Monday, 27 September 2010

Food for thought

I began work at this wonderful charity recently and have spent an interesting one month there. Work’s been good, thanks for asking. Met interesting people, wrote interesting stuff and also took time out to enjoy a few good lunches.

Sometimes I sneak an hour out with a friend who works close by but mostly it has been a solitary meal on a busy desk. Very cumbersome I tell you, what with my indulgent streak which doesn’t let me settle for a mundane sandwich and juice routine. However, crumbly baguettes and messy spinach fillings and pungent flavours (raw onion in a grilled vegetable and cous cous salad, very very tasty, I tell you!) may not exactly be office-conducive fare, but I manage to sneak them in anyway.

The other day as I sat savouring my French baguette with chorizo, cheese and salad leaves, I began thinking of a behavioural anomaly which I hadn’t noticed before. Now, most folks who know me, would concur that I am an easy going person (husband obviously doesn’t fall in the category. I wish you could see him shaking his newly shorn head emphatically) but when it comes to meal times, I am a foodzilla. A lunch or dinner not enjoyed is precious time and resources wasted; for me this includes lunchtime in office. Even there it has to be a pleasurable activity.

People have suggested I get other things like bank work or job applications done in that hour. “And miss my lunch! You got to be kidding me,” I exclaim in my head, while trying to keep a straight face.

I have met many, husband included, for whom lunch at work has just been about sustenance. Try as I might in the 6 years of working, I have not been able to reduce the act of lunching, even at office to a necessary chore. No tight deadlines or pressing appointments have been able to keep me from enjoying my afternoon meal. But growing up in a family whose motto is “We live to eat”, you can hardly blame me for loving my food the way I do. Of course, I take it to a whole new level. I have sooner forgone lunch hour than see myself grabbing a bite without paying proper obeisance (figuratively) to the chosen food.

For me every meal is a celebration of food. It starts with taking in the presentation of the fare, the wholesome fragrance of the dish, followed by the first bite and the subsequent explosion of flavours in my mouth that elicit (mostly) appreciative (and potentially embarrassing) whimpers of joy (of course at home it starts with cooking), the last of which has embarrassed and amused many a friend.

As I sat eating by myself, conscious of stray flakes from the aforementioned baguette, I felt naked, enjoying a private pleasure in an open plan office. Not that anyone minded. I suddenly yearned for the good old days of elaborate office lunches of yore. Back at the last job, I had a bunch of food enthusiasts to share the passion and lunch sessions, people guilty of enjoying the pleasure as I did. Weekends, the Saturdays we pretended to work on, were especially cherished for the long lunch breaks we took. It was not just about taking time off but the brilliant foodie flavours we explored during the time.

Back in the present time; you have no idea how, as the lunch hour approaches, I obsess on what I could eat. With choices ranging from Ghanian peanut chicken to steak burritos to lamb tagine with cous cous to salmon with new potato salad, to hot falafel rolls and hot lentil soup, to grilled haloumi sandwiches…. What was I saying again…

Sorry yeah, so I was saying that with all this variety at my doorstep, I can’t help being distracted and eager to treat my palate. As soon as the hour strikes one, or the stomach rumbles, I head out the office doors, straight to the cobbled stone lane lined by shops offering gastronomical delights. Even if I have to pack it up and have it at my desk all by myself. Once or twice, out of a feeling of self-consciousness, I have tried to gobble a hasty lunch but blessedly have been pulled out of that mire by a more powerful desire: to eat as food is to be eaten: peacefully, respectfully and unashamedly.

To sum it up in G B Shaw’s words, "There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”


Friday, 24 September 2010


Ever since I moved to London, I knew I HAD to see a musical. And after I read Gregory Maguire’s work, I knew it had to be Wicked. Not that the two are terribly alike, but the book was intriguing enough for me to aspire to see the musical some day and that day was the day before yesterday.

A friend from long ago had come along to visit, and we decided it was time we did something Wicked; so we legged it to the Apollo in Victoria (separately). True to form, I was late in arriving half an hour early as we had earlier decided; but in time to rally up the end of the queue at the theatre.

The oohs and the aahs began as soon as we entered; the stage set up set the mood in place. As soon as the curtain went up a spell was cast and for the next 3 hours, it was sheer magic. The production, the music, the performance: phew, it’s been three days and I am still dreaming of it, singing and dancing it, waiting for the time I could see it again.

We were sixth row from the stage, a bit too much to the right I had thought. But I need not have bothered for the producers were kind enough to move the action right to the front of the stage, clear enough for all to view without some having to crane their necks. And the drama unfolded under the terrible gaze of the clock of the time dragon that became animated every time, well, the time changed!

The scene opened with the good witch Glinda resplendent in white sitting inside a bubble, announcing the death of the Wicked witch of the West, the villagers rejoiced till one asked the white-robed socceress if she and the wicked witch were friends, and so the reminiscing began.

Like I mentioned in the beginning the book and the play are not very alike but the theme is more or less the same. Of course the book is much darker and at times bleak. (I have a confession to make at this juncture. I never did finish reading it because I did not want it to end. Yes, I am weird like that); the musical on the other hand is pure entertainment, which is not to say it is all happy and sunny. It tells you what being misunderstood means; how people will believe what they want to believe and that being different is not easy; how popularity can hide wretchedness and leaves you wondering who truly is wicked.

It was a production that would put any hindi masala movie to shame. There was drama, romance, naach-gaana galore. The music: breathtaking; the singing: PHENOMINAL. As for the performance, I can’t rave enough. Everyone, from the chorus to the lead performers, everyone was perfect. I usually pinpoint a favourite in any story but the performance of the two leading ladies was so tremendous that my love for one over took the other’s depending on who was on stage. And the times when they both shared the limelight.. what’s the word for it? Oh yeah: Magical!

Having heard people talk about live theatre performances and being friends with a couple of performers, I have always wondered if claims of euphoria a performance induces is a tad exaggerated, but one viewing down, I tell you, I am not surprised they are so passionate about their art; it is PRETTY addictive.

To borrow a fellow Wicked aficionado’s line, “ Post Wicked, my life has changed”. I think for me the turning point came when I heard and saw Defying gravity.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!
It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

My eyes nearly went pop when I saw the green lady in black levitate as the music reached a crescendo and she sang her way up defying gravity. You had to be there to experience the heady feeling. It was unbelievable, if you don’t believe in magic, that is. If you do then you will know what I mean when you see what I saw!

It inspired me so that I am now actually wondering if I should join the arts. Husband reminds me that probably not a wise choice; he says (and I agree with a heavy heart) I won’t even make it off-off-off broadway with me way off off off singing voice.

But I can live vicariously now can’t I!

“And no one can pull me down”

Monday, 13 September 2010

Hair today, where tomorrow

Life has a quirky sense of humour, and springs its surprises in odd ways. This one is about one of those days.

It’s chicken pox in the house and it ain’t a party. Though if hubby had his way he would make sure he spread the virus to all the kiddies we know so as to help them escape the agony of having it at 30. Since he can’t, he is making sure all our friends make good of his advise. So if you forgot to get the munchkin vaccinated, we offer immunization the old fashioned way at our house.

Those of you who have borne the ordeal of suffering this malaise post onset of puberty would empathise when I tell you that he has quite a few blisters on his head; for those who haven’t, let me tell you it is sheer torture, or so V tells me.

“Shave it off, I need to shave my hair off!” he wailed. Shaving would have been drastic and painful so we settled on a crew(ish) cut. So like a dutiful wife that I am, I set out to get him a trimmer as instructed.

Half-an-hour later, I reached ASDA, at one of the biggish outlets of the supermarket, the closest I can be to an establishment that dispenses hair trimmers (or so I say. Between you and me, I needed to get out of the house for a bit; which does not take away from my love and devotion to the husband since I ensured there was lunch aplenty and medicines sorted for him to have while I was gone. So don’t you dare judge me!).

Big supermarkets such as the one I was at, can be very daunting, with their endless aisles where you can lose your way and if you hate shopping, your mind. However, I love the latter and would have indulged. But I knew fully well if I were left to my own devices, the husband would have torn his hair out in frustration, an action induced by the painful blisters and the bill I would have produced.

So with blinkers on, I trudged to the customer service counter asking where I could find a hair trimmer,

I was very helpfully let to the aisle I desired. Confident that all I needed to do was pick the contraption up, I was, instead, faced with a sectionful of grooming devices. With prices ranging from £10 to £75, I was faced with the option to choose from trimmers ranging from 10 attachments to 20, 5-in-1 groomers to 17-in-1 grooming kits to pocket ones to gargantuan ones. We are talking hair trimmers here, mind you.

Coming from a family where men proudly wear their hair and revel in all its glory, the irony was not lost on me. I shook my head at the novelty of the situation and smiled. Never in my 29 years, before this day, I had thought I would be staring 10 different types hair trimmers, wondering which one to pick up for home-shearing purposes. This is not what “we” did.

Defeated by the sheer size of choices and the inability to decide if the 5-in-1 grooming kit was more suited to V's purpose or the 3-in-one multipurpose trimmer, I approached one of the store people. "Uh excuse me, are these suitable for shaving the head". Sheesh, no wonder he gave me a funny look! "Actually neither, those are for facial hair, this (picking up a different box altogether) is what you need."

Giving him a sheepish smile and a half-hearted attempt to cover up my ineptitude, I made my way to aisles where I knew my business.

Lugging it (and a few, ahem, essential purchaces) I legged it back home. Merrily handing the packet to him, I was all ready to take it easy when I was handed another surprise.

“Sweetie, please do this for me, I won’t be able to manage it on my own.”

If even ten years back you would have told me that one day I would be shaving man's head, I would have asked you to get your head examined. But like I said, life can be quirky.

From biwi to barber wasn’t a difficult transition but again the oddness of the situation struck. Wielding that thuddering contraption, I thought to myself that never in a million years would have I thought that I would be sitting here shearing my husband’s head. Felt odd.

Hair and I have a tenuous relationship. I was brought up to respect my hair. So obviously my shorn locks (it was barely a trim actually) in college created quite a furore in the household. It was my attempt at rebellion of sorts. Till date, I cringe when I see my hair being cropped. Felt the same about his today. But I confess that as I ran the razor/trimmer (pardon me, I am still new at the technique) over and around V’s bumpy head, I found the process quite fascinating.

The various comb (I think that’s what they are called) sizes and the precision they allow, the ease with which you could wield it, the room for experimentation it offered :D…. needless to say, I was pulled out of my philosophical mode quickly enough. But obviously not before leaving me with the desire to shear or sorry share my experience with you! But yeah, who would have thunk!

P.S: If you, like me, think the illustration is uber-cool, click here know more about the illustrator.

P.P.S: Hubby health update: On the road to recovery, should be A-OK very soon. Hubby says, please make sure your kids get it when young. XX