A Lifetime In The Kitchen

What is it with Indian cuisine? Why have we made our lives so difficult having such elaborate meals and cuisines which have recipes that lead to our cooks spending hours and probably their entire lives in the kitchen, for a fully balanced, well cooked meal?

Photo by Chan Walrus on Pexels.com

My Grandmother’s Time

Girls married as young as 13 years, would spend the rest of their lives in the kitchen cooking elaborate dishes for the family and eating leftovers themselves. Most effort, least return for the women tasked with cooking. All the spices would be ground by hand using a mortar and pestle. Fresh grains had to be de-husked by hand, then grounded, then knead daily into large amounts sufficient to make rotis/chapatis/Indian flatbreads. The rotis had to be rolled and roasted one by one, fresh and had to be served piping hot to the men and the children, especially the male child. Meat had to be cleaned by hand, spiced up and cooked on a small gas stove for hours. Fruits cut, and cleaned, and hundreds of pots of milk tea boiled and consumed daily. And this isn’t even half of the things I know they cooked, or the way they cooked.

My Mom’s Time

Women were allowed to marry a little later and have an education. Many even were able to get a part time job. Married women and mothers would usually become a teacher or an admin somewhere. The rebellious ones got to be models and Air Hostesses maybe or some went on to do their PHDs. My mom tried working and being a home maker. It was tough. She is one of the best cooks I know till date. But oh gosh, the amount of time she spends in the kitchen and the number of items she cooks daily, makes my head reel. A simple breakfast would take an 30-45 minutes to cook. Chop onions, chillies, vegetables. Add oil to a kadhai, add some dry spices, then the onions, then some salt, some turmeric. Let is saute. Then add the vegetables. Add salt. Let is saute. Once its cooked, which takes around 15 minutes I’d say, add the carbs – vermicelli, rawa or poha. Add water. Then also make milk tea. Cut fruits. Then it would be time to make lunch. Rice, daal, sabzi, salad. Another hour and half gone. Then snacks – something fried, or boiled, and milk tea. Another half hour. Universe forbid if you have guests. Then dinner – roti, sabzi, daal. Another hour. Nearly 4 hours of your day in the kitchen – dicing, cleaning, chopping, sautΓ©ing, roasting, cooking, boiling!!

My Time

I wasn’t raised to spend time in the kitchen. My mom wanted me to study and make something of myself. She spent the time cooking and feeding us a well balanced well cooked meal. So when I moved out of home, the only thing I knew how to cook was an omelette and instant noodles – Maggi. I survived on restaurant food. Then I got a job in IT. Always demanding mentally. Which meant my interest to cook was even less than before. I’m still in the same boat. I got to travel a bit and saw how some of the other cultures ate. It seemed so wholesome and yet simple to me. Put veggies and meat together – and let them bake in an oven. Or roast it in an oven. Or make a single pot dish – a hot pot or a ramen. Tea or coffee that doesn’t need to be boiled for ages. Just add hot water. Have a multi grain bread or a whole fruit. No cutting and serving business. So I wondered, back home, why is my cuisine so time consuming?

I read some articles that said that places with hotter/tropical climates had cuisines with more spices which needed to be cooked longer because the climate could spoil food faster and it was a way to safeguard against bacteria of all sorts. Made sense. But now we’ve got refrigerators! And a lot of frozen food. I could still add the same spices and make a single soup dish and let it all cook in a pot. I could eat that, but no one else would eat it. We’ve all grown up with our rotis and rice and vegetables and daals and curries. But usually, its the moms who are in the kitchen. And I know, we have gadgets now to make life simpler, but even then it takes around 4 hours daily in the kitchen to cook a delicious and well balanced meal.

At first I used to think that all this cooking was a waste of time. But as I grow older, I see the joy in spending time in the kitchen. Every weekend, even if I spend an hour making just one curry, I feel sort of satisfaction by the end of it. I enjoy what I cooked and surprisingly, even my family does. I don’t know if I will appreciate cooking if I had to do this ritual for four hours daily, but for now, that one hour a week feels therapeutic. I sometimes wonder, will I eventually go back to my roots of cooking daily meals for myself and spend four hours in the kitchen when I am old, retired from my day job and don’t have my daughter living with me? Maybe..

So what about you or your culture? How much time do men or women spend cooking in your homes? Do you think all that time spent in the kitchen is justified, or do we need to re-invent our cooking as well to keep up with the demands of the time? πŸ™‚

Life Diaries and Reading Wrap Up – Sep 2021

To start with, I’d like to take a moment to to note that its nearly half of October already and for some reason I decided to write my September wrap up now. Better late than never, they say, right? I was going through my notes for September and I realised I did a lot of one thing in September – celebrate my birthday and do nothing else! LOL..A woman has to enjoy too I guess.

Oh how little I wrote though 😦

Reading

My reading didnt really improve in September in term of the quantity of books I read. But I did read two really amazing books.

  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas (⭐️⭐️⭐️) – I had really high expectations from this particular book in the series especially because one of my really close reader friends had spoken highly of it, and I guess that’s where I went wrong. I was annoyed by Chaol and Aelin’s characters for some reason and I couldnt get the chemistry between Aelin and Rowan either. The saving grace however in this book were Manon, Abraxos, Lysandra, Elide, Dorian and even Kaltain! I’ll be reading the next book for these characters for sure πŸ™‚
  • Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021, this book was a gem. This was my second read by Kazuo Ishiguro and I’ve noticed that it takes time and patience to get into his books, because the writing is slow paced. But the content and concept of his stories and his clever allegories are simply brilliant!
  • Death Black Edition Vol 5 by Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba (⭐️⭐️⭐️) – Well, I’m a fan of the illustrations in the book and the overall concept. But I am still annoyed by the outright sexism that continues in the books. I wonder if Light is going to become a villain by the end of the series though..hmm
  • Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – The master of satire has done it again with this book. I decided to read all of Vonnegut’s backlists since I loved Slaughterhouse Five so much. This is my third book by him and his writing is still hilarious and dark and disturbing. The theme in this book is, that the biggest nemesis human beings have, is our own big brains. So what if evolution reversed and we became water creatures with flippers instead and just lived in the moment?

Writing

My writing has been suffering a lot since I’ve joined this new project at work – which means it has been almost two months and I’ve still not been able to figure out a sustainable writing schedule to go along with this project. There is the issue of time and then there is the issue of my aching fingers and wrists, from all that typing at work. It’s mid October and I still haven’t been able to figure out my writing. Maybe I could buy a notebook and do some plotting instead and call that writing and write on weekends when I actually have some time? Hmm, food for thought..

Socials, Life, Travel and Other Updates

  • Well, as you already know, September was my birthday month, so there was a lot of birthday celebration throughout the month πŸ™‚ I’m so grateful for all my family and friends for making me feel so loved and special throughout the month! I received so many books and presents, cut multiple cakes, went on two weekend gateways with my friends – it was simply a superb birthday month! I couldn’t have asked for anything more πŸ™‚
  • I got a new bookish tattoo and I love it!!!!
  • I planned my first used book sale on Instagram to try and make space for more books on my bookshelf πŸ˜€ At first I wasn’t sure if there would be any takers at all, but I was pleasantly surprised to find so many new homes for my books. It was a very interesting learning experience and although I had to take out extra time in my days to plan the packaging and shipping for the books, I thought it was an effort well spent πŸ™‚
  • For the Belongg event of the month, my friend and I decided to host a discussion on ‘The Importance of Independent Bookstores on Promoting Literacy and Diversity’, on Clubhouse. Although the subject was a really interesting one, we didn’t have any audience sadly. Its just how any marketing or social media platforms work I guess. You need to be using the platforms and have some followers before you get any audience for a discussion. So we might end up repeating the same event for October as well πŸ™‚
  • My exercise suffered in September – but I attribute that to a mix of spending time outside celebrating my birthday and socialising mostly..heheh. I walked more than I did last month but my overall Km count reduced. I did cycle a few extra days too πŸ™‚

Shows/Movies and Music Review for September

I didnt watch a lot of shows since I was so busy traveling and working and trying to keep up with the exercising. I did start watching ‘Use for my Talent’. Its another Chinese contemporary romance that features a character with strong OCD and the different kinds of love between couples. I liked it and would recommend it if you want to watch something funny and cute. But I couldnt finish it, since after about halfway through the show, the content didnt hold my interest as much.

I also watched two Disney movies with my daughter – Raya and the last Dragon and Luca. While both movies were great, my favorite was Luca. It was funny and heartwarming and is a movie that teaches children to embrace your otherness and the value of friendship. I recommend this one πŸ™‚

On the music front, I re-discovered some old favorites and discovered a few new one hit wonder kind of international artists whose songs I found really funny or songs that had amazing beats you could dance to. Looking at my updated ‘Liked Songs’ playlist, I realized, music can transcend communities and languages. You just have to feel the beat. Any song can become a favorite song, if its music somehow manages to touch your heart and makes you smile or dance πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚ Also, it doesn’t show in this picture, but I am absolutely in love with the latest BTS-Coldplay collab – My Universe. Gives me goosebumps and makes my toes bop every time I listen to that song πŸ™‚

And that’s a wrap for September πŸ™‚ How was your September? What did you read, or watch or listen to? Do drop in your recommendations in the comments section πŸ™‚

Five Ways to Recycle Your Books

I have two passions when it comes to Books – 1) Reading books and 2) Collecting Books.

I also prefer reading physical copies of books and so you can imagine, there will always come a day when you realise you’ve filled up your bookshelf to the brim and are in danger of having to sit on your books or sleep on your books.

So, us readers and collectors come up with ways to recycle the love of our lives – our books, and here are some of the ways I recycle my books πŸ™‚

  1. Book exchanges – Well, this one doesnt actually solve the problem of space utilisation, because you get a book in return, but isn’t it a great way to save money and read physical copies of the books you’ve wanted to read??
  2. Sell them at discounted rates – I tried my hand at this recently and was amazed at how many takers there were for my used books! It makes me really happy to know that I’ll be able to send some of my beloved books to homes where they will be cherished and read. And making some money on the side so you can buy more books? Win-Win! I still have to figure out the logistics of shipping and packaging, but I think it will be worth the effort πŸ™‚
  3. Donate your books at your local Library – I used to do this before I had the idea of trying to sell my books. I donated a lot of my books to the local library when we moved from UK to India. And last year I had donated almost ten books to the local Library here in Pune as well. The best part about donating books to a Library is that you know they will be read by someone one day and you get a sense of having done some charity in whatever small way possible. Also, Libraries are not picky about what books you decide to donate, as long as they’re in a decent condition πŸ™‚
  4. Give them to friends to promote reading or lend them to budding readers – I usually do this with the more common or more commercial books that I own and not my cherished ones. Its because most of the times I’ve noticed, a book lent is a book gone. At least I’ve never got my books back, when I lend it to people. So now, I just give them away to my friends or budding readers who want to try out reading but are not ready for the heavy stuff πŸ™‚
  5. Become a Book Fairy!! – I am a proud Book Fairy (which is a global initiative), and we have many similar initiatives in India as well such as BooksOnMetro in Delhi, and BooksOnTheMove (in multiple cities). So you basically sign up as a volunteer or a book fairy and you get your starter kit – which can be stickers or bookmarks or ribbons or notes or wrapping paper to add on the books. Then you go to any Public space and leave the book behind at a place of your choosing with a note, to forward the love of reading to whoever picks it up. You can tag yourself on social media while leaving the books behind as well. I love this concept and have left a few books around in UK and India with a note. I did go back to check if the book was still around, and the book was gone!! I just hope it found a happy home πŸ™‚

So, those are some of the ways I recycle my books πŸ™‚ I’m still looking for more options to recycle books so that other readers can read them too – any ideas or suggestions? What do you do to recycle your books? πŸ™‚

Gratitude Journal #2 – Superheroes

Have you ever wondered about the Superheroes you read about or watch? I mean, yeah they have a tough backstory and stuff, but most of the time when their story begins, it always ends with so much grandeur. Like, everything somehow works out for them and then they get superpowers and a team of amazing supporting characters and they save the day or save the world and achieve some goal and then ride off to the sunset in a jet or train or whatever.

But these are fictional Superheroes. I’m not talking about them here. I’m talking about some real Superheroes who I’ve had the privilege to meet and know. Who have saved me and continue saving me and helping me and many others like me day in and day out. They too have a difficult backstory. But they don’t have just one mission. And they don’t get to stop. And they don’t complain either. They’re just around, making the world a better place for me to live in. Here is my gratitude for some of these Superheroes, without whom, I wouldn’t have been able to survive.

  • Parents – Mom, Dad, thank you for everything you have done for me. Papa, you’re not around anymore but I think of you and all the good things you taught me every time the going gets tough. Mummy, I can never imagine being as great a person as you are. Your kindness, your immense love, your constant care not just for me but for everyone in the family and everyone you know, is something that I aspire to each day of my life πŸ’–
    • Superpower : Wisdom, Kindness and Never Ending Love
  • Family – Well, parents are family, but I’m talking about the extended family too. My sister, my husband and my little daughter. Gosh, I am so thankful for each of you in my life. My sister, who is younger than me but wiser and more accomplished than me in so many ways. Who makes time for me and somehow knows how to make my day special or cheer me up even being continents away. I love you so much! Grateful for my husband, who does annoy me many times, but who has been there for me through many difficult parts of life. He isn’t a brooding, romantic partner, but he is someone I rely on as a friend. He won’t bring me flowers or cake or whisper sweet nothings into my ear, but he has accepted me as I am, even with the fact that I am questioning my sexuality and respects my space and privacy and will instead buy me a coffee machine, because he knows how much I love my coffee πŸ˜€ I’m grateful for my little daughter, who is kind, and fierce and sensitive and whose hugs can turn my day around πŸ™‚
    • Superpower: Love, Telepathy, Hugs that Heal
  • Best Friend – I have many friends who I know, like me as a friend, but there is just one best friend who I really think of as my other soul sister. She is one of the funniest, warmest, toughest and most kickass woman I’ve known in my life. She has endured so much and continues to endure the unfairness that life throws at good people, and yet she makes time to talk to me, to listen to me, to make me laugh. She has taught me how to love and protect the ones you love with a fierceness akin to only a warrior. Thank you for being my bestie πŸ™‚ πŸ€—
    • Superpower: Love, the best partner to go into a battle with, Wit, Courage
  • Home Helpers – This is for the amazing women who come to cook and clean at my home. Always smiling, always cooking up the best meals, keeping our home clean and looking out for us and my daughter. I can trust them blindly and only hope that I can support them as much as they support me and my family with the hard work and daily effort they put in πŸ™πŸ½
    • Superpower: Ever Smiling, Honesty, Diligence
  • Independent Booksellers – Two years back I would have just mentioned my local independent bookshop. But now with the pandemic and online ordering and country wide shipping, I have to include all the independent booksellers in my gratitude list. I don’t know how, but they somehow always seem to have the book that I’ve been looking for or the book that I need. I’m so grateful that there are booksellers who actually understand the kind of reader you are, and who make sure that the books reach you in pristine condition and sometimes who even brighten up your day with an extra hand written note packed in, with the books!!!
    • Superpower: Amazing work ethics, own and sell books! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰

So, those were some of the Superheroes who I am really thankful for in my life. Who are your real life Superheroes and what are their superpowers? I’d love to hear about them in the comments, if you’d like to share πŸ™‚

Life Diaries and Reading Wrap Up – August 2021

While I read so many books in July, I was surprised when I saw that I’d read only three books in August!!! That’s so unlike me! I wondered where did I spend all my time? And I realised, oh well, for a change, I was actually having to work for my salary..heheh..

August Planner Update πŸ˜€

Reading

You already know how my reading went in August, so no surprises when it comes to the number of books I read – yep, I read three books. But they were all sooooooo good!!!! Here is a short wrap up of the books I read and loved in August:

  1. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – Book 1 from the King of Scars duology and probably also the last of the books featured in the Grishaworld series. Fantasy fiction starring a super fun character – Nikolai. But the real surprise in the book was Zoya. I loved every bit of the story!
  2. Rule of Wolves by Leight Bardugo (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – The finale!!! and Oh my gosh, what a finale to the series and and the Grishaworld books! I felt like the author had written this book just for her fans! If you want to read a feminist fiction, this is definitely the book to pick. It breaks so many stereotypes about fictional female characters that I was literally in love with all the women in the book. I cant gush enough about this book! If you’re new to the Grishaworld, keep this doulogy for the end for maximum benefit πŸ˜‰
  3. Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – This satirical literary fiction on racism that Asians have to face in America was such a gem of a book! One I’d highly recommend. This book was recommended to me by my Indie bookseller and I fell in love with the story, the dialogues and the avant grade way of telling this story about the ‘Generic Kung Fu guy’. Let me know if you’ve read this book and what were your thoughts on it πŸ™‚

Writing

As with my reading, my writing took a major setback in August. I felt like I didn’t have the energy to write, even though I had the motivation many times. In July I had been able to write for 16 days, but in August I just wrote for 8 days, which is kind of lousy. All my drafts are still just 30% done and I fear that Ill be too late in turning out drafts at this rate – especially when one of the short story collections I’m working on is Pandemic based. I don’t have a lot of confidence that September will be any better, even with Story A Day challenge, but let’s see πŸ™‚

Socials, Life, Travel and Other Updates:

  • We didn’t go for any more weekend getaways in August, but I did meet a very dear friend after ages over a weekend and we took my daughter and her friends and their parents for a lunch outing on a Sunday, which was quite fun πŸ™‚
  • We celebrated an Indian festival called Rakhi. I’m not much into the details of the festival, but since my husband had received the Rakhis from his sisters, we made an event out of it. We tied the Rakhis to each other and ate lots of yummy food. We will protect each other, we said πŸ˜‰
  • With my workouts, I started with a bang, but fizzled out towards the second half of the month due to weekend activities and the side effects from the second dose of the vaccine and then sheer laziness I think..LOL..Between cycling and running, I did clock more kms than July, in August – 100K, which was an achievement for me nevertheless. I also did some Yoga and did a lot of walking. I couldn’t finish my target of doing a 15K bike ride and a 10K run in August. Maybe I can do that in September?
  • I bought a gorgeous smelling candle from an account called Whispering Flames on Instagram and I light it every day for my dad..I love it πŸ’–
  • For our Belongg Library Network event of the month, we had a location wise Chapter wise collaboration on Clubhouse. The topic of discussion was : A Room of One’s Own: Books on Feminism and Intersectionality. It was fun, interesting and very informative. I will write a separate post about the Belongg Library initiative in India, their recent app – UnOther and some of the books that were recommended as part of our discussion πŸ™‚
  • I discovered a Boba Tea shop!!!! And wrote about it on my gratitude post last month…just look at my happy face! LOL πŸ˜€

Shows And Music Reviews for August:

I was looking for a good fantasy show to watch and a Bookstagrammer suggested this one. While I enjoyed the overall plot of the story, I thought the lead actress was terrible for the role of Nimue. There were so many times I almost laughed out loud at the scenes where she has to wield her sword or fight or even plot or command – it was a disaster. I thought some of the supporting cast were great though – like Pym, Sister Iris, The Weeping Monk (who has a major reveal in the end). So yeah, I won’t recommend the show for the leading lady, but the story was interesting.

My music band recommendation for August is this amazing Indian Indie band – The Yellow Diary. I am absolutely in love with their songs. I think their music would fall under the Alternative or Progressive Rock category and they sing in Hindi predominantly. A lot of their songs are on love and loss I think but there are some like Kashmir which is on a social issue as well. I love their sounds and lyrics and would recommend them, especially if you understand Hindi πŸ™‚

And that’s it, that was my wrap up post for August! I hope you enjoyed some of my recommendations. Tell me how your month went in the comments. Or let me know if you’ve read any of the books mentioned, or have any books, music, show recommendations for me πŸ˜€

Any writing, lifestyle and workout tips are welcome in the comments too :)πŸ€“

Gratitude Journal #1 – Boba Teas

I decided to start publishing my gratitude journals online now, so I could share some of my joys with all of you and hear about your joys and things you’ve been grateful for as well πŸ™‚ The world really needs some joy and things to be thankful for lately, doesnt it? πŸ™‚

This week, on Wednesday, I had an absolutely horrendous day at work. I’ve been assigned to a new project at work and it has been really tiring and stressful for me since I started two weeks back. Think 10-hour daily work days, back to back meetings, staring at the screen, listening to people on headphones, sitting on the chair, trying hard to keep up with the timelines and expectations, and trying hard to learn the new tools and processes and jargons.

I haven’t had sufficient time to do any of the things I need to do to keep my physical and mental health sane – running, cycling, dancing, reading, catching up with friends, writing. And now the frequency of my anxiety and panic attacks have increased at an alarming rate. Every morning I wake up anxious and bleary eyed. Every evening, I log off from my machine feeling spent, zombie like, and heavy headed. The only respite I get is a gadget less walk for 30-40 minutes in the night once I log off.

So, coming back to Wednesday, I felt like I had had enough of work. My head was reeling. I was upset because I had not been able to perform well. My stomach was upset because of odd hours of eating. I hadn’t been able to work out. But at 8 pm, when I was finally able to log off from work, I decided to go for a walk outside the society. Without my headphones. Just step out and see what people are up to.

It felt great as I started walking. I live close to where the night life gets going, so a lot of pubs and restaurants. Despite the fact that we’re still grappling with the Covid waves and variants, I saw people – young and old, out and about. Kids were playing, teenagers and twenty year olds were filling up the pubs and eateries, oldies were sitting on benches by the road or walking, cars and motorbikes were honking along and trying to overtake each other in a race to reach somewhere faster. All of it all made me smile. All the noise and the chaos was somehow more calming than the quiet conversations I had to listen to all day at my desk.

On my way back though, I stumbled upon a tiny little shop with a sign that said, ‘Butterflies and Boba: Boba Tea’! So guys, since the day I drank my first Boba Tea, probably fifteen years back in Sydney, I have been in love with this drink. Over the years abroad, in Singapore, UK and Australia, this tea had become a cure for hangovers, a meal in itself at times and post run energy drink. I have so many fond memories of feeling refreshed and recharged after having a Boba Tea!! But in Pune, I hadn’t been able to find a Boba tea outlet in years. I missed it a lot. So you can only imagine my excitement when I saw the shop!!!

It was 8:30 pm by then and the two ladies managing the shop were almost ready to close down. But they had no idea they’d have to endure a giggling, overexcited middle aged woman ordering Bobas and talking about her undying love for the drink and how coming across this shop had turned her day around!

After twenty minutes, I was back home. Loaded with two Boba teas – a classic milk Boba for me and a watermelon flavoured green tea Boba for my husband. And yes, I drank my Boba for dinner and I felt so grateful for that shop and this drink that Wednesday night. It made me forget all about my work day and all I thought of was how awesome it was that this shop had opened!! πŸ˜€

Has there been something you came across this week, yesterday or today that was completely unexpected but brought you joy? That you were grateful for? Do drop in your stories in the comments or send me a link if you decide to write your gratitude journal too πŸ™‚ Lots of love, people and the Universe!!

Life Diaries and Reading Wrap Up – July 2021

July was such a great month overall! I managed to do a lot of things, travel, celebrations, reading challenges, taking up cycling again, and managing my additional office workload as well. I feel really good about myself about such a productive July πŸ™‚ The year is rolling towards an end and I feel like I’m ready for all the Indian and global festivals, and a long break. But alas, as I write this, I’ve been asked to start working on a high pressure project at work, so wish me luck! LOL πŸ˜€

July 2021 Goals Tracker

Reading

I had an absolutely kickass month of reading, all thanks to the IndlitReadathon 2021 edition, that I took part in, hosted by Charvi @NotJust Fiction, Nandini@NovelsAndNebulas and Shruti @ThisIsLit. I also read a backlist to celebrate one of my favorite author’s birthday month and a few other books. Here is a quick summary of what I read in July πŸ™‚

  • Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – The sixth book from the Discworld fantasy series and as always, absolutely hilarious and so cleverly written! I am simply in love with the Discworld books so far πŸ™‚
  • Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell (⭐️⭐️⭐️) – Non fiction and a roast on readers who love to frequent bookstores for various reasons. The book is short and full of wry humour
  • Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – Contemporary fiction written by an author of Indian origin. Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors as well, so you can never go wrong with any of her books. This book doesnt have any names of people and places and was originally written in Italian and translated to English by the author herself! How talented!
  • The Parent Company by Dr. Urjita Kulkarni (⭐️⭐️⭐️) – This book was given to me by a friend to read, since I’m a mother too. It’s a non fiction read on parenting. I had mixed feelings about this one, but its an easy read and has some good advise on the importance of reading and sex education for children
  • Kari by Amruta Patil (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – A brilliantly illustrated and written book by Indian author Amruta Patil, which talks about gender identity and struggles with mental health and suicide, set in Mumbai, India
  • Daura by Anukrti Upadhyay (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – Another superb fictional story inspired by folktales in Rajasthan, India, written by Indian author Anukrti Upadhyay. I loved the epistolary format of the story and the eerie setting with the open ended ending
  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – I have both the collector’s editions of the Villains series on my bookshelf since I love Victoria Schwab’s writing since I read the Shades of Magic trilogy and thought what better way to celebrate her birthday month than read one of her books πŸ™‚ Loved the story about morally gray characters and I felt that one of the characters had major ace vibes, which I loved
  • Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability and Making Space by Amanda Leduc (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – A must read non fiction on disability and lack of its representation in mainstream literature, especially fairy tales. I read this as part of the Belongg Library Network event for the month
  • Chup by Deepa Narayan (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – A non fiction feminist collection of essays about Indian women from the upper middle class spectrum of the society and the sort of gender discrimination we face. This book hit hard and close to home

Writing

I still haven’t been able to crack my writing routine to build a consistent practise/habit of writing. I participate in the 10MinADay writing challenge hosted by my friend Tammy, but couldn’t complete the challenge, as you can see, my writing was sporadic and I wrote just for 15 days overall – which included a few short stories, blogs and journals.

If you have any recommendations on a good writing practise and how to share your writing for feedback from readers and keep yourself motivated, I’d love to hear about them in the comments πŸ™‚

Socials, Life, Travel and Other Updates:

  • We travelled on another weekend getaway to a beautiful Airbnb in Lonavla, with some friends and celebrated my husband’s 40th birthday there as well. It was another gorgeous weekend πŸ™‚
  • Looks like everyone in my family is getting into cycling. My mom gifted me an advance birthday present of this cute feminine gearless cycle, which I have taken out on a few rides already. Mom’s know their daughters best, because she knew I wouldn’t ride my cycle for 40-50 kms, and hence a gearless pink cycle is the best gift! hahah
  • Can you believe I clocked 94Km of running and walking in July??? I had ran and walked for 68 Kms in June and looks like I’m steadily increasing my consistency and distances. I do admit I haven’t been on top of my game so far in August, but hopefully I will be remedying that soon. August will also include some biking kms.
  • For the Belongg Library Network volunteer event in July, my friends and I read this really relevant book on disability and had a voice chat session on Clubhouse, a new social media platform. It was a very enlightening and fun experience. I hope more people read this book and join in our Belongg events
  • As I’ve already mentioned, I had a blast participating in the snakes and ladder themed ‘IndlitReadathon’ reading challenge in the month of July

Shows and Music Reviews for July

What a disappointment this show was, to be honest. I mean, I had such high expectations. I love the character of Loki in general and I also am a huge fan of Tom Hiddleston, but after the first two episodes, I felt plot wise, the story kept getting worse and sappier. I mean, a love story? With a female version? Really? Agh, the last episode was too disappointing. Anyway, I hope when they revive it for season 2, it’ll be better than Season 1.

I have no words for Coldplay’s latest song – Coloratura. You have to listen to it to understand why this song will go down history as one of the classics. The lyrics, the operatic and progressive music, the theme, it brought back memories of Pink Floyd and what a grand song. Every time I listen to it, I get goosebumps and feel happy and sad at the same time. Absolutely love this song.

I know my July wrap up post was a week late in being posted, but August has been tough so far. I’ve been dumped into a new project, quite unceremoniously, I might add and based on the first two days of trainings, I see a grim future for August. I don’t know if I will have any time to do the things I love to do in the month of August, but we’ll see how that goes eventually πŸ™‚ How was your month in July? Do drop me a comment to say hello! πŸ™‚

Monsoon Traveling near Pune – Panchgani and Lonavla

The rain transforms her into a bride

Dressed in a sparkling green ghagra choli

With the white clouds, her chunari,

I say, don’t be coy, please don’t hide

Let me embrace you, and make you mine..

– The hills, my monsoon bride, written by Prachi

I feel grateful to be able to enjoy the rain, the cold wind and play hide and seek with the clouds over two weekends, in the company of friends and family. Thank you Universe, for nature – one of the best things about life.

Panchgani in June

In June, we went on a weekend trip with another family to Panchgani, in Maharashtra. I’ve been here many times, but just like Goa, this place always is gorgeous, especially during the rains. We left on a Friday after breakfast, and the drive took us 2.5 hours. We made a small pit stop at the McDonalds on the way for pee break and to pick up some fries for the kids, and still managed to reach Mapro, right in time for lunch. A trip to Panchgani or Mahabaleshwar is always incomplete without the pizza and the cheese sandwich meal at Mapro πŸ˜‰

It’s a lot of fun to go on trips with a family who also has a kid the same age as your own. Both the girls managed to entertain themselves, completely lost in the rains, hills and roads, making up stories and taking selfies with their pretend cameras πŸ˜€

The next two days went by in a blur. There was a silver lining to the pandemic related lockdown in the sense that all tourist places were closed, which resulted in almost zero traffic and hardly any people/tourists anywhere. We were able to roam around without any worry, and explore unknown hills, roads and jungles. We would only come back to our airbnb for lunch and later for the evening drinks and dinner, because hill stations shut down at 6 pm, irrespective of pandemic. But the routine of waking up early, sleeping early, without the distraction of a television or mobile (because there was hardly any network or wifi there), getting to walk all day long in the rains and then eating freshly cooked home made food, was absolutely therapeutic!

Lonavla in July

If we can, we usually try to get out of the city during my husband’s birthday. Last year we hadn’t been able to go anywhere, but this year, we could plan another weekend getaway in Lonavla. Again, booked a beautiful airbnb which was designed with a mix of antique and modern, near Amby Valley, and travelled there with another set of friends and their dog. Lonavla is pretty close to Pune, so it took us just an hour and a half to reach our airbnb. The drive was simply gorgeous, especially as we went higher up the hill towards Amby valley, with the clouds completely engulfing the road, which made for near zero visibility, but was absolutely breathtaking.

Again, we reached right on time for lunch and were treated to steaming hot home cooked rice, daal, chicken curry and salad. The best part about airbnbs in India (at least the ones we book) is that you have someone to cook for you! After a lunch where we nearly stuffed ourselves to death and explored the poetry inspiring duplex house, we decided to go out for a walk. Sadly, our walk was marred by an incident where another pet dog, who found the door unlocked, ran after my friend’s dog and attacked her. It was utterly heartbreaking to see her hurt and bleed, and that did dampen everyone’s spirits. However, a quick visit to the vet and a lot of love later, their dog was slightly better and we decided to call it a day, since it was starting to get dark.

Again, just like in Panchgani, we spent our time in the hills, walking, exploring some off beaten paths, discovering unexpected waterfalls, finding crystals – which my daughter kept calling ‘treasure’. If only..I wouldn’t have had to work anymore πŸ˜€

We would wake up around 7 am and then have a lazy breakfast. Go out exploring the hills nearby and come back for lunch. Go out again, get wet in the rains and the tiny waterfalls and come back by 6 pm. Take a hot bath and settle in for the evening with music, drinks, and great company. Dinner at home again and bed by 10 pm…I had not felt so relaxed in ages, I thought. Again, there was no network in this house so it was a complete digital detox for me. I absolutely revelled in it. Can’t wait to be out in the nature again soon πŸ™‚

Some travel tips from a traveling parent in India πŸ™‚

  • Try and book larger properties with a garden and a cook, if possible. Its easier to keep the kids engaged, especially if there is no wifi
  • If traveling during monsoons, carry rainwear, lots of spare clothes for the kid, rain boots/wellies, and mosquito repellent spray
  • Munchies or lollipops for the children – for those untimely hunger pangs when you’re in the mountains – but please don’t litter. Carry your garbage home
  • Always more fun to travel with another family with kids, especially if you have a single child like us πŸ™‚
  • Colouring books and storybooks, for the evening entertainment

What do you like to do on a vacation – especially if you’re travelling with kids? Do you like short weekend getaways from time to time, or prefer longer vacations?

#10MINADAY Challenge – Day 12: An Ideal Day

Photo by julie aagaard on Pexels.com

If someone had asked me this question maybe just ten years ago – “What would your ideal day be like?, I would have had a very detailed and specific answer ready.

But now, I feel that the word ‘ideal’ is an illusion. More of a fantastical notion than the word ‘fantasy’. So if you ask me now, about my ideal day, I’d say, it doesn’t exist. I know, I probably sound like a depressed pessimist. But I’d like to think of myself as a positive realist. What I can talk about is, a day which was good. Which has happened in the past and probably has the chance to occur in the future as well. A day that is better than the usual, normal, mundane, hectic days.

A day that is better than the others is when I get to be myself. When I have more time for myself and to spend with my family, without having to worry about the one million home and office chores that need my urgent attention. I would be by the beach, listening to the waves glide softly, watching the sunset. I’m a sunset kind of a person. My mornings are usually late and I can probably count on my fingers the number of sunrises I’ve seen in the 38 years of my existence.

There would be music somewhere – its not important what the source of the music would be. I’ll have a book with me, and a pen and a notepad. I’ll have a drink, preferably a beer if its hot and afternoon, or a mojito which isn’t too sweet. Beaches aren’t made for whiskey, but if I was surrounded by the cold mountains and the starry night sky for company instead, then I’d like to have a bonfire burning somewhere and music along with my whiskey, book, pen and paper.

I know this sounds like I’m happiest when I’m alone, with my vices and my passions. But that’s not the truth. I would want my best friends around, and my daughter too. But my day would also have me being able to spend time in my own company, probably at the end of the day. I’d have an adventure with my daughter in the morning, go for long walks and laugh at silly things. And later, once she has gone to bed, I’d spend the night just thinking, talking, dancing, reading, writing, and being. I’m blessed to have a few friends with whom I don’t need to talk and entertain constantly. We can be thoughtful together. But distances make it difficult for us to spend time together. So whenever that day comes that they’re around me, those automatically become my ‘better’ days.

My better days are the ones that make me feel at peace with myself and loved. My better days are the ones that make me feel grateful to be alive on this planet. My better days are the ones that make me feel inconsequential in the grand mystery of the Universe.

What would your ideal day look like? Tell me about it in the comments πŸ™‚

Life Diaries and Reading Wrap Up – June 2021

We’re half way through 2021 already!!! Time flies..I wish the pandemic disappeared like time too though. Haven’t we had enough of this stupid virus already? As if the original virus wasn’t deadly enough, we now have beta and delta versions and country specific mutations of the virus wreaking havoc in our lives.

I know I’m blessed because despite it all, I had a lovely month in June – with friends, books, exercise, getting to soak in the nature and discovering some really good music and shows. Still, I know many aren’t as privileged as me and for their sake, I pray this virus goes away and disappears. I think this will be a constant prayer to the Universe, until the pandemic ends.

My June 2021 Habit Tracker πŸ™‚

So, here’s the sweet and simple wrap up of all the stuff I did in June and how I fared with respect to my personal goals πŸ™‚

Reading:

I read five books in June and this was a bit of a mixed bag this time. I had high hopes for some of them and was disappointed, whereas there were some books that really impressed and inspired me πŸ™‚

  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – A YA Fantasy with a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1926 Shanghai. This is the author’s debut novel and the first of the duology and I was thoroughly entertained till the end reading this book. One of my favorite reads this month πŸ™‚
  • Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – A romance inspired by You’ve Got Mail, featuring Muslim diaspora characters and lots of delicious food. Need I say more?
  • The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (⭐️⭐️⭐️) – Another romance (gosh, I’ve gone overboard with the romance this month it looks like lol), very in-with-the-times romance and with a great cast and dialogues. However, there was too much smut for my comfort, and that’s something that takes the joy out of my love for romances lately πŸ™‚
  • How To Be A Writer by Ruskin Bond (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) – I absolutely adored this book. Simple and useful advice by a very loved writer. And with some funky illustrations too. Will make a superb gift for young writers and old
  • Memory of Light by Ruth Vanita (⭐️⭐️⭐️) – The great disappointment of this month. I had such high hopes from this book and this was the BOTM pick for two readalongs to celebrate Pride. The book had so much promise, because the writer writes so well, her words full of rich imagery. However, most of us readers felt that the book lacked soul and was probably too short to explore the themes we would’ve liked to read more about. Nevertheless, at least we have a fiction based in historic India, which talks about a sapphic love story between two courtesans.

Writing

My writing suffered in June. As usual I started with a bang and with more seriousness, and tried my hand at the Ray Bradbury revision challenge and also tried to make a writing routine. However, after about 10 days into the month, as always, my writing took a back seat as life, work and other socialising along with illnesses took over. Hopefully, I will be better in July πŸ™‚

I also tried my hand at writing another poem on topics that are very close to my heart, called Longing πŸ™‚

Socials, Life, Travel and Other Updates:

  • When it is monsoons in Maharashtra, the state completely transforms. The green is greener than usual, there is a cold bite to the air, which believe it or not is colder than what it is here in winters lol! There is a constant drizzle and the air smells petrichor – one of my favorite smells in the world. I was blessed to be able to go out on a few drives and then on a weekend getaway with friends to Panchgani. I’ll write a short travelogue on the Panchgani getaway soon πŸ™‚
  • Apparently June was also Internal Yoga Day. I don’t do Yoga, but sometimes I do Suryanamaskars to stretch after a long day of sitting or before a run. My sister in law asked us to share a picture with our favorite Yoga pose and I posted mine with a book πŸ˜‰ LOL
  • I ran and walked a lot more in June than in May and I felt good looking at my stats on Strava πŸ™‚ In May I had clocked in 55Kms and in June I clocked in 68 Kms! So proud of myself, because I did a few 5K runs πŸ™‚ I hope I can trump June’s distance in July πŸ˜‰
  • I also got my first shot of the vaccine this month and my after effects were pretty terrible. I had fever and body ache for nearly four days! Then again I fell ill with cold and a bit of body ache after a few days. Work wasn’t helpful since the last week of June was crazy, but hopefully July will be better both health and work wise πŸ™‚

Music I discovered and loved in June:

  • I am still in love with AURORA and I just cant get enough of her song – Little boy in the grass
  • Another discovery was Twenty One Pilot‘s new album – almost all the songs are simply amazing, the punk rock with a bit of rap that I love. But my favourites are The Outside and Redecorate πŸ™‚
  • And finally, Kristian Kostov’s – A beautiful mess – both the original and the china edit. The violin piece in the songs completely have my heart

Show(s) That I Discovered and Loved in June

So, in May, I had clubbed the music and show in a single category but I decided to split this out in June, because I had to give special mentions to two screen adaptation that I watched and absolutely loved.

  • Word of Honor on Netflix (Chinese Wuxia Drama, screen adaptation of the novel ‘The Wanderers’ by Priest) – Where and how do I even begin to profess my love, admiration and obsession with this show and its leading characters and cast – Zhou Zishu played by Zhang Zhehan and Wen Kexing played by Gong Jun! If you want to know even an inkling of what I felt about this show, check out my friend Sahi’s post here, where she sums it up pretty well πŸ™‚ Just like The Untamed last year, I think this year’s saving grace and television/screen highlight is going to be ‘Word of Honor’ for me. Just like Sahi mentions in her post, this show is a brilliant example of art transcending language and the beauty of friendship. The escapist feeling that these shows have and their ethereal music.. not to mention the crackling chemistry of these good looking actors… gosh.. these shows (The Untamed and WoH) have been one of the things that have kept me happy and sane and escape the sadness and helplessness brought about from this pandemic. And fangirling about the shows and the actors with my friend Sahi, has simply been one of the best things in the month of June, and definitely on going πŸ˜‰
  • Motherless Brooklyn (Movie adaptation of book by the same name on Amazon Prime) – This is a movie that I watched with my husband earlier in the month and Edward Norton was truly stupendous in the movie. It doesn’t hurt that he has directed and produced the movie, but his acting was superb! The plot is quite straightforward once you get to about half of the movie, but its the dialogue delivery and Edward Norton’s acting that had me rating this movie very high on my list of shows/movies I’ve watched πŸ™‚

And that’s all Folks! I think all things considered, I had a pretty good month in June. I’d love to hear about your June – what were your highlights and lowlights? Have you read any of these books or what is a song you discovered and liked? What are your goals in July? Are you as obsessed with C-dramas or K-dramas as I am? Tell me all about it in the comments section πŸ™‚