Tuesday, May 24, 2011


After a few years, I have finally felt that distinct sense of accomplishment at having whipped out a complete blog post. The idea had been germinating for a while. But I, of course, was being lazy in a way only I know how to be. It is a pure inertia, punctuated occasionally with a desire to write (I cannot let my desire to be a writer die) and then it fades away (how dare I have such a dream when I lack the courage to follow it), as quickly as it hits me. But yesterday, I sat in my chair, with excellent posture, I might add, rattled it out on the keyboard and hit Publish before you could even say Snake Anthony. Today I am writing again.

It would be inaccurate to say that I am inspired but at long last, I am at peace with myself. Perhaps what is even nicer about it is that I know it is temporary. Come August I will be crushed by new problems and inconveniences as I move to a new country and start a new life, something I have worked towards for two years. My skepticism and social ineptitude will return and those frown lines will resume their formation.

This is my little window of transition, my period of rest. I look at the elements of my life – my penultimate month at a company I have helped build, the smile on the face of my date last Saturday, my collection of music which I am re-cataloguing, my family who get sentimental about silly things – and feel contented. I have mind space.

This morning, eying a bunch of litchis lying on the kitchen counter, I remembered a sweltering Calcutta morning in the early nineties in an Ambassador. My mother had gone to shop for fruits and vegetables while my brother, five years older than me, and I were instructed to wait in the car. She would return periodically to leave bags in the car. Our driver was off somewhere, presumably smoking a cigarette. Bored and thirsty, we caught sight of a fresh bunch of litchis.

My brother dared me to eat one. Being the obedient child, I immediately said no. He casually shrugged and helped himself to one. Then, looking at me with mock innocence, held the bag out to me. I looked at him in horror and then grabbed one quickly before anyone could notice. He watched me eat it triumphantly. I giggled. He giggled. He then reached into the bag. What are you doing, I hissed. Oh would you relax, he replied, poking his thick glasses back in place. This time he ate the litchi slowly, teasingly, staring nonchalantly out of the window. I watched wide-eyed and gulped. A bead of sweat trickled down my neck and into my thin cotton frock. I looked out into the delirously hot marketplace. No mother to be seen. Okay, just one more, I said and popped a soft juicy litchi in my mouth. I licked my sticky sweet fingers in relish. My brother gave me an approving smile. Obviously, we consumed all the litchis and deviously left the stems and shells in the bag so it retained its bulk. Later, when this was discovered by our housekeeper, my mother gave us both a couple of slaps. My brother was irresponsible and I had no mind of my own. We were going to be failures in life, a line we have heard often since. This statement has both encouraged and haunted us over two decades. I would even venture to say it has caused some of the successes we have had.

I snapped out my reverie as I heard my name being called for breakfast.

If bliss is moksha, a complete release or a some sort of heightened, orgasmic exhilaration, I want none of it. For me, this is bliss - the summery pause between losing my mind to get what I want and complaining about how it wasn’t worth going through all the heartache for.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I am a promiscuous baker. I bake for everyone and I rarely discriminate. This new hobby has made me uncharacteristically attention-seeking. If you casually mention over coffee that you cannot resist palmiers, I will probably invest eight hours in the joys of laminate baking to make you your very own tin of delectable mini cinnamon palmiers. If you crave chocolate in the middle of the night, my skills allow for a comforting batch of chocolate chip cookies to keep on your night stand. And if I am hosting a party, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t seize the opportunity to bake something ‘life changing’ (in the immortal words of my friend, V. Bless him) for such a captive audience.

Last weekend, I chose a triple layered chocolate mousse cake, a triumph of my present culinary abilities. I went easy on the top layer, mindful of the fact that white chocolate isn’t popular. I compensated with a generous half kilo of high quality bittersweet dark chocolate distributed evenly between the flour-less dense cake base and the soft creamy mousse that sat on top made with the freshest cream my city can provide. Giddy at the thought of twenty five people sinking their teeth into this creation, I decorated the upper most slender white layer of mousse with gentle stripes of cocoa and expresso dust. This I did shortly before serving, wearing my apron over a black silk dress, to ensure that the final touches looked new.

I surveyed the room with pride. Most people were reduced to quiet puddles, some disbelieved that I had made it (secretly, this is the reaction I long for most. I am an unlikely looking baker. I am skinny, I roll my eyes and have been told that I lack maternal instinct) and in the corner of the room, three of my most analytical and articulate guests collected to exchange their thoughts on the subject.

A: I like eating these layers separately. My favourite is the base though.

V: I agree. I love the base the most but I’d still say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

G: How does that make sense? A complete bite captures the beauty of every layer. It all adds up.

V: Holism is the idea that all the properties of any given system cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave. So that’s the extra feeling when you take a full bite. You cannot break it into its component parts.

A: I disagree. Mathematically, according to binomial theorem, it is possible to expand the power (x + y)n into a sum involving terms of the form axbyc so the sum of the parts would be exactly equal to the whole.

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I do, however, remember walking away to pour myself a drink as I watched three hours of passionate baking degenerate into absurd academic debate, vowing to bake only for the less cerebrally endowed.