Monday, February 20, 2012

Good Ol' Days of Yolk

The monotony has set in. Week after week I carefully plan a 10:30 am wake-up, for Sunday breakfast at my PG mess. But today was different,I did get up at 10:30, but something made me forgo breakfast. Later, I had a small bowl of muesli to keep up with the barrels of work that keep rolling ahead, taking my eyelids with them.

But Sundays aren't about muesli, even with candied fruit. They're about two eggs (as you like them) and toast and hastily spread Amul butter among sleepy faces in the PG mess, with greasy newspaper with Amul butter thickly spread. I happened to go without eggs, as I like them, this morning by some strange vociferation of will that I don't quite believe now. If I meet that nasty urge of will right now, I'd punch it till it chickens out.

For as long as I can remember, eggs have been my second fuzziest comfort food, and at most times just the best thing to trigger nostalgia. When I was very small, and despite my Dadiji's discomfort at my eating eggs and onions in the same meal, had grown fond of omelettes for breakfast it would take all of my mum's effort to keep me from having too many. Two a day and no more was the rule and rightly so, high protein is hard to digest and I have a troublesome stomach. It helped that omelettes can disguise the number of eggs and serve disillusionment beautifully with the size of the pan. My mum was probably very pleased I asked for seconds, even thirds for any form of food at all and she knew the feeling well, that of loving omlettes...

...because no one spins an omelette like my Naniji, my mother's mother. They're sinful, widely known, and are better at drawing you away from under the sheets, from the painfully organised archival chests of drawers or from the bookshelf at my Grandparents' home at Kanpur than anything else can. The.Smell.Of.Those,Omelettes. The simplest but best of everything goes into them and they go best with everything else.

Eggs taught me how to handle cutlery. It was mimicking my Nanaji, whose indifference at the table I'd irk by reaching out for my omelette with bare fingers, that I gave up a finer sensory experience for a fork and knife, (which being left handed I would prefer to keep switched but not anymore). The only time I'd raise my eyes from my plate of eggs was to watch Nanaji gulp his pills with tea before leaving for his clinic, it couldn't have been very hot tea, but every morning it was that one thing I wanted to excel at when I grow up. I wasn't on any medication myself but my aunt, who had just finished studying medicine would feed me digestive biscuits saying they were dog biscuits, but only if I behaved like a pooch for most of the day. Now I know this form of adult tactic as one-of-those-things-to-shut-kids-up.

It is over one of these summer vacations at Kanpur that I decided I had had enough of omelettes and I announced that I had to test my taste buds and the deftness of cutlery on fried eggs, runny side up. I had a sick sounding name for them that I cannot disclose. But that texture and colour was the delight of my seven year old life. It was a shocking change for the table from Naniji's omelettes, but there was a short hush and not much else against the sizzle of determination.

Then there are egg rolls,in Calcutta. I don't remember much of them from the 3 years that I spent there when I was very young. But my parents and brother have memories that pour out each time my mother makes egg rolls or egg paranthas at home. And since I happened to visit Calcutta very recently, I see exactly why the pleasure of having a piping hot egg roll on the pavement, in all its chat masala and butter paper splendor, would stay with one forever as a memory that you can't help but revisit. I think my mum mastered the art of them and someday I hope I do too. Or else there's little else I need to give me a reason to keep visiting Calcutta.

Well, I ping-ponged through all of childhood between omlettes, Spanish omelettes that got slightly ruined for me because of a bitter capsicum, and sunny sides (which was a phase and took far too long to eat) with bhurji now and then to add to the scramble.I even helped my mum make eggs.But in my early teens, when I decided to wander in the kitchen for longer than to ask my mother about a school assignment, I discovered the ease of boiling eggs and making egg salad sandwiches. My mum says that she let me take my time with kitchen tools to let me choose which hand they should go in. And soon after, I was addicted to my messy,drowned in ketchup, over-salted but all mine egg salad sandwich.

There's a certain memory of burnt fingers, calcite odour and care to keep the shell in halves that I attach with shelling boiled eggs. It's a lovely feeling that was sometimes paired with seeing the grey of a boiled yolk which was a fascinatingly distinct change from the yellow of cracking eggs. And cracking eggs if one is allowed, any child will tell you, is one of the most triumphant feelings. Shelling eggs also meant cooking egg-curry, that I discovered both my parents are absolutely amazing at and would never refuse to cook even  though it was a tiresome task compared to our quick TV dinner of bhurji.

And it has been so every time I have come home from college in my vacations. Except that now I am simply, utterly grateful to be eating eggs at home, in all shapes, colours and sizes. The thought of it makes me smile and the act of it is so fulfilling that I could be smothered cozy under a giant mother hen. I am as amazed as discovering that there are eggs for any meal at home as I was when I found out that an egg could even go into things that are sweet (this dates back to 1.When I first saw my Nani's divine chocolate cake being produced. 2. When papa was checking the packaging of a swiss role for the vegetarian green dot before we could serve it to my Dadi.). Eggs + home = the same feeling you get when you kill the last nasty squeaking red demon in a cave in Diablo II and the gold spills out of nowhere.

I am very very fond of eggs, it's my favourite form of poultry produce, yes, more than chicken. But now in college, I've met people who are far bigger egg lovers. I moaned and craved eggs during the bird flu but I don't remember complaining a whole lot. And I've met people allergic to eggs. Sundays however, remain the only time when egg lovers appear from all crooks and holes of our PGs and I see for myself the wonder of eggs that makes people rise a little earlier than they would've on a Sunday morning. I wouldn't miss it for the company either. Amid sleepy, happy faces at home or in the PG, amid people I know and love. That's how I like my eggs.

Friday, February 17, 2012

save your breath

Ok, here's something very cool in the blogging world that Kanika, a very close friend and housemate (I could practically hi-five her without moving from my desk) is doing on this February. It's called the Fantabulous February with one inspirational post a day.
Click the link and behold. Here's the Wednesday,15th of Feb post,

And here's what I have to say about this picture..

It made me think of all the times I fought for the last row of seats in the school bus, which was always a privilege for the seniors, and how all of a sudden there were no seniors left to fight with because everyone leaves school someday, and whether you can or not becomes obsolete. And Route No. 4 and 5 become strips of yellow that you visit every year when you go back to school with a visitor's pass and wear something carefully chosen because you've lost the right to wear that uniform of the best twelve years. And also because your school shirt reads things you can't make public written with markers on the last day of XIIth. The faces in the buses look older of course, and trying very hard to be. And there are faces of seniors from so long ago that the kid on the last row wouldn't even know that his isn't the only face peering out the window in all of the history of Route 4 and 5. But you remember those faces of long ago, even the worst of the bullies. And you forget that some of these kids who don't know how lucky they are to not shave/wax/thread yet, know you as a forgotten face. Before long, only the window will stand witness to your having conquered the last row....but such are school legacies.

And this picture reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you know when Jim Carrey comes from that place and meets you know who. Do watch it if you weren't nodding along!

And now, for something I'd been thinking of. A periodic ponder.

Do you find it easy to believe? How often do you find a thing worth pouring your faith in. Something strange and complex that falls in that murky half-understood world between like, love and fear.

Would you give a part of yourself to something above, below, outside, inside of you ? Something so large it makes it binocularly impossible for you to fathom, with presence you cannot deny. Is it so microscopic that you would let yourself wander in tireless search? Is it heavy, so heavy sitting on your shoulders and weighing down and all you can do is submit to it without once seeing its face? Or light and slippery, gliding with you from stone to stone, obliging you with its presence? Sight, if not the most deceptive and overwhelming, is the most useless sense when it comes to the comprehension of faith. It is mostly a more subtle bodily exchange with the very ordinary or the extraordinary that makes you humble. Like the touch of freshly washed floors. Or the sound of rustling lace.

God. BlunderGod. Underdog. Spirit. Jinx. Force. Cusswords. Crystals. Celestial bodies. The Animal world. Sacrifice. Plants and their byproducts. Food. Heroes. Family. Childhood. Morals. Alter egos. Guitars. Winning at arcades. Peace. Sleeping over troubles. What is it that you call your belief to tell me that it exists ? Would it matter if I name it differently?

In cinnamon sticks, in choking swirls of incense, in faint remembrance of something floral and green that is now a crowded building with uric odour, in the visceral smell of fear in prayers, in the oily vapours of potato chips that always sit in boxes of board games, in the heady whiff of thick candles, in the calming smell of the bath products of the people you miss. In smells, you lock a belief.

Noses have rich memories that need no comprehension and are impossible to ignore. Don't care to explain how, who in and why you believe, I could trace the arc of your eyelids as you allow yourself to inhale to see
what makes you strong and vulnerable at the same time. That is explanation enough. The effort you take in heaving your chest to infuse a moment of your life, will tell me what you follow.

For those who ask you why you believe..let them know it a matter too personal for them to question. It is no one's right to know.They may be the sort who are looking for something that they can believe in that wouldn't betray them.
Do not look for reasons, if you say them aloud, they might dissolve.
Do not explain that you are forced to believe in something that is greater than you to the degree that you can be enslaved. There is nothing that could enslave you but you.You make your day and nights. You run yourself in a way that is bio-chemically beautiful and unbelievable. And it is a miracle. But it is you you believe in least.

Let your nose guide you, not a finger you can't question, that points in a direction that defies the gravity that keeps you ground bound and makes walking with your favourite wig on impossible. Let your nose guide you and you'll find a belief. Hold your tongue, it may try to reason with what is illegal, infantile, illogical and immediate. No, don't reason with tongues when you find something to believe in.
Save your breath.

Never Say

When life changes in a way you don't know, you tend to resist. Of all the crazy possibilities that can be with lives, I think this one is my favourite. I don't know if you see what I see or what you see at all, but I saw that I wasn't asked to shut up or grow up or dress differently or think less dark or be less embarrassingly clumsy. If I have changed, it happened so naturally that I didn't even notice. I guess that's the only way you do not resist a change that you do not foresee, when your life changes completely, and you don't have to change at all. 
Thank you.

Never say
Things that you cannot talk about
For the fear that they will stop being.
Like how you never talk about what
Made you grin and your eyes were shut so
I couldn’t read them.
The small unmentionables that
I would rather smile to myself about.
Like you never mention the times
When you forgive me and why.
Like grateful palms hidden under sleeves
That stretch way down the knuckles.
Too bad they went unheard, these observations

Of peculiar chews,
Day-wear shoes,
Loose clothing,
Secret loathing,
Submission to pain,
The slightest weight gain,
Fortunate glances,
Happy dances,
Days of scruff and dust,
Unmistakable trust,
An absurd jinx,
Touchy things,
Material wishes,
Intangible relishes,
Scarlet hue,
That i love you,
Collecting clutter,
The nervous stutter,
Slight nudges,
Growing-up grudges,
Smug pride for each other,
What you’re called by your mother…

But never saying it.
Like looking at what we share
But choosing to squint.
So I know I’ll learn to see it even
On days I see less of it or with little care.
Knowing, however, that there’s
More life in that doesn’t speak but keeps
Your secret jars of clutter from breaking.
Like breathing through your ear into your pillow
And hearing it breathe back.