Back to Europe

Three months have lapsed since I was here. I had thought that when I would be back it would feel like an eternity. It should feel like an eternity. I’ve been through so much in these 3 months. My life has been turned upside down. I’ve had a surgery, been beaten up (over a parking issue!) and been through an emotional roller coaster ride. I released my first ever group choreography and shed tears when it was received brilliantly. But it feels like it was just yesterday that I was walking across the streets of Europe to find an open restaurant at 10 pm at night, trying to find the best possible route to class, cleaning the house and washroom myself, trying not to get lost (!), trying to find people who speak english (for the love of god!) and – trying not to look like an idiot.

That, honestly, is the biggest struggle. As an Indian you are brought up to believe that  the white race is superior. Every time that a white woman/man was spotted on the streets of a small town, the crowds would ogle them shamelessly as though they were aliens. I was a part of that crowd. I saw the firangs as people who belonged to a completely different world. When I was a kid and lived in a small town called Kashipur (a little away from Ramnagar), an american couple were brought home by my cousin uncle (we were a family of show-offs. Apparently he promised he would tell them everything they needed to know. He knew zilch, btw) and my god it was like Radha-Krishna had entered our home. Every single resource was devoted to making them comfortable. My entire family turned into Indian historians. I, too, was quite overwhelmed. I stood there like a darbaan waiting to salute them when they left. And that’s what I did.

Anyway, the point is that that experience is still very vivid in my mind. Out of all the extraordinary experiences I may have had as a child, this is one of the very few that is still as clear as it gets. The only reason being that we were noticed by foreigners. Wow, isn’t that a big thing.

That is the reason why the possibility of making a fool out of myself infront of these posh, highly sophisticated breed of homo sapiens causes me extreme anxiety. Having a cup of coffee in a cafe can sap me of all my energy. What if I pronounce ‘cappuccino’ wrong? What if I enter the cafe and then they tell me that it is already closed? Won’t I look like such a fool then? What if the owner/waiter doesn’t know english? What if I don’t like what I order? Would it be okay if I left it untouched? Would they think I’m insulting them by not liking their food? – are just some of the thoughts that go through my head when I undertake the simple task of ordering a cup of coffee. There is a plethora of other things of course – accidentally walking on the cyclists lane, not knowing whether or not it’s okay to cross the road even when there is no zebra crossing, not knowing where to buy the train/tram/bus ticket, not knowing how to buy the train/tram/bus ticket, not knowing whether to place an order in a restaurant at the counter or at the table, not knowing whether to settle the bill at the counter or at the table, whether to say “take away” or “to go” when getting food packed, not knowing if it would be okay to pee after 10:30 at night or the neighbor might call the police for making noise etc.

Yes, living in Europe is a struggle for Indians. Especially a lazy and lost Indian like me. Makes me realize how many things we take for granted in our country. Today, I went to a mobile store to buy a local pre-paid sim. I had to wait an hour before that guy could attend to me because he was attending to another customer. Had it been India I would have made an angry remark and got the job done in 10 minutes.

Despite my struggles though, I feel like I manage myself reasonably okay when I’m here. I wash my clothes on time and manage to put some food in my stomach. Sure, sometimes I have to eat utter garbage in the name of “vegetarian food”, but that’s when I thank the lord that I know how to cook and for Indian restaurants. I manage to figure out the public transport system and the lanes/streets (One thing I can never figure out is the lock system here. True story – I always forget which way to turn the key to open the door) Most importantly though – it keeps me on my toes all the time. I’m in zero chill mode in Europe.

I like being in the hustle mode. It gives me a sense of purpose and direction. It helps me overcome a lot of challenges. It isn’t always a party though; being alone all the time can get to anyone – but that’s why I hustle harder, so that it doesn’t overwhelm me. More than anything else – I get to focus on and explore dance to the fullest, which is what I live for.

This trip has been a rush so far. I went to Brussells for two days and now I’m in Berlin for a couple of days, followed by a yet undecided destination for a few days and finally to Amsterdam. No enjoyment anywhere though – just auditions, auditions, auditions!

 

When being a vegetarian was a curse

Being a vegetarian is the new ‘cool’, isn’t it? Apparently the phenomenon isn’t yet global – as seen during my recent trip to Singapore. Now, Singapore is an amazing place. I loved the landscapes, the organized neighborhoods and the amazing amalgamation of culture and technology. But, and this is a pretty heavy ‘but’ (soaked in the syrup of doubt, panic and survival instincts), if you are a vegetarian and want food after 10:30 in the night, you will have to suck it up and sleep on biscuits, my friend.

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Now, there are plenty of Indian restaurants in Singapore. I’m sure there are some that are open late in the night too. But it’s like trying to look for a needle in the haystack in the middle of the night. Forget Indian food, vegetarian food is like an endangered species on that island. I mean, you are visiting for a couple of days and are staying in a hotel. After fiddling around with your Singapore guide map for hours and trying your best to get a simple request across to the Singlish speaking staff in the hotel, you finally manage to find a vegetarian (and hopefully, Indian) restaurant somewhere, but by that time, you are so hungry and tired that the additional 1 hour journey seems like Dandi March in slow motion that just isn’t worth it.

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Key point here being – accessibility. Yes, Indian and vegetarian restaurants are scattered across the island, but they aren’t even 1% as accessible as the local hawker centres that are almost within a km of each other and are open till 3 am in the morning. They’re like chowpatties in Mumbai, minus the eatable food. What do they offer? Seafood and it’s pungent (=disgusting) smell that looms over double the radius of the actual centre. Crabs, prawns, fish, lobsters, shrimps, frogs (?!?!?!?!) are all fair game as far as food is concerned. Mind you, I don’t mean to offend any culture, I just find it hard to imagine for someone to be salivating over a crab or frog. FYI, frog porridge is a very famous delicacy of the streets of Singapore. [Insert poker face emoji]

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So having converted to vegetarianism a decade back, and lived in Delhi for almost 8 years now where my midnight cravings have always opened up a vista of possibilities, (=drawer full of home delivery menus) being a vegetarian and a midnight muncher in Singapore combined to put me through my worst nightmare.

The room service menu was extensive, the veg options however, were limited to an eggplant (baigan) sandwich and garden salad – for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes, true story. The only veg option the buffet had to offer was the smallest version of the Samosa that you could ever come across, presented on a table like it was some exotic delicacy. There was also pasta in white sauce, which the staff weren’t sure contained beef or not. Usually I love risks, but I abstained from this one.

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Thankfully though, Singapore has a lot of South Indians and consequently South Indian joints. We were lucky enough to be staying in a hotel right next to one. Thankfully for them the term ‘vegetarian’ didn’t also cover chicken and fish. The only minute problem with them was that they spoke only and only Malay, so communicating with them was as hard as watching a local wolfing down a huge crab. So finding another Indian joint elsewhere, without doing a 101 course in Malay first, was out of the question. So we travelled all the way from Changi to Downtown to Marina Bay to Singapore Zoo and then came back and had Masala Dosa at that South Indian joint at 2 in the morning.

And I simply could not understand their obsession with eggplant. Anything vegetarian had to have eggplant in it – eggplant in sandwiches, as pizza toppings, in pasta, heck even in the samosa filling! I have not had as much baigan as I did in these seven days in my entire life. Who the hell likes baigan anyway?

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Clearly, this part of Asia is still way behind on catching up on the vegetarian trend. While the ability to eat anything that moves on four legs is a handy survival instinct, I think in an apocalyptic situation, the thought of eating frog porridge will kill me before the actual apocalypse.

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Reasons I could get married to a pizza

I had always thought that sleeping was my first and true love. I have happily indulged in over-sleeping for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, sleeping in was something that I dreamed about doing for the rest of my life. I didn’t think anything could beat my love for sleeping. But then, pizza came along and everything changed. It happens to the best of us doesn’t it? We all feel our first relationship is going to be our last, that we will never be able to love someone else as much and notions like ‘first love is true love’ is our mantra. However, as life progresses and we grow up, we realize that’s not true. I, too, have come to a similar realization. Although sleep will always be my first love, pizza is something I can get married to – because that’s how much I love pizza.

1) I can never have enough pizza

Now, really, can you? No matter what kind of pizza it is – simple margherita, loaded with vegetables or just garlic, I will gulp it down like my life depends on it. I love every single type of pizza (in the vegetarian category of course) – but if the world was about to end and all the plants were dead, I would have a chicken pizza too. Survival instincts bro.

 

2) It’s the ultimate depression food

Apart from chocolate cake, pizza is my go-to food item every time I feel low. The cheese and the crust are enough to take my mind off my issues for a while. So who doesn’t want a little bit of escapism in their lives? Besides, eating makes you feel sleepy, so you can doze off right after that blissful moment.

3) It’s available easily!

Yes! There are so many pizza outlets out there that it seems like the world will never run out of pizza. There is dominoes, pizza hut, pizza square, pizza corner, chicago pizza, slice of italy, pino’s and many many more. What else do you need to consider a place heaven? Every time you crave food, all you have to do is call your nearest pizza unit and you will be gifted with a delight within half an hour. All other cuisines are not as widely available and/or do not have home delivery service available. Pizza is the king, yo.

4) Cold pizza is just as yummy

If I don’t finish the entire pizza in one night, I just pop in the fridge and eat it for the breakfast the next day. That saves my entire household machinery time, energy and money to make appropriate breakfast for me and I don’t complain either. So everyone’s happy. Plus cold pizza tastes awesome in the morning.

5) Pizza can be made pretty quickly with a few handy ingredients

You don’t necessarily need to make a dough and the perfect toppings to make pizza. You can just use regular bread and use your leftover food like paneer, salads, chopped up carrots and even leftover maggi as toppings, and you will still get a delicious pizza. That’s the beauty of pizza – when it’s excellent, it’s excellent and when it’s average, it’s still pretty damn good!

6) Luna Lovegood loves Pizza

Luna Lovegood is my idol. She is someone who genuinely doesn’t give a fuck about what people think about her. And she loves pizza! How do I know this? Well, prove that she doesn’t 😉 And when two of my favorites are combined, what do you get? Yes, a spot on my list!

That was quite random. Well, I’m sleepy.

7) It’s cheap!

Yep, anyone can afford it. It’s the cheapest food there is, apart from vada paav. So if one day you get robbed of your money, have very little left and are hungry, you can still afford a pizza. Pizza doesn’t discriminate. Pizza is for everyone.

And that’s it! If you’re a pizza lover like me, then you’re awesome. If, for some reason, you don’t like pizza, then you have some serious issues, my friend.

 

Sweetest movie of the year

English Vinglish. It has to be the simplest yet the most beautiful film made this year. I had watched it in the theaters twice but I recently also bought the DVD. Watching it alone without any human presence interfering with my attention made me enjoy it even more. I guess that’s probably because you’re not really worried about time and space at home. You can simply slump in your couch, hang your legs in the air and watch a film. Only suspense and horror films should be watched in a theater.

Anyway, what I love about English Vinglish is that it’s completely unpretentious. It doesn’t try to emotionally manipulate you or try to deliver any strong moral message. It’s a slice of life film where the protagonist could might as well be either you or me. How many times have we come across a relative who really struggles with english and yearns to speak it well? Probably many times. It’s unfortunate that an alien language has become such a major yardstick to judge someone’s personality in our nation now. After all, English is but a foreign language just like Chinese or French or Italian, albeit spoken and accepted more widely. Shashi is a middle class Maharashtrian house wife who, despite being the best mother and the best wife one could hope for, still endures a lot of disrespect (dished out to her by her own family members) due to her lack of english speaking skills. She is also an entrepreneur as she is equivalent to a laddoo manufacturing plant (delicious ones at that) but she is not respected for that endeavor either. Fed up and infuriated by their behavior, she sets out to learn english and prove them wrong.

The film itself is like a breath of fresh air that leaves you with a huge smile on your face. Nobody’s a villain here. The husband is not evil, he is simply someone who has fallen prey to the same superficial culture. He doesn’t respect his wife and consequently nor does the daughter. They both do love her, but they don’t value her. She eventually does earn that respect and it’s a heartwarming moment. Shashi is a character one roots for. She may not be heroic but she’s a hero nonetheless. It is the small things that eventually matter, after all.

Sridevi has always been a favorite. Chaalbaaz, Mr. India, Sadma and Lamhe are amazing films. She, along with Madhuri Dixit, are the only two female superstars that India has ever seen. She still commands attention. She completely embodied Shashi. Not once did the shadow of the superstar she had once been cross her eyes. She made Shashi’s turmoil and eventual happiness both equally identifiable. When I watched it in the theater, people clapped when her name came on the screen in the beginning. I must add here that 2012 has been the year of the ladies. Vidya Balan, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor (although ‘Heroine’ was a pile of unadulterated horseshit) and Sridevi. All the men can go take a hike now.

Everyone else in the cast was equally good. Special mention to Mehdi Nebbou, oof! what a cutie! Uske saath mera dil bhi toot gaya 😦 His relationship with Shashi, pure friendship yet bordering on something more, was poignant. Special mention to Priya Anand, the actress who played Radha. Her character was Shashi’s true friend, the one who supported her throughout her road to self-fulfillment.

Out of the songs, Navrai Majhi is my favorite and always makes me happy. Cinematography is so beautiful that I wanted to board the next plane to US and stay their forever. The cameo by Amitabh was totally FTW! It was a little OTT but heck, who cares. The man was kickass and I loved every bit of it (Band karo yeh gober!!)

I think everyone should watch this film, if you have no reason to watch it, just watch it to feel good about yourself. You are the way you are. Love yourself and everything about yourself. Or just watch it for Sridevi *shrugs* Gauri Shinde is a winner all the way. She’s a very sensitive person and it shows. May you direct many more films!

P.S – Sridevi’s voice is still a bit jarring though. Add to that all the surgeries she’s underwent. Why do people do this to themselves? :scratches head:

Time to read more recipes

I already have a blog on blogger but I’m by and large bored of it. I feel totally uninspired to write anything there and I feel guilty for letting it rot like a peel of an old banana. Yesterday, I was trying to upload a new image to my mom’s blog, but it kept giving me an error: Unable to create directory uploads. Is the parent directory writable by the server? and I didn’t have a galleon’s worth of knowledge about that. I tried to figure it out but ended up getting frustrated with wordpress.org. Then I realized that wordpress.com is a much better option if you’re not as tech savvy as I am. (If someone has a solution then I’d be happy to read it. Thanks)

So I made this blog just for fun and I’m writing this post out of pure boredom. I’ve been watching a lot of recipe videos lately and I must say that I’ve started acknowledging myself as an amateur chef (and I claim to be the best chef in the world infront of my best friend) But yes, I’ve realized that there definitely is joy in baking. It makes you feel liberated and empowered, in some inexplicable way. Thanks to Stephanie Jowarski from joyofbaking.com, who has some very useful and interesting tips to share on the art of baking, chances that I’m going to end up baking a pan of goo instead of a cake are quite less.

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I subscribed to a lot of other amazing bakers and chefs on youtube. Everyone had a different way of doing the same thing, and it’s amazing how everything about food can be changed and molded according to one’s personal tastes. No other science or art offers that kind of liberty. Yes, not even physics, which used to be my obsession at one point of time.

After educating myself in the nuances of the art of cooking, I ventured into this magical field of creation and invention myself. When I made my first ever pizza (along with the dough), I was stupid enough to not bake the dough first, so my pizza ended up raw on the upper side. I tried to make amends but what was done was done. I didn’t want to feel like a loser so I ate half of it and kept the other half for the street dogs. Trust me, it tasted good. But at the same time I ate it at my own risk, because it could potentially give me a terrible stomach ache and some other undesirable problems too.

Anyway, the next time I made it I kept that in mind and it turned out to be pretty awesome. My second experiment was a success and I didn’t have to go through the dreadful phase of feeling like a loser. I made baked vegetables with cheese. My cousin and I gulped it down in seconds. Butter makes everything taste perfect. What an invention.

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After that I also made chocolate ganache, caramel sauce and peanut butter frosting. Thankfully they all turned out to be good except the fact that my caramel sauce was slightly (minuscule) bitter. My sugar is usually the correct shade of amber before I add my cream, I have no idea how it gets burnt. Perhaps I need to start using a non-stick pan.

On a random note, I’ve also been watching a lot of random bollywood dance videos of random people on Youtube. It’s escapism in it’s purest form. Sangeet videos, farewell videos, shaadi videos, engagement videos, baby shower videos, birthday videos bla bla bla. The best part is you can have a blast and then leave a really harsh comment (LOLWA) I know I should probably be watching ballet and contemporary videos, but hell, it’s hard to resist entertainment of this degree. Govinda dance videos used to be my favorite a couple of years back (Husn hai suhana anyone?)

But now, these random videos are my favorite hands down. Try this:

Finally, now that my wretched exams are over, it’s time to start trolling in the kitchen again and try something different. I want to try Shahi Paneer with Kaju gravy and Badaam ki Phirni next time. Let’s see how that turns out.