Saturday, December 23, 2006

A whiff of fresh air

I love December - it is the month of festivity and celebration. It's the time to look back on what we have done in the whole year and what we have forgotten to do. It's the time to look forward to a new and better year. But I love this month most because this is my "recharge" time. For the last couple of years, I have become used to taking at least a week's break in December - and I don't use this break for travel or vacation. I use this time to recharge my batteries, allow myself all kinds of luxuries and generally indulge in anything that fancies me. The very fact that I don't have a plan or a schedule or a to-do list, makes me look forward to this break. And this year, the break came when hubby and his mom had to go off for a short trip to settle a few things back in Kerala. My daughter's nanny agreed to stay over with me for the duration, giving me time to do my own stuff. And boy, it was really good.

I rediscovered the simple joy of getting up in the morning and having a nice cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. This was something I took for granted in B.C (Before Child) days, but now I cherished the experience so much. I took my daughter for morning walks in the garden below and we played with pebbles. I read to her, played silly games with her and took her out every single evening. We enjoyed kiddie rides, went to the beach and park, and had a freaking good time. I watched her as she reacted wondrously at new experiences. What a pity that we grow up and lose most of this awe for anything beautiful and new.

During the day, I read books, listened to some of my favourite music, went window-shopping and sometimes just curled up beside my daughter when she slept.
I made it a point to forget all pending tasks and anything that came to my notice, I just brushed aside. I didn't even write a post for this blog :-)

At the end of it, I felt a calm energy inside me. The return to routine life was a jolt, but I know that I can have another break next year. And in any case, if I do this daily, it is going to become like the morning cup of coffee that I used to have - no novelty and hence taken for granted.

Wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A holistic treat for the body, mind and soul

These days, my life is very eventful. I wake up everyday with a feeling of uncertainty on the new possibilities and risks that I may face during the morning. If I succeed in overcoming these challenges, I get to go to work, where I settle down to relatively unremarkable pursuits. Parenting is always a recurring favorite in my posts and this time, I wanted to rant about how parenting makes you acquire multi-dimensional skills by putting you through this training in alertness and quick-reflexes, that would put even the U.S Marines to shame.

Scene 1: I am trying to make myself a cup of tea, after putting my daughter amidst her favorite toys. Although I watch the boiling water and add the ingredients in the right measure, I can still see my daughter through my mind's eye. Now, this is an extra eye at the back of the head that God gives parents of toddlers to save them from annihilatuing themselves in frustration. Dear Daughter (to be addressed henceforth as DD) looks bored with all her toys and lets out a big yawn. She then gets up and saunters lazily into the kitchen. My mind's eye sends a red alert to my still-sleepy brain, and my brain kicks into action. DD 's saunter turns into a trot as she rushes to the oil-jar cabinet and starts pulling something out. My brain sends a complex signal to hands, ordering me to switch off the stove and make a leap to catch the flip-open oil container that is just being thrown to the ground. I dive towards the container and manage to catch it by the handle. And now I realize that DD is standing in my diving trajectory. Yet another signal from my brain to quickly change my trajectory to avoid crushing DD - my body reacts to it by swinging right just in time and I manage to crash onto the refrigerator instead. The entire event took less than 2 seconds. DD,who was watching me thus far with mild interest on her face, turns around to pull out the next container from the cabinet. She believes in systematic onslaught.

Scene 2: This is Sunday morning and I am ready to feed DD her breakfast - nice soft idlis and piping-hot sambar. I take idlis in a plate and look towards the dining table, at the centre of which there is a casserole filled by the sambar. My mistake - I had left the sambar open when I went to get a ladle. My body froze for a second at the sight - DD standing on her toes and stretching to pull the casserole by its ear towards herself. My brain quickly analyzed the situation and after a quick analysis of all factors including the distance between me and DD, chose to react by screaming. The scream was very effective - DD stopped dead in her tracks, rested her feet fully on the ground and turned to me to see what made me scream. And I made an athletic dash towards her that would have put Flo-Jo to shame.

Scene 3: I am giving DD her bath. I have massaged lavish amounts of oil on her skin and hair and decide to let it sink in for sometime. I fill her tub with warm water, making sure that the temparature is just right for her. After I fill the water, DD normally plays around with it using a mug, a small cup and spoon, all of which are my "distraction tools" to prevent her from fussing/howling and climbing onto me with all her oil. But this day is different - after a while of playing, DD decides that she is bored. She points to the wall-mixer faucet set and says "TAAAP" - I nod in agreement and smile at her. She then quickly opens the knob of the cold-water tap, allowing water to fall inside the tub, and revels in splashing cold water all around. In desperation, I turn off the controlling knob of the water supply to the bathroom. She gasps in surpise for a moment, then realizes that I have done something to stop her from having fun. She lets out a blood-curdling scream followed with a long banshee-like wail. I don't relent - so she progresses to stamping her feet on the ground and shedding tears accompanied by unstoppable sobs. Both of us stick to our guns and by the end of this session, I am a heap of nerves and ready to break down if anyone dares to speak to me. And her? - the moment she is out of the room she totters towards the living room with a look of serenity and then goes into the kitchen to give our cook a most angelic smile. Talk of resilience..

Exercise keeps the physical being alert and fit. Crosswords, puzzles and su-do-ku help keep the brain alert and young. And motivational literature and talks help us keep our spirits buoyant.Having a toddler, as you would have realized, takes care of all the above. Situations might just go a little overboard at times and take you to the frontiers of these skills, but that's part of the game. So parents of the world - rejoice!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

For the foodies of the world..

Hubby and I have always been great food-lovers. I am a staunch vegetarian while he is not - and this, to many, may seem to be a chasm too wide. But we share the same love for good food, the willingness to experiment and the sheer no-holds-barred indulgence of our taste buds. When we see great food, we forget all new year and any other resolutions made to shape up. Calorie consciousness flies out of the window and we settle down to enjoy the feast with all our senses.

In the first 2 years after we got married, we have had more dinners outside than at home, more out of need than anything else. We both used to work late and by the time we got out, most hotels would be downing their shutters. Some of the lingering memories from those times are of both of us scurrying through the half-downed shutter of Adyar Sangeetha restaurant, with the manager attempting bravely to hide his anguished expression with a wannabe-benevolent smile. During this era, we have scoured most of South Chennai, particularly Adyar and Besant Nagar, in search of good grub. And the results were to be seen - I mean, you just had to take a look at the two of us :-)

Now, the rest of this post is a eulogy to the good eat-outs in Adyar. If you find this is too parochial and silly to be discussed/written about, please feel free to leave now. I have listed a few of our favorite places in no particular order.

Eden, the vegetarian restaurant in Besant Nagar is certainly a place to go, and if you go do not miss the "Corn on Toast" starter. And for those of you who love the taste of cheese (and are capable of developing a temporary amnesia to the fact that too much of cheese clogs the arteries), do try the "Chef's Baked Bowl". The pasta in Eden is also good, although not the greatest.

There is another place in Besant Nagar, nestled in a spot quite close to Eden - This restaurant has had many avatars in the last few years. I don't remember the first avatar, but the second was called "Sage and Onion" which served just-above-average food for much too high costs. The current avatar "Pasta and Noodles" is the best attempt from the management so far - the food is quite good and although the prices continue to be on the higher side, it is certainly worth a visit.

Then there is Wangs Kitchen, that dishes out good, properly Indianized,Chinese fare. I love the sesame fried baby corns that come as starters. For those of you who have not been here, please note that the portions are really huge. So if you think you need 2 dishes, pause, and order 1. You will most probably end up having some left over even from that. And yes, don't forget to thank me in this blog for this tip, which would have saved you a couple of hundred bucks.

When in Sangeetha Adyar, don't forget to check out their "speciality of the day". If you are in a mood for a simple dish or if you are in a hurry,try podi dosai or Special Sambar rice. If you are having breakfast there, do try Pongal-vadai, followed by a nice cup of special coffee. Great way to start off a day! And needless to say, before you enter, you should give up all unholy thoughts about the excess usage of oil, ghee etc before you dig into the food. I recently passed by Sangeetha and saw that they have put a notice claiming to use olive oil for cooking. That's probably an encouragement the more health-conscious lots to give in to the simple temptations they offer.

The famed Murugan idli shop has recently opened up in Besant Nagar. Although we have passed it many times, we have never entered it because of the milling crowds - If there is one place more crowded and noisy than Sangeetha, it is probably Murugan Idli. We have heard enough from friends that suggests that it is something worth crowding for.

Farther from Adyar, en-route to the Chennai airport, is the GRT Radisson Hotel. The best thing about this place is the restaurant called "The Great Kabab Factory". If you are under the impression that "vegetarian kabab" is an oxymoron, try this place. The chef has the tastiest veggie kababs I have ever had. And there is an equally succulent, non-vegetarian option too, that my husband vouches for. And the best part is that you don't have to order and you don't have to worry about what combination tastes best. The waiters will lovingly dole out one kabab after the other, and tell you what sauce they taste best with. The only regret you are bound to have is that your stomach is not elastic enough to take in the whole meal that they offer. Sigh..

Close to Besant Nagar Bus stand, there is the "The Fruit Shop" (also known as "The Fruit Shop on Greams Road" since they started off their first branch there). If you feel like a wholesome, fresh fruit juice or milkshake, this is the place to be. They have heavenly milkshakes and the best part is that you can say from the taste that the ingredients are fresh and there is no adulteration. Their ice creams are good too..
And finally, there is this new place that I went to yesterday, which started this whole trail of food thought.

There is a new hotel on Old Mahabalipuram road, now known as the IT corridor. It is called Fortune Select Palms - funny name for a hotel, I know.. But it seemed quite good from outside and yesterday, two of my colleagues and I decided to give it a try for lunch. We expected something normal and were overwhelmed by the extraordinary quality of food! Right from the cream of mushroom soup, to the walnut cake, every single dish that we had, tasted just as it should. The pasta was heavenly and even the sprouts and salads tasted good.(hee..) This was too good to be true - and so close to work! And the rates were quite reasonable, in fact better than many city hotels that claim to be in the same band. What a discovery!

If you have reached up to this point, you are most probably the kind that drools at the thought of good food. In case you happen to be in Chennai,give these places a try.