Friday, April 11, 2008

A bitter tale

One of the things that has changed after marriage is my interest in cooking which has increased by leaps and bounds…Though I had spent a year on my own in Cbe and another ten months in LA,I cooked when I felt like it but never really tried out any new dishes mainly cos its never worth the trouble when u cook for urself….and I wud rather cut up a salad and chomp on it for any meal than cook for myself .But after marrying a man who loves to eat and is always excited abt my cooking(I still cant understand why) ,I found myself looking up recipes on the internet and trying out new things. And having a hubby who loves fish, I discovered that there are umpteen ways of cooking fish and I was more interested in the process than the ultimate result which was my hubby’s concern. Now I never really followed a recipe exactly. I always tweak it a bit here and there to suit my tastes and the ingredients I had on hand.
And I always felt there wud be something missing in a curry. I never came across what I called the perfect yum fish curry except when I used the recipe my mom provided. That was yum indeed….but then for the sake of variety and for the sake of experimenting, I always hunted up new recipes. There was a time when a recipe looked like Greek and Latin to me , and my dear cousin (who is my age and much more clever than poor ole me),was baking cookies, cakes and what not………My mom loved cooking and baking while I loved eating .Mama is an awesome cook while everyone was after me abt how I cud not even make a decent cup of tea .(I still cant make a decent cup of tea)At that tender age I decided that I must have been adopted…chuckle. I wish I cud see my mom’s face. She wud whack me blue and black for this one.
So on a day when I was at home and the hubby was at work, I decided to make an awesome fish curry and was determined to follow the exact recipe.

There is this internet cookery site which has videos of a chef demonstrating cooking. Let’s call the guy Mr.Chef.Now the only funny thing abt this guy was that he wud finish cooking his dish of the day, taste it himself and invariably put up his hands in the air, close his eyes and exclaim “Owww, Gawd!!!”He was inspiring and the tagline of the site is “Inspire others to cook”. I shud have known better than to follow his recipes considering that no one tasted his dishes except him and that closing ur eyes and calling out to God did not necessarily mean that the dish was awesome. But, alas, poor naïve me.

Anyway my dish of the day was tamarind fish curry. Now I normally use the basic stuff like ginger, garlic, coriander powder,garam masala,pepper and salt. So when I saw the guy roast a cupful of fenugreek seeds, I hunted for the same in my cupboards. I found just half a cup of the same which my ex-roomie had left behind. I decided to use only half of that since I may need it when I make the dish next time. So fretting that I had used way less fenugreek than Mr.Chef,I roasted my fenugreek seeds, coconut powder and then ground them up. Since my laptop’s battery was not working I had to connect it to the charger and leave it on the bed. I ran to and fro between the cooking range and the bed, pausing and rewinding the video umpteen times to make sure I missed absolutely nothing. I religiously squeezed out tamarind, stirred piously and then prayed over the pot all the while. The result? A beautiful brown fish curry. The texture of the curry itself was enuf to make me believe that I had created a masterpiece. My hubby walked in from office while I was watching the final touches on the video. He sniffed and said “Wow, something smells lovely”. Needless to say I swelled with pride. Now I don’t know why it is so but after marriage every meal I cook never seems to turn out to my satisfaction. But this was a homerun indeed and I was sure of it. Now all I had to do was taste it, put my hands up in the air and say “Owww Gawd!!”. So I bade my husband to wash his hands and sit down .I took a spoon, wiped it dry and scooped a lil bit of the hot curry up, blew hard on it, closed my eyes and tasted it.

Uggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!I don’t know what it was, but the darned thing tasted so bitter at the back of my throat that I gagged. I still get goose bumps at the memory. You cannot imagine my plight. I can normally conjure up a decent to good meal in an hour. This curry had taken me an entire 2 hrs on my feet and then it turns out to be bitter????There was no way I cud save it. I tried everything from adding chilli powder to telling myself that I imagined the bitter taste. Somewhere in the back of my mind glimmered a memory of my mom telling me that fenugreek was bitter.(and I had been worrying that I had not used as much fenugreek as that rat of a Chef had?!!!)While my hubby waited patiently with an expectant smile, I was in the throes of despair. I looked in dismay at my curry and then at my hubby’s bright face.
I tell you, it took me guts of the gutsiest kind to serve my hubby rice and that curry. But I did it. He almost broke my heart when he asked “Aren’t u eating?” Here is this nice considerate man whom I serve bitter fish curry and all he can think of is if am not eating. I put on a brave smile and said I really did not feel hungry. (O.K. So I did not want to eat the bitter curry and so wouldn’t u.So stop jeering)
He tasted it and I bent down to see his expression. He frowned, looked at me, and helped himself to a second mouthful while I stood with my heart in my mouth. He grimaced and asked “What recipe is this?”
Sigh!!!I had almost convinced myself that it was just my tastebuds.Owww Gawd!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I came. I saw. I lost.

“Go….go…go…aaaaarrrrrrggghhhhhh!!”…The long drawn out scream echoes around the empty bay.I had been encouraging my job to run thru and prove that my code ( on which I spent a record 16 hrs )was finally working.High hopes and flimsy dreams.Thats the stuff a developer’s life is made of.But it more than pays off when finally your code does work .The euphoria never lasts long cos no matter what you do,your ONC will find an error in it.But now I work for a team where we don’t write the code.In retrospect those were the best days of my life and the worst.Worst cos it was hectic and I looked like a hag.(not to say that I look like a bomb now).Best cos I learnt a lot in those days and not just abt coding.I worked under great team leads who always pointed out my strong points before they moved on to the areas of improvement and pushed me when I gave up.It may seem like a small thing but it did mean a lot to the fresher who every time an issue came up,assumed that it must have been cos of something she did.I remember once I read an issue mail from Onsite and moaned “Why ,Oh,why do I always make such dumb mistakes?” only to have my team lead ppoint out that the code had not been written by me.My team leads were very very patient souls to whom I owe every tiny piece of my career with Cognizant.

It’s been 3 years with Cognizant and I cant believe its been 3 years. This is going to be my personal Emmy’s. This is a tribute to all those people in Cognizant who have touched my life and molded me into the professional I am.(O.K. So I like to think of myself as a professional. Stop hooting and bear with me).This post may turn a bit emotional and am writing this with a box of tissues right beside me.For the sake of not embarrassing people,I shall use their nicknames here and this post is written in the order in which I got to know them.

The first person who comes to mind is Gaggy. I know he is going to kill me for puting that nickname on this post but Gaggu dear,u are already used to having me screech Gaggoooooooooo across the continent.So I trust that by now you wud have got used to it.If not consider it my revenge for all the times u teased me with everyone from the security guy to the pantry boy.This guy,I tell u,is the best and nicest team lead you cud ever get.He guided me thru my coding mishaps,dragged me out of my slough of despondency,praised me for my hardwork and kicked me hard when he thought I was being dumb(which was quite a few times).He did the best he could by me and though I was not his best team member ,he is so far the best team lead I have had.From him I learned that hard work always pays.Till date, the man has immense faith in me,much more than I have in myself.Thanks ,Gaggy.Some team on the East coast is real lucky to have u as their ONC right now.

J-ja…I am not the one who gave him this nickname…But here is one guy with endless energy.He never ever gives up.He can get angry and when he does,you don’t want to be near him.A workaholic though he denies it.Always thinks of others first,always positive and terribly terribly patient.He kept telling me to eat on time,not to work too much, to take care of myself and all the while he wud skip meals stating “got lots of work”,work 24hrs and still keep going. A very dynamic person,I personally always think of him as a gentle giant.And he believes in giving everyone a chance.

Sathya Madam,the first time I met her,I was in total awe of her and still am.She is one smart woman.She can be fun but deadly if u get on her wrong side.But she is someone who never remembers your mistakes,who always believes in encouraging you no matter how hopeless you are,can always give you a push when you are down ,has this wacky sense of humour and makes the workplace bright with her pranks. You can have messed up your code like never before but you cant help but smile at this bright eyed lady and her enthusiasm which is infectious indeed.She is absolutely ageless.

Tommy Tucker….chuckle…it’s a nickname my mom came up with for this cool cool guy.I was his birthday present…Chuckle…I joined his team on his birthday…I am yet to see the man lose his cool or yell at someone. And mind you, he has this extra pair of eyes on the back of his head and sees everything that goes on in the team..He has this absolute talent for maintaining an expressionless face and I despaired of making him smile in the first 3 months that I worked with him..But trust me, he could express volumes without speaking a single word.Be it anger,irritation or “don’t-you-think-you-are-being-dumb”emotion.The guy has an awesome sense of humour with a rather rare smile.In spite of all the mistakes I made,I managed not to get on the wrong side of this guy.Firm but with endless patience , he taught me to think for myself though am sure he got a few grey hairs in the process.An absolute professional, I learnt a lot from just observing the guy handle his team.

I must make a mention of all the folks who helped me along the way with a word,a shoulder to lean on,immense faith in me and a friendship which is my pride and joy.I may not be writing paragraphs on them due to time constraint but they are no less important to me.Pappu,Kathri-kathri,Zelvi,Gabbar,Priya,Natty,Abhi.(There are other people who have touched my life but these people are the folks who laid the foundation of my career with Cog.)
A word for a person who is very close to my heart,Viggu.I was privileged to know him, honored by his friendship and humbled by his faith in me.I don’t know if I will ever stop missing you.If there is anyone who can make me smile and cry at the same time,its that guy.The heartache he has left behind has not eased though a year has passed since his demise.Every rung I have climbed,I have had Viggu cheer me on and now I climb on alone but for us both.

Last but definitely not the least,there are 3 people who rejoiced in every certification I took ,every milestone I passed and felt my every defeat much more intensely than I did.They are the reason why I kept going in spite of the urge to give it all up.My parents and my bro.At the risk of sounding clichéd ,I owe it all to them for they never let me give up,pushed me when I doubted myself and have been with me thru the thick and thin. I don’t have enuf words to tell them how much they mean to me and yet,ironically to quote the song ,“It's only words, and words are all I have”.

These are the people who made me fall in love with Cognizant.I don’t pretend that Cog is perfect and that everything that happens here is right.But more than a corporate,to me it resembles a group of people who believe in themselves and that when their team wins,they win.I lost my heart to them.They are the reason why this post is titled - I came. I saw. I lost.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wooohoooo...what a ride!!!!!!!!!!

I looked out of the window just now and saw some clouds in the sky.One mass looked like a toad and the other …well….I dunno why but it looked like a chicken leg….the kind you get at the McDonalds.Now can one write a story on a toad and a chicken leg?maybe one cud if toads ate chicken legs but as it happens toads and chicken legs are as related as me and Amitabh Bachhan
I write mostly cos I love writing and its fun to put down my thoughts in order and push them around a bit so that they make some sense to other people(Hopefully).Half the time I just start scratching out something and sometimes it turns out to be a story and at others it turns out to be just a few ridiculous thoughts.It’s a long time since I wrote a story.For some reason I never cud write stories that were grown-up and real life.Maybe cos it invariably has to have a proper storyline and my imagination cannot be set wild as I wud like to.
My stories invariably reflect the maturity of a child who plays in grass on all fours.But then maturity is not abt how you write.Its how you react to the rotten tomatoes and eggs that life throws at you and sometimes the best way to handle problems is to lie down in the grass and stare up at the clouds and try to figure out which cloud looks like your dog’s head.
I am feeling pretty rich today.No,I have not won a lottery nor has anyone left me an inheritance.In fact am broke ,cos my salary for the fortnight has not turned up which is a disaster when u consider that every other person I can see around me was happily checking their accounts and waving their paychecks in the air last friday.Luckily my hubby has got his paycheck.So we wont starve....chuckle...There are certain advantages to being married.Now why has my salary not come?I checked my account umpteen times, raised a request on Peopleline,sent a mail to the Finance guy and prayed hard.Nothing happened.But I still feel rich.Yday I managed to spend 2 hrs painting a picture even though it was a weekday.I managed to make proper Dosas...Arrey waah!! they were not crispy but they were golden brown gonna try and make them crispy today..
I read a friend’s post today on Ekta kapoor’s serials and how senseless they seem.Well,Personally I love Ekta Kapoor’s hindi soaps.(Tip for the wiseguy :We are not talking about Nirma soaps here.Soaps means television serials.Watch star Plus any time between 6 to 10 in the evening and u shud see atleast 3 soaps all produced by ET….errrr…I mean EK )Most people probably are shocked at my making such a statement and before a bunch of people scream “what????&*%%#$” at me , let me tell you that I love her serials cos they have so much scope for rewriting .I can let my imagination soar and most likely end up laughing at myself.Here is one of my favorite scenes from I-don’t-remember-which soap.

A rich guy proposes to a poor gal and then their parents agree to their marriage.Now the gal is very very happy and goes to the temple with a thaali (for people who don’t know hindi,it’s a plate which contains all kinds of pooja materials) to get God’s blessings.And who shud she meet their but her to-be-mom-in-law.(henceforth to be referred to as Mil).Now the Mil is in possession of a deep dark secret about her son and does not want the poor gal to spoil her life marrying her son(Wow!!!Mils can be such crazy characters).So the Mil tells the gal that she cannot marry her son The poor gal pleads with the Mil and when no good comes out of it she screams nahi and drops her thaali,with the contents flying everywhere and runs away.

Now if I were to write this scene , it wud be as follows.

The poor gal now drops the thaali which accidentally lands on the Mil’s toes and the camera zooms in on the Mil hopping around in pain ,flapping her hands and screeching like a banishee at which the gal decides the Mil is nuts and runs away(clever of her,don’t you think?)

My hubby often told me that I live life as it shud be lived - to the full.Maybe this is cos I always try to keep in mind the following saying –
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!”
Sounds exhilarating , doesn’t it?Just reading it makes me want to run down the road, waving my arms above my head and whoop loudly.So why don’t I?Well, simply cos this is the US and the last thing I need is to get arrested for being a public menace.A little restraint goes a long way in helping us live a relatively free life.(Author nodding wisely here).

I enjoyed writing this post.I just finished reading throught this post I have written and decided that it’s a gum ball of completely unrelated topics and since this is my blog and I can post anything on it, I shall post this.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


"Uninspired,God,am so uninspired!!!!!",the gal looked up into the skies in despair.And God watched her in amusement.It was a beautiful day and flowers everywhere with the advent of spring.She had been literally swamped with work for the past one week and had been trying to come up with a surprise for her husband's birthday.She wanted to do too many things together.Write a post,bake a cake,eat healthy,keep a clean house,paint,read,take long walks and what not...and into the mad rush was thrown the idea of coming up with a great present for her hubby.
It was time to spring clean her brain .Unknown to his creations ,every year,God spring cleaned their brains replacing broken dreams with fresh ones,disappointments with hopes and right now there were tiny elves who were soaping her brain and scrubbing away. There were soap suds all over the place which explained the excessive earwax buildup and why she cud not think straight.She clutched her hair and tried to think of an idea for a gift.She had a sense of time running out.
Just yday she had made a fish curry using a recipe out of the internet.It had smelt awesome but alas,due to an excessive amount of fenugreek used,the curry was unthinkably bitter.God cud not help but smile at her expression when she tasted it.She was too tuf on herself and refused to give herself time to settle down.She was impatient with herself.
Inside her brain,the elves were hard at work.Supervising them,was the chief cleaner,Chakki, a plump tiny elf with a kind face and wearing a sky blue apron.She walked up to Dhamu, the elf in charge of cleaning the memory archive,as he stood staring up a a big pile of tiny crumpled paper balls and thrown in the corner behind the motor area.Chuckling at Dhamu's expression, she bent over to pick up one of the crumpled bits of paper and smoothed it out."Dentist,call pops,buy veggies,mail revs,sort hubby's socks,iron his clothes,take oil bath....". Chakki's voice trailed away as she looked at the long list filled with tiny handwrtiting.Dhamu looked at her with his black eyes and said "Can u believe the woman?She makes lists for everything under the sky and her printer in the frontal lobe room is totally out of ink and paper.God has asked me to put in a couple of extra rolls of paper for her. When I told him that it may mean a shortage of paper for one of the others, he says to use toilet paper. This woman must be desperate".Chakki sighed.Dhamu cud be very difficult at times. “Just get on with it and don’t u question the Lord” she says and moves on before Dhamu cud come up with a retort.

She moved on to the occipital lobe room which was used to conure up dreams and thoughts. This was a magical room and her personal favourite.8 tiny elves were earnestly sorting thru the vibrant colorful skeins of silky translucent stuff. This was what dreams were made of, where ideas were born and thoughts turned into images. There were all possible colors and the elves were rolling the skeins up neatly and tucking them into the tiny drawers which were all around the room, from ceiling to floor. This was an easy job and was always done by the ELTs. (Entry level trainees).In a corner stood a small pile of slightly faded and discolored threads.Chakki nodded approvingly. One of the elves came up holding a skein of rose pink and smiled at Chakki shyly.Chakki smiled back and said "She seems to have made good use of her imagination." The elf nodded back "That she has.She has run out of almost all the colours and her drawers are all empty." Chakki nods back and moves on to the hypothalamus area.

Here she finds a few elves , wearing hardhats, working on a set of pipes which ran around the room with spanners and screwdrivers.They had opened up one of the pipes and were pouring in some deep wine coloured liquid.One of the elves looked at her and said "Her pipes are all bone dry.Not one drop of adrenaline left." Chakki nods and says "Hmmm...she has had a lot of excitement in the last year.Oh goodness, I nearly forgot!God has asked u to put in some patience too.This one seems to need it more than usual.The elf nods and opens a barrel of silvery liquid and sets abt filling the tiny tins set around the room.

One of the elves was brushing away the cobwebs in all the rooms using a soft brush made of cloud wisps while another was chasing down and trying to grab a gnawer gnat which was flitting around.Gnawer gnats were ugly little blue creatures which made a buzzing sound and troubled the human souls no end.They brew worries and stole the carefree thoughts away.Chakki took out a silver paddle from her apron pocket and swatted at one of the creatures.She gingerly picked it up and gave it the panting elf."How many of these did u find?"she asked the elf."Just two,Madame.".Chakki was relieved.The gnats were troublesome creatures and hard to eliminate if there were large numbers.

Chakki took from her apron pocket a spray can labeled “Light-head”.She sprayed it around the room and the room seemed to immediately lighten up.She looked at the effect in satisfaction and then looked at her tiny green stopwatch.They were almost out of time.It took 4 whole days to clean up a brain sometimes and since this creation had no bolt ,it had take them a week.It was time to leave.She put 2 fingers in her mouth and blew a sharp whistle.

All the elves came scampering and then Chakki counted them to make sure none were left behind.Once they had left an elf inside a woman’s head by mistake.The poor terrified elf had run around in the lady’s brain causing chaos and nearly drove the woman mad,who kept complaining of something squealing inside her head.They proceeded to the nose,where Chakki tickled the top of the nose with her mop causing the gal to sneeze “Atishoooooooo…ooo” and out went all the elves in a rush.
The gal rubbed her nose wondering if she was coming down with an allergy .But she did not seem to sneeze anymore.Strangely enuf she did feel brighter and felt an urge to write bubble up… inspiration...