Thursday, February 5, 2009

Long live noodle straps and tight jeans!

Ok, What's with the all the recent interest in what Indian women wear? Suddenly, everyone in India seems to have a say in what a 'decent' woman should wear. And they seem to be enforcing their views with despicable acts of violence.

First, there was the incident at a Mangalore pub where members of Ram Sena, a Hindu right-wing organization, assaulted women for dressing inappropriately. Then we heard about threats issued to women wearing noodle straps and tight jeans. And just today, I read about a man in Haryana who beat up his wife in public,undeterred by police, simply because she wore jeans to the market.

Reports of these incidents always seem to be accompanied by dozens of reader comments, several of them from men, also giving their two cents worth about what a woman should wear - Comments like 'good women should not wear jeans' and classics like 'Any girl who wears jeans is not decent because her mind is always on how to get the boys to look at her'! Sigh!

Its all pretty disturbing, but what struck me most about all this is how so many people seem to think that they get to decide what a woman wears. Shouldn't that be the woman's decision??? As a strong believer in a woman's right to choice, it always tics me off when people sit around and debate about what a woman should and shouldn't do, when really it isn't their call at all. Like whether women should work or stay at home, whether women should have abortions, at what age a girl should be 'married off'- women have always had men wanting to make their decisions for them. And now they want to decide whether she wears tight or loose pants! Come on! At least let that be her choice- not something dictated by a bunch of testosterone-crazed, saffron wearing MEN!

But, if this argument doesn't cut it and people still want to make rules about what is 'culturally permissible' to wear, well, then I have a few suggestions... for the sake of preserving our precious Indian culture, of course.

Rule No 1. Men with waists greater than 40 inches in width will not be permitted into water parks if wearing any of the following:
i. Tiny biker shorts
ii. Nothing but a towel
iii. And God forbid... speedos.

Rule No 2. Men with a excessive amounts of chest and/or back hair must refrain from ever taking their shirts off in public.

Rule No 3. (and this for our beloved South Indian makkal) Lungis are prohibited, at all times- No exceptions!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Experiments with butternut squash

Butternut squash- I've been fascinated with this vegetable for a while now, ever since I had a taste of it at an office potluck. I'm not sure if it's the rich orange color, its odd bell shape, or its starchy and satisfying taste that appeals to me- but, this week, when I saw it at the grocery store, I just had to pick one up.

Back at home, after lots of research and much deliberation over what to make with the squash, I decided to go with a classic southern dish: butternut squash casserole. This creamy casserole is standard fare at Thanksgiving dinners...and its slightly sweet, slightly savory taste has captivated me for some time.

So here it is, with pictures and all- Behold the first ever recipe this blog has seen.

What you'll need:

1 butternut squash
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup and/or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

For topping

1/2 cup cereal of any kind
1 tablespoon butter (melted)
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Step 1: Cut the butternut squash into halves and remove seeds and pulp. Cook till tender. Most recipes suggest leaving the squash in a covered pot of boiling water to get it tender. But this can take around 15 minutes. A quicker alternate is to pop the squash in the microwave for about 4-6 minutes till it became soft.

Step 2: Peel the skin off and mash in a bowl. Add to this the rest of the ingredients and mix.

Step 3: To add some crunch, make a topping with whatever cereal you have at hand. Mix the cereal with melted butter and brown sugar (if you have a sweet tooth like me and also for that nice caramelization).

Step 4:Pour squash mixture into buttered casserole and bake at 350° for about 15 minutes. Then, pull the casserole out, sprinkle the cereal topping over it and let bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. If you are paranoid like me, check it once in a while by poking with a knife- If it sticks to the knife, it is not done.

Well, that's it.. After about an hour of messing around in the kitchen, I was left with this really gorgeous looking squash casserole- crispy on the top & creamyilious below. Hope you guys give it a try too!

Monday, October 13, 2008


Do you remember when we moved to Chester, Virginia 11 years ago? We were 'fresh off the boat' as they say and completely lost. But it turned out ok... We adapted, made friends and had a good time. I don't know about you, but those four years in Chester definitely feature among my best childhood memories. So, when I got a chance to go back to Chester, back to that little neighborhood we lived in, I grabbed at it.

I walked around the place for about half an hour, taking pictures and narrating stories to my friends. As I walked around the big backyards, I remembered the many hours we spent there, playing those intense games of kickball with all the other kids - how you were usually the smallest one there, but how I always picked you first to be in my team. The hillocks seemed smaller and less steep than they used to then, and I remembered how we took turns sitting in a laundry basket and sliding down the icy slopes(till it occurred to us to actually buy a sled). I remembered the lopsided snowman that we spent all afternoon making and the rest of the day admiring. At the playground, I remembered how I broke my nose on the merry go round and how we ran back to the house, with blood dripping from my nose and you crying and screaming 'Dhivya is gonna die'. It makes me laugh now, but at that time, you were SO NOT helping! As I walked around the neighborhood, I remembered waiting for the school bus on our very first day at an American school- you, a five year old not knowing a word of English and me, the protective older one constantly wanting to make sure you were okay. I also remembered walking through the same neighborhood on halloween nights and how I always convinced you to wear a costume that you didn't like or felt uncomfortable in. I walked up to the house we lived in, took a picture standing in front of it and remembered the days we spent there: how we used to assemble in front of the Tv on those summer afternoons with our pads and pencils for a drawing lesson from Mark Kistler, how we used to decorate our room and how I used to always trick you into putting up my art in a prominent place and your 'childish' art hidden behind the closet doors. Those were the days!

It was strange that a trip back to Chester made me so nostalgic,It was strange that it made me so emotional. Above all, It was strange that walking around Chester where I spent 4 important years of my life, each and every one of my memories seemed be revolve around you!

Miss you, my lil Chesta Sista! Happy Birthday, way in advance :)



Friday, January 25, 2008

To be or not to

To be or not to
That is the question.
The answer lies

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I am legend

I am legend, an adaptation of a 1954 science fiction novel, is one helluva movie. It is based in New york city in the year 2012. A genetically altered virus called 'KV' has spread across the globe, annihilating most of the world population and reducing the rest to cannibalistic zombies. Virologist and US soldier Robert Neville(Will Smith) believes himself to be the only survivor. He lives at the site where the infection hit and fights to discover a cure.

We watch Neville go through his daily routine, with only his dog and mannequins for company... and our hearts go out to him. Will Smith proves himself yet again with an extremely endearing performance. He is the only human actor on screen for the majority of the movie. Despite this isolation and lack of costars, Smith's screen presence is enough to hold the audiences' interest. In fact ,the introduction of two fellow survivors in the form of a Brazilian woman and a little boy actually dampens the intensity of the movie. Smith fares better when he is on his own.

Though the movie has all the makings of a typical horror flick- marauding zombies, rabid dogs, guns and explosions, it goes much beyond that because it is TRULY scary. A mutated virus causing a deadly epidemic, billions of people killed, quarantines and evacuations- such a situation is scary because it could actually happen. In the age of SARS and bird flu, this seems eerily real. Above all, the notion of being all alone, of being the last man on earth, is terribly frightening.

The movie's dramatic end evokes mixed feelings. But the ending can be overlooked because the movie delivers what it promises- 1 and a half hours during which the we become one with Neville- feeling his loneliness, his angst when darkness begins to fall, his frustration when his experiments fail and his sorrow when he loses his family. With all its larger than life sets, neat special effects and hair-raising scenes, it is the human touch of 'I am legend' that makes an impression in the end.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Call that fun?

It was one of those hot Chennai afternoons. Half the day was over and not even a single Professor had stepped into our class. But, after hours of playing UNO and sharing gossip, I realized that I was officially bored. I needed to get out of that classroom. So, I decided to go get a drink of water and like any proper Tamil girl, I summoned my two girl buddies to accompany me to the water fountain. God knows what dangers lurked on the way to the water fountain so it was only rational to take the pals along.

Thats when a couple of guys in our class suggested it. I didn't want to at first but they made it sound so wonderful and fun. They suggested that we sneak out of college and go for a movie. I don't think I even asked for the name of the movie- I don't think I cared. After having been stuck in college for so long, even sneaking out to see T.R Rajendran gyrate on screen would have been welcome. So I began the difficult process of trying to recruit other girls for the movie- because as mentioned with the water fountain incident, we girls always moved in flocks. I wasn't too successful because I managed to get just one other girl to agree to the plan- so the four of us, two girls and two guys started for the movie.

'Naanga naalu paer- engalaku bayamae kidayaadhu' - That would have been the caption if Gautham Menon had seen us walking out of college that afternoon. We prepared stories to tell the watchman in case he asked why we were leaving in the middle of the day. Having never bunked college before and having heard stories of unsuccessful bunkers and bunkees doing hard time at the Principal's office, I WAS scared, though I tried hard not to show it. But, luckily, the watchman was missing at the gate and we happily ran out to freedom and the freeway. We then traveled by van, bus and foot and reached the theatre one and a half hours later, drenched in sweat and slightly drooping due to the weight of our backpacks.

We decided to watch 'LOTR- Return of the king' but found that we had just 50 rupees among the four of us. So, we decided to buy the 10 rupee tickets- you know those first row wooden planks pretending to be chairs. There was a different line for the 10 rupee tickets and a completely different entrance- and both were dirty, grimy and tiny. I walked in trying not to touch anything and thinking how my mom would have never approved. Once we got in, the guys had yet another brilliant idea- they suggested that we go and occupy some of the 60 rupee seats in the back, the empty ones. We agreed. So there we were watching the movie in the comfort of those 60 rupee cushioned seats when suddenly, we saw a large man with a cane running towards us. He took one look at our seats and our guilty faces and chased us out of the seats with several thrashes of his cane- I think it might have made contact with the two poor guys! We ran down the aisle and crawled into our first row seats, pretending that it was perfectly natural to run like spooked cattle in the theatre. The rest of the movie, I watched with my bum glued to that rock hard seat, craning my neck up at the most awkward angle and surrounded by wonderful smells of sweat and cigarettes.

After the movie, we parted ways - Our necks were permanently stuck at an upward angle, our egos were bruised, we were still seeing spots after having seen Aragorn up so close, and we all reeked.... but I thought that had been the best college day yet....and for some reason, that movie and that movie experience ranks among the best for me. I walked to the bus stop to wait for the bus home and smiled to myself, thinking of how such a lousy way to spend 50 bucks could still be so much fun ... when I suddenly realized that I was all alone, without a single gal pal... all by myself at the crowded bus stop. Oh the horror!! The horror!!

Note: This story goes to show what a boring goodie goodie two shoes I was in college but don't worry, I improved tons after this incident. Also for those who don't understand Tamil, bear with me- next one will be all English.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

American gangster- yet another gangster movie?

I saw a new movie yesterday- American gangster starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.

The movie depicts the crime scene in Harlem, New York during the late 1960s- when American gangsters slowly began to replace the classic Italian mafias. The movie follows the life of one such heroin kingpin, Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington). In the midst of Prohibition and heavy drug abuse in the US, Lucas goes to southeast Asia to buy pure heroin directly from the growers and finds an ingenious way to transport it back to New York. Because of his unique means of supply and transport, he is able to sell the drug in a very pure form for a much cheaper price than the competitors. He calls it 'Blue magic' and it becomes the rage among all the junkies in the city. Lucas quickly becomes a wealthy and powerful drug lord in Harlem.

Russell Crowe plays an honest detective battling against the corrupt New York police department to identify the gang behind 'Blue magic'. He forms a team of small-time but honest detectives and they cleverly investigate the Harlem drug scene.

The story might seem like the usual cop vs. criminal story, but the screenplay is very powerful. It brings out how one man, an African American man slowly takes over the New York drug scene using his clever capitalist ways, leaving the Italian mafia and the police department stunned. The movie succeeds in depicting the gritty underbelly of both the city's crime scene and the police department. Most of the movie is shot in tones of browns and yellows, giving it a musty, raw and almost dirty feel- leaving the viewer with a real sense of what it was like in Harlem at that time.

Having said all that, I also have to confess that the movie did put two of my friends to sleep. If I managed to stay awake, it was partly due to my self control but mostly due to the lack of decent heating in that god forsaken theater. Can't sleep when you are constantly cold! The movie, in an attempt to realistically depict the life of an American gangster, stretches longer than required. Out of the 2 and a half hours, the first half is slow moving; some scenes are unnecessary and almost hinder the storyline. The second half though is gripping and makes up for the first half.

When voting for which movie to watch, I voted against American Gangster- it was my two friends, yes the ones who fell asleep, who picked the movie. I entered the theater thinking... 'Oh gosh, here goes another violent and bloody gang movie where everybody dies in the end.' It was a gang movie and yes, there was some blood and gore, but ironically behind the premise of all that violence, there was a very positive message. A gangster who rises to power in a world where no other man of his kind had ever gained such power; A police officer who solves the case despite all the other corrupt fellow officers standing in his way... If that doesn't say 'you can do whatever you set your mind to' I don't know what does!

Friday, November 16, 2007

My shiny red moment

There are times when life imitates the movies... when one of those cheesy cinematic moments that make you go 'awwwwwww' actually happens to you! Usually those feel-good movie moments make me think 'Please, does that ever happen to normal people?' But when it does happen, I think it's the Universe's way of conking me on the head and reminding me to quit being so god-damn negative.

Well, I got one such conk recently. I arrived in Omaha, Nebraska two days ago to visit my dad. It was a typically cold Omaha evening and so I was ready to run inside the house the moment my dad parked the car. But, instead of taking me inside, my dad took me to a nearby parking spot and handed me a set of keys. And there in the parking spot sat... a shiny red Honda Civic! MY shiny red Honda Civic -my very first car! It was beautiful and I, well lets just say I had to stop myself from hissing 'My Precioussssss'! You should have seen my face at that moment- I had a smile wide enough to make any Colgate representative proud. My hands were jittery- though that could have been because of the cold. I found a large orange ribbon tied around the car and I cut it open, feeling like a total celebrity. The inside of the car was decorated with several bows (again shiny red) and I found attached to the steering wheel a card. It read

'Congratulations on all that you've achieved. We are so proud of you' and it was signed by my mom, dad and sis.

It gave me goosebumps to read the card. By now, the smile was a little less prominent on my face- I turned away from my dad just in case a few tears suddenly appeared as they so often do with me, revealing the total softie that I am. Now, for those who are wondering 'why the heck are they congratulating her now?', I suppose some background information would help. The congratulations were for me having completed my Masters and having found a job.

Though my dad had told me that he was looking for a car for me, it was just an awesome feeling to be told by my family that they were proud of me...and in this way. After 2 years of living by myself and struggling with the pressures of a masters degree, I felt aptly rewarded.

This incident reminded me of that full house episode where DJ gets a red car with bow and all for her 16th birthday...and of course the studio audience cheers and claps, oohs and aaahs, all in chorus. Well, I imagine that if there had been a studio audience present that cold evening when I got my car, they would've definitely let out at least a tiny 'awwww' for me...and my shiny red moment! :)