Thursday, June 30, 2011

Catharsis of a research scholar part 2

Sometimes research can be frustrating.We crib, we cry, we have our blues but we still can't quit this relationship with research. it's abusive at time addictive too. It still gets unbearable especially when people ask you " what the hell are you reading? ", " How will your research change the world ? " " Aren't you a bunch of losers? " Did you not end up here coz you got no job?"

Now I could say no we are super intelligent and uber cool, lets have a competition but then I am sure they don't remember half their concepts, they don't read anything new, or have done anything worthwhile recently. But then they might flash a couple of plastic cards and say look at this, this and this and this........
( A friend of mine eagerly showed a gold card the bank gave her) My eyes would pop out if it were Saramago's 'Cain' , I know it's crazy but it matters more than a gold card to me.

So to answer all those honest questions in my IIT Madras dialect I would say " I don't know ya" or rather " I don't care ya " , its not as if you are carrying the world's burden by working at a place and why can't research be a job? It is self fulfilling in many ways though I can't get a gold card :), if I think of all the new things I get to read. Yeah, I don't get paid as much I would if I work but I would not experience a lot of things if I worked.

I sleep when I like, I can survive on 4 pairs of clothes, I don't worry about my nails, my hair, my weight my appearance. I don't need spa's to relax. I work 7 days a week sometimes with no fruiful results and no idea where I am heading and when I would finish, and I guess that's a tough challenge. I don't worry about bonuses, I don't feel the pressure to buy what my colleague just bought ( My colleague just bought a 4 gb pen drive just now), I still ride a bicycle at 28 and Life's just great until............. someone bumps with these questions. And human that I am I fret for some time , ahem.... some days too and count my greys but resilience gets me back to myself ( and if that doesn't work some book works the wonder). After all this is the only thing that makes me feel I am unique, something that makes me passionate and my research is my own baby.

The fact is I am happy doing this though I know people out there think its weird reading Saramago or Camus or Kafka for leisure. Kafka who? some ask and why read such suicidal books some say. Frankly its not a pseudo intellectual halo I chose to wear- I don't claim I understand these authors but I am humble enough to attempt and admit defeat. Now that's something research taught me " Humility". To accept there is a lot I don't know, to accept the blunders others tell me too ( for even they don't know what they do at times). At least I don't buy thick fat books to decorate my living room they are there to tell me how many times I attempted and fail and I still try.

I have my perspective on everything I read and see though I am labelled a haughty, arrogant, impractical, feminist , good for nothing, Non- career oriented, stupid woman.I have my take on these people who put forth these dumb questions but I will reserve it for a later post.

I believe Life and research has two points in common " No short cuts and No compromise". We always do that in life, in our jobs . Some claim they do it in research but then its no research but just an act of puppetry.

And I don't mind putting things on hold, being humble and patient.

So next time someone asks me " what I am doing here"..................

I'll smile and listen to them because I don't need anything they have achieved to feel contented. I am happy the way I am.

Read first part of this series at

Monday, June 27, 2011

Incredible India through my eyes- Lac bangles

I had a wonderful weekend with a group of friends at Dakshinchitra. 'Dakshinchitra' means a picture of the south. It is a cultural center which tries to showcase and preserve the traditional art forms , architecture and performing arts of the four Southern states ( Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala). I have been there twice throughout my stay in Chennai so far but this time it was a beautiful experience. It was because I had lovely company who were in no hurry to rush through the beautiful artifacts in front of them. We paused to admire the musuems, the art forms and even interact with the artisans. I could write a lot more on Dakshinchitra but I wont and would save them for the later posts.

Something that captivates my attention everytime I land there is the lac bangles. I first saw them at IIT for Sarang the cultural festival where this lady put up her stall and mesmerised the womenfolk with her magical bangles. A little bit research on bangles revealed to me that this ornament worn on the hand originated from South Asia precisely India and was worn by Hindu women. Different states in India have different kinds and colours of bangles worn by women at different phases and occasions in life. Be it the green bangles of Maharashtra or the white bangle of West Bengal or the red bangles with stones studded all denote the symbol of being married. Many customs even requires a woman to break her glass bangles as a symbol of widowhood. Bangles of copper, silver, gold, glass, metal, plastic, rubber and lac are all worn in different parts of the country even today.

Lac bangles are made of Lac a resin collected from insects. It is a specialty of Hyderabad which is the city of bangles. But the stall I visited claimed lac bangles to be of Rajasthani origin. But it's a delight to watch your bangle being custom made in the shades you want. And the knot tied to join the ends of the bangle rather stick the ends gives it a personal touch. I have 4 of them since years and the look still the same with no chipped ends or faded looks. They are brittle and can break if you drop them which is why they are special to me and taken well care of. Here are some pics on how lac bangles are made.

The lac is at first heat on the coal and whatever colour is on it with soon change with the application of the dyes.

These are the dyes the colourful cakes attached to wooden rods. I am not sure what they are made of.

Once the lac is heated the dye is applied on to it in such an manner that when the lac is twisted later design like swirl would appear.

The lac is then flattened onto a board

It is cut into strips

Rolled to get the spiral effect

The edges are now joined and the the round shape is achieved using the rod onto which she moulds it according to the size of our hands

The bangles is then dropped into the water for cooling as it was heated before joining the edges. The knots as you can see in the picture gives it a beautiful touch. They can also be made without knots. I found it a beautiful experience watching my custom made bangles moulded for me that too for Rs 20 isn't that a delight. Incredible India through my eyes ......

Friday, June 24, 2011

Marriage matters strikes back - Part 1

And we thought we were done with it but then it has begun all over again. No no, neither am I divorcing WHO, nor are we marrying each other again. But it is an indefeasible feat this time. It's a journey- of my sister to the Altar. What's funny is that this time we have no story, no groom, no motive to marry or the bride-to-be is confused if she does want to marry. Nevertheless she wants us to write about her. I kept avoiding this because we have no clue who’s gonna storm into her life and would that guy like this idea of being the hero of this series, like WHO did.

But my sis lured me saying that there were people out there waiting to read this. Hmmm, now now, if she's telling me this is the wedding of the millenium I beg to differ. It wasn't Kate's and Willie's either. It was Minnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeee. But, you know this series of ours is very powerful, it can make people's life, and it could bring in true love. Ok, this is no advt for my sis. It's just a stupid post like any other. But all of a sudden I feel like god. I feel like predicting, forecasting events that would lead my sis and the mystery man to the altar. I hope no mishaps happen this time but the blogger in me wishes twists and turns, that could line up posts after posts for our blog .

And then it so happened- my sis was convinced or rather was forced by WHO to accept marriage as a vocation. She listed some lame, dumb excuses of waiting for the sky to open and the right guy to fall down. But WHO, like the wise oracle, told her "when the time's right you will go weak in your knees".

We resorted to our old Bharat matrimony site and threw in the bait. We are now waiting for the catch.

Some words about the bride-to-be. I don't think I can write all that I know about her. We are sisters and mostly at war with each other. We have totally different ideologies and philosophies. What we have in common is that we talk a lot and WHO says my sister talks more than me. She is elegant, while I am the tramp. She loves to cook just like me, but limits herself to baking, which I would say is a daring feat. She reads but has not ventured beyond mystery novels and romantic stuff. She is in no hurry to prove herself and is in no mood to compete with anyone. But she has her opinion and is an ardent feminist, maybe a degree higher than me............

People say she is the shrew who needs to be tamed. But will she find her Petruchhio? I wish she does. Wait for the next part on the candidate no.1

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ramblings on Sunday

Sunday evenings upset me and it's been worse over the past two years. This weekend was no different. I guess it's because I slogged the whole week expecting a treat to myself on the weekend. I was in for a surprise when I discovered despite paying 2800 bucks the adapter and OS of my laptop doesn't do what it's supposed to. I have no net access in my room and all that thoughts I had to pour out froze. And on further discovery I realised it doesn't have a sound card so if I had to watch a movie I hard to resort to Charlie Chaplin days.

On weekends our hostel is like an open ground with loud speakers. People just ventilate watching movies and listening to music whole day while they clean their rooms, eat, iron, gossip or even sleep. I felt lonely though I did not tell it to anyone after all I had to be uber cool and show I was ok without any entertainment.

Firstly, noone would understand why it would make me lonely, noone seriously has time for all that. Secondly, when you have something and you take it for granted how would you understand the other? so I was silent the whole day. I was in rage and wanted to go down to ritchie street and abuse that bastard who cheated me but I was more upset with the fact that my friend who got my laptop repaired was away for 2 days and left all my calls unanswered. I could not go to the shop and fight without him and now when he's back our week at insti begins. I silently read ladies coupe by Anita Nair. An abandoned book in the department came my way and all the feminist thoughts chortled me even further.

I thought of telling 'Who' how I felt, but he was busy buying tomatoes to cook channa masala. I don't have such pleasures in hostel anymore and perhaps the semester break and luxurious pampering back home is getting to me. I need to restrain myself from getting used to good food, books and movies and accept "Arbeit macht frei"- that work alone will set me free , free from this place , free from depressing thoughts. Maybe I should not be around to experience this alienation and should run to Blore every weekend.

Have you ever tried explaining yourself all the while realizing noone who listened cared while putting up the understanding gesture? I thought of going to Marina beach not for the sea but for the books at Triplicane but once I am moody , I am lazy as well so I tried sleeping but could not.Life is making me a moron or something ghoulish than a moron. What was it about this place that made me like this? All work and no fun makes Bhuji a madwoman !!!!

It's father's day and I miss my dad or maybe I want to miss him to feel even more miserable.And I sit and ponder.... why do some people have it all the easy way? why don't their laptops crash? lightning strike their systems? their father's die ? their siblings suffer? depression haunt them?

And why dont they ever read all these ramblings?????atleast to increase the readership :)

I know its an incosequential,lengthy and confused post - but that's exactly what rambling means.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crabs in the rain

I know a thing or two about crabs. Firstly crabs can’t see well in murky waters. So if you fill up a crab hole with cow dung they are sure to come out of their holes. Secondly, it’s not the cheliped which is the juiciest part of a crab, as one sees in all the travel and cookery shows, but it’s the body which is a taste apart. I think I know one more thing about crabs; I know how to catch them.

I think it’s almost a decade now since I caught a crab or to have touched a live one. Back then fishing was our main activity but now and then we used to do the crab thing as well. As soon as the monsoons arrived we felt the tickle starting in our hands. But we used to hold on to it until we have seen a few good showers or even a month into the monsoon. And then when there was a let out in the rains we had to answer the call of nature. There was no method or process to decide upon whether we would go fishing or do the crabs. Maybe somebody would have seen a crab or two in the garden or one near a puddle or pond and we would get going for some fun. We didn’t need any special gears for this act and this was blessing as we would not raise any suspicion when we were slipping out of the house. It would be usually in the evening, when we would be allowed to go out and play and we would go looking out for little ponds or water bodies around the road side. Bhopal, unlike Bangalore, was blessed with a lot of open spaces and un-encroached land and we would find plenty of sites to look for the little creatures. But what would be difficult to find was cow dung; the means to our end. Usually the sight of cow dung would be ubiquitous but during monsoons, with the cows and buffalos confined in their sheds, it was difficult to find these miraculous excreta. So our first task was to look for and find at least a plastic full of cow dung before we started the procedure because if we were found wanting for it then there was no other substitute.

We would then start looking for a pond, which would not be very deep and would have just started accumulating water from the recent rains rather than being a permanent fixture. We would carefully approach the site and observe for sudden flurry of activity on the corners of the pond. Crabs are very shy creatures and the moment they see movement around them they would run for cover. They would make a dash for the holes usually filled with water and we would carefully mark those holes knowing that we have targets inside them. The other reason was to be sure that there is really a crab in that hole and nothing else, like a snake. Each person would then pick his share of cow dung and position against a hole depending on how big a crab one saw running into it and how big the hole is. It would be ideal if the hole is not fully submerged under water because then when we start pumping cow dung into the hole it would start floating out into the water and around rather than staying in the hole. It’s better if the hole is filled with water till the top but not fully under water. We would slowly start putting the cow dung inside the hole and mixing it with the water inside. The idea was to make the dung reach deep inside the hole close to where the crab is holed up. So we would often use a stick to push the dung deeper and deeper. Once we are sure that enough material has gone inside and the water has turned amply murky we would stop.

From there on it was a waiting game. We took a hunched position over the hole, keeping really still and looking for movements or bubbles inside the hole. It would be a really long wait because the crabs would have got terrified because of all the pumping in the hole and would take a lot of time to come out, suffocated by being in the dung mixture. We would stand there, not even speaking to each other, with just sign languages and keenly observing any sign of them. We can go around for a walk and come back but then as soon as we approach the crabs would run inside the hole, to the deepest corner. The idea was to not really see the crab coming out of the hole but to look for movements which would indicate that the crab is somewhere near the mouth of the hole and with one shove of hand into the hole we should be able to catch him. While mixing the dung into the hole we would have gauged the twists and turns in the hole and would be ready to push out hands into the hole in the same way. This was the moment we cherished the most. The moment when the hand dashes into the hole, touches the body of a crab and just pulls it out. Often we miss by a whisker in just touching it and not being able to get a good grab, or to come out with a leg or two or to get the fingers pinched by the chelipeds. But the holes being so small it doesn’t allow space for a free fight and a little bending and twisting mostly does the job. The best sight in the whole affair is one crying out that one has caught a crab and the sight of the hand coming out of hole with a crab dangling at the end. Sometimes there would be enough drama around one hole, with the guy shouting that he has a monster crab biting at his hand and then all and sundry will rush by to give suggestions on how to extract the tough guy. In case if what get pulled out turns out a petite little thing then the guy is hooted to shame and ridiculed until he redeems himself with a big one. If in case we catch a crab which is big and shows off a lot of zest for biting and running then a quick throw on to the ground renders him motionless.

We would continue catching crabs until we got our carry bags filled or if the sun went down or if we had being away from the playground long enough to raise suspicion at home. Initially mom used to get adamant when we used to get the catch back home. She used to be scared as to from where we got it and how we caught it. We used to make stories that they were all found alongside the road. Revealing to her our methods would have surely led to an escalation to the higher authority. So we used to cook the crabs at the neighbours. But subsequently mom relented and we had crabs cooked the malu way, once or twice. Now when I see all the crabs in the super markets I don’t feel the urge to buy them and cook, maybe because for us the act of catching was the high part and not seeing it served on a plate. But I am sure Bhujji would post a recipe of it on our food blog - someday.

Recently when I was discussing this post with a friend I was told few other ways of catching a crab and also reminded that the monsoon has arrived. I am sensing the same tickle in my hand. I think this post will have a sequel.

P.S. - The image below is for representation purpose only. It should in no way be used to assume the size/shape/appearance of crabs that the author has described in the post above.

Sad Periods

I feel low today not because of periods but because a friend's sister commited suicide more than a month ago and I got to know 4 days ago. Her family could not find out any reasons except for that she was constantly disturbed and depressed during her menstrual days and the doctors said her reports confirmed that her hormones were high during her death. I find it disturbing because I got to know about it the very next day of the "happy periods" post. I told it to a couple of my friends the girls just said an "oh" while some guys atleast discussed it with me. Perhaps every time this girl went through this crisis many said an "oh" and never bothered taking it further. Our tolerance and negligence topped with ignorance is at the peak.

I even expect some people to say I made this whole story up or its my feminist fancy.

I wish it was so because I just can't forget her face as I try to sleep. I know there is a lot more to worry about but I had to write this here though it would never make up a decent eulogy to a lovely girl I once knew, whose secrets lie safe with her deep down in that lonely grave.

Life never fails to amaze me every moment. The grim and Kafkaesque side appeals to me though. My dear friend calls Life a dark comedy and today suddenly the meaning dawns to me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Happy periods

I was dumbstruck, rather appalled at what I was hearing. Listening was not my best of skills but I managed it quite well these days. My friend was telling me how liberated she felt at our institute far from home. I thought this was because she could meet guys or eat stuff not permitted back home or even booze. But none of these was what made her feel liberated. It was the fact that she could sleep on her bed during periods. Well, if this seems silly to you, you definitely are a man and you never felt you were a leaking tap for four days, else you are a crazy female with no empathy in your glossary.

My dear friend then told me that it was a custom at her home to sleep on a mat on the floor on the days of one's periods. She was also served food in a different plate and had to be in her room and not appear in front of elders. The fact that she was unclean on these days was no secret because of this separation from the rest of her family. And here now at the institute she could sleep on her bed, eat from any plate she got in the canteen and such was her elation that she avoided going home to avoid these old practices.

This is a topic that people don't discuss openly, atleast in families. I was surprised when my hubby and my sis and I discussed it on our dinner table recently. It means a lot to me ( the discussion) because I couldn't do it with my dad around. Does this alone make me liberated? I don't know but it's as important a topic as movies and books and cooking to me. And after vagina monologues I guess this is a milder post on my views about " my blue days"

I understand my friend back at the institute and I am happy she left the old ways because I cannot fathom the stupidity of these customs. Mom tells me even childbirth was considered impure and women were not allowed to go to church for 40 days though it was rationalized that women needed rest and they got it as a relaxation in the name of impurity. I really don't understand why something that biologically happens can be impure. How would a menstruating girl make anyone sick by sharing a meal with them?

This whole mystery of a woman's body has been an enemy to me, to the extent that every time I had my periods post marriage I would tell my hubby " I am sorry you missed the opportunity to be a dad". That's exactly what it is to me - a missed opportunity, not that I intend to reproduce prolifically but it does take away the unclean and impure connotations associated from my mind.

I refuse to be ashamed of discussing this, of buying sanitary napkins not wrapped in newspapers , disclosing my periods to male friends and weeping emotionally when my hormones take a toll. I don't understand why this has to be hushed on one side and made so obvious with such customs on the other side. I definitely can't understand half the population ( men) in this world who asks what's the big deal, why fret on dates and aches?

But what I can't tolerate most is hanging around with a leaking bloody tap and being segregated and told I am impure. Menstruation was a topic of interest to me since I first realized the mechanisms of a woman's body. I hate the word menstruation it sounds so mechanical and I often confused it with mensuration from geometry. Periods too reminds me of period movie, periods in classes, periodic table. And chams reminds me of cham cham the sweet and chamma chamma of Urmila Matondkar. I always used " mood swings" or "blue days" coz that's how its always been to me.

I used to watch my dad squirm watching ads of sanitary napkins in front of us and to me they looked like pampers onto which models poured some blue liquid. And over the years I saw the ads change for "yeh un dinon ke liye" to " Happy periods". This was quite a transition, from the old hushed tone ads, to scientific ones proving anti-leak channels and wings to mini pads that fit into bags and were perfumed. The world was definitely changing in terms of selection and production. But still today I see women waiting at chemists shops ensuring men have disappeared and then asking for 'SF' (stay free). What an irony for a title like that. naturally you need to stay free of stains but what about the shame associated with this natural process? What irks me is that chemists wrap it in newspapers as if women were taking porn magazines home.

I once told my brother to remind me to buy bread at the store, I thought he was too young to understand what sanitary napkins were and this was our code in college. Seeing me pick up a napkin and returning home without a bread he told me " Next time you need a stayfree don't call it bread simply coz next time I cant eat a bread visualizing a pad". I had a laugh of my life but realized how relaxed we were to discuss such stuff and what a hypocrite I was to feel ashamed to tell my own brother what I wanted.

Some guys at college asked us about menstruation and were surprised how they missed all these stuff living under a roof with women in their family. Which reminds me why my uncle once got my aunt ten packets of stayfree in their initials days after marriage when she asked him for napkins. He thought women bled to death and she in fact got a stock for a year bcoz of his purchase.

Every time there's a coffee stain or my hubby kills a mosquito, leaving a blood stain on the bedsheets my mom and sis shrieks thinking I have displayed my carefree attitude and I realize a drop of blood on a sheet will cost me a lot, whether it's mine or not, till my menopause. My sis freaked out when I told her I was going to write this, WHO contemplated for weeks. But I still don't understand what's so ugly about it. And I am sure no one would comment on this.

But I had to write something that impacts fifteen days of my month with pre and post pains :) after all quite a number of my posts were a product of my frustration in those days.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hi folks

Hi folks

I know its been a long time since we blogged. WHO is lazy to blog or rather too busy at work that he cant take his mind off from work even on weekends. Besides this has been the longest hoilday I had and first time WHO and I stayed together. So after five months I am back to my institute to finish my PhD. I sort of blog a lot when I am there. Maybe its coz I dont have any other hobbies there. These days I was so engrossed with my food blog , though I thought I would manage both the blogs well I admit I could not. I was nurturing the new blog like a new born baby and WHO didn't take care of my first born blog :(

Well when I get back I can't cook so I would rely on my stocked pics and recipes which means I am gonna be more active here. Now does this sound like a justification for neglecting my first born ;)

I guess I lived my life to the fullest in the last 5 months. I cooked like mad, mostly to blog them. We had lots of guests home( naturally I needed guinea pigs for testing the treats before I blogged them) The good news is that they are all fine and alive so my recipes can be trusted.

I learned pottery and it boosted my confidence. Each time I learn something successfully I tell myself I am still intelligent to learn new stuff. Or rather I try testing my intelligence by experimenting new stuff. And clay opened a new world to me. I also did a painting and tried my hand at photography.

What I didn't do well was blogging caught up in myriad of events. But then this blog is a catharsis remember? I need stress to ventilate. So I guess it was meant to be done here.

I also began groom hunting for my sis and Marriage matters part will strike again with the sequel. I wish we travelled a bit but then I was on a holiday WHO wasn't.

In short we have a lot of posts lined up and I hope you guys will forgive the long silence.

Hey all foodlovers please check out my food blog and comment generously.