Monday, September 30, 2013

A trip to work

Many moons ago I had written about my daily ride to work from home and back. Something today made me go back and read the 'badly' written post about my everyday journey .Now, lying in bed I ponder what a huge difference it is to my daily journey from the past few years.

Well, first of all the drive to get up early in the morning is really not there. For the majority of the months being cold, grey, damp, all you want to do is cuddle up under the duvet, especially for the owl of a creature that I am! The reality however is that I do drag myself out of the warm zone just to be able to enjoy my morning cuppa coffee while chatting to my mom many miles away. 

The underground or simply the tube in London is one of the best in the world. No doubt. I don't have to give it 5 stars to confirm the fact. In the peak hours however, it's like getting into a tin of sardines which is already full up to the brim. There might not be an inch of space in the tube but what's worth noting is the fact that there is no one talking. The only noise you are left with is the growl of the iron tyres rubbing against the tracks and the announcements. 
It's amazing how so many people travel and there's no conversation what so ever. Being such a crowded city, I also don't recognise any one else travelling on the trains even if I happen to take the same one every day. I can say that in the past 5+ years of travel I have known less than 5 people like that. 

Just as a note to add, there are 2 routes to work and the first few years I took the district line (in other words the slowest line on the tube network). I stopped dong this route as soon as I had a choice as the pace of the train made me pull my hair out.

The other route which I take now is to take the baking hot bakerloo line to Waterloo and change to the main line train to Wimbledon.

Waterloo, where the 1st leg of my journey ends, where I get off to change trains is a circus in its own right. People of all kinds, with all sorts of things are walking in all sorts of directions humanly possible. Though there is an occasional brushing, tripping, dashing into each other it's quite orderly when you notice the movement. 
Just imagine each person inside a car, it would be a traffic jam from hell, but people on foot is a miracle, Perhaps the best traffic management system in the world.

After battling my way through the sea of people, I hit the far end of the platform to check for which train leaves the earliest of the 4 possible platforms and walk all the way to the first door of the first carriage to get on the 2nd leg of the journey.( that would take me right at the exit where I get off).

A short walk on either ends, 2 train rides and a circus in between pretty much sums my journey. 

I do find my humour in a few things - the robotic looks of the fellow passengers, some girls painting their faces to make themselves look prettier, the dosey characters trying to catch some lost minutes of sleep, the craziely sweaty corporates in their posh suits, the oversized headphones and some others like me who have decided to bury themselves in the book that they carry oblivious to the world around them. 

Conversations with fellow colleague(s) when we get a chance to travel together is the better thing about my everyday journey. Nothing beats the human connection which is above all else. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Wall

It's 2 AM and I have been looking at the wall beside my bed with many different thoughts crossing through the mind. While I have just finished reading a good book and have no other to pick up at this grave hour, a feeling of something has come to an end creeps through these dark hours of the unending night resonating with the blankness of this plain wall.

The section of the wall, a light dullness, a lived-in look compared to the fresh feel of the rest of the room has been in rendezvous with me on many such sleepless nights. So many memories, thoughts, ideas have creped up. Being in the cosy comforts of the bed where I'm tucked in, the wall has witnessed the narrations, a note, a poem, a song, hoping that it is remembered the next morning when I would have wish to put it down in ink. 

Imaginary flowers, birds, patterns have found this as a canvas, re-tracing where the last stroke was left. Pleased that a sketch went well or erasing with yet another imaginary instrument to start fresh. 

That little spider on the far end of the wall has weaved it's little home, it's little world in this big broken world. A thought crosses my mind that I have neglected this corner when I vacuumed the room. What rights do I have to break the little spiders' world? Hold it against the fact that it built its little abode in my room? Am I not trying to build my own little abode the same way as the spider?

Just as I toss and turn,  I gape at the crack in the wall. This being brushed away as a small thing, nothing structural, just a little leak that might have caused it....isn't that a reflection of the life I live? A little crack here, a little leak there but we carry on. 

The wall isn't empty. It has our memories collaged together, to bring those smiles when  we remember the days gone by. They stand there looking at me saying all was well and is well and it's just the game of thoughts that run through the mind. 

The paint defect,the damaged paint with the table rubbing in have all got a story to say,  or so I think or is it just my imagination running wild.....? 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A simple, uncomplicated, easy, blah blah..... far from it.

Well, just as I thought I was able to churn out blog posts pretty quickly, I've had a brief writer's block, a sudden loss of ideas, a pause. Nothing seemed relevant, concrete or complete enough to post here.

A lot of things are going through my little insignificant brain from the past few weeks and a lot is going on in my life too, oh! don't jump into conclusions - nothing too good nor bad but plain simple everyday life which I think has its own worth. 
While one part of me is feeling all tired and frustrated and sick of the boring busy routine I have for myself, the other side of me is trying to be all positive and peppy reminding me that I don't own all of life's problems and that I need to learn to be happy and content with what I have and not. Yeah Yeah... I do get philosophical in my mind at times. 

Somehow in all that I am consumed with in my current life, memories are taking over most of my time and thoughts, leaving me with cackling laughter, a wide smile , an odd tear.  I can't get by most of the day to day tasks without thinking about how it used to be or without reflecting on what I had done a few years ago on the same occasion. It's about remembering the loved ones I have left behind far far away from where I am today. Nostalgia seems to be taking complete control over me and my activities.

More so in these months of festivals. The urge to do things, to connect the current life to the past years is huge. To weave in what roots I carry to the modern, western way of living. There is a sense of carrying on by myself towards  what I need to achieve, how I need to live, what I need to do, however with the consciousness of making this journey with those that matter to me.

I'd love to tell my loved ones back home what they mean to me. I'd like to remind them not to forget me. I'd like to let them know I think of them all the time. I'd like to say that without the memories knitted with them I cannot progress today...that's how dependent I am on it. 
However, can I bring myself to saying it? do I actually say it? No, I don't.  Communication, Conversation, speaking my mind, showing my feelings is something I never thought I'd struggle with so much. So much that I hate what I end up doing, just bottling it within. Keeping mum!

Call this post a vent, call this a cry, it's actually neither. It's just the haphazardness of a complex thinking mind that's made it's way on paper. It's a pretty weird feeling I am living with in the past few months. It's amazing how a fairly sane routine too can kill you. 

I know I am trying, learning, failing, being happy, being sad, being confused, being angry all at the same time and getting all too over-sentimental about everyday life. And I know that a bit of randomness in a blog post won't hurt and you won't mind it. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cheat's Cookery - Tomato Saaru (Rasam)

Anna-Saaru (Rice & Rasam) is our staple meal. It's funny how after a couple of days of having all types of food our heart's crave for this simple wholesome meal full of flavour. Sunday evening is typically anna-saaru time, to comfort me from the weekend that is done and prepare me for the week of work and the mundaness that comes with it.

Saaru is a any-day, any-time dish for me.  I am (used to be) strict about a couple of things when it comes to this dish -  I don't prepare it if I don't have nice ripe tomatoes and a fresh bunch of coriander. Everything else can be substituted - lime instead of the tamarind sauce, sugar instead of jaggery, even moong dal instead of toor dal. Now, are you thinking that all this is cheating already?

Well, the last week I  cheated on one of the main ingredients - the tomatoes. Are you thinking of the obvious substitute - canned tomatoes? No! By the way, I do have an odd feeling about canned food, can't bring myself to use them. Hmmm, that's another story in itself. 

I had bought this bottle of passata sauce from the little shop selling all stuff organic (Now, that makes me think that everything there is healthy and natural!, Weird how the mind operates).  I thought of making a simple spaghetti pasta with tomato sauce and ground black pepper and not fuss about with any other ingredient. This passata sauce was made of sun-dried tomatoes (one of the bestest things that I have found in the western world).
I bought this for a crazy day when work was too much, eating out was not an option. A day like that did happen, but the craving  was for Indian, ghar ka khana (home made) which made me do this version of saaru. 

I just kept a pan and put all the ingredients in the pan, brought it to a boil, added the tadka (seasoning) and served it hot with rice.  So, I ended up making an otherwise authentic south indian staple meal by using pasta sauce! 

Passata - 1/2 the bottle ( The cheat factor) 
Saarina Pudi - 2 tbsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Ground black pepper - 1 tsp
Water - to thin it. 
Salt to taste

For the tadka:
Sunflower Oil - 1 tbsp
Cumin - a pinch
Mustard - a pinch
asafoetida (another key ingredient)
curry leaves 
coriander (nothing happens in my kitchen without this)

It was the easiest tomato saaru ever and tasted heavenly with the sun-dried tomatoes giving a huge earthy flavour with both sweet and tang bursting in the mouth. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

This happened to them (True Stories)

I find it quite hard to write stories, I see myself a better story teller when I am narrating it myself. I struggle to bring into words the intonations and the hand movements that are such a part of the 'talking me' which makes the story listen-able. 
My mother on the other hand is a brilliant story teller. Well, don't ask her about any movies (bollywood) that she has recently seen (especially if you want to watch it). She would have told it in such detail that you will be left tearing your hair apart if you happen to watch it. In fact, she would have glorified some parts of the film so much that you will also be disappointed that the director didn't do a good enough job of it. 

Well...these stories are true and have been narrated to me by the film encyclopedia that my mom is referred to fondly by my dad. I will try to do justice to the way it was narrated to me already knowing that something will be missed. 

Act of Kindness:
My ajji(grandma) is one of the most careful, conscious and responsible persons I have known. She is always alert about her surroundings and is very independent in her ways. (I do think that the 'being independent' part of me is something I get from her...ok, ok, now I won't get carried away talking about this). So, knowing for sure that she is more than capable of handling her things, her travels, her life my father also leaves her to her terms. One day when she got off the auto from her usual visits to the temple, she walked in excited to show my mother the new saree she had got for her (she keeps picking little things like this for all of us... how sweet). All that done she quickly realized that her little wallet was missing. She had about Rs.2000 and the most importantly the house keys. She was dejected and blamed herself for not being more careful. The sensitive side of her took the better of her and tears started rolling down.  All those thoughts of what was the driver's name (I should have read the board in the auto), what was the number plate, should have checked the seat before I got off were running through her mind and she was sad. My mother comforted her and being common sensical at a time like this called the police station and logged a complaint. Within about 1/2 an hour she received a call back saying that an auto driver has come back to hand over a purse. She was asked to visit the police station and there he was with ajji's purse and the contents intact. My mom rewarded him, thanked him kindly and happily got home. It goes without mention that ajji was elated. Such acts of kindness does exist even today and to have close encounters with it is so reassuring in the ways of the everyday world. 

Diamonds are forever:
It is a given that mom, ajji and the women of that generation coming from a middle to upper middle to the rich have always worn a pair of diamond earrings. It's like their daily jewelery. (wow, had never realized how fancy this sounds until I wrote this). Well... that's that. 
A few days after I was married and sent away, Amma and Appa had to visit Raichur for my mom's friend's father's 60th (they are like my mom's Godparents). It was a train ride and a taxi to get there with a visit to Mantralaya being a must do. Overnight train journeys in India are fun. Some decent planning needs to be done on the baggage mainly on how to secure it, the things required to sleep - air pillows, a bed spread, a cover, arrangements for food (the canteen food on train is usually good but you have take your chances with it). So, with all this my mother was crazy busy and finally at bed time sleep didn't beckon. The draft from the window made her toss and turn until it was a new day and time to get off at their station where the train halted for a mere 5 minutes. In between packing all the stuff, amma froze to realize that her earring was missing from one ear. They searched all over the little train compartment with no avail. Needless to say she was dejected, those earrings she has been wearing for a few decades, precious earrings and all in the span of a night. She silently removed the other, bought an artificial earring and had to carry on with the days. The thought never left her and the loss was huge for her. She couldn't help but think, talk, mention that loss where ever she went. As amma and appa were coming back from the temple on the hot day with my father walking way quicker than my mother she saw a sparkly object stuck to his chappals and Voila! it was the diamond earring! 
What a saga, the earring must have fallen in the train compartment and my dad might have stepped on it, the rubber beneath his chappals grabbing the earring, this could be the only explanation to what has happened. He walked on it for 2 full days before they found it. Well! Some miracles do happen! 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Artiste & The Commoner

I have been blessed, lucky and fortunate to have been able to witness some of the finest musicians in concert and before my memory fails me I want to record some experiences that's left me totally mesmerised.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I do live and breathe music and my family has been a huge influence in me being this way. 

I remember going to my first concerts by accompanying my grandma to fort high school where the annual ramanavami functions were held. As a kid, the hot pop-corn and the prasada at the end of the day was what I looked out for, but the enthusiasm that ajji had in the music and the excitement she used to show did make me think that I was witnessing something great. The likes of Bhimsen Joshi for his brilliance in Hindustani classical and bhajans, Balamurali krishna, the epitome of classical music, U Srinivas on his mandolin, Kunnakudi Vaidhyanathan on his violin, kadri gopalnath on saxophone, amjad ali khan on sarod amongst other icons. I didn't really understand the scale at which these musicians played and what great icons they were.  Today, I reflect back thinking how fortunate I was to have had a chance to be a part of it all. I have attended a few other concerts in India which I will pen about some other time. 

Living in London, I do have a better exposure to the music of the world however my heart yearns for the Indianess in the music. I keep looking out for any concert that happens here and have been really privileged to have had a chance to see some live performances. 
I am so insignificant to be writing about some of these huge greats, however thrilled that I am to count my blessings here I go.  This might be a completely utterly boring post to read so I don't blame you if you skip it. If you have nothing else to do why don't you read on.... 

Shri Ravi Shankar - This was at Barbican and literally the last 2 seats that I managed to bag. How thrilled was I when I got the tickets delivered. He was 90+ and had a whooping 9 decades of performing on stage. The sitar was so much a part of him, with ease he played, he sang while he played and was full of zeal. I had goose bumps for most of the time. It was sheer magic. After the concert, the entourage stepped out of the stage, but the standing ovation did not stop. Just when we thought it was done we see him peeping through the curtains and waving at us. How cute was that...such a small gesture from a great man. 

Ustad Zakir Hussain - This too was at Barbican, now the sound of this place makes me think about out of the world things, remember the experiences and mesmerize over it. What a live wire performance that was. He mentioned it would be a subdued show as there was a death of his mentor, about to cancel the show he remembered the words the 'show must go on' and was up on stage to perform. Can't imagine what a usual show would be like if this was a mellow one. He rocked it, master class for sure. Some highlights were how he co-ordinated the rhythm of the tabla with all other forms of music on the stage which included a folk musical instrument from Afghanistan. Can't wait to get a chance to see him again. 

Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan - I was tracking him to see when his next performance was like no tomorrow. The minute I knew there was one, I just had to have the tickets. The show was held in the O2 arena - the scale of the concerts are accentuated by the venue to start with.  He walked in, sat down, said a hello and started. With the thrill of the harmonium, his hands moved the way the voice flowed. The tour was called the Voice from Heaven and it sure was. He sang non-stop for more than 45mins. The style being Sufi, Qawali, it was like being taken back to an old world like being in a mehfil e raat. His accompaniment was his family on stage who not only provided the background music, but heightened the master's voice further. 

Raghu Dixit - Oh My God! (well! I had to say it the way Chandler's ex-girl says it). One of the loudest, clearest and in-tune voices with anything this man brings on stage. Pure rockstar effect! The brilliant colourful attire to the poems and notes from the folk world and and to top it he sings Kannada songs and makes it sound so cool and easy. Two back to back concerts, one at Reading for the Kannada Sangha (with the most awful sound system ever) and the other at the Crawley mela (don't ask me where this place is). One man who re-defines rock music,  adds a namma huduga local feel to the international star that he is.

Indian Ocean - After thinking a 1000 times whether to book or not to book, I did it and it was worth every second of my life to have been a part of this brilliance. The show was at IndigO2, the smaller arena at O2 and we were really close to the stage. It's music that's composed and played from the heart and that touches your soul. Again, the folk music feel to fuse with the western instruments with notes from the great saints and words from the divine texts, it elevates the music to a level of its own. Not a minute of boredom, got entertained, learnt something new and fell in love with their music all over again. To top that we travelled back on the same (last) train with them and chatted along. Such a simple bunch of people yet geniuses in what they do. Can't wait for another chance. 

Atif Aslam - I booked this show in the O2 as Sonu Nigam was the key performer. Sonu Nigam didn't turn up so it was Atif all the way. What a powerhouse he was. I was completely bowled over by the performance, his voice which is known for all the Oooo o oooo's and Aaaa aa aa aaa's was worth every penny. He did total justice to his time and gave us a brilliant flavour of his talent using up the other artiste's time. 

Hariharan & Shivmani - I booked this mainly for the latter. What a drummer. He produced music with just about anything - the 40+ drum set that he had, jingles, wind chimes, water with gejje(anklets) and even a suitcase. It all seemed to be in completely harmony. He kept me on the edge of my seat all through. Hariharan perhaps has one of the smoothest voices I have ever heard. His mastery over the classical tones was clearly seen, I just couldn't buy in to the fusion element. 

Salim & Suleiman - The show was at Apollo Hammersmith and I didn't really know what to expect. They are music directors and not quite singers but well what does my little brain know about talents of the other human. They were a great bunch together and the music was enchanting. Benny Dayal's singing and the moon walk he did on stage was a definite highlight.

Bombay Jayshree & Shubha Mudgal - This was the first concert I attended in London on a cold Winter's evening at Southbank. A Carnatic & Hindustani music jugalbandi. The control each has on the classical music is surreal and the  merger of the two forms of music and to hear the notes weave in and out of the other was brilliant. There weren't too many instrumental accompaniments, the other highlight was the superb tabla player. I was a tad disappointed that Shubha didn't sing any of the bollywood songs I so loved and enjoyed (yeah.... I know, I know.. such a saddo to wish for Bolly flicks in a classical concert). Well.. Mathura Nagarapathi from Raincoat is so so beautiful, it just qualifies to be anywhere. 

Sonu Nigam - He came back! After missing him in a series of concerts that happened here was a chance to get him live at the Wembley arena. I must admit that the first 45 mins got me quite bored as the choice of songs he picked were not really what I liked. He does not have a strong, loud voice - a sheer comparison after having listened to Atif Aslam, Raghu Dixit and others. The second half of the show however was simply superb. He did an audience choice for a good part of the hour and sang many requests from the crowd (whatever he could lay his ears on as people went mental). His unplugged version of 'Abhi mujme kahi' from Agneepath was very touching, I had tears in my eyes. I really like it when a singer sings a soft melody with all seriousness. Something more mindblowing was his little son running up on stage and singing the same song and Kolaveri di. The innocent voice coupled by child pronunciations was out of this world...tears flowed down again. 
Shaan - This was a part of the BBC Proms that are held at the Royal Albert Hall every year. I was thrilled to know an Indian artiste was performing. Shaan was entertaining, peppy , however it seemed to miss the X-factor that WOW effect what I look for in a live concert. It was good, nevertheless.  

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Music is essential

Music. There isn't a day that goes without listening to it, looking for it, learning something new and humming along. Both my grand mothers have been hugely into music, one was a tabla player and the other is a violinist. One was into light music, folk music, inclined towards hindustani and the other is consumed by Carnatic, knowing the theory and technicalities behind the ragas, Swaras and their meaning. Neither of them could take it to a higher level, to the next level. 
My grandma has had a huge influence in the type of music I enjoy and the love for it. You know....there is always something you pick up from your grand parents that you'd only realise much later in life.

We have been a household who enjoys music of all kinds. My parents  enjoyed classical, western and filmy music. My mother is what makes me so totally immersed into hindi film music. My dad had introduced me to some of the western music, ABBA to top that list. Oh! How lucky was I to be surrounded by most forms of music all through my childhood.

My fondness, interest and attachment to music grew. I made a feeble attempt to maintain a blog which breathes music, never really did justice to it....trying now to bring it back to life by writing about it more.

As I go through life's chores, the boredom of my mundane activities, I want to desperately learn, look out for music. The Internet world does make it so much simpler, Google it, YouTube it and you have it there.
There is a crazy urge to better my understanding and totally lose myself into the vast world of music. What would I have done without it?....I don't have an answer and I can't stop questioning myself.
So long as there is life, there will be music or should I long as there is music,there will be life in my living.