Come, lets share a story.

 

Come, tell me a story

When I was a young girl, I found it difficult to wrap my head around short stories. Stories which show a slice of life – the ones which have an open ending, where too much gets built up but too little gets solved. I couldn’t comprehend what happens next. May be life’s experiences were inadequate to make any sense of it on my own. But as years passed and I got married, became a mother, switched jobs and got a career, these open ended stories became fascinating. I could read, draw on my beliefs and conclude in any way that felt right at that moment. I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies once as a girl of 14 and now as a woman of 30 and they appear as entirely different stories to me. I distinctly recall thinking at 14 – why did the death of an unborn child lead to dissolution of a marriage? Why is the heroine of the story so upset that her husband and she don’t talk at dinner anymore? And so on. Seemingly simple stories, but I couldn’t understand the complexity of relationships and hence stayed away from that genre of stories. I preferred novels where you (mostly) know what happens in the end.

But now suddenly it feels as if the world has opened up. I have become hooked on to Sadat Hassan Manto, Ismat Chugtai, Gulzar saab. What beautiful people they portray. When I read those stories, it feels as if I walk into a party, talk to a dozen people. Intimate conversations about whatever is happening in their life right now, silently record it in my subconscious and then walk away with that knowledge. And then never see each other again. But that fragment of their life is lodged in me forever now, to draw on from them. For  inspiration and for comfort.

At the Goa Project in February, there was one session on storytelling. The conductor of the session Deeptha asked us to turn towards the person sitting next to us and tell each other a story for the next 5 minutes. How we came here in Goa, what is happening in our life as of now etc. I was meeting the girl sitting next to me for the first time but I don’t know if it was the anonymity of the situation or the human need to be heard, but I found myself telling her how it has been a difficult one year since the birth of my child. How it was the first time I had left him overnight and how I missed my boy terribly, but I was so glad for the two day break, I was going nuts. And in turn she told me that they are thinking of having a kid, but it feels like an enormous price to pay for freedom. Her husband wants a child and she is not so sure, and its complicated. The two of us sitting there reached a kind of meditative understanding of each other, we were like two sides of the same coin. I touched her hand assuringly to say that I know how she feels. And then that was it. Our five minutes were up.

Of course, there is Facebook now and we are friends there, but somewhere it feels that the sacredness of our stories is best preserved untouched. As if I read a page of her diary and she read mine. I don’t need to know what happens in her life later on, I don’t have more to offer but those 5 minutes were ours to share.

Last night we went to hear Naseeruddin Shah dramatically narrate Ismat Chugtai’s poignant stories. Stories of women set in the 1950s. One that haunted me in my dreams was titled Chui-Mui (Touch-me-Not). The narrators’ bhabhijaan is unable to deliver a child even after conceiving three times, and on a train journey they witness a peasant woman give birth in the train compartment unassisted and goes about to do her work and clean the mess as if it was routine for her. I have gone through childbirth and it literally feels as if a truck hit you. My mom took care of my and my newborn for 40 days after that and this peasant woman did not even have another pair of hands to cut the umbilical cord. I shuddered but thanked god for the support I had. Stories are meant to do that. Touch a raw nerve and soothe at the same time. To heal that which we didn’t think needs healing.

So next time if you meet me and I skip talking about the weather and the flood-drought situation and ask you something more personal, I promise I will share my own story too. Because as Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

May you have many stories to tell and many hearts to hold them.

Love,

Rutvika

 

 

Cherry Cream Cheese Pound cake

Cherry Cream Cheese Pound cake!

 

Cream Cheese pound cake with cherries

Everything about this cake sounds dreamy. It is an indulgent affair and not for the whole-wheat-carrot-cake type of a day.

Pound Cakes are heavy. With so many eggs in them they can be filling. But so delicious and creamy. And add some cream cheese in the mix, you have a delectable buttery, cheesy cake. The mild tartness of the cherries goes very well with the cake and makes it very flavourful.

Cherries are in season right now, and I must have used about 40-50 un-pitted cherries on top of the cake I love how that looks. My little baby boy Arjun helped me make the decoration and gave me one cherry at a time while I placed it on the cake. Loved doing that.

This cake serves 8, has to be sliced thinly while serving. Perhaps with a cup of coffee, like the French.

Cherry Pound cake

Cherry Cream Cheese Pound Cake

What you will need:

  • 3 cups maida – all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 220 gram cream cheese, I use D’lecta
  • 2 and 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 large eggs

Cream Cheese Chocolate Frosting

  • 125 gram cream cheese, cold
  • 50 gram Amul butter
  • 300 grams icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • Fresh cherries for decoration

What to do :

  1. For the cake, sift the all purpose flour + baking powder + baking soda and keep it aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk room temperature butter and cream cheese together, add vanilla extract.
  3. Now add granulated sugar and whisk.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking till it gets fully incorporated.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 180C.
  6. Line two 8 inch pans with a parchment paper at the bottom and butter and flour the sides.
  7. Pour the prepared batter in the pans and bake in a pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the pan and let the cakes cool completely before frosting.
  9. To make the frosting, take all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk till it comes together to form a smooth frosting.
  10. Place one cake on a plate or a wooden board, frost it lightly and then place the second cake on top. Again frost the sides lightly, scraping of any excess frosting.
  11. Put about 1/4 cup of frosting on top of the cake and spread evenly.
  12. Put the cake int he fridge for 10 minutes so that the frosting sets a bit before placing the cherries on top.

Cherry pound cake slice

Notes :

  • If you live in a hot humid place, it is better to keep the cake in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature for half hour before serving.
  • The mild cocoa flavour in the frosting helps balance the cheesy frosting.
  • The pound cake recipe is taken from Joy of Baking

The road less travelled

Rutvika on a scooter

Riding a scooter on the pot-holed Mumbai roads

Like any other teenager, I was very excited to learn to drive. Two months before turning 18, I got the learners licence. And there it began. Countless number of hours spent behind the wheel, trying to look at the road, keep the car steady and simultaneously change the gear depending on the speed. We had Maruti Omni then, that famous kidnap car from Bollywood movies. It had no bonnet and the driver sat exactly on top of the front wheels. I loved that car, it was easier for me to gauge the vehicles in front of me and I believed that it is responsibility of other drivers to not come and bump me from the rear end, which was very long considering that it was a van type of a car.

I took insane hours of lessons to learn driving. First it was the motor training school. The driving school cars have two sets of brakes and clutch etc. So driving that car during those lessons was a breeze. I only had to control the steering wheel and go left or right when and as the teacher said. And perhaps brake as an afterthought because it was he who actually controlled the car. During the driving exam, two months later, all they asked us to do was start the engine and drive 20 feet in a straight line. Even an eight year old can do it, and needless to say I passed the exam and got the driving license.

I was elated. Little did I know that driving a training school car and an actual car are entirely different things.

The first day in our car, the Maruti Omni, the engine stalled every single time I tried to change the gear from first to second. Or if someone was crossing the road and I stopped, I could never get back in motion without the engine shutting down. It was almost as if it was dissuading me from driving. But I was persistent. Rather my dad was persistent and persuasive . He spent several weekend mornings taking me out to drive and it always ended with me crying on the way back and not talking to him for the rest of the day because A) humiliation and B) realisation that I still can’t drive. Every time I had to change the gear I had to look down at the stick shaft and wonder where 1-2-3-4 is. And every-time I pressed the clutch, the car jumped in terror.

After several weeks of this ritual, my dad hired another guy to teach me to drive our own car, one Mr.Godbole. He was a patient man, and after two more months and a several thousand rupee fee, I could finally drive. My heart still pounded wildly every time I was in the drivers seat and I sat as if ready to jump out any minute if something went wrong. Nevertheless, I ferried my family to and fro from short distances and once even drove 2 hours to Esselworld through murderous traffic. That was the high point of my driving stint.

For years before that I was riding my cycle to school and already knew how to balance a two wheeler. The lovely little Scooty Pep came easily to me and and I would vroom through the streets of my suburban Mumbai. Even now, I put my baby in the baby carrier and off we go to the park on the Honda Activa. So I have some traffic sense, right?!

But the car. That’s a different story.

About six months after I learnt to drive, my father replaced the van with the smaller Maruti 800 so that I can drive it easily.

My cousin and I drove to the movie theatre one night and while coming back, at a right turn to get on to a flyover, the car stalled. I couldn’t get the car to turn on and move forward. Traffic started piling up behind me and people started honking. I got very nervous. I revved the engine, kept my foot on the clutch and willed it to move forward. In all this commotion I forgot to look on my right and an oncoming truck hit the bonnet of my car and drove away without a pause. The bonnet opened up like the mouth of a crocodile, we banged our heads against the roof of the car but thankfully we were alive and mostly unhurt. We silently drove back home, now wondering about how to tell this to dad. Short tempered that he was, he was also very scared for the safety of his children. And the extra expenditure to get the car fixed. All in all, it was a terrible situation.

We went home, and told my mom about what happened. She has always been the cushion between dad and us. We use her a medium to tell things to dad when we lack the guts. All of us went to sleep and the next morning she told dad.

He immediately went down to the parking lot, examined the car and came up seething and obviously quite upset. For the next 2 hours (or was it 10?), I was grilled about how the accident really happened and how was I so stupid to drive this way etc. Regular stuff which parents say to their kids.

But again I was terribly upset. A) because of humiliation and B) realisation that I can’t really drive. The angsty teenager that I was, I vowed never to drive dad’s car again.

The car was fixed and we used it for a couple years more, but I never got behind the drivers seat again.

My husband now wants me to learn to drive again.

I say, ‘not today’. And tomorrow never comes.

Faithfully,

Rutvika

An extended version of this post appeared on DirtyandThirty.com

Travelling with a baby – Dehradun Mussourie

Thankfully for us, baby boy Arjun loves travelling. His first trip was to Jaipur when he was 6 months old , and he was still breastfed. We nursed everywhere, the sweltering Jaipur heat of June did not deter us from going anywhere. Anytime he was hungry/ thirst/ cranky/ bored/ sleepy, we would find a quiet little corner and nursed. He was a happy camper.

Then when he was 10 months old, we went to California. Just little baby and me. It was a long journey, 28 hours since we left home before we reached Akshay’s aunt’s house in San Jose. I was slightly nervous before going, all alone on such a long journey. All three of us were supposed to go together, but Akshay couldn’t make it due to some work commitment. I wanted to go. And we did. The saving grace was that Arjun was still nursing. I did not have to carry any bottles or formula, no sterilisation and hence less luggage. With just 14 kgs in the suitcase, a baby backpack with essential things for the travel and my baby wear with Arjun in it, we were set. I must have nursed him 20 times in 28 hours. Whenevr he started crying, I would feed him. It worked like magic, let me tell you. When we were getting down, a woman seated further back said that she did not know a baby was on board! Woohoo, we were that good. Did not give any non-baby people on board to complain about a shrieking, kicking baby.

Then just a month later we went to Kerela, all of us. Arjun’s grandparents, uncle, aunt and an year older cousin Sara. There, the kids discovered the joy of swimming or rather splashing in a pool and then in the ocean near Varkala.  I realised that babies are happiest outdoors. Perhaps because mom and dad are giving them full attention. Not working, not reading, not cooking. Just paying attention to them, and they seem to thrive on it.

When Arjun turned a year old, the very next day he stopped breastfeeding. I could do nothing to convince him to end his feeding strike and soon I realised he had said bye-bye to this one year BF journey forever. I was shattered, but more about that some other time. The conclusion : He was a toddler now and did not want momma’s milk. He was better off with spicy dosas and roti-sabzi and dal-rice. Well, so be it.

Now when we were going to Dehradun-Mussourie in mid-April, our biggest concern was to keep him well fed and hydrated in the trip. His stomach is tiny and he has several little meals every day, almost as if all of his waking hours we are either giving him something to eat or thinking of what he could eat next. But he surprised us. Ate anything we gave him. Started with KFC chicken popcorn, bhindi sabzi in the Jet Airways flight, different types of pastries at clock tower Dehradun, maggi and momos at Gucchu-paani, roasted corn and boiled eggs in Mussourie mall road, spicy dumplings at Kalsang, the chocolate milkshake at Chic’s and of-course the delectable Fortune savoy breakfast spread. He literally ate everything from all the road-side cafes and survived well. (Touchwood:) ).

My wonderful friends from Chef At Large FB group helped me with everything that we should and could do and eat in Dehradun and Mussourie and you can read about it here.

Dehradun

Dehradun was super hot, but this place called Robbers Cave or Gucchu paani (top-left), stole our heart. The locals say it doesnt have the charisma it used to earlier, but we loved walking through the water filled cave. Then we went to Mindrolling monastery and the cool and peacefully calm monastery felt as if we had been transorted to another era altogether. Bottom right is the Tapkeshwar temple, where there is a continuous stream of water trickling down on the shivling. Pretty interesting. And bottom left, a few people were playing this game outside the moastery. Anyone knows what it is?

Mussourie

On the other hand, Mussourie was cool and so gorgeous! We stayed at Hotel Fortune Savoy, and it has the most scenic layout. (bottom right). The Kalsang in Mussourie mall road offers some of the best dumplings and noodles and baby boy and us gorged on some super spicy momos in garlic gravy. These prams or strollers are available for rent on the mall road and it saved us a lotof backache. Up and down the street, for 100 rupees an hour. And then there were the hand-drawn cycle rickshaws which navigate the narrow streets and hordes of tourists.

Landour, some 1000 ft above Mussourie, is quaint little town. Dotted with boarding schools and a handful shops, it is less touristy and greener than Mussourie. The highlight was a newly opened pub and cafe ‘The Stray Dog’.

The Stray Dog Landour.jpg

The Stray Dog Pub and Cafe, Landour

You will not believe when I tell you that in Mussourie and Dehradun we landed up in bakeries run by Le Cordon Bleu graduates. Totally coincidental. we had no idea about the LCB connection till we went into the bakeries. Needless to say, they were quite wesome.

 

Bake Masters Dehradun

Bake Masters in Dehradun by Namanraj Singh Jolly from LCB Australia

landour Bakehouse

Landour Bakehouse by Veena Picardo from Mumbai

All in all, it was a wonderful albeit tiring trip. I read somewhere – ‘Vacation with a toddler is not a vacation, just a change of location’. Couldnt agree more. Most of the time we were running around Arjun, worrying about what to feed him next and stopping him from pulling and pushing random stuff. But he is quite a cooperative baby. And is always open to new things.

I would love to hear any recommendtions about places to travel with kids. And to-dos and dont’s. Drop me a line:)

Arjun in back babywear

Have fun and cheers!

Rutvika

First Baking Workshop!

Baking workshop

Yesterday was my first baking class. I taught the tart making technique and apple and orange tart to a group of friends. I was very nervous in the beginning. There were six girls and having six pairs of eyes focussed on you is daunting. I fumbled, couldn’t crack an egg neatly, spilt sugar on the counter and certainly couldn’t look at anyone. But all of them were really supportive and within a few minutes I was relaxed.

Making the tart dough and kneading it without letting the butter melt is a tricky business. But I still wanted to give all of then a feel of sablage – the French technique of pressing down the dough to make it look like sand. So we did it quickly, the Mumbai heat was unsparring, but we worked our way around. I have had no prior experience in teaching. Really, the last time I tried to teach anyone anything was my brother and he fled to the US. But I wanted to show tart making to a very hardworking and talented baker friend Rucha, and it was about time I broadened my horizons, so this class happened.

Apple tart

As I have a little toddler who is sometimes wary of strangers, I was worried that he might start hollering and I will have to leave everything and sit with him. But he was very well behaved. And looked forward to eating some cake. And this baking class wouldn’t have happened without the awesome support of my in-laws. They are pretty much the best.:)

Orange tart

Ok that was my little thank you speech, but thank you all so much. For showing belief that I could do it and for forgiving the little things that went awry.

This was not a paid class and it was strictly for friends who I knew outside of social media. In my own home.

But who knows if this might become a regular feature, a proper class in a proper venue. I am yet to figure that out.

Happy Baking!

Cheers.

Rutvika

P.S : Links similar to what was taught in the class –

Pear Tart

Orange Tart

Palak and Cheese Kofta Curry

Koftas in curry

A few years back, cooking classes were a rage among all my mom’s friends. And they found one Mrs. Kapoor who taught all North Indian curries, rice preparations, koftas, Indian chineese, soups, cakes etc. I had attended one cake workshop with her, my first one, long time back. And then my sister-in-law attended a few of her classes and this is her creation.

The list of ingredients is long, but once you get it all together it is very simple. Just mix it all, fry and put it in the curry.

Filling a kofta

In Indian cooking, unlike baking, a few ingredients and measures can be adjusted. Feel free to do so if you don’t have any particular thing in your house. Or you can replace aamchur powder with say mint powder or substitute with lemon juice altogether. Feel comfortable.

My friends have come up with a specially coated range of stoneware – frying pan and kadhais called the Khlos Life. Its beautiful and we have been using it even for all our daily cooking since we got it. You can check them out on Amazon.

Palak and cheese kofta

Palak and Cheese Kofta in Curry

What you will need:

For the koftas outer covering –

  • 3 potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • 1 teaspoon ginger- chilli paste
  • 2 tablespoon corn flour
  • 1 teaspoon aamchoor powder
  • salt to taste, 1/2 teaspoon or so

Kofta Potato cover

For the kofta filling –

  • 1 bunch palak (boiled, squeezed and chopped finely)
  • 3 cubes cheese grated
  • 1 teaspoon ginger chilli paste
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic paste
  • salt to taste , about 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • few drops of lemon juice

Palak and cheese filling

For making tadka for the gravy –

  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon ajwain

For the gravy –

  • 4 tomatoes pureed without skins
  • 1/4 cup curd
  • 2 teaspoon besan
  • 3 tablespoon kaju powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon jeera powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt to taste, about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup coriander chopped
  • pinch of orange red color (optional)

What to do :

  1. Mix all ingredients for the kofta outer covering and knead it like a soft dough. keep it aside.
  2. Mix all ingredients of the kofta filling and check for seasoning.
  3. Make small balls of the filling and stuff them into disks of the outer covering and seal well. You will get about 10-12 koftas.
  4. Heat some oil in a kadhai, and fry the koftas on medium heat. Drain on kitchen paper.
  5. To make the gravy, I used the Khlos Deep kadhai. Heat the 2 tablespoon of butter, add the ajwain, onion and garlic and saute for  minutes.
  6. In a mixer or a food processor, churn everything required for the gravy.
  7. Pour it over the tadka in the kadhai and cook it on medium heat for 5-6 minutes till it starts to thicken.
  8. Put the koftas in the curry just before serving. Serve piping hot with some chapatis or rice.

Palak Kofta

Notes :

  1. 1 bunch of palak is roughly 3/4 cup when boiled and chopped.
  2. I have used fresh ginger and fresh chilli paste. And packaged ready garlic paste. You can use all fresh or all packaged. Adjust the salt accordingly.
  3. If you wish, add more water to the curry and keep it thinner for rice.

Tomato Curry

Rutvika Charegaonkar

A letter to my yet-to-be born nephews

IMG_4113

Arjun and his cousin Malhaar

Flashback April 2014 : This was a little before I got pregnant. Although I initially wrote it for K and N, I read it a few times to Arjun when he was growing within me.

**

My best friend and my favorite cousin are going to have a baby in just a couple of months. I am incredibly fond of both these women but work and distance separates me from meeting them as often as I would have liked. It limits the opportunities that I have to tell their soon-to-be-born kids of how kick-ass their moms are. And how this is the one and only time when they can see their mom at the workplace, in meetings, experiencing the daily conundrum of life, be a part of everything that’s going on and still be aloof.

I want to tell those little ones (I am not sure what I should call them, the doctor also doesn’t refer to them as babies till they are born, so I will be calling them little ones), that –

“Mommy is incredibly proud to host you for 9 months as a part of her and this is the time when you will be undividedly hers, and she yours. Of course, later on you will be a priority too, don’t grumble in there, your mommy can feel it. But while you are cocooned inside, have a fun time. Your mom is eating different foods. I am sure you must be playing a guessing game of ‘what-mom-ate’ based on the tastes and smells you get. Yes you are right, there are a lot of different tastes, sweet, sour, salty, spicy, but momma is protecting you from the bitter taste, and she most always will.

Little one, I have known your mom since she was a very young. She is sweet yet determined, organised yet crazy and loving yet stern. I wish to tell you these things because at times you may find she is talking mildly in a soft voice and sometimes as if she is commanding an army. Dont worry little one, it is just the situation that demands your mom to act that way. But in her heart she is always the kind girl.

It is still a few months before you arrive and yet all arrangements for you have been made. That doesn’t mean you should hurry up, oh darling, take your own time in there. Because you will be spending the next 100 years on this land, but just the nine months inside. So fully utilize this time, get in a lot of nutrition (mommy is really eating for two) and become a big fat baby while you come out. Recognize your mom’s scent, hear the way her stomach grumbles when she is hungry, feel the tremble of her shiver when she sees a scary thing and notice her goosebumps when she reads something emotional. She is your shield little one, and yet she will let a few things seep in so that you are not utterly shocked once you come out.

You dont know the concept of gravity yet, but when you do, you will be able to appreciate how your mom held you up in her stomach, and how her back must have hurt. Of course the version you are seeing of her is the slower one currently, because she has to protect you. Oh but let me tell you, she is one fire-brand. You haven’t seen her kick a football so hard that it goes out of the field or watched her get into a train full of people, where it seems not another person can get in. You haven’t seen her hop on a bike and zoom off with your dad or brave the snow and dashingly go off to buy groceries. And you will see how once you are 2 years old and running around, she can run behind you but way faster than you. She can toss you in the air and swoop you up, and you will feel as if you are flying. She will tickle the hell out of you and laugh so hard, that you will think this is the best moment in life.

She will do a lot of things for you little one, but you are doing good too. Your kicks reassure her, your swelling size makes her confident. Uncomfortable, but confident. Your movement makes her feel alive inside and the nudge of your toe lets her know you are eager and connecting. She can feel your heartbeat and that is what keeps her going.

Love you little one, more than you can ever know. ”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

― Kurt Vonnegut

Scrutiny in front of a mirror

IMG_3996

I was sitting in a beauty salon, in front of a full length mirror under bright lights, getting my hair trimmed and conditioned. The whole procedure takes about 45 minutes. I found atleast 45 faults with myself in that duration. My eyebrows were thinning , the left one more angular than the right one, those dark circles under my eyes were becoming quite prominent. The previously straightened hair had now begun to curl at the roots and looked unkempt. But wait, did they grow just 2 inches in 8 months? That’s sad. Is that a sign of a double chin right there above the non-muscular neck? I should do more facial yoga and get my thyroid levels checked. Oh gosh that extra belly needs to go now. It’s 14 months since Arjun was born. In general I look dull, perhaps some makeup will help. More exercise. I should stop eating sweets altogether. But I am a baker, I need to taste what I make . And the mangoes are back in the market. Oh no, I can already see putting on a kilo or two.

And just when I am deeply engrossed in self depreciation, the hair stylist tells me “madam aap ke baal bahut dry hai, they will soon start falling.” She goes on to convince me how I should use Loreal shampoo and conditioner combo. Sure I say. She then points out that my finger cuticles need softening and I shouldn’t bite on them too much. Sure I say. Madam, we have also come up with an Ayurvedic slimming pill, you will see results in a week. Sure, I wanted to say. But instead I said “please don’t try to sell me any more services to products, or I will walk away.’ The rest of the time goes in silence and I resume looking at my nose and thinking I need a nose job. How I wish I had a dimple atleast in one cheek. And a smaller forehead.

Suddenly my phone rings and my husband on the other end says, “hi beautiful”. He asks about a couple things related to work, but I don’t remember them. I was stuck at the beautiful. Wondering – since when did I start looking at myself condescendingly? What’s up with all those faults I keep finding with how I look? And I am not that kind of a person. I rarely spend more than a minute in front of the mirror each morning. The husband often calls me pretty and notices when I dress up differently and compliments. Real, look in my eyes and compliment kind of a compliment.

The hair treatment is over. I pay and leave. Looking any better than before? Probably not. Feeling much worse? Yes for sure.

When I come home, Arjun- my little baby, looks at me and squeals with delight. He will do that even if I am dressed in rags. Even if I haven’t showered in days. He will rub his nose on my cheek no matter the dirt and grime of polluted Mumbai. I realise  that this is what actually matters. It is not a new revelation, but one that needs constant affirmation.

I will still go to the salon a couple months later (my hair is very dry, you see), hopefully less stressed about sitting in front of a full length mirror now that I have already documented all my appearance-related shortcomings.

Rutvika

Masala Chai Cake

At home all of us are such a big fan of masala chai that my 14 month old baby asks for tea after every meal. He gets his little toy cup and toy kettle and I have to pour 2-3 drops of tea into his milk. He sits and sips it slowly like his grandfather.

Chai cupcakes with basil flowers

And then I saw this cake in The Big Book of Treats by Pooja Dhingra. What a wonderful idea to incorporate masala chai flavours into cake. We have pots of lemongrass and basil in the window and use it regularly while brewing tea. So I added it to this cake and the frosting has basil seeds and flowers. Straight from the plant. It gives the cake a very refreshing taste. Something familiar and yet decadent.

Presenting The Masala Chai cake :

Chai cake

Ingredients

  • 150 gram maida
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 gram Amul butter – at room temperature
  • 200 gram castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 ml chai – freshly brewed without sugar and milk
  • Basil leaves and lemon grass while brewing tea

Chai cupcakes making

For the frosting :

  • 100 gram butter
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 225 gram icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Few basil (tulsi) flowers for decoration

Chai cupcake with periwinkle

What to do :

  1. Whisk the maida and baking powder together and sift it.
  2. In another bowl whisk butter and add sugar and vanilla essence.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating it well into the mixture.
  4. Add the brewed chai to the batter, mix well.
  5. Then fold in the flour mixture with a spatula.
  6. Preheat oven to 170 for 5 minutes.
  7. Line a muffin pan with paper cups. Fill it with the batter.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes clean.
  9. To make the frosting, cream butter and then add all the ingredients together and whisk well till it forms a smooth icing. Fill it in a piping bag with nozzle of your choice.
  10. Once the cupcakes are cooled, pipe the frosting on the cupcakes. Decorate with basil flower stems.

Crumb of chai cupcake

Notes :

  1. The same batter can also be used to make cupcakes. It yields 12 cupcakes. And two small loaves.
  2. Basil flowers are totally edible and definitely use them if you can. The regular tulsi flowers can also be used.
  3. The crumb of this cake is very soft and melts in the mouth. the trick is to use room temperature butter and eggs.
  4. It can be stored for 5 days without frosting and upto a week further in the fridge.

Basil Chai cake

Edited to add on 17 May 16′ : In a hurry to bake the cake, I added hot tea to the eggs, and part of it caramelised to sticky toffee like structure. Not very pleasant. Note – Always add cooled tea.

Trapped.

IMG_20160305_220251

Yesterday I had a rough day at work. I tried to do something I am not good at. And it backfired. I was upset and distressed.

When I came back home, my 14 month old son sensed it. He gave me some hugs and in general wanted to cling to me. I was already pre-occupied and tried to shrug him and look at my laptop. He was not happy. Finally I took him to bed at 8 pm, his usual bed time and tried to make him sleep. Changed his diaper, gave him the vitamins, put on his night dress and kept him on the bed. He wanted to babble and read his book . About dogs and balloons in the park. I wanted him to go to sleep. Finally I switched off the lights, he cried a little, but soon fell asleep with his blanket. He likes to carry it everywhere these days. It’s my grandma’s old saree now stitched together to make a blanket. Baby boy hates it if we try to take it from him. I used to use that blanket before him, and it still has my smell. May be that’s why he likes it.

Later that night, I was talking to a friend. He was having a troubled day. I have known him for the last 3 years but that was the day when he decided to tell me that he was abused between the ages of 5-8. By his dad’s orderly. He tried telling his parents; they shrugged it off. Ever since their display of indifference, he had severe self-esteem issues, which continued for 20 years until he identified and began working on the issue when well into his thirties. He confronted his parents many years after the incident. They continued to maintain their stance of being without responsibility for the incidents. Today, he is trying to be a good husband, a good father to his young daughter, but it is with great efforts that must be renewed every day.

My son woke up again, I heard him crying on the baby monitor. The husband usually makes him go back to sleep, but he was at work. I went up to my crying baby, picked him up and tried to make him go back to sleep. He crawled in my arms on the bed and wanted to sleep with his little head tucked safely in the crook of my neck and shoulder. He often does that, his back touching my chest. Snuggled like a cocoon. I put him in his bed once he falls asleep. But last night, he just wanted to stay there. Would start crying if I tried to get up. In a way, I was trapped . Couldn’t get back to my world and its problems. So I relaxed. I smelled his hair, stroked his fingers, kissed the back of his head a few times and started singing a song which we both love. He hummed his own tune. I kissed him some more and he slept peacefully for the night. I was calmer, composed and felt blessed.

I thought back to my parents, and how they stood together through adversities just to give us a stable home, a firm ground where we could dream and live. Several times after one of their fights – regular fights which couples have – they would threaten to leave each other. I wondered why they don’t do it, if they can say it so easily, why do they not do it? The reason they gave us and to each other was that they stayed together for the kids. To my rebellious teen brain, it felt ridiculous. But I cannot thank them enough now for being the parents that they were. I will never know what they really thought in those moments, but I am so glad they overcame it and raised us as a family. A family we can go back to for support and comfort even now when my brother is studying 9000 miles away or I am married and raising a family of my own. Their role in who we are today, is insurmountable.

We as parents have such a big responsibility in shaping the life our kids will have, it feels scary at times. But there is no other way. Once we decided to have a child, we have committed ourselves to it. I am trapped. But in a good way. Now its upto me to make the best of it, for myself and for my child.

Rutvika