Things that make you go aww…

This one is for the loves of my lives, my raison d’etre, my cute kiddos-Khushi (5) and Lakshya (4).

1) I tell Lakshya to keep his hands off his ‘pee-pee’ at times and he replies innocently, ‘But my pee-pee says, ‘touch me! touch me!”

2) Whenever Khushi meets a total stranger, she says ‘hi!’ shyly. And then adds confidentally, ‘You know, my mother is a writer!’

3) If you ask Khushi what she wants to be when she grows up, she says ‘I want to be a writer like Mamma.’ Lakshya wants to be a ‘driver’

4) On ashtami, we do not eat food before doing the ‘puja’. But on that day, Lakshya was hungry but Khushi was still getting ready. I told him to eat his breakfast and he replied, ‘But what about the puja?’

‘That’s okay,’ I told him. ‘We all will wait for Khushi to do the Puja, but you are hungry, you eat’ I placed food in front of him and walked off.

Five minutes later, I walked back to the room to see his little frame bent over the untouched plate. He was singing his night prayer on top of his voice. ‘Thank you God for the food we eat……’. Finally he announced ‘thank you god for everything!’ and turned to me with a smile. ‘Now I have done puja,’ he said and proceeded to start his breakfast.

5) Lakshya has lost the very expensive color-changing Lightning Mcqueen his grandparents gave him six months back. Angry, I told him that ‘nana-nani will not get you anything this time.’

One evening I overheared Lakshya talking to my mom on Skype and assuring her that the Lightning Mcqueen was safe but it was ‘hidden somewhere so that she would not find it when she came’.

6) Like most kids, Khushi loves junk food. I have to control her pigging out on cakes and pizzas (awww…honey). To do this, I have introduced ‘eat as much as you are hungry’. Needless to say she uses the ‘I am not hungry’ tactic on healthy food but never on the intended junk food.

One afternoon after yet another bowl of unfinished daal, I gave her a lecture and made her finish it. Several days later she had an upset stomach. Worried, I told her ‘eat less. don’t eat the daal if you are not hungry’. To which she promptly replied, ‘But you don’t trust me when I say that!’

And she is just five.




















My third world story

If you have been following my blog (and fee fie fum! if you haven’t) you would know THE struggle in my life. How my first book Burnt Toast was a lucky fluke, written with a toddler on my knee and a baby crawling dangerously close to the wires at my feet. And now I want be the next Aravind Adiga. Maybe. If only I could find a rags-to-riches, third world fiction story that seems to scare foreignors so much that they bestow awards and money on you to make you feel all better. Why should only the IT guys make money from the ‘India story’?

So I cleared my space (threw a mass of papers and printers that seemed to be magically floating on four pillars to discover little- seen table), found a tranquil space and time (waited for kids to go to school), and got ready ( bought 2 new shiny, pretty notebooks and 3 sets of multi-coloured pens) and waited for inspiration to strike.

And waited….and waited…..

The best authors write from their childhood experiences. Think ‘catcher in the rye’ and not ‘assholes finish first’ here. So I delved into the farthest memories of my childhood hoping to discover some innocent, struggling , Indian ‘desh ki mitti’ kind of recall that could be stark and alien to sympathetic foreignors.

There was only one problem. Try as I might to conjure images of open and dusty maidans and ice golas, I could only remember concrete flats, dollops ice cream and burgers. I pushed my mind towards deprived children in blue pinafores, jute bags and studying under street lamps and it stubbornly threw back images of uniformed dresses, gated playgrounds and elaborate assembly functions. I wanted to think of ‘hum honge kamyaab’ and ‘ek chidiya’ and it supplemented those images with ‘Papa kehte hain’. ‘Another day in paradise’ and ‘Remember the time’.

I finally had to admit that my childhood was very ordinary. And global. We didn’t even have a full time servant whose oppression I could make into the Indian version of ‘Help’. If there is anyone who is oppressed in Mumbai its my sexagenarian mom who is held to ransom by no-nonsense ‘ek kaam ka hazzaar rupaya’ kaamwaaalis.

The only deprivation I could think about my childhood was the lack on entertainment we had as kids. We used to wait for the 9’o clock serials the whole day and thought ‘mungerilal ke haseen sapne’ was hilarous. The weekend movie and Star trek was a really big thing. We played all afternoon and read books over and over till we had them by-heart.

Yep, that’s my whole childhood.

So much for the ‘India story’.

How young is too young?


Flames was a big time- pass when we were tweens. The game that collapsed to F=Friend, L=Love, A=Adore,M=Marriage,  E=Enemy, S=sister caught popular frenzy as scores of hormonal teens in 6th  and 7th grade bent over the last pages of their notebooks doing and redoing tally marks with names of their opposite sex as if hoping for a different outcome everytime.

When we were twelve , it was as if a switch had been turned on. Suddenly we discovered BOYS. And I don’t just mean me. Everyone in my 7th standard class was suddenly having a crush, gossiping about someone else’s crush (teasing, we called it) or denying that gossip, while secretely doubting their own intentions. We all had a simultaneous ‘eureka’ moment-our homones seemed to bubble onto the surface as suddenly as boiling milk. It was all harmless fun- the most anyone would do was flirt shamelessly or hold hands in ice-cream parlours (this was before Barista) feeling very very blasphemous all the time. We thought our moms would have killed us if they found out.

Life has come a full circle. Recently at a birthday party, a young man asked my daughter to dance with him. She innocently agreed and they started jiving haltingly on a popular number. Then one of her friends whispered something to her.

‘No! We are just friends!’ my daughter refuted heatedly, throwing a fervent look at me in the corner. I smiled at her and pretended to be oblivious. Relieved, my daughter immediately dropped the boys’ hand and stalked off the dance floor.

I had once resolved that I would never be as removed from my daughter’s life as my Mom was from mine. At my time of course parents never talked about boys except to warn you that they were devils out to destroy your honour. And sex was out of the question- all your hormonal urges were taboo, unclean and impure. Anything but natural.

I had resolved that the moment my daughter and her friends showed first signs of ‘boyfriend awareness’, I would sit her down and explain to her how this was all natural and biological and not confusing. That she should not fight it but be smart about handling it. That having boyfriends was ok as long as you are firm about your limits and your choices. Eventually we would have ‘THE TALK’ too. It was all cool.

So now that her friends were already ‘teasing’ her about a boy, maybe it was time for phase one of ‘boy talk’, right?

There was just one  problem. My daughter, Khushi is just five years old.

My knee-jerk reaction is shock and anger. Comments such as ‘you are too young for this’. ‘When you grow up, I will tell you’, ‘Stay away from boys, you don’t know what they are like’ etc. come to mind. In short, my first reaction was to be my Mom.

I am the 90’s kid, so I have seen the world shift before my eyes like an Transformer alien changing form within seconds. It’s funny how fast things changed. When I was in school none of us had boyfriends.Yet just five years later when I was passing out of college, every 10th grade girl in my school had one or had already broken off with one. Many girls confessed that they really didn’t even like the guy they were dating, but they ‘had to have’ a boyfriend.

Of course I know that Khushi is really too young. She really does not understand any of this and neither does the friend who teased her about ‘being in love’ with the dancing boy. A little probing reveals that they think ‘love’ is restricted to loving your parents and teachers, they don’t like boys and find them annoying and boring. Without any exceptions. In all probability they were just mimicking the actions of older children playing around them and ‘teasing’ each other in the playground. Instinctive as kids are, they had picked up the embarassment and excitement associated with the term ‘boyfriend’, but they had not linked it to the how and why of it. So much for puppy love.

So I had a few more years. I breathed a sigh of relief.

There was just one problem. The ‘older’ kids that Khushi was mimicking, were just eight or nine years old. Some were only seven.

I feel the beginnings of a headache. Suddenly I feel really old.

Respaacted and Awaarded

When I wrote my first book, I wrote for me. I was sure it would never get published anyway. So I wrote the first thing that came to my mind, build a story for the sake of a story and throughly enjoyed myself doing it.

Now, it’s time to ‘grow up’ as an author. The modern literary world isn’t an airy-fairy, Parisian bubble where artists live in youth hostels, travel the world with only the clothes on their back and spew out works of art that people will understand generations later, once they have already chuffed their ears.

The modern world is all lines and numbers-it’s about agents, commissions, marketing and money. There is no pink.

So in short, I have to choose the subject of my second book keeping in mind two motives.

1) The motive of Profit– Since the author only gets a percentage ‘commission’ on his own book and books are dirt cheap (if they are not pirated) in India anyway-I need to get access to the dollar market. Or get Bollywood to remake my film; so what if they murder it and do not give me any credit. It’s ‘inspired’ baba, not ‘based on’, haven’t you heard of Anu Malik? It’s like the mother cow selling her lamb (cow selling lamb?-that is why I did not get an award) to be slaughtered by rich merchants who shall swallow it without a burp. But kya karen? Paapi pet ka sawaal hai and all that.

2) The motive of Respaact- All my life my dad has only talked about ‘respaact’. I could not take arts because no one will ‘respaact’ me. I had to get distinction in college even though marks don’t really matter because of ‘respaact’. He continues working at this age (he’s above 65) because he enjoys the ‘respaact’ he gets in office. (We respaact him anyway, but we don’t really matter).

Yes, respaact is a really big thing for me. A book could be popular but it may not be respectful. Infact in most cases if a book is ‘popular’ it is not very respactful- like Mills and Boons, Archies, Playboy, Burnt Toast. (OMG! did I just compare Burnt Toast to Playboy? I can already see sales going up exponentially!) 

Of course, there are super talented (or supermotivated?) people who manage to do both. Like Arvinda Adiga who not only won the Man Booker Prize in 2008 but also dominated UK top 50 titles sold (in POUNDS!) for weeks after that. In recent years the Booker prize nomination lists is littered (need to choose better words if I want that award) with many authors from the subcontinent.Of course that lead to dollar sales. And Respaact

Ok, so need to write Booker-worthy novel. Something about oppressed, deprived, down-trodden Indians that can chill the bones of angrez gentlewomen sitting in woolies next to electric heaters in picturesque countrysides.


Now, what?

Most of us have this one unfulfilled childhood dream. A few that I have heard are:

‘I want to grow up to be the richest man in my city!’ (typical unfocussed MBA)

‘I want to be a world class figure skater/ ballet dancer.’ (fitness freak friend)

‘I want to be Amitabh Bachchan.’ (all kids who didn’t really know what they wanted)

‘I want to drive cars.’ (my four-year-old son) 

Anyone who knew my shy, reticent self way back in kindergarten knew that all I ever wanted was to be a writer. When I was in third grade, my poem got accepted to the senior school magazine. There was just one problem, no one believed that I wrote it. Sandy Kundra, the fat shy girl who walked into pillars with glazed eyes and didn’t display any academic brilliance could not have been spending all that time thinking. But I thought, read and imagined all the time-stories and characters would pour out of me naturally and finally, everyone had to accept it. I had a talent.

Of course that gave me tremendous self confidence which wasted no time in turning into arrogance. I couldn’t care less about things that I didn’t understand like profit and loss, mass and matter or the route from home to school. I knew I didn’t quite fit in the system and I didn’t care. The system just didn’t ‘get’ me-just the way it didn’t get all the truly greats-like Charles Dickens, Van Gogh and Jimi Hendrix. Oooh- it would be so unreal to be a part of Club 27!

Of course, my grounded, middle-class father wasted no time in bringing me down to reality. In his vision, unanimously shared across our  parent’s and teacher’s generation, the arts were for those who couldn’t get into science, you could not produce bread-and-butter by dreaming about them and those who scoffed the system were those who failed at it. My writing was good time-pass, it was not a self-sustaining career. In short, my talent was just a hobby.I was confused and needed ‘guidance’.

And so like a fat rat who knew he was going to be executed, I was pulled unwillingly through the sidelines and plonked in the middle of the race. Soon I was running in top speed just to keep in place. Very quickly I forgot my initial accurate apprehensions and started playing to win. Even though I wasn’t quite sure what the prize was. Somewhere while I was busy running, I shut off the spectators and the loud distracting noises long enough to realise one fundamental reality.

I hated this. I just didn’t fit.

From then on, my life was a series of ‘If only’ sentences. If only Papa hadn’t pushed me to do an MBA. If only I hadn’t cleared. If only I had the guts to stand up for myself. If only there was something creative about advertising biscuits. And somewhere I drew satisfaction that since I wasn’t leading the life ‘I was supposed to lead’, it was ok that I sucked at it. I didn’t top the MBA course because it wasn’t English Lit. I didn’t get into consulting because it wasn’t like writing for the New Yorker. My brand strategy wasn’t working because I still didn’t understand profit and loss. ‘If only’ became my safety net.

If only the system had allowed me to be a writer I would get published in an instant. My book would be famous and I would change the world in a way that generations would credit me for it. (No one can accuse me for not being ambitious). If only.

Someone up there must have got tired of my attitude. Soon life moved in a way that I couldn’t give any more excuses. I  had to abandon the system, the system changed and became much more accomodating, artistic talent wasn’t scoffed at anymore, IIT grads were writing books. And now people were calling my bluff. ‘Why dont you write?’ was a common refrain.

It is not easy to live up to your own expectations. What if your dream was just that- a dream? What if you really were not good at anything? What if your best isn’t good enough? It takes great courage to shed layers of protective veils that you have become accustomed to hide yourself behind.

I tried to write for three years. I wrote short stories that had very obvious climaxes. I wrote long chapters hoping to emulate authors that I could boast about liking-such as Ernest Hemmingway, Julian Barnes and Salman Rushdie. And when I read what I’d written, I’d promplty fall asleep.

People stopped asking me about my book and started asking me about my babies. I was at ground zero. So I gave up and decided to write from the heart. No one expected anything from me-even I knew I was just doing this to humour myself. I wrote and wrote till I had a manuscript. And on a lark I printed in out and send it to famous publishers whose addresses I’d downloaded from their websites. And then I sat tight and waited for the rejection slips.

It got accepted. 

For those who don’t know my book, ‘Burnt Toast’ got published last year. It has done decently well too.

So yes, childhood dream accomplished: check.

I had a talent. I was a writer.Which is not to say that all those who did get rejected don’t have any talent-remember the system just doesn’t get the ‘truly greats’. I am not one of those truly greats. Yet I was happy-over the moon actually. I am a writer.There was just one nagging question hovering around the periphery of my happy bubble.

Now, what? (image of me going ppphhht like an open balloon).

After working for the last six months, I have realised one thing. Writing your first book is easy. The book is about you, closely inspired by real life events and characters out of your life. (Mine was about the life and loves of three girls who had just ventured into the glam advertising world of Mumbai). In short, you don’t require much imagination. Expectations are low, you just want a decent publish. You don’t actually expect people to pay money to read it. 

For your second book, you want the sky. You can’t write about your non-happening life anymore because frankly the juice has been squeezed dry. You now want to be the next Helen Fielding-notice no mention of Hemmingway. You want to change the world.  

Now, what?

(to be continued)

Porn unintended!

A joint letter from the Karanataka porngate Ministers Sayadi, Patil and Palemar to BJP central leadership:

Respected Sirs

Thousand pranams! We, the blameless victims of media allegayshuns about our innocent non-actions prostrate (pun unintended) at your feets. Allow us to proove once, twice and for ever that we are blameless: mere by-standers (pun unintended) to a over blown (pun unintended) confused situashun.

First of everyone, media says that we are watching obscene video – they call it pornology- on cellphone during Parliament sessions (pun unintended). We say that is not the full and final true reporting. The Parliament was in session (pun unintended) on ‘Rave party’ in Maangalore (pun unitended). Now you know kind sar, we are not phoreners, we have never been raving partying and we are not knowing how to write. We are only being able to read our degree that you so very kindly obtained from Mr Modi’s Zaali Certificate Institute. So how we to no what raving partying is, I ask you?  Tell me, kind sars  is it our mistake that Google ejects (pun unitended) obscene video on our faces (pun unintended). No it is the mistake of Amricans like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Not Porngate, Bill-gate. The bloody Amricans Presidents always doing obscene things- and we didn’t do two any body (pun unintended). It is not our culture, you see.

Oh Balaji, what is minister to do today? All work in agriculture is called ‘sugar scam’ ,  ‘land scam’. All work in new technography is called telecom scam. All work in entertainment is called IPL scam. Now extra curricular activities is called porngate. Where are we to go now? Where is the gate? All this media and marketing people from IIM are on top of us all the time (pun unintended). Earlier days were so golden, no? All best people wanted to join Civil Service. And then they were on our side and together we would do scam oooops…seva public. But now all we are left with is our two hands and one I-phone (pun unintended). One joke, sir- It is called I-phone for a reason, no? Hehehe!

Enough from Palemar. Now me, Minister of Cooperation (pun unintended) Savadi. Sir I tell you one simple thing? We are all Indians, brought up in pure and holy Indian culture. I am proud to be a true Indian-I consider all Indians to be my brothers and sisters. That is why the woman in the video were foreign! So how am I guilty? Indian cow is holy mata but we can eat western cow no?

And sir, as Minister for Woman and Child Development, I, CC Patil strongly object to media accusations. See it is good for women if we watch Porn. According to my Karanataka based, internationally famous, BOOGUS research agency, watching porn reduces incidence of rape by 25%. And eve-teasing by 30%. And chain snatching by 50%.And robbery by 34%.   And it improves male productivity by 23%. Above all (pun unintended), it improves political performance by 55%!

Therefore I would like to propose that porn be made mandatory in all assembly meetings. Think about the possibilities! Lalu Prasad Yadav will be distracted by phone grabbing instead of land scamming. Sharad Pawar shall forget sugar for whipped cream. And Kalmadi would go after spam instead of scam! Hehe! And as business leaders say- the best thing politicians can do for India is to leave it alone. Beleive me sir, get MPs on porn and strong shining India shall emerge (pun unintended)

Thank you in advance for your valued forgiveness

Laxman Savadi, CC Patil and Krishna Palemar

My experiments with food

So I am not a food blogger and don’t pretend to be one. But I am a food lover. Anyone who knows (and sees) me knows that. And as a result of which I love cooking and experimenting with food. Although I do realise that those two aren’t natural corollaries of each other. But I am happy union of both-I love to cook and love to eat. I DO NOT like to share.

I know that when most people say that they ‘experiment  with food’ they mean they try out new recipes of exotic food. Which I do. Or rather I try to do.

You see I suffer from a fundamental disorder: inability to follow instructions. It’s not a minor affliction. Many great personalities suffer from the same disorder-like Barack Obama, Woody Allen, Simon Cowell and my mom.

So for example if I decide to make a blueberry muffins, there are things which come in the way. Like not having an oven and the unwillingness to invest in one so that I don’t cook fatty, buttery that go straight into my ever accomodating waistline. Like having colourful muffin butter paper but no muffin moulds to hold that paper. Like the high cost of blueberries in Singapore and the absence of them currently in my fridge. Like my inability to measure exact amount of butter and sugar-Is it two corelle cups? Or two corningware cups? Or duralex cups? Or stainless steeel cups? And how many mg is half an ounce? (math was never a strong suit). Simple confusion leads me to gloss over finer instructions with the adage ‘the devil is in the details’ in my mind. Or had you heard differently? 

And above all, I have on my side the fundamental positive attitude that everything will turn out alright. And somehow it does-on most times. Positive attitude is everything-read the SECRET.People can accuse my food of being many things, but they can’t accuse it of being ‘Boring!’ (As for my personality-that’s not under discussion right now)

When my adding and subtracting from authentic recipes sometimes hits a perfect equation, I am ecstatic in the manner of the scientist who found the missing link in the gene pool. I had a ‘eureka’ moment the other day when a few friends came over for tea. Poor, unsuspecting, harmless things didn’t know that they had just agreed to be my lab rats for product testing.  

I wanted to serve pita bread with two types of hummus.

Problem: One pita packet costs like $4(Rs 120) in Sing. And its fat in the manner of amritsari kulchas. And tasteless. So I decided to make my own. Only didn’t have an oven to bake Pita bread in. Hmmm….After some research, I downloaded this recipe from the internet.

And now come my experiments:

First I decided that I wanted to make the Pita a little flavourful. So I added herbs to my bread. And sesame seeds. And extra virgin olive oil-just one teaspoon (FNS teaspoon)

Then my big secret. A long time ago, my emotional self had got the better of my rational ‘no-oven-because-you-are-fat’ self. So I hoodwinked it and discovered a near perfect way of baking without an oven or a convection microwave.

Step no 1: Switch on the gas to a high flame

Step no 2: Put thick tava on gas

Step no 3: Put flat non stick pan on the tava

Step no 4: Cover the non stick pan with lid.

Of course you can’t be accurate about temperatures and things like that, but as is obvious, I prefer experimentation to accuracy.The internal atmosphere in the nonstick pan mimics that of an oven, compartment heating without direct heat. I thought it was pretty smart- although many ‘authentic’ foodies are gonna send me lotsa hate mail after this.

And now the hummus- In addition to the traditional hummus, I made one with hung curd, cherry tomatoes and basil.And everyone liked that one better-they said it was lighter and more flavourful.

For dessert, I thought I’d try cheesecake. I love cheesecake but I have never tried making it as I’m the only one in my family who likes it. My hapless friends were about to bear the brunt of yet another juvenile experiment.

So I took this recipe and added my own twist. I beat fresh blueberries alongwith the cream cheese. I made a blueberry preserve and added it on the top. And also added some of the crust to top it ’cause I just love the crust. Again the verdict was thankfully positive.

So I hoped you enjoy my additions and subtractions to these recipes.For once, my friends were all praises of what they called my innovativeness. Like what you see? Why don’t you try it and tell me the results. Or if you are in Singapore, you can call me at 84598120 or email me at and I would love to cook them for your next get together (don’t worry-no guinea pigs this time).

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