Thursday, December 27, 2012

Weverb12 #16 replicate [CREATE]

What were you inspired to create/make this year based on something else? (i.e. a pin from pinterest, recipe from a friend, etc.)

As always, when it comes to creating, for me it's food. I did not, actually, create anything very exciting this year. In 2011 I created a piña colada cake that I'm very proud of, and some other things too. This year my cooking has just been low key, so what I created would probably be MinCat's foolproof south Indian tasting, nutritionally balanced thingy.

It sprung from a trend that's been growing ever stronger this year--a craving for south Indian flavours. My main problem with making south Indian food is that it's heavily rice based, and also involves making three things at a time, which takes up so much time and so many vessels! And then I didn't have gas for four months, so I really couldn't cook full on meals. One day I was going to make one of my standard one-dish europeanish meals of lentil stew, when the craving overpowered me and I tipped two tablespoons of Puliogare mix into the cooker with the lentils and veggies. And holy mother of god! I HAD REACHED NIRVANA! Then I ate only that for a few weeks, before settling back into normal food again.

It's funny, this south Indian nationalism trend I've been having this year. I just like hanging out with Tamilians more--I connect faster with them. I want to eat dosai and idli every day. I'm always thinking of ways to make chutney. I don't want to cook anything north Indian anymore, not even MATAR PANEER! I occasionally make pasta or Spanish omelets, sometimes shakshuka, but that's it. It's all south Indian food. I wonder why.

Weverb12 #15 quote [GROW]

What inspirational quote would you associate with this past year for you?

Sadly, I don't do quotes. I have never been able to even put one up on my pinboard etc, like people do in offices. I can do funny quotes. I love funny quotes. Or beautiful ones. I keep changing my email signature to have a different quote when I find one. My two favourites from 2012 are:

"Great discoveries, whether of silk or of gravity, are always windfalls. They happen to people loafing under trees." --Jeffrey Eugenides (Middlesex)

"'You know how we make a Scotch and water in this home?'
'No, sir,' Gus said.
'We pour Scotch into a glass and then call to mind thoughts of water, and then we mix the actual Scotch with the abstracted idea of water.'"

--John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)

**Edit: The Bride helpfully pointed out that I do do quotes if I have them at the ends of emails, so I should clarify that I meant I don't do inspirational quotes.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Weverb12 #14 walk [LIVE]

Describe the path to a favorite place of yours to walk in 2012. What’s meaningful about the place or the journey?

(Cheap thrills, I have caught up with The Bride!)
(Dammit. She's got ahead of me. Sevres me right for being lazy.)

Okay I don't walk much anymore. C'est tragique but what to do. I have no reason to walk, no path to tread, nothing. Which has a lot to do with living in India, which is not a country that makes you feel good about urban walking. Even Delhi, which has pavements and trees and winter. I used to walk to the bus, till I got Tomatín, but that was barely a walk, since it involved dodging through corridors inside the complex and then walking down the road for two minutes.

I shall talk about my favourite places of 2012 instead. In no particular order.

My own balcony, especially in the winter. I used to sit here all morning on weekends, chatting with MW and listening to him on the radio. It's sunny, it's private, but it's also out in the world enough for me to hear people talking and get dive bombed by nervous birds.

The roof at work. It's only one floor up and where people go to take surreptitious calls, smoke, and sometimes drink after 6pm. It's criscrossed with a mad network of metal rails upon which sit out large collection of generators; there's are heaven knows how many a/cs ejaculating out there; there's a small tin-roofed shed with a collection of miscellaneous crap, and, most recently, a graveyard of perfectly good chairs that were replaced with posh ergonomic ones (interestingly enough, not in my department). It also has a transmission tower upon which perch flocks of kites, crows and pigeons, in that pecking (hee) order. In the monsoon you can see the clouds hanging low and grim over the lush green park downstairs. Then when the wind blows hard I worry that the tin roof is going to blow right off! In the summer you wince and try and find a tiny spot of shade. But in the winter! It gets sun all day, and there's nothing I like more than sitting there and reading manuscripts. Sometimes when works is really painful, like it has been recently, I take a book up there as a reward for sticking it out through a bad patch, and sun myself and read.

The faded red couch in MW's house. Though I haven't been there in ages, for a long time that couch to me was my safe hidey hole. I'd go over, park myself in my corner and just sort of retreat into safety. Conversation would ebb and flow--I could join or not--and I'd always go home feeling better about life.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Weverb12 #13 associate [LISTEN]

What blog/book/article spoke to you the most in 2012?*

Okay, this is the perfect opportunity to open myself to a slew of outrage, but also talk about something I've been meaning to post about for a while.

Now I am a subscriber to the theory that the more recent something is more likely it's impact on you remains strong--that's why the end can ruin a movie or a book for example, so I'm going to say that when I think of books I've read I can only remember the ones I've read very recently. I know I read two Junot Diazes; I read Middlesex, which was utterly brilliant; I read Song of Achilles; I read truckloads of chicklitt that spoke to me, and even some non-fiction. But I don't really remember them actually speaking to me, saying Yo MinCat, ever thought about this?

The one book I read this year that actually did that to me and, mind you, I read it in May, was Fifty Shades of Grey. (Cue outrage.)

There was just something compelling about that book, much like Twilight, which might come from the fact of the subject matter being, once again, obsessive possessive love, and my never having felt it. I do think that with FSG however it was more than that. I definitely have my problems with both books on an intellectual level, but I also have problems with people who object to FSG on an intellectual level while refusing to engage with it on a emotional level or an instinctual level, because at the end of the day that's the level at which it is written. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'm fairly open about sex and sexuality, and am willing to try anything once, at least hypothetically. But BDSM is something that has always just freaked me out, even the thought of it. So when I read this book, it was with much skepticism, because really, BDSM? But then, suddenly, I found myself thinking WOAH this is HOT. Suddenly I found myself reading what was in the head of this girl who thought exactly the same way as me--what is wrong with a guy that he needs to debase me, abuse me, to get off? And then, once she gives in and likes it--what is wrong with ME that *I* am getting off on being debased and abused? And, by extension, I was thinking what is wrong with me that I'm turned on by this whole thing?

The book actually makes you stop and let go of prejudice for a minute and accept that sometimes you need to recalibrate 'normal' to understand yourself, and you really shouldn't be so hard on yourself. Of course the rest of the trilogy goes on to completely destroy this whole openminded thing cos after all, Christian is into BDSM cos he's been abused, cos it's not normal etc., which is just sad, because FSG is such a great gateway book. And it really did make me think a lot, about sexuality, about boundaries, about trust, about control, and all these thing in my own life. (Okay, I also had a crush on that incredibly in-charge man, who just takes over your life--I wouldn't mind one of those for a while!**)

Which brings me to, if a book can make you think about these things, how can you dismiss it out of hand just because it's 'a bad book'? I'm not for one second saying the writing is good--it's dreadfully cheesy; I swear I wanted to SHOOT THAT FUCKING INNER GODDESS! But many so-called good books have terrible writing too--they just err in the direction of being obscure. One notable example from this year is From the Ruins of Empire by Pankaj Mishra--impossible to read, but a fascinating subject.

It does all come down to what an individual wants from a book, and what the intelligentsia wants to think it can guide them to. It comes down to thinking that oh the poor dears, they don't know better, let us guide them. Who died and made you president? People read what they want. Yes, the reason the Fifty Shades trilogy (and the Bared to You trilogy) does so well is mainly because people want socially sanctioned porn. Yes the writing is execrable--but it's pornographic Twilight fan fiction! Twilight itself is hardly well written. And, in defence of FSG, Anastasia has way more balls than Bella! She stands up for herself; she wants a life beyond Christian and she demands it. She doesn't jump off cliffs so she can hallucinate hearing his voice. Sheesh.

Yes, it makes me sad that Amish Tripathi sells the way he does in India, but, on the bright side, it means people are reading. It means some day people may read a Sidin Vadakut instead of a Chetan Bhagat and slowly, step by step they might come to the point where they are reading Amitav Ghosh. But this ladder itself is built from my own preferences--why must they read Ghosh at all? I myself spend an inordinate amount of time NOT reading literary fiction--I even dismiss the genre derisively most of the time. So if I can read what I myself call trash, why do I shake my head and tut tut when other people want to read it? This obsessive need to pass judgement on what is and isn't acceptable is very scary sometimes.

Okay now I will stop because this is turning into rant on publishing, which really merits its own post.

*Is it just me or is there some repetition happening here?
**That's a whole other post on feminism and my own life...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Weverb12 #12 toss [GROW]

2012 was the last time for ________________

Things like this terrify me. It feels like, if I say it is the last time for something, then the universe will come and taunt me by making it happen again.

I'd like to say it's the last time for immensely painful and unexplained abandonment--but I said that about 2011 too.

I'd like to say it's the last time for unrequited love, but c'mon who are we kidding?

The last time for DoorMinCat? I hope so.

The last time for unhealthy lifestyle? I doubt it.

No, I can't come up with a thing. Which is sad in some way because it makes me wonder, does that mean I'm clinging to everything?

Weverb12 #11 spend/save [LIVE]

Are you richer or poorer this year, compared to last year?

Ooo this one is a toughie again. I am richer, in that my pay went up dramatically mid year when I was promoted, and in that my financial manager (a.k.a. Bank of Appa) is always fiddling with my savings and making them bigger. I'm also not really spending my savings each month anymore, so yay!

However, I haven't started saving again, like I used to when I made decent amounts of money. I have also started spending up to what I make, instead of even saving a little bit. And my rent, ah my rent, has become huge.

I'm richer in corny ways though--I have found some family here; I know myself better; I got a cat.

Weverb12 #10 lose [HOPE]

Did you have to say goodbye to a person, or even a cherished object, this year? Take a moment to celebrate the memory.

This year I have not lost anyone to death, thankfully. Last year I lost one of my best friends to what I don't know, but that pain is still here to stab me once in a while. I haven't lost any cherished objects either, so I guess it hasn't been that bad a day eh? I did lose another friend though, once again inexplicably.

He wasn't someone I'd known for a long time. He swept into my life off the internet, and he was just the right person I needed to meet then. I could say ANYTHING to him, and we talked about the strangest stuff. HE opened my eyes to many things, and was definitely instrumental in my coming to terms with myself and understanding several things about myself. He also introduced me to MW, and though he himself is remote and essentially robotic, did make an effort to understand my need to emotionally respond to things.

We had a vacancy and he was perfect, so I coaxed him into applying for the job. They loved him; he got it; and now he's in love with it. It was SO AWESOME in the beginning, having him here. He moved into Delhi from Gurgaon--interestingly I found him his house indirectly, and then he asked me to help him set it up and teach him to cook. We spent a month where I was in his house almost every alternate day. And how we talked.

I was in the middle of the dip of my double-dip depression, and though it made no sense to him, he took a lot of trouble to try and understand it. (He was prone to saying annoying stuff like, but you have no REASON to be sad! Snap out of it! Be happy! But everyone does that.) There was a car ride after a day spent at MW's, when I'd been super quiet and they'd put up little bits to cheer me up and coax me out of it, but it didn't work and suddenly on the way back the tears came. I drove most of the way back from Gurgaon with tears running down my face. And when we got to his place, he turned around, reached over and wiped them off my cheek, saying 'Don't cry. Please.' It was the sweetest thing he'd ever done, and generally pretty sweet for a robotic boys, or even boys in general. Yes, he was a dear friend.

And then I went to Colombia. He was one of two friends who tried to call and say happy birthday, but didn't get through. But we emailed. And then I came back, and things were different. They have only gone downhill since. I tried to ask him if something had happened to make him withdraw so dramatically, if everything was okay, but he only evaded my attempts. And then I decided that it was time to give up—I couldn’t keep being the doormat being all friendly with someone who was making it more than clear they didn’t see me as a friend anymore. But, like the Dragon, I have no idea why. I’m sure I’ll get over it, but that will always nag me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weverb12 #9 triumph [CREATE]

How were you challenged by a project or goal this year? What did you learn from it?

Oooh my. This is a toughie.

I think this year I had the same project I've had every year for the past ten or so--lose weight. AndI really really REALLY sucked at it. That's not to say I'm usually good at it, but if I can find zumba, or dance class, this combined with cooking keeps me fairly decent. But it has been a year of so much sadness, apathy, despair--I spent it eating comfort food, drinking copious amounts of whiskey, and needing a pep talk to toss back the sheet in the morning. I even think sometimes that I have given up--champa has won this war.

I was challenged by my own lack of motivation, some of which comes from  mindfucks, some from laziness and some from the fact that I worked so damn hard to accept my body--I'll be damned if I reject it now. But mostly, my big obstacle was my misery (I'm trying not to use the D word here), my loneliness and neediness, all of which just made me give up hope so comprehensively that I just did nothing--I was most positive when I was sunk in apathy.

I regret to say that I have not won against this challenge. I have reached a point where the very thought of going up against it has me whimpering in terror and sucking up potato chips through an IV. And I have learnt this year that no matter how much you want to do something, sometimes you just can't. You can try all you want; you can seek every for of motivation that exists; you can psych yourself and other people can coax, nag, cajole, bribe, threaten to withhold sex--but sometimes you just can't do anything about it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weverb12 #8 respond [LISTEN]

Do you actively listen to your inner voice/conscience? Describe a time this year you heard and responded to it.

A-HA! This is interesting. As I said over on her post, my inner voice essentially boils down to The Bride. Much like her, I tend to have a constant conversation/debate going on, and the actual times I end up ignoring an instinct or inner voice are the ones where I'm telling myself to calm down and wait and see the other side, walk a mile in the other person's shoes, etc, before I do or say things. This is a consequence of Doormat Disease, which I have manifested horrifically this year.

However, the past month has seen me definitely breaking out of the cycle, to the consternation and discomfort of many males in my life who are used to DoorMinCat as it were. And one instance where I actually did listen to a voice of overwhelming hurt and outrage and actually articulated it, I felt so much better, and it turned out to be super good for that particular relationship. So hurrah!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Weverb12 #7 enliven [GROW]

Was there a book or article that inspired you to make a change in your life this year? What was the source and what did you change?

I'm so boring.
Or is that lazy?
Though, there has been enough on The Good Men Project and in various other places on relationships, feminism and polyamory that have made me tweak many things about my ways of thinking. Also Savage Love.

Weverb12 #6 cook [LIVE]

What was your best recipe/dish of the year? Share it!

Oh YAY! This one really is the one that hooked me on the challenge. So, though my food blog is essentially dead--more because I never get around to taking pictures or quantifying recipes, which leads to being lazy about posting--I have been cooking a LOT. I have invented recipes and adapted recipes, found a new favourite chocolate cake and, my biggest achievement in the kitchen, become a good maker of south Indian food. In fact, with the copious demands from the Poo and Kutti, I am toying with calling myself the Idlimaker of Alaknanda. Hee. So without further ado, I present to you the idli/dosai and chutney.

For the idli/dosai maavu:
1 cup white urad
1 cup boiled rice/idli rava (if you don't have, use normal rice)
little less than 1 cup raw rice
1/4 cup/handful yellow moong
1 tbsp methi seeds

Soak for 6-8 hours at least the urad in lots of water in one bowl, and the rest in lots of water in another one. Now grind them in a mixie that has steel jars, as follows. Use as little water as possible at the beginning. The urad happens in one shot, and the rice in two. You will have to stick figners in there and feel the texture. The urad is done when it's super smooth and gooey. In fact if you can keep the water to a minimum you will find it won't stick to the sides of the micie or to a spoon, and that you can use for vadai. It is even more important that the rice be ground dry as much as possible first, because once there's water in it, it won't become a paste very easily. This part of the maavu can be s little grainy--no problem. Mix the two up in a large bowl--the mixture shouldn't come to much more than half the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place overnight to ferment. This can be tricky in the summer cos it'll get really sour, and in the winter, cos it won't rise. For the former, try and keep an eye on it and for the latter, if you have an oven, turn it on for 5 minutes at lowest setting, turn it off and bung the maavu in. Another thing that works for me is to keep it in the sun, but that involves being there to keep an eye on it. Salt to taste after fermentation.

To make idlis, keep it thick--just about pourable. For dosais, you need more water, definitely pouring consistency. This is sadly one place where you have to experiment and find your mojo.

For the green chutney of death:
Half a medium coconut, grated or chopped small
About the same amount of pottu kadalai (This is basically roasted chana dal, so you can actually just roast some chana dal with a little oil at home as a substitute)
One bunch of coriander leaves
2-3 green chillies, de-seeded (this is actually up to you, make it as hot as you like, or not)
A small piece of tamarind, say the area of the top segment of your index finger (see what I mean about quantifying?)
Half a small onion
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
2-3 dried red chillies
10-12 Curry leaves
a pinch of asafoetida (hing/peringayam) (well a shake, cos it comes in those little bottles here)
Salt to taste

If the coconut is chopped not grated, whizz it in the mixie till it looks grated. Add the kadalai and whizz till they are nicely ground up. No water just yet! Toss in everything up to the onion and whizz some more. Now you can add water in small amounts till the chutney is as chutneyfied as you like it. (I like it smooth, Amma likes it chunky.) Now heat the oil in a really small pan, or, if you have it, a tadka pan. When it's hot, toss in mustard. When the seeds start to pop, toss in urad. Once it starts to brown, toss in chillies and hing. Once chillies are looking cooked, and before anything burns, toss in the curry leaves and add the tadka to the chutney. Voila!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Weverb12 #5 fellowship [HOPE]

What community has engaged you most this year and what did it you get out of your participation?

I don't think there has been a community that engaged me at all this year, in fact the biggest hole in my life this year been the lack of community. There was briefly the community of MW CB and their friends, but that didn't last very long. There was the community of people I work with, but that petered out too. I guess the closest thing to community I have engaged with this year has been Spanish people! My Flamenca and her friends have been open and welcoming and as a result, my Spanish has improved, I have a dinner party group and I go to endless concerts and have much fun.

The Bride, when she visited said to me that I have this ability to collect people. I don't know if this is an ability or a disability myself, but I will say this--at the end of 2012, I know I have six dear friends I see on a fairly regular basis, and nearly all of them can be mixed about in various conversations. This thought gives me great comfort, even if, on a night like last night, the closest I can in conscience get to any of them is on the phone. But Kutti will be back soon, and I can always take Lithium up on his offer to drive all the way over cos I need company.

In sum, I guess the community that engaged me the most this year is the one I left behind in Hyderabad in 2010, and the ghostly one I've been hoping will grow to comfort me for that loss.

Weverb12 #4 experiment [GROW]

What did you do in 2012 that you had never done before? Will you do it again?

I did many things this year that I'd never done before--only some of them are SFW hee.

I made a list of things I wanted to do before I turned thirty, and of course haven't done most of it. But notably, I DID go to Colombia, and it was just such an amazing experience that I definitely want to do it again.

In February, I went to the Andamans, and ended up snorkelling. I fell in LOVE with it. I am DEFINITELY doing that again, and maybe even making it to scuba this year.

I worked on a book literally from the moment of the idea seeding, till the day we signed it and it officially became my book. (I'm still working on it.) That was AWESOME! I can't begin to describe the bubbling of sheer delight that happens every time I turn my thoughts to that causal conversation: 'So, MW, have you ever written anything?' And there it all began. I mean it had moments of trauma and whatnot, but I definitely think that the single best thing I've done before I turned thirty-one will have been that book. And I might just have found something akin to career and purpose.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Weverb12 #3 stay [LISTEN]

How did you stay in the moment this year?

Hmm. My friends and well-wisher will tell you that if there is something I'm very bad at, it is living in the now and here. Staying in the moment is something I am not really capable of without tremendous conscious effort. I am either expecting the past to repeat itself or projecting the wondrous different future. So I guess, the only way I stayed in the moment this year was by taking deep breaths and shouting in my head: NO. NO! ENJOY THIS NOW! DO NOT LOOK AHEAD OR BEHIND. NOWNOWNOW!

And ingesting copious amounts of alcohol.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weverb12 #2 watch [LIVE]

What movie did you see this year that you would recommend to a friend?

See, now I'm just beginning to think this entire thingummy is against me.  For starters, I don't watch a lot of movies. the ones I do, I do just for me--because they have Katherine Heigl, Farhan Akhtar or Will Ferrell in them, because they are animated, because they're the new James Bond, or Amit Trivedi has scored the music. What I want from a movie is also very me specific. I'm very hard and very soft on movies at the same time: I am more than happy to suspend disbelief, but you better make me end the film feeling hopeful and happy. (Now does that list up there of the kinds of movies I watch make sense?)

Now this makes me very reluctant to recommend movies to people. Mostly people recoil in horror and say you want me to watch WHAT??? I also generally hide my movie-watching in the furtive space of Saturday mornings on my couch, or solo 10am shows in theatres. (Yeah, I love watching movies alone!) Of course, I also can't really remember what movies I actually watched this year...Vicky Donor comes to mind, as does The Avengers.

I think it would have to be The Avengers. (Don't gloat Lithium.) It's a super movie--very funny, no small thanks to RDJ, much eye candy, again no small thanks to RDJ, and despite the sadness and the bad things that happen, it ends well. Though it should have been called Iron Man 3 feat. The Hulk. I'd say go see it, simply because it will make you laugh, it might make you cry, it will make you holler at the screen and walk around for days after spewing bits of dialogue and chuckling to yourself. And I always think there's nothing to be lost in believing in superheroes...even in thy mother's drapes.

Weverb12 #1 compose [CREATE]

Everyone's doing it! So I shall leap upon the bandwagon with gay abandon. Let's see how many I will do. Heh.

So here's the first one, and quite the impossiblest one for me.

Write a haiku for 2012 (bonus: write one for 2013)

I am many things, but creative is not one of them. I used to write poetry, especially of the sad and depressed variety, back in college when I was deeply impressed by the Shelleyan sonnet and that other fellow, Sidney something...Sir Philip Sidney? But I have only written one haiku in my life, and it was cowritten with Scoo, on the subject of our dog Haiku and her nightly howling.

Anyway, here is my highly self-indulgent attempt.

Old battles hard fought
Routed demons buried deep
The dead rise again