I wrote a story for the Juggernaut Times LitFest contest. It was the winning entry. I don’t want to re-post it here, so do read it here, and let me know what you think!
I haven’t told anyone this, until today. But thanks to Timehop reminding me of this day, I think it’s time I admitted to this faux-pas of mine.
‘Counting down to Turkey Day with chocolate cheesecake’, I posted on Facebook. I was publicly admitting that I’d said I’d bake something for Thanksgiving with my family that week, even though it had been years since I’d baked anything. I had also never baked a cheesecake at that time (though I had done many no-bake versions), so I didn’t even know what could happen if I made a mistake. I, however, staked a lot on the claim that while I can’t cook, I can bake. And I’d complicated matters by asking for choices, and had landed up in this chocolate-coffee cheesecake situation. The responses on FB were not really encouraging. My ‘friends’ made fun of my cooking skills and pointed out that I’d once invited my cousin home for lunch, and made enough lady finger curry to feed half a person (in my defense, I had no clue just how much lady fingers shrink when cooked). I was mighty encouraged by the support and told everyone I’d prove them wrong, with video evidence in return.
So there I was, the day before my Thanksgiving trip to Portland with 6 boxes of cream cheese and a shiny new cheesecake pan. I was very careful, as I measured out the ingredients and began blending everything. It seemed like everything was going fine, until I got to the fourth box of cream cheese. As I scraped it out, I saw that there were some green dots at the bottom. I wondered if it was moldy, and sniffed at it. But it seemed fine. I knew the first three boxes had no issue. I opened the fifth one, and again, this one had the green specks, too.
Now, I was a little worried. I was baking in the middle of the night, which meant I had no chance to go out and buy more cream cheese. I also didn’t know what would happen to my cake if I used lesser cream cheese than recommended. I couldn’t show up without a cheesecake because I knew my family would laugh me out of town. Also, they’d very nicely told me that they wouldn’t take me home if I didn’t show up with the cake. Sigh.
I tasted the green-speckled cheese and it seemed fine. But I didn’t want to take a chance. I also began wondering if all the cheese was past its expiry, and what I’d already used was just not showing any signs yet. So I pulled out all the packets from the trash (yes, yes, it’s gross, but I may have already ingested mouldy cheese, so whatever!) to check the expiry date. That’s when I saw it. I had bought 3 packets of regular cream cheese, and 2 of garlic-herb flavored cream cheese. That explained the green specks, but it didn’t solve my problem. How could I make the cheesecake I’d promised if I didn’t have enough cream cheese? I evaluated the pros and cons of showing up with nothing vs. showing up with a weird tasting cake, and decided I’d take a chance.
And that’s how I made a chocolate-coffee cheesecake that included some garlic-herbs mix as well. Thankfully, my over enthusiasm for extra dark chocolate meant that the onion-herbs flavor was largely drowned out, and the cake tasted pretty alright. No one who ate the cake realized what I’d done. Infact, someone even commented on the fact that it had a slight salty taste, like really well made brownies that aren’t super sugary. I claimed that I’d used the bakers secret of a tinge of salt, without admitting just where that tinge originated.
And that’s how I invented a recipe for chocolate-coffee cheesecake, with garlic and herbs. I also got away with it, until today, because I never told anyone what I’d done. But I couldn’t help but post this when I saw the prescient comment on the FB post, that said, as long as you don’t pull a Rachel, with a link to this video.
Sometimes, you can mix up recipes, and it won’t taste like feet.
I saw this comic (by Lauren Weisenstein) at the Nib, and sent it to S, my niece’s mom. She thought it would be fun to ask A what she thinks the Frozen sequel would be like. A did not see the other ideas because S didn’t want to influence her thinking. A also does not yet know that a sequel is in the works. Once I saw what she came up with, I couldn’t resist illustrating it.
I drew this on Paper, my favorite app However, they don’t let people upload drawings and mess with color, so in the absence of a stylus, I was stuck with fingerpainting this in entirety. I blame any smudges and inconsistencies on my fat fingers. I did the layout and captions on Photoshop. I would’ve loved to hand write them, but there’s no way my fat fingers would’ve stood up to THAT challenge (I tried!)
So, what do YOU think will happen in the sequel to Frozen?
A long time ago, a friend wrote about how she didn’t feel the need to buy a house because she already had found her home. Today, I was having a conversation with someone who was speaking about how the fact that I’ve moved a lot means I don’t feel like any place is ‘home’. It’s true, Doha was home, but not really because I somehow always knew a day would come when we would have to ‘go back home to India’. To me, Coimbatore wasn’t really home because the entire time that I was there I was trying to get out of there. I had two very close friends, but other than that I barely felt like I fit in because everything just felt so different. Chennai is just where my parents live, because they moved there after I moved out. Mumbai was just a place I lived in while I was at b-school, and while I loved it, it wasn’t my home. Gurgaon again was just a necessity because that’s where work was. I’ve been in Berkeley for over a year, and it’s nice but its not really home either. It’s interesting then, that I don’t really identify with home as a place. I have no roots that connect me to any place, my friends are scattered all over the world and my childhood memories are only in my head.
However, there was this time some years ago when I first really felt at peace somewhere. It wasn’t a place, but it was in a conversation – one that overlapped many subjects, and had a promise of many more stories to come. I’ve felt at home, and at peace multiple times since that conversation, through future conversations and silences. I’ve felt at home many times, in many different places, and the only constant has been the company I’ve had at the time. I think I knew this was it, the day that I realized this was all I need to feel at home. My home isn’t a place, it is a person and I am grateful for that.
People who know us, will know that the Boy has the ability to say the darndest things. It probably explains how he manages to keep someone as distracted as me entertained.
This morning, I was chatting with the Boy (what else is new?), for want of anything better to do. I was telling him how my students weren’t showing up for their feedback sessions which made my grading super simple because all I had to do was put 0’s. Out of the blue, he comes up with this gem – “Today, I was reborn again by your split second vision”.
I had no clue what that meant (as happens with most things that he comes up with) so I asked him what on Earth he was talking about. Promptly comes this reply – “Indru Naan Meendum Meendum Pirandean Oru Thulli Paarvaiyilae”
It is telling, that for all this while I thought the lyrics were “Indru Naal…”. So the Boy (who is as Northie as one can get) knows the lyrics to a Tamil song better than I do! True, facepalm moment.
“Appa, I have to tell you something…”
“Actually, I have to tell you both something..”
The mother looks like she’d rather be anywhere, but in that room watching her daughter gulp and try to get the words out, as her husband looks on with a blank expression.
“So, there is this boy..” the girl stutters, “you know H, we worked together, and we are good friends. I think I want you to meet him”
“What is his last name?” says Mr. Iyer. “Well, it’s Singh, but don’t worry he isn’t Punjabi..”, she said with more confidence than she felt. “He’s from Rajasthan”, she added boldly.
“Like that is any better”, Mr Iyer swiftly silences his daughter.
There is a pregnant pause in the room, when suddenly the eavesdropping kid brother pops his head into the room and says, “Aiyyo, North Indian-aa! Yenakku suthi potta kooda Hindi-ey varathey!” (OMG! A North Indian? I couldn’t speak Hindi if my life depended on it)
Trisha was in a terrible mood. “Bloody asshole! Just because he is a senior manager he thinks he can say whatever he wants and get away with it”, she muttered. She logged onto her blog and opened a new post. Her fingers flew across the keyboard as she began typing out a rant about morons at work, specifically sexist men who made inappropriate comments. ‘Ding!’ – her G-chat icon was blinking. She glanced at it and saw that it was Karthik. “Can’t talk now, just got home” she typed and logged off. She was just about to shut her browser window also, when she noticed that she had a comment on a blogpost she had written the previous day. “Who could be commenting on my blog?” she wondered. She opened the post, titled ‘The Walk’, about the therapeutic effects that walking had on her. And she felt like the air had been knocked out of her. The comment was a poem that replied to her poem. It spoke to her very soul, and ended with a sentiment about wanting to hug her to make her feel better. “OH MY GOD! Is this some weird stalker or what?!!!” Trisha couldn’t believe this. She used her blog almost as though it was a diary of sorts, and had worked very hard to make sure nobody knew it was hers. Other than her closest friends, nobody even knew that she wrote. And now there was this comment. It didn’t sound like any of her friends, and she didn’t know what to make of it.
Karthik was crossing his fingers hoping that Trisha wouldn’t know it was he who had posted the comment. He’d always liked her, but didn’t know how to say it, especially because he knew she was committed. But when he saw that post it almost felt like it was crying out to him and he just had to say something. So he did, but now he felt that it was an impulsive gesture and one that could ruin the budding friendship he had with her. He wondered if he should delete the comment when suddenly he heard the familiar ‘Ding!’ of someone pinging him on G-talk.
Trisha: K, guess what?
Trisha: Someone posted a comment on my blog. Can you believe that?
Karthik: You have a blog?
Trisha: Yes, I do. Long story. But someone posted a comment. And its semi-stalkerish. And now I don’t know what to think. First I thought it was sweet, but now I think whoever did it is a stalker.
Karthik: T, you know that I have no idea what you’re talking about, right?
Trisha: Bah. You’re useless. OK, here’s a link. Go read. And no matter what, do NOT read my other posts.
Karthik didn’t know what to say to her. He’d stumbled upon her blog by accident, and he knew it was her because of her thinly veiled references to people they worked with. He could almost see her eyes flashing when she ranted about the lecherous senior manager, or her loud laughter when she made sarcastic comments about the woman who wore extremely weird clothes. She had tried hard to cover up her identity, but it slipped through in her words. He went back to the post on walking – the one where she’d sounded so vulnerable, in a way he had never seen her in person. She sounded like the world was collapsing around her, and the simple act of walking was all that helped her keep it together. He knew it probably revealed a side of her that she wanted to keep hidden and just the fact that she was confiding this in him meant that they were becoming better friends. “And then when she finds out I knew about this anyway, and that I am her semi-stalkerish commenter, what will she do?” he wondered. It was a scary thought.
Karthik: T, I saw the post, it seems fine. The commenter just sounds like he wanted to cheer you up.
Trisha: Isn’t it just like you to want to believe the best about people all the time? I think he sounds like a stalker.
Karthik: No! Why would you say that?
Trisha: Well, what’s all this nonsense about wanting to wipe away my tears, and hug me and all. You know what I think? Some weirdo must be reading my blog. In fact I suspect some idiot at work has stumbled upon it, and probably realized its me. Ugh!
Karthik: Aren’t you over thinking this?
Trisha: NO! I need to know who it was. I don’t like this semi-stalkerish vibe I’m getting from it.
Karthik: OK, you continue obsessing, I am off to eat dinner!
Trisha: No, wait! I need to analyze this further!
Karthik is now offline.
Trisha fumed. As always he’d logged off, just when she needed someone to help her think through things. “Such a useless fellow he is! He doesn’t even understand how I need his help. How else do I deduce who this could be?” And just as she was thinking that, a sudden realization dawned on her. She began dialing a number on her phone.
“HELLO loser! I know who the mystery commenter is” she announced triumphantly. “I know it’s you, and don’t you dare bother denying it because I refuse to believe otherwise.”
“Umm, T what are you saying?”
“Oh, please! Don’t play dumb with me. IIM-B, and you cannot even ask a girl out to her face.”
Karthik could not control his smile – “What are you saying, T? Who am I not asking out?”
“You’re kidding me right? Listen to me Karthik. I am not going to ask you out. If you like me, man up and admit it. And while you’re at it, also admit that you wrote that comment.” “But what if I really didn’t?” “Karthik, the comment talks about walking in a garden with winding paths. The only garden with winding paths that I’ve ever been to is the one in your society”
“And how would I know that, woman?”
“OK fine. Don’t admit it. BYE!” She slammed the phone, grinning. She didn’t need him to say it, even though she would’ve liked it if he’d said it. But she knew she was right with this guess. There was no way anybody else could have written that comment. Just as she was thinking that, she saw a new email notification. It was from Karthik.
You’re right. It was me. I don’t know how to say it to you in person, so yet again I’m going to use the online medium. I do like you, and I want to be the one that calms you down. If you feel the same, meet me at the entrance to my society this evening and we can talk this over.”
“Hmpf! Such an idiot, cannot even just say he likes me!” Trisha thought. And then she flew out of her chair shouting – “Oh shit! Now I have to figure out what to wear to meet this idiot!”