Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mexican fiesta

"Excuse me, what is the recipe of your Michelada?"

My jaw dropped.

I couldn't believe what Viv had just asked the waiter.

We were at one of our favourite restaurants, and whenever we go there, Viv orders their speciality Michelada, a Mexican cocktail made of beer and magical spices and fairy dust and 384789572 other secret ingredients that no one knows, except for maybe the cocktail-making androids in their kitchen.

Not that we hadn't tried to look up the recipe on the net, but there were too many differing views on how to make the perfect Michelada. One actually suggested Maggi masala powder as a key ingredient! I kid you not.

So Viv, drunk on his Michelada I presume, decided to get it straight from the horse's mouth.

The very loyal employee of the restaurant hemmed and hawed and laughed nervously and moved along. However, the waiter at the adjacent table who had overheard our conversation came right over and casually told Viv the recipe.

I couldn't believe Viv had actually asked the waiter for the recipe!  I couldn't believe the waiter actually told him!

Anyway, we excitedly messaged the gang because we had decided that the theme for our next pot luck would be Mexican, and this fitted right in. Our last pot luck (themed comfort-food-that-must-also-have-the-acronym-PP) had been awesome and we had been considering making it a monthly thing, with a different cuisine/theme each time.

So last Saturday, we got together at Maya's place for our majestic Mexican fiesta! (I spared my friends from a Mexican dress code though, and I could literally hear the collective sighs of relief. Sigh.)

Viv and R immediately busied themselves with all kinds of permutations and combinations to achieve the perfect Michelada and after quite a few prototypes, finally tasted success -- quite literally. It was really good. Even a beer-hater like me didn't mind taking a few sips. 

Maya and Pizzadude made some killer jalapeno poppers, guacamole and salsa
(Okay, who replaced the cheese dip with the Tiger beer can for this photo??)
I made vegetarian quesadillas. 

Margaritas! No can do Mexican without margaritas!

Till the next one, cheers!

Monday, June 05, 2017

The spice girls

So Xena starts primary school in about six months and even though I have promised myself that I will not stress her about/towards academic excellence, I'm sure the desi parent in me might kick in at some point and I might go all ballistic with the 'follow-in-my-footsteps-carry-the-legacy-forward' attempts. (Though come to think of it, no one stressed me when I was a kid; I was just inherently into studies). Anyway, whether I go 'Y U no centum' on her about studies or not, I am aware that there are many other ways in which she can make me proud and carry my legacy forward.

Pani puri worship, for example.

Well, to be honest, my stomach isn't what it used to be when I used to live in India some two decades ago, and even now when I travel there, it is with much trepidation that I order roadside pani puri. And yet, during Xena's first trip to India, I offered her some. I believe it was one of those moments I could milk in a future interview.

"Tell us about a big risk you took."

"I offered my Singaporean 5-year-old roadside pani puri during her first visit to India."

"You're hired. When can you start?"

To be honest, I was a little relieved when she rejected the pani puri, just like she did all other food. But I knew that this girl was not made so much of sugar as she was of spice. In fact, long before she started on solids proper, she used to eat Haldiram's spicy aloo bhujia. It's another matter that she used to literally eat them piece by microscopic piece, and if heaven forbid she got a 'double', she'd shake it with all her might until she had successfully performed a Bheema-on-Jarasandha action.

Lately, I've been sneaking in a little spice into her food (chilli powder in paratha stuffing, tabasco sauce in pasta, pepper in fried rice, etc.) and she doesn't seem to mind. So I'm hopeful that one day she would be chomping on pani puris. If not the roadside kind, at least the made-by-mommy kind.

When my mom visited me last month, she brought for me a pack of ready-to-fry puris, half of which I used at our recent PP party. I wanted to consume the other half before it was ruined by Singapore's humidity, or a "very reliable" WhatsApp forward claiming that an HIV-positive factory worker in Ambala has injected these puris with his contaminated blood, or that Dr Ashok from AIIMS or Dr Richard from America (did you notice that these docs are SO famous they don't have or need last names?) has said that eating these will turn your hair purple.

So I invited a friend over one evening, and we decided to get high on pani puri. On the dinner menu was literally pani puri and nothing else. I'd made the pani just the way I like it ("Bhaiya, zara mirchi maarke banao" types), with green chillis blended into it.

I had, of course, made Xena a legit dinner and by the time she was done with it, we were done too, with nothing but a bowl of the pani remaining. I intended to slurp it up, of course. (What? You don't drink up every last drop of the pani in your bowl? Get out of my bar now!) But just then, the risk-taking interviewee in me woke up and I offered it to Xena instead.

Bear in mind that it was very, very spicy and I only offered it to her as a joke. In fact, she realised that. She laughed. I laughed too, and then told her that she just needed to try a little and if she didn't like it, she didn't have to have any more.

She took a few drops in her spoon, and placed her tongue on them. Fire! She coughed and immediately gulped down some water. She thought she was done. I thought she was done. However, within seconds, she wanted more. Soon, she was slurping it up. Keeping her water bottle very very close, but not yet willing to let go of the spicy pani.

I sat there and stared at her. To say that I was thrilled or proud would be an understatement.

I took a deep breath. All was well with the world.

The pani puri legacy SHALL be carried forward.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The perfect potluck

So my friend Pizzadude has got himself a cat. We decided to have a get-together at his place so the rest of us could be formally introduced to Ishta. (I'm still outraged, btw, that an avid F.R.I.E.N.D.S. fan like Pizzadude named his cat Ishta and not Smelly Cat.)

It was to be a potluck at his place and we were discussing the menu. Pizzadude suggested comfort food as the theme and offered to make his speciality dish - pesto pasta. I offered pani puri because my comfort food (and every other food) = pani puri. That's when I realised that both foods had PP as the acronym. So I suggested that Maya should also bring something with the acronym PP and she very sportingly agreed. (Yes, we are very random like that and very fortunate to be in a group where people are not only fine with the randomness, they actively participate in it.)

We got cracking. While she suggested sane choices such as pumpkin pie, pecan pie and puran poli, I couldn't think of anything at first, so I suggested poha pizza (on hindsight, YUCK!) and peela papad (duh!). But then eventually I did have some better ideas -- paneer pizza and paneer paratha. And then randomly I said, "perfect pongal!" Coincidentally, Maya's hubby was craving pongal and pickle, which is his comfort food. So we were all set with our PP-comfort-food themed menu.

For the drinks, I suggested the only PP drink I could think of -- pomegranate punch. My plan was just to add a bit of juice to a large amount of tequila a bit of tequila to a large amount of juice, but Pizzadude jazzed it up by adding pomegranate seeds and mint leaves. It was kickass.

And what a lovely evening we had. Ishta turned out to be this stunning black kitten with gorgeous eyes. We had only seen photos of him, so it was really nice to finally see him in person cat.

Ishta's pic added with permission from Pizzadude

The PP food was a big hit too. Multi-cuisine comfort food and the company of good friends -- what else can one ask for? Later, another random fact struck me. Our WhatsApp group is called Poorab-Pachhim because some of us live in the eastern part of Singapore and some in the west. PP!

To the Passionate Peeps Planning Perfect Potlucks using Pointless Party themes!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What's in a name?

"Mama... Mama... Mama..."

It was one of those busy days where I couldn't listen to one more "Mama". (I'm trying to get Xena to stop looking for me for everything. Well, the inane stuff, at least. Sometimes I even get "Mama, can I go and pee?" I wonder what would happen if I said no.)

"Oops, you've reached the max limit of the number of times you can say 'Mama' in a day." I said.

She thought for a moment and readily agreed, "Oh okay."

Wow, that was easy.

I went back to whatever I was doing, while she got busy with her stuff.

In about 3 seconds, she spoke again.



Thursday, May 18, 2017

Devil's workshop

Everyone and their grandmas are aware of my kind and loving feelings about WhatsApp forwards.

So imagine my face when my horrified and terrified mother sent me this, asking me if it was true and if she should "follow the instructions".

*deeeeep breath*

What the hell.

I mean, seriously. WHAT. THE. HELL.

So I sat down and explained to her that it was nonsense and no, she didn't need to do anything and no, she won't get charged for using WhatsApp and no, there is no over usage of user names, and no, Modiji's team is not debugging WhatsApp issues (they have better things to do... I hope), and no, her account will not be deleted, and no, she doesn't have to "actively chat with 50 people" (what the...?!) to retain her WhatsApp account.

Then I showed her some articles about how all WhatsApp-related WhatsApp forwards are hoaxes.

She had one question. It's a very, very good question.

"But who would come up with something like this and why???"

Beats me.

Got any ideas?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Random review: Baahubali

"Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?" Mom asked me.

Oh dear lord, no.

Over the last two years, I'd seen and received enough Kattappa-Baahubali jokes (but to be honest, this one was really funny) and I just wasn't ready to hear another one. As it is, Mom keeps relentlessly sending me terrible jokes on WhatsApp. I couldn't believe that she was going to crack one in person.

Turns out it wasn't a joke.

She was genuinely curious.

"I... have no idea, Mama."

I hadn't even watched the first one to know what the hullabaloo was over. I generally don't watch epics or dubbed movies (Hey, don't judge. I watched Jurassic Park in Hindi when I was a child. When you hear something like "Bhaago, badi chhipkali aa rahi hai!" you never want to watch another dubbed movie ever again.)

"Let's go watch Baahubali 2. Then we will know why Kattappa killed Baahubali."

"Err... we could, but do you know who Kattappa and Baahubali are?"


Wow. Here was my Mom, with no idea who the heck Kattappa and Baahubali were, eager to find out the answer to the question that the nation (and other nations) wanted to know.

"I think we need to find out who they are first, so we can care about the question."

"But how?"


Fortunately, we found a good print on YouTube and watched the first part. I mostly liked it, except of course, the cringe-inducing part where Baahubali Jr., transforms "warrior" Avanthika to "woman" Avanthika. Over the course of a song. And he dares to say, "You're mine so your mission is mine so you go home and chill ya, I'll go get the queen." And she instantly abandons her mission, something she'd dedicated her life to, and has the audacity to go back to her army and say, "No worries, my bae's got it. Chill ya. Oh, btw, I just met him like... 5 minutes ago." That really infuriated me, but other than that, I found it a highly watchable movie for many reasons.

So last night, now that we cared enough about the two characters, Mom and I finally embarked on a journey to find out why Kattappa killed Baahubali.

Here is a list of my random thoughts about the movie.

  • Perhaps it was the fact that I was watching part 2 on a big screen -- the way such movies are meant to be watched -- but I liked it much better than the first part. The grandeur, the colours, the music, everything was stunning and delightful. It also had a lot more humour than the first one.
  • It's not easy to play such-a-good-guy-that-he-cannot-be-any-gooder character without making the audience hurl, but there is something so sincere and likeable about Prabhas that he makes it work. I'd never heard of him before, and now I'm looking up his interviews. It's incredible how shy he is in real life!
  • I loved Anushka Shetty in the movie, but mainly her pre-wedding avatar. In fact, when we saw the first movie, we were wondering why they cast such a young actress as the mother, but we figured she probably had a meaty flashback coming up. And we were right -- what an effect she had every time she appeared on screen! However, I did feel that she kinda became a little useless just like Tamannah did once the guy was in the picture. When they were banished from the kingdom and Baahubali was coming up with all sorts of ingenious ways to make the villagers' lives better, if only they'd shown her to have had some of the ideas, it would have been awesome.
  • Mom was very agitated that the older Devasena was not doing anything while the fights were going on. "She's old na..." I suggested. "She's as old as Bhalla, and look at him go!" She countered. Fair point. But then Bhalla had continued honing his body and skills, while she had been chained, so maybe that knocked some wind out of her.
  • I generally loved how regal both Anushka and Ramya Krishnan looked as the queens. They really nailed their stately characters. I couldn't believe this was the same Ramya Krishnan from that terrible SRK-starrer Chaahat. (Have you watched it? Don't.) I wonder how Sridevi would have fared as Sivagami -- she'd been offered the role first but she turned it down. As money no enough.
  • The movie was loooooong. Surprisingly, I didn't mind the songs too much -- they were gorgeous -- but I did think the battles and fight scenes could have been shorter. Speaking of the fight scenes, whatta lot of blood and gore there was! Ufff.
  • Mom was horrified that Kattappa did actually kill Baahubali. She was expecting some kind of a twist I reckon. "He really killed him???" She turned to ask me when it happened. Even Viv (he'd watched it with his cousin while he was in the US) said later that he didn't expect Kattappa to be so loyal to the throne that he'd actually kill Baahubali. It was a pretty horrifying betrayal indeed. We wondered if killing himself instead would have been a solution to his dilemma?
  • I expected Aslam Khan from the first movie to make a surprise appearance in the climax, but it didn't. The scene between him and Kattappa had been quite significant and hinted at a possible re-entry so I'm not sure what happened there. But then all this coulda-woulda-shoulda is kinda unfair to the filmmakers.
  • My heart was going out to the poor CGI animals. They'd all better be CGI. Were they all? The horses that kept slamming into the ground seemed very very real. If that was CGI, I hope the VFX team got a big fat paycheck.
  • The stunts were amazing, and because I was so into the movie, I didn't mind all the Physics-defying stuff, but I did literally burst out laughing when the army not only propelled itself into the palace using the coconut trees, they even made mid-air sky-diving formations using their shields, before making perfect landings on their feet. It was hilarious.
  • Oh, by the way, the theatre had a total of eight people including Mom and me. Three Indians and five Malays. I don't know why I expected a full theatre on a Monday 8.45 pm show.
  • Why were the tickets so expensive? The weekend tickets were $18 each and the weekday tickets $15 each! We pay less than half of that for regular movies. Is this partly why the movie is the highest-grossing ever? 1000 crores in net profit apparently!
  • In contrast, here are some sad numbers (and they just get progressively sadder) showing how much the actors got paid: Prabhas 25 crores, Rana Daggubati 15 crores, Tammannah 5 crores, Anushka Shetty 5 crore, Ramya Krishnan 2.5 crores, and Satyaraj 2 crores.
  • So, will there be a Baahubali 3? What do you think? And will there be a Bollywood Baahubali?  BaahuBolly? I hope not. I can think of a gazillion ways in which they can screw this up. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mom's the word

Though the 'new' concept of "actually every day is Mother's day" makes me roll my eyes just as much as the concept of "Mother's day" itself, it's fun to see all the cute crafts the kids do at school for such days. Someone's gonna make my kid sit down and write nice things about me? Bring it on!

Xena made a flower with the centre saying 'My mom is'. The kids were asked to lift each of the petals and write things that described their moms.

This is what I got. :)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The scruti-knee

So my left knee had been hurting for the last few weeks. For no apparent reason. In the past, I had hurt my knee in the gym once or twice by being overenthusiastic with the weights, but I knew that wasn't the reason this time. Because I just hadn't been able to gym.

First, we had the long Labour Day weekend, followed immediately by a school holiday for teacher training and with Viv being away, there was no one I could leave Xena with and go to the gym. Then they had Mother's Day celebrations at school last Friday morning so I was there. I start work around 9 am so if weekday mornings are taken up by something else, I have to skip gym. Also, since I have to drop her to school in the mornings in Viv's absence, if we are delayed by some reason (e.g. Xena not waking up in time, taking approx. 83748947 minutes to finish a glass of milk, etc. etc.) there goes my gym time.

Skipping gym really annoys me. Once I saw a gym named 'Gym and Tonic', and it made me nod vigorously. Because my gym really is my tonic. As long as I can go to the gym every weekday, I feel healthy and happy and I don't have to care too much about what I eat.

Anyway, so with all the gym-skipping that had been happening, I knew that the pain in my knee was not a result of a workout injury. I had not fallen or banged it against anything. I was not walking around in high heels. I did have a knee fracture but that was the other knee and it was 18 years ago.

And it was only the left side that hurt, which really puzzled me. Strangely, as the days passed, the pain only got worse. I couldn't believe it. What had I done wrong? What was I continuing to do so wrong that the pain was actually worsening with each passing day? I was struggling to climb up the stairs to go to the upper level of double-decker buses. I, who does 100 squats without pausing, couldn't even do one anymore. Working out on the treadmill hurt. Working out on the cross-trainer hurt. Working out on the exercise bike hurt. The idea of leg weights had become laughable. I couldn't even do any post-workout stretches involving my left knee. Once, I sat on the floor to read with Xena and I couldn't get up without support.

I wondered if I should go see a doctor. But what would I say? "Hi, my knee is hurting for no apparent reason." The doctor would probably ask me to "monitor the situation" and arm me with some painkillers. Going to a specialist seemed a little ridiculous. After all, I had done nothing to cause it. I had no reason to get an X-ray or whatever-other-scan done.

I didn't even want to Google it. What would I type? "Knee pain?" There are 33782758365896439857 reasons for knee pain and I was in no mood to go and read all the possible things that could be wrong with me.

There could only be one possible reason for the knee to hurt without reason.

Old age.


Oh dear lord no. Surely I, the regular exerciser, strength-trainer, milk-drinker, spinach-eater, broccoli-lover, couldn't be so old that her bones were giving way?

Or was I? Was this what my future was going to be like? No gym? No squats? No climbing stairs? Nooooooooo!

One night, I just couldn't sleep thinking about this. I decided to go through every little detail to investigate what exactly was happening.

1. The knee pain had started about the time Viv left for the US.
2. The only thing that was different since then was that Xena was sleeping next to me on our bed.
3. Only the left knee was hurting.
4. The pain actually got worse with each passing day, even after I had skipped gym for five days straight.

What was I doing wrong? What had happened to me without my own knowledge?

And *ting*! There it was! The lightbulb above my head lit up brightly.

Whenever Xena sleeps on our bed (Saturday nights and when Viv is travelling), she has this habit of pushing me (only me, never her father) to the edge until I'm almost falling off the bed. In addition to having my face punched and pummelled and socked and breathed into by my child, I also have to deal with this. I cannot count the number of times I have woken up and slid her faaaaaar away from me, only to find us nose to nose after approximately 3 minutes. "Please give me some space!" I'd say every single time. (She's probably going to say the same to me as soon as she hits teenage.)

So, for fear of getting head-butted in my sleep, I'd turn and face away and sleep in whatever little space she allowed me. And now with Viv being away on one of his longest trips, she'd been sleeping in our bed for three weeks straight. So I'd been sleeping for three straight weeks in a cramped position, almost at the edge of the bed, with my right leg over my left, most probably with its centre of gravity resting sharply on my left knee or something. All night. And that was probably why I was waking up to that pain every morning.

So two nights ago, I told her what I thought was happening, and I asked her to sleep on my side of the bed while I slept on Viv's side. My hope was that she'd continue her moving patterns, leaving me the humongous space that Viv gets when all of us are in the same bed. Sure enough, that happened (though a part of me was apprehensive that she'd reverse her movement and push me off anyway). I remember changing my sleeping posture several times that night. Because there actually was space to change posture!

For the first time that morning, my knee didn't hurt.

I took the stairs up in the bus when dropping her to school, and the pain was only a fraction of what I'd been experiencing all these days. We followed the same sleeping arrangement last night too. Today I went to the gym and did 20 minutes on the cross-trainer and 20 minutes on the exercise bike. I did stretches that involved the knee. Minimal pain.

What a breakthrough.

I'd like to end this post with this public service message: Please be careful. Having children may be great for your heart, but it's terrible for your posture.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z is for zoom


And it's gone. April, that is.

I can only imagine how slowly it would crawl without the A-Z blogging marathon, with Viv being away (for three weeks this time!), and me having to take over his half of Xena-related stuff too. I would literally be counting days and wondering why time was passing so slowly. However, the blogathon ensured that instead of me groaning, "When will it be tomorrow???" I say, "WHAAAT?! It's tomorrow already?? Whyyy so fast, whyyy whyyy whyyy??"

However, I have to say that the panic attacks I used to have in previous years of the challenge did not happen this year. At least, the intensity wasn't so high. Perhaps it's because this is my fourth year of doing this. In fact, this year I have felt the most relaxed about it. In previous years, I'd decide on what I'd be posting at least the night before, or occasionally even have a typed-out draft ready, but this year was very different. There were actual days when I sat down in the evening at the computer and said, "Hmmm... so what's the letter for today? What shall I post?" My Google search history also shows fewer instances of 'Words that start with...' But of course, I have to admit that I miss some of the hilarious mass panicking that used to happen with the challenge.

By posting today, I've broken the rule that says no posting on Sundays. But tomorrow is a part of May, and this is supposed to be an April challenge! It would be super-weird to have 25 posts in April and 1 post in May. I'd also feel like I missed a deadline or something. Oh, the horror.

It's day 2 of a 4-day long weekend for us, and I'm glad to be wrapping things up today. I want to take some time over the next two days to respond to the comments on my posts, and also go and read and comment on other people's A-Z posts.

As always, the blogathon has left me rejuvenated about blogging, and I hope I will continue to blog as regularly as I possibly can.

Thank you for hanging out!


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y is for yearbook

I was searching for some documents in our underbed storage compartment when I came across very old photos of Viv and me from our university days, when he had legendary pimples and I had legendary hair. (A classmate once remarked, "What's up with your hair? You look like Einstein." A compliment that is not.)

I also found our yearbooks! The yearbook issued by the university just had photos and course names, but the other one, the one that our immediate juniors had designed for our farewell had elaborate write-ups! Check out what our juniors thought of Viv and me back in 2002.

Viv's write-up

GIGs - The name given to our batch by our Indian seniors. Every batch got a name, which followed this format: [first letter of choice of expletive] + IG (Indian Gang). I'll let you imagination run wild on what the G stood for.

CHIGs - Our immediate juniors

VP - Vice President

OC - Orientation Committee (lame attempt to give a formal and official name to what was essentially organised ragging)

The Baatman - Viv's computer's name on the shared network because Batman is (was?) his favourite superhero

 My write-up

Official IG snap rigger - One of my hobbies was to take candid photos of people in the IG and 'rig' them by using MS Paint and Powerpoint to create 'stories' and comic strips, complete with speech and thought bubbles. I then used to share them on the network (my computer was called Sayesha!) for everyone. People used to actually message me asking for more! Ah, glorious days. Wonder where all those files are now.

Sangam - The annual inter-hostel culturals, which often became a matter of life and death. One of the most fulfilling parts of my university life actually.

'Scores of people think she is the most creative person in their batch' - The CHIGs got all the GIGs to vote and determine who was the funniest, who was the most creative, who was the craziest, who was the one most likely to end up in prison, etc. Apparently I was the winner in the 'Funniest female' category, which they announced at our farewell party (but they didn't mention it here, hmmph!) and came second in the 'Most creative' category, losing out to a Photoshop genius.

NTU - Nanyang Technological University, our alma mater

Tarang - The annual tooth-and-nail culturals between arch rivals NTU and NUS (National University of Singapore)

RIGs - Our immediate seniors

spine - This needs clarification. Contrary to how it appears, I didn't whack his spinal cord! The spine (there were two actually - north spine and south spine) was a part of the university building where we had our classes.

My warning message to all IGs - No, really. Our batch was NOTORIOUS. If there was an award for the worst batch ever (in terms of not studying, rule-breaking and the likes), we would win it hands down.