America, Bhaarath Mahaan, Food, life lessons, my crazy days

V for Vadai

Tamil Nadu has a bustling “snack scene”. While most Tamil households practice the “tiffin” culture, (a small meal between lunch and dinner at around 4 o’clock) that consists of idli, dosa, adai or such, my family partakes in the “evening tea”. And no, we’re not British. I have fond memories of my extend, boisterous family spending our evenings talking about politics, religion and sharing anecdotes (some even for the millionth time) over bottomless cups of tea and golden brown masala/paruppu(dal) vadais.

The combination of tea and vadai was the most popular item in my house. My mother would fry batch over batch of crispy vadais, enough to satisfy the endless stream of guests that waltzed in to my home (many of whom I think came just for the tea).

I remember hovering impatiently over the hot kadai pestering my mother to “make it soon”. ‘Cause Lord knows, I was always hungry. Considering the amount of time I spent talking to my mother in the kitchen, I never actually managed to cook anything. So when it came to the vadai I took care of the consumption while she did the manufacturing.

Cut to last week when I decided to make these vadais because what’s Ramadan without some oily goodness clogging up your blood stream . I scanned the Interwebz high and low for a recipe that fit. Nothing managed to click. Finally I gave up and decided to just wing it. I soaked the dal and chopped the onions, green chillies and ginger. Few hours later I was frying up slightly misshapen, but delicious vadais. Turns out the time I spent in the kitchen was of use. While I didn’t pay attention to what or rather, how my mother made the food, my brain was passively recording everything for future use.

And that, my friends, is why you should never take yourself for granted.

Also, y’all are welcome to my house anytime for tea and vadai.

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faith, life, life lessons, quotes

The Grudge

.. not the movie. I’ve been doing a lot of self reflecting this Ramadan (don’t laugh) in order to become a better person on the whole. I was thinking about grudges and how some of them consume us like a fire. I have decided to not hold grudges against anyone and not feel so strongly when someone else holds a grudge against me. I realize that everyone is dealing with their own issues and holding on to one hurtful thing that someone said eons ago is not going to make my life any easier. Holding a grudge is like adding on an excess weight to my shoulder that I do not want. I don’t want to waste precious time in my life from wondering why so and so was mean, rude, etc.

I’ve decided to be carefree about these things and not let them gnaw at my brain. ‘Cause really, no good can come from these resentful thoughts.

P.S : How horrible was that movie The Grudge? I despise the entire horror genre.

 

“If everybody likes you. you’re pretty dull.”

– Bette Davis

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life lessons, random, Random Things of Interest

Things I’ve been doing and feeling

The white screen with a blinking cursor is very daunting. This was one of the reasons why I was away from this space for a long time. I felt like I didn’t have anything to say and my little pot of “inspiration” was shrinking, smaller and smaller until it stopped existing. Although the empty screen did call out to me, coming back to it was like an elastic pull – forced but meant to be.

The past few weeks I have been in denial that I don’t have a procrastination problem. I’ve also been fasting for long hours. While it was hard for the first couple of days I have now got in to the groove of it. Eating bajjis and pakodas might cancel out the process of fasting, but this year I told myself I will not waste food. So we’ve been having leftovers every alternate day. And its been good so far.

I have also written so many amazing blog posts IN MY HEAD. My creative juices only start to flow when I reach the stage before REM. So right after I nod off to sleep I come up with these amazing ideas and story lines and tell myself to “remember this Zarine, you’re going to type it out in the morning”, and then I fall asleep. I wake up and all that amazingness is gone. Its a terrible, terrible thing.

Last week I sprained my neck sleeping on a flat pillow. Not just one, but both sides. I couldn’t turn left or right. Straight was the only direction. Not only were my movements hindered, it was also painful. I slathered myself with Tiger Balm (tiger not included) and wrapped my neck in a heat pack. Last night I was desperate for some relief so I Googled ‘neck pain cure’ and found an  interesting acupuncture remedy. You guys, trust me when I say that it WORKED LIKE A CHARM. All you need to do is press the area between your forefinger and middle finger at the back of your hand. Press hard and make small circles while you turn your head from side to side. Do it on the hand that is in the opposite side of the sprain. I know it sounds like some voodoo, mumbo jumbo but it honestly works. The pain begins to subside and you get a greater range of motion. I woke up this morning with the pain reduced by 50 %. The next time I sprain my neck (it happens quite often) I know that I have a handy cure.

 You ask, in order to entirely eliminate this neck sprain situation, Zarine, why don’t you get a harder pillow? Believe me, I’ve tried. This is my third pillow. Ikea has a terrible collection of pillows when it comes to the firmness. They have various pillows for side and back sleepers. I’ve tried both. They suck equally. In Madras I used a decent, solid pillow that didn’t sink to the floor when I placed my head on it.

I am venting over a pillow and a sprained neck for half this post. Either I’m really angry or my inspiration comes from bedroom textiles.

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college, grad school, life, life lessons

Fake it till you make it

A few months in to grad school and the one thing I have found that you are expected to do in most classes is a presentation. Now, coming from India, the land of mugging up and Engineering colleges, I have only given two presentations in my undergraduate career. But now I have the perfect formula for giving presentations. Having written my share of Anna University exams I found that the strategy that I applied to semester exams in under grad works perfectly in this context. So here are my go points while giving any presentation:

ACT LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT

This is the primary strategy with which we answered Anna University exams. Even if you know only the bare minimum, build on it. It might be gibberish to your ears, but believe in it. Have the confidence that you know exactly what you’re saying.

ACT LIKE THE AUDIENCE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT

Those poor people listening to you talk! They are imbeciles! YOU have to educate THEM. That’s the mantra that should go on inside your head.

 

FAKE IT

How you present yourself is important. If you are feeling unconfident, fake yourself in to thinking you’re the best. That sounds like some weird reverse psychology, I know, but listen to this amazing Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. You will approach things with a new perspective.

 

Now for some practical tips:

  • Bullet points, keywords and flashcards are your friends. Embrace them.
  • Do not hold a piece of paper in your hand and refer to it every chance you get. I used to do that a lot and it was no help.
  • Practice a gazillion times. Preferably in front of the mirror.
  • And the best advice anyone ever gave me: “Act like you own the room  world.” Trust me, it always works.
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America, life, life lessons, random

Comebacks

PSA: This is a public service announcement requesting for smartass comebacks.

Have you guys ever been in a situation where someone says something mean to you and your mouth is open but your brain doesn’t act fast enough to come up with a smart retort but you still open your mouth and its just… air.

I’ve been in this situation far too many times than I’d like to admit. Growing up with an older brother we’d always have a battle of words and I would have the worst comebacks.

Brother: “God Zarine, you’re so fat! You’re like the Playstation game – Little Fat Princess!!”

Me: “Shut up! You’re a little fat princess!!”

Seriously, thats the best I can do. Call me a name and I will call you the SAME name, Say something meant to me and I will just say, ” You…”

Another scenario is where I think of a comeback two days after the insult has been thrown at me. So its like the usual routine – wake up, brush teeth, have breakfast, take a shower and then KABOOM! I got it! I have a comeback now, 48 hours later, and it doesn’t even matter anymore.

I’d really like to change this aspect in my life, guys. I don’t want to get burned anymore. I’ve been burnt so much that I’m blackened toast (Haha! Sorry, had to that, please don’t go).

So please, share your best comebacks, people!

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life, life lessons, random

A Reminder to Myself

The past week I met two women who have inspired me. They didn’t let age, society or gender define them. They did what they wanted and pursued their passion. That’s the kind of person I want to be. I don’t want to be held back my the limitations I put on myself or by what society dictates I should do. I want to shield myself from the judgements of other people and protect myself form negative energy. What my second cousin twice removed’s maami’s husbands says about me or what my neighbors paati thinks I ought to do right now is of no importance.

Being true to myself should help me sleep better at a night.

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America, Bhaarath Mahaan, faith, life, life lessons

Faith and Freedom

Yesterday I was talking to my friend S, who is from South Korea about the differences in our countries and our families. “I had an arranged marriage”, I told her.

“So you and your husband are same religion?”, she asked.

“Yes.”

“Oh, we are not. My husband is Christian and I am Buddhist but I’ve never been to a temple. In my country we have no religion. I go to church every Sunday because it makes my husband happy. But I do not understand when the priest talks. I think, how can they believe in God. But I hope that my son believes in God when he grows up, maybe it will help him when something happens to him.”

Then she proceeded to tell me about another girl she met who was on an R (refugee) visa as she had to flee from Iran because of religious persecution.

On one end was this woman who did not have a trace of any religion yet, wanted the opposite for her child. At the other end of the spectrum was a woman who had to leave her country to hold on to her beliefs.

I realize how lucky I am to have grown up where I did – India, where the streets are dirty and cows wander by. India, where I could practise my religion freely. I went to school with Hindus, Muslims and Christians. We made Pongal on Pongal day and exchanged biriyani and cakes on respective occasions. My neighbors were Hindus and my bestest friends are Christians. I respect their belief, and they mine. I did not have to think twice about talking about prayers or wearing a headscarf. I studied in a convent where the values they taught me were the same as what my parents did. I had freedom all along and never really realized how bad it is for others who don’t.

I also understand that this may not be true for everyone who lives in India. But I thank God that the South is peaceful, that the people may not be hip and modern but they are tolerant and loving.

Honestly speaking, ever since I moved to the US I’ve been afraid of my headscarf instigating others, thanks to the countless stories I hear. But, thankfully, that all these fears were only in my mind. I have never felt awkward or threatened here. I did have my fears while riding the bus every day. There are a lot of crazy people in America and by crazy I mean for real crazy, like people mumbling stuff, screaming expletives, reciting poetry randomly, etc. I know its uncalled for but I was always worried one of them might say something to me. The only things that I had thrown at me were nice things – “You look really good in that”, and by that they meant my scarf. This made me happy. And now I finally feel like I belong.

It took me 24 years to realize how important it is to have the freedom to stick to your beliefs. But what if you have all the freedom in the world and still do not believe? Like the case of my friend S. Maybe she does not have religion because she does not feel the need for it in her life. That’s a freedom too. But what if she just never had the opportunity to experience the other side? Maybe her parents were not religious at all, and that’s a missed opportunity right there. Her country did not believe in any religion, that’s another one. But now she has a husband whom she accompanies to church every Sunday. I really hope that she gets to fill that void of God and the what, why, who’s with a little faith.

 

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