S is for Surprises followed by T, U and V

Yup, I’m stuck far behind. Ideally, I should be out of this challenge. But I promised myself I will complete it no matter what. So here goes –

I love good surprises, the birthday kind and otherwise. Plus, I also love surprising my favourite people and close ones.  The smiles and amazement writ on their faces are totally worth going that extra mile.

So here’s the surprise. I dedicate this post to my father who celebrated his birthday yesterday. Though my theme for the A-Z challenge is about some of my favourite things, I’m gonna tweak it a bit for the purpose of this post. This is going to be about some of our favourite things aka food items.

T is for ‘Thaiyar Sadam’

Most south-Indians are big on curd rice. Yup, ‘thaiyar’ is for curd and ‘sadam’ is for rice.  It may seem bland and lackluster at first glance, but it’s the perfect fix for upset stomachs, hot summer nights, and for them lazybones who can’t be bothered to cook something elaborate. However, when it comes to my dad and I, the sheer simplicity and goodness of thaiyar sadam beckons to us on any given day.  A small dollop of urrugai (pickle) usually complements it; the former could be substituted by morru molgai (dried chillies marinated in salted butter milk),  or sometimes a ladle of vathai kozhambu (a spicy tamarind gravy) poured into a small cavity that is smack dab in the middle of a mound of thaiyar sadam .  Our weekend lunches are punctuated with the sounds of us relishing this delightful dish. Thaiyar sadam defies the rules of fine dining. Bye forks and spoons. It’s finger-licking delicious. Mmmm.

U is for Upma

To be honest, I have acquired a taste for this dish over the years. My dad, however, is an upma loyalist. Upma has its variants – rice, rava (semolina), bread, chapati (Indian bread), idli  and semiyan (vermicelli). He loves the traditional preparation comprising roasted rava cooked to perfection, with or without additional vegetables. I, on the other hand, prefer vermicelli to semolina. I love the flavour of onions and peanuts in upma. And of course, coconut chutney is a must! Upma and chutney are worthy of MasterChef. My dad could eat upma all week without tiring of its taste. To me home is where my dad sits guzzling upma for breakfast with a look of intense contentment on his face.

V is for Vadaam

When I think of vadaams, the picture of my father hungrily munching on them, pops in my head. This is usually followed by my mother snatching the box away from him and scolding him for being unable to contain himself before lunch; there’s also some mumbling about cholesterol and high blood pressure. I can hardly blame him. The aroma of fried vadaams wafts into the nooks and crannies of our house, luring him (and me as well) into the kitchen. Vadaams are not an everyday thing, and hence take precedence over chips. Yes, I said it. That’s the power of crispy south-Indian rice fritters. Tamil weddings, Diwali celebrations and possibly any Tamilian family event are incomplete without vadaams.

And that’s a wrap.

There’s a reason why they say my father and I are similar.

Happy Birthday, Appa!

S is for Surprises followed by T, U and V

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!

R is for Reminiscing

“Remember the time when N sprayed YOUR deodorant into her eyes? Rather than crying in pain, she was crying about getting yelled at, by you!”

“Remember the time we made a gigantic sixteenth birthday card for you? Well, we did do a poor job of hiding it from you but you loved it anyway. ”

“Do you remember our first day in the University? I thought I’d be sitting alone until I bumped into you! We trudged all the way to the cafeteria whilst it was raining cats and dogs. We had a great conversation on the way. It was as if we had known each other forever.”

“Back in fourth grade, you were the girl who kept making a beeline to the bathroom in the midst of our examination. It was hilarious. Little did I know, you were down with diarrhea. Oops!”

“Who would have thought that the pale girl with two braids would be a badass punk lover? That was some transition. Puberty is a good thing, after all. ”

“We didn’t complete our Biology journals that night before the exam. We spoke about boys.”

“I think you looked ridiculously cute and hot at the same time, that evening. Is that even possible?”

“Remember the time when you and N believed in aliens? You were obsessed with ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ .

“I was totally obsessed with your handwriting. How could a sixth-grader write so neatly?”

“That performance was a failure. We totally sucked as a band! I wonder how the audience tolerated us. Good times, nonetheless.”

Happy flashbacks are worth experiencing, time and again.

R is for Reminiscing.

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!

P and Q are for Photographs and Quotes

Frozen memories – the phrase that comes to my head when I browse through a photo album.

Now mind you, when I talk about photographs and quotes, I don’t mean cookie-cutter selfies with captions that make no sense! FYI, I absolutely loathe those. I’m talking about pictures so complete in themselves that they can narrate stories.

The Internet and social media is always abuzz with click-baits on  ‘good’ photography. Photography could be an art. To some, it’s a skill that can be honed. To some, it is intuitive.  And then there are some to whom the technicalities matter – composition, lighting, depth of field etc.

What does it mean to me?

Oftentimes, I have stumbled upon some beautiful photo-blogs, which make me pause and take notice of the details incorporated. These are the pictures that stir forgotten book quotes to my mind. The reverse holds true as well. I have lost count of the times I have perused through the pages of a novel, associating the imagery with a remarkable photograph I must have encountered somewhere.  In my opinion, that’s the power of good photography.

My tryst with photography began when I was eighteen. I am not a photographer by any means. I started off with a simple point-and-shoot camera, its maximum resolution being 2 MP. That’s right. That’s waaayy below today’s selfie standards. Though the pictures are cringe worthy, back then, my modest camera gave me the impetus to dabble with different subjects. Soon I upgraded to another point-and-shoot before finally settling on my very own DSLR.

I have had friends who appreciate the photographs I click whilst some who consider my skills to be mediocre. To start with, I don’t know if I’m blessed with an eye for detail or perspective. But one thing’s for sure, capturing a good shot makes me happy.

Here are some personal favourites (sources are provided in the captions).

 

“After the night meal with his head on his granny’s lap, nestling close to her, Swaminathan felt very snug and safe in the faint atmosphere of cardamom and cloves. ‘Oh, Granny!’ he cried ecstatically. ‘You don’t know what a great fellow Rajam is.’ He told her the story of the first enmity between Rajam and Mani and the subsequent friendship.”

-R.K Narayan (Swami and his Friends )

Screenshot from 2017-04-21 12:07:13

Photo by Abhishek Solanki

“The train would reach Deoli at about five in the morning when the station would be dimly lit with electric bulbs and oil lamps, and the jungle across the railway tracks would just be visible in the faint light of dawn.”

-Ruskin Bond (The Night Train at Deoli)

 

Photo by coffeeforthemoon

“I love walking in the rain because no one can see me crying”
― Rowan Atkinson

 

 

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Photo by Me!

“My grandmother, like everybody’s grandmother, was an old woman. She had been old and wrinkled for the twenty years I had known her.”
-Khushwant Singh (The Portrait of a Lady)

P and Q are for Photographs and Quotes

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!

O is for Order

This post is a glimpse into the life of a control freak that’s me.

My dad loves tidying up the house to the extent of aggravating other members in his vicinity. The bed has to be immaculate, our cupboards uncluttered and the floor spotless. The word ‘filthy’ does not exist in his dictionary. My mother, unlike my dad, isn’t a stickler for cleanliness, but staunchly believes in orderliness. I have probably inherited both their traits; not only do I keep my room spic and span, but I’m also big on check-lists.

I’m quite particular when it comes to organizing my own stuff, right from my clothes and socks to my music play-lists and personal directories in my laptop. I cannot tolerate disarray or chaos. The satisfaction that sweeps over me after I clear up my study is unlike any other. I may hoard stuff, but I do know when to get rid of junk. Likewise, I don’t hold back when I’m in my best friend’s messy bedroom. That’s probably crossing the line, but okay, whatever. Talk about clutter sharpening one’s reflexes.

“Clutter is symptomatic of delayed decision making.”

– Cynthia Kyriazis

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give my indecisiveness 6.  I deducted four points for my decent organizing capabilities that help me keep the former at bay.

I am also a lover of symmetry. These may seem like symptoms of OCD to you, but I can assure you I’m okay, you guys. I enjoy arranging items in order, my favorite being crayons and color pencils. The resulting color gradient is indeed quite gratifying! Besides this, I like sorting cutlery into sets. There’s nothing more pleasing than a table well-laid out with delicate glass bowls partnered with their corresponding plates. Sigh.

I have often wondered why I gravitate towards order and perfect proportions. Why does a photograph with good composition appeal to me so much? Why do I love henna designs with symmetrical motifs? Why am I always so hooked to well-arranged music?

The following quote probably attempts to answer my questions –

“I discovered that my obsession for having each thing in the right place, each subject at the right time, each word in the right style, was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind, but just the opposite: a complete system of pretense invented by me to hide the disorder of my nature.”

– Gabriel García Márquez

O is for Order

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!

N is for New Notebooks

If you’ve read my previous post, you must be aware that I hoard stuff.

The miscellany of items I have accumulated over the years also includes notebooks. Notebooks in all sizes and shapes, hard or soft-bound.

When I was a kid, I used to eagerly anticipate the arrival of new school books. In India, most schools provide textbooks and notebooks prior to the commencement of the upcoming academic year. I used to turn each page delicately and run my hand across it to get a feel of its smooth texture. The rustling sound of them fresh crispy pages was music to my ears. Old-book smell is already a thing, but in my opinion, the ‘new-book’ smell is equally heady!  Obviously some things never change, and I repeat this ritual each time I buy a book!

Call it another one of my idiosyncratic tendencies, but I leave new notebooks untouched for a few days before filling up their pages. I make sure I write neatly. Yup, I add the date and page number as well. Though I resolve to keep my handwriting consistent until the very last page, my ambitious plans never materialize. The result is a disastrous scrawl towards the end of the book, followed by the urge to start afresh. But I hate wasting pages.

Here’s a page from my notebook/journal

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I wrote this on Christmas. (I have cropped the photo, because um..what I’ve written later is embarrassing). See what tops the list?

N is for New Notebooks

P.S : I am really lagging behind but I’m not going to give up. I should hopefully catch up by the end of this week!

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!

K,  L and M are for Keepsakes, Letters with Memories attached.

Aaaaand I’m lagging behind. The past two days have been hectic. So I thought of something innovative (err..not really). Today’s post will be a combination of the letters ‘K’ and ‘L’ and ‘M’

I’m a number one hoarder. By this I don’t imply compulsive tendencies. It also doesn’t mean that I’m a tight-wad. I like to keep some of my memories tangible in the form of miscellaneous items, however jaded they may be – almost empty perfume bottles, broken bracelets, frayed diaries, a Math book with yellowing pages, remnant crayons from a once lavish colouring-set, coffee mugs, unpaired earrings, keychains, movie tickets, vacation checklists, fountain pens,  worn out tee-shirts and sweaters, defunct earphones and wrist watches, shoes I have outgrown and the list goes on. Most of the stuff I’ve mentioned is associated with people I know; these are keepsakes that I’ll cherish forever.

Not everything worth keeping has to be useful

-Cynthia Lord

I have a box full of letters, notes and postcards that I have collected over the years.  No electronic mail can match up to receiving handwritten thoughts, confessions, or greetings from your close ones. Opening the box is akin to taking a trip down memory lane.

I have treasured some Inland letters from my great grandmother. Her words fill me with warmth to this day, despite her tiny scrawl running across the pages. They always end with “I miss you”.  I used to write back to her excitedly, inquiring about Raja, our German Shepherd. I reminisce walking to the postbox with my grandfather to post my letters.

I have notes from my school mates that I received on the last day of school. Back then, it was a ritual to exchange memo sheets before parting ways. I was happy to be leaving school because I’d been a nobody for the most part (or rather, I felt like one) . I recall the gush of emotions on reading some of those notes. It was unexpected. I hadn’t been invisible to everyone after all.

Amidst the assortment, there are some beautiful yet quirky handmade birthday cards from my best friends and sister.  I feel a twinge of nostalgia on revisiting them every now and then. The cards aren’t just about the wishes and greetings, but also about the efforts underlying their very existence. I feel loved.

It’s been a while since I unearthed this box. On a bad day, these written keepsakes have the power to lift my mood.

I’ll write to you. A super-long letter, like in an old-fashioned novel

-Murakami

Seldom will I forget someone who has written me a note. And likewise, I make it a point to write one back.

K,  L and M are for Keepsakes, Letters, with Memories attached

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!

J is for John Mayer’s music

A friend rightly said, “Mayer will always be that teenage love one never gets over”.

I had taken a break from his music until he released the first two installments of his recent album – ‘The Search For Everything’.

Okay, I adore his music. He’s a fantastic guitarist, a fine singer-songwriter, and sure, his good looks are a bonus too. Though his themes center largely around love and heartbreak – an instant crowd-pleaser (and fodder for mediocrity) –  he has managed to carve a niche for himself in a competitive industry.

The Internet is abundant with articles about his achievements, his infamous link-ups and relationships. I am not here to elaborate on that. Mayer, the Casanova, is also an incredible musician. His music has saved me from many a rough patch. It  inspires me to challenge my guitar skills. When I think of Mayer, the words that come to my head are ‘passion’ and ‘dedication’. The image of a thirteen year old boy earnestly practicing scales on his beloved Fender Strat, makes me happy.

Mayer’s songs are powerful mood-changers with melancholic to sunny undertones.  Often, I find myself quoting his lyrics because they resonate with me. Here are my favourites –

A song that gets me through my anxious phases

I worry, I weigh three times my body
I worry, I throw my fear around
But this morning there’s a calm I can’t explain
The rock candy’s melted, only diamonds now remain

Clarity (link to my previous post)

A song to boost my confidence when I feel dejected

Down to the wire
I wanted water, but I’ll walk through the fire
If this is what it takes to take me even higher
Then I’ll come through, like I do
When the world keeps testing me, testing me, testing me

-Vultures

A song that nails what discontentment feels like,

I’m not alone
I wish I was
‘Cause then I’d know I was down because I couldn’t find a friend around
To love me like they do right now

-Something’s Missing

A song that voices my fear of growing up and outliving my parents

So scared of getting older
I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game
To find a way to say that life has just begun

-Stop this train

And finally, this one’s been on loop for the longest time. There’s a difference between falling in love with the idea of a person, and that with the person himself.

Who do you love?
Me or the thought of me?
Me or the thought of me?

-I don’t trust myself (with loving you)

This list isn’t exhaustive by any means.

There is no way I’ll tire of his music. Nope.

J is for John Mayer’s music

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!

I is for Imagining scenarios for songs

This one’s an all time favorite.

I am a daydreamer. A significant portion of my day is usually reserved for this activity. Moreover, I tend to indulge in it better if there’s a song to complement it.

I usually keep my stock of favourite songs, up to date. My play-lists are flexible, designed to suit a location, a journey, my state of mind, or even the weather at times. Of course, each song caters to my crazy imagination..

Usually, I conjure a scenario in my head that fits the context of the song. The scenes I visualize are usually far-fetched, almost Bollywood-esque. Often, it’s do with the song lyrics.  Sometimes, I envision myself performing before a large, receptive audience.

For instance, Ray Charles and Clapton bring out the blues in me and bam! I’m on  stage, belting out a punchy guitar lick.

Often, it’s about sitting before Mayer, while he sings about slow dancing with me in a burning room. Sigh.

When I heard Adele’s “Someone Like You” for the first time, I was reduced to tears. I imagined being dumped by an incredibly good looking guy, passionate, yet someone cruel enough to forget me and live a happily with another woman.

On the other hand, when I listen to “Phir le aaya dil” composed by Pritam,  or  ‘Fidelity‘ by Regina Spektor, I imagine falling in love once again, initially resisting the idea, but then giving in.

Here are some of my favorite songs and the scenes that play in my head when I hear them –

Heer Toh Badi Sad Hai” – I’m in grad-school, knee-deep in coursework,  dissatisfied and stressed out. I have no social life, and I’m roughing it out. I down cups of caffeine to keep myself going. For the sake of this song, I’m the quintessential introvert (yes, you can laugh), sometimes reminiscing about a defunct relationship.

Kala Chashma” – I’m dancing to the song and giving Katrina Kaif a run for her money.

“Dil Chahta Hai” – I am with my best friends in Goa, watching the sunset from the Chapora Fort.  (ok, I’ve literally ripped off a scene from the movie).

“Adventure of a Lifetime” by Coldplay – This usually reminds me of my vacation in London. I imagine bumping into Chris Martin and his pet chimpanzee on the streets (he obviously doesn’t own one for real!)  A weird adventure, indeed.

“Alone in Kyoto” by Air – A relaxing, beautiful instrumental that transports me to the sea. I imagine I’m floating, facing the sky and observing the clouds as they adopt strange shapes.

The list is endless. But I’ll conclude with an absolute favourite –

Clarity by John Mayer – I’m by myself, possibly by the seaside, basking in the sun, feeling lighter than usual. For once, I’m comfortable in my own skin. Soon, I see my dog – a fluffy golden retriever – bounding towards me in excitement.

And I will wait to find if this will last forever.. 

I is for Imagining scenarios for songs

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!

P.S: I am running slightly late. Post for the letter ‘J’ should be up by tonight!

H is for Hotels

My fascination for hotels began in my childhood. As per my dictionary, hotels meant restaurants as well. A vacation with family meant staying in hotels. A dinner with family also meant going to a hotel. My definitions are of course, much better now.

I must admit that my tastes were pretty expensive, thanks to my dad and grandfather who spoilt me rotten.  It’s only when I began to go on trips with my friends, did I lower my expectations.

However, a part of me still relishes the luxury when the opportunity presents itself.

It’s about the air conditioned rooms, and about sinking contentedly into plush beds with blankets that pull you close in a warm embrace.

It’s about checking the bathroom excitedly to make sure there’s a bathtub, and soaking  in bubble water baths for hours together.

It’s about scribbling notes on the pad near the phone and calling for room service for the heck of it.

It’s about them sumptuous breakfasts. I frigging love breakfast buffets. I probably don’t eat as much at home.

It’s about playing carrom with my parents, or splashing around in the swimming pool.

It’s also about the individuals who work hard to ensure our stay is pleasant and comfortable. Thank you, you guys deserve all the credit.

I forgot to mention one thing. It’s about sharing the experience with your close ones.  I’m pretty sure business and corporate visits are way different than the one I’m talking about.

Come to think of it, a hotel room would have been boring without my sister to share it with. Had I been on a solo trip, I wouldn’t have really bothered about the pool or the lounge. Had it not been for my friends, I’d be cooped up in my room, probably dozing off before the television.

As strange as it sounds, back in the day my parents used to occasionally escape with me to a resort for a weekend.

George Bernard Shaw says

The great advantage of a hotel is that it is a refuge from home life.

H is for Hotels

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!

G is for Guitar

For those who don’t get the reference, my blog has been named after one of my most favourite things. My prized possession. My beautiful acoustic guitar.

I was drawn to this instrument after having watched a friend play Greenday’s ‘Time of Your Life’. I recall admiring his guitar, running my fingers on its steel strings and wishing I could play it as well as he did. That year, I learnt to play a bunch of chords, ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries, and ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ by Greenday. It was choppy playing for the most part, but it made me ridiculously happy. Soon after, I expressed a strong desire to seek formal training. My mother, who seemed to have been vague with her response, dispelled all my doubts by gifting me a new guitar on my sixteenth birthday.

My taste in music spans many genres, but I am a lover of acoustic rock, folk-pop, blues and jazz. Besides that, my interests also lie in Indian classical music and fusion-rock.

Ironically, my blog posts have little to do with music. There’s a quote that comes to my mind, which is perhaps quite apt in this context –

To stand up on a stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism. Bordering on insanity.
– Richard Thompson

When my guitar sings, I hear the undisguised euphony of its strings. Every string is an entity by itself, the sounds of which are unprocessed, raw, yet sensitive to touch and flaws.

Around the time I began my blog, I deemed my competence in writing to be next to nil. I was fresh out of junior college, having spent two years in the company of friends with the gift of eloquence.  I was nervous about having to reveal a part of myself to a virtual audience (a part of which comprised my friends and family).  It was akin to going on stage with my guitar and trusting myself to not screw up.

So here I am, six years later, musing over my transformation from an under-confident teenager to a somewhat confident twenty-something adult. I owe it to my guitar for saving me from bouts of low self-esteem. My guitar playing has improved significantly from what it was back then, though I’d rather describe myself as a hobbyist and not a guitarist.

Learning to play this instrument has not been a cakewalk. I recall the struggle to hold a barre chord. There were times when the disappointment of failing to get a simple song right, would overtake the initial excitement. Nevertheless, the joy and satisfaction I felt on succeeding was always palpable. Of course, this holds true till date.

They say patience is a virtue and not a skill. I assumed I didn’t possess it until I picked up a guitar. Turns out that my patience had been dormant.

G is for Guitar

My theme for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is ‘The A to Z of some my favourite things’. Stay tuned for more posts, this April!