not even one jacket, shirt, t-shirt or bag.
The only shopping permitted will be book shopping and souvenir shopping on holidays ( i will never ever want to, be able to, ever put a curb on book shopping!). All other shopping is strictly prohibited.
This begins my 365 days of "no-shopping experiment"
This is going to be really hard, i can feel the anguish even as i write "no shopping".
But this is something that i have got to do!

Hello 2015!
Here's hoping it will be as fabulous as 2014 was!

Franny Billingsley Chime