Being Meta …and Practicing

Since being back here (and by here, I mean on the decidedly non-lurking side of the interwebs), I’ve been obsessed with the notion of writing another post. I’ve spent the last three days fretting, worrying about what to write next. What should my next post be? What would I want to read? How self-indulgent should it be? What about my life should I share? What should I call you when I refer to you in my post? What if I hate all the things I write? What if everyone else hates the things I write?

No, really – it has gotten quite out of hand.
I’ve been chasing some kind of a Perfect Post.

I have this notion that the minute I sit and put words on (often virtual) paper, they should be brilliant. (I assure you that the Composition 101 teacher in me scoffs at this notion and brandishes the pen to mark up my draft. Revise, Edit, Edit, she says. And Don’t Expect Perfection On the First Draft. My inner Composition Teacher is less ridiculous than Me.)

In several moments, I’m terrified that whatever I write next won’t ever be like Anne Boyer‘s delightful, streaminess. Very likely, it will be deeply lacking in even the more mainstream, Mindy Kalingesque, tongue-in-cheek humor. And yes, it will also very likely fail to achieve the very admirable Amy-Poehlerish standards of sharpness, and humor-through-honesty.

In other moments, I’m terrified that I don’t have anything to say. That I have no ideas.That I don’t belong where I have historically imagined that I do.

…That I am not the genius that I secretly hope I am.

This, dearest reader, is a vortexy vortex of despair.
To borrow my very patient Jay’s metaphor, it is like expecting to have a perfect game of tennis after years of staying off the court – based on the fact that at some point, many years ago, you used to enjoy the game, and you used to be a good player. (Comment / Aside to the imaginary reader “Yeah, yeah. Save it. I know you already knew this, genius. Move along. I’m new here. Kind of. And I’m learning all things anew.)

And so in the spirit of building up to Perfect Game, I leave you to ruminate on* this advice about writing from my most favorite Terry Pratchett :

” … “Look, if you wanted to be a boxer you would listen if someone like Mike Tyson said to you, ‘Ok, you’ve gotta go down to the gym. You’ve gotta eat the right kind of stuff. You’ve gotta do your road work. You’ve gotta work at it for years and years, and it’s going to be quite hard.’ You’d say, ‘Yes, Mike.'” So to writers I say, you’re going to have to read a lot — shitloads in fact. So many books that you’re going to overflow. You’ve got to hook into the popular culture of the 20th century. You’ve got to keep your mind open to all sorts of influences. You’ve got to sit down for hours at a time in front of the computer. And you must make grammar, punctuation and spelling a part of your life.

People actually start arguing with me at this point. They think it should be easier than that. But it’s not easier than that. After a while, it becomes less difficult because you’ve developed your own technique. But it is every bit as hard as quite a lot of other things. What seems to be happening more and more (and I don’t know why this is so) is that a lot of people labor under the misapprehension that if they cannot write it’s because some kind of outside influence is preventing them from doing so — as if the universe itself is conspiring against their natural destiny of writerdom.”

The rest of this interview is here, if you want to read it:

Go read it while I go find things to read.

Until Later.

(*this may be me asking you to ruminate on this. But, on the other hand, it may be me saying I’m going away to ruminate on this. Which one is it? You’ll never know, huh?)

Long, Dark Teatime etc

Sometimes, I outdo myself. Sometime last year, I estimated – despite having next-to-no predictive capabilities –  that I would be gone until nearly August 2015. And right on schedule, probably because I set the timer on some internal alarm clock, here I am. These intervening months have been… interesting. (Much in the same way that training for a marathon is interesting, or attempting to gain overnight mastery over Chopin’s Preludes is interesting – neither of which I’ve tried, I hasten to add).

Among other things, I still don’t have a job. I’m back in school (for an MBA this time). I finally have a decent pair of running shoes. I no longer have an hour-long commute (both thanks to the same person). And, it turns out, writing (okay, fine! blogging) keeps me centered. It is the thing that I have most sorely missed these past few months (not that I could have found any time to write during this time, but still) and so here we are, right on the brink of August 2015 – and back.

I haven’t quite decided what to write about yet – but stay with me, dear reader – even if you are the sole spectator right now, I promise you entertainment. And the stands will be full as the season progresses (this stunning game-related metaphor is, of course, aimed at one of you – and mostly, you can thank films like Major League, and the Reef‘s youthful forays into team sports).

Until Soon.

An End-of(year) post

Wait…I’m trying to come to terms with already being halfway through November. Where did this entire year go, exactly?

In thinking back, I realize that this has been a good – no, a fantastic year for reading. I’ve read plenty of South Asian writers, I’ve read more than a few delightful blogs, a whole passel of articles on a bunch of topics, and I certainly have had my share of guilty-pleasure reads. Even as I say that, I know this has been a terrible year for writing – for my own writing, I mean.

I’ve not written any reviews, or any particularly poignant blogs posts, or stories, or poems. And it is entirely unlikely that I will get around to any of this in the next month and a half before the year ends.

And so, my dearest straggling readers – I’m writing to officially say adieu. There are things afoot in my non-virtual world about which I’m at once positively excited and terrified nearly-to-death. I feel that the only way to cope with all these changes will be to bring more intention into my everyday. And in that spirit of living with intention – I am writing one last note to say that I will not be updating this blog for a long while – at least until August 2015.

I will still – I’m sure – have all the opinions. But I will mostly share them on the shorter media: twitter, pinterest, instagram.  I will still be running the SAWW Reading Challenge. And if you should feel the need to write, I’m over at

Be well, dear friends and readers. Close out your year gracefully and have a wonderful new one.


Sorry. That was a long, long break from writing. 

I’ve been reading, mostly. And slogging my way out of a particularly painful project. But I will be back with a list of books I’m reading and reviews for both the Australian Women Writers Challenge and the South Asian Women Writers Challenge. 

Until next week, then. 

Squeeing or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Onscreen Romance

Actually, that should be “How I learned to stop worrying and openly be a sap”.

I’ve been watching The Mindy Project with great gusto over the last three seasons. One day later than the telecast date, every time (thank you, Hulu). Carefully avoiding all reviews and tweets. Walking away from conversations that even mention the words Mindy, Danny, and Project (think about the  hilarious consequences to work-related conversations, eh?)

I started because I was very curious about a TV show created, produced, directed, written for by and starring a South Asian woman (although, she did decline that label at little, mad props to her, y’all!) And (despite the Other Eater’s objections and misgivings) fell in love with the show. For a large part of the last three seasons it has been refreshing, real, spunky and hilarious.

Sure, it has been *so* problematic in parts. And really the Aerogram’s “The Mindy Project Archives” covered most of that ground – there are too few characters of color, and recently, they’ve been much too limited. The humor can be *meh*, if not downright *bleh* (See: First Few Episodes of Season Three). And Mindy – as Danny points out – she dates only white people. Heck, even in the latest episode, the writers threw in a brown-people-be-Osama slur. Or, you know, as Jaya Sundaresh says:

This is a serious one. Mindy asking the soldiers where Osama was, is funny. Funny since Osama is long dead, and it shows how uninformed/frivolous Mindy is. Mindy telling the soldiers that she thinks she sees him everyday in New York? Less funny. I don’t think brown immigrants need to be piled on at this moment in history, especially not by the nation’s most prominent South Asian celebrity. Do better, Mindy.

But wait… wait – Danny and Mindy, y’all. Finally!

And the moment was so good that I am now compelled to openly and shamelessly admit my love of their love. As it turns out, I am Aishwarya and I love sappy endings. Okay. I love Sappy Endings Done Right.


Happy New Year

I’ve spent my few free moments today thinking about the arbitrariness of the calendar. Of the idea of ringing in a new year based on the revolutions of this little rock on which we live.

But arbit. or not, we’re here – an entire year has passed us all by. Some of my friends and family are already in the new year, while here I am, still a few hours to go until midnight.

Oh good heavens. One Whole Year!*

A Whole Year of cooking, reading, writing the occasional post, of feeding the Other Eater and the Little Eater, of social media-ing, of missing friends, of watching family pass away. Of growing up. Of finding new favorites – in wine, in food, in authors, in film, in books, in blogs, in people. Of a Doctor dying. Of days that were too long. Of nights that weren’t quite long enough.

Arbit. or not, here we are. At the beginning of a shiny, crunchy new year, which will retain it’s new year smell for a few more days. I have faith that this year, like every other, will have its incredibly crappy moments, its pathetic ones, its completely abysmal ones.

But, hopefully, it will also have those, other, moments: the ones that are tender and true, the ones that bring a tear to your eye and fill your heart with hope and a general overwhelming love for people, the ones that create contented sighs, the ones that bring forth prayers of gratitude.

And now, as we cross that threshold, I wish you a year filled with more of the latter than the former.

Have a wonderful celebration of this past year (if you’re still there when you’re reading this). And Have a Brilliant, Exciting, Hopeful, Fantastic New Year if you’re on the other side. Happy, Happy New year, Y’all.

*Actually, if you’re me – One Whole Year, Part 1. Part 2 – Ugadi / Gudi Padwa will show up soon. And that’s exciting too, but in a different, much more low-key way.

Reading Roundup – SAWWC

I’m supposed to be writing reviews for the South Asian Women Writers Reading Challenge. (Wait, tell me you’ve been reading atleast some books by South Asian Women – they’re awesome, interesting and downright beautiful. So yes, go read! A list of reviews to pick from here.)

And although I’ve been reading (with great delight, might I add), I haven’t had the time to sit down and write about them (or about the things I’ve been baking to go with them). So, before the year passes me by entirely, here is a quick listy-thing of all that I’ve read recently:

1. “The Grand Plan to Fix Everything” by Uma Krishnaswami (Author) , Abigail Halpin (Illustrator)

Written with a much, much younger audience in mind, this is a quick-paced, incredibly fun, quirky story. The protagonist is a young American desi whose best friend enjoys Bollywood as much as she does. And oi-oi! The parts that describe adults from a ten year old’s eyes – eyerolling accuracy and absolute perfection. I also thoroughly enjoyed the gentle, subtle, self-conscious parody of the Bollywood story form. I’m giving this book five stars and a definite “read-read” badge (once you read the book, you will find that phrasing hilarious, I promise. Well, hilarious / corny. Potato / Potahto)

2. The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami (Author) , Abigail Halpin (Illustrator)

Our heroine (I call her heroine very, very deliberately – again, go read that first book at least) is growing up in this sequel to “The Grand Plan”. And while I still love her and her best friends – I found that the story didn’t quite stick the same way that the first one did. Mostly, the tropes – possibly an attempt at parodying the crossover Bollywood film – don’t work quite as well. Individual character and specific bits are still quite brilliantly done. But on the whole, I’m giving this 3.5 stars. (I’m still saying you need to read this. But, you know, if you waited till it was out in paperback, that would be okay.)

3. Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia (Author) , Ken Min (Illustrator)

Okay yes, this is an illustrated Children’s book – meant for even younger readers than the last two. But it is by a South Asian Woman and I’m counting it in. (Hey! I’m reading for the Little Eater in my house, okay? Okay.)

So, I have so many feelings about this book. I picked this up sort of based on the Book Dragon’s recommendation. And sure, I quite like that the little boy in the story makes rotis. And yeah, it is nice that this is book chooses to explain cultural difference through food (as opposed to something more obvious (like this, for instance). At the same time, I’m not so sure about the stories that the boy hears from his grandfather (no, seriously – I come from a childhood of listening to unbelievably tall tales) – which seem… um, a little exoticised and playing into stereotypes on several levels. Oh also, the other family members – I don’t like the way they’re portrayed.

On the whole, I’m swaying between 2.5 and 3 stars (tending towards some 2.8 middle ground). If I found the book at a library, I’d read it. But, I wouldn’t recommend going out to buy this book specifically.

4. The Missing Queen by Samhita Arni

Y’all! Y’all have to get this and read it. But before you do, make yourself familiar with the Ramayana. (4.7 stars and only because I thought the ending was too rushed.)

5. Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni

Beautiful illustrations. And an engaging take on the Ramayana. But in terms of story / narration I liked Missing Queen better, I thought it more nuanced and much more engaging. I’d still recommend owning a copy (because Tara Books – who I discovered because of the Other Eater – puts out incredible work.)

As an aside – we really need to talk about this revival and reimagining of myth that has, over the last few years, become all the rage in Indian writing (in English, at least).

6. Life is Not All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal

I’m still reading this. But Meera Syal. And so far, yeah. It is delivering on that promise.

Food, Nostalgia, Life, Death and a Book thrown in for good measure

So you’ve noticed then a lot of my posts over the last few weeks has been food-related?

As it turns out, a lot of my reading has been food-related. I’ve dusted off some of my old cookbooks, ordered a couple of new ones. I’ve been talking to my mum about her recipes, and to my sister about hers. I’ve been thinking of ways of organizing my recipe notecards so that when I’m no longer around if the Little Eater decides to cook from them, they will actually be useful.

Because recently, the more I think about food, the more I think about mortality. In part, I think, this is because I’m quickly reaching that age where the people who raised me are disappearing at an alarming rate. In the last three years between the Other Eater and me, we’ve mourned two grandparents, one parent, one aunt, one uncle. And among other things, I’ve been thinking of meals that I’ve shared with each of these people. I’ve been thinking of food that I discovered because of them. Of their favorite dishes. Of their least favorite ones.

And it is in this melancholy mood that I picked up Cooking at Home with Pedatha for a re-read. The book is a collection of Subhadra Rau Parigi’s recipes, compiled by Jigyasa Giri and  Pratibha Jain. In other words, the recipes are all quintessential Telugu vegetarian dishes. I love the way the book is organized. I love the little index at the end of book. And the “traditional combinations” section at the end of the book.

Despite the fact that this is no longer my diet, I recognize nearly all of the dishes in there. And the way they’re presented… heck, I’ve had mid-day reveries where I can smell my aunt’s tamata pappu (tomato and lentils) and my grand mum’s aritikaya kura (plaintain stir fry tempered with mustard and curry leaves). The book makes me aware that I will never have these moments with these people again. But most of all this book reminds me that through food – through cooking, eating, reading about and remembering this food – I keep re-establishing my connections with people who once were, but are no longer around.

Oh and you’re not alone, this kind of a connection is quite eerie and destabilizing. I don’t know what to do with that yet. But then, this *is* the time of year for this sort of a conversation, yeah?

But on the whole, if you are at all curious about / interested in traditional vegetarian Telugu cooking, I’d certainly recommend this book.

Review: “Monsoon Memories” by Renita D’Silva

Aye. So I’ve been gone because I’ve been doing things. Like Making Food. And food plans. And taking pictures of said food. And looking up nutrition related things. And Reading – for work, for pleasure and for the South Asian Women Writers Reading Challenge.

If you’ve at all been lurking here, you should have a sense for how much food has taken over my thoughts and imagination recently. Now, imagine my delight in finding food, even recipes, deftly woven into Renita D’Silva’s, Monsoon Memories

But don’t let me mislead you, D’Silva’s book is not about food. Monsoon Memories is the story of a family, it’s obsessions, priorities, stakes and secrets narrated from two points of view – that of an adult Shirin, living in London and eleven year old Reena living in Bengaluru. Shirin (reluctantly) reminisces.  Reena (hopefully) discovers. And as these two narrations converge, Monsoon Memories  becomes a simultaneous exploration of the past and the present of the characters and their situations.

(Spoilers Follow)

But such a description of the novel is … very limited and maybe somewhat frivolous. Because Monsoon Memories is the story of rape and its aftermath. It is only deceptively the story of one family. It really is the indictment of a culture where rape is the victim’s problem, and being raped, the victim’s fault.

D’Silva unfurls the story gracefully. A sinister undertow persists right from the first chapter, much before we are even introduced to any kind of assault. And it is not difficult to guess the form of the beast lurking around the corner. Despite that, D’Silva’s writing holds your attention. As she weaves in and out of different lives, across different times, at no point does the story slack off or feel trite.

Some of this, I think, is because the story is so layered. Seriously… I love how intersectional this novel is! I love that this is a story about India that is set in a Christian home (as opposed to, say, an upper-class Hindu Brahmin household). And I love that D’Silva is particularly adept at portraying the interconnectedness of class, religion and socio-economic status. This allows the reader to see Shirin’s anger within the specific context of her life.

I found Shirin’s voice especially strong. D’Silva does a really good job of constructing events, places and people from Shirin’s point of view. Her descriptions – always heavily reliant on sensory memory – are evocative and very real, even if you haven’t really ever lived in South Asia. (Consider this: “English rain smelt and tasted of nothing at all. It had none of the fury, the passion of the monsoons. Instead, it was weak; half-hearted.”) And somehow, despite this, D’Silva portrays the displacement of expatriation subtly and ever so delicately.

On the other hand, I have mixed feelings about reading Reena. For the most part I find her delightfully written – nuanced,  believable, engaging. In some parts however, I find her somewhat precocious (where the authors more adult voice seeps through). Each time the story narration shifted to Reena, I  found myself thinking about how eleven-year-olds sound – and about what I was like at eleven.

The thing that left me somewhat dissatisfied was that some conflicts in the book are too easily resolved. (And in part, this might tie back to the construction and portrayal of Reena) How, for instance, do you explain rape – not just the action, but the trauma, the impact, the aftermath – to an eleven year old? How do you tell an adopted child that she was conceived because of the rape? How will an eleven year old react to this news? D’Silva uses the written equivalent of a straight scene cut to deal with some of this. That bit made me want to say “Hey! Cheating!” because I really would have liked to see the intensity of these questions, of this situation play out more visibly.

On the whole, however, this is a tight, (for a large part) nuanced, and well-written story. Once I started, I couldn’t quite put the book down. D’Silva is an engaging storyteller. And for once, despite the cheesy tagline on the cover, this is not your everyday story about sari-wearing, bindi-clad expats who crave their dal-roti and feel displaced in some new unfamiliar world.

So yes, please go buy the book and read it. It’s worth your time.

“Letting-Things-Be” Corn

First, I’ve borrowed the titling convention from the Poor Baker.

Next, a blog recommendation: if you’re in the Northwest AR area: NWA Foodie – I don’t even know how it took me so long to find her blog. She writes about eating well, about local food, eateries, gadgety-kitchen-things and even has a Tips & Tricks section. Whoo! Currently, she’s doing a week of “all-things-local” giveaways.

I found her because all thanks to The Tweeter, when Farmbox pointed followers to the FarmBox giveaway.
Go on then, open that blog and read it (even if you’re an out-of-towner).

And now, onto my own post.

This week, I got more corn from Farmbox. And originally, I planned to make some kind of tomato-onion-gravy-based curry to go with rice or rotis. (I was going to improvise and throw in some corn, okay?)

I had cut up an onion, a couple of tomatoes and green chillies. I even heated up a little oil for sautéing the veggies. I even scraped the corn off the cob.

And then it happened.

I snacked on a few raw kernels (Hey! Don’t Judge! They fell out of the bowl and clearly needed redemption. Besides, there are salads that use raw corn.)

Sweet. Juicy. Ever so slightly nutty.

Any strong curry would have ruined completed smothered their natural flavor.

And so, I ended up with this quick side dish instead of an elaborate curry. This was so good that the rest of my meal changed to accommodate this side dish. No, seriously. This was so good, that I have no memory of what else I made for dinner that day.

So good, that I’ve been wanting to blog about it since the minute I made it.

And it is so simple, that if you wanted to, you could make it every week night forever. (Okay, forever may be a stretch.)

You will need: 1 ear of corn. 1 small onion. 1 small green chilli (I’m thinking of Indian chillies here, but I suppose 1/2 a tsp of any other chilly pepper would work too). 1 tsp oil (I used olive). 1/4 tsp salt.

  • Halve, then slice the onion.
  • Chop the chillies into tiny bits.
  • Scrape the kernel off the corn.
  • Heat up the oil in a pan. Add the chilli pieces to the oil before it heats up.
  • Add the onions and sauté until fragrant.
  • Add in the corn.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Cover the pan and cook for around eight minutes on medium.

Seriously, that’s it.
You’ll end up with this bowl of sunshine:

And here are some variations to try:
Add a pinch of ginger garlic paste before adding the corn.
Add a dash of papkrika, or pepper just before turning off the stove.

The Other Eater recommends adding a dash of lemon juice and garnishing with Spring Onion while serving.

In Letting the Corn Be, I realized something about my off-stove life.
(Indulge me.)
This past year has been trying in more ways than one. I had plans for where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. And then, well… life happened. And in that sometimes-delightful, almost-always-aggravating way, all my plans went to pieces. Not itty bitty delicious peanut brittle pieces. The other kind, the much worse, I’ve-broken-the-expensive-wine-glass pieces. And on the whole, I’ve dealt with it less-than-gracefully: kicking, screaming, actively fighting my present.

This is because I’m terrified. Unlike with the corn, I don’t know for sure that ‘letting it be’ is the right way to go for my situation. But, if I learnt anything while making this treat, I learnt that it helps to be prepared – even if your recipe-plans change entirely. And I learnt that sometimes, keeping it simple is the best way to bring out the most flavor.

Until later, then.