Tag Archives: marriage

My Gastronomic Adventure – Part 2

Now the U.S. is a culinary jungle all by itself and living here for more than a decade has greatly influenced my cooking. As a young bride I focused on making everyday Indian food which was easy, given that I used to help my mom a lot in the kitchen and knew most of the basic recipes. I love Chinese food and we used to eat out at Chinese restaurants quite frequently. The Chinese food you get in India is usually spiced up and modified to suit the Indian palate. When I came to the U.S. I quickly discovered that most Chinese restaurants were Americanized. I was disappointed and craved Ind0-Chinese food so much that I started making it myself – just the fried rice, noodles and cauliflower Manchurian.

Another type of food that I missed was chaat (Indian snack food or street food). To try and explain what chaat is to someone who has never tasted it is next to impossible. Maybe the closest I can get to describing it is by borrowing a word from Japanese – Umami, which is a 5th taste, a savory taste. Chaat is an explosion of salty, sweet, tangy, spicy and crunchy that takes you to food heaven. So again I had to perfect my paav bhaji, pani puri and bhel puri for whenever the chaat cravings hit me hard.

I love to bake and out here baking is big. So I spent many years trying out different cake and pie recipes and now I have a few perfect ones under my belt. Like banana nut bread, apple pie (thanks to Aunty D’souza – who bakes the most amazing desserts), key lime pie (thanks to Florida) blueberry muffin, almond cake, brownies and chocolate chip cookies.

When you are vegetarian, eating out is such a tedious task. Our go-to places are Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants. My kids simply love Italian food and given a chance they would eat pasta every day. So chef DC did it again and perfected her pasta sauces, ravioli, lasagna, frittata and even home made pizza. The fun part of making pizza is getting the kids involved. They love getting in there and getting messy and I love cooking with them. It reminds me of the time I spent cooking with my mom and also G.

I used to spend many hours watching food network and my favorite show was 30 minute meals with Rachel Ray. She was my idol and I used to race against the clock and try and make Indian food (that typically takes hours to make) in just 30 minutes. The rice cooker and pressure cooker were my best friends and I quickly mastered the art of speedy chopping. So in under an hour I would make one veggie dish, one gravy and rice. I can make a one pot sambar (many traditional cooks frown upon this method) which to me tastes just as good.

Other friends I have made out here have also shared wonderful recipes with me. Most of my neighbors in Boston were from Andhra Pradesh, India and their dishes are very tasty and very different from ours. I learnt how to make mango dal and eggplant curry from them. My good friend and neighbor shared her mushroom biriyani recipe which has been passed on to many friends and is still a favorite at my house. She is a very good cook and we used to make and share vada and payasam during festivals and also try out different recipes and share them. She inspired me to make sweets for Diwali (although the seeds were sown by G’s family and Ganga). So I’ve made Ladoos, Jalebis, Halwas and Kheer. My neighbor S started making murrukkus with me when she was between jobs and I soon found myself in the possession of a murukku press (thanks to my husband), making murukkus from scratch.

My husband likes to cook on occasion and he has whipped up some very good recipes. One of the earliest ones was a veggie sub with grilled green pepper, mushroom, onions and tomatoes and melted cheese. He makes the best rava dosas and dry coconut chutney. These days he is into making plantain chips from scratch – we just finished frying up a batch after slicing them up in our spiffy new mandoline.

So that brings me to last month’s Thanksgiving Dinner. Firstly we don’t eat turkey – me because I’m vegetarian and the rest of my family simply doesn’t like it. So we replaced the turkey with chicken wings – buffalo style. My daughter wanted mashed potatoes and my son wanted lasagna! I replaced the lasagna with mushroom ravioli because it’s a lot easier to make and for dessert we had eggless cake. I’m glad I chose a simple menu because on the day before Thanksgiving I fell sick and I secretly thanked myself for not choosing to make Indian food! I consider myself a die-hard curry eater but no other cuisine involves so much soaking, grinding, marinating, frying, sautéing, mincing and spicing like Indian cuisine. Later that evening the guilt set in and I ended up making eggplant curry.

There is something about food that not only titillates your palate but also warms your heart and soul. When you break bread with someone, share your table or your cooking with someone, an invisible bond is formed – one that lasts for a long time and one that evokes a lot of fond memories of fun, food, family and friends. Here’s to your own culinary adventure…cheers!

 

A Heart Full of Gratitude

It is with utmost joy that I write (and now type) this post. A long awaited dream of mine has come true. Roll back to the second post I wrote (The Work Saga –http://punctuatelife.com/2012/02/13/the-work-saga/) and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I got a job! A real job! One that pays!

It’s been less than a month but I can’t keep it from the world any longer. No it’s not a writing job. It’s not even a full time job. But it’s just what I need. Part of me was always apprehensive about going to work and leaving the kids in daycare. I’m so used to being there for them when they get back from school that it was inconceivable to me to hand that responsibility to someone else.

Yet part of me craved for a job, for independence and even the companionship of colleagues. This I partially fulfilled by doing volunteer work at the school. The volunteer work (200 something hours spent cutting and gluing, helping with centers, buying supplies) finally paid off and landed me this job.

So at this job, I get to keep the kids with me, the hours work for me and my volunteer work helped me snag this job. I’ll keep you guessing while I go over my long list of things I’m immensely grateful for in my life. It goes without saying that I’m infinitely grateful for this job. I’m blessed to have two little angels for kids. They make each waking day a joy for me. From whiny, cranky, needy babies they have grown to be solid, sound and responsible little kids. I’m in awe of these little wonders that I helped bring into the world.

I’m thankful for an awesome husband who has made my life comfortable and easy. I live an almost stress-free lifestyle thanks to him – he bears the burden of providing for the family, paying the bills, planning for the future. I know he will take care of even the tiniest detail and that we are safe and secure under his wing.

I’m thankful for my family – my parents, brother, in-laws and my adopted Grandma (Ganga). We had the good fortune of celebrating my father-in-law’s 80th birthday with him. Thank you for all your prayers, support and good wishes over the years. A special thank you to my awesome brother who keeps giving me feedback about my blog and doing a lot of PR for me.

I’m thankful for my friends who swoop down to my rescue when family cannot. Without you guys I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Your support and encouragement over the years has built my confidence, has reminded me when I have forgotten who I am and what I am capable of. A special thank you to my bosom friend N for always finding time to comfort me, praying incessantly for me and my family (like her own) and above all for believing in me when I did not believe in myself.

My dear friend S tied the knot this year and I’m so happy for her. When you have a friend you have known from the cradle, you can’t help but want her to be happy and settled (not just money-wise or career-wise but also partner-wise). So I’m thankful that she finally found her soul mate and is starting to live her happily ever after.

I’m thankful that we finally got our green card (this summer) after years of waiting. I’m also very thankful that I got to see fall colors this year after a long time. I’m thankful for good weather out here in Florida (snow is really not my thing). Thankful for food on our table. Thankful for good people in my life. Thankful for every reader (secret ones too) and subscribers. Thankful for my blog. Thankful for my pet fish. Thankful for miles and miles of beaches. Thankful for my little garden and the flowers blooming outside. Thankful for electricity and running water. Thankful for a warm and cozy home. Thankful for Mother Earth. Thankful for sunshine and rain. Thankful for laughter, good health and joy and I wish you all the same. Have a happy Thanksgiving y’all.

Guest Blog : How to Meet, Date and Marry your Soulmate in One Year! (by Shomita Sarah)

If you’re anything like me, reading this title would make you wonder if I was a little high or losing my mind. I promise I’m neither – this is the plain, honest truth as I’ve experienced it. If the title piqued your curiosity, then good. This is not really a how-to article…but it is a true-to-life experience article and honestly, I never expected to be the one to write something like this from my own experience.

Let me begin at the very beginning. The blogger I’m writing this guest article for is quite honestly my oldest (and very cherished) friend in the world. She and I were born two days apart in the same hospital in South India and our lives have been intertwined ever since. I like to say that God brought us together and has kept us together ever since. She has been a constant source of encouragement on pretty much every step where I’ve found myself faltering and particularly in the one niggling matter of finding “the guy”. A few years ago, when I was at one of those low points in my life – when every possible doubt you have weighs you down and you wonder – ‘is love ever going to find me’ and maudlin thoughts outweigh the rational – she counseled me to focus on what I wanted in a guy and make a detailed list and put it out there in the universe and wait. Easier said than done! Anyway, being at the end of the proverbial rope I decided to make that list and surprisingly, it does make you feel a little better. There’s something tangible about the written word. As a sneak preview, I’ll mention a few things on that hallowed list – tall, Irish, blue eyes, similar faith in God.  I eventually, let that list rest and went about my life, not really stressing as much about finding the guy but not really finding the guy either!

2013 started off feeling like a different year altogether. I knew something was coming this year, but didn’t know what exactly. I’d also finally gotten to the point where I decided to let the pining for “the guy” go and let him just come to me. I realized that I had a lot of good things on my plate already and if it wasn’t time for him to be on the same plate – then I could at least enjoy the rest. A cousin contacted me out of the blue and encouraged me to give a popular dating website another try – saying there were good men out there and I had to give it one more shot. So, I said to myself – why not?! Among the men that contacted me was this one guy whom I initially responded to because I found that he had a similar interest in traveling to Ireland. After a few exchanges, I started to have some doubts (as sometimes happens with online communications) and almost ended the exchange.

It would’ve surely ended there, if he hadn’t had the ‘audacity’ to call me out on my own fears and in a very down-to-earth manner give me the choice to find out if there was a possibility of a continued exchange between us. He let me set my own pace and ladies  tell me you don’t like a man who lets the girl set the pace! We started as friends – no pressure – just emailing, talking and texting and getting to know each other. We progressed to our first date on a snowy evening – that pretty much decided it for me. He was the IT guy. If I can refer back to my list again – he was tall, of Irish origin, blue eyed and shared my faith in God! We stayed all night talking and holding hands and it was simply the best date I’ve had. I started to fall in love with a good man and a gentleman – he even dusted the snow off my car! Might be a silly thing to remember but it mattered a lot to me.

We decided to become FB official – because who can say they’re really dating without letting the social network know about it right?! Less than four months later, on my 35th birthday, he surprised me – by popping the question and without a doubt, I accepted. The four months involved a whirlwind getting to know both families, lots of driving and texting and phone calls. Did I mention we were in a long-distance relationship? And did I mention that we will be tying the knot in less than 60 days?

Yup…it’s less than a year and I’ve managed to meet, date, get engaged and will soon be getting married to the guy I’ve waited a long while to meet. Ladies, pull that jaw up from off the floor. As unbelievable as this may sound…believe it…it happens! It took a lot of prayer, a lot of patient (and sometimes not-so-patient) waiting and the tiniest bit of hope that he existed. If you’re looking – don’t give up hope. Pray hard and trust that the right guy is out there and looking for you too. And when it comes to you, don’t fight too hard, give in and let yourself experience the wonder that is the love of a good man. Here’s hoping that the experiences married life brings will help us grow together as a couple!

The Chennai Chronicles – Part 3 (The Wedding)

My cousin G’s wedding was one of the reasons I really wanted to be in Chennai for the winter holidays. She called me sometime in August when she was fixing the date and the venue and confirmed that the kids and P were off for Christmas/New Year. I assured her that we would make it and then all our plans went phut! ( see http://punctuatelife.com/2013/01/14/the-chennai-chronicles-part-1/)

The wedding was in the last week of December and was preceded by a Mehendi ceremony. The boys didn’t want to go, so A and I went with my parents and brother. It was by the beach, in an open pavilion with divans and bolsters along the low walls. G was sitting at the far end of the room, her feet covered with mehendi (henna tattoos). A lady was working on her hands and deftly covering it with fine lines of green paste from a cone.

My daughter couldn’t wait to get mehendi on her hands, so my mom and I had to take turns feeding her. I was paranoid that she would get it on her nice clothes.  I kept nagging her to stretch her arms out and not touch her clothes. Soon after I put mehendi on my hands, I sat down on the couch to talk to G. I ended up putting my hands on my lap and got it all over my saree. I had to wash it all off and also had a wet spot on the front of my saree. So much for nagging A about not getting it on her clothes.

The groom’s side is Finnish and G got all the ladies sarees with matching blouses, which they wore to the mehendi ceremony. With matching bangles and they were very eager to do some Bollywood moves. So my brother stepped up and decided to lead. It was a lot of fun to dance in a group and the steps were so funny that we were in stitches by the end of the dance.

The Finnish ladies were not done and went on to do some fine gyrations that made the rest of us applaud in admiration. There was also a Killi Josiyam person. Basically tarot cards which are laid out in front of a parrot. The killi or parrot walks over the cards and picks one with its beak. The bird hands it over to the astrologer who then interprets it. My daughter gave it a shot and the parrot picked Unnikrishna (baby Krishna) and the astrologer rattled off some well-rehearsed lines – work hard at school. Donate to charity (which was odd!)

We ate a sumptuous dinner and then drove back home. Most of the guests were staying at the hotel and so the party continued for several hours after us city dwellers had called it a night.

The wedding was the next day. The mandapam was supposed to be set up outside but the rain played spoilsport and the ceremony had to be indoors. The path outside, with stairs leading up to the mandap was strewn with flowers. There were plates of roses all along the low walls of the verandah. The mandapam was beautifully decorated with white flowers and lotuses. G looked divine in her gold zari saree, exquisite choli and traditional jewellery. J was wearing a sherwani which was almost the same color and carried it off pretty well. I figured he was hot in it (although it was officially winter in Chennai – if you can call misty weather with a few scattered downpours, winter!)

They made a beautiful couple and I hope they live a long life together making many happy memories and with much laughter and joy.

It was a traditional Kerala wedding. They say Kerala weddings are so short that if you blink you’ll miss it. So here’s how it’s done. The bridegroom waits for the bride at the mandapam. The bride walks to mandapam accompanied by little girls carrying trays of flowers and women (both single and married) carrying oil lamps. My daughter and I were part of that group. G joined J at the mandapam and he tied the taali (mangalsutra or chain with a small pendant that consecrates the union) with the nadaswaram and thavil playing in the background. They exchanged garlands and then got the blessings of all the older family members. They first touched the feet of their parents, grandparents, great aunts and uncles. Then the rest of the gathering went up to the couple and threw rice & flowers (akshata) on them and blessed them.

J’s side of the family brought some of their wedding traditions to the table. After a toast by the groom’s brother some of the ladies sang Finnish songs (complete with a drum) and actions. Not one to be outdone, G’s aunt decided to sing a Hebrew song – Hava Nagila and we all joined in.

And then there was the elephant! Yes a real live elephant. The not-so-eager groom was garlanded by the pachyderm. Locals, expats, everyone alike were uber excited to see the elephant (my kids included!) The cameras kept flashing and everyone wanted to pose with the animal.

After dinner, which was a delectable spread (my mouth is watering just thinking about it!) everyone was in the mood for dancing. After a few rounds of Finnish dancing, holding hands and going around in a circle, my brother did his number. Then the group kinda split up and P and I went to get the kids. The kids were all pumped up and wanted to keep dancing. So P and I ended up dancing with them at the edge of the dance floor. After a while we got tired but A & N didn’t want to call it quits.

And then it happened. The DJ played this Korean song that went viral – Gangnam style. N had learnt all the moves and he broke into an animated dance. It was so much fun to watch this little guy do all the moves. The grand finale – he slid between my brother’s legs like they do in the video. It was hilarious!

When we had enough of the dancing, we took a walk to the beach and stood there breathing in the salty night air and soaking up the sound of the waves lapping onto the moonlit shore. We then drove back to the city.

I’ll remember this wedding for a long long time. Not because of the elephant or the venue or anything. But just because it was the first wedding my kids have ever attended. Also, it was so much fun and sometimes I wish I was still in India so I could dress up and go for a wedding every month (oh yeah! and that’s just a conservative estimate!). Thank you G and J for inviting us! God bless you.

Marriage 101

What with it being our 10th anniversary this week, I simply had to write this. For all you people out there who think marriage is something straight out of the pages of a Mills and Boons novel – think again! Sure you’ll have several steamy scenes playing in your wedded life but to imagine that your whole marriage could exist between the covers (no pun intended!) of a Mills and Boons novel is plain foolishness. And I was that foolish when I got married.

My expectations were way too high.  So were his! End result – huge clashes, waterworks, calls to India. Interference from India. To put it mildly our marriage was almost falling apart. I threatened to walk away convinced that we were incompatible. And this was the man who had me on my hands and knees, eating out of his hands and hanging onto his every word. What ever happened to all that spark, attraction, head over heels in love dizziness? It was just gone and I didn’t know where to go looking for it. The funny thing is I have never read a single Mills and Boons and so I never understood where I got my warped ideas about relationships.

So what saved my marriage you ask? Hate to admit it but it was P (initially and later on the new and improved me had to step in!) . He simply didn’t believe in divorce. Divorce is not an option and will never be an option. He said when something bad happens in a relationship you should stop and think about all the good times. When you are hopping mad at your partner remember the good things they did for you. No one’s perfect. People say and do crazy stuff but it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. They are just having a bad day and taking it out on you. Took many years for me to see the truth in what he said. This is not to say you have to stay with an abusive, co-dependant, alcoholic, philanderer! But in all other cases you can apply the P rule.

My refuge during the what I call the ‘adjustment years’ was prayer. Everytime we fought I prayed. I was certain that God had sent this man into my life because I saw signs before my wedding day right when I was having pre-wedding jitters. It just didn’t make sense. So I had angry conversations with God – why did you send me this man who doesn’t understand me and treats me so-so? I am special. I need to be treated special! The answer to this I got several years later. I was immature when I got married. A 23 year old who had lived all her life in Chennai and didn’t know anything about anything. It so happened that God intended marriage to be my platform for personal transformation. It’s true marriages are made in heaven but you have to do the work to keep it there. So I stuck it out, didn’t quit, stayed long enough to learn the lesson and grow out of it. It’s not so much about Kama Sutra as it is about Karma Sutra. What you put into a marriage you will get out of it.

Another mistake I made – I was trying to be the person P wanted me to be even though that wasn’t what I wanted. I lost myself in the first few years of marriage. And that was a source of great unhappiness for me. Took me a long time to love myself and BE myself before playing all the roles I had to play in life. The moment I did that I met with a lot of resistance. Why? Because people don’t like change. Even the people around you. But if they love you enough and see how passionate you are about the NEW and IMPROVED you, they will come around and be supportive.

You have to be patient and be in a place of love and compassion. What if the tables were turned? What if P quit his job and wanted to be a rockstar? I would be totally paranoid right? Even though he thinks that’s his ‘calling’. So that’s how he reacted to my new fangled blogging idea. Well, there was little or no paranoia involved but a lot of – are you sure? and I don’t know if this is a good idea! But I knew from the nucleus of every cell in my body to the recesses of my soul that this is what I was meant to do. This is my calling. So does this mean I have to choose between him and my purpose? Do I have to end this relationship? The very thought brought me to my knees. Because P is a great guy, a great Dad, a great provider, always there for me and my kids and such a committed person. He goes to all of the kids’ doctor’s appointments, music recitals, soccer games ( he does it all and still keeps his job!). So I did what I always do. I prayed and prayed and also strongly conveyed my enthusiasm for this new idea and my vision to make it a reality. I knew in my heart that this man loved me and although he may not go to the moon for me, he would do other meaningful things.

Again, I was tested and I remained patient. I waited and kept the faith. Two days ago, on our 10th anniversary we registered my new domain and got web hosting for my new blog! Yes I know what you are thinking…Why couldn’t you do it yourself? Why did you need him? For all your feminist values D!!! But that’s what marriage is about. Togetherness, love, growth and compassion. The fibers of his life and mine are enmeshed in an inseparable fashion, so much so that you cannot tell them apart. Now, finishing eachother’s sentences, we haven’t gotten there yet! Maybe in another 20 years.

To summarize…

If marriage were a door to a strange and exciting land, a sign above the door would say these words – Enter at the risk of losing yourself, enter only if you are willing to do the work, enter if you want your life to be changed forever and enter if you wish to be held in the tender embrace of love for this lifetime and many lifetimes to come. DO NOT ENTER if you wish to reside in the pages of one hot and steamy Mills and Boons novel!

All my friends who are happily married please share your insights below. My single friends are also encouraged to comment and to my friends who are struggling with their marriage  – there is hope. Hang in there.