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Sunday, February 23, 2014

My equation with Chemistry ( #ConditionSeriousHai ) !

Teenage is probably the most underrated phase of a person’s life. All the physical and mental variations and a ruckus of hormones, ultimately makes up a weirdo or in other words, a teenager. This was also the time when ‘Look at Leela aunty’s son. He is a topper in whatever he does’ rang in my ears even when my Mom was actually telling me to eat. Leela aunty and her son were marked in red, bold and underlined, and highlighted in yellow on my hit list ever since I can remember. And this is one woman I avoided like plague because she was bothered about my very existence. Apparently her son scored just 96% and topped the district or even the country but Leela aunty was wiping her nose in distress, because her #ConditionSeriousHai.

And I remember that day when I came out of the exam hall after the twelfth grade Chemistry exam. The question paper was very simply set with direct questions. Basically, I was not born to study Chemistry. As simple as that. Now if you want to inject organic and physical chemistry into my head that is not designed to accept this type of data, it is your call. This was my attitude all through the chemistry classes, chemistry tuition classes and chemistry entrance tuition classes. After that load of  chemistry equations and theories were dumped aimlessly into my head, I still could not balance an equation correctly, whereas my classmates did it in a matter of microseconds. Apparently Leela aunty’s son balanced equations with his left hand when he had to used his right hand at dinner.

So as I walked out of the exam hall I heard peals of laughter and my classmates discussing the question paper with beaming faces. I could almost see a 99/100 written across their foreheads. However diplomacy is the key to coexist with competitive parents. So when Papa asked how the exam went, I replied it was ‘okay’. By saying that, neither did I confirm that I would pass with flying colors, nor did I say that it was difficult and invite hell’s wrath. It was a situation of mental equilibrium. When I reached home everyone was not actually looking forward to see me because Leela aunty had howled from the top of her roof that her nerd of a son was throwing things around saying it was a ‘sub-standard’ question paper and he wasted his year for nothing. So basically this moron’s #ConditionSeriousHai.

The reply ‘It was okay’ to any question that was aimed at me related to exams kept the parents waiting for the results so that they could pounce on me. This means, that two months till the results came I could live peacefully in my house without it being converted into a T-Rex's nest. However, I tactfully avoided appearing at any get-together or Sunday school, as a measure of precautionary self-defense against suspected nosy aunties. Those two months till the results came was a period I needed to be extra careful. After the results are published the war takes a different turn altogether which may involve major bombing from all possible directions but that is a totally different story. Meanwhile, Leela aunty was silently having a party in her head, as her son’s batch mate was likely to hit rock bottom. And I tell you, there was not one but lots of Leela aunties around all whose #ConditionSeriousHai.

 If I tried hard and managed to get a mark more than her son, I am sure Leela aunty would have attempted suicide. So, my decision to stay within the average pool and never leaping out of it was in a way saving the life of Leela aunty and her son whom I doubt wore diapers at night.

Ten years down the line, I am doing just fine without learning Chemistry, just like Leela aunty’s son is after mastering it. The bottom line is that we will all be just fine regardless of our take at the Chemistry paper.

So Leela aunty, chill, have a Cadbury 5 star.  

This article was written for Indiblogger Cadbury Five Star contest - Condition Serious Hai. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Truly, madly, IDLY !

You can say all the jokes you want about South Indians, but we will never ever stop eating Idlis. Not for the whole world. No amount of Rajnikanth-kolaveri-kerala nurses unfunny jokes can dissuade us from our traditional food, which continues to be a top favorite across all age groups- from toddlers to politicians. Oh and we are also tea drinkers. It keeps us awake and
and alert you seeIt is one of the reasons behind the percentage of South Indian students that knock at the gates of IIT, and the ever increasing theft rate elsewhere  ;-)

Coming back to idlis, even though its batter is available in every nook and corner, it cannot be compared with what we grind at home. The color, smell and everything about it is different. It could probably be because the stores may use baking soda for fast fermentation which is a practice we never do at home. Anyway for bachelors and newly-married-cooking-retarded people (that’s me around five years back), these batter packets are a blessing.

It was on my first grocery shopping trip post marriage that I found out about the idli batter packets and I rejoiced like I won the lottery. I was not even aware of the existence of such a thing mainly because before marriage, I never went grocery shopping. Secondly, hot idlis frequently appeared at the dining table and taken for granted in no time. Thirdly, when Mummy and a housemaid of twenty years are at the kitchen there is no room or reason for a third person to intrude and investigate. Fourthly it was better to eat and leave rather than staying back to ask questions and invite trouble.

It was years later when our baby came into our lives, we started to forego anything that came in packets. This included masalas, batter, processed snacks and other stuff. And then as necessity is the mother of pain-in-the-neck, our next trip to India saw us returning with a brand new grinder. Lifting the grinder weights regularly has made me a mini Mary Kom in terms of biceps. And then came the real trivia. Idli batter is no joke. If you want to make it successfully you need to brush up those math lessons which are collecting cobwebs in some corner of the brain(?). Sixth grade flashback - remember that lesson in ratio and proportion?

So Raw Rice: Urad Dal: Fenugreek = 2:1:(1small spoon). Well, had I understood mathematics in its raw form during my school days, I would have four cooks in my kitchen today asking me what I’d like to eat for dinner. Well, I’ll choose not to talk about what could have happened and focus on not learning mathematics come what may. It takes a while until you can understand that, this formula when followed religiously does not yield soft yummy idlis. Sometimes it can bite on your back by producing idlis that can also be used as stones at the Secretariat march. Idlis are made by ‘experience’, which I would like to rename as ‘sheer luck’. The silver lining of going through all this pain is that, once you grind the batter and keep for fermentation, and it fails at the box office, the same can be used to make dosas. Dosas always come out crisp and yum even if the batter is not in a good mood. This saves me from a lot of batter related stress.

The first time I made idlis, the ones on the lowest rung of idli mould drowned and died.  This was celebrated as a family joke (initiated and marketed by my sister) that my idlis committed suicide. I am secretly planning to throw an idli at her one of these days. 

After a while I mastered the art of making “poo polathe*” idlis. That feeling of licking clean a plate of soft idlis is a form of emotional bliss that can be experienced only by South Indians. Well these idlis are so light on the tummy that it drives us to drink an extra cup of coffee or grab a few biscuits by 11 a.m., but that is not a downside.

So as I sat around pretending to be a master chef, and at other times singing from the rooftop about my newly found culinary skills, somewhere in the background, summer gave way to winter. I found out the hard and bitter way that batter does not ferment in winter. And it is exactly at winter when you really want to devour hot idlis and tea! It took me a lot of effort to stop myself from running to the nearest store and grab a pack of idli batter!  I googled all the culinary blogs and found some real gems which had tips about making idlis in winter. Muscat is as of now at 16 to 20 degrees, which is too cold for idli batter. I tried the water bath method, and then placed it in the oven with oven lights on throughout the night for around 12 hours in total. In the morning I woke up like a mother hen eager to check on her eggs. I opened the oven, and the batter vessel...and... eurekaa!

February. Cool Monday morning. The golden rays of the sun seeped through the window. The birds tapped and murmured against the glass windows. The doves flew past fluttering their wings. The cool breeze tickled the curtains. The coconut oil solidified. On the dining table was the casserole. In it was hot 'poo polathe*' idlis bathing in steam. There was some coconut chutney and a cup of tea for company. Pure bliss. 

*super soft

Picture courtesy:Google

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