Graduation Day

It was Graduation Day. No, not for High School kids, although they too must have had a ceremony, but for kids from Pre-primary. They were graduating to grade 1.

I never had a graduation ceremony my whole life. Not because I never studied; I did. I’m an Engineer. But back then it wasn’t considered a big deal.  These days schools motivate the kids to excel in so many ways.

My daughter has her final exams going on now. The syllabus that needs to be taught for her final assessment covers a whole page. In the midst of this busy season, my daughter and the other kids from Nursery had regular, relentless practice to prepare them for the big day.

Medha had to sing the “Graduation” song. On the day of the ceremony, she told me she wasn’t scared or shy because she was in a group. Plus, she was too excited about wearing make-up.

I was in tears as I watched my little girl go up on stage and sing her song. It was her first stage performance in front of a huge gathering. And she looked so adorable in the rented costume she wore (For which I’d paid Rs. 600!) and with the make-up on (Prasad thought it was too much!).

I was going “Awww…”, every time a kid performed. They all looked so cute! One could see that the kids that danced to Aqua’s “Happy Girls and Happy Boys” were having so much fun doing their number, pom-poms in little hands. I wanted to dance with them too.

Even though I felt very happy, I couldn’t shake the pain that kept threatening to overtake the joy that filled me. We had just been through a scary incident a couple of days before the ceremony; Medha had to be admitted to the hospital. She’s fine now, but it had been traumatic for me to watch so many kids with complications much bigger than what their tiny bodies could go through.

I was moved by the speech made by the Chief Guest, a BIG FM Radio host, who said something along the lines of, “With so much going wrong in the World, such atrocities happening against children, it is heart-warming to see them nurtured into such confident, well-rounded individuals.”

The ceremony was a hit. None of the kids missed their cue or forgot what they were supposed to do. They just knew where to stand on the big stage and wait for their turn. Even the Chief Guest pointed this out.

She was bid farewell with pomp worthy of a leader of our Nation or a Bollywood celebrity. I was left with awe and admiration for the capability of kids under age 5 and the ability of their teachers to draw it out.

Reading Emma

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich…”, begins the novel “Emma” by Jane Austen. Emma is all that and so much more. She is spoilt, headstrong and manipulative. She is meddlesome, often involving herself in the matrimonial business of others, but considering herself above and beyond matrimony.

“Emma” is the story of a girl who evolves into a woman. It is about the mistakes she makes and the lessons she learns. It is about love and marriage. It is a total chick-lit. And it is my kind of book!

Emma is a bundle of contradictions: She is loving and attentive towards her aging father, but cold towards her chatty but kind-hearted neighbor, Miss. Bates; She helps the poor in her neighborhood, but has an acute sense of Social hierarchy and is hesitant to mix with the neighbors she considers beneath her. She takes on an orphan, Harriet, as a friend and grooms her in genteel ways, only because she assumes her to have come from a respectable family. She even tries to find a husband for her.

When Harriet receives a marriage proposal from Mr. Martin, she discourages her from accepting it, because she thinks he isn’t good enough for her. Emma has someone else in mind for her friend- one Mr. Elton. But he turns out to be a self-obsessed, money-loving jerk, who is after Emma herself.

Hoity-toity Emma fails to see the deep love between another couple, Frank and Jane, and assumes he is in love with her instead. Poor Emma!

We find her committing one blunder after another. Infuriating though it may seem, it is hard to detest her. She is only 21; She has lost her mother who would’ve shown her right from wrong. She only has a doting father, who will never believe his Emma capable of making a mistake, and a friend and a confidante in Mrs. Taylor, her Governess as a child, but who is now married to Mr. Weston.

What made her endearing to me is the way she accepts her follies and corrects herself, when her friend and her sister’s brother-in-law, Mr. Knightley, much older and wiser than she is, points them out to her and shows her the right way.

I found myself waiting eagerly for Mr. Knightley to enter the picture and make everything alright with Emma. When they finally get engaged to one another, you know Emma is in safe hands. I loved him more than Emma herself.

I haven’t read many Classics – only a few writers, like, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen. Of them all, it is Jane Austen I return to, again and again. I think I want to be a part of the World she writes about, where people enjoy the simple pleasures of life like going for long walks, listening to good music, dancing and socializing with their neighbors over Tea and Dinner parties.

“Emma” is full of them. And I enjoyed reading it, not as much as I enjoyed the other, more renowned book, “Pride and Prejudice”. I loved loved that one, and its heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, too. She was just perfect. But Emma remains special, even though she is not so perfect, or may be BECAUSE she is not so perfect.

Letter to Madhav

This feature is inspired by Elise at eliseblaha.typepad.com. I plan to write a letter each to Medha and Madhav once every month.

Dear Madhav,

Nothing fascinates you as much as Trains do. You go “Choo Choo” all day long, asking me to read “Choyee”, story that is, about Trains and making up your own “choyees” along the way. That always reminds me of my brother’s absolute fascination towards trains. We would go to a Railway station nearby just to watch them. He even wanted to become a Train Driver when he grew up.

By the way, you simply love Story-time. “Mama Choyee please”, you come begging, when I read to Medha at night. Reading from the same book to the two of you will not suffice; You each want to be read from your own books. And by the time I’ve read all your books, I am left with no time or energy to read mine.

Bats and Balls are your favorite toys. And Balloons too. When there’s a Cricket or a Tennis Match playing on TV and the men have already left for work, you’re the only person who sits glued to the TV, watching the game.

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Wearing old T-shirts and shorts make you happy enough to scream with joy! And boy what a booming voice you have, almost as loud as papa’s! While he has the build to match, you don’t. Enough digression. We were discussing your love for old clothes. Even old shoes; Although you have a couple of brand-new, unused pairs of footwear, you always go for your favorite soiled and ragged blue ones. I’m all for “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle”, so I don’t force you to wear what you don’t want to, unless we are going to a party or visiting some of my relatives, who are all about “Buy new. Buy more. Get rid of the old”.

I must have mentioned this already, like a hundred times before, but I can’t tell you enough how much you enjoy digging through your sister’s cupboard for her clips and bangles and even Nail paint. Everyone who looks at you, assumes you’re a girl. I wonder how you’ll react to the pictures in which you’re wearing all that, when you’re a big boy!

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But there aren’t many pictures of you lately. Like me, you’d rather be on the other side of the camera, taking pictures than being photographed. Just as I’m about to press the shutter release button when you’re doing something, or, simply, looking cute, my screen goes blank. I find you standing beside me, watching how I photograph. After every click, you can’t wait to check out the picture. I have hopes of you becoming my assistant when I start a Photography Business. (I think the chances of ME becoming YOUR assistant when YOU start a Photography Business  are higher!)

Love,

Mama.

Weekend Photography

In January, the Blogathon took precedence over everything else. I hardly read or photographed anything that couldn’t be used in my daily posting. I only recently finished reading the book for the month -“Emma” by Jane Austen. I will be posting my experience (yes, my experience reading it, as this book, is so widely read and reviewed, that it doesn’t need another review) reading it. Another project, “picture365” fell by the wayside, if you haven’t noticed already.

With this project, I wanted to post a picture with a few notes related to it, everyday. Although I never took a break from photography, I stopped choosing one picture and writing about it, a few days into the marathon blogging. I should have known. I can only focus on one thing at a time. I always think I can multi-task and try it too, but end up doing a shoddy job of every task but one.

Hereon, I will do one project a month and not several, like I’m bound to try at the beginning of a new year. This month and the months leading up to my sister’s Wedding, I will be focusing on Photography. I will try to improve my skills and learn a few tricks to take better pictures of the Bride and the Groom, my kids in their best dresses, the turquoise beaches and gigantic buildings of Dubai, where the Wedding will happen. Your best wishes and forbearance (’cause I might be posting many many pictures to show my progress and get your feedback!) and my dear husband’s gift to me for completing the Blogging Challenge – a book called

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography [Kindle Edition]

 will help me get to where I wish to be.

By the way, I’m loving this book, and can’t wait to share the things I learn as I read, with you all.

Here are a few pictures I clicked over a perfect weekend.

(The pictures were taken at our home and farmhouse)

How I prepared a Paneer Wrap

I am very fond of wraps- Greek Pita wrap, Veggie Burrito, or a Frankie . Even a simple Chapati slathered with spoonfuls of Mixed Fruit Jam and rolled up, is a personal favorite. But what makes a wrap, or any entree for that matter, interesting to me is all the ingredients with different textures that it holds within- from the gooey dressing to the meatier Mushroom or Paneer. I’m always looking for recipes online that incorporate a variety of textures. On one such exploration I found a recipe for the Ultimate Paneer Wrap. 

I made the Multipurpose Marinade first.

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It came out tangy and spicy, just how I wanted it to taste. I kept some marinade aside, assuming it was more than what I needed. I cut up a block of Paneer into strips and submerged them in the rest of the marinade. Into the refrigerator went the bowl.

I prepared the dressing according to the recipe, by grinding a handful of Cilantro, a Green Chili, juice squeezed from half a lemon and a sprinkle of salt. But instead of mixing the ground paste with Sour Cream, which I didn’t have at hand, I used homemade Yogurt instead. I should have run the Yogurt through a sieve, to let the Whey out, as it made the mixture too runny, instead of the creamy texture I was looking for in a dressing.

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I had half a Yellow Capsicum, half a Green Capsicum and a half of Yellow Zucchini, leftovers from when I made a Slow cooker Enchilada Quinoa Bake. I used them along with a big bulb of Onion to prepare my Vegetable filling. (By the way, I also added a spoon of Curry Powder into this mix. I always do, when I’m preparing a new dish, like Pasta or Fajita, to make it more appealing to my in-laws, who prefer the Indian touch to any dish.).

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In order to add more body to the wrap, I cut a few Potatoes into strips and deep-fried them. Right after I scooped them out of the pan, all yellow and hot, I made sure I sprinkled some salt on them.

By now, the Paneer had had enough time marinading in the, what else but, Multipurpose Marinade. I shallow-fried the strips to caramelize a side or two. Paneer, when fried, came out a bit rubbery. My mother-in-law suggested I try using the Marinade-coated Paneer in my wrap as they are, instead of frying them, as the recipe suggests. She told me hers tasted better, without the frying.

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While preparing the dough for Chapati, my mother-in-law added some Maida (All-purpose flour) to the Whole Wheat flour. I prepared a thin Chapati, placed a big spoon of the Vegetable filling, topped the filling with strips of Paneer and Potatoes, poured the dressing over. To make the Wrap even spicier, I spooned in a bit of the Marinade I had set aside, and rolled it up. The crunchy Veggies, crispy Potatoes and Spicy Paneer along with the sharp taste of the Marinade, made sure every bite felt like a riot of textures and flavors. We LOVED it!

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Not the kids though, they found it spicy. So I made them both a wrap with some Potatoes and Tomato Ketchup. They LOVED theirs! Thanks to showmethecurry.com, we had one finger-licking good dinner!

Blogathon 2015

I dozed off as I read a book to Medha. Prasad couldn’t believe I was sleeping without publishing my post for the day. He tried waking me up, but I found it hard to keep my eyes open. It felt good to be sleeping. Really good. Nothing else mattered … Even the Blogathon. The Blogathon? The LAST DAY OF THE BLOGATHON? I awoke with a jolt of understanding that I HAD to finish the race, I HAD to publish the last post of this marathon blogging. I had come so far…Now I had to see it through.

When Seema asked me whether I’d be interested in participating in the Blogathon, I agreed without giving much thought to it, although I was slightly scared, and excited too.

At the start of a new year I’m always looking for new challenges, new goals for myself. I accepted this one as a personal challenge, without realizing how big a challenge and what a learning and transformative experience it was going to be.

I wasn’t posting regularly before this marathon began. I only posted once, or maybe twice, a week, which itself felt like a lot of work. I knew not how I’d be posting everyday, for 31 days, even on Sundays. SUNDAYS! When all I do on that day is eat a hearty meal at a restaurant, sleep the whole afternoon, shop for the next week’s grocery and spend time with Prasad reminiscing about the ‘American life’ we left behind, over a big cup of Cafe Latte at Cafe Coffee Day. Who has the time to publish a post on Sunday?? I wondered.

But I did. This exercise of posting regularly pushed me beyond what I thought I am capable of. It stretched my limits. I didn’t know I had it in me to come up with something to write everyday. I always thought I wasn’t imaginative enough, that I wasn’t capable of generating ideas. But I managed to, sometimes in the nick of time.

For a month, I put on a new “lens” and saw my life differently. Everything about it was examined to see whether it could be used to churn out a fresh post. I took on new experiences with gusto; I read through my journals to see if anything could be turned into a post during a busy day; I tried new recipes to post my experience preparing them. In order to post something each day, I tried to make my life a bit more interesting and exciting than it already is.

Is that bad?

I always assumed my brain couldn’t function late at night. When I realized I only had a chunk of time between 10 pm to midnight, that was not interrupted by the kids or chores that needed my attention, I decided to work on my posts at night, after the kids went to bed. It was hard in the beginning, but, gradually, my brain became habituated to working at those hours. Like I said, this challenge broke my own perceptions about myself. I began thinking,”If I can do THIS, why not try ‘y'”?, the ‘y’ being anything from trying a new recipe everyday and posting my experience, for a month, to, writing a book by typing a 500 words each day, for about 6 months.

I’m big on projects and goals. I start off with zest, putting a lot of time into their planning and preparation. But somewhere along the way my enthusiasm fizzles and all I’m doing is trying to find the nearest way out. But something about this challenge made me want to stick it out, through thick and thin. I think it was because I wasn’t attempting to do this in a vacuum, all by myself. It felt like I was doing this with a bunch of friends, friends who took time from their busy schedules to leave a comment (or two) for everything I posted, friends who gave me that little nudge of encouragement to continue posting when the going got tough. It felt like I finally found a community of like-minded people.

Thank you all… YOU made this journey worthwhile.

Thank you Seema for letting me join the ride!

And before I forget, I want to thank my husband and my little sis for being my cheerleaders and in my husband’s case, a harsh critic as well. Thank you! I wouldn’t have been able to do this without your support, encouragement, ideas, enthusiasm and love.

Now I’m off to have a good night’s sleep.(I hope the little one doesn’t wake me up early in the morning, like he usually does!)