Dec 20, 2010

Two busy weekends and a fashion tantrum

Whew, what a hectic 9 days! Two weekends filled to the brim with baby functions - two thread-tying ceremonies, a baptism and two birthday parties! And now time to look forward to the Christmas holidays starting off with my niece's first birthday on the 24th. Lots of fun!

Yesterday was my nephew's first birthday and we were busy decorating the hall early in the morning. Then it was time for all of us to be ready and I started off by getting our toddler (yes the mudbaby himself, see it here) ready. After his bath, I helped him put on his diaper and trousers and he sat up on the bed and began to look around for his shirt.

Now here I have to be honest - the shirt was not new; it was a hand-me-down from his elder brother. It was a half-sleeved shirt that I thought was cute because it was striped and looked like an adult's shirt. In my defense, it is a pretty good color that looked good on our kid. So what did our son do? He took one look at the shirt and asked me (in Malayalam, translated for everyone's benefit), "Is that Achan's?" I said, "No, it's yours, let's put it on." And the kid goes "Naaaaaaaah, don't want it" at the top of his voice!

I didn't have another outfit for him (lesson for the future), so it is a good thing that he still weighs under 15kg or there might've been a problem. I asked him to take a look in the mirror after the titanic struggle. He stopped yelling and lifted his head up just enough to look at the mirror ... emitted another roar and fell back on to the bed!

And here I thought that only girls are fussy about their outfits! Our elder son has never cribbed about the outfits that I pick out for him and occasionally when he picks one that I feel don't go together, he changes it readily. Come to think of it, his Dad does the same too! :-) Fortunately, two-year-olds are very easy to distract, so we had the disgruntled toddler involved in something else within 5 minutes. Thereafter he yelled only when we didn't let him within touching distance of the birthday cake....

My son, the fashion-conscious one of his favorite outfits! Ahem, that T-shirt reads "Mommy's Secret Agent" and not "Mommy's Secret Age" as it seems to!

Dec 9, 2010

December madness and a glimpse into the past

I don't know about you, but December usually sees me in a frenzy of decluttering and reorganizing wherever I am in the world. Somehow, the proximity of a new year makes me want to tear up old things, shove some things into oblivion and reorganize things to an inch. I feel it is almost prompted by my subconscious, because I have never circled December 1 on my calendars in red to prompt me, ever. But the thing sort of creeps up on me, noiselessly, surreptitiously.

For example, take this year. In the first week of December, I was putting away my clothes in my wardrobe and I noticed a dress that I hadn't worn in about a year - 15 minutes later, a few dresses had been picked out and bagged up ready for recycling (also known as sewing dishrags). This week the urge has already manifested itself as rearranging our second bedroom and heaving the cots about single-handedly. Today, I went through a stash of old notebooks/journals/diaries. I sorted them into  three piles, put away one for safekeeping, another for reference and completion and burned those in the third.

As I was going through my old journals, I came across several "me's", a 25-year-old me, a newly-wed me, a new-mom-be-me, a new-mom me and so forth. The 25-year-old me certainly had lots of activities, fun, interactions with a whole bunch of people and lots of "alone" time to think about everything and write about them. But I also saw a frequent pattern of her being in the dumps about some little thing or the other - frankly, they seem quite trivial to me now.

Nowadays I am regularly swept off my feet with all the things I have to do (like a December "spring" clean!) and anyone who has young children know, I rarely get any time to be by myself now and most human interactions other than with my immediate family are via phone, email or blog! But I am so much more content now, rarely get down in the dumps any more and have daily doses of pure, unalloyed joy which I frequently take time to savor. It can be just a hug n' kiss with an "I love you, baby" from our toddler, enthusiasm and "Oh, thank you for making my favorite dish today" from our elder son or a surprise book from my hubby who has raided the bookstore for a much-awaited book the day it was released. I now understand that life doesn't need to spectacular in order to be wonderful...

Oh yes, there is much to be said about being 25, but I am happy being 35 too!

Nov 30, 2010

Movie Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

Ooooh, I almost forgot to tell you about the latest HP release. Yes, I made it to a show last Saturday and liked it a lot. In preparation, I had once again gone through my copy of the book - yes, I have all 7 of them. As expected, the book has been compressed a lot - or they would probably have had to make the movie in 7 parts instead of 2. But the compression is in no way detrimental to the plot line. All throughout the movie, I kept wondering where they would find an apt ending for the first part and was very satisfied. Dobby's death and the finding of the Elder Wand really did make a fitting climax.

One of the things I was pleased about was the way Hedwig passes. I always thought that the book had not done justice to her in the manner of her death and I am happy that the movie does one better. It also lets Harry off the hook for declaring himself with his signature Expelliarmus spell. The endless and futile searching for the Horcruxes has been neatly edited so that it doesn't drag. I wonder if the writers are going to have a tough time finding a possible method for Snape to have sent the doe Patronus when the means of his finding the kids' location by way of the Black portrait has not been shown in this movie. Well, I hope they are creative enough, because rabid Potter fans might be up in arms if they forget it. The transformation of Kreacher takes the backseat in an effort to give Dobby one more scene to show his devotion. I loved that particular episode in the book in which Hermione is finally justified for starting SPEW and would've loved to see it on screen. Harry's conflict over Horcruxes vs. Hallows also is not mentioned in the movie.

So once again, the celluloid version proves itself incapable of encompassing a whole book, but I wonder if someone would think of making a TV show with the whole series unedited. Now, that would be a dream!!!

NaNoWriMo score and updates

It's the day of reckoning and how many words do I have to show for my NaNoWriMo challenge? A mere 5124 against the target of 50,000. But hey, that's a beginning! I found out several things during the process - I like typing on the keyboard better than writing - well, that's an eyeopener, to say the least. May be some pro-environmental brainwashing is finally taking hold, because when I tried to write on paper, the thought of several rewrites and additions came to mind and I could not do it. So tap, tap it is for creative writing! I also found that although one part of me wanted to stay on and keep describing scenes, another part wanted to speed up and finish the plot while the flourishes could wait for later. It really was effective, because when I look back at the - ahem - MS, if find that I can clearly conjure up the entire scene as I visualised it in the first place when I read the sketchy scenes and can easily add up the atmosphere and the works.

So was the exercise futile? Not at all, because in my book, something is ALWAYS better than nothing. After all these years of nonstarting, at least I have started something! Yay, go Me!

Last Sunday morning was given up to weeding activities. All four of us were busy with something, I don't have pictures of what I was up to, but I will certainly show what our younger one was up to - pictures by my husband....

Have you ever seen a more disreputable little ragamuffin? And this was before he reached his full glory. One of our elderly neighbours who happened to catch a glimpse almost fell over in concern - "Oh, what happened to the poor baby, did he fall?" We hastened to reassure her that no baby was harmed in the process of creating the mud baby. And what was I doing Sunday afternoon? Mopping up the mudprints this selfsame mud baby had tracked into our living room while none of us were looking.

Grossed out by all the brown stuff? Here's something I caught while waiting at a railway station...

I didn't know that banyan leaves came out in this transluscent red! They were shining like jewels in the morning sun! And here is one fit to be made into a valentine

I wonder if the colouring is seasonal?? Can you tell me?

Nov 26, 2010

Something crafty!

Ahaa! Here is my latest craft accomplishment:

Yes, it is my new earring organiser, the new and improved version. If you want to see the previous one, click here . I have been clever and have added three small pockets for a few stray items. I thought of making it a proper wall-pocket organiser, but that would make it too big and too heavy. As such the wool is stretching a bit. I've also stuck a huge safety pin behind the panel near the bottom right corner so that I can corral my ever-wandering safety pins in one place. Pretty handy, I tell you! I can't seem to get the temperamental picture uploading tool to work right now, otherwise I would have put up a picture of that too. Each time I pass by it in the bedroom, I feel as pleased as punch! Now I have no trouble finding a suitable pair of earrings at all!

Meanwhile, my clotheslines are full of damp clothes of two-day vintage. It seems Kerala is borrowing England's climate for a while and that too a bit heavily! Flash floods are occurring in even hilly areas where one never would expect them to happen. Anyway, it's excellent planting season, one can just put things in the soil and never worry about having to water it! That's the way to go!

Nov 18, 2010

Gardening surprise

I must say that life is really surprising sometimes. For example, I have already told you about our vegetable gardening misadventures and now look at this:

This bean plant grew at the side of my back door all by itself and is giving us fresh beans everyday! All I did was throw the water left after washing rice in the general direction of the plant. It is also the favorite of an ant colony that has set up house nearby. So veggies can grow in our garden!

I have also gathered some for future planting, although I am not sure where this particular bean has come from, because it doesn't look like any that we usually buy.

I am feeling much more better now that my gum is almost healed and the sun is shining. But I think we can enjoy whatever the weather is if we are healthy. Day before yesterday, I was bringing home my elder son and it was raining very heavily. My younger one was safe at home with his grandma, so I did not have to worry about him getting wet. My elder one splashed ahead of me, one arm spread out into the rain and warbling "Mera dil, mera dil" continuously (not a recognisable song, but I took it as the outpouring of a full heart!) while I trudged after him with a slightly disgruntled feeling. A few paces afterwards, I started taking stock of the situation - I was in no hurry to reach home, I was wearing shoes that would keep my feet away from the mud and there was no need for me to grudge my son his happiness. So I too joined him (not to sing, of course) happily holding my free arm out from under the umbrella and trying to see who could splash water the highest. We were breathlessly jolly by the time we got home. It was certainly worth the effort to stop and think. And while we played I really thanked God that I could recognise a truly happy and beautiful moment for what it was. May you too have many of the same!

Nov 14, 2010

About teeth and the quality of life... weak stomachs, beware!

Dear Readers,

I've really missed you a lot. Even if I don't receive comments on all my posts, it was enough for me to know that my missives are out there in cyberspace, communicating my thoughts and ideas to some fellow human beings. So I really missed writing to you in the past week!

Well, today I am departing from the norm and writing about something I really did not enjoy. Since our return from Bengaluru, I had been prey to extreme lethargy and bouts of chills and fever. I tried to brush it off blaming it on some Bengaluru bug, but the pain struck - and how - on Diwali eve. I woke up on Diwali day with a humongous toothache that threatened to incapacitate me. But since we had already made plans to spend the day at a beachside resort, I resorted to taking painkillers at 6-hourly intervals to just survive. Thanks to those pink pills, I could swim and frolic to my heart's content.  I paid for it the next day when I went to the dentist and he told me that an impacted wisdom tooth had created a massive infection and I would have to first combat the infection and then get the tooth extracted. So last Thursday after a Herculean effort by the doctor that lasted 5 hours, the culprit came out. I am left with three stitches and swelling and pain that flares each time the medication wears off. I was so relieved when the tooth finally came out that I would have prostrated before it if the doctor had allowed me. The pain and the accompanying malaise was so bad that I totally lost interest in anything and just lay down whenever I could. Thank God, my mother-in-law chose this time to visit us. She helped me take care of the home and other things while I rested whenever I could.

Here is my advise to you - please get your wisdom teeth checked by the dentist to see if they have enough space to grow. I saw the x-ray of mine - there was so little space for it to grow, that it was growing at a 45-degree angle and its roots were under the molar in front of it! Hope you are spared such a painful ordeal. And I hope you get a good-humored dentist such as mine, who helped lessen the suffering a lot with his timely jokes and teasing - an invaluable trait in a grisly job!

Nov 2, 2010

From my bookshelf - 4

This is one book you would want to come back to again and again - Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals. The last time I read it was more than ten years ago and I had completely forgotten how hilarious it was. Durrell recalls the events of a few years his family had spent on the Greek island Corfu. He was around 10 at the time and a regular enfant terrible with a penchant for all wildlife. Imagine your kid letting loose a scorpion mother on your dining table with tiny baby scorpions dripping from all over her or letting water snakes cool in your bath tub! That's what Gerry does on a regular basis. The book is a hoot from beginning to end with some extremely clever and funny character sketches of his own family members and the people they come into touch with. Now I am certainly going to look out for more of his works!

Have you read any of Durrell's works?

Oct 31, 2010

A little feverish and my visit to Bengaluru...

What, a whole week went by without posting? Sheesh, I must have been in the daze of the Bengaluru bug-induced fever to notice things! Suddenly it's Sunday, the end of October and it's like I am waking up from a stupor.

Yes, last weekend we chugged off to Bengaluru to visit a few long-standing friends. Bengaluru - the site of my first and to-date last full-time job back at the beginning of this century! Wow, weekends spent roaming MG Road and environs, eating kachori chat at Maheswari Chaat behind Commercial Street, collecting precious books from the street vendors... good old times.

Understandably, MG Road was one of our intended destinations this time around. Brigades looked quite the same in the cool dusk - busy as usual, but as we emerged into MG Road, I couldn't even concentrate on the shops and stalls by the wayside. The Metro Rail overpass kind of engrossed my attention in all its huge, ugly and unfinished bulk. Walking alongside made me feel as though I were being stalked by a resurrected Godzilla. The promenade on the otherside has been completely gobbled up by the Godzilla, I think.

But there were compensations - Gangaram's is alive and thriving - all three floors of it. The wheezy lift that gets stuck at the first floor, the black and white mosaic floors and fluorescent lighting, the lovely floor of stationery that set me drooling as always, are all there. I quite forgave the Godzilla while I happily browsed inside. And Higginbothams is still ok too! After a recent experience I had in one of Thiruvananthapuram's erstwhile grand book shops, this was a huge relief to me. There I was in Tvm, paying a long-due visit to this particular book shop which I had frequented during my college days. There was someone at the entrance of the shop who I took to be the security staff. As I went inside, he too came in and discreetly stood behind the counter. It was then I noticed the absolutely deserted shop. As I was still browsing some 5 minutes later, the staff switched on the air-conditioner. This explained why he had been sitting outside the shop earlier. Now I was in trouble - I couldn't go out empty handed after having made the man switch on the airconditioner, but I could not find any title that was of interest to me. All that looked good, I already had and the others were mostly "safe" bestsellers and text books that did not hold any interest for me. Finally I combed the non-fiction section till I found a title and fled with it. It was so dismal because I remember it as a cheery, busy place with at least 2 or 3 staff members who tailed college students to make sure nobody filched anything while the others were busy at the counter ringing up purchases. I was quite depressed the rest of the day.

We got back from Bengaluru on Monday and since then I've been absolutely lethargic although the trip was not physically strenuous at all. Perhaps the Godzilla-given fright did it for me. For four days now, I've been having bouts of low-grade fever that start sometime in the evening and make me miserable, but not sick. Now if it was an all-out flu, I would've gladly crept under a blanket and stayed there for a week. But this one leaves me feeling fit and healthy in the morning, makes me do all the work, only niggling my back if I keep on my feet for a while. And then it comes, when all my work is done and takes all the enjoyment out of my rest with a full-body ache and burning behind the eyes! I mean how can I enjoy Gerald Durrell's "My Family and Other Animals" when I have to keep from laughing for fear of starting a bout of coughing that will tear out my lungs? It would also have been helpful to make me look sick - but naah - I have to wave the thermometer in people's faces to prove it. Sheesh!

So NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I have my beginning chapter started in anticipation! The goal is at least 2000 words per day. I hope I can turn off the internal editor/critic enough to complete the goal each day! Wish me luck!

Oct 22, 2010

Movie Review - Endhiran

Have you seen the movie Millennium Man in which Robin William plays a robot that wishes to become a man? Well, add a lot of garam masala to it and add some tadka at the end and you get Endhiran, the latest Rajni-Shankar blockbuster. We went to a small-town theatre to watch it in the third weekend after release (which we deemed to be safe from crowds), only to see people bring in extra chairs to sit down in the aisles. I haven't seen a movie hall that filled since - well...I don't know when!

The story is simple enough - Vazigaran (ordinary Rajni) the scientist creates a humanoid robot Chitti (extraordinary Rajni) after 10 years of research. He intends to use it for military applications, mostly in situations dangerous for humans (eg, mine field clearing), so why he uploads all the art and culture data into it is a bit odd. But then, who doesn't like a robot who can do Bharatanatyam and the tango with equal flare? Would be a great hit at the officers' parties. The robot is taken out for some real-world testing and is a great hit with Sanaa (Aishwarya), Vazi's girlfriend. He is deemed incomplete by Vazi's former mentor and current competitor Dr. Bora (Danny Dengzongpa). The trouble (and what magnificent trouble) starts when, in an attempt to teach Chitti the finer points of judgement, Vazi gets Chiiti to absorb all human emotions. The second half is a veritable CAG wonder - simply splendid with a believable climax for sci-fi movie. My 6-year-old loved the jokes and I too chortled once or twice in the first half. The song sequences are actually a little nuisance when they keep intruding at inopportune moments - but the picturisation in remote locations and Aishwarya made up for the intrusion.

Let me say here that I am not a Rajni fan. The first movie of him that I saw was way back when I was a kid and he was the villain of the piece. His acting was so good that I was totally scared and never wanted to see him again. (I had the same problem adjusting to Mohanlal after watching Manjil Virinja Pookkal and only constant exposure to movies in which he's the good guy made up for it.) But then, being in India, one can scarcely escape from Rajni. He simply pops up everywhere! If that's not enough, you get all those Rajni jokes by email which enlist his superhuman qualities as well as discussions of how he survives totally on gimmicks rather than actual histrionic talent. Criticisms aside, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he can give a restrained performance if he is allowed to.

All in all, I do recommend the movie if you are interested in this type of movie. Take your kids along - their giggles will help you enjoy it more.

Oct 20, 2010

NaNoWriMo and my Quikut knife

Aaah, I finally think I am reaching somewhere. For years I have been looking at the NaNoWriMo website, hesitating, dillydallying and shillyshallying before brushing aside any notion of joining to some dark corner of my mind. (For those who don't know: National Novel Writing Month is meant to be a motivator to sit down and write something that is at least 50,000 words long - in short, a novel.) But today I was led there while browsing through some blogs and it seemed almost serendipitous that I reached it with plenty of time to start. I took it as an omen and signed up before I had time to think and backpedal. One of the things that they ask you to do in their welcome mail is to tell as many people as you can that you are writing a novel in the month of November. So here I am, declaring my intention to write a novel. Why don't YOU join me as my writing buddy? Don't have any idea about what to do or write about? Don't worry, neither have I. But I have not let that stop me from putting the first step forward. So why are you hesitating? Join me and let me know by clicking the comments section!

I have read several articles about the brain hemisphere dichotomy. I have been trying to analyze the actions of my own brain halves and have come to the conclusion that both of them are pretty active, but the right one is pretty dominated by the left. For example, while cooking, my right brain goes, "Why don't you try adding some chicken masala to the sambar? We'll see if it makes any difference or whether people enjoy it more!" and my left brain screams, "Shut up!" and goes ahead and instructs my hand to pick up the sambar masala. As you can plainly see, it is sometimes best that the left brain is in control. But lately my right brain has been giving me images of a green-glove-clad hand wielding my long Quikut knife and slashing at my overgrown yard. Our four Quikut knives are testimony to a winter evening's temptation for a good deal at a local Walmart store in Detroit. Along with our other possessions, all their "bone-splitting" power has been lying unused for around 4 years. I have a favorite cleaver that also doubles as my coconut splitter, so there is no real work for a meat knife in a household that buys poultry once in a month or two.

Today as I was feeding my roses with nutritious rice gruel water, I was irked by the weeds that had almost grown half as tall as I am. I jumped into the house, took time to wear just one glove and get my Quikut knife and jumped back into the middle of the weed patch. Ten minutes later, my weed patch had an inch-long crew cut, weeds including the hardy, thorny touch-me-nots lay defeated on the ground and I was panting and sweating from all the stooping and hand-swinging workout. I have finally used my Quikut!!! Hurray! I will reserve the twin of this knife for the next jackfruit season. Let's see if the triumphant knife can hold its own against the hard jackfruit skin that usually yields only to the axe. So till then, Quikut rules as my lawn mower and exercise accessory! More power to my right brain!!!

Oct 14, 2010

Wish you all a Happy Navratri!

Today evening, along with my son's school books, I shall be putting up my favorite hero pen (yes, I still use those and I do have inkpots!), a notebook, a paintbrush and my collection of crochet hooks for the puja. And I will religiously give up reading till Vijayadasami on Sunday. Yeah, I know that it is just meant for students mostly, but hey, when does one stop being a student in this world? Not a day goes by when we don't learn something - be it the best combination of grains to make good dosas, finding a perfect way to counter the tantrums of a toddler (diversion, of course!), learning a foreign language phrase from TV or even just the fact that wasp's nests are stuck to surfaces with glue that is stickier that Fevicol, but very elastic. So I will be putting up my tools for puja this year too, if not for anything else, just to remind me that I am still a student in the best sense of the term. Since my husband might need the laptop, I shall not be putting that up, but I am wondering about my second keyboard....

And yes, my voluntary giving up of all reading shall put me in the state comparable to that of the master wordsmith and our beloved MP Shashi Tharoor describes in his essay "Growing Up with Books in India" - ...I would find myself reading the fine print on the toiletries in the bathroom of the fragments of old newspaper that lined my clothes-drawers. I used to do the same when I was a kid! Oh, to be reduced to such desperation!

Once again, I wish you all a wonderful Navratri!

Oct 10, 2010

Good morning!

Up at 4:30. A gloriously leisurely bath instead of the usual 10-minute dash. A breakfast of crispy, golden brown dosas to look forward to...

And in the meanwhile, a steaming mug of hot chocolate to fortify me...

The toughest question facing me - start a good book or play some more with Perler Beads? Hmm... think I will go ahead with the book in the spirit of the day.

It'll be at least an hour before a "Coo moning" from my toddler who will be smiling even while he's rubbing his eyes. Aaaah, the peace and quiet...

Wish you all a lovely Sunday morning!

Oct 8, 2010

What do you do on a rainy afternoon?

It's the eighth day of October today and the number of days when we have had some uninterrupted sunshine for at least an hour so far are three. The last two days my son didn't have to go to school because the district collector declared them holidays due to the heavy rain. Since he couldn't go outside to play and was bored with TV, I had to find something to do...

I finally broke out my Perler beads collection. For those unfamiliar with the name - it's a bead craft for kids (ahem, ahem!) with teeny tiny cylindrical plastic beads that you arrange on pegboards of different shapes to create pictures or objects. My explanation not enough? Check this out - Perler Beads .

My Perler beads have a history - they have been in my craft stash - untouched - for a whopping 6 years now! I hope none of you will mind my taking the title "queen of procrastination"! And I didn't just buy one tub of beads - no sirree! I have two tubs of them and a whole set of a dozen or so different-sized pegboards, a pair of cute sharp-nosed tweezers to pick up the beads and two project books. All this had been stuffed into a suitcase that had been left at my mother-in-law's place while we did our globe-trotting thing.

So my son and I sat down, took a look at the project ideas, chose a pegboard and tweezer each and poured a handful of beads into a steel plate and started off. He chose a smiley face design while I went in for a bigger circular design.

I really marveled at my son's color recognition, because whenever I picked up a sky-blue bead, he'd tell me it was a turquoise one. When he did that for the dozenth time, I gave my glasses a good wipe and turned on the light! Things were much better from then onward. Well, when all was said and done two hours later (with several interruptions from my toddler who tried to get into all the fun), this is what I had after ironing both sides...

I hope you can make out what it is supposed to represent! Now it hangs on our "emergency" curtain rod between our living room and open-plan kitchen. I've decided that I like the craft and it's a wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon. Note: "Emergency" curtain rod is what my husband insisted on installing for the safety of unwary visitors - to prevent them from fainting away after seeing my kitchen.

What did my son do? Well, he was so particular about finding the exact shade of green for the outer circle of his smiley face that he got bored with having to pick them and refused to "make do" with similar colored ones. So after completing two circles, he dumped them back into the plate and went to watch Ben Ten! Hmm... do I sense a budding perfectionist there??? On the other hand, I was pleased that an active almost 6-year-old boy could sit still for that much!

How do you enjoy your rainy afternoons? Do tell me by clicking on the comments link below and posting your valuable thoughts and ideas.

Oct 5, 2010

Last week's project

Our son's school had sent ahead a list of events the students could participate in for the "cultural fest" scheduled for the third week of October. Since the kiddo loves dressing up, we signed him up for the fancy dress competition. Imagine our surprise when we got a note last Monday, just when he had finished his first term exams, saying that the competition would be conducted on that Friday itself. Result - doting Mama scurrying around for a costume that would fit in the theme of "Harvest festivals of India".

What would I do without the internet? I had already decided that he would be representing the Lohri festival of Punjab, but I had no dress. Frantic calling of city costumers ensued - all of them said they didn't have the requisite costume in child size and if I gave them a week, they could get it made and rent it to me. Not enough time. That's when I thought of making it myself. So out I went shopping. A few hours of stitching later - here's what I came up with.

(Please disregard the shoes, he was supposed to wear his uniform afterwards and I didn't want to carry back his footwear.)

Of course, I bought the kurta readymade. I made the "lungi" from a dupatta of mine and bought green material that matched the lungi's borders to make the overcoat and turban. The fan I made with buckram covered in green. I knew I would not be able to wrap the turban at school, so I wrapped it around my son's head the previous day and stitched the layers together while he was wearing it. I did poke him with the needle a few times, but at least I was sure that the needle was going through all the layers! I can tell you that it made the dressing much easier on the D-day!

He is missing a beard and mustache in this picture that was snapped just before we left for school. I saved the "painting" for later as I did not want the outfit messed up with black streaks. Everything went as planned and he came away from the stage with his costume intact - around which time I let my breath out finally.

Lessons from this craft:

1. Always buy matching thread with the material - never ASSUME you would have matching thread at home! :-)

2. Start searching for costumes when you get the first whiff of competition!

And no... we haven't got the results of the competition as yet. I will tell you when we do. But I am totally satisfied because he wore the costume without any mishaps!

Sep 25, 2010

From my bookshelf - 3

There are some things which we take for granted in life. For me, one of them is my choice of newspaper. It has always been Malayala Manorama. When I started reading, we were in Dammam, Saudi Arabia and my parents used to buy MM during the weekends - the news was always 5 days old, but that did not matter. I remember my family and friends discussing the actor Jayan's tragic death 5 days after it happened. In the time of trunk calls, no one wasted money or time to convey such "trivial" news to their relatives abroad. The only time my choice for Mallu news wavered was when I was in the US and we had to make do with online newspapers. Deepika was my favorite then because all the news loaded on one page and the only thing I had to do was scroll down. But at all other times, it's always been Manorama...

This August, Malayala Manorama's chief editor, Mr. K.M.Mathew passed away. He had been the chief editor of the paper since the time I knew about it, or rather, he was Manorama to me. So when I saw his autobiography - Ettamathe Mothiram (the Eighth Ring) - at Kottayam, a month after his death, I couldn't resist buying it.

Although I am a native of Kottayam, I was never fortunate enough to see Mr. Mathew in the flesh. I had never heard him speak and have only read his serious opinions through his editorials, so the easy and informal style of his autobiography was a complete surprise to me. Indeed, the whole book was an eye-opener. The author has omitted much of his grown-up personal life because he has dealt with it in another book Annamma, which is named after his wife who was better known across Kerala simply as Mrs. K.M. Mathew. Most of what is left is is essentially Manorama's story and the struggle of a family to keep itself afloat on a sea of misfortunes during Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer's persecution which I was already familiar with. But the author's perspective of it - how the family members passed through the troubling times and how they rode over it makes the events more real and all the more touching. His memories of his childhood home, Kuppappuram, his tussles with his siblings and amusing anecdotes on some of the more colorful characters of the newspaper family are all superbly interesting. Pervading all this is the author's trademark humility that extols all around him as having been great, but seeing himself as only having reaped the benefits of the hard work and excellence of those around him. 

What touched me the most was a passage in the introduction to the book. He explains that when his mother died, his father got nine gold rings made after melting down her jewellery. He had all his children wear it for the first time on a special occasion, stipulating that they say an oath before they wore it. The oath exhorted them to think of their mother in times of temptation and to adopt a course of action that would be pleasing to her when she looked down upon them from heaven. With parents like that, is it a miracle that their family has prospered so much over the years? It really made me think about what we should be teaching our children. Now I am looking forward to reading Annamma too.

And yes, Mr. Mathews has taken the title from the ring incident as he was the recipient of the eighth ring. He still had it when he was 90 years old and was writing his autobiography.

Sep 20, 2010

Movie Review - Pranchiyettan and the Saint

I was in two minds today as to what to share with you - a wonderful movie or a great book. The movie wins for the day.

Before reading: The following is written by a huge fan of Ranjith, the director. All excesses may be excused. Please turn away if you are not a rabid fan :-)

Ranjith has done it again - you have to hand it to him. We saw what he can do with fantasy in Nandanam. He's done it again in Pranchiyettan and the Saint. I hadn't read any pre-release news of this movie and my first intro to it was a poster on the wayside with the picture Mammootty in a fluorescent purple jubba, horrible gold framed eye-glasses with folded hands held up. I checked the title:  Pranchiyettan... what the h*** does that mean??? was my first reaction. I certainly thought it was just another mafia movie of sorts and laughed at the horrific name. Two days later, I came to know that it was by Ranjith and heard that it might be worth watching. So this weekend, we went to book tickets for the first show Saturday evening, only to know that all reservation seats were already over. But, we were just in time to get middle class tickets for the matinee and before we knew it, we had tripped and trampled over 8 or 10 college guys to get the last three seats near the wall and were safely ensconced for a treat.

Let me take away the suspense about the name: Pranchiyettan is a local corruption of the lovely name Francis chettan. Pranchiyettan is the sole survivor of a prosperous family in Thrissur. His family business was selling rice, so he has this nickname "Arippranchi" which is his nemesis. The movie centers around the efforts our hero makes to get his name glorified somehow. And all his efforts are hilarious. Where does the saint come in? Well the movie starts off when Pranchi visits a church at a crisis in his life and his namesake St. Francis of Assissi appears in the flesh before him and serves as a receptacle for all his grievances. From there onwards the laughter and the wistfulness start us on a roller coaster ride that lasts till the end of the movie. I will not divulge the plot details here - one, because there is no plot as such and two, you really do need to see this movie!

Ranjith, you too are hunting whales in the ocean with Aamir and Hirani!!!

Next time you meet me don't be surprised if I bang you on the back with an "Enthootanta ishta viseshangal?" - so fell in love with Thrissur Bhaasha all over again!

Sep 17, 2010

The best time for gardening...

G.. and why I don't complete my weeding

It's tough for me to do any gardening during the week - for one I have housework to do. Also it doesn't help when one's two-yr-old needs full time supervision in the yard. Stooping and babysitting are so not compatible to each other. So last weekend I got up early and was in my garden by 6 a.m. Aah, no interruptions - I marked out a portion for deweeding and got it done within half an hour.

As you can see, there is still a lot of greenery left behind - but there is a reason behind it. I intend to have a natural lawn there instead of planting store-bought lawn grass. It's in part a homage to my most favorite college campus - CMS college. I still remember finding the gardeners in the college wielding two-feet long blades, squatting on the ground and mowing the lawns in wide arcs around them during our summer exam times. With the first monsoon rains, the grass would again shoot up and create the deepest green, sturdiest lawn you would like to step on. No fertilisers required, no extra care required. So I am transplanting all the specimens of this grass to the garden area from the rest of the yard.

Due to all the land-levelling activites in our plot, we have little fertile top soil left in our yard. Sadly, our early vegetable farming attempts died a speedy death. All the seedling sprouted, but in spite of the rain and shine, just withered away. We didn't want to add any chemical fertiliser to the soil, but also didn't know where to get some organic manure. Which is why I almost danced a jig when I found the organic manure stall at the Santhigiri expo last weekend. (More about that in the next post)

Santhigiri Ashram is just 5 km away from our home and they sell organic manure including vermi compost. So guess where we are going this weekend to stock up fertiliser for our coconut trees and garden! Once our biogas plant is in place, the sludge from it will supplement the fertilser. So this is a happy gardener signing off for the week!

Sep 7, 2010

Movie Review - Eclipse

Whew - it did take a while! The latest of the vampire series was released in the last week of July and took its own sweet time reaching Thiruvananthapuram.

For those not in the know - Eclipse is the third in the series of movies based on the vampire series of books by Stephenie Meyer. It centres on a high-school student Bella Swan who moves to the rainy town of Forks in Washington to be with her father for a while. She meets and falls in love with Edward Cullen fully knowing that he is a vampire. To make things interesting, there is another love angle with the werewolf/shapeshifter Jacob Black and different vampire covens who try to kill Bella periodically if her clumsy self does not do the job first.

If you plan to watch the movie, be prepared to read the books first or at least watch Twilight and New Moon in that order. Otherwise you might find yourself wholly muddled by the plot.

As a movie, Eclipse does a good job of editing down the endless, agonising mind chatter of Bella down to action-packed sequences. Contrary to the book, the love scenes detract from the movie being conducted mostly sotto voce and leaving the audience straining to catch the dialogues - I was personally wishing for subtitles! The actions scenes and the locales are great and the climax is all that I could ask for. Dakota Fanning makes a wonderful Jane and her red eyes and calm face make a lasting impression. Kristen Stewart's body language is so tailor-made for the role of Bella that I was surprised she could be anything else in other movies of hers.

What has intrigued me the most about this particular series of vampire books and movies? I think it is the portrayal of the Cullen family who are a bunch of superheroes who ditch the diet of ordinary vampires to become "vegetarians" (drinking only animal blood - please don't tell Maneka Gandhi). They also differ from Dracula in that they don't turn into dust at the touch of a sunbeam and are not scared by a crucifix. I believe the vampires and becoming the vampire is the culmination of our fascination with makeovers - and we have come a long way since Cinderella. Becoming a vampire is the extremest makeover! Imagine not having to dye your hair, gulp down all those antioxidants and never having to have botox injections or facelifts - it could well be the ultimate Western dream makeover!It's funny that Ms. Meyer does not mention what happens to slighly obese people who become vampires - do they become automatically sleek? Anyway, I could take being a vampire like the Cullens - especially when I think that I won't have to worry about cooking and how my vampire speed will take care of house cleaning in a jiffy. Not having to sleep would be good too...

Would you like to be turned into such a vampire???

Aug 27, 2010

From my bookshelf - 2


I am back from a 5-day trip to our hometown to celebrate Onam with our family members. And I made a trip to my favorite hometown bookstore where I have a VIP Home Library Scheme membership to collect my annual quota of free books. I got to finally complete my James Herriot collection with the title I had been missing! I had all of Herriot's omnibus editions except "All Creatures Great and Small" and here is my collection!

For those of you who have not read the James Herriot series - it is a collection of stories about a vet practising in the Yorkshire Dales right before the World War II started. James Herriot, a Glasgow lad fresh our of veterinary college finds a place as assistant to Siegfried Farnon in the Yorkshire Dales - a place and a situation he finds so agreeable to his tastes that he decides to settle there. The books are filled with stories of his interactions with some remarkable animals and even more remarkable human beings - all told in an easy, humourous manner. I read his books first when I borrowed them from the Kottayam Public Library as a teenager and I have never forgotten the wonderfully eccentric Farnon brothers, Herriot's disastrously hesitant wooing of Helen, the larger-than-life Granville Bennett, and several animals including the wonderful Tricki Woo who descended from Chinese emperors.

So I went looking for his books once again and found that his magic is stronger than otherwise. I now appreciate his love for his job and the place he chose to call home. His descriptions are enough to make one believe that the Yorkshire Dales are the best place to be on earth even in the extremely unhospitable winters. And there is so much human and animal goodness shining through that his books are the first things I turn to when I feel the need for something to break a sombre mood. I read Herriot and the world becomes a brighter place once again.

Have you read Herriot? Which of his characters do you like the best?

Aug 16, 2010

From My Bookshelf - 1

Aah, I got around to decluttering my bookshelf and here is the final result for now - ta da!

As part of the "prevent burnout" precaution, the first stage was just to remove all the "non-books" from the books. So all the umpteen files and folders and what not got shoved elsewhere and the "real" books have taken their rightful place. The top right corner shelf contains my discards - the books that I intend to give away. The rest are barely classified into fiction and non-fiction - not even in alphabetic order. That's for another day!

This book fell out from the shelf yelling "share me, share me" today.

This book certainly followed my dictum for buying books - viz., first borrow, then buy. I was attracted by the fun cover and the fact that it was not fiction when I was browsing in the local Bookmark library in Pune. The next visit to Crossword, I searched high and low for the title in the memoir and spirituality sections, only to ask for help and finally finding it in the romance section. I (somewhat curtly, I must say) informed the staff-member who helped me that it should not be put among the romances. But with a title like that, he was not to blame!

Eat, Pray, Love is the spiritual journey of Elizabeth Gilbert, who tried to salvage her life after a particularly acrimonious divorce that left her depressed and suicidal. She visits three countries - Italy, India and Indonesia - to regain her balance. In Italy, the saviours are the Italian language and food. India gives her the spiritual ballast. Indonesia is where she balances her earth-bound and spiritual yearnings.

"Spiritual journey?!" I can almost see you people wrinkling your foreheads in anticipation of acute boredom. Well, you would be wrong - the book ranks among my "unputdownables". (Okay, not very convincing, I admit, since I AM a bookworm, but there are books that can put even me to sleep!). The language is fast, the turns and twists, just like Elizabeth's moods, are totally unpredictable and the self-deprecatory humour is the best of its kind.

Recently, this book has been in the news because it's being picturised and Julia Roberts is playing Elizabeth. Some more sensational news is that she has become a practising Hindu after being in India for the shoot - whether it is a publicity gimmick or not, I am not sure.

Is the book worth a read? I definitely think so. I would love to hear from you about whether you found Elizabeth a hopeless romantic/a complete nincompoop/a glutton/a soul on the threshold of moksha. Do put in your comments!

Aug 10, 2010

A teeny bit of gardening

This Sunday I ventured into our "garden". As such it is a wasteland of weeds and stones, but in my mind, it 's a luscious tropical grden filled with all the flowers I love - not for me the exotic orchids or vapid anthurium, I intend it to be a "native" garden with hibiscus, ixora, angelic nanthyarvattam, kadukkan, jasmine and so on. And of course - the rose in its various avatars like this one below...

or one like this too...

Now I have a "War of the Roses" in my garden! But these flowers are sort of "ready made" because I got them from the flower nursery already flowering - I just took them out of the pots and planted them. They pale before this one little shoot below...

Can you even see it? I brought four cuttings from a climbing rose from my mother-in-law's place and planted it there almost two months ago. Although the monsoon and I tended them, they didn't do anything till last week when this tiny bud started coming out. I had almost uprooted the cuttings, but they were still green, which I took as a good sign. Now I am glad I didn't throw them away.

So I continue to buy and borrow plants from wherever I can and keep planting them in the area that I have set aside for my garden and keep clearing the weeds each time I plant something too. No point in clearing large areas in this rain, when weeds sprout the moment I turn my back. The only "weed" I spare is the lovely thumba ...

I know very well that it's a weed just like the rest, but for some reason I love this tiny little flower. If I were Captain Von Trapp, I would surely sing about the thumba rather than about the edelweiss.

Hey, here's a pic of our pumpkin seedlings - atleast, one of the healthy ones. Yep, we have spinach and ladyfingers too. But I won't bore you with pics of all that.

If you now have a picture of a happy gardener gladly mucking about in her garden, I am very sorry to disappoint you. Planting and weeding are not my favorite parts of gardening!  For one, I am allergic to soil and have to wear protective gloves and shoes to avoid contact. This would not be a problem in a foreign country where such appurtenances are a matter of routine. But here, in a village in Kerala - they certainly look odd. So I have to make a choice between looking odd and having itchy, oozing pustules on my feet and hands. You can guess which I choose. This combined with all the stooping, digging and sweating, do not make planting a happy experience. But I love watching those tiny little shoots coming out of the soil. And I keep dreaming about the flowers... Aren't these the things that keep all gardeners going?

While I was doing all this hard work, we had a heavy downpour and when I got in, the rest of my family jumped into our yard for an impromptu rain dance - our two-year old was in his birthday suit! For obvious reasons, I will not post the pictures (yes, I did take them)! But it was fun watching them having fun. They (including the biggest kid, my husband) jumped in all the puddles they could find and had mud in their hair when they got in. MY job was to see that they were bathed and dried properly and dosed with Vit C afterwards!

Do tell me your gardening experiences and what you are planting this rainy season...

Aug 9, 2010

Movie Review: Katha Thudarum

The latest Sathyan Anthikad offering does not disappoint - as usual. I love his movies in that they are about normal people and circumstances that we encounter in real life - not about swashbuckling and roaring heroes who knock away bull-necked goondas with a mere flick of their fists. (If you are a Mallu, have you seen the svelte and weak-looking heroes swat the likes of well-muscled Baburaj and Riyaz Khan as though they are flies? Beats my imagination!) Katha Thudarum is no different - it speaks of a couple who are estranged from their families because they dipped into the wrong community pool for their life partners. The story begins when the husband is accidentally killed and the (unemployed) wife and little daughter try to make do without any help from the families.

Circumstances bring them into the shelter of a small, tightly-knit colony of an auto-driver, his landlady and miscellaneous neighbours. Together, they form a protective cordon for the little family that was on the brink of annihilation and the process is heartwarming and heartrending at the same time. My hallmark for a good movie is one that makes me laugh and cry along with the protagonists - and this has done that in ample measure. And I know it's even better when my husband complains of the stuffy nose it has given him - he vehemently denies that a movie can make him cry. This did give him a stuffy nose!!!

And as with the recent trend in Anthikad movies - it's not just the story of the main characters - almost all the cast of characters have their own unique story to tell - some funny and some tragic. There are also a lot of spoofs on recent trends in mainstream society. For example, earlier that day, I had seen posters of a currently "homeless" politician slated to attend some function. My husband wondered where he would get the attendees for the same. The movie gave us the answer and we looked at each other and broke into loud guffaws, startling our fellow spectators with our inopportune mirth!

The only thing I noticed that was not in sync with the movie was near the beginning, when the heroine asks the husband to help her by washing the dishes. Now there is no sight I like better - and I was watching like a hawk! What did I see? There were two clean bowls on the drainboard of the sink. The husband picked up one of them, "washed" it under the open tap and replaced it in the original spot, all the while spouting a complaint that she was making a musical genius wash dishes and coolly sat on the countertop afterwards! Aah, the joys of cooking and cleaning in movies!!!
I would like to hear your take on the movie if you saw it. Do comment...

Aug 5, 2010

Sewing curtains and an accidental paneer burji...

I am proud of what I have accomplished today before 11:30 - all the breakfast and school-going related hoohaa, three loads of laundry, almost all the dishes washed (the sink is not exactly shining in FlyLady lingo) and one more curtain done.

Yep, that's what I have been doing these days - getting simple curtain rods fixed, measuring and calculating till my poor head started aching and buying reams of cloth. The material you see below is the one I am using for my living room....

I'll post the full curtain pics once I have also got some lacy panels in too. I am stitching the current panels in simple tab-top (cafe curtain) style. For several days I put off stitching the curtains just because of the thought of stitching up the tabs. Cutting and hemming the panels are so easy compared to making the tabs. But then I hit upon the idea of assembly-line production. Instead of making them one by one, I made them together like so...

Thereafter it was pretty easy to secure the velcro and finish up. These seven tabs are what one of my curtain panels require. Are my curtains perfect? No. But I am making them and that makes me proud!

And now about the "accidental" paneer burji ...

We get our milk from our next-door neighbour who has a cow of her own. Every morning, we exchange an empty steel vessel for one filled with our daily 1.5 litres of fresh milk. For reasons unknown, for the past two days, our quota of milk got curdled while I was boiling it. Loath to throw it away, I found two white squares of mundu and hung up the curds to drain in them. The result was soft crumbly paneer/ cottage cheese. Yesterday evening I made burji with it and it was so tasty that my normally tomato-"allergic" husband and elder son asked for seconds. My son also put in a special request to include it in his lunch box today. I have used a lot of frozen paneer before - but have never got this wonderful flavor. I kind of felt like the boy who discovered roasted pig by accident in Charles Lamb's essay! Now if only I can find out how to curdle milk deliberately...

Here is a picture of my windchimy kitchen window. I got them from the Good Store near Kalewadi Phata in Pune, they came in absolutely gorgeous colors and were just about Rs. 50 each - so how could I pass them up? Yes, I am absolute fan of windchimes and can't have enough of them. And appropriately, we live in a very windy spot here. They make me smile every time my eyes fall on them and every time a wind blows... . Aren't these the little things that make life worth living?

Aug 2, 2010

Welcome to my bookshelf

I am officially in trouble - when we built Karthi, I had a bookshelf built in one of the bedrooms to house my collection of books - look at it now... and there are still books to come. Hmm... I think have some decluttering to do! I think it will also be better  when I have arranged them well... these are now in the state I thrust them in willynilly as they came out of the boxes. There are definitely some books that have no place in my life any more - e.g.  the "What to Expect When You are Expecting " seen in the picture below :) ... definitely need some decluttering!

I have also come across some books I never tire of reading - earlier I had this thumb rule while buying books - I would never buy a book unless I had enjoyed it so much that I wanted to own it and dip into it again and again. But soon I found that I couldn't borrow all the books I wanted to read - so I had to buy more! And now I have no room - and can't buy another bookshelf till some more urgent expenses are out of the way. So till then, some shelves even have to do some double duty like below!

Tell you what, I am going to organize those shelves in the coming week and probably tell you about some of the books I love among them. Would you like that? Do post your comments!

Jul 27, 2010

Country neighbors

I was comparing neighbors (in the loosest sense of the word) as I was walking back from the school bus stop this morning. In the US, where I might have been more conspicuous than a bulbous zit at the end of the nose, the natives just passed me by with a direct gaze and bright "Hi". In Pune, I was just part of the scenery.

Here in our little Malayali village, I am a curiosity. It doesn't help that I deliberately converse in both Hindi and English with my elder son and croon English rhymes with my younger one and that I wear sneakers with my chudidhars. I just love to see people watching me covertly with puzzled faces... . Please don't take it that I do it to get a rise out of them, but I just want to see how many of them will satisfy their curiosity, directly or otherwise. And I've been very happy with the results.

There have been people who have come out with direct questions as to where I live after having ascertained that I understand Malayalam. These are in the majority and I am now sure that it would be very difficult for strangers with ulterior motives to find a foothold in our community where everyone knows who their neighbors are and makes sure that they know each one's business too.

Some people make friends with our toddler as we walk together and satisfy their curiosity that way. Others make inquiries to our nearest neigbors and I have heard them discuss us within earshot just after I passed them on the wayside! But no one is intrusive to the point of rudeness. For instance, no one has commented on my choice of footwear although I have caught several open/covert stares from the ladies. I have been perfectly ready with the explanation about my knee surgery, but it has never been required.

There have been funny situations - for instance two teenage boys at the temple asking my husband "Malayalam?" with wags of their heads to ask whether we understood Malayalam. And the stare of a boy at a store when we conducted a conversation in Hindi and a boy nearby watched with open mouth. Ahhhh, we all have our own forms of entertainment! What are yours?

Jul 21, 2010

Movie Review - Ravanan

Last weekend we went to see the much-hyped Ravanan - much-hyped is used perfectly deliberately. Sorry Mr. Maniratnam, but I enjoyed "Roja" much better than this. It is a hash of all the most cliched themes in movie/fiction history including Stockholm syndrome, golden-hearted bandit, sister-raped-by-police sob story and the usual Ramayana stuff. I saw the trap laid for Ravan miles ahead. I just can't see where the "new take" on Ramayana is unless it's in the location. And a fickle and masochistic Sita who falls for a mass-murderer/terrorist just because he happens to fancy her. Seriously, I think the actors are touting the movie only because they had to put in a lot of physical hard work and endure mosquito and leech bites (or did they?) of the forest in order to make the movie. I saw Prithviraj enthuse in one of his publicity interviews that this was the first movie of his that he would show to his grandchildren - one word of advice Prithvi, with all due respect, I am a big fan of your work, please show them "Vellithira" or "Swapnakkoodu" or even "Vaasthavam" - please don't show them this!

The music is just an afterthought and there are no tunes that remain in your mind once you are out of the cinema hall.

The good things - glorious views of the forests, the Athirappally waterfalls, insanely good camera work, beautiful locales and so much water that, ahem, you might wanna visit the loo before you watch the movie. Look out for the eagle's eye view of Ash, and a few such moments.

Jul 20, 2010

Just peeking in for a while

It's been raining here - continuously - for more than a week now. I have 3-day old washing on the line that is yet to dry well. The sun is trying to peek out this afternoon, but the best he can do is a watery smile that threatens to turn into a shower at any time. Last Saturday when I took my green denim bag to go shopping, it had a white bloom all over it! Something that would never have happened in Pune! That was Pune's great advantage - I never had to worry whether my laundry would dry soon - even in the rainiest season, the maximum it took for my clothes to dry was never more than 6 hours. But hey, I am not complaining or thirsting to go back. I don't miss Pune at all, except for a couple of friends that I made there.

My mother-in-law has left after a fortnight's visit. She was a great help when it came to setting the house to order. I tend to be overwhelmed when I see a lot of work piled up before me. But each morning after breakfast she asked me "What is our project for the day?" and we steadily emptied and dismantled the umpteen boxes, organized the rooms and did some gardening. She also took care of my younger son while I walked to pick/drop the elder one at the school bus stop. Now he again goes with me and I have to carry him most of the time...

In a way I am glad for the exercise the walk gives me. I have to go downhill and climb again to reach the bus stop. My bad   recovering knee gets a lot of work and I have found that in the last 3 weeks, my heart has begun to tolerate the slopes well. I am not so tired. In fact I timed myself and found that I could go the distance in 12 minutes flat alone. Yesterday, carrying my son, I did it in 14 minutes - not bad. Only thing is I sweat loads for 5 minutes after each walk - a small price to pay for daily aerobic conditioning. One of my neighbors - a policeman in his late forties - has had a bypass surgery last week. Needless to say, it's been an inspiration!

Jun 30, 2010

Back again!

Yes, I know that it has been a long hiatus since my last post. But hey, I have a good reason! So here is the big news... We are back at Karthi! Yes, our poor abandoned home is not abandoned any more! It's now alive with the sounds of its prodigal owners...

Our move was somewhat smooth with just a few mishaps which we managed to survive. The whole of last month were filled with packing, selling, sending, unpacking etc. and I have not seen the end of it yet. But at least everyone has enough to eat, wear and play with for the time being and we are happy. The rest will fall in place eventually...

Which is why I am typing this now - in the past I would have been frantically organizing and cleaning till everything was absolutely perfect before I even considered writing this post. Almost all our moves in the past saw me laid up for at least a week soon after we reached our destination with a bad cold/flu or a back ache. This time, in sync with my new resolve to chuck perfectionism, I timed myself and did no more than 15 minutes of heavy work at a time and took plenty of rest and water - result? Our family is blessed with a happy homemaker who hasn't had a twinge - touch wood!

Well, enough of that. Obviously, I have not had the opportunity to break out my crafting supplies as yet. So let me leave you this week with something that tells you why I love this place so much. Our son has joined school and we have a daily trek of almost a kilometer to the bus stop each way. This is what I get to see on my walks.

Now, do you envy me???

May 31, 2010

A few pics to entertain you...


I am totally busy this week with my whole place turned almost literally upside down. I have just sat down at the computer to look at a few pictures of places that we've visited recently just to unwind. Then I thought I would share them with you too...

These were all taken in Mahabaleshwar, a hill station near Pune, about three hours' drive away...

May 26, 2010

Not so perfect crafting

Phew, didn't that week pass so quickly? And there's something in the pipeline that I am very excited and busy about... but more about that later!

One of my pet hobbies is saving crafting tutorials of all kinds from the internet - I already have a collection of craft projects that could last me at least two lifetimes. And I won't mention how I get craft supplies without really having a project lined up for it! If it was just yarn or painting supplies or embroidery supplies, it would have been ok. As far as I am concerned variety IS the spice of life, so I have many things stashed in several places including a 5-year-old box of Perler beads that hasn't even been opened. Since we have been on the move since I bought them, it is now in a suitcase in my mother-in-law's home. When I came to Pune, I brought my crochet hooks and a set of yarns that I have had since 2006. I wanted to do only crochet, but after getting here, I got myself some painting supplies and a sewing machine!!!

Looking back at this pattern during my reflections, I tried to understand why I didn't do any of the projects that I envisioned so brilliantly in my mind and brought supplies for, but finally were let to languish before even starting. It was again my perfectionist attitude rearing up. What if the project didn't turn out as I envisioned it? What if the thing I made was not usable? What if no one appreciates it? A whole lot of what ifs would queue up and the supplies would just resign themselves to the inevitable and heap dust upon themselves.

But not any more - this year I started off  by making something deliberately not perfect. Earrings are my favorite accessories and all of them lay tangled and mismatched in a box that I brought to Pune. For several months I had been wearing my mainstay gold studs just because it was easy to leave them in my ears and not have to search for appropriate ones. I checked online for some earring organizers, but most of them required some kind of frame and metallic mesh/ chicken wire etc. That is when I had this idea to make one of my own - a crocheted one! Since it was intended to be a prototype, I got out some of my cheap woollen yarn that I had bought from the Pimpri market and found unusable for apparel because it had a lot of impurities in it. Then I found a spare plastic hanger and made this:

I made it and started using it although it is not perfect. For instance, I had started off making a block of fabric that would be the width of the whole hanger, but got bored with making it too long, so I turned it on the side to attach it to the hanger. The stitch I chose was double crochet with stitches in the back loop only so that there would be loops to hang the earring in. When I turned the piece on the side, the loop ridges turned vertical instead of horizontal, but they still work! Here is a close up to show you what I mean.

I also don't like the plastic hanger or the white "trim" that was an after thought to "pretty up" the piece, and in spite of a frantic voice in my head screaming "Nooooooo!!!!", I hung it up and put up all my precious earrings on it. Do I cringe a little each time I see it? Yes. Did I have a super-cringe when I just uploaded the pictures now? YES! But hey, I will do it in a good cause. Here is a shout out to those people in the world who procrastinate on their dreams due to their perfectionism. Get rid of that monkey! If I can do it, any body can!!                                                                                                                                             

By the way, I do dream of making another one with the following:

But hey, that's another project altogether! See y'all next week!

May 20, 2010

Hello Blogland!

Dear reader,
Let me tell you who Karthi is... it's not me! Karthi is short for Karthika, my family's dream home in a village in Thiruvananthapuram. We got it built more than a year ago and spent one night in it. Then we moved to Pune, a 36-hour-long train ride away from our home because of a year-long assignment for my husband.

Karthi is the name of my blog because to me, our as-yet-uninhabited home is a metaphor for several things, most of all, my own life. In the past one year, in which I had a BIG 35th birthday, I have come to certain realizations. Many months after moving to this tiny apartment, I let all my homemaking slide because I was engrossed in thinking when I would be able to live in Karthika, making up and collecting ideas to decorate our dream home, and daydreaming about how life would be so perfect once we got back to living there. I was constantly finding fault with everything here, the heat in Pune, the black dust and cement dust that blackened my apartment's floors each day, the unfinished apartments sticking up like eyesores in all directions, and on and on and on.... (I'm a very good complainer!) Then I joined a reading group led by my elder son's Kindergarten director. That opened up vistas for me that I had never imagined possible...

I suddenly found that this "waiting for the perfect ... " has characterised all my life as in "Life will be perfect...
...when I grow up
...when I have job of my own
...when I become pencil thin
...when I have babies
...when the babies start sleeping all night
...when my book is published
...when the babies are potty-trained
...when I have a sewing machine
...when the babies are old enough to go to school
...when we have a house of our own
...when we finally start living in a house of our own

I think you get the idea. So around the beginning of 2010, (or mebbe half way into Feb!) I resolved, or rather made some vague and meandering moves towards not putting my life on hold any more in favor of a particular geographical, social, emotional or physical state. Today my motto is "Carpe Diem" (in that eerie Robin Williams whisper). And what have I done with the days I have seized? Stay tuned/ bookmark and follow to find out!!!

Spring/Summer Projects

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