Saturday, November 24, 2007

How to make AMAZING Gajar Halwa in minimum effort. ;)

You Need

1. Carrots ( A kilo maybe because the end result is really good)
2. 1 Can of Condensed Milk ( People in India SHOULD use Khoya/Khawa)
3. Sugar ( I have not worked out the exact quantity so keep the whole pack ready)
4. Nuts ( Almonds and Cashews pre-soaked in water for 20 minutes and sliced)
5. Ghee ( About 3-4 Table spoons for a kilo of carrots)
6. Cardamom ( 6-8 crushed)
7. A decent frying pan

How to do it?

1. Shred the carrots ( Not too fine because then you'll end up with carrot porridge)

2. Let the pan heat up and add Ghee to it ( watch the ghee and make sure you have shredded carrots and a wooden ladle ready before it gets all heated up)

3. Add the carrots and cook with constant stirring ( Please don't take phone calls during this time because even a slight relaxation can burn the whole thing. The Gossip can wait). This is a hydrophobic recipe. So by frying the carrots in ghee we are essentially removing the inherent water that all the vegetables have. :)

4. When the carrots shrivel up, look pale and dehydrated ( Oh Gosh! What a way to put it) remove the pan from flame and start adding sugar. Let it melt into the carrots. The ideal amount of sugar is till the time it soaks the poor dehydrated carrots and makes a sugary film around them ( Yes, it is fattening but when you are doing something wrong, you should do it right!)

5. Put the pan back on flame ( but reduce the intensity of the flame) and now it is time to add the condensed milk. Well,milk should go in last because it burns faster than sugar. Do not pour the whole can at once because then you will have to wait till the the vapor goes off, forms clouds and comes back as rain!! Let the carrots be hugged by sugar and blanketed by milk. You will see it boiling. The ideal "Gajar Halwa" aroma has a hint of syrup and a bit of carrot that gets you bewitched or sick if you stick your nose inside the pan for too long. However if you have your roomies leaving their "Saturday-afternoon-in-front-of-the-computer" positions and coming to see what is going on in the kitchen you are doing a good job. :)

6. Let the members of the pan mingle and make a homogeneous mixture. Then add the sliced nuts and cardamom. Let it cook for some more time. The time to get it down is when you feel really scared to leave it unattended. :D

How you serve it

There is only one way to serve Gajar Ka Halwa. Hot halwa with cold vanilla ice cream on the side. If you are really the "entertainer", put a leaf of mint on the ice cream.

Lines like, " Aao na!! Maine apne hathon se tumhare liya gajar ka halwa banaya hain"
and a bit of eyelid batting along with that go well with the dish and should be done without the fear of sounding stupid.

How you burn it

Around 60 laps in a 25 meter Pool
6 KM of serious jogging

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pining for a Pineapple

It is so easy to like an apple. You grab one on your way to work from the fruit stall and at lunchtime you go crunch-crunch-crunch over a newspaper. Almost nine out of ten people like mangoes. I have seen people grow out of their jeans eating mangoes in the scorching Indian summers. Mangoes are the only solace when the tropical sun gets vapours out of your skin. Liking a banana is also one of those really common things but it takes men and women of character to like certain fruits.
I always wonder about the first man ever to discover that jackfruit is edible. I think he must have possessed sainthood of gigantic proportions to be able to see past the skin and the thorns and believe that there must be something inside that he could eat! Or he must have been really desperate for food.
Somehow I totally respect people who like Kiwis as well. I am intrigued by their desire to find something edible behind a brown ball that looks like an alien in its early stages of evolution. Some fruits are just so much work!
As a kid I always prayed that I could get a seedless watermelon. It is such a pain to eat one and throw the seeds out. There is a great joy however in saving the seeds in your mouth and spitting them out in a spray. ( The author must confess that this was an oft practiced ritual in the Keskar household and it has got nothing to do with the author’s upbringing). Papaya is another fruit that tests your superficiality.
I never thought that the juicy pineapple fell into the second category. I love pineapple.
It is such an exotic fruit! Crunchy and sweet with no seeds! Sounds like a fruit-lover’s dream come true.
In India, I had seen only two states of pineapple. The first being when it sits in the market in a cane basket, with it’s crown and scales, being advertised as a honey-soaked-piece of heaven( Yes, fortunately I was not one of those American kids who think Pineapple comes from a can). The second stage was when it sat on my plate, which the maid brought in at around four in the afternoon everyday in order to tick the box labelled “fruits” in my diet chart. :)
So when I saw a plump pineapple in the supermarket the other day, I jumped in joy and said “yey” in my fake little-girl-voice. My room-mate Riju tried to warn me of the probable knife mishaps we could have buying a pineapple at this stage in our lives but I defended my stand by telling her that even students deserve pineapples!

We got it home and let it stay in the fridge for a day. Today afternoon I walked the river walk with near romantic ideas about the pineapple. I remember giving a serious thought to the thickness of each slice, and the amount of pepper that would be required to get it sweet and spicy at the same time. I even thought about a suitable bowl to arrange the slices in so that when Riju comes home, she gets to pick them elegantly and have them as we have the “How Was Your Day?” talk.
When I got home I could hardly keep my hands off the pineapple. So I made a cup of tea and got down to work in between sips. At first I tried to cut it with the biggest knife. It kept slipping off the scales. So I thought maybe I need something sharper and I got another one. In my desperation to make things work I forced it in and then it refused to come out of the fruit. I banged the whole assembly on the sink and the pineapple was thrown off the knife a bit unceremoniously. I gathered it again and decided to get back to it after a few sips of tea. When I got back, I was equipped with two smaller knives and a peeler ( God knows why I included the $2 peeler in the army). So when I finally worked the procedure out it had numerous steps involving all the four knives put up for the job .I had to take care not to waste any fruit on the peel because if Riju got to know that there was more than three millimetre of pulp on the skin in the waste basket she would go down to the very last cent I had put to waste.

I finished slicing it up after a good forty-five minute long fight and when I did I had juice running down my elbows. I was triumphant though that after so much of hard work at least I get to eat my favourite fruit. I decided to let it cool till I finish with my jog.
I set out to jog and I felt like the whole of Brisbane was eclipsed by a pineapple juice leak. Everything smelled of pineapple. Pretty women crossing roads it seems had just had pineapple showers. My earphones smelled like they just had a pineapple snack. The river was not water! It was pineapple juice with ferries on it!
I figured that eventually my sweat would overpower all that sweet pineapple fever in the air but even my sweat smelled like pineapple!
I realized halfway through the jog that the skin on my knee was suddenly stiff. Being a hypochondriac I thought maybe I had suffered from a scraped knee without falling down but a bit of investigation led me to some dried pineapple juice that was slowly making my joint immobile!
On my way back the coffee shops smelled like they were selling pinacoladas in their coffee mugs. It seemed like the whole world was “Glad-Wrapped” with pieces of pineapple and cut off completely from the rest of the Universe.
When I entered the kitchen Riju was sitting at the table like this eager rabbit eating a slice of pineapple I left in the fridge. When she saw me she looked at me with evident pride for standing by my words and giving her the juicy pineapple that all poor graduate students deserve. She held out a cheesy yellow slice in her hand and I found myself saying, “ Oh no! I am sick of it”!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Australian Zoo

I just came back from a trip to the Australian Zoo. :)
It is a privately owned zoo by the family of Steve Irwin who is more famously known as the "Crocodile Hunter"
It has been so many years since I went to a zoo and felt like this. My dad ( who by the way haunts this blog) will have stories of some four-year-old me making him do 'n' number of revisits to the Peshwe Baug which used to be very close to where we lived. Sometimes we went twice a day, especially if it was a lazy Saturday for baba. :)
I went with my workmate Bernadette and we had some serious fun.

" Never once in these past hundred years have you ever loved me the way I wanted you to!"

"I dont drink Beer..The Australian Attitude is contagious :D "

Yes. Even I take pictures in front of larger than life posters. Big deal!! :P
This is Steve-The Crocodile Hunter!

I also got one with a very cute Kangaroo and a Koala..but since I am technologically challenged I was not able to rotate them and get them up!

Monday, November 12, 2007

27 going on 28 :)

The other day our neighbor Robin looked postively grave.
Like we always do, we tried to coax him into talking about it. It took him a few long South Indian sighs and serious head nods to open up to us.
He broke into a squeak and then somehow harnessed his voice into a regular tone.
He began by saying, " Keskar I called my dad and he says that I am twenty eight and it is time I do something with my life!"
I do not have the slightest idea why he calls me by my last name but looking at his face I realized that I had more important issues to address.
So we had the following conversation

Robin : Keskar, I always thought that when I turn thirty I will stop working and start my restaurant!
Me : Yeah, but what's stopping you? You can still do it!!
Robin : No Keskar, but my dad said I am twenty eight and I have not done anything with my life.
Me: Well, yeah I agree on that! I always see you dozing off on the couch or smoking. I wonder what "doing something in life" means in your language.
Robin: Keskar! It is not about that Keskar! I had no idea that I am twenty eight. I thought like I am twenty six now and in January next year I will be twenty seven! Keskar, but my father says that I am twenty eight. It is like I lost a year of my life Keskar! Now I have just two years before I would want to stop working Keskar!

Yes, I agree that there is a near annoying appearance of my last name up there. That is exactly how it is. The word "Keskar" is said in all the scales that a bad singer could try before he hits the one that sounds the worst. All of this goes with eyes dancing in every corner of the carpet but never looking up at me.

Me : When were you born?
Robin: January 1981?

That is how a question is answered with a question.

Me: Then you are right. You will be twenty seven going on twenty eight coming January.
Robin: No! I will be twenty seven.
Me: Yes, but you will enter the twenty eighth year of your life
Robin: What do you mean by "enter the twenty eighth year of your life" Keskar?
Me: That means that you would be approaching the end of your twenty eighth year all through 2008.
Robin: ( With a disgusted frown) No Keskar!! I will be twenty seven!! ( Then he fishes for a paper and a pen from the eternal mess that he has made around the couch) Wait Keskar, I will count!
Me: There is no need to count Robin! You will only know what you already know because it will add up to twenty seven.
Robin: Then why do you say I am entering the twenty eighth year of my life Keskar?
Me: Did you go to school?
Robin : Shut up Keskar!!
Me: No really! How did you make it through Engineering?
Robin: I copied and fell at the lecturer's feet. Sometimes I begged Keskar!
Me: Okay. Do you know anything about 'whole numbers' and 'fractions'?
Robin: Shut up Keskar. Of course I do.
Me: So say you turn twenty seven on the 9th of January. How old do you think you will be on the 9th of February?
Robin: 27 years and one month?

Question for a question again!

Me: Yes! Exactly! So you have lived one month of the twelve months you are supposed to live to turn twenty eight. Do you get it now?
Robin: Keskar, but I am still twenty seven right? If someone asks me how old I am on the 9th of February 2008, I say twenty seven right?
Me: Yes but you are going towards twenty eight.
Robin: Naaaaw Keskar!! Why does that number have to come into my life in 2008?
Me: Okay you can say that you are twenty seven. Imagine twenty seven rooms that you enter and exit for each new year of your life. In January 2008, you will lock the twenty seventh room behind you and you will enter the twenty eighth room where you will stay for a year.
Robin: Yes Keskar. That is a nice way to put it. So do I tell people that I am twenty eight? Since I am in the twenty eighth room?

I used to worry about my pathalogical urge to hit people with frying pans but at such times I thank God that I feel that way.

Me: No Robin. You can tell people that you are twenty two. No one cares how old you are anyway. You hardly make a difference to anyone. So you can just choose your age each year.
Robin: No Keskar! I really wanted to stop working when I turned thirty Keskar!
Me: Look Robin, if you cannot calculate and state your right age when you have lived more than a quarter of your potential life there is no meaning to anything you want to do with it anyway. So just pick a number and be happy. What is it with not working after thirty? It is such an American Dream! You should work all your life. Work is the only salvation.
Robin: Shut up Keskar! You with your vacuum-cleaner philosophy. I wanted to become happy when I turn thirty but everyday I realize that I become more and more unhappy.
Me: Hmmph. I reckon that is because you have some issues with dreaming the right kind of dreams.
Robin: (Speechless for a while) ( A solemn and quizzical expression on his face) ( Neck turned sideways like an alert bird) Yeah maybe Keskar. All I dream is about earning money and becoming rich! I think that is the only happiness in life.
Me: Yeah for you that is a lot of effort. I am so glad you are at least a bit greedy about money. That is a fairly decent dream. I think you should chase it now that you have just three years left.
Robin: Promise Keskar!!? ( His usage of the word 'promise' closely translates to the word 'really' in normal human language) That means I am twenty seven right?
Me: Yes Robin your chronological age is twenty seven but I have serious doubts about the linearity of your emotional age.
Robin: Keskar you are so mean! How old are you Keskar?
Me: I am twenty four
Robin: That means you are twenty four going on twenty five Keskar?
Me: Oh My God! Naw!! You are not supposed to use that number till next July!!!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Letters That Sing

There is nothing more refreshing than getting a hand-written letter. You come home all drained and tired and there it is!
Staring at you, half winking, on the table with an "India-Bharat" stamp on it!!
It just turns the day around for me. Sometimes it is written by my granny and sometimes by Ameya or Aai. It contains nothing spectacular. It talks about this and that and sometimes ( especially if Ameya writes it) it goes on and on till you fall off to sleep on it!
There are other kinds too. They have been teaching me how to sing, or at least how to listen to Good Music. :)
Music has introduced a few very good friendships to my life.
I get the same refreshing happiness when an email comes with an mp3 attachment.

I listen to all kinds of music. I have no strong opinions about music.
( Which kind of makes me wonder if I have strong opinions about anything else either!)
Over the past year or so however I have made a conscious attempt to listen to a lot of music and widen my vocabulary. In this conscious attempt I have unconsciously made a few very good friends. :)
So I think I should tell my readers about my most influential Music Gurus.

He is the guy who always leaves a bitter-sweet comment on my blog. Sometimes he gets upset about my grammar and sometimes about my punctuations. Sometimes he thinks I am just putting up an act and sometimes he praises my writing without any reservations. He taught me Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull. Well not just that. He taught me a lot more about good music. Sometimes he made me listen to a song and then we had this discussion about why I like it. Then he used to go into a sermon about the singer or the band. He is the kinds who knows composers like average guys knows football players and their clubs. He will give you a comprehensive summary of everything the band has played. :) It wont be just statistics though! he would be equally passionate about every song. :)
He gave me some of the songs that are always on repeat on my playlists.
He gave me all of the Steve Miller Band which I listen to at least once a day. :)

He posts comments as "Intendo" on my blog.
He is one of the very few authentic Rockstars I know. He has a class of music that he likes. He picks his favorites with great care and shares them I guess, with even greater caution. He has a band of his own called " The Spacebarres" and I was fortunate enough to attend one of his performances in Pune. He introduced the blues and the jazz to my collection. Every song he sends has a mind of its own. He seems to be more of the introspective kinds so his collection is always soulful and classy. :)
He has sent me Mark Knopfler,Norah Jones, Eric Clapton and Yanni!
It has been one of the happiest music lessons I ever took!
Although when I was in India, I could never talk to him at length when we met because of my near-atrocious Hindi. :)

Then there are a few very good friends I have who always attach a song with their emails. Sometimes, we try to outwit each other by sending better songs with every email. Music has helped me salvage a few good friendships too.
When you run, your music plays in your ears without expecting a lot of attention from you. A few days later however when you take the same walk or go by the same river you hum along the song that you so furiously played when you went past it the last time. :)
Just like that people who talk Good Music become a part of your life too!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The People I Meet : Iowan

Last night something refreshing and funny happened to me.
I was feeling a bit lonely the whole day and I had to keep going at my literature review so I was positively grumpy.
It was one of those days when you have had your full share of fun and the 'Karmic Gods' want you to suffer as you toil at your desk. I studied half heartedly and came home to find my roomie Riju all doe-eyed waiting for me so that I could accompany her to her jog. Riju has recently been bitten by the fitness bug. Initially I thought I inspired her but then I realized that her inspiration had more to do with her new capri pants and workout tshirt.
I walked and she ran because I had had an overdose of swimming at the University. She got tired and we went to the end of river walk indulging ourselves in empty, unwanted conversations. :)
We sat down near the pontoons for a while and just as we were about to get up, a small, silver haired man popped from the darkness on the right.
He greeted," Hello there ladies!! Are you from the land of Raj Kapoor?"
It was Saturday night and he had a bottle of wine in his hand so we gave the usual we-are-reluctant-to-talk-to-you-because-we-were-told-not-to-talk-to-strangers-especially-on-saturday-nights reaction. Then he said that he lived on a boat which was anchored in the river and he was just clearing the garbage and that he never drinks alcohol! :) Talk about reading minds!!
We said that we came from the land of Raj Kapoor and to make up for our initial stiffness we asked him to grab a seat.
His name is Iowan and he is from Romania. He lives on a boat and sails to Sydney when he feels like it. He is a primary school teacher and knows nine languages.
He told us about the time when Russia split up. When he was a kid, and being brought up in a land that embraced communism as a religion, he saw unspeakable poverty. In that kind of poverty, as a teenager he used to walk all the way in snow to the cinema and watch "Awara" :). He said he watched Awara twenty times. Then he went on to talk about Shree 420 and Mother India. He sang 'Mera joota hain Japani' in a sweet European accent.
He thinks Rajesh Khanna is one of the most handsome actors he has ever seen and he was equally smitten by Dev Anand!
I was wondering at my luck to have met him and his ability to be so warm and happy at the same time.
He talked about the time he travelled to Cambodia and the genocide.

He told us about his sailing. About when he is sailing long distances sometimes fish jump on to his boat on their own. :)
He told us about his friend who sailed from Brazil to India. When he reached India, he was so worn by the wind and bad weather that he could hardly recognize himself.
We asked him if we could see him often but he was to leave. He said he will be going away on an island.
I don't remember how long we talked but it kind of turned the day around for me.
Sometimes you wonder why you meet some people at a certain time in your life.
Maybe it is just to shake you off the feeling of being very important. :)