More than just snuggles

One of my favorite parts of being Amma is all the snuggles I get. At almost 4 years of age, Partha veers from running madly around the house with no time for hugs, to being super engrossed in his puzzle/coloring (‘I’m too busy’), to crying over a broken crayon and bawling ‘Amma I’m so sad. I need a hug.’

We were snuggling and reading a book this morning when I got thinking about how so much of parenting in the initial years is all about the sensation of touch. I recall countless hours spent watching my son’s sweet face during those seemingly endless nursing sessions. Using every opportunity to kiss a little hand or foot. Partha would often use his tiny hand to hug my breast as if to say ‘don’t disturb me and don’t take this away’. The warm breath of my baby boy as he nuzzled against my neck to fall asleep.

When Partha was a couple of months old, I took him to Chennai to meet our family. It was especially important to me that he meet his great grandmothers. We traveled back alone to Massachusetts and I was too scared to take my eyes off my 4 months old or put him down for even a second in a busy airport. Thank God for baby carriers – he was literally strapped to me for 22 hours.

When he was about a year old he had a bout of laryngitis. He had a fever and a sore throat for a week and refused to get off my hip. Hard to guess who was more tired – he or I 🙂 I have exhausted memories of those days – the warm weight of my baby lying on me and nursing literally all day and night.

As Partha got older, some of this changed. Now my days are filled with an almost 4 year old slipping his hand into mine saying ‘Amma let’s go play. Amma let’s go for a walk’. The pleasurable weight of his body slumped against mine as we read a book. The sticky kisses from my big boy stuffing his face with strawberries. Bracing myself as my son barrels into my body seeking comfort when he’s upset.

So much of the early years of parenting is so physical. Carrying our children everywhere, using our bodies to nurse and soothe them, cleaning pee that goes everywhere, wiping tiny bums that somehow hold massive amounts of poop. Propping our sleep deprived bodies against a pillow/cushion all night to hold up a child with a stuffy nose.

Of course every second person I talk to now tells me how all this will change as my baby boy becomes an independent teenager. Much of it probably will. But thinking back to my own childhood reminds me of how much the sensation of touch continued to be a source of comfort well into my teen years and to the present day. My parents and the immediate circle of family around me relied on touch to show love and comfort. Hugs and kisses were a regular part of our lives, regardless of whether we were little kids or teenagers. I remember snuggling into bed and napping with Thatha on his shoulder as a 24 year old. I remember countless head massages and ‘reiki’ treatment by Sachu Patti as I lay on her lap even as a new mother. The strong grip of Vichu Patti’s hands as she held onto my hand and narrated stories. Until today, the most comforting sensations are the warmth of my mother’s hand soothing my forehead and the feeling of climbing into my father’s arms.

Partha may not always be the snuggle bunny that he is now. Regardless, hugs, kisses and the warmth of touch will always be a part of our parenting. And hopefully the memories of countless snuggles will stay with him for a lifetime and at some point in the not-so-distant future, I will snuggle in my grown son’s arms for a hug 🙂

Hope

I was about 6 months pregnant with Partha when Donald Trump was sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. I remember driving to meet a client on Inauguration Day and listening to the inauguration on the radio. The descriptions of ‘American carnage’ made me cringe and worry for the times ahead. As it turns out, my worry (and those of thousands of others) were justified. I have to say that in all honesty, I never imagined just how awful these 4 years would be.

Between the Muslim ban, the inhumane family separation policy, blatant corruption, denying climate change and selling public lands to the highest bidder, it appeared that there was no end to the cruelty of the administration. Each time I thought we had reached rock bottom, someone in the administration picked up a spade and started digging further.

I gave birth to my baby boy in May 2017. Ashwin and I spent many many nights worrying about this seemingly dangerous world we had brought our child into. A world where we couldn’t allow our son to listen to the words of the President, where the supporters of the President would think of our brown-skinned child as an ‘outsider’, where the President himself spoke of women and minorities in disgusting terms and where kindness, empathy seemed to be absolutely missing.

As we approached election season 2020, my anxiety and political activism kicked in. We donated money to our preferred candidates, purchased election merchandise, and feverishly followed journalists and public figures online. I learnt to my great relief that I was married to a man whose political beliefs mirrored my own. Political chatter hijacked our dinner table conversations – we simplified things as much as we could so our 3 year old wouldn’t feel excluded. We argued over public policy and constantly sent each other things to read. As much as it contributed to my anxiety, it was also the biggest blessing to have someone to bounce my thoughts off. Every night after Partha went to bed, we’d catch up on the late night shows and blow off some steam.

The day Kamala Harris accepted the vice-presidential nomination, I had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t stop thinking of her mother Shyamala Gopalan – a woman who belonged to a generation older than my own grandmother. Who had the courage to follow her dreams and move thousands of miles away as a mere teenager. To marry for love and have the courage to leave when it didn’t work. Shyamala Gopalan hailed from the same city and community as I do. I felt that I understood firsthand the societal pressures that she must have faced through her life. It reminded me in many ways of the strong inspirational women in my own life.

For the first time since my son was born, I woke up this morning with a sense of hope and without a sense of dread. An implicit faith that even though I may not agree with every policy decision of the current administration, I know that they will act with kindness – because we have leaders at the top who understand and radiate honesty and goodness. We had a little family jig at 8.30 am when Trump left the White House for the last time.

As our new Vice President took the oath of office today, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. I held my son close as I told him the story of Kamala Harris and her family. Partha will grow up in a world where women can aspire to and achieve the highest office in the land, where thousands of Indian-Americans (among other minorities) are part of the administration.

I have the highest admiration for President Biden. For a person to go through so much pain (losing his infant daughter and wife, and then his adult son years later) and still be able to get up in the morning and put his best foot forward. It gives renewed meaning to the phrase ‘the test of fire makes the finest steel’.

I have always wanted to be involved in public policy and government. I had dreams of taking the UPSC exams as a teenager only to be told ‘Brahmins will never clear the exam thanks to reservations. How will you have a family life if you keep getting transferred as a public servant? You will have to cower to corrupt politicians. Don’t waste your time.’

Today, I know better. After law practising in Chennai for a few years I moved to America and set up my own law practice. It has been a hard journey and I’m just getting started – there’s still so much adventure ahead. But if there’s anything I’ve learnt from watching these incredible women in public office – it is that I should shake off the imposter syndrome, worry less about what others think and trust in my own abilities.

And most importantly – we will raise the next generation differently. Remind Partha every day that he can achieve anything as long as he works hard for it. For this lesson and so many others – I have President Joseph Biden, VP Kamala Harris and so many others to thank.

We have miles to go before we rest. But today, a new hope dawned. And I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

Celebrating amidst grief

There’s an odd tradition in Hindu Tamil Brahmin families to mourn the death of a loved one on the paternal side of the family by refraining from celebrating festivals for a period of one year since the person’s passing. I say ‘odd’, because grief is a deeply personal concept and each individual processes it differently. Some may choose to avoid company, some may seek out the company of other loved ones. There is no doubt that each of us struggle during special occasions and holidays and I hold no judgment against those who don’t feel it is right to celebrate. But, given how personal all of this is, I don’t understand why society set blanket rules as to ‘how to grieve’. As a teenager and an adult, the patriarchy of this tradition bugged me – do I not have loved ones on my mother’s side? Why does this ‘grieving rule’ apply only to paternal relatives? And once a woman gets married, why is she no longer required to abstain from celebrating the loss of a person from her birth family?

Festive celebrations were a HUGE part of my growing years. Traditional meals, sweets and savories and eating with the family remain some of my happiest and most comforting memories. The glue that held this all together were my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents lived just in the apartment just below ours. My maternal grandmother lived 20 minutes away and would always come over to help us decorate and dress up. All 3 of them loved seeing us dressed up and dressed up with us. We would take tons of pictures, make elaborate meals and decorate the house together.

I recall a childhood incident vividly. I was maybe 10-11 years old at the time. We had not had any celebrations in two years because a distant relative on my Thatha’s side had passed away each year. Honestly, my sister and I were bored out of our minds and waiting for an opportunity to celebrate. Finally the two-year mourning period was over and we made grand plans for Navrathri. We were just setting up the golu padi when we got a call that another distant relative had passed away. I remember being so disappointed that I nearly broke into tears. Thatha had had enough. He said my granddaughters have not even met this person – it makes no sense to prevent the children from celebrating festivals because someone they don’t even know died. He told us to continue setting up the golu padi and we ignored the tradition. He set up a loose rule in our household that we would not stop celebrating for someone that his grandchildren had never really met.

I remember that when my paternal grandparents passed away, I decided that I would continue to celebrate as my way of coping with missing them. Technically, I was exempt from the grieving rule because I was married at the time ‘into another family’ – see how patriarchal this sounds? But as I dressed up, I heard Thatha’s voice in my head telling me to twirl around so he could admire my outfit. I heard Patti giving me endless instructions on what to make, sharing her recipes with all her tips and tricks. I heard Thatha critiquing Patti’s cooking. More than anything, it brought me close to the joy that I experienced over years of growing up close to them. And it helped so much to take away some of the sadness from missing their presence.

A few months ago, my maternal grandmother passed away. Covid isolation has made a difficult time even worse. Those who know me well would know that she was the biggest inspiration in my life and hugely influenced the person I am today. With Deepavali this weekend, I am flooded with memories of years of choosing Deepavali outfits with Sachu Patti. She was blessed with 4 granddaughters and loved shopping for new clothes for us every year for Deepavali. She was the first person we visited for Deepavali every year. Patti would be eagerly waiting for our arrival. After a round of namaskarams, we would change into the clothes she bought us and walk around the garden clicking pictures. Deepavali was always completed with Patti’s delicious Mysore Pak, ompodi and legiyam.

Sachu Patti was one of the most broadminded and progressive women I knew. She was also one of the few people I knew who was unafraid to talk about her own mortality. We could talk with her about literally anything under the sun and she encouraged conversations questioning the relevance of traditions and customs.

So tomorrow night, I’m going to remember her by wrapping myself in her prettiest saree. Partha, Ashwin and I will light lamps at home, put up flower garlands and our ‘Deepavali craft work’. My sister has told Partha stories of how she and I would help Patti make Mysore Pak so Partha and I are going to try our hand at her Mysore Pak recipe. And I know that all four of my grandparents will enjoy watching us.

Happy Deepavali everyone! Wishing you all a lifetime of joy, peace and togetherness with your loved ones.

Related posts:

My very own Krishna

A letter to my Grandfather

Trying to grab hold of memories

My very own Krishna

Among the many characters and the relationships woven into the great Mahabharatha, Lord Krishna and his friendship with Arjuna stand out. Legend tells us that when the Pandavas were considering waging war against the Kauravas, Arjuna approached Lord Krishna for his help. Lord Krishna asked him, ‘Would you like me on your side, acting as your charioteer, or would you like the mighty Yadava army to fight with you?’ Without hesitation, Arjuna choose Lord Krishna for his friendship and wise counsel.

Later, as the two armies stood facing each other on the Kurukshetra battlefield, Arjuna was overcome with emotions at the sight of his dear family members and gurus on the other side. Lord Krishna then delivered the Bhagawad Gita, counselling Arjuna to fulfil his duties as a warrior and uphold righteousness.

Why this narration? Well, for most of my adult life, I’ve always secretly thought to myself that I have my very own Krishna, a friend, philosopher and guide, in the form of my maternal grandmother. My Patti is a truly extraordinary woman. A trailblazer in her own right, a national award winner, and someone who has changed the lives of so many. But I’ll save that for another day. Today is about my special relationship with her.

Over the last ten years, I can recollect countless occasions when I turned to Patti for advice. I guess the child in me assumes that she will be able to fix anything, give me a solution to every problem. I’ve never regretted talking to her. And every time I speak to Patti, I come away feeling comforted. Is it the wise counsel, the very solid and absolute trust I have in her and in my belief that she will only want the best for me, or simply that hearing her voice reminds me of her warm hugs and is such a comfort? My heart tells me it’s probably a mix of all of these.

My grandmother is by no means a perfect human being. She will be the first to admit that she has made many mistakes in life. We are both strong-willed, stubborn, independent women, from two different generations with wildly varying opinions. Our conversations run the gamut from argumentative, to thoughtful, to deeply-introspective. But, the one thing I’ve learnt from her is that decisions should be judged in light of the circumstances in which they were made. And Patti too has changed, watching all our lives.

When I moved to the U.S., one of my greatest fears was that I would lose this relationship. That living so far away would mean that we would miss the everyday conversations that were the foundation of our relationship. That everyday life would take over and we would forget to tell each other how much we loved the other. Happily, that has not been the case. I wake up to Patti sending me pictures of a new saree, weekend conversations on FaceTime and even the occasional call in the middle of a weekday when I’m upset and just want to hear her voice.

My Patti had a rough childhood. I’ve always believed that she over-compensated for that by making sure we had the most glorious time and never wanted for anything.

Like I said, I come from a line of strong, independent women, going back several generations. And of all the family resemblances, I believe my most striking resemblance is to my maternal Patti, in both looks and temperament. Every time I hear someone saying I look just like Patti, I break out into a big grin. To be told I look like someone who is gorgeous, both inside and out, in such a compliment.

My best friend, philosopher and guide. My grandmother has played and continues to play so many roles in this lifetime. Call me partial, but if you ask me, she excels at being my Patti the most.

Related posts: 

Trying to grab hold of memories

Constant Comfort

I was fortunate to grow up with all my cousins living in the same city.  We spent our childhood vacationing for a week in Ooty every year. The rest of the summer would go by playing cricket, board games and card games. We came up with a legendary game of driving our own spaceship with each of us having specific roles mapped out – quite literally! I still have maps of our space driving routes. I remember us concocting a mixture of manathankaali from the garden, peanuts, salt and pepper (God knows what else we put in there) and proudly making Amma and Athai drink it (Bless their stomachs!) I  have rose-tinted memories of licking brownie batter off, tagging around Athai until she took the brownies out of the oven only to be finished in one sitting.

We grew up together. And for a couple of years, drifted apart slightly while we each dealt with teenage angst and growing up in a world without Facebook and whatsapp. 

But Madras was always the base. We came back home to countless sleepovers, late night snacks, and a mix of uncontrollable giggling and deep conversations. We mourned the death of a beloved Thatha together. Celebrated as some of us got married, moved away from home again, and began careers. 

I boarded the train to work this morning only to get an excited ping from my elder cousin sister, “The baby just kicked! I wish you guys were here to feel it!” In the 20 minute ride to work, we’ve exchanged over a 100 messages and I have a big grin on my face. We fought over who had the best nickname for the baby-on-the-way, discussed what was happening in the Olympics, what our daily routines involved and what everyone was doing for the weekend. And the best part? This wasn’t a one-off conversation. There’s ALWAYS someone to talk to and something to talk about. Within our group of five, we have smaller relationships. We’ve known each other long enough to know the good and bad in each other’s lives and to know that it doesn’t make a difference. 

I’m the first to admit that technology helps. But I won’t be so quick to credit it all to having easy access to instant messaging. Keeping in touch takes real effort. To make the others feel a part of your life by sharing the significant and the everyday. To continue to have meaningful conversations and share truly terrible jokes. 

Today and everyday, I am so grateful. Grateful for this constant comfort, these very special people that have loved me from my earliest memories. And I pray that I come back to this space many many years from now to write that while we’ve all grown up, the constant comfort hasn’t changed. 

Today, I am grateful

It has been a stressful week. A few things on the job front that aren’t falling in place, a crucial meeting that keeps getting postponed – I’ve been a bundle of nerves.

I’ve always prided myself as being the person who calms everyone down. Quite naturally, I don’t deal well with being stressed myself. Unfortunately, its not just me. This whole situation is weighing on everyone’s mind – my parents, sister, husband and in-laws. I should admit here that I put a ton of pressure on myself. I hold myself up to very high standards and I hate to disappoint the people I love.

Insert here my sister’s voice saying “They are not disappointed in you de. They are disappointed for you and feeling bad for you that things aren’t working out.” This was something I desperately needed to hear and the baby sister is probably the only one who intuitively understood what I was going through and that I needed to hear this. Deep in my heart, I already know this. But in the rush of life, it is so easy to forget and I am so grateful that I have someone to remind me.

Later in the evening, I got a text message from Amma “What happened to your meeting khanna? I was checking my phone every two hours to see if you had sent something.” My mind tensed again – how I hate to cause people so much anxiety. I reply, “Meeting postponed again ma. Please try not to worry so much. I’ll give you an update tomorrow.” 

On the commute back home, I started obsessing again. But then I tell myself, I should be grateful for a family that loves and cares for me, thankful that I have people who worry about me because they want nothing but the best for me.

Did I calm down immediately? No. But it made me take a step back, reevaluate and realize how truly blessed I am.

I took a deep breath and sent out a prayer of thanks for a loving and supportive family. And I told myself “Tomorrow will be a better day.”

Of incredible stories and gratitude

This article was recently published in The Hindu. This postcard was found in my uncle’s possession. The people referred to at the end of the article, Gayathree Krishna and Srividya are my cousin and aunt, respectively. I am distantly related to the Dr. Padmavati referred to in the article. This is the first time I’m hearing of this story, although the people mentioned in the postcard sound very familiar.

But, reading this made me remember so many stories I heard while growing up.

My paternal grandfather was born in Burma in the 1930s. His mother passed away when he was a few months old, and his father was left with the responsibility of raising 7 children. War soon broke out in Burma. My great-grandfather handed my grandfather over to his brother-in-law. This man carried my grandfather, then a two year old infant, and travelled all the way from Burma to Bangalore. My grandfather used to narrate stories of how they traversed the wilderness of Assam on foot, and how they eventually reached Bangalore after a few months. Thousands of people fled Burma at the time, and very few survived. My grandfather was one of the lucky ones. They reached Bangalore and were hospitalized for a month while they recuperated from the hardships of the journey. They then made their way to Madras where my grandfather grew up, married, and lived to raise his children and grandchildren. My grandfather didn’t meet his own father until he was 14 years old, when his father finally managed to come to Madras from Burma. Till his dying breath, my grandfather had great gratitude for his uncle, for having carried him as an infant and bringing him all the way to India, and for having raised him after that.

My maternal grandmother’s father was an agricultural scientist who worked for the British Raj, doing research on potatoes and other vegetables in the hills of Ooty. He was allergic to Penicillin, the only antibiotic at the time, and died at a very young age simply because he couldn’t be administered antibiotics. My maternal grandmother was a 5 year old girl when she lost her father and spent most of her childhood shuttling between the homes of various relatives.

Hearing and reading all of this reminds me of just how blessed I am. I had what I consider a perfect childhood, a safe and happy life in Madras. I grew up spending my summers and holidays with cousins and friends, the occasional holiday, frequent weddings and other special occasions. Thanks to the grace of God, there was never a moment when my parents had to worry for my future or survival when I was a child. But, everything that I am today, is hugely due to the hardships that so many of my ancestors had to go through. I cannot even imagine how difficult it would be to fear for your child’s safety or even existence. That would be a parent’s worst nightmare.

But as blessed as we are, I can’t seem to forget that even today, there are so many people who go through this horrible nightmare every day. Take the refugees from Syria, for example. I can understand the fear in letting refugees into your country – the fear of the unknown, of providing for others when you can’t provide for your own citizens. But if everyone digs deep enough into their history, almost every single person on this earth would likely have an ancestor who had to survive through some horror. Eventually the whole world is just one big family – if we took a moment to think about that and to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else, maybe we would think differently.

On the first day of the New Year, I take a deep breath and send out a prayer saying a simple thank you. And a prayer for those who are still struggling every day.

 

Welcome 2016!

I think the concept of New Year is one of the best traditions that humankind has come up with. I love that it gives me a chance to introspect on the year that has been, and to dust myself off and look forward to the year ahead.

If I had to come up with one word to describe my 2015, it would have to be *RELIEF*. I passed a hugely difficult professional licensing exam a few months ago and some important progress has been made on the professional and personal front. So, a huge sigh of relief! 🙂 2015 has also been a year when we made the most of the weekends. We headed out every weekend when the weather was good and revisited old hiking spots and found some new favorites. We celebrated both of our birthdays by taking an extended weekend off – for the husband’s birthday we headed to Cape Cod for a day of cycling and we celebrated my birthday weekend hiking in a beautiful national park here. And how can I forget? We began 2015 by spending time with friends and family in Kenya and Madras.

2015 has been good to us 🙂 Excited to see what 2016 has in store! Bring it on! 🙂

A very happy new year to everyone! My prayers for good health, happiness and prosperity 🙂

For someone to share the ordinary with

My cousin brother got married recently and at his wedding, my (older) cousin sister gave a brief speech about love and marriage. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it for the wedding, but my family recorded a video of her giving the speech and sent it to me. I found it so incredibly thoughtful and I’ve listened to it repeatedly since then. I love and admire my sister for many reasons but I think this is one of the most meaningful things she has said.

She said “When you get married, you make your spouse a promise. A promise that you will be there – for the good, the bad, the sad and the terrible. That you will be there to share every moment – even the mundane and the ordinary. You tell your spouse ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I am there to notice it'”.

I find these words keep reverberating in my heart and mind.

The husband and I have settled into a pretty standard routine. We leave home together in the morning, and he drops me off at the station with a quick kiss. We come back home within an hour of each other and spend our evenings discussing how our day went. I usually tell him about the new cases I’m working on, or the updates that happened in an earlier case. He tells me about a new program he’s working on, and sometimes gives me a demo to walk through the process. We talk about the problems we are having, brainstorming together and coming up with new ideas.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize how much what my sister said is true. The intimacy of having someone to come home to, to share your every day with. To show him an email from my boss saying “The draft was well done. Good job”, or to say “My colleague was being really crabby today. I wonder what’s going on”.

These everyday conversations might sound so ordinary, but to me, these shared conversations are what make our marriage extraordinarily special. Because the presence of a special someone, makes the mundane in my life,  seem meaningful.

Tag time!

So, the Blue Bride tagged me to take up these five questions to participate in the Sisterhood of the World Q&A.

I found it to be a pretty interesting set of questions and I think I have a lot to say so here goes.

  1. One beauty product you would recommend to all your girlfriends. 

The first thing that popped into my head was “Argan oil”. Argan oil or moroccan oil is made from the argan tree that grows only in Morocco. Similar to saffron, argan oil has to be extracted by hand, making it quite expensive. My cousin introduced me to this product when I visited her and since then, it has become a staple on my bathroom counter. Just squirt two drops onto your hand and smooth it all over your face. Similarly, I use a couple of drops and rub it into my hair. It has a mild nutty fragrance, and is supposed to keep wrinkles away, prevent aging and do all kinds of amazing things. Hollywood celebs seem to be touting it as the next miracle product. I like it because it keeps my skin super smooth and moisturized. I use this and a quick dusting of powder from my compact and I’m good to go! Definitely try this if its available where you live!

 

Couple of useful links: Wiki page on Argan oilTips to buy Argan oil (definitely look this up before you buy because there’s tons of adulterated versions in the market)

2. Three books everyone must read: 

This is an incredibly difficult question. I have so many recommendations! But I’m going to try to keep it to three books that have had a massive influence on me.

(i) Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl and/or All my love, Detrick.

Both of these books are set during the period of the Holocaust. Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who went into hiding with her family during the Holocaust. They were eventually found and except her dad, all of her family members were killed in concentration camps. All my love, Detrick is the story of a German man and a Jewish girl who fall in love during the 1940s. Although essentially a heart-breaking love story, it gives the reader a perspective on how life in Europe was at the time and the horrors that it entailed. I read Anne Frank as a young girl and it was my first introduction to what happened during the Holocaust. I read All my love, Detrick about a year ago and had tears running down my face by the end. I think its incredibly important to read these books – both to understand the atrocities that human beings were actually capable of, and also to realize how truly blessed we are today. All my love Detrick also has a sequel called You are my Sunshine (which is also amazing), and a third book (which I’m waiting for).

(ii) The Chicken Soup series. 

This has to be one of my favorite collections. The Chicken Soup collection is a running series of sorts which contains multiple short stories contributed by both readers and celebrities. These are usually categorized by reader – Chicken Soup for the Teenagers’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul, etc. My favorite till date is the Chicken Soup for the Grandmother’s Soul that I purchased a few years ago for my Patti. A heart-warming collection of short stories about the relationship between a grandchild and grandparent – something that you can read over and over again.

 

(iii) The Ramayana/Mahabharatha and/or the Harry Potter Series.

I can’t decide between these. Each of these are truly epic (pun intended!) and offer profound life lessons and so much food for thought. I don’t think of the Ramayana/Mahabharatha as religious texts telling me how to lead my life. Simply as a story for a teenaged or slightly older reader, I believe it offers plenty of room to debate morality and talk about right v. wrong. I would recommend a slightly more serious version – like Rajaji’s interpretation. My husband and I have both read Rajaji’s version of both Indian epics and it continues to be a topic of conversation even today.

Harry Potter requires less introduction. Each time I read it I am astounded by Rowling’s power of imagination and story-telling.

3. Favorite online shopping site: 

This has to be Amazon. We’ve even started getting groceries like rice, dal and spices on Amazon! My favorite aspect has to be the user reviews – I’ve found it super convenient especially while buying appliances like vacuum cleaners and water filters for our house.

4. Favorite phone app: 

This is a really interesting question. I think my favorite app right now is WordPress, especially with the recent updates. It is both beautiful and incredibly functional. Easy to comment as well. (As opposed to the reader section on the website which is doing this weird thing by not opening a new blog in a new tab! Aargh!) I logged on the website on my laptop today after a really long time to write this post. If you are a blogger, be sure to have a mobile friendly layout!

My most-used and favorite app for another reason  is Whatsapp. Makes it so comfortable to text and call friends and family from all over the world and reduces the home-sickness.

5. One dish you’re really good at making and its recipe: 

I was thinking about for the longest time. I eventually decided to keep it simple and put down the recipe for one of my favorite comfort foods.

South Indian Style Spinach Kootu/Dal: 

Cook half a cup of toor dal until mushy and set aside. Season a teaspoon of mustard seeds, a tablespoon of jeera (cumin seeds) and a teaspoon of urad dal in a spoon of oil. Once it sputters, add a generous pinch of hing/perungayam/asafoetida, a tablespoon of freshly ground pepper and a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger. Add two cups of chopped spinach and half a cup of water. Stir for a few minutes until the spinach wilts. Add the cooked dal and salt to taste.

I made this today. Served with steaming hot white rice, a dollop of ghee and appalam on the side – it was the perfect comfort meal on a cold weekend afternoon. Pepper, jeera and ginger are also good for digestion and easy on the stomach so its an ideal dish to make when you’re feeling under the weather.

And… I guess that’s it! This has been a really fun tag and I spent quite a while thinking of my answers! Thank you for the tag, Blue Bride!

I’m going to tag TGND, Pop goes the biscuit!, Green Boochi, Jan’s doodles, L.G. Iyer, and Hidden Passions. I believe I was supposed to come up with my own questions but I found these questions really fun so I’m just going to piggy-back on them! I hope you have fun, ladies! Looking forward to what you write.