Where is Home?

Dear Readers,

Is there a place that you can call home? A place that pops into your head as soon as you are confronted with the question – “Where are you from?” It seems like one of those straight forward fuss-free questions. But is it? Nope, it’s loaded. It’s a question that forms the edifice for a lot of relationships. If you happen to belong to the same place as the inquisitive questioner turned best friend for life, that’s it! You’re in; welcome to the tribe. You can seamlessly alternate between your native tongue and English, share your grandmother’s pickle recipes, discuss the 10th generation bakery that serves fabulous vegetable puffs at the intersection of some latitude and longitude that Google maps has no idea of yet, cluck your tongue at the sad state of politics… you get the idea. But if you happen to belong to a place outside the permissible 100 mile radius of inquisitive questioner turned awkward encounter, at best, you can shuffle your feet, discuss the weather and at worst, still discuss the weather. Discussing the weather is one of humanity’s most under-rated achievements. Salvaging uncomfortable conversations since the inception of time.

Well I happen to be someone whose origin is as blurry as my vision without glasses, which is to say, very. Actually, no. It depends on how far back in time does one want to delve to find common ties. If only we could discuss apes as our common ancestors *sigh*. Anyway, with grandparents from Lahore and Karachi, parents from Delhi, born in Mumbai but having spent most of my life in Bangalore, to say that I have an identity crisis would be an understatement at best. So when someone catches me off-guard and delves into my murky family tree, my mind draws a blank and I fumble “Del.. sorry Mum.. I mean Banga.. no wait..”

However, when I ask myself the question “Where is home”, my mind still draws a blank but in the most tranquil way possible. Home is wherever and whoever I want it to be. Home is all that I have accepted unconditionally. It is the nook in my grandmother’s house in Delhi where the cooler is most effective, it is the laid back yet full-of-life electric vibe of Mumbai, the comfort of a strong cup of filer Kaapi in Bangalore and home is all the people I have had the privilege of discussing the weather with… 🙂

Yours – in need of an actual home,

Panya.

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Intractable Insinuations

Dear Readers,

Gosh! I really flatter myself when i assume that there will be more than one reader for my article. Anyway, it’s 11:39 p.m and am mulling over philosophy. Usually, I allow my mind to trail off into philosophical conjectures only when am driving or in an office meeting. Perfectly acceptable, I know. Well readers, let me tell you one thing, give a person a challenging situation and an internet connection and they will get through at least 5 self-help articles before they come up with their own brew. Their unique philosophy of life that they will probably feel compelled to force upon the world… much like what am putting you guys through *insert smug smile*.

Anyway, if you’ve made it through the first paragraph, let me just tell you what’s been bugging me. Recently, during an ugly spat with a friend, I said nasty things in reaction to nasty things that were said to me. Or were nasty things said to me because I said nasty things first? Hmmm, probably the latter this time around. Readers, perhaps I should give you some more context. Well, it so happens that this was not the first time nastiness was exchanged between said friend and me. Now usually, I take a lot of pride in saying that I am very patient and tolerant of human companionship. On most days anyway! However, with said person I had fallen into a pattern of nasty exchanges. I am not proud of this. But I guess once you form a habit, to come out it, requires you to give more than a damn. And I was invested in this relationship only three-quarters of a damn. Of all the nasty things that were said, there was one snide remark made by “friend” (now acquaintance) that really disturbed me. “You are what you are”. WHAT?! It annoyed me because I realised it was an insult but could not gauge its value on the Richter scale of insults. In any combat, verbal or otherwise, to craft a response one must be able to calibrate the opponents insinuations. I am what I am? An unstable combination of the five elements? Possibly what he meant. A feline-loving, reptile-hating homo sapien? Maybe. A confused 24 year who can’t decide if my skin tone is better suited for a wine red lipstick or a nude-brown shade. Most likely meant this…

I am what I am.. I am what I am.. I am what I am.. it is around this point that I fell asleep while my brain chugged along trying to find a resolution to this statement.. after a few hours of sleep.. I wake up feeling inspired! I’ve figured it out!! What said acquaintance meant.. it was a typo! He meant to say – “You are what you eat.” One part protein, one part carbs, one part fibre, half-part minerals and vitamins and ten parts nutella. Wow… that’s a shady, nasty remark even by the standards to said acquaintance. Well guess what acquaintance (now a blob of matter) you are what you eat too. Equal parts bitter, sour and bland. Humph.

Yours – forever distasteful of open-ended insults,

Panya.

Eh, what are you going to do?

Dear Readers,

While taking a trip down memory lane today, I stumbled upon an amusing yet jarring memory. Amusing for others. Jarring for me. This incident took place when I was quite small. I really tried to jog my memory to get a ballpark figure of my age but all that my brain could cough up was “Quite small”. Eh, what are you going to do? My parents and I were on a holiday in Goa. My recollection starts off pleasant enough. Strolling down an over-crowded beach with my hands and mouth preoccupied with devouring a cob of corn with the sun setting in the background. Okay, to be honest, the taste of the corn is my only vivid recollection.. the probability of being on a beach( I mean it’s Goa!) with the sun present somewhere in the sky is fairly high.

Maybe my small size made me extra vulnerable. Maybe the sight of me attacking the corn with such fervor was really off-putting but either way I found myself being chased by a cow. That’s right, a COW! Now Readers, there are moments in life that strong arm you into prioritising. And any person in their right mind would choose safety over a corn cob. Not me. Nuh uh. The corn cob and I were one entity. So me, my misguided zeal, and my recently added appendage ran like a maniac fuelled by their nonsensical priorities.

Had this incident taken place outside of India, any neutral party would have declared the cow guilty, and me, just plain crazy. However, in this country, most people’s assessment of the situation would have been clouded by the deep emotional bonds that they have with cows. I understand that they are harmless – not in my experience – but to others, perhaps. Even though I am a little weary of them, I will be gracious enough to admit that their innocent, gigantic eyes do have an endearing effect, and their contribution to providing me with tasty dairy products is much appreciated.

Through the journey of telling you this story, two thoughts struck me. The first one – Why were we holidaying on a beach? We hailed from Mumbai – a place with abundant beaches. Strange. Secondly, why was the cow holidaying on the beach? Come to think of it, their taste in real estate is quite lousy. Why would they spend all their time on our roads amidst us? I mean, let’s admit it, even on our best days, we are tolerable company at best.

Wait a second, have we compelled these creatures to endure our company and compete for our corn cobs? Could the haphazard planning of our country and complete disregard for other creatures have something to do with the accidental sharing of holiday destinations? *Sigh* When did my unreasonable rant turn into sympathy for the nemesis.

Maybe this reality is one that I’ll just have to live with – a cow squatting in the middle of the road, chewing on a blade of grass and the rest of the city whizzing past it… accepting diversity – taken to a whole new level. Eh, what are you going to do?

Yours – in need of a better nemesis,

Panya

Humanity – The Sum of Two Parts??

Dear Readers,

After much thought and grave contemplation, I have come to a premature albeit insightful conclusion – the world can essentially be divided into two distinct groups of people. And no, I am not referring to Trump vs. the rest of humanity. That is a discussion for another time. Readers, I can assure you that I made my observations in a state of complete mental vigilance. The fact that it is a lazy Saturday afternoon and I am feeling a little drowsy after a meagre meal of chapati, lemon rice, daal, sabji, curd and kalakand sweet has compromised my research capabilities by a maximum of 30% , the rest 80% of me is committed to the cause of providing you with perfectly standard and mediocre content. I have crafted this article with state of the art tools at my disposal – a comfy bed, a blank wall to stare at and my laptop (so that I can intermittently watch cute animal videos). Some of you may wonder- what makes me a subject expert on human behaviour. Rest assured, I am qualified enough. I have been a fully functioning human for the past 23 years, haven’t I? Geez. Tough audience.

So who are these distinct types of people? And which one are you?

Well, I think the first group of people can be labeled as “The Elon Musks“. Extremely committed. Excruciatingly hard working. The ones that spend their days leading and scaling their flourishing businesses and their nights saving the world from the impending dooms of climate change, poverty and diseases. This lot comes with inbuilt clocks in their systems that ensures that they make the most of every second. Am fairly sure that the terms “multi-tasking” and “maximum efficiency”  were coined by them. It makes me wonder – what were to happen to this bunch if they were forcefully made to cease all activity? To quote Ebenezer Scrooge, they’d probably feel like an “undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.” Hey, his charming words, not mine. However, jokes aside, I believe that it is rare to find people fuelled by such a potent and innate sense of purpose. Legends and torch-bearers are made of such tenacious fibre. If you are still pondering over whether you belong to this productive subset of humanity, ask yourself this – do you feel that there could be a million other things that you could be doing instead of reading this compelling and brilliant :p article? If yes, then you’re it!

Right, onto the second group of people that I like to call “Europe minus Germany“. This lot is all about appreciating the finer things in life. They can spend an eternity enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee or ambling through art galleries contemplating brush strokes and colour palettes. Planning a holiday or holidaying – that’s just the way it goes. Some of their core values include “siesta”, ” work-life balance” and “Que sera sera”. There is a beautiful saying in French – “Joie de vivre” or the joy of living. These people truly celebrate the exuberance of life in all its’ flavours. Let’s face it, their engagement and indulgence in life is probably what the journey is all about.

After seizing up the rest of humanity, I ruminated about my own inclinations. Damn it, so much for my extensive research! I clearly fall under the dubious third category – I too will make my mark in this world… right after I catch a nap and enjoy a steaming cup of filter kaapi.

Are there any more categories that I should add to the thesis? Comment below and let me know. 🙂

Yours in moments of dedication and somnolence,

Panya.

Con-Fusion Cuisine?

As someone who tries out different restaurants and watches MasterChef with great zeal, I consider myself to be quite the food maestro. Alas, like any fantasy, this too crumbles under closer inspection. My extensive culinary skills range from being able to turn on the gas to preparing instant packaged noodles. Ok, so maybe a superficial inspection was enough.

Like most Indians, I was made acutely aware of my rather limited palate on a holiday abroad. I was greatly amused when my parents packed a huge quantity of theplas before we left for Europe. On arriving there, I realised that my taste buds were simply inept at handling food that wasn’t submerged in masalas. Guarded my share of the theplas with a ferocity after that.

People in other parts of the world may well appreciate fresh ingredients and respect the produce but for us Indians, guessing which protein/vegetable is smothered in our alchemy of spices is quite exciting. Here is a list of foreign cuisines that are quite popular with us and how they have been improvised for our palates –

Chinese

This one’s a favourite! In fact, most of us know what we are going to order even before we set foot in an eatery.. Hot and Sour soup, fried rice with Manchurian gravy and the infamous Hakka noodles. I highly doubt that our version of these dishes bears any semblance to authentic Chinese food. We have a rather vague definition for Chinese cuisine. If at any point during the preparation of food, one or more ingredients came into contact with Soya sauce, either by accident or intentionally, the food is Chinese enough ( Need to copyright this definition :p ). This definition gives us a lot of room to add Indian influence. I think Manchurian deserves a special mention. It is basically an ingredient (chicken/ fish/ cottage cheese/ baby corn/ cauliflower) prepared in a brown gravy made with soya sauce, ketchup, vinegar, corn starch and seasoning. It can be found anywhere from small food carts catering to broke students outside schools and colleges to high end restaurants satiating the deep-pockets. Versatile food for versatile budgets!

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 Manchurian. Brought to you by – the Indian imagination.

Italian

Until recently, knowledge of Italian food was limited to pizzas and pastas in a wide array of sauces.. red and white to be precise. Now, our awareness has increased significantly when it comes to this cuisine. There are the added varieties of pesto sauce and pink sauce. However, I am pretty sure that the invention of pink sauce (a creative 1:1 blend of red and white sauce) finds its origin in India itself. How can I forget about dessert.. Tiramisu! Sponge cake topped with cream and instant coffee powder. It’s pretty evident that we do not like to stray from the original recipes!

Pan-Asian

Or in other words Thai curry with Jasmine rice. Let’s not faff around when we know that as Indians, those are the first and perhaps only things that come to mind. Thai curry is traditionally a light coconut broth. However, since subtle flavours go undetected by our palate, here in India, it really packs a punch! Yeah, we can make lemongrass pretty boisterous too.

 Middle-Eastern

Shawarma rolls.

enough-said

 

American and Mexican

Actually, these are cuisines where we have not strayed too far from the sidewalk. Exhausted all our imagination with the other ones I guess. The sanctity of the traditional burger has been honoured .. no funky spices have found their way in the slices.. yet! And Mexican food is a quite popular.. rice with beans, potatoes and sour cream. They had us at rice! There are a lot of parallels between American and Indian food.. pancakes to dosas, doughnuts to wadas, ice-creams to kulfis.. maybe going forth, diplomatic relations between the two countries can be built on the strong edifice of food.

I know we have the propensity to take other cuisines and deck them up in local flavours. Any attempts to trace back foreign dishes to their respective nations will be a largely futile attempt. But we promise you that Indianized food will leave your palate wanting more and your common sense telling you no!

 

Crippled Independence

Note to self – nostalgia and existential queries come in abundance when you clean out your wardrobe. In this case, it was while watching my brother clean out his.. but that’s beside the point. While he gingerly removed the chunky parts of a once-popular game called ‘Battleship’, it got me to reminisce about a time when technology was not our right hand. Growing up as a 90’s kid, I can describe myself as someone who is weary and appreciative of technology at the same time. Even now, when it comes to writing the first draft for any article, my instinct takes me to pen and paper but I sure as hell know and acknowledge the value of spell-check (more than I would like to admit).

However, we have had to pay a heavy price for befriending this sophisticated, know-it-all and ambitious friend that has an uncanny ability to keep upgrading itself. And that is – the inability to disconnect. Recently, Apple has faced flak for creating products that are “too addictive”. Am i misguided in thinking that when it comes to decisions regarding how we use our time, the ball is in our court? But for all those who need assistance disconnecting from technology – don’t despair – the cry for help has been heard, processed and appropriate technologies are coming soon.. in gadgets near you. There is a start-up that is building a smartphone that is only capable of sending and receiving calls. Right, dumb down the technology… brownie points for a viable solution. Or another start-up that’s taking the high road to use addictive technology in health and education applications. I am not sure how I feel about our vulnerabilities being exploited.

The advent in technology has woven anxiety into the human fabric. With the frantic pace we need to keep up right from the time we get up – getting the latest news on our phone, to booking an Uber for work, tracking the Uber while at the same time completing our latest purchase on Amazon, posting an image of an absolutely delectable butter toast on Instagram, clocking in ten minutes on on our meditation app..gotta make it to the intermediate level!

The only solution to the mayhem is to go back to the basics. Start relying on our instincts a little more. Listen to our bodies on how much water we need to drink and how many hours of sleep we need to catch instead of using apps? We are the product of millions of years of evolution, let’s give ourselves some credit!

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why Cats Would Make Awesome Brand Ambassadors

“You can teach a cat anything… anything that it wants to do.”

I think the above statement sums up perfectly as to why people hate as well as fawn over cats. Their aloof and distant nature has created a catFans scale – our perception ranging from extremely hostile all the way to adorable enigmas. Having been a canine lover for most part of my life, it is only recently that I find myself quite fascinated with the feline.On observing them closely, it struck me that cats would make great brand ambassadors and here are the reasons why –

They are Brand Conscious

Of their own brand that is. Every time that I go to feed the cat in my apartment complex, he circles me and marks his scent while showing clear disapproval of my taste in skin-care products.. as if to say “Geez. How many times do I have to dowse you in my one of a kind meow-nificent scent. My unique blend of mud, mice and everything nice.” They market their scent to the point of giving free samples to pretty much everything and everywhere in their vicinity.

Paw-ise

If there is any creature that embodies poise and grace, it is the cat. Cats would find themselves at ease at a high-tea event or an upscale fund raiser. With a steady gaze, stoic expression and a tail that is wrapped around their front paws in an exact and calculated manner, they are the epitome of good deportment. I find it ironic that as a human – the pinnacle of evolution, walking a mere 100 meters with my limbs in coordinated motion is a big ask!

They are always well groomed

Cats spend a significant portion of their lives preening themselves. And the other significant portion catching up on their beauty sleep. I would imagine that they would be any photographers’ dream photoshoot – with their fastidious attention to appearance and fur that is always slick and gelled.

Cat-titude

Cats could probably pull off any brand seamlessly. Courtesy of their mood swings. From being playful to downright lazy, loving to outright hostile, keen and aware to sluggish, dominating to fearful – it is so bewildering that such a small package of fur can be so dynamic (bordering on some personality disorders?).

Loyalty

Cats display loyalty in every facet of their life .. except to their owners of course. Being highly territorial creatures, they like to stick to their comfort zones – quite literally. PR agents would get sound sleep if they represented these creatures of habit. No impulsive outbreaks and messy scandals to clean up after. What a relief that must be!

Write up a contract for your neighbourhood kitty? Yes paw-lease!