Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Keep it Simple

Yup...Its gonna be 27 years since I set foot on this earth (well not literally).

The past year has had a bunch of great and not so great moments. But I'm filled with optimism and positivity as I stand on the cusp of my 26th and 27th year. 

Times are changing and so are we. Our emotions and expressions were reduced to Facebook statuses a few years back and now, they are trapped in little smiley emojis. 

Happiness is a bountiful emotion. It's when I laugh so loud that I scare the person sitting next to me. Stories are hilarious when they make me grunt and laugh at the same time. Laughter that hurts my tummy and pushes me to a point where I don't know if I'm laughing or crying!

Now we'v combined all these emotions and made a 'LOL' and an 'ROFL' out of it. 

As a dancer, I was groomed to put myself out there.  To let every emotion flow and to not hold back one bit. In exchange my audience applauds my performance. How disheartening would it be to wait for my audience to just click on a 'Like' button at the end of a show. 

Your not actually at a place unless you 'Check In'. Your dressing up is really not worth the effort unless you Instagram a 'Selfie'. In the battle between real and virtual worlds we are missing out on the tiny things that give us big smiles. 

My blog is my diary of thought that I think are appropriate enough to share with the world. So before my 27th birthday, Im going to list out things that make me happy/ ecstatic/ over excited!! I don't know what life has in store for us. So I want to make a record in my blog that, back in the day, I did actually feel things.

So here goes....Occurrences that make me wanna sing and whistle. Things that involve all my 6 senses and make me want to LOL and ROFL and be like WTF every time I feel them.

# The sense of achievement when you crack a perfect yolk on a pan. Its an act that determines the quality of my day. Its the feeling that makes the taste so so much better.

# The smell of sweat after a long, hard workout accompanied by a big sip of cold water. Its when adrenaline and endorphin are jumping around hand in hand. Indescribable high! 

# When an old friend calls and reminds you of a crazy time you'll shared together. The conversation begins with "remember the time when....." and end with stomach gripping laughter.

# When you find an old notebook and find little notes written on the last page of the book. Its particularly awesome when you find a conversation between you and a friend about the class bitch!

# A smudge-free, blotch-free stroke of my eyeliner on attempt number one. I always take a victory sip after that one. Sipping a drink while dressing up is one of my favorite things to do. 

# I have a series of car situations that I pray happen to me at least once in my life.
a) I turn on the car and have the ultimate dance number playing
b) I get 2 or more green traffic lights in a row
c) Get a parking spot right by the mall entrance. Awesome!!

# Your friend cracks you up and you laugh so hard that your beverage/food comes out of your nose. (thats an undisputed ROFL moment)

# When you feel a raw, unrestricted expression of love. Hugs so tight that you cant breath. When you have a 100000 things to say but all you want to do is just hug and let yourself feel it. 
Its always overwhelming when I see my dogs. I let them push me down and kiss me, lick me, scratch me as much as they want. Its when I hear them cry in happiness.

# Skip a meal and then go bonkers on the next meal. Place an order big enough to feed a village and smile innocently at the server. Such satisfaction!

# When a random stranger compliments you. No number of 'Facebook likes' are comparable to that feeling. Its particularly cool when this happens in a foreign land. Feels like acceptance wrapped in appreciation :) 

# When you are nearing the end of a book and plan to read it again just so you don't have to let go.

# You open your fridge to a bottle of Nutella and promise yourself to stop after one spoon.
Note: Make funny noises as you eat it...I promise it tastes better.

# After 10000 attempts of one dance step and you finally get it right. Aaahhhhh!!!....It makes you want to dance all night.

# Watch a chick flick and theres no one watching you. Its the perfect moment to bawl your eyes out with no judgement.

# The fragrance of mustard, curry leaves and red chilly popping in hot oil. Its like south India knocking on my door.

# Reciting every dialogue of Andaz Apna Apna scene by scene, shot by shot. (I even know the pauses.) I secretly judge people who dislike the movie or worse.....have never watched it. (WHAAAAT??)

# Finding an old picture of myself. When my fashion sense was a -2 on a scale of 1 to 10. When facial hair was the least of my worries. And when I waited a month for the film roll to be cleaned.

# Finding money I never knew was lost. What a fantabulous moment!

# Feeling greedy for the last few crumbs of Oman Chips! I'v torn multiple packets while trying to pick up every last bit of it. There is never enough Oman Chips in the world.

# Singing really really loud in your car like no one else exists. Its hilarious when you catch people staring at you at a traffic light. 

Thats my incomplete list of simple pleasures in life. 

The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters. - Audrey Hepburn

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Earth Connection 2

Well garnished and beautifully presented food at a restaurant hides the irresponsible story of food waste generated everyday. The scale of the problem is pretty huge and home composting is only a tiny step towards a responsible and sustainable life we all ought to live. 

Composting was traditionally done in large pits dug up in the backyard of a house. The day's wet waste was dumped into it along with dried leaves from the garden. At first, it sounded hectic and tedious. How could a large scale concept like composting be adoptable in our fast paced, space restricted lives? 

After some reading and research, I decided to start with a compost tumbler. Compost tumblers are widely used in western countries to manage organic waste. 

Yard Compost Tumbler
The key to successful composting is to get the right mix of greens and brown. Your kitchen waste makes up the green component and dried leaves, paper, sawdust etc makes up the brown. I tried different ratios of the 2 and finally got to the right mix. 

A plastic drum, aerated on all sides to allow ample oxygen for the compost pile to breath. I applied the logic and with my DIY enthusiasm made my 1st plastic composter. 

Attempt 1 :
I used a plastic bucket and punched holes in it for aeration.

Everyday, I segregated the kitchen and pooja waste in a box and put it into the composter along with dried leaves. 

In a weeks time I saw the bucket heat up quite a bit as the decomposition began. I noticed a lot of brown liquid discharge. Also known as leachate. About 80% of our organic waste is water which is discharged in the form of leachate during decomposition. 
Unlike western homes, we cook alot more. Over the next few weeks, it was difficult to manage the amount of liquid being secreted from the pile.

Our food and waste has a much higher water content than western homes. 
Right now we spend invaluable fuel to haul away nothing but gallons of water from our homes.  

Lesson learnt: Stop aping the west.   

Composter 1 and 2
Attempt 2:
I decided to move to a bigger composter. This time I pierced holes at the base too. This was easier to manage as better aeration made it a more pleasant experience. 

The composter was too big for me to mix the entire pile without assistance. 

Lesson learnt: Short people could tumble into tall composters.

Attempt 3:
 I came across a design for a teracotta ('baked earth' in Italian) composter. This product was perfect since Oman has a rich pottery heritage and culture. 
I got the pots made by an Omani potter with Omani clay making it a 100% local product. 
The 3 tiers separate the organic waste into 3 stages of decomposition. The pots are used in rotation making it easy to manage just enough waste in one pot at a time.

 The biggest advantage of this composter is the material it's made of. Terracotta by nature is a porous material that absorbs any liquid that it is in contact with. 

Excess leachate gets absorbed by the composter walls and the added aeration speeds up the process by 3 weeks.

Lesson learnt: Go back to the basics :)

These 2 composters were small and fit snugly in the corner of my backyard.

I got a little braver with my next set of composters and made them a little bigger in size. These composters were bigger, perfectly aerated and had a surprisingly pleasant smell. 
I gave 2 sets to my friends to try out and I painted mine myself. I named him my Green Bin. 
In bright yellow and green he stands proudly in my front porch composting our days organic waste into nutritious, beautiful black gold.
Photo credits: Guru Acharya
Reluctant model: Devang Sampat

So there....I finally brought home the perfect organic waste composter. It feels pretty awesome when I see my mother-in-law casually discard her used tea bags in the wet waste bin.  We are a family of green warriors taking baby steps towards sustainable living. 

I learnt a few tip and tricks along the way. Managing organic waste is now necessary and extremely fulfilling to me. I cant stop talking about how much I'm enjoying the experience and I'd like to share it with everyone I know. 

Composting is like tasting an ice cream for the 1st time in ur life. You can't explain the rush you feel unless you experience it yourself :) 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bollywood Saga

A part of being indian is the fact that Bollywood forms a big part of my life. I'v grown up watching comedy classics and dancing to Bollywood numbers at weddings. Not one family dinner conversation goes without a reference to Andaaz Apna Apna, Angoor or Golmaal.

For decades now indian movies have followed a thumb rule. Make everything appear larger than life. Bright colors, hunky actors, stunning actresses, dance, music, weddings, love, fights and everything else that makes our hearts race. Budgets of movies have now reached soaring heights resulting in Box office revenues like never before. 

Big budget movies with big returns. Theses movies are collectively called the '100 crore movies'. That amounts to $16,264,129 as per todays conversion rate!! Revenues of these movies are calculated in multiples of a 100 crores.

Theres got to be a reason how these movies do so well. A formula thats works time and again. A closer look at these movies and I noticed the similarities they share.

So here goes...10 points to make a 100 crore rupees.

1. An actor who has come to terms with the fact that his acting talent will not be utilized in the movie. He meets the prerequisites of good looks and sports six pack abs. He effortlessly delivers over confident dialogues written for his character.

2. An actress who dislikes the hero at first and then gets swept off her feet by his muscles that can tear his shirt when he flexes. A perfect village belle or a damsel in distress.

3. A script-writer who has mastered the skill of separating logic and intellect from a story. He needs to also have the added talent to add fart jokes to 'strengthen the script'.

4. A recently imported dancer, preferably from Eastern Europe or Russia, capable of lip syncing meaningless hindi lyrics. She's obviously more glamorous and provocative than the main actress and has an appropriately picked out name such as Munni, Laila, Chameli, Pinky, Sheila.

5. A song written and sung by the very talented YoYo (first name) Honey-Singh (last name). A song unfit to be sung/heard with kids around.

6. A director who can include gravity defying stunts in fights, songs and comedy. He's probably south indian, making it easier for him to understand the language of the movie he is replicating.

7.  At least a 100 background dancers, forced to suppress their skills to match the challenging belt movement steps finally mastered by the actor. For the extremely talented actors, choreographers have come up with synchronized cheek movement instead of steps.

8.  One main bafoon-ish villain with at least 10 south indian side kicks. They are brought in just to get beaten up by a hero half their size. As dark complexioned as possible, casted merely based on the size of their bellies.

9. A disclaimer that asks viewers to leave their brains at home. This is done because the director has gone through the effort of using his brains in school and understand the exhaustion it causes.

10. A well connected PR company that will make sure the cast is on the sets of every reality show on TV. The songs will be at clubs, on the radio, as ringtones and at every wedding Sangeet. There will come a point when you will catch yourself humming songs about Sheila's jawani while driving to work.

PS: If all the above points don't make enough of an impact, a false scandal ought to do it. So throw one of those in too.

This formula is then applied to an innocent viewer who  has been exposed to so much information about the movie 3 months prior to release. He feels like a social outcast for not watching the movie and then convinces himself that the movie deserves Rs 250 of his hard earned money.

Put them all together and you have a whopping 100 crore collection in the 1st week of the movies release!!

There you go.....10 rules to make a 100 crore rupees. This is what we should be taught at business schools.

My dad reminisces about Bollywood in the 70s. He calls them "my-time-movies". These movies are masterpieces with flawless direction by Hrishikesh Mukherji and Gulzar. Simple yet powerful acting by Amol Palekar, Uttpal Dutt and Sanjeev Kumar. They did what cinema today has forgotten. 4 actors, a strong script and a familiar background score. Thats all it took to make movies that I am blogging about 30 years after they's been released.  

Makes me really wonder what would happen if the movies from the 70s released now. Would their simplicity still strike us or are we all attuned to the '10 points to 100 Crores Formula' ?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Puppy Love

We look for similarities when we make friends. We seek out those who speak the same language, dress the same way, like the same places and eat the same food. 11 years ago I made an Omani (wadi dog) friend, Zappy.  I share none of these similarities with Zappy, yet she’s chosen me to be her soulmate.

Its been 11 years and she still runs up to me with the same excitement and affection as she did when she was a pup. She keeps our relationship fresh and fun.

Imagine a child fling her arms open when you enter your home. That's the joy Zappy fills me with. Moreover, her innocence and love are unchanging

Dogs fill a void in our personalities that we didn't know existed. Once you've lived with a pet, its hard to live without one around. Thats what led me to my gorgeous Diva. 

I brought her home when she was 40 days old. She's a pup from my cousin/friend’s dog. One from a litter of 10 absolutely heart-melting lab pups. I fell in love the moment I saw her. Diva was just too much cuteness packed into one little body.

Other than the colour of their coat, Zappy and Diva share no similarities at all.

 Zappy is cool, calm and collected. She is extremely affectionate but very choosy about who she shares her fondness with. She loves to be left alone. 

If Zappy was in high school, she'd be one of the cool kids.

Diva is one big fur ball of affection and excitement. One handful of food and she'd fall in love with anyone. She begs for attention and petting. She's unaware of how big she’s gotten and still tries to crawl up onto my lap.
Zappy taught me friendship, sensitivity, adaptation and above all companionship. 

Diva taught me to love unconditionally, enjoy every meal like its your last, and display childlike innocence even when you are a mother of 7!

Leaving Diva and moving to Muscat was one of the hardest things I've had to do. I wept for longer with her than I did at my actual Bidaai (post marriage farewell).

I'm sure she knew I was leaving...nothing else would justify all that overfeeding. 

On my next trip to India, Diva turned 3 and was pregnant! (yeah... she had some fun when I was away).  At 60 days she was ready to pop any minute. So, having no prior experience being a mid-wife, I made an appointment with a vet to take her in for delivery. I went to bed that night wondering if Diva even knew that she's pregnant. 

How could she know? She came to us when she was just 40 days old. She had never hung out with other pregnant dogs, never read a magazine or bought a copy of ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’. I figured she had no way of knowing what she’s going through. 

Over the past week, she had gained a fondness for mud and was digging up a hole in my garden. So I bathed her and got her ready to look presentable for the vet meeting

When I got back home that evening, she had made herself a seat in the hole she had dug up and had already delivered her 1st pup! 

She had spent the past 3 days digging up a hole to make an ideal space for child birth! I was so awed by this. Its unbelievable how nature works.

6 and a half hours and 7 pups later she finally fell into deep restful sleep . No fancy delivery room. No exasperated husband by her side. Just her innate smartness and an amateur midwife, me

First time mom and first time mid-wife . We looked at each other cluelessly and led each other through the process. This is a special bond I share with Diva and her pups. One that cant be compared with any other relationship.

She was way more lady-like than any woman I'v seen in the movies. She held her rat-like pups close to her and kept them warm all night.

The pups grew
well over the next few days. I had aspiring pet parents come in everyday.

We decided to keep one and give away the other pups to friends and family that we could visit and see the dogs grow up. 

Diva is a proud mother to Pepper, Aldo, Lara, Rani, Tyson, Bruno and Tiger.

Lara is a year old now and is a black beauty.  Diva steps aside and allows Lara to enjoy all the attention. My favorite mother-daughter duo in the world :)

Love, kindness, compassion and empathy are not emotions that can be taught. Experience the unconditional love your pets have to offer and you will slowly realize that they've
changed you forever

I've fallen
hard in Puppy Love and I know this affairs going to be one to remember.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Earth Connection

"Trees and humans are in an intimate relationship. What they exhale, we inhale, what we exhale they inhale. 
This is a constant relationship that nobody can afford to break or live without." Sadhguru 

How beautiful and simple is this quote and how easy is it to live our lives completely oblivious of its truth. 

We buy, We eat, We throw.
We buy more, We eat more, We throw more.

What we throw gets hauled away by municipal trucks, ending a short lived, meaningless food journey.

I needed to fix my relationship with nature and  make an earth connection. Like every other relationship, it demanded time and attention. A way to make both ends meet. A change of course, a quick and effective process...... a 'Jugaad'.

And so I started Composting. Or, watching food-waste break down into black gold.

I began segregating my daily household waste. My cook looked at me utterly confused as I separated each day's food waste from all the rest. Soon I realized that about 50% of my day's waste was compostable! 

I began with a measly 1kilo of kitchen waste a day. By the end of the month 60kilos of kitchen waste had turned into 8kilos of nutritious compost in my home! (Yaay!)

It took some convincing and a few attempts to figure out the right recipe and the right compost-er. But the effort paid off! The simplicity of composting is what makes it such an enjoyable experience. 

Theres so much written about composting but nothing comes close to the feeling of running your fingers through fresh, fully done compost. Ready Compost looks like black soil and smells like the earth after a drizzle. I created this soil myself!
"My whole life has been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God's presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that let's you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first compost heap "  -Bette Midler

Couldn't agree more.  Keeping all that food waste away from the landfills feels like a great achievement. My experience really brings home the point that sometimes small changes can make big impacts.

Like a mother with a newborn, I showed off my freshly made compost to friends and family. But then came the big question... "Now what do we do with this?"

Thats the fun part..... Time to grow and nourish!

I used my 1st load of compost to grow herbs (Since they are fairly easy to grow). 
Basil to be specific. 

The quick success of my 1st crop brought home some delicious homemade pesto!

 My next crop was tomato. Completely organic tomatoes. 
Nourished with homemade compost.

From Buy, Eat, Throw I'v made a change of course to... Grow some, Eat Fresh, Compost everything I can. Making a successful Earth Connection.

More on veggies, greens and a lot more Compost (to be continued...)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dancing to my Tunes


Prayer, pleasure, happiness, grace, speed, precision, science, math, art, exercise, beauty, respect, love.

Imagine every one of these emotions drift by you in 2 seconds. That's what dance feels like to me. I'm humbled by the capabilities a person can push himself to with discipline. Married to an athlete, I understand the amount of love and dedication it requires to keep our body going. I think of my body as a stubborn little child. Hungry for food, lazy to move around, longing for pampering and being forced to be something she never wants to be (thin!)

Body image today has done nothing but make us hate the way we are. It forces us to ignore the heart and becomes slaves of fashion magazines and movies.
The only one word that truly defines the person I am - Dancer. I love the physical exertion, the seductive eyes and the dialogue I share with God with every muscle in my body. Those 5 minutes and nothing else make me feel like the woman that I truly am. We as humans love to be appreciated. Dance lets me experience that in people's eyes. The growth of a girl into a woman is sketched out so beautifully in every form of dance.

Art and artists for generations have appreciated women in their most curvaceous forms. A dancer uses her eyes to engage, fingers to describe, torso  to emote and hips to communicate. Every artist has tried to capture the very essence of a woman through painting, music and dance. How has body image managed to ruin the true beauty of a woman and driven her to believe that 'size Zero' is the route to ultimate happiness.

I will live my life in gratitude and thankfulness to my parents for having introduced me to a beautiful life of a dancer. The best gift a mother gives her child is the art to love herself. My mom truly defined that for me.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hungry Traveller

New cultures, new people, new sights and smells. The overwhelming feeling of discovering something for the first time. Every journey leaves me more enriched  and simultaneously empty with a longing for another discovery. Are we really as different as we claim we are? Cultures lay the same ground rules in every land. Music gets our hearts pacing, dance transcends language barriers and brings of all together as one. Food in a very subtle and understated way that connects us to the chef, culture, love and warmth of the place.

How different we think we are with just a few man made boundaries is surprising.

I luv the blend of languages, history, food and dressing in every place that I visit. The world only seems to get bigger as I race against life itself to see every corner of the world. I guess this is what really defines the world having no corners.

How different is my Dodamma (aunt) from the fat Brazilian lady (I imagine) who cooked my Maqueqa. Or how different is my mother from the loving lady I met on the streets of Nathdwara. The happiness on an Italian restauranteur's face in London reminded me of my dads love to feed the entire world.

My dad once said that nature is something that could be absolutely stunning to one and ridiculously boring to another.

Every traveler gets out on a journey looking for something. I would like to believe that I'm nothing but a hungry traveller. I luv how lost I am without a map. How clueless I am of how much my money can buy. How dumb I look to people by my inherent Indianess and dressing. How exciting street food feels to me. And how I need to fill up the emptiness in me with another journey.