They come from a Death Valley tent in freezing November.
They come from smeared Haldi and torn kurtas.
They come from families who know how to laugh freely.
They come from a naive auntie who loves you like one of her own.
Great stories are born, not created.
They creep down like a ray of sunshine, behind a cloud.
They announce themselves like a bolt of lightening.
Bringing a sudden shower of laughter,
They end with a fog of nostalgia.
Great stories are a happy coincidence, sublime accidents.
They are born from past hippie lives and current hipster-dom.
They are born from teenage escapades with a cricket bat.
They are born from sweet doggies and a mewing cat
They are born from high school math classes and sleepless nights.
Great stories spring about, when you don’t expect them to.
They start when two giggling girls are escorted out of children’s park.
They start when your best friends come together to set the dance floor on fire.
They start when you are getting soup in a Turkish small town.
They start when you introduce Holi and Bhang to a crazy bunch.
They deserve to be shared and not held back,
The release of emotions is what they desire,
The memories, the feelings, the rawness.
Share them, spread them, include them.
You never know who needs these great stories to ignite one of their own great ones.
When I am bored at work, I start looking at recipe videos to take a break from my mundane simulations. There is something about watching cooking videos that gives me a lot of comfort. I feel like I am almost eating that and it also inspires me to cook up a meal as and when time permits. I really enjoy planning on what to cook that evening and the weekends and that is why pre-prepping for meals does not work for me.
When we were 20-21 year old, fresh of the boat, grad students, most of us had never stepped into the kitchen before. I had a couple of roommates who were already adept at cooking, but for some of us, it was an absolutely new ball game. The only things that I knew how to make were some fancy things that I would look up and make at home. I had zero idea about the basic curries and rotis. In the couple of months that I had between my final exams and leaving home for good(cue: fresh set of tears), my mum tried to teach me some recipes. I picked up the basic steps then, but even then, cooking largely remained a challenge for me. She tried hard, hiding her own emotional state about my imminent departure, and put her soul into prepping me for my journey ahead. She even made a little diary with recipe notes for me.
One of my biggest support during my endeavor to overcome that challenge was and is, a Marathi(my mother tongue) cookbook gifted by my mum’s best friend. ‘Ruchira’ remains a cult favorite and every so often, I bring it down from the shelf, specially during Diwali and other festivals. The other big supporter was obviously, Youtube. I can’t describe my obsession to look up all the recipes and jump from channel to channel, taking mental notes. Some of the channels that were my favorite were Veg Recipes of India, Madhura’s recipes for Mahrashtrian food, Sanjeev Kapoor for popular recipes, and one quaint channel called Nisha Madhulika. I used to follow her videos for traditional recipes because she actually used very classic, typical cooking methods and they worked for me. These channels took me over the mountain, and slowly, I really started enjoying cooking. I am not a Master Chef, but people appreciate what I make. I have also started enjoying potlucks and spending time thinking, prepping, and cooking for 10-12 people. I have hosted dinners for my non-Indian friends and cooked fun things for my Indian friend’ parties. Turns out, that my mom has also discovered youtube now and follows Nisha Madhulika and Madhura’s channels.
On a whim today, I looked up a video to make something that mum makes. The first video that I saw was Nisha Madhulika’s. Nisha auntie, I feel like fondly calling her now, went over the recipe step by step. If anyone has seen her videos, she has a peculiar, slow mannerism where she explains each step and teaches with a certain softness in her. By the time that video was done, I was a ball of tears and snot. I am not totally sure why, but I felt this gush of emotions towards her. And my mummy.
The way Nisha auntie was explaining the recipe, was like a mother taking pains to teach her child how to cook. She explained what ingredients to use, any substitutions, the right way of adding them, and so on. I have seen countless videos by now, and no one has the mannerisms of this lady. It feels like she has put her emotions and passion into it. I started thinking of my mum, who taught me in the same way, and even now will answer my doubts when I FaceTime her while cooking. My mom isn’t actually that detail oriented so she will forget about some or the other thing and then I have to question her again! But nevertheless, I can tell that my mum loves the fact that I take pleasure in cooking now. In her new videos, I felt this jolt of realization that she even looks like my mummy! Her hair pulled back into a ponytail, her kurtas with long sleeves, and the way her face lights up when a recipe is done, is so much like my mama! Obviously this did not help my emotional state. My mum taught me a lot, and is still teaching me. But most importantly, she is teaching me to enjoy the process, and put love and care into it. I know she wants me to do more and so do I. I feel there should be someone to keep taking the small traditions ahead. The small rituals that make up Diwali, Holi, etc, also make our lives sweeter.
It’s surreal how memories of home can rush back all at once, when you are least expecting it. I never thought that watching a cooking video will take me back into my home kitchen and refresh my senses with all the wondrous aromas. I was not prepared to have goosebumps watching someone like my mom talk, and then remembering my mom standing in her petite self, by the kitchen counter. The images of her making fresh rotis, stirring the curry, insisting on all of us sitting down and serving piping hot food, are all dancing in front of my eyes now. The lady takes immense pride in whipping up delicacies for people she cares about and making sure that no one leaves with a dot of space in their tummies. She thinks her job isn’t well done, until you lick your fingers and are deep into food coma. Oh, how I miss her!
This is my unintended mommy appreciation post. Here’s to my mom, and all of ours, who moved mountains to turn us little monsters into what we are today. They taught us with love, patience, and a little whack here and there, to give us this life. These are important life skills, and they taught us to mix them up with TLC and pass it on. Mamas are really the best! Give them a squeezy hug today when you see them, even if virtually! ❤
My sweet mummy, even if I achieve a 10% of what you are capable of putting on our plate, and in our lives, I will consider it my biggest achievement.
Thanksgiving. Long weekend. Get out of town. That’s the mantra we seem to be following these days. Any long weekend or vacation spent at home is akin to a crime.
My holidays started pretty much when a very old friend from college Sayali came over to my part of the country to catch up on our friendship and enjoy her vacation. We had a blast, went to Las Vegas, clubbed, gambled, boozed and did the usual Vegassy stuff. After coming back to Orange County, we visited the local beaches which were too cold to be enjoyed thoroughly. Yet we had a great time sitting on top of the lifeguard’s post and talking.
Thanksgiving dinner was had at my buddy Shawn and Alicia’s where food was served to us in quantities that will put an elephant’s diet to shame. I am still eating leftovers and I am still set for two more meals.
One of the very exciting things that I did was to go to the Death Valley National Park with Abhi and Nisha. It is one of the largest national parks in the country and is a huge expanse of flat lands and mountains, a lot of it actually below the sea level. The say that Death Valley is the land of extremes. The temperatures range from 120 F in summers to 20 F in winters, which is around 48 C and sub-zero. Also, you get to see extremely beautiful night skies with the milky band. It was a few nights after full moon, yet we could see a gazillion stars just at 7 pm. My skin tingles at the thought of a moonless night over there. And a date. Meh.
We stayed at the Panamint Springs Resort which is a family owned resort with a few rooms, pre-built tents, RV hookup sites and campgrounds. It is an old and basic arrangement but worked very well for us. The restaurant had vegetarian options in pizzas and burgers and a couple of appetizers. Nothing fancy considering that it was a friggin’ remote location with ZERO cell service. Yep. No internet. No phone. Zilch. Zero. Nada.
We stayed in the lodge on Friday night after a 4 hour drive from OC to Panamints springs area. The drive was rough with a lot of unpaved roads as would be commonplace in such an area. In the next couple of days, we enjoyed quite a few Death Valley massages as Abhi called ‘em gravel-ey roads. We ate and slept, prepared for a an early day. We had some sumptuous buffet breakfast on both the days with pancakes, scrambled eggs, cereal, croissants and such. On Saturday, we set out to cover most of the sightseeing in the area.
There are two things worth mentioning. First, I was awed by the sand dunes. They were so beautiful! Now, I have an itch to go back to Rajasthan in India to see the desertlands. For the nerds interested, scenes from Star Wars have been shot at those Sand Dunes in the Death Valley. We walked quite a bit in those dunes to get to a nice high point and then returned with scoops of sand in our shoes, socks, jeans, yep.
The second point of interest that I loved was Badwater. It is a highly salty marshy area with encrusted soil on top as of now because of the heat and is about 300 ft below sea level. The history says that a traveler thought it was a good spot for his mule to have a sip of water but the mule refused to drink it. So, he named it Badwater. The water is so saline that only a few special aquatic creatures like this bunch of weird snails can survive there. To maintain ecological balance, straying off the boardwalk is not permitted. By the way, there is also a Badwater marathon for idiots who like to run in extreme weather conditions and die. Count me out.
Leaving you guys with some pictures I took during the trip.
Sand dunes… They shot Star Wars here!
Because, why not! Abhi and Moi…
September-November seems to be a great time and so is spring. Any other time will ensure that you will either boil or freeze to death.
Come prepared for some walking and bring your hiking shoes. Each point is atleast half a mile away from the parking lot with some good hiking loops around.
Bring plenty of water. Don’t be too fussy about food if you are a vegetarian and be prepared to eat same meals. It is not a place to expect buffets.
If you are a social media or smartphone addict, you are screwed.
Bring all your camera equipment. The place is indeed beautiful for photography and astronomy enthusiasts.
Book lodging or camping grounds well in advance. It seems to get full real fast, especially for long weekends.
Do an estimate of the amount of daylight you will have and the places you want to see. Pace yourself accordingly.
Forget everything above and let Abhi and Nisha plan, so that you can sleep in the backseat. 😀
Thank you all of you for your positivity and good wishes. It helped our lil boy leave. After 8 days of struggle, he breathed his last with his mommy with him. He was loved by everyone and absolutely adored by his family.
It seems to us that he was waiting to give us the joy of his 15th birthday. His last rites were done and he was cremated with his red ribbon around his neck. He took the last ride in his favorite way, our car, with his head on his daddy’s lap.
Now we just have to re-learn being without him around.
I hope everyone is aware of the story of Aruna Shanbaug. It was a gross insult of humanity and justice. I remember seeing this story on Bhanwar, a show on an Indian TV channel and being shocked. From what I read and what my parents told me, she was engaged to get married to a junior Doctor she loved. He cared for her for 6 years till he got married and moved abroad, and until 1988 he and his wife would visit her at the hospital at times. The Dean had covered up a lot of the crime because he wanted to preserve their ‘honor’. It led to a huge failure of the whole case and the criminal getting away with peanuts for punishment.
My father was greatly disturbed that day after he read the news of her passing away finally. He wrote the following to express his emotions and sent it over to me.
Good Bye Aruna. We will miss you badly.
Aruna Shanbaug died on 18th May 2015. A life started as a young, bright girl with a caring nature and full of dreams came to tragic end.
But did she actually live?
She died on 27th Nov 1973 when she was sexually assaulted and strangled by a pervert product of the society. He was lust and cruelty personified. It is very difficult to believe that such a man can exist in an educated, advanced society.
Aruna paid for being good natured, affable human being. She paid for resisting a man’s unjustified desires.
Who killed Aruna? The ward boy who assaulted but cannot be charged for murder, the society which produced such a person, the system which could do no justice to her or we all as a part of the nation to which she belonged?
What is it if not the mockery of justice? Aruna was sentenced to 42 years of pitiable life at the tender age of 26. But the man responsible for such ghastly act was given only 6 years in prison, released and may be leading a happy life without a shade of shame. Even the charges framed against him were nothing in comparison to his crime. Now when everything is lost, the learned legal brains are engaged in futile discussions whether he can be charged with murder!
I, a nobody, a common man, aam admi, am ashamed of the society, the judicial system and all males. Let nobody care but it was saddest day for me, the common man, when I came to know about the official death of Aruna.
Aruna, please forgive us. We all are guilty for what you had to undergo. We are guilty that we could not make amends to you and we are also guilty as we know we are not sure whether we can protect any more Aruna in future. This is lifetime shame for us.
No praise is fulsome for the doctors and nurses who looked after Aruna with such love and care which only God can show. We are proud of them and bless them.
Hope Aruna gets best opportunity in the next birth and is compensated for all the sufferings. Let’s wish we see her in the next birth enjoying decent life which she deserved. Till then good bye Aruna. We really, really miss you.
I had a really fun weekend. Some bar hopping on Friday in Santa Ana, some super awkward dinner incidents with people who I don’t like and who don’t like me on Saturday in San Diego, giggling away with a girl friend and a new gal till 3 am and a fun Mexican lunch with half a glass of weirdly spicy margherita, turned out to be just what Dr. Life ordered.
I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I am in love with the city of San Diego. I just love that place. Although it makes me tear up inside every time I am there and engulfs me in nostalgia, but I simply love San Diego. It is like that torrid love affair that harms you from the inside, but is too passionate to break off. *I think I am watching a li’l too much of ‘Scandal’.* 😉 The city is splendid. I spent my Master’s years there and my last two years were some of my best times ever. The xBF and Abhi totally made my time worth all the ache that has been left later. I would not trade any of it away for anything.
I want to list down some of my absolute favorite places in the city that have given me amazing memories. If you ever visit San Diego, you should go to some of these places. Some of them can be rather touristy or just a taste of culture or could be just a balm of peacefulness. I am not even going to mention the legit beaches here, because, well, they all are ah-mazing!
Seaport Village : My absolute favorite, hands down. I just love this quaint little part of San Diego harbor. It is right on the harbor line and boasts of tiny shops that sell anything from hot sauces to handmade soaps, beads and jewelry to magnets, mugs and tea cups to exotic hats and fascinators. There is this small shop that sells swings and hammocks. They don’t mind people sitting in the swings or lying down on their hammocks. The sales assistants are very friendly and usually are ready for conversations. This place has some very nice eateries as well. Nothing beats sitting at Asaggio’s with a pitcher of beer and their delicious hot cheese garlic bread. It was my date spot. Just perfect when there is a nip in the air.
Sunset cliffs : I can sit here forever on the rocky cliffs and get drenched! It feels like someone is throwing buckets of salty water at you. The force of the water has knocked me back several times and I never come back from this place without some cuts and bruises. 😀 There are adorable little pools of water that form on the rocks and you can see an entire little sea world in those. I have a paranoia though and I am insanely afraid that a crab will come and attack me and I will die. The insanity notwithstanding, this place can be amazing if you want to sit on the cliffs and catch the sunset, or if you want to be a total nut and jump off the cliff into the Pacific. I was not allowed to even toe the waters from the edge of the rock at sea level, courtesy the paranoid xBF. “Bahu jokham che!”(Very risky, in english) Haha!
La Jolla shores and coves : If you are into snorkeling or scuba diving, this IS the place. I have gone snorkeling here for a Tiger Shark tour, and it blew my mind! We saw sting rays, tiger sharks, so many colorful fishes that I know I will never remember the names of. It was a lot of work though because we turned up in our glasses(the snorkel gear isn’t meant for glasses), and we had to reschedule it. Thankfully I found a set of my unexpired extra contacts and the xBF had a pair too. We used those and threw them after we were done. The guide was sweet enough to hold my hand throughout because I was having real trouble breathing through my mouth. Dude, seriously! Once your face is under water, you totally forget that you have a tube in the air! It just becomes too scary and you end up gasping frantically for air! It takes some time to get used to the nausea and saltiness. But I powered through and enjoyed it immensely. The La Jolla coves is an adorable rocky and cliffy area where you can see seals lazing around shamelessly. It stinks of fish, but the sight of seals flopping around, basking in the sun or plopping down on top of each other makes up for everything. This place is a little annoying when it is cold, but is just perfect when it gets warm. There are little caves you can go to at water level. You just have to climb down the cliff for that. This also is a great spot if you like kayaking. There are many tours here.
Point Loma : The panoramic view of the sea is spectacular here! You are surrounded by a vast expense of azure blue Pacific with teeny tiny yachts and ferries dotting the sea. I have actually been here only once when five of us had some time to return a rented car and we just wanted to skip classes that day. We did some crazy picture session in the light drizzle. There is an old lighthouse and museum here. The lighthouse was the perfect studio for even more mad pictures.
Coronado beach and island : There is a wonderful bridge that takes you to the Coronado beach and islands. There is a rumor that the bridge was curved and not made straight, in order to get it to a particular length to qualify for federal funding! Sneaky, sneaky. Not sure how true it is though. But what is true is that it has the third highest suicide rate in USA. Anyhoo, the Coronado beach has ‘Coronado’ spelt out in plants that you can see from an airplane! The Hotel Del Coronado boasts of lodging some famous Presidents and movie stars and is known to be pretty haunted. The Coronado island has some lah-di-dah restaurants that boast of a killer view of the water and San Diego skyline.
Mt. Soledad : I have been dragged here at 5.45 am in PJs, boots, a sweater and a hoodie by my sunrise/sunset crazy xBF. This is a beautiful, extremely peaceful place though. One side covers the city scape and the other has a view of the sea. Some sunrises have been pretty awesome here. Especially when it is just a little misty. This is the spot that has inspired many a bromances between the boys. *Rolling my eyes*
Old Town : If you want to experience some delicious Mexican food and culture, that is your spot right there! Fun food, fun music and dancing and cute little shops to collect knick-knacks, make this place up.
Gaslamp, Hillcrest : For the best downtown experience, Gaslamp is the place. Period. Amazing clubs, food, my favorite dessert place, Extraordinary Dessert. Hillcrest is a foodie’s and a brewery enthusiast’s delight! I think it has an extensive LGBT settlement and that gives this place a very free, happening vibe for some reason. Some of the best breweries and restaurants are located here. And, of course, San Diego is known for its amazing micro-breweries!
San Diego State : My awesome campus! 😀
Fashion Valley : Countless of indecisive shopping hours have been spent here. Enough said. 🙂
P.S. I have not been paid by anyone to say nice things about San Diego. If someone wants to, they are very welcome!
P.P.S. All the pictures are mine/the xBF’s. Taken by our phones or camera.