Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Eat, drink and be merry!!!!!!"

A very Merry Christmas to one and all!!!!
Enjoy life folks and keep smiling......

Enticing Festivities

“Tis the season to be jolly.....fa.la.laa” sings a merry voice inside my head. Yup. It’s that time of the year again. The time to spread cheer, love and hope. The time for stars, cribs, Christmas trees, greeting cards, gifts, for the practical minded-discount sales, and of course, baking. You guessed it! Christmas is here.

The world over, celebrations and food share a deep, intimate, inseparable bond and it is no different in my home either. The kitchen is the heart of all celebrations. Mom loves cooking. We love eating. Onam is a season for the oil to boil. Murrukku, achappam, banana chips, kozhalappam all take their turns to get dunked into hot oil, sizzle and get fried into fresh, crisp and sinfully delicious (a.k.a calorie packed) snacks. Onam being the traditional festival of the land of coconuts and coconut oil, it’s inevitable that oil hog the limelight.

But with Christmas, it is a whole new story, oil and frying take a backseat and watch the fun as the oven takes to centre stage. The traditional fare gets replaced with cakes, cookies, puddings, breads, roasted chicken etc. The home-made wine blushes with pride into a deeper red at all the attention as she steps gingerly on stage.

The preparations for the big day begins months ahead when dried fruits, after a screen-test for quality, are selected, coarsely chopped and soaked in brandy for the Christmas cake. The regulars on the list include raisins, cherries, cashews and dates.

Mom ensures that the cakes are not baked until two days before Christmas because with three ever hungry kids at home for the vacations, the kitchen is always at risk of being plundered.

Cake making is a gala event with the entire family joining in. Mom, the supervisor assigns duties to us the three children and Dad retains his privileged post-the Royal Food Taster. The stereo is turned on and smells of vanilla essence, beaten eggs, cake batter all mingle with the strains of music in the air. Soon the eggs are beaten, butter and sugar whipped, flour, brandy sodden dried fruits and caramel added, batter mixed, fingers licked and remnants of cake batter on the spoons and vessels fought over.

Empty egg shells lying around in clusters, an egg beater dripping gooey threads of egg onto the black granite kitchen counter, a sink piled up with used pans, dishes, ladles and measuring cups, smileys smirking from the white blanket of flour and powdered sugar spread on the slabs are all that remain.

Before long, tummies rumble and minds fantasise as the enticing, rich fragrance of freshly baked cakes waft through every room in the house. But Mom puts her feet down firm on the one area where she rules, “No eating until tea-time.” she says and for once doesn’t let her heart waver to the best of our entreaties.

With the cakes baked and safely locked away, all that remains is for the wine to be bottled and to wait for the big day to walk in with all its high spirits.

The breeze whistles, birds sing, squirrels chirp and Christmas day dawns bright and beautiful. The very air crackles with excitement. No one is surprised when the two boys of the house are up and about in time for the early morning shopping and preparations.

The menu for the day, the highlight of any festival is Christian fare with a western touch. The day starts with a breakfast of fluffy appams and spicy egg curry. Soft home-made bread , a roasted full chicken stuffed with potatoes, a thick savoury gravy to go with it , fresh cucumber and tomato salad and tall glasses of lemonade complete lunch.

The curtain falls on the celebrations of the last festival of the year when the specially decorated Christmas cake is cut and relished at tea.

As Night sneaks up outside our window on Christmas night, all that she can hear is snatches of conversation. The thrilled chatter of a small family making plans for the New-year bash.

“Who wants chocolate pudding?” asks Mom and three hands shoot up.

“So chocolate it is. Should we have a biscuit crumb base or ...........”

Night drifts off to sleep listening to the lullaby of our voices.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Not Wives Waiting to Happen

“But why not mom?!? It’s my life!” Amy cries in exasperation.

“Amy, we’ve been through this a hundred times. I told you, it’s not safe. You yourself pointed out this morning that the newspapers are replete with reports of harassment against girls and women of all ages. How can I let you go all the way to Delhi just to do a Post Graduation and be at peace at home? Besides, you can very well get the same degree from any college here in Kerala. I know it’s not the same experience but all you need is a degree right? Why don’t you try to understand my fears?

Amy and her mother were alone at home. It was afternoon and they had just finished with lunch when the subject of Amys' future cropped up. Amy was once again the first to bring it up.

A final year degree student, Amy is a young girl born and brought up in a typical middle class family. Her parents are conventional and have their concepts of how a good Indian girl should be. Concepts which don’t always coincide with what Amy wants out of her life.

Though not purely career oriented, among her dreams about her future, what reigns supreme for Amy at the moment is a job in the field of writing. But her parents’ ideas differ. They want her to get married as soon as possible and then settle down as the perfect wife, daughter-in-law and later, mother. It is this point that infuriates Amy the most.

Amy gets up and goes to the washbasin to wash her hands as her mother starts clearing away the dirty plates and dishes on the table. She knows that this battle of words with her mother is not going to take her anywhere. But for the time being, that’s all she can do. She looks up at the dark haired girl staring back at her from the mirror. Frustration gleams in her eyes. She lets out dejected sigh, dries her hands on a white towel hung beside the maroon washbasin takes a deep breath, turns to her mom and gets straight to the point.

“O.K mom, I understand your concern for my safety. But......What problem do you have with me taking up a job? Don’t you see how happy I would be if I could land a job in the field of my choice? Besides, safety is a concern not just for girls. It is an issue for everyone. Life has to go on, right? Why don’t you like the idea of me working?”

Her mother carries the pile of dirty dishes into the squeaky clean kitchen, dumps them in the sink and starts to wash them. The sunlight falls in slanting columns through the bars of the open windows onto the white marble floor. The clanging of the steel plates and the hiss of the running tap are the only sounds heard.

Amy follows her into the kitchen and stands behind her with arms folded waiting for an answer.

Her mother looks up from the dirty dishes in the sink at her 20 year old daughter. “Amy”, she said, “Do you know why divorce rates are so high these days? Why more and more young children suicide? Why the number of drug abuse cases etc. among young children is rising? Divorce rates go up because today’s girls don’t have tolerance and tend to be selfish. Financial independence makes them arrogant. So they don’t bother to try and patch up when relationships get strained. The lives of young children go haywire because with both parents working, the child is not properly taken care of. The parents are so preoccupied with their own lives that they don’t have time for their children. The role of a mother and a wife in a family are so demanding that, to have a job would be a hindrance to giving complete dedication to your family. Besides, you should understand that financial independence and money are not everything. There is lots of other things in life that matter more and the foremost amongst them is your family.”

Amy gapes at her mother.

“Whoa! Mom!! What are you even talking about??? I’m just 20, I’m single and I’m NOT a mother!!!!! I am talking about now. Not 10 years later. I want to take up a job next year alongside my studies. It’s not about money mom. It’s about doing what I love doing. Don’t my dreams mean anything to you?”

“I don’t care what you say. You’ll get married someday right? As long as you are with us in this family, I’m not going to let you travel for work or anything else. After you are married, you may do as you please. If you are lucky you’ll get a man who is not as boring and conventional as your parents. Happy?” Having said as much, her mother rinses the soap suds off the last plate in the sink, washes her hands, dries them on the kitchen towel and walks off leaving behind an irritated daughter.

Amys' is not an isolated case. In 90% of such cases, the child ends up doing what her parents want her to because, well, they are the ones in charge. Argue as they might about feminism, equal rights etc, at the end of the day, there are plenty of Amys out there who lead lives akin to that of a baton in a relay race - passed from hand to hand. First taken care of by their parents, then handed over to the hands of the man of her life and in due course of time onto the hands of her children.

But what happens when a girl decides that she wants more? What happens when a girl dreams of a life beyond the fences of a domestic existence?

How can dreams and aspirations, (considered to be must-haves in guys) be considered selfishness in women?

Girls too are human beings with dreams in their hearts and NOT ‘wives waiting to happen’.