CompulsiveWriter is now Leelashakti.com!

Okay, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t been posting here. This is a long overdue post. A few awesome things have been happening. You all know I managed to get a full-time job with DNA (Daily News & Analysis) in Mumbai. Shortly after that, I found a publisher for the novel and then, I got myself a brand new website.

So yes, while I loved my time writing on CompulsiveWriter, I now blog at http://leelashakti.com

I also blog for DNA at http://www.dnaindia.com/blogs/shakti . So, I hope to see you on my site : )

 

When was the last time?

When was the last time you took a BEST bus ride until the last stop, just for the sake of it?When was the last time you walked through the deserted roads of Backbay on a Sunday?
When was the last time you went to Marine Drive specially to catch the sunset?
When was the last time you danced in the rain?
When was the last time you closed your eyes and felt the wind on your face without worrying about the 9.13 local reaching the destination on time?
When was the last time you scrounged for ever rupee in your wallet for bus-fare and thought it was fun?
When was the last time you bought something just because you wanted to help out the old lady/child selling the stuff?
When was the last time you waved out a flying kiss to a kid sitting in the car at a traffic signal?
When was the last time you complimented a stranger?
When was the last time you hopped to your favourite song in the street?
When was the last time you sang to someone?
When was the last time you lived?

I just can’t remember…

Mainland China Vashi: Healthy Chinese Food

After having a rough couple of days (I pulled my shoulder muscles and then got the flu), I am back. Last week, I happened to visit Vashi to see Appy and another friend. We meandered through the thickly mall-populated shopping district of Vashi (that’s what i like to call it), picking and discarding restaurants cafes and more. Kerala house? No no, its too heavy. Pot Purri? No no, it will be too crowded. Finding the right place to eat can be such a pain! And then we came to Mainland China. Yes yes, but its pricey. We’ll eat less then, I said before anyone could demand another choice. To my delight, they were empty and had a longevity festival on. Being a sucker for “healthy” food, I wondered what healthy Chinese would taste like and was it even possible to eat healthy and eat chinese?

We started with a green tea and though the dim sum was not on the longevity menu, we called for prawn sui mai, vegetable dim sum (basil flavoured) and from the longevity menu we got the lettuce wraps. Mainland China’s dim sum was supposed to be to die for but upon eating some of the ones served in Vashi, I realised why the outlet was comparatively empty. The pastry of the dimsum was all wrong and the suimai opened up before reaching our mouth even. However, the lettuce wraps were delectable. Visibly cooked healthily (no oil floating about), it came packed with veggies and the veggies were flavoured with mild spices. Super enjoyable.

Next, we decide to get a noodle and gravy. Shitake mushrooms and spring onion noodles are ordered along with a basil spiced vegetable curry. Both are delicious, although the basil is slightly over-powering (I love basil, so it was ok). Upon finishing our meal, the captain asked me how I liked the food. I left no stone unturned in describing exactly what was wrong with the dim sum. I felt bad about it because they waived off the dim sum from our bill and served us dessert on the house. However, they promised to fix what was wrong with the dim sum, which will make sure that diners going there after me will get to sample the awesome dim sum that is served in other Mainland China outlets.

But seriously, all ye #bglsr folk, if you have to eat out, I highly recommend the longevity festival menu which is prepared with healthy ingredients and even though it isn’t completely diet food, its better than greasy Chinese and the calories that come with it.

Unfortunately, my camera was not on me that day, so no pictures

Cinnamon, honey & oats pancake with peach and orange: the Sunday breakfast

Parents are out of town, and I am up early on a Sunday with massive hunger pangs. I sift through the cabinets. A bottle of honey, rolled quick-cook oats, a few peaches, eggs… Wait a second. I can make a healthy breakfast!

So I found some recipes for wholewheat pancakes which used buttermilk. Unfortunately, buttermilk in American recipes is not the same buttermilk we have in India. But Kishi Arora (foodaholics.in) came to the rescue. She suggested that buttermilk for baking can be made with 1 cup milk+1tbsp vinegar. And voila.

So how did I make this exotic sounding simple to make breakfast? Here’s how:

You will need:
1 cup quick cooking oats, powdered
1 cup buttermilk (kishi’s recipe with low fat milk)
1 egg
1-1 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp baking powder
2 peaches
2 tbsp marmalade (I used Moshe’s orange saffron jam)
Salt to taste

How to make:
Mix the powdered oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon powder. Whisk the egg lightly, mix in the buttermilk (make it right before u mix it or else the milk could curdle) and add the honey. Whisk well before mixing in the oat powder. In a separate bowl, mix the jam in 1/4 cup water to make a runny paste. Dice the peaches (without peeling them, remember fruit skin has fibre). Heat a pan for making the pancake. On another flame, heat the orange paste in a saucepan. Once it starts to bubble lightly, add the peaches and stir well. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens (about 2-3 minutes).
Make the pancakes with a ladle full of batter at a time. Pour the batter on a heated (non-stick) pan. After a minute or so, the batter will bubble at the top and the bottom will be firm enough to flip over. Use a spatula to toss the pancake over, let it cook for a minute and empty on to a dish. Add another pancake to the pan. Make a three-layer pancake for each person and top with generous amounts of the peach and orange reduction. Dust a dash of cinnamon and voila!

Brew some fresh coffee on the side and your breakfast is ready.

A tip: Too lazy to make this first thing in the morning? Make the dry mix the night before and leave aside. If you don’t have peaches, use bananas or apples. Like? Please to try and let me know :)

Short story: The lock and key game

It had all been too new to him. He had spent much of his life pleasing teachers and professors and bosses and it had been easy. Score marks, turn in assignments, bring in fabulous results. But this, this was new to him.

She sat at the dining table. The ceiling fan creaked noisily in their silence. Her silhouette sipped tea against the massive window. Her long hair was stringy and hundreds of shiny beads of water emerged from it as she gently tossed her hair about. He wanted to go over and bury his nose in her freshly washed hair. He didn’t know what freshly washed hair smelt like but he knew he liked the fragrance. He smoothed down his cotton Kurta and tried to focus on the newspaper, stealing glimpses at her.

A few months ago, in a remote suburb of Mumbai, he had been stealing glances at her. Her hair wasn’t wet then. It was neatly braided with a gajra pinned into it. She had worn a saree — probably her mother’s. ‘Should I ask her about that saree?’ he asked himself. But he kept silent.

She got up and walked to him, gently lifting his emptied cup she asked, “Would you like some more?” she asked signalling toward the empty cup. He shook his head, “No,”
She gave him an awkward smile as she turned to go to the kitchen.
“The tea was lovely though. I’ve gotten used to sugary water that I used to make. It’s nice to drink a ‘kadak’ chai.”

She laughed gently and went into the kitchen. He wondered what he could say to her to make her smile like that all the time.


He had seen her smiling like that in her parents’ tiny Mumbai flat. She was being quizzed by her in-laws to be. Her each answer cemented her fate as a Soonbai in the rich family. Her horoscope was a perfect match. And the boy had loved her picture. The quizzing was just a formality. Of course, her mother had worried the night before. “They are quite well off. Why do they want our daughter? What if they ask for dowry? They will want a fancy wedding, who will pay?”

She hadn’t thought about these things. She was thrilled that she was about to marry a handsome man. She had thought arranged marriage to be ridiculous but she was happy with what it had spewed out for her.

Back in her brand new kitchen, she looked at the freshly bought vegetables. When life gives you lemons, she thought to herself as she sorted them. She’d have the maid cook fish curry. Sundays are meant for fish, she thought.

He decided to step out a bit. The house was too small and he kept bumping into his new bride. He could sense awkwardness in her and that made him awkward. He walked into a mall, listlessly sifting through things, killing time until lunch. ‘We should both come here,’ he thought. He didn’t know if she liked shopping.

Lunch as always served sharp at one in her parents’ home. On Sundays lunch would be followed by siestas. She smiled. It was almost 1.45 and he wasn’t home. “Should I call his cell?”, “Should I eat something?” she asked herself.

She didn’t know the answers. It was like visiting relatives during summer vacations. You never felt home and never knew what the right thing to do was.

She decided to wait. Fifteen minutes later the bell rang.

Her husband stood holding a few shopping bags. She looked through the keyhole at the man she was to spend her life with. Could she love his sheepish grin? He was handsome, but could she ever be comfortable with him the way her mother was around her father?

She straightened up apprehensively and opened the door. She smiled as she let him in.
“I brought you something,” he said to her.
‘Screw that, can we just eat,’ she thought but she asked to see what it was. That is what is expected of a good wife.

He handed her one of the bags. She opened it. It was a Teddy bear. She tried to keep from giggling.
“It’s sweet, thank you,” she said, putting the Teddy away.

She wanted to know what was in the other bags but her husband was at the dining table.
He waited as she heated the lunch. He wondered if it would have been rude to ask her what was on the menu. He could smell fish.

As she served him rice, fish curry and a piece of fried fish, he swallowed his disappointment. He disliked fish. He could eat it but he didn’t enjoy it enough for it to be on his Sunday lunch. He opened his mouth to speak but she looked at him with such anticipation, he muttered, “delicious!”

She had noticed the scrawny cousin of the groom. He was fidgety. She had wondered if he was married. As they finalized the match and started to leave, the scrawny cousin was the only one who thanked her parents for their hospitality. He is sweet and earnest, she had thought.

After two months, she was a bride. It was a small ceremony upon the groom’s request. They would have an elaborate reception later.
“We are not happy either. Our only son wants a quiet wedding,” her ma-in-law to be had announced.
She caressed the padar of her Shaloo, a traditional Marathi bridal saree. She admired her mehendi-laden hands, and she smiled into the mirror. It was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. Why did something feel incomplete?

And just then, her sister came running in. ‘Tai, your wedding is off,’
She looked wide eyed as her sister said something about the groom running away. She felt dizzy and everyone around her scurried to save the face. People gathered around, trying to figure out a solution. Her mother sat in a corner, her head in her hands. Relatives gossiped in muffled voices.

The small wedding, the distant dates, the lack of intimacy, it was all clear. The groom had intended to elope. She didn’t mind his eloping so much, but she hated the ambiguity surrounding her dreams. What was to happen to them?

“Is it ok with you?” they asked her. She nodded.

Minutes later, she was seated by the scrawny cousin who was holding the mangalsutra. She stole glances at him, and wondered if he was forced into this to save the day. But she was too devastated to tell. She was too tired to think. Fate will handle this, she told herself.

As she lay in bed next to her husband, she decided she was still quite tired.

“You were forced into this. You are not bound to me and you don’t have to live with the burden of someone else’s cowardice. We can end it,” she said dryly, as if talking to the fan.
“What?” he turned to his side, his face distraught with worry, “You don’t want to work on this?” he asked
“He ran away, his family had to make something up to save the day, and they decided to put you up to this. I appreciate what you did for me, but there’s no pressure. You have the right to live your own life,”
He looked at her, puzzled.
“I am not an abala naari. I don’t need a husband. If you think you’re supporting me by torturing yourself, don’t bother!” and she turned her back to him.
Suddenly, he sprung up. “Torture!”

She looked at him cast a long look at her and walk out of the room. She wondered if she had done the wrong thing by bringing it up.

He sat at the dining table. He had a lot to say to her, but didn’t know how. He wanted her to know that he had been unable to take his eyes off her when he had accompanied his cousin to see the bride. He wanted her to know that he had felt jealous of his lucky cousin. How could he tell her that when his cousin ran away, he wanted to beat the shit out of him for bringing a tear to her eyes? And how could he possibly tell her that when his aunt suggested that they find a replacement groom, he had volunteered? His mother wasn’t happy, but he was thrilled. And even though he was just filling a position left vacant by his cowardly cousin, he felt like he was the luckiest man in the whole world.

But how could he say that to his new bride? She had dreamt of a life with another man and he was just an outsider who was forced upon her. Did she want out? He shuddered at the thought.

It was like he had the best lock in the world, but a bunch of hundred keys… He was determined to try until he found the right key to the door to her heart.

Inspired by Kaurwakee’s photograph

A love so sorry

A flame lights in a dark corner. It lights up a soul. That soul burns away, it feels that flame scathe it, and just as the burn is being covered up, the soul reaches your lips. Tenderly, your lips kiss the soul and it starts crackling and it burns brighter. The soul can’t understand — why does it hurt and yet feel right. As the soul burns brightly, crackling away inches from your lips, it sees you inhale with satisfaction. It sees you content… All it takes it for the soul is too burn a little. And you, you keep bringing the soul to your lips. You’re engulfed by a haze, is it so thick that you can’t see that soul burning, killing itself every time you kiss it?
And as you kiss it one last time, a bright spark holds your attention. But the soul, it has nothing more to give. And you? You heartlessly think, “Damn, I need another one!”
And then you pick another soul to burn, to crackle as it destroys itself for you… Yes, you!

Thank you for the rain

It gets too hot, the weather is unbearable, the land looks parched and everything burns like it’s about to go up in flames. Then suddenly, the skies turn grey and a silent wind flows by, bringing with it droplets. They soothe each being, one drop at a time. It is raining. Somewhere, a tree is washed off the dirt, somewhere a seed lies, soaked with water and racy to germinate and somewhere, the mud emanates a fragrance that makes someone happy. And then somewhere a heart is washed off it’s cynicism. It’s barren, parched land readies itself to turn a lush green. Trees of hopes grow adorned with flowers of dreams.
Thank god for the rain

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