Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 7: 4 Books

There’s a quote by an unknown author. ‘Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book’. I concur 100%. There have been innumerable instances when I have completely immersed myself in some books only to be jolted out of my daydreams by Mom or Dad. When I first read the book Client by John Grisham, I could actually picture the scenes happening in front of me. I didn’t have to see the movie Client for the visual representation. The book played itself in front of my eyes. Books by John Grisham and Robin Cook opened me to the world of novels but I was hooked to reading (read fiction) long before that.
Growing up was a magical experience for me. Books were my first love and will continue to remain the fondest to my heart. Who says time travel does not exist? I have travelled wide and far through the fables; lived different cultures, met all kinds of people – and loved the experience. I remember reading so many different kinds of books including and not limited to Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, Chandamana, Famous Five, Hardy Boys, Three Investigators, and Nancy Drew. Enid Blyton clinched the #1 position in my list of favourite authors and on reading books like Malory Towers I would wish I could join a boarding school.
I’ll attempt to list the top 4 books of all-time but it’s going be a very difficult task. Asking one to limit your life’s readings to 4 books is very unfair unless you ask me to pick 4 books of history. I could hardly come up with 2 there. So here goes:
1.       Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody
One book which left such a deep imprint on my mind that I couldn’t sleep the night after I read it nor could I bring myself to visit the Haji Ali! I was in the 11th standard when I first read this book. I read it in two sittings and literally shivered with fright at certain points. It might not have this effect if you read this now, but it was very different at that age. A few days after reading this, I went to Haji Ali with my close friend D. As we walked over the bridge with beggars on both sides chanting something; it started to have a creepy effect on me. In the short distance from one end of the bridge to the steps of the tomb, I had removed my bangles, removed my ‘bindi’ and worn my dupatta as a scarf around my head in an effort to be someone I wasn’t. I have nothing against Muslims or the Islam religion. But remember, I was young and at an age where my thoughts might not have been the most sensible. The book had left its “carbon footprint” on my mind, never to be erased. We reached the steps of the tomb but I could not bring myself to go in. I stood there contemplating for a couple of minutes and finally we both turned and came back. I have not been able to visit till this date. Hope to visit it one day tho’.
2.       100 Photographs that changed the world
It’s a publication by the LIFE magazine. A quick book which you can browse through in less than ½ hour but again, a book, that this time, it’s pictures stay with you long after. It’s a collection of 100 life-changing photographs or basically pictures of memorable events ever since photography has been at play. And brief descriptions of each picture. Be it evolution related or culture, nature or science, this publication has tried to bring the best of life to one place. I can close my eyes and still picture one photograph on Chinese infanticide where new born babies are left to die in the woods. Of the Holocaust survivors. The Chernobyl disaster. The World Trade Centers. The very first picture of the double helix DNA. Science has come a long way. You might definitely feel that there are some events which should probably not have been listed and other important ones which could have been missed. Many firsts listed and overall a very well-made kaleidoscope. Definitely deserves a read.

3.       The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Be it Hansel and Gretel or Rapunzel’s story, fairy tales have always enticed me and drawn me into their magical world. It’s been at least 20 years since I last read this collection but I still remember some of the stories and images from this book. I was just talking to Swaps about my trip to Disney World, Florida and how I had got immersed in Cinderella’s coronation. Grimm’s fairy tales are what introduced me to that world. Sometimes I feel, even when I can grow up to be 60, I would love to sneak up at night and stay awake reading this collection J

4.       Blindsight by Robin Cook
My first true ‘novel’. Everything else came later. Hence, it had to figure on my list. This is what triggered everything else. If the first novel had been a downer, I doubt they would have held my interest. After I read this, I remember scouring the internet for information around organ donors to see if lists really exist so freely on the web or not. Like any other Robin Cook, a first rate thriller with a lot of twists and turns. I have enjoyed reading crime, medical and legal thrillers after that – starting out with the typical author list of any Indian - John Grisham, Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, Jeffrey Archer, Kristin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner – I have must read all their publications. Not to miss out on sagas like those from Danielle Steel and Sidney Sheldon but after a certain number of their books, they start to feel like stereotypes. I have also enjoyed light dramas by Kristin Hannah, Jodi Picoult and Barbara Delinsky.

There are quite a few more books which are worth a mention and it would be unfair to say they haven’t made an impression. So I’ll still list those out. Some of the few books (apart from those of the above listed authors) that I have rated 4 or more on a scale of 5. (PS: I maintain a list of books I have read and rated plus those I wish to someday).

·         Deception Point – How can I forget Dan Brown! Has to be the best master story teller ever!
·         It’s not about the bike by Lance Armstrong
·         Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
·         The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan
·         Why Men don’t listen and women can’t read maps by Barbara Pease
·         The space between us by Thrity Umrigar
·         One Night at a Call Center by Chetan Bhagat

I would love to hear your views!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 6: 5 Foods

Never in my life did I imagine that listing 5 favourite foods of mine would be so difficult; that limiting the list to just 5 of those would be so excruciatingly painful. I was never a foodie the first 27 or so years of my life, and thin, lankly pictures of me are proof of that statement. However, in the last 3 years or so, it’s like I got introduced to this whole new world and my taste buds have started having the time of their life, of course, the rest of my body having to bear the brunt of it gaining pounds at every possible opportunity. Not that I had any shortage or lack of variety of vegetarian food in India, but somehow the activity never made me gain weight. Hence, I didn’t think of food so much. Now, I gain, so I restrict, so I miss it more. I guess.  

I remember a quote from Friends, which a friend of mine Ankur, had posted on one of my recent photographs. 

Monica: The camera adds ten pounds
Chandler: How many cameras were actually on you?

Well, here goes. No prizes for guessing the #1 on my list. Most of my good friends would nail this one.

1. Paani Puri ! 
The mouth-watering streetside version of it has to be the best thing ever created by man ! I will be honest, I haven’t tried too many street vendors, just a few. I have tried the ones with boondi, ones with alu, ones with chole, even the healthy ones with sprouts (yuck !!!!) and loved all. The barrage of tastes every single one releases when it crumbles in my mouth .. mmmmm .. missing them so much now ! I make them sometimes at home as well but the satisfaction in someone else making them and me just enjoying them is something totally different ! Having a couple of them completely “theeka” would bring tears to my eyes but I still wouldn’t stop. And no, its not complete till the sukha-puri at the end !!! The walks and talks with so many of my friends from all circles of life, endless gossip, and finally topping it off with an Amul Kulfi at the end - Great times !!

2. Vada Pav
Another street delicacy. This is probably also the staple of a lot of people in Maharashtra. A quick stomach-filling snack, the taste of which stays long past. Often, while waiting for the bus either coming from college or travelling someplace, I might have missed my lunch or I might just be feeling hungry, a quick Rs.4 (those days) would fetch me a scrumptious vada pav and I would go munching happily. The best of those has to the be the Jumbo Vada Pav at Vashi Station. The garlic chutney and the fried green chillies, mmm Heaven !!! 

3. Daal Chaaval
Leave me stranded on an island with Wilson (that’s right, Tom Hank’s football from Cast Away) and an assurance that I would get my daily dose of daal chaaval and I would live happily ever after. I think this is one dish that you can’t really mess up, but then I have been known to mess up things that cannot be messed up. Thankfully, daal chaaval is not one of them. I dont make it way too often, however every time I do, Mahantesh and I sit licking our fingers at the end. 

4. Mommy’s Maggi.
Yep, very specific. Maggi might be a 2 min activity as they advertise it, however it has to be the way my Mom makes it - half boiling the Maggi first, then sautéing veggies (potatoes, carrots, peas, beans) and then boiling those and adding the Maggi back. Sounds simple right? I have tried and tried but the only thing simple about this is the way how the exact taste eludes me when I make it ! Something’s always off and I am yet to lay my finger on it. I have been away from home for a few years now and every time I go for a visit, this has to be in breakfast at least once/twice a week. Usually our breakfast menu would be either Dosai or Idlis or Adais, but me, I got to have my Maggi !!!!

5. Amul Kool (Pista/Kesar/Rose)
Not really a food, but it still figures on my top 5. Picture a hot day, riding in a crowded BEST bus, sweat dripping, sticky clothes and the hot sun burning down on you. You alight the bus and there’s an Amul stall right opposite with the Amul Kool bottles gleam in the shining sun. Yep, this has happened with me innumerable times and hence, the memory of it, is what makes it the best 5th food on my list. When I had my tonsils removed and could hardly open my mouth to eat food, Amul Kool was the one to pull me out of my miseries and my hunger. It had been a life saver then and continues to be one of my favourite foods. 

I am going to cheat a little here and also give due credit to other amazing foods like Dahi Batata Puri, Malai Sandwich, Cheese Masala Sandwich, Pure South Indian Curd Rice, Indo-Chinese foods like Gobi Manchurian, Paneer Chilli and so many more !!! I admit that most of the foods on my list are all Indian, this does not mean that I do not like other international foods. I love foods from the Thai cuisine, pastas with pesto sauce, some Mediterranean Greek dishes, some specific Mexican dishes and some others I am sure I have forgotten about, but I am sure, if I have to list the top 25 or so, they would definitely make it to that list !

I would love to hear your views!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 5: 6 Places

On to Day 5 of the 10 Day You Challenge. Today's about 6 places. I thought and thought and couldn't decide if this one was supposed to be about 6 places I have already been to or 6 places I want to go to. I did have a "want" in my previous week to visit Greece and it would already taken up one spot. So I finally a flipped a coin and it came to 6 places I want to visit. So I am promptly going to ignore the coin flip and am go with 6 places I have already been to. Here goes.

1. Maldives
A location of your dreams. The serenity, the beauty, the romance, the smells, the sand, the ocean. All of it takes your breath away. We had stayed at the Taj Resort and ended up getting completely pampered. The treatment would have been akin to those that princes and princesses would have got in earlier times. The island that we stayed at could be covered in a couple of hours stroll and even the capital of Maldives, Male was a place that tourists would cover in 4 hours. We lazed around with beers and ginger ale, waiters serving us drinks in the pool, floating in the waters in the private alcove behind our villa, feeding the sting ray, taking part in night time entertainment activities at the resort. 3 days of bliss. Not once did I remember work or home. Selfish us. But the place has a way of making you forget everything else. M and I keep thinking that we would love to go back there again. Someday. 

2. Changi Lake at Sikkim-Gangtok
This was a trip Appa-Amma, my sister and I had taken maybe 12 years back or so. A trip of the northeast. We visited Calcutta, Darjeeling, Sikkim-Gangtok during this trip and I was spellbound by some of the sights. One of the points on this trip was the Changi Lake at Gangtok for which we had to leave at 4:30 AM in the morning. I still remember my sister crying at having to wake up so soon and Mom dressing her up in her blue sweater because it would be cold out. Driving up in the van, with mist forming everytime we spoke and breathed, it was a new experience. The scenery, the lush green mountains and valleys, the chill nip in the air, the soft spoken beautiful people with bright small eyes and pink cheeks, and the air of complete serenity enveloped me. Driving up 12000 ft above sea level, where the lake had frozen to form a solid ground was something I had never seen before. I was scared and terrified to step on it afraid that it would break and I would fall through. The terror shows on my face on one of my pics where I sit on a rock with my feet on the frozen lake. This was also where I had the second best Maggi of my life along with small veggie samosa kind of items (I dont remember what they were called). Heavenly experience !

3. Athipulyur
A very small village somewhere south of Chennai. My dad's maternal uncle was the landlord of this village and I remember taking a trip every year from Chennai. He had a huge palatial house, of those kinds seen only on TV. Rock solid ornate oak pillars, a beautiful chained wooden swing, a magnificent courtyard, an open patio, fields and orchards where we as kids would play all day long. Even after tiring ourselves out, we would sit in the patio enjoying the evening breeze playing "choi" (a game played with small shells) watching goats saunter by. We would go play in the water from the local pump, pluck mangoes, so many that Grandma wouldnt know what to do with them ! I am sure we city people wouldn last more than 3-4 days in such a place but yet a beautiful childhood indulgence !!

4. Lonavala-Khandala-Matheran
Suicide point may be called so, but to me, how can someone ever think of giving up their life at such a beautiful spot. Maybe thats what drives them to. They get so lost in the moment it becomes easier to let go. Depressing thoughts apart, go to one of these places during the monsoon and with the fog, the light rain, bhutta, pakode and garama garam cutting chai - one cant go wrong. I have met people who have stayed all their life in Bombay, yet haven't visited one of these places. I say wake up people !! Matheran is also the place where a donkey/ass/horse whatever it was, threw me off its back for whatever stupid reason and thankfully I landed on my backpack that I was wearing. So even though my watch and cell phone broke, I was safe ! Everytime I think of that incident, I chuckle :) So yeah, I do love and remember these places for more than one reason !

5. Bombay
It may be called Mumbai now but to me it will always be Bombay. Love everything about it. Maybe now more because I have been away for a long time and hence I could be missing it more. I could be biased because of that but I do love the feel of Bombay. The local trains and buses, the incessant crowds, the haggling at roadside shops, the chaat ke theles, sugarcane juice shops, the ever growing number of malls, the number of cars on the roads and the people ! I could stand at a bus stop for an hour and just keep observing everything around me and not get bored. Most people complain about the traffic, the pollution, the population, at times I do too, yet at the end of the day I always come back to it. Home is where the heart is. And even if I think that I might want to eventually settle down somewhere where I could spend more time with my kids and family and not stuck in a bus in traffic, Bombay will still always be my first love !

6. Anushaktinagar
Sure, my college friends used to call it the "Lost World" in reference to place where dinosaurs lived, a place from an ancient era. But its where I spent all my time growing up and so its obviously a place extremely close to heart. Like any other person, I have so many fond memories of the people and things associated with it that it cannot but be on my list. The stream behind our School 3 where we used to catch tadpoles, the MAFCO corner, Garuda, North Gate, Nilgiri, the fields where we used to play the frisbee, the AEJC football ground, Prakash's store, paani-puri waala, the long walks we used to take, the late hours me and my friends used to meet up until, everything is special and it all links back to Anushakti. In my growing up years I used to have a lot of complaints, but my home and I have both since patched up !

When I listed all of these, it struck me that even though I have been in the US and been to a lot of places here, they don't figure in my top 6. I loved some of the spots here like LV, Niagra, SFO but I guess my list has more to do with memories than sights ! 

Addendum: I happened to read my own post again and I realized its funny how I have remembered to mention food items in each and every one of them !!!! Up until this post I didnt realize how much of a foodie I have become. If one were to pick all my favourite foods and put them in one place, would that become a favourite? Interesting thought ! Tho' I seriously need to step away, no wonder I have been loading up on pounds !!!

I would love to hear your views!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 4: 7 Wants

3 down 7 more to go. Who doesn't want more in life? Today's about 7 wants of my life. Well, a couple of years back I did start putting together a bucket list - a list of 100 things to do before I die, only penned down about 56  and I looked at it again this afternoon, quite a few of those have been fulfilled. But when I had to pick 7 of those, it set me thinking and I actually ended up adding a few to that list ! Some of these as always are practical and some of them are whimsical !

Day 4: 7 Wants of the 10 Day You Challenge

1. Be an Author someday ! 
A friend of mine recently said I need to start putting my writing skills to better use (in his words: Contribute to the company's newsletter) and my reaction was "Thats it? I want to do something bigger !" and again, the other day I was talking to another friend of mine about alternate careers, doing something you really "want" to do, not just thinking about it but taking the plunge and doing it ! This is something I truly want to do one day. The most I have done is contribute a couple of short stories to a publication. Sometimes I think of eventually penning down a whole novel and yet other days I feel like I want to write a childrens book.  

2. Visit Greece
When I told Mom about this, she told me Greece is now the most debt-ridden and bankrupt nation in the world. Well bankrupt or not, I still want to visit Greece. I admit I have only seen the Santorini in pictures, but to me standing on the rooftop of the highest villa and looking out over the ocean on a beautiful day has to be the most romantic sight. Pati ko Patao mission is in progress !

3. Teach basic English to 11th/12th grade students at C
Mom used to teach Economics at this college in Mumbai that I'll just refer to as C. I once attended a lecture a couple of years back just to get a feel and I was appalled at the level of English these kids knew. Even though Mom was teaching Economics, she had to sometimes pause, spell out basic English words, explain the meaning and then proceed. So many of those kids were from Non-English medium schools and struggled to grasp basic concepts when they were thrown headlong into an English medium Junior College. It continues to be a roadblock when such kids try to make it at a global level. The incident left a very deep impression on my mind that day and this continues to be a serious "want" in my life. When I return back to India, I plan to atleast start with a bunch of 4-5 kids. Why C? Because of having spent so much time there due to my Mom, being a part of the annual activities, knowing the teachers, I feel like there's an inner connection. Its the least I can do. Mom has retired since but this connection has become  a legacy. 

4. Play the Bin Tere - The slow version on the guitar 
Tee hee ! Giggle. A mix of real and fanciful. Ever since I have heard that song being strummed on the guitar I have fallen in love with it and there's no other song I would love to play. I will be the first admit that I know not a thing about strumming. I did attempt to learn once and borrowed a "Guitar for dummies" video from the local library and promptly returned it unused after 3 weeks. Lethargic me ! But ah, someday ! For folks unfamiliar with the song: Its from the movie "I Hate Luv Stories" - well, the movie is a big bore, but the song is beautiful. I didn't like it the first time but the more I heard it, the more I started to fall in love !

5. Churn butter in an authentic village setting in Punjab
LOL ! Deepa's been watching too many Hindi serials or she's completely smitten by Bollywood. Well, maybe not so much, but this is definitely one "want" which has come out of those. A completely chimerical want. But wouldn't that be fun. Churning butter, drinking lassi, makki de roti, sarson da saag, running in the fields .. oooh fairy-talish ! Don't you dare laugh !

6. Eat gracefully with chopsticks.
Whenever I try this, I probably look all funny. I have attempted this n number of times yet everytime I do, I get so conscious I feel clumsy even though am not. I do not spill yet I feel like the world around me is watching me and just waiting with bated breath to see my next goofy act !! Someday I want to be able to eat without feeling all that unseen weight  !!

7. Swim the length of a pool and back !
Yet another activity where my psychological fears get the better of me. Swimming is a very important skill I feel every human should know. You never know when it could come handy. I wish I had learnt this when I was young and a quick learner. Learning is so much easier as a kid. I tried to learn when I had joined work, but the only all-female courses in the gymkhana were at 10:00 AM so that was that. I have since learned some from friends, now I can confidently swim the breadth of the pool, I know to float, yet the minute I sense like I have crossed the 5.5 ft mark to the deeper end, I lose confidence in myself and swim back. One day I want to be able to swim laps and this one I will !

My 58 item so-far bucket list is still a living document and will continue to grow and hopefully I would be able to mark items off that list in good time !!!! 6 places to follow !

I would love to hear your views!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 3: 8 Fears

Every person would like to be a Superman, be very strong and have no fears. I am no Superwoman. It's funny how easily I could come up with a list of 8 fears and my list still wasn't done. I do however believe, that sometimes fears are necessary, they drive a person to overcome those and move ahead. Some of mine are pretty rational and some have absolutely no rationale at all ! But here goes.

1. Fear of Cockroaches (Katsaridaphobia)
They bring out the best dancer in me. Literally. Especially the flying ones. Ever seen the movie Mr. India where Sridevi and Anil Kapoor run helter-skelter because of a co-co-co-cockroach? I can totally relate to that. In India, if I spotted a cockroach in a room somewhere on the floor I would be on the bed faster than a marathoner. Dad and my sister would be the ones running behind it with a newspaper or a broom and most times my devilish sister after having killed it, would still bring it close to me to scare me more ! A friend once told me, "Tera size kya, uska size kya, dar usko lagna chahiye ya tujhe" but for me, its impossible to stay calm once I spot one !!!!

2. Fear of Bats (Chiroptophobia)
No, not the cricket ones. The flying ones which hang upside down on trees and you can see their evil eyes gleaming red even in moonless nights. Absolutely terrify me. When we stayed in a lower floor, one accidently entered our house and was unable to initially find its way out and flew all over the place. I have been terror-stricken ever since. The very sound of its flapping wings can scare me to bits.

3. Of Alzheimers
Striking me or a loved one. It pains me to think of what would happen if someone close to me fails to remember people and/or events. If I ever get affected, I wouldn't know how that would be, but the ones close to me would suffer. But more painful would be if someone close to me gets affected. I don't ever want anyone to go through that, forget people, events, your loved ones - unable to do simple daily chores, go someplace and be afraid that you might not remember where you are. Memories are something to be cherished, never forgotten.

4.  Becoming Invisible (Athazagoraphobia)
I have an identity. Before marriage, I was my father's name as my last name, now my husband's last name. But I am still Deepa. I have a beautiful family - both mine by birth and that of my in-laws, good friends, a good education, a job, a reputation, some respect that I have in someway built for myself. Sure, there would be people who may dislike me too. But I do know deep in my heart that the number of people I can call "friends" are way more than those I cannot. What if one day, I just don't matter to anyone anymore?

5. Of going bald ! (Phalacrophobia)
Hehe, this one's funny and a pretty recent fear. My first winter in the US, I lost half the volume of my hair because of the cold weather and hence the hot water. And ever since, its been a downhill battle. Now its a daily struggle ! 7 years in the uber-cold place have taken its toll on my poor hair. Looking forward to move out of here, if not for anything else, atleast for the sake of my leftover hair. Hopefully, this fear won't materialize.

6. Of being burnt (Pyrophobia)
Fire is a huge fear for me. Just a quick burn is a different thing. But I have had nightmares of being engulfed in flames and staying alive post that event with a scarred face, hands etc. I am not an outwardly appearance person. But somehow, the thought sends shivers down my spine.

7. Of Both Natural and Man-Made Disasters.
Are the natual disasters occurring all around the world not sufficient that man has to go around spreading terror? The recent events of the Bombay Blasts are just another example. I don't want people to be resilient. My fear is that Mumbaiites would become so "resilient" that it becomes a daily occurrence and we get used to it. What perverse pleasure would someone derive by taking the lives of innocents? He would have to be born wired wrong to think of doing something like that. I am not a very religious person, my relationship with God has been very volatile, does not mean I am an atheist, but I have a very strong belief in the power of Mother Nature. No matter what we do, we will never be able to truly conquer her and maybe that is how it should be. Man should always fear Nature.

8. Of a Nuclear War/Attack anywhere on Earth
Most nations are now going nuclear and any one single incident can trigger a chain reaction. Nations would be at war with each other. There will be much bloodshed. Mankind cannot afford that. Millions of lives would be lost. Rebuilding lives would take forever. And the tremors of the impact would be felt for generations to come. Use of nuclear power maybe helpful in a lot of areas, but building nuclear weapons for warfare has to be man's worst invention till date. Not to mention, darned cockroaches can even survive a nuclear explosion. Irritating creatures !

I would love to hear your views!
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