Nov 9, 2018


We have a cat... Hmm... that doesn't sound quite true. It would be better to say the cat has us???

Anyway, this particular cat was left with us by the same mother cat who starred in this episode of the blog. She was a very prolific mother and we discovered that she was behaving exactly like a Malayali mother - in that she was shipping off her kittens to distant places by putting them on the engine floor of our car and have them hop off wherever DH parked. We were alerted to this trend by a few kittens who were not ready to leave hold of the apron-strings as yet and came back from his office with him and mewed to us plaintively from under the hood!!! 

So, back to the story of Akrami - the goon - as we call him. He came by this name because one of the first things he did after he got here was to scratch DH when he tried to get hold of the kitten. The doctor recommended a series of anti-rabies injection for the same. He is not a pet cat. He is to all intents and purposes a feral cat who occasionally visits us for food and shelter.

I would like to say that Akrami the kitten grew up to his name, and has become a magnificent tom cat who is the king of the neighborhood and so on. But it wouldn't be true. In fact, he is scrawny compared to some other tom cats in the neighborhood and very often we hear a screech and see him streaking away followed by bigger cats into the next panchayath. A couple of days later, he will appear with a swollen eye or scratched up visage and coolly ask us for food. His favorite hideout is our garage and an advantage of his scrawny stature is that he can crawl under the gate while his adversaries cannot.

Akrami has his preferences. He despises rice or milk. His favorite dish is dried anchovies followed very closely by chicken. He clearly shows his preference by actually going "Nomm, nomm" when he eats his favorite dishes. We give him food just to hear him eat with this audible sign of enjoyment. If we mix a bit of rice with his fish, he will dig out only the fish from the rice with all the delicate maneuvering of an archaeologist.  My DH who felt the fury of the little firebrand kitten is his biggest fan. DH who is a vegetarian and barely tolerates the aroma of frying fish and never touches non-vegetarian food will happily go to the local market, haggle with the dried-fish seller to buy dried anchovies and personally feed them to the cat. Akrami occasionally contributes to the family food kitty by leaving gifts of dead mice on our porch on some mornings. We accept them graciously and then bury them in the yard once he is gone.

This is how we usually find him in the mornings, right in front of our front door:

That is how he likes to sleep to the envy of the household that is rushing about here and there to leave in time for work. The front paw is there to stop any little ray of light that is intent on disturbing him.

For all his scaredy-catness, he is pretty independent too. Last year, we saw him nursing a swollen foot which looked in bad shape, but he would not let us get close to him to get him medical help. We decided that we should get him inoculated against rabies and this year, we managed to catch him in a thick jute sack and pacified him with anchovies till we took him to the vet and back. To his credit, he never treated us as enemies afterwards.

So we were astonished when Akrami hobbled up to us last week, with two swollen front legs, and a scratched up cheek and ear with pus oozing out of lesions on his legs. He wouldn't eat or drink, but sat on our front mat, crying pitifully. DH, who was down with a cold couldn't bear to see him in that shape. We bundled him up and took him to the district veterinary hospital. The prognosis was very bad - they x-rayed him to find no broken bones, but his liver and kidney were enlarged with infection and he had a very high fever. The doctor said that it looked like he had been bitten by a dog. We thanked God at that moment for giving us the forethought to have him inoculated.

But how to take care of a feral cat who is only half-domesticated? We put him in an unused room on the upper floor, washed his wounds everyday with saline solution and put antibacterial ointment on it, wearing gloves all the time. It hurt him, but he was too weak to protest. But he did take off the Elizabethan collar the first time we put it on him to prevent him from licking off all the ointment. But after that, he tolerated even that because he had used up all his energy jumping up and down to take off the collar. The true proof of his weakness came when we saw him drinking up hitherto despised milk! 

Altogether we took him three times to the hospital where he was given injections and intravenous fluids. At home we cleaned the wounds and fed him. But when we checked on him this Wednesday to take him to another vet appointment, we found that he had escaped from the upper floor room through the window!!! For two whole days we wondered if we would ever see our Akrami again.

Yesterday, he did appear, minus the Elizabethan collar. His wounds are still raw, but not suppurating any more. He is keeping himself very clean. He ate his fill of anchovies and a piece of boiled chicken and loudly clamored for more. It is clear that he is back in independent mode. Because he refuses to come in the house or be mollycoddled. 

Today morning, Akrami looked disdainfully at the milk DH left for him, but cleaned up the bowl after he had left for work. Here is a picture of him taken today morning:

The wounds are still very gruesome, which is why I haven't taken a picture in better light. But I think it will be enough to trust Mother Nature from now on to heal him.

Oh, what is that I hear? A very energetic mewing ... Akrami is here and he is hungry!!! Let me get him some food!!!

Oct 30, 2018

Thoughts on a Hill Shrine

2018 has been surprising so far in the things that it throws up. Living in Kerala is like being caught in a particularly vicious vortex that has one so turned around and confused that there is no telling which way to go in order to survive. First there was that deluge of the kind that occurs once in a century or so which brought in floods and landslides on a scale no one has ever seen. The people and the government are still limping along in the process of getting things back to normal. For many it meant loss of life, for others - loss of their home and all belongings. The loss in terms of public infrastructure and the danger to existing structures is incalculable. 

Kerala also saw a wonderful resurgence of community feeling. Malayalis all over the world lent a hand to help those in need. My current hometown's fishermen who had borne the brunt of Ockhi in January remembered the help they had received in their time of need and rushed to the help of those stranded in the flood all over central Kerala. It was a time of pain and it was a time of heart-squeezing pride and happiness too. 

But in another twist of fate, all that fellow-feeling seems to have evaporated as though it had never appeared at all in the first place. Barely a month after the receding of the floods, on the 28th of September the Supreme Court made a judgement on a long-drawn court case and ruled that women of child-bearing age can worship at Sabarimala now whereas it had been banned in 1991. And all hell broke loose....

And now, friends have become foes. Everybody has an opinion on Sabarimala and will concede to no one else's views. Hindus are now divided in two groups - those who are against the ruling and those who are for the ruling. My whatsapp is flooded with videos that mix mystic lore with pseudo science to prove why women of child-bearing age should not worship at Sabarimala. (I delete them without watching). Both factions refuse to back down. Ironically in this divine matter the worst behaviors of the human race have been brought out. 

Why is this happening? Why are women themselves out on the roads proclaiming that they are ready to wait till menopause to worship Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala? Why is there so much bad feeling? I had to take a break from (sometimes acrimonious) debates I was having with friends and family and delve into the Scriptures and approach great thinkers to find out the answer.  My answers mostly come from Swami Vivekananda's works.

This is the conclusion that I have come to: People have different consciousness levels. In devotees of every religion, there are only a few who question the beliefs of their ancestors and try to learn for themselves what lies beyond the rituals and rites of day-to-day religion. These people lead the renaissance movements that purify the religion of extraneous matter that builds up in every religion over time. Our own Sree Narayana Guru was one such great soul. Swami Vivekananda says that souls transmigrate slowly by stages into advanced life forms and finally reach the human form and make spiritual progress from there. It stands to reason that at any point of time, there are a large number of people then who are neophytes in spiritual growth and therefore consider themselves religious solely because they follow the religious rites and rituals that have been handed down to them.

Swami Vivekananda also quotes the Scriptures which say that "External worship, material worship is the lowest stage; struggling to rise high, mental prayer is the next stage, but the highest stage is when the Lord is realized." He further goes on to say "Idols or temples or churches or books are only the supports, the helps of his spiritual childhood: but on and on must he progress." Another relevant quotation from the same source is "...every soul is a young eagle soaring higher and higher, gathering more and more strength till it reaches the Glorious Sun."

Thus I have come to understand that it is the spiritually young souls that are protesting the change in a temple rite. This protest comes from a place of fear. They do not know what lies beyond the rituals and rites, their souls are not ready to progress to a level where devotion can go beyond the idol to finding the divinity in themselves. They need the rigid rules of custom and tradition in order to keep themselves on the path of righteousness. They fear that once religious rites and rituals are changed, they will find a frightening void that will lead to anarchy. They protest just like a cornered animal attacks out of fear for its life.

But if the devotees had been left to their own means, things would not have got to this level of foulness and acrimony. It is the agenda of political parties who want to turn that fear and rage into votes that fans the flames of this particular conflagration. They are behaving exactly like the power-mongers of the past who cash in on people's fear in order to achieve their own ends. It is their organized strength that has defiled the sanctity of the hill shrine's environs with violence and foul language. It is their goons who destroy the homes of those women who attempt to climb the sacred hill.

What do I think about the ruling? I have always preferred japa, meditation and study of the Scriptures over worship in temples. I do not like visiting crowded pilgrimage centers no matter how famous they are because I find it hard to concentrate in the noisy milieu. Predatory hands and protruding appendages of male devotees have a tendency to take advantage of the crowds too. I don't need to fly my feminist colors by visiting Sabarimala against the protestors' wishes, neither do I want to court notoriety or endanger my family. In fact, my husband and sons have postponed their annual pilgrimage indefinitely. It is a fact that when opposing forces collide, the innocent bystanders often get hurt. It is only wise to keep away.

I bow to the rights of the activists who filed the case for the inclusion of menstruating women, but I also feel it was unfortunate that the Supreme Court didn't take the vox populi into consideration for this verdict. If it is not retracted, Kerala will once again become in Swami Vivekananda's words "a mental asylum" of fear-crazed devotees who are egged on by politicians and getting mowed down by government machinery. 

I am therefore doing the only thing I can do at this juncture. I humbly pray to Lord Ayyappa, the Destroyer of Shani to remove the darkness of ignorance blinding everybody and show us the path to true enlightenment. Swamiye, Saranam Ayyappa...๐Ÿ™

Jul 27, 2018

Movie Review: Koode

All things happen for a reason. The last month saw several power cuts due to the incessant rains. One evening we switched off the electric lights and fans running on inverter to save its power and went out into the porch in the evening. All the neighborhood lights were out. And then we saw the magic... Fireflies...on the trees, floating on to the ground, lighting up the area like a magical light show. The kids and I watched mesmerized by the simple beauty of it.

It was the same feeling evoked by Koode, the latest in the Anjali Menon canon...

After a long time and quite a few duds along the way, comes a movie that stays with you even after you leave the movie hall. I could have written quite a few scathing reviews in the meantime hadn't I taken a vow not to revile anybody's creative expression๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„. But Koode took away all the bitter aftertaste of those movies.

Joshua (Prithviraj) is a lonely, shy young man burdened with the responsibility of wage-earning at the tender age of 15. Twenty years later he is desensitized, just going through the motions of life when a traumatic event happens. How the event breaks him out of the shell he has created for himself is the whole movie. The larva-like, vulnerable thing that comes out of it is not pretty and is very fragile. But as time passes, he comes to understand that the shell had not been a protection, but rather something preventing the full realization of his self.

Director Ranjith as Josh's father is a revelation. The whole cast has done a perfect job. Nazriya has effortlessly flowed into Jenny with nary a hitch after a sabbatical of four years from acting. Parvathy gets another tortured, repressed, brave character that she acts out with elan. Zubin, who plays young Joshua, is perfect for the role. As one of my friends put it, "He looks and moves just like Prithvi. It's as though the movie was shot while Prithvi was young and the rest as he matured".

As we have come to expect from an  Anjali  Menon movie, the supporting cast and their lives also enliven the background. Once our attention is finally turned away from the protagonists, we get to savor the humor and pathos surrounding the supporting cast. And there are subtle director touches everywhere... the dilapidation of Josh's house even though he's been earning well in the Gulf,  the vintage vehicles, the toy train set, and one or two Easter eggs that compel us to watch the movie again playing close attention to the background and asking explanations from our fellow moviegoers.

I can go on and on. But that could spoil your viewing pleasure, so let me stop here.

Verdict: Very good. One for the collection!

Jun 21, 2018

How to bring back the green...

Back in 2007, when we bought the land for Karthi, it looked like this...

There were coconut trees that looked tired, a few jack fruit trees and a jungle jack that towered above everything else. There was little ground cover, and what little there was was mostly the thorny touch-me-nots. The plot, open from both sides was the grazing ground of local livestock which ate up any grass and left the thorns. Since the owner was away and didn't bother to fertilize or otherwise take care of the coconut trees, the coconuts were taken by anyone around and any dry thing that fell was taken away for firewood. 

After we leveled just enough space to build Karthi, we faced a lot of trouble with soil erosion, lack of nutrients in the soil to support plants and all-pervasive touch-me-nots which tore at our feet and ankles if we dared walk anywhere other than the front yard.

Neither DH nor I were any good with combating any of these problems. Back at my home, my gardening experience was limited to sticking anything into fertile soil and have it grow and be fruitful. DH hadn't even done that. So we had to read, ask for advice and simply blunder our way through fixing things.
Here are the things we have done to combat these problems:

1. Terracing: One of the most efficacious things we did in our upper yard was to dig rainwater ditches. We had come across rainwater-harvesting ideas while building Karthi. So when we got workers to make proper coconut thadams, we asked them to dig wide ditches to hold water during the monsoons. The ditches were kind of random and made walking in our upper yard a bit difficult, but they did help with water retention and soil erosion. But eventually they naturally filled up.

After a few years, we hired an excavator for a day and did some real landscaping work on the upper yard. The whole yard was dug up, the extraneous vegetation matter was pushed deep into the soil and we made two proper terraces. This had proved very good in catching water and improving the soil's fertility.

2. Culling:  Our property contained 8 jack fruit trees and a towering jungle jack tree that cut off most of the sunlight in the morning. At the beginning, we felt reluctant to cut down any tree. But finally we had to admit that all this abundance of trees, especially the luxuriant wild jack that was not even putting out fruits anymore were not contributing anything good except dry leaves. 

So down came the wild jack, one old jack fruit tree that was too close to a younger one and hindering its growth and another one that again stood on the eastern border, blocking the light. This opened up the yard to plenty of sunlight. And in addition, selling the wood gave us enough money to buy a weed trimmer.

3. Giving back to the soil: Most people around us deal with weeds and natural refuse in two ways: a) Whatever is dry, they burn. b) They use spades to dig out the weeds. Both these management techniques are harmful in the long run. Burning increases pollution (as we see when large-scale burning of the refuse in Punjabi and Haryanvi fields causes smog in Delhi). When weeding using a spade, the soil loses its fertile top cover and the lack of roots encourages soil erosion. 

As novices in the art of land management we were under a lot of pressure to do an annual digging up of weeds and even using an excavator every year to improve our soil. Even I reveled in doing some spadework, thinking of it as "prettying" my garden by eradicating all the weeds. But after reading books on permaculture, especially Fukuoka's works, I finally put an end to the systematic impoverishing of our already poor soil. 

As much as I can, I let the dry branches and leaves rot wherever they fall. The leaves that fall in our front yard get swept and put around garden plants. It's only when the plant beds can't hold anymore that I resort to a little leaf-burning.The dry coconut leaves also get to rot in their respective thadams... If they pile up too much or stick out into our paths, I reposition them or get a bill hook and chop them up into smaller pieces. 

Our weed trimmer does exemplary work in this field. I take it out for a spin and all the nutrient-rich green parts of the weeds fall back into the soil to rot and provide even more nutrients. At the same time enough of the weed survives to grow back and provide much-needed root support to the soil and prevent it from flowing away in the rain. I've decided that having a natural "lawn" looks much better than naked soil around my plants. I still root out some 'undesirable' weeds by hand, especially the thorny ones or ones that grow too tall and strong for my weed cutter. But those are appear very sporadically now and plucking them out does not harm the soil.

4. Coco peat: Oh, I could sing paeans to coco peat all day long! Our soil is predominantly clay that becomes spongy and squishy in rainy weather and iron-hard in summer. Even if I added cattle manure and bio-gas slurry to the soil, it didn't help much. On one of my jaunts to the garden shop I noticed these blocks of material and asked about them. The shop guy talked of it as a soil substitute made from coconut fiber. I certainly had lots of soil around!!! But I bought a block after reading the instructions, fascinated by how it said that the block would expand to several times its size after being soaked in water. Talk of buying things for the wrong reason!

Once my curiosity about its expanding qualities were satisfied, I experimentally added coco peat to the soil and found that whatever I planted in it grew immeasurably more luxuriantly that it did in our plains soil EVEN WITHOUT ADDING FERTILIZER. I read up more on coco peat and found that it is indeed added to clayey soil to make it porous and allow the plant roots to penetrate it better!! What a serendipitous discovery!

I hope these tips help anyone starting out in land management on their own. Currently I have a new adversary. I don't know what it is called, but it is a wild climber of the legume variety that is rapidly taking over yards everywhere, even destroying forests. Its lavender flowers beguiled me for a while but then I saw its truly heinous propensity of choking even sturdy and well-established plants. THAT is one weed that needs to be uprooted, even more so than the bloodthirsty touch-me-not.

So, on with my trusty gardening gloves! See you later!!!

Jun 14, 2018

Monsoon blues and greens

The dirty breakfast dishes are still waiting in the sink. The laundry is calling out loud from the washing machine. My SHE cards tell me that I have a full day of chores ahead. But when I stepped out to close the gate after my family departed, for the first time in several months I felt the urge to take out the camera, to write, to share. So my dear dishes, laundry and chore home-blessing cards, please wait a bit while I get this done!!!

The first thing that called to me was the sun...

...shining on the rain-drenched Napier grass through which I had mowed a path last week. The camera is a poor instrument to catch the magnificence of the light on the bright green. I stood a full minute enjoying the light before I ran in to get the camera...

My coral jasmine has decided that it is Onam already, making floral carpets and lending her blossoms to sundry bushes near her while vying for space with my plumeria.

Oh how I love those blossoms... they bring back the best memories of my childhood...

The color-changing bougainvillea that I had trained over the wall to say "Hi" and nod its blossoms at all passersby was blown right back and snapped in two by the wind last Saturday. I am not sad, because I know how soon it will grow back. In fact, the wind has done me a great service by sparing me the job of trimming it ๐Ÿ˜Š. Now if I can just bring myself to cut it in manageable parts and get it to the top end of our yard where it can rest in peace without the thorns damaging me...

The globe amaranth providing much needed color relief from the rampant greenery...

The sun struggling to penetrate the vegetation of our absentee neighbor's overgrown yard into our backyard...

The fragile little "springs" that my ivy gourd is putting out to catch hold of its new trellis. I moved its pot to a different spot since a falling papaya tree broke the net I had set up for it earlier. Those tiny springs inspire me with so much hope and happiness...

Just take in this list for a moment...
  1. A childless aunt has multiple hospitalizations for acute diabetes issues.
  2. Husband and one child contract a nasty virus that combines fever, cough, sneezing, vomiting and consequent dehydration which last more than a fortnight each.
  3. Another kid contracts a urinary tract infection that has his bilirubin shooting up and gives him high fever.
  4. A cousin's wife and two kids have a serious accident. The lady is bedridden with multiple fractures on her legs. The kids survive with a fracture each.
  5. The cousin, a high-functioning alcoholic who had been restrained till then by his wife's loving supervision, decides that his wife's bedridden state is the ideal time to leap off the wagon, goes on an alcoholic binge and ends up in a coma. In the ICU for two weeks without knowing if he will survive. Now recovering, but still not mobile and has a food tube and breathing tube. Still in hospital after a whole month.
  6. A nephew gets acute appendicitis and gets hospitalized just in time to avoid appendix rupture. Still has a painful recovery.
  7. Dad needing and getting cataract surgery.
This is what we have been going through from the beginning of this year.  I have had to personally care for only four of these people, but the sheer stress has been drawing out all joy in life. So much so that happiness seems even more fleeting than usual! 

Movies, books, summer outings - those go-to remedies for the blues - were just momentary distractions in the doom and gloom.

Today, it's different. Today once again I feel that life is not a burden. Today I've decided that enough is enough. It's time to get on with writing, baking, sowing those new seeds, going beyond mere housekeeping routines to do something creative, something extra. 

The sun's rising brightly over Karthi once again!

Mar 9, 2018

Post laptopitis and a makeover project...

January 29th was an ordinary Monday in all other respects at Karthi. After the weekend merrymaking, I was as usual torn between selecting an extended rest on the couch or whirling around Karthi putting to it rights after the weekend mayhem. I had no inkling of the disaster that was to befall me. 

In the end, I chose to celebrate the fledgling week by alternating between bouts of cleaning and sitting still. In one leg of the sitting still part, I fired up my trusty laptop of 7 years, did some work on it and left it on the blink a while later to get my lunch. After lunch I came back to my hibernating computer, sat down and pressed the switch...

Nothing happened. The screen didn't erupt happily to life on my touch. No friendly lights gleamed. I quickly attached the power cord and tried all resuscitation methods that my laptop technician relayed to me over the phone. No good. That is when I started to realize that something very serious had happened...

To cut a long story short, my laptop is still not completely fine. It was resuscitated and returned to me after more than a month minus a battery for the backing up of files. It needs another extended stay in the hospital for a complete recovery and I'm waiting for the technician to arrange a surrogate laptop for me to use till my own is returned to robust health. 

But the first two months of the year have not passed by uneventfully. Today I will share with you a project that had been niggling at me for several months. It was concerning this bookshelf in our master bedroom:

I have no idea how old this bookshelf is. From 3rd grade to the 5th, it had been part of my room in Saudi. Later, it sat in my sister's room for a long time. When our parents came to Thiruvananthapuram, they left it here at Karthi. My father had got the old plywood panel covering changed, put in new glass sliding panels and had the interior painted. But the glass didn't slide smoothly, it was a headache to open and close them and they were tough to keep clean of smudges and dust. So over the years, I was unable to close them properly and the interior got progressively dirty.

Things being so, I just stashed in some things that weren't in frequent use and had to spend considerable time and effort in retrieving them. It was tough to keep it organized and clean. Besides, it was the first thing that met my eyes on waking up and the last when I went to sleep, so it was kind of an eyesore too. 

One day I just paused by it and checked one end of the glass channel that didn't quite meet at one corner. To my surprise, it came off from the wood, trailing threads of tacky glue. I ran to my tool box, found a chisel and in no time had pried off the channel on the left side!!! I sat down to think and found that an open bookshelf would be much more easier to maintain and organize than this sliding glass affair. 

So in the second week of the new year, I bought some white enamel paint (since my painting adventure last year, I consider myself a veteran house painter) and happily dismantled the glass channels and panel without any damage.

It was a challenge taking out the glass panels and the top and bottom channels. I didn't know how to take the glass out of the channels without removing them altogether. So after a bit of sliding and prying that saw me sweating as much in stress as in exertion, they came out without breaking and I immediately packed them up and put them away for safekeeping. 

Two coats of paint later, the bookshelf gleamed back at me... Of course, the edges are a bit ragged and the paint has got out of the lines a bit, but they don't bother me.

And here it is now... organized and easy to clean, no longer an eyesore and completely usable.

So that is another project under my belt. Each time I look at it, I smile in satisfaction! Which reminds me, I have not shown you my living room makeover yet. Will post it soon!!!

Jan 12, 2018

Movie Review: Mayanadi

Mayanadi, Ashiq Abu's latest directorial venture comes after a gap of two years. His work is not always to my taste. I loved Salt n' Pepper. 22F Kottayam was okay. Didn't like his later ventures till Rani Padmini which I liked enough to watch more than once. So I was a bit skeptical about what was touted as a "newgen romance", but decided that for the sake of keeping an open mind, I would go and watch the movie. 

Let me tell you straight away - I liked the movie. Liked - not loved and I don't think that it is awesome to the nth degree. It is the "love" or "friendship" story of two very flawed people - Mathan (Tovino Thomas) and Aparna (Aiswarya Lakshmi). The two form an attachment while in college. They break up due to trust issues. Mathan goes on to become a bit of a conman till he gets into real trouble. But he has always kept his love for Aparna alive. So he asks her to run away with him to the Gulf.

Aparna, on the other hand, never got to complete her studies and is a struggling actress. She auditions as much as she can, models for ads and moonlights as an MC for lavish weddings and such. She has to support her mother and brother. The family is not a close one. She knows she cannot trust Mathan since he broke that trust once before. But she also cannot say no when he tries to get back into her good graces.

As a story it is a change from the routine and cliched fare of filmy romance. And it is picturized beautifully. The actors deliver superb performances and are very easy on the eyes. There is no denying that logic and common sense have been sacrificed at the altar of dramatic tension and elicitation of tragedy. But it is watchable and engrossing. The ironic comedy scenes are superb. My knowledge of Tamil is pretty basic and I would have loved to have some subtitles.

This is what I felt in the movie theater. But after I came out, one of my friends pointed out to me that the picture has been touted as the epitome of women empowerment. Say what??? Walking alone in the streets of Kochi after midnight, stringing along a guy who loves you and just using him for sex and moral support and keeping mum when a good friend is carried away by her overbearing brother so that you can snag her job - these are supposed to be what women need to feel empowered??? I am sorry, I must have missed a memo somewhere... 

IMHO, that is just kowtowing to the male-defined model of achieving "success" at any cost and using emotionally vulnerable people just for physical satisfaction. Is the adoption of that historical male prerogative the definition of feminine empowerment? Sorry, I beg to differ. May be the makers of the movie want to spread this "empowered attitude" in society so that they have more misguided girls to pick from???

Having said that, the movie is eminently watchable and refreshing. Just don't take your kids to watch.

Jan 11, 2018

My New Year Gift to You!

Happy New Year, dear readers!

Oh I know it's almost half way through the first month of the year... Things get way unsettled from mid-Dec to mid-Jan here at Karthi. We have been fortunate enough that a prediction hasn't come true, but Ockhi happened and showed us that even if there is a warning system in place and information had been handed to government agencies, it didn't percolate down to the people who really needed the warning. There are still 300+ souls whose fate is unknown. Let us continue to contribute what we can to ease the suffering of the loved ones that the departed and the lost have left behind.

Back in the summer of 2013, my kids made an amazing discovery - they learned that cakes can be baked at home! Blame the summer camp that they attended at DH's workplace. And although they saw and helped in the baking process at the camp, did they want to be bakers themselves? No sirree, they colluded with their father to buy a microwave and made ME do all the hard work! 

Even though baking is one 'craft' that I didn't adopt on my own, it has become dear to my heart. It satisfies the creative, the eternal student and the gourmand in me. And it gets me raving accolades from my family! Frequent baking makes for expanding waistlines, so I bake cakes only for birthdays, bake sales at the kids' school and for guests.

Last year I was bold enough to try baking a cake without a recipe!!! I know, sacrilegious, isn't it? The amounts have to be just right to make the chemistry that is almost alchemy work for the novice. I got news that two of my cousins were coming to visit. Karthi's snack box was empty and they weren't staying for lunch. So I decided to bake a quick chocolate cake. I didn't even have to break out my hand mixer! My cousins didn't mind being guinea pigs - in fact they asked for more! Then I knew I was on to a good thing! And indeed I had the occasion to bake it twice afterwards and they both came out very good. So here goes:

Quick and Easy Microwave Chocolate Cake 

Dry ingredients:

All-purpose flour - 1 cup
Cocoa powder - 1/2 cup
Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
Baking soda - 1/2 tsp

Wet ingredients:

Vegetable oil - 1 cup (I found peanut oil the best. Coconut oil makes for a heavy cake) 
Sugar - 1 cup
Milk -  1 cup
Eggs - 2, lightly beaten
Vanilla essence - 1 tsp

Whisk together sugar and oil till sugar is somewhat dissolved. Add milk and mix well. Sieve dry ingredients together and add to the mixture while whisking. Pour in the beaten eggs while whisking. Add the vanilla essence.

Pour batter into greased baking mold and nuke at 80% power for 12 minutes. Check whether done with a toothpick or skewer.  It's yummy and moist served either hot or cold.

This cake is not overly sweet - it suits our tastes perfectly. The batter may look runny, but that is how it is supposed to look. 

And as I was writing this, a memory came to me and I chuckled thinking those days are far behind me. Touch wood!

Do have a go at my new year gift. Let me know in the comments!

Spring/Summer Projects

Gosh, isn't it baking hot in God's Own Country these days! In accordance with the government's guidelines, we seldom venture o...