Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Island Life

Last month I went to Sri Lanka as part of our annual team offsite. We were a group of twelve people and as vary as I am of travelling in groups, I am happy to report that I had a lovely time. 



Sri Lanka had been on my travel bucket list forever, but I was worried I’d never end up going because you know who takes countries close to us seriously anyway! I mean we’d rather spend shitloads of money and time and trot off to Paris, or the US, but who the hell cares about a Bhutan, or a Sri Lanka- you get the drift! But Sri Lanka is gorgeous and you should totally go. 

Plus the Indian Rupee stretches so much further there. 1 Sri Lankan Rupee is around 50 Paise in Indian money, which made me feel like a white person in the third world, ensuring I came back with bags and bags of shopping. 



We were in Sri Lanka for four days, out of which two days were spent travelling (something we unfortunately didn't account for while planning the trip) and so we ended up with long hours on a bus with a very patient guide, who didn't mind as we shouted and sang at the top of our voices. We spent two nights in Hikkaduwa (a lovely beach-side town) and one night in Colombo. 



At Hikkaduwa we stayed at this lovely resort and had a pool and beach all to ourselves. Since it was a short-ish trip I didn't end up getting any reading done, but we did go to Galle Fort and that my friends was the absolute highlight of my entire trip. A city inside a fort, Galle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is building after building of some of the most remarkable colonial architecture.



 I was thoroughly impressed by how Sri Lanka has managed to preserve these beautiful 17th century colonial buildings, built by the Dutch and later the Portuguese. Since Galle is a World Heritage Site, no renovation is allowed and hence the fort still has these narrow, cobblestone alleys flanked by quaint old colonial buildings. 


On our way back to Colombo we stopped by for a river cruise on the Madhu Ganga River that also has a mangrove forest. It was hot as hell and I was convinced I would be cooked by the time we got off the boat. But the Mangroves were, well interesting and I’m glad I saw them because I don’t think I’m going to the Sunderbans anytime soon. 



Colombo was clean, very clean and the best part? There were no men leering at us. The one night we had in Colombo was spent shopping and then gate crashing a Sri Lankan wedding. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun. 

My verdict: Sri Lanka is beautiful and the people are lovely. In fact I liked the people more. I mean there are beaches all over the world, but the kindness and friendliness of Sri Lankan people was very touching and will be one the biggest reasons I’d visit the country again. 

P:S- I've discovered Instagram as a wonderful way of maintaining a photo travel diary of sorts and so I Instagram most of my travel pics on the go. For more of my travel (and other) pics, you can follow me on Instagram here

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fat Fiona Writes




SheFeet has been feeling the cold a little too much lately. Being the winter grump that she is, she has been spending most of her time in bed with a hot water bottle and near that GODAWFUL HEATER FROM HELL (that thing gives me the creeps). Since she was being lazy about blogging, I thought I’d pitch in and write a post this week. As you can see from my photograph above, I’m a very well read cat.

SheFeet has been acting all weird these days. When she's not lolling around in bed, she spends most of her time at her computer, typing away furiously and brushes me away when I try to walk over the keyboard (I swear I press ctrl+s on my way across). Well what can I say, humans are odd!

It has been a month since I’ve been living with SheFeet and HeFeet and my life has been good so far. I have my own room and a nice velvety chair that was initially used by the Feet but has now been monopolized by me of course. The latest addition to my room is a scratching post, which I don’t use, because I prefer scratching the curtains instead.  

SheFeet has this annoying habit of frequently shouting “NO”, especially when I’m having the most fun, like balancing myself on the TV,  getting inside their cupboards, sitting atop their very high bookshelf (that’s where I get the best view of pigeons you see), or jumping on top of the fridge (so much fun!). Most times I’m pulled off these surfaces, or lured off very cleverly with a feather stick (argh these humans, they take advantage of being the superior species).
 
Another very irritating habit SheFeet has is of scooping me off the ground, hugging me close and cooing “Whoosa pretty girl, whoosa pretty girl?” I mean come on, I think we all KNOW who the pretty girl is! It’s certainly not SheFeet because she doesn’t even have a nice pair of whiskers. Stupid, stupid humans!

The other day I heard HeFeet telling SheFeet that he suspects I have no brain. Imagine the cheek! I’m so pissed off. They've wounded my pride. What do these humans think I am- a cute little ball of fluff they can enamour with a feather stick! I’m planning on using his face as a scratching post next. Just wait.

The only reason I mildly tolerate SheFeet is because she regularly supplies me with chicken and cleans my litter box, or else I don’t see why I need these two humans in my house. HeFeet is okay too, he playfully chases me around the house and on days SheFeet isn’t around, feeds me chicken and gives me empty grocery bags to play with.

A few days ago SheFeet brought me some foul smelling Tuna which she lovingly placed on my plate. I gave the plate one disgusted sniff and walked away as soon as I could. The thing is I HATE FISH! These stupid humans and their silly stereotypes about cats. The next day she placed some milk in my bowl, which disgusted me further. I looked SheFeet straight in the eye and gave her a look which meant “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS!”

SheFeet has clearly been reading some stupid things about cats on the internet. If only she’d realize that I love chicken and paranthas. Arrey I’m a Punjabi cat yaar, this fish and milk is good for those Angrez cats. And ohh chicken sausages are nice too!

I’ve noticed that the Feet have a room in the house called the Bathroom, which is where they keep their litter boxes. It’s pretty disgusting really because there’s water in there and my paws get all wet when I go inside. I believe the Feet “Take Showers” which means they pour water on their bodies to clean themselves. Ugh, how frightful to have to do something like THAT! I do a much better job washing myself with my tongue.
 
Anyhow, I think I’ll leave now. I’ve overheard the Feet talking about going out for coffee (it’s a vile thing they like to drink) and I’ve just noticed a bean bag I haven’t jumped on in a while. It’s going to be so much fun clawing at that while they’re away!
 
Bye bye.

(This post has partly been inspired by this one)
 



Saturday, January 3, 2015

Becoming The Cat Lady

Last month, after much longing, I got myself a cat. I've grown up with pets and after my dog Bruno passed on four years ago, I've been pet less. I've been yearning for a pet ever since, but was hesitant, since I’m out of the house almost ten hours a day, most of the week. That’s when the idea of a cat popped into my head, I've always liked cats- they’re beautiful, affectionate (in a non dog like manner) and pretty much take care of themselves- as long as you supply them with food, water, a clean litter box and of course, love.



Sometime in November I came across a post on the Friendicoes Facebook page about a beautiful three year old cat up for adoption. Her name was Makhan, she was light beige with large yellow eyes and tabby stripes on her tail. The minute I saw here, I knew I wanted her!

After a series of phone calls with her then owner, a string of questions and a house visit, we decided we wanted to take her home. The fact that she was super friendly (she’s very social for a cat), spayed and litter box trained, made our decision easier. I’m a cat novice, I've grown up with pets, but never had a cat. I had many questions, many of which she helped answer and the rest I hoped I’d figure once I got her home.



It’s been a month since Makhan, now rechristened Fiona  has been with us and it has been quite an experience-mostly good, but there have been some rough days too. I initially wanted to name her Alice, but then she didn't look like an Alice. The husband suggested Fiona and it seemed to fit her perfectly, so Fiona she is.

Fiona makes me want to come home every evening, not because I have to, but because I want to. At the risk of sounding like a fawning parent, I can watch Fiona for hours- her large, mostly unblinking yellow eyes, her desire to climb on every surface she can, her curiosity (especially around cupboards and bags, which she must get inside), the way she sits on the window sill for hours looking outside, or her crouching on all fours when she spots pigeons in the balcony and her ability to hide like an expert.



I’m leaning to be patient and understand what Fiona’s trying to tell me, because she’ll never be old enough to tell me how she’s feeling, or what she wants. I have become an obsessive Google-er of cats and cat behaviour and have begun to stalk people who have cats!

To my disappointment, Fiona isn't a lap cat (at least not yet), but she’s an absolute quilt cat. She loves burrowing under my duvet and can stay there for hours, snuggling besides me. I love how she fits herself perfectly against my body while I sleep, looking for a curve she can slide herself into, where she’ll stay purring all the while.



I love talking to Fiona while I potter around the house, or work on my laptop and there are days when I can swear she rests her large yellow eyes on me and says “okayyy”. Oh well, looks like I’m turning into the Cat Lady!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word- Here’s Why

I was recently reading a travel blog by an Indian woman who’s travelling abroad solo. From what I've read of her blog, I've gathered that this young lady is educated, has held a job and lives in the National Capital Region (I’m tying to be as vague as possible). She also happens to be married. The reason why this piece of information is important is because in her blog she talks about how she’s an independent woman, whose husband had no problem whatsoever with her decision to travel solo- which is really sweet and how a marriage should be like. But what caught my attention was one of her posts in which she says she doesn't identify as a feminist. This is when I got a bit annoyed. Okay, so I got very, very annoyed.

What I did next was look up the meaning of the word feminism in the dictionary and here’s what I found- “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.” Sounds good to me! So when someone (a man or a woman, because feminism isn't just a woman’s domain) says they’re not a feminist what they’re saying is that they do not believe in equal rights for women. That’s unfair isn't it!

I don’t see any reason why all of us should not be feminists. What’s not to like about feminism? What part of women’s liberation doesn't appeal to you? The right to open a bank account? The right to vote? The right to equal pay? The right to have a say in birth control? The right to wear what you like? The freedom of not being the property of the man you marry? 

I discovered I was a feminist when I was eighteen years old (which by my standards is pretty late). That is also when I realized that the word feminism comes with a lot of unnecessary baggage. It was a dirty word. Feminists were supposed to be angry women who didn't like to dress up and who hated men. Feminists were supposed to be unfeminine, women who burned their bras and had hairy armpits. Something I found rather odd because here I was, a young college girl who loved dressing up and wearing make up and who yet fiercely believed in equality of the sexes. 

I think it’s high time we stop making feminism the new F word. Let's destigmatize the word and reclaim it for what it truly is. There’s a lot of talk about what feminism is, but here’s what its not- Feminism is not about hating men, it’s about loving women and wanting equal rights for them. It’s not about wanting to be in control of everything, but certainly being in control of your own life and choices. It’s not about being angry and unhappy all the time, but about questioning patriarchy and gender stereotypes. And lastly, feminism is not a woman's excuse to not do housework, but about a man thinking nothing odd about cooking dinner, or washing the dishes. 

So, are you a feminist? 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

An English Autumn

This October I took a solo holiday to England. A long overdue holiday, might I add. It had been over a year since I had taken a proper holiday and I had begun to feel it. There were days I was so exhausted physically and mentally that all I wanted to do was just sit and cry.

Tiredness was clinging to every bone in my body and I was plain exhausted of waking up at 5:30 am everyday (I am a morning person, but still!). It had also been five years since I had visited England and given my long association with the country, this was a cue that a trip was due.

I visited Barnstaple, a town in North Devon which is roughly a five hour drive from London. A pretty little English town far enough from London and close enough to the sea.

London, let’s start with London. As it turns out London and I have had a falling out sorts. I’ve been visiting the city almost every year since I was a little girl and I would notice a stark difference each time I visited. This time since it had been five years since my last visit, the difference was far more pronounced. To begin with there seem to be far fewer English people in London anymore, the city is full of immigrants (I know, I know London is a “world city” and all that) and that’s not a problem. The problem is when these foreign workers are in customer facing jobs, with surprising little command over English. I mean I’m in England, I expect to be spoken to in English! Or is that too much to be asking for now? I’ll even deal with the broken English, but then they’re rude! All I was doing was asking for where the next train to Terminal 4 would come and before I know it I’m being commanded to “GO THERE, STAND, WAIT”. Well okay then! And don’t even get me started on how expensive everything is in London!

I guess I’m just mourning the loss of London the way I knew it as a little girl. London and I go way back. Even though I’ve never lived there, that’s where I spent all my summer holidays every year. I grew up playing in London’s neighbourhoods as much as I bruised my knees playing on the street outside my house in Delhi. So since I’ve been having this love-hate relationship with London for the past many years, I’ve been skipping the city on most of my visits to the UK. I land in London and in a few hours I’m on a bus out of the city.And this time, my only motivation to spending a few hours in London was to visit Platform 9 and 3/4.  London, you and I need to have a talk, but in English please and a little more politely!

Barnstaple on the other hand is smaller, prettier, laid back AND the locals are polite! It’s the kind of place where you can enjoy long, perfectly aimless walks without being run over, or have a nice and friendly conversation with a perfect stranger (about the weather in most cases) without the fear of being mugged, or raped. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I live in Delhi. Enough said. One of the many lovely things about Barnstaple is also how close it is to the sea and all you need to do is hop a bus to be at the nearest beach in twenty minutes.

I think I’ve said enough and so I’m leaving you with some pictures of my holiday to do the rest of the talking.

Ticking Platform 9 and 3/4 off my bucket list.

The weather was kind and luckily I had many a sunny, blue sky days

Straight out of a fairy tale

You cannot go to Devon and not have Cream Tea

And you cannot go to Barnstaple and not go to the Cream Tea Cafe

This little bakery is where I want to be a bakers intern

Fish and Chips and Sausages - Enough Said



A sunny day spent by Ilfracombe Beach is day well spent
Homesick for these lovely little cobbled lanes already


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thirty

"You know how the time flies
Only yesterday was the time of our lives
We were born and raised in a summer haze
Bound by the surprise of our glory days."

 
Someone Like You (Adele)
 
“It’s high time you learned to drive Maryann, oh and also learn how to swim”, I mumble to myself time and again. The mumbling has become more frequent each time I’d look at the calendar slowly inching towards my 30th birthday. “These things become harder to learn as you get older Maryann, learn them now, or you’ll never get down to either”, the mumbling has recently become furious and urgent.

“Older”- a word I’d laugh at ten year ago.

Ten years ago I thought I had it all figured out. I had planned everything, right down to their smallest details. I knew which college I wanted to study in, I had my eye on a “Dream Job” I was sure to land (and I did, and which I left not long after), I had an idea for a book I was keen to write (I mean, how hard can that be) and I wanted to travel. Marriage never loomed on the horizon then- I had trashed that idea completely, but I had named the babies (I wanted triplets-girls) I was sure I would have before thirty. 

I was having a late rebellion of sorts and decided that I knew best. I knew what I wanted from my life and I would go ahead and get it- nothing would stop me. I was itching to throw myself into the world headlong. I would live and learn right? Right! 

I chuckle as I think of myself as a twenty something; how na├»ve, how trusting, how confident. 

My twenties were an eventful decade and for that I am glad. I changed a string of jobs, I gave up my job with a leading international airline and decided I wanted to write for a living. I also fell in love, got married, moved continents and moved back again. I’m still writing to make rent and pay my bills, but somehow the need of having those babies I had named hasn't surfaced yet. 

Many times I find myself thinking would I have done things differently then if I knew then what I know now? I would be lying if I said no. But that’s the whole idea of “live and learn” I guess. It isn't fun to make mistakes, but I've realised it’s important to learn from them. 

I've learned to let go of relationships which weren't going anywhere and which weren't helping me evolve. I've learned to say “No”, a firm no (life is short and my time is precious). I've learned that the best therapy is a chat with a friend and a good cry. I've learned to prioritize things in my life (the phrase time is money has never made more sense). I've learned that “later” usually means never. So don’t keep that pair of heels for later, for a special occasion, because chances are you’ll forget all about them (or worse, you’ll have rats gnawing into them) - the same also applies to you passion, don’t wait for later do it now! I've learned that throwing money at some problems does help.  I've learned that writing and baking make me happy and I want to spend more time doing that. I've learned exercise is important. Work out at least four times a week, your body will thank you for it later. I have learned to eat that bar of chocolate if I really, really want to. The rest, I’m still learning. 

Today on the eve of my birthday, I truly am looking forward to turning thirty. I’ll be done with all the waiting of the previous year, perched on the edge on my twenties. And as I tumble onto the other side, who knows, maybe I wake up all calm and zen like with all the answers of life on my thirtieth birthday!   

And the best thing about turning thirty? Now I can shake my head with disapproval and grumble “Oh you know these twenty somethings!” 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Baking Diaries - Notes From a Weekend Workshop

If you've been reading this blog, you’d know that I've recently started baking again with a vengeance. And so when I found out that Little Black Book Delhi (LBBD) were organising a Make and Bake Grub Club workshop at the JW Marriott I could not resist but sign up. Though I must mention that the folks at LBBD were kind enough to squeeze me in right at the last minute (bless them).

The event took place on June 28th at the JW Marriott Aerocity property at their patisserie and coffee shop, The Delhi Baking Company. Led by Head Chef Girish Krishnan and Chef Narendra Lendave we baked Focaccia Bread and Pistachio Macarons. Now to be honest it was the Macarons that I was truly there for. I have been hugely fascinated by Macarons ever since I ate my first one. To me a Macaron is more than just a piece of confectionary-it is a perfect balance of flavour, texture, size and colour. You've got to give it to the French, they know their food all right!

I’ve done a fair bit of research on Macarons over time and I was itching to bake my first batch and the Make and Bake Workshop was the perfect opportunity for me to get my hands dirty. The only two parts of the Macaron baking process I was nervous about was the folding in of the almond powder in the egg white and sugar mix and then piping the batter on the baking mat- but I surprised myself! My batter was the exact consistency it should’ve been, and for a first timer my Macarons were perfectly circular. Chef Girsh seemed impressed and asked me if I had baked Macarons previously. That in itself was immensely encouraging.


We then let our Macarons air for about thirty minutes before we popped them into the oven.


Later we filled our Macarons with a Buttercream filling and though I’m partial to Ganache, the buttercream was pretty good too.


Baking Focaccia Bread was a fun experience as well and took for more kneading than I imagined. But nothing beats the aroma of a fresh loaf of bread hot out of the oven.


That was not all; the folks at the Delhi Baking Company had a surprise for us. There was going to be a giveaway for the best baked Macarons and Focaccia Bread. And guess who won a hamper for the best Macarons (ahem)! And as if that was not enough, at the end of the workshop we were all given a goody bag, full of Macarons so colourful and pretty that I didn't have the heart to eat them. But then eat them I did.

So here’s to more baking, more blogging and of course, more eating!