Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

thanksgiving-2015

Thanksgiving in San Francisco. 2015.

Last Thanksgiving was a first of many things for me. The first time I ate turkey, celebrated Thanksgiving, Arjun – my little baby boy’s first US trip, the first time Arjun and I took a 24 hour flight just by ourselves, meeting my baby brother (he’s 25, but for me he is still a baby!) since he went to the US to study, winning money at a poker game, a miraculous reflex catching Arjun mid-air when he fell off a high table, another night when he rolled under the bed and my heart skipping a beat when we couldn’t see him for a second, eating ice cream on a cold windy Californian day, drinking beer in a park, listening to Thanksgiving speeches where my young brothers-in-law morbidly thanked the turkey for dying so we could feast on him, 80 year old grandmother feeling thankful about being able to travel to US from India, the first time Arjun and Sara- my baby niece played and fought with each other, and the first time my heart felt thankful for the days of our lives that are filled with family and food.

There’s a lot to be thankful about. I agree that the world is full of mishaps, there are too many wrong-doings and doers which can be agitating, difficulties big and small interlacing the fabric of life. But the fact that we are here, you and I, physically healthy and mentally fit, thats enough reason to be thankful about.

We are teaching Arjun to say thank you when someone does something nice for him. He has taken it very seriously. Each time, he extends his hand, tilts his head to one side, smiles and says Thank you. Thank you grandma for the delicious breakfast, thank you dad for wrapping me in two towels after the bath so I don’t feel cold, thank you grandpa for letting me pluck flowers from the plant (and his grandpa thanks him for not plucking the buds yet to bloom), thank you momma for reading that Peppa Pig book for the 5th time in the last 2 hours. He even goes on to say thank you to the flowers for blooming, Lata Mangeshkar for singing his favourite songs and for his stuffed toy Bobo for pooping in the toilet! Kids, I tell you, they can warm even the coldest hearts. And patiently take soft toys and plastic fishes to the toilet so they can pee and poop.

I am going to see my cousin after a long time today, and spend hours chatting with her. Followed by 2 weddings in two days and a getting some shopping done for a big fat family wedding next weekend. Hope you all have a great weekend too, whether or not you are celebrating Thanksgiving. I am sending some gratitude your way for reading these posts and for dropping in some kind words. And to the cosmos for showing me the light when it gets dark.

Say a thank you to someone for me, will you?

A business coach for life, or a life coach for business? Its quite the same.

Professionally, for the last year or so, I felt as if I am at the foot of a hill trying to climb my way up. I am trying to bring more sense and structure into our company and struggling to find time for fulfilling my dream of writing.

About 10-11 months back when we realised that the growing business needed to graduate from a family run enterprise into a more corporatised structure, we were confused where to begin. Suddenly everything felt as if needed to be over-hauled. Outlook had to be changed before bringing in any systemic changes. Our company Anchrom was started 38 years back by my father and mother-in-law and most people in the company are older than Akshay and me and have much more experience at Anchrom.You can imagine the reluctance of people to adapt to change, I am myself averse to it. But some things have to be done. I did not know where to start. Days and nights were spent worrying. Anxiety, acidity and heart-burn were not far behind. Thats when my father-in-law suggested that we talk to Mr. Uday Arur – his business coach and long-time friend and mentor. With 23 years of holding managerial position in pharma companies and then being a business and life coach for 13 years, we knew he was perfect for us. But what startled me was that during these 4 months of coaching, he pushed me to find the answers which lay within. He believed, like any good mentor should, that I am fully capable of doing the things that I want and need to do and that its only a matter of going towards it full throttle.

Now I am a staunch believer of conversations and the fact that talking can help sort every difficulty. Sometimes is in the form of talking to my mom/husband/best friend or sometimes it is introspection or writing in a journal. Or sometimes talking to a mentor/ a coach who will guide you through it. While doing CA or while even growing up as a young girl I never wanted to work in my own business. Coming from middle class salaried background, I always wanted to do a job, where monthly salary is guaranteed. But life as we know it – always has different plans. I fell in love with a guy I knew from school, got married and started working in our own group of companies. And I terribly enjoy it. The process of building something together is exhilarating for me. But it comes with its own set of challenges, a very different working environment. My father-in-law, the MD and founder of the company, always supports Akshay and me in the decisions we take and gently guides us if we are not seeing a side of the story. Still, I always self-doubted my decisions. I lacked the confidence to make rules and implement them. But Uday sir convinced me that I should go ahead with full authority. He asked questions to make me delve deeper, consistently kept on asking me to examine where a particular fear was coming from, sometimes listed to my rants about misogyny for hours, took notes to make sense of my ramblings and constantly pushed me one step further towards believing in myself. I see that I am a new person now. I dress up well while coming to the office (even though it is just 5 minutes away), I don’t feel shy about being assertive. I also find that people have started taking me seriously, my staff and colleagues seem to be more forthcoming. Do they see the clarity in my head or is it that I just feel they do because I believe in myself now? I don’t know yet, but I love being in this positive frame of work and plan to leverage it to our benefit.

One day, Uday Sir bluntly told us to not take our acidity and stress as a badge of honour. It is in-fact something that needs to be worked on and eliminated to be able to work most productively. And ever since I stopped believing that high amount of stress = high productivity, I have stopped having headaches. I feel calmer and poised. I find time to write, follow my passions and still steer the company in the direction we want it to take.

A few weeks back, a fellow mentor from MMI asked me to recommend her some books to navigate through a rough patch of life. I am going to urge her to find a mentor, a coach who will help her. Who she can talk to without being afraid of judgements. Who will help her find a way for herself, because as we all know, some of the most sticky problems in life get sorted only by looking inward. The answer is right there, someone just needs to show her a way to unravel it.

Meanwhile, I would love to hear your stories of your favourite mentors.

Take care,

xoxo

Rutvika

Chocolate Drip Cake

I have been eyeing these drip cakes in gorgeous colors for a while on pinterest and Instagram now. Katherine Sabbath sort of invented them in 2015 and they have been a rage. They look deliciously pretty and leave people wondering how the drips were made.
Very easy. Just some runny ganache and a cold cake.

I have made it here with a classic chocolate cake, a strawberry buttercream and chocolate ganache dripping. Once you know the basics, you can play around with cake flavors and white chocolate + gel color drip. And ofcourse any variation of buttercream or meringue frosting.

Chocolate Drip Cake

drip-cake-with-flowers

What you will need :

For the sponge cake:

  • 180 gram all purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 60 gram cocoa powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 275 gram castor sugar
  • 100 gram yoghurt
  • 40 ml warm water
  • 130 ml strong brewed hot coffee
  • 75 ml vegetable oil, I use groundnut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the strawberry buttercream :

  • 100 gram butter, at room temperature (I use Amul)
  • 230 gram icing sugar
  • 7-8 strawberries – pureed in a mixer with a tablepoon of granulated sugar

For the chocolate drip :

  • 100 gram chopped dark chcolate
  • 200 gram Amul cream

What to do :

  1. Sift all the dry ingredients : flour + baking powder + baking soda + cocoa powder + salt and keep it aside.
  2. In another bowl whisk the eggs. Add sugar, yoghurt, warm water and mix.
  3. Add the sifted dry ingredients and brewed coffee to this mixture and fold in with a spatula till it gets completely incorporated.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 170C.
  5. Grease the sides and line the bottom of two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper.
  6. Pour the cake batter in the cake pans and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing.
  8. Let it cool completely on wire racks.
  9. For making strawberry buttercream, mix all ingredients with a whisk or a stand mixer.
  10. For the chocolate drip, keep the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream till it starts to bubble around the edges. Do not let it come to a boil.
  11. Pour the cream on the chocolate and cover it for 2 minutes.
  12. Whisk it till all the chocolate melts and it becomes smooth. Let it cool down.

frosting-and-drip-cake

drip-cake-all-sides

Assembly:

  1. Take a cake board or a wooden board and place one layer of the cake on it. Cover it with strawberry buttercream on the sides and top.
  2. Place another cake on top and cover all the sides and top with buttercream. Smoothen it with a spatula dipped in hot water.
  3. Put it in the refrigerator  for one hour and let it become cold.
  4. Make the chcoolate drip 20 minutes before using it on the cake. If you make it in advance and it becomes thicker when you use it, heat it in microwave for 10-2o seconds till it becomes runny again. But ensure that it is not hot when you pour it on the cake.
  5. Now remove the cooled cake from the fridge. With a spoon start pouring the ganache on the edges of the cake. It will start dripping down. Within one or two drips you will realise how much to pour at one go. Cover the entire edge of the cake with such drips.
  6. Now pour more ganche in the centre and spread it lightly with a spatula.
  7. Put it in the fridge for 5 minutes to set.
  8. You can decorate it with some sprinkles and fresh flowers.
  9. Store it in the fridge if you live in a hot and humid place like Mumbai.

Notes :

  1. You can add a teapoon of corn syrup to the ganache to get a smoother finish. But you can absolutely skip it like I did.
  2. The cake recipe is from a book called Chocolate by Cordon Bleu. The drip technique is taken from Stylesweetca.com.
  3. Yan use an eggless cake recipe from here and turn this into an eggless dessert.

chocolate-drip-cake-slice

 

Feminism : Its just about women having choice

with-sapna-bhavnani

And that there is my first writer crush! Long before Sapna Bhavnani appeared in Big Boss or in movies, she used to write a kickass column in Bombay Times. Way back in 2002 when I was a 16-17 year old girl trying to figure out the ways of the world. Internet was patchy then and articles which came in newspapers had to be saved – cut and paste manual way- if you wanted to re-read them. And thats what I did. For 2 years, every Monday I would look for the BT and read her wonderful words. What a delight to read those emancipated ideas of freedom and doing whatever the heck you want to. Sapna Bhavnani did not disappoint me. When I finally saw her talk in person at a Feminist Conference last Monday, I felt a flutter of joy. Things which I believed all those years back are still true.

And yes, you read that right. I was at a Feminist conference organised by SheThePeopleTV. 20 people from different areas of life talking about feminism. What it means to the world and to each one of us at large. I was enthralled. So many things that we see around us were put into words. Everyday, everywhere we see patriarchy in different forms telling women what they can and cannot do. You telling yourself that certain things are a woman’s domain and that to keep your family intact you have to do those things, or not do so many of them. As a society there are certain rules to live by, but the minute those rules change for men and women, there is misogyny. I am myself guilty of many Feminism Lite things as Chimimand Ngochi Adiche says in her article, I was accepting equal rights for women with conditions. But I can’t raise my son with that thought. He has to know that women and men are equal and he should be respecting them and their choices completely.

the-feminist-conf

There were some eye openers for me in the conference. How we women act as gatekeepers limiting the stuff we or our husbands, partners can do. I have forever remembered my mom telling my dad that he does not do the housework as it should be done.  And what is the definition of how it should be done? Its the way in which she does it. It resulted in him helping her very little with the chores at home, that led to a feeling of resentment in my mom that she had to do everything. She also used to give me and my brother rigid instructions on how to do a particular thing. Micro-managing. But what was really happening is that she was preventing anyone from helping her, by setting the standards so high. The same thing happens when my friend refuses to leave her baby with her husband saying ‘he won’t feed her well’, or ‘he won’t clean her bum neatly’. And well and neatly are entirely decided by her. So if women want more freedom, more opportunities they have to stop being their own hurdles. Stop being their own gatekeepers. My dad can clean the house as much as mom can, it’s his house too. My husband can and does take care of our child as well as I can. He is an equal parent. When I realised all these things, it made my life so much easier. And isn’t that the truth? Stereotyping that women can cook and men can understand technology better, woman needs to take care of the house, man needs to earn a living for the house etc. etc. only limits the opportunities we have.

But increasingly, as I read more, as I see and understand more, the angrier I get at how women and their rights have been marginalised for so many centuries. My husband, hopefully in jest, asked me if I am turning into an angry feminist. I told him that I already am a feminist. My mom is a feminist, my mother-in-law is one and even he himself is a feminist. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here doing what I am doing. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to get education, to work or even to get an evening off for myself if I did not have the choice to do the things that I want to, that I wish to do. He is my biggest supporter. We work together in our family business, he is the CEO and I am the CFO in our company. When any banking or financial decisions have to be made he never second-guesses my action. Point blank tells the people looking at him and talking to him to talk to me as I will be making that decision. He urges me to find time to write, or to do another baking course in Le Cordon Blue in Pairs and that he will take care of our child. My parents in law, are equally encouraging of both their daughters-in-law as much as their sons. And they take pride in our achievements. So yes, all of these wonderful people around me are feminists too. They believe in equal opportunities. They believe that their daughter, wife or daughter-in-law is no less than any male counterpart and I hugely respect them for that. Its time that they start taking credit for it and pushing other people to do so by example.

But its always going to be a mixed bag. How do we ensure our girls and women are safe on the streets? Do we tell them to not go out alone at night, to wear appropriate clothes etc or do we tell them to do what they want to do and that we will take care of it if something goes wrong? My 12 year old mentee, Gauri – how do I explain her that she is as precious as her male cousin when all she sees around herself is that the girls are considered worthless? How do I tell my son to react if someone makes fun of him when he is baking a cake? Or if a girl hits him, who do I tell him to do? All of these are complicated questions with no simple answer. But as Chimimanda Adichie says, I have to consider the premise. And believe and make other women believe that they matter. Equally. Not ‘if only’ or as long as’ but that they matter. Full stop.

Of course all of this is for a us, urban, educated, independent women. So many women around us are still trapped in their own homes, suffer and continue to live with abusive philandering husbands, in dead-end relationships, abort girl foetuses, get their daughters married off at twelve, fifteen and never know any life outside of that. But there is hope. When my grandma started working 65 years back in a government organisation or my husband’s grandma got a graduation degree 60 years back, there has been hope.  And things will continue to improve, one bit a time.

Xoxo,

Rutvika

Getting mad makes me more productive!

Scowling.jpg

This is how we scowl.

Anger is good. Occasional bouts of suppressed anger makes me a very productive person.

This weekend I was mad at the husband for some silly reason and look at what I accomplished! Cleaned my cupboard shelves, sorted and gave away a stack of clothes that I don’t fit into anymore (and gave up hope that I will fit into them ever again), re-arranged the stationery drawer, discarded chipped cups and saucers, cleaned the fridge and threw away all expired masalas, read through the articles which I have been marking ‘to-read’ for over a month and now I am producing this blog-post. So you see how insanely beneficial anger is? And all of this done in utter silence. Beneficial for the husband too.

Earlier when I got angry, I would study. Take notes vigorously. Solve difficult accounting problems with lightning clarity. In fact one of the main reasons I cleared CA final in the first attempt was because of a heartbreak which had left me angry beyond belief. And hence I studied. Cut away from the rest of the world and study all the time. With a zeal that calm often cannot bring.

Before that, as a teen, anger used to manifest itself by shouting and ended up in crying. Poor mom used to be at the receiving end and would patiently wait for me to sort it out myself. And offer a lap to cry eventually. But once you get married and have children of your own, you realise that resorting to screaming is not really an option. So all those emotions simmer inside and the brunt is faced by cupboards, windows et all.

The husband in this case is a very peaceful non-fighting kind of a person. And I have been told often that I can get nasty and personal when I fight. Doesn’t seem to be the case in my head, in fact, anger gives me the courage to say the things I wouldn’t have said otherwise. But may be some things are not to be said. Ever. Anyway, the best course of action I have realised is doing something else and letting the anger pass. Keeping my mouth tight shut till then and not collapsing into a heap of tears in front of the child.

Last weekend at the Mentor Me India group mentoring session, as an exercise in self-awareness we were asked to share one incident when we were very angry. My 12 year old mentee Gauri very seriously told me she hates it when her family prefers boys and have no qualms in saying it. Boys better than girls. Wishing that they had a boy child instead of two girls. The male cousins get money for books, sweets immediately and the girls have to make do without it. Etc. etc.  Thats a story many Indian girls will identify with. Some families are subtle, some more direct. But one time I got really pissed off in recent times was when the nurse where I delivered my son told us to give her more ‘baksheesh’ since it was a son. When its a girl, they don’t bother the parents, but in case of a boy, we should please include the nurses in our joy. Well, I wanted to smack her. In my delirious post-delivery state that is one thing I regret not doing.

But mostly otherwise I function like a well oiled steam engine when mad. Huffing and puffing, but going forward at full speed.

Any vishesh tippani? I would be happy to hear.

xoxo,

Rutvika

 

 

Pan Grilled chicken over buttery rice and tomato salsa

chicken-baked

Every once in a while, mostly on a Sunday, I make an elaborate lunch at home. The weekday meals are all made by my mum-in-law, a delicious vegetarian affair. So on Sundays, I try to give her a break and make something myself. A lot of times my folks have to eat the experimentation – uncooked pasta, overcooked chicken , too tangy salad etc. But sometimes, something like this gets created and I can’t wait to put it up here and share it with you all.

chicken-with-salsa-and-rice

This time it is Pepper Pan-Grilled Chicken over Buttery Baked Rice and Tomato Salsa. This technique of baked rice was shown to me by our European business associate, they always bake rice and don’t use any pressure cooker. You can very well cook rice in the pressure cooker and lightly season it.

All the pans that we use at home currently are from Khlos. Wonderfully built and sturdy and yet non-stick, that our oil consumption has drastically reduced.And they look so pretty and are still very affordable.

 

chicken-cooked-in-pan

Buttery Baked Rice

  • 200 gram long grained rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 25 gram butter
  • 400 ml boiling water
  1. Grease a 1.1 capacity ovenproof dish or casserole.
  2. Put the rice in the dish and stir int he salt until well mixed. Dot with butter.
  3. Pour over the boiling water. Cover and bake at 180C for 30 minutes until the water has been absorbed and rice is tender.

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Pepper and Olive Oil Tender Chicken breasts

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • 2-3 tablespoon coarsely crushed pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • chilli flakes
  • butter for pan-grilling the chicken and for the sauce
  1. Lightly pound the washed chicken breasts with a chicken rolling pin. Rub it with  the mixture of olive oil + butter+  salt+ pepper + chilli flakes.
  2. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat a thick bottommed pan and melt 1-2 tablespoon of butter. I have used Khlos grill pan to brown the chicken and give the pepper a crackling feel.
  4. Once the chicken breasts are browned on both sides, transfer them and the butter from the pan into an ovenproof dish. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 10 minutes so that the chicken gets cooked till the centre.
  5. Remove from heat and reserve the juices and butter.

Tomato Salsa

  • 2 cups finely chopped tomatoes (about 4 tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped green chillies
  • about 3/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Mix all the above ingredients of the salsa and adjust the salt as per taste.

Assembly :

  1. Slice the chicken and place it on a bed of rice with salsa on the side. Garnish with some mint/basil leaves.

chicken-rice-and-salsa

A promise to myself.

writing-at-table

My writing table at mom’s house

I am constantly surrounded by a cacophony of sounds so much so that the thought of staying alone in my own house feels alien. Not that I loved being alone even before Arjun was born, but now with a little baby and working full time 5 days a week, moments of silence are hard to come by. My idea of solitude is limited to sitting in a corner of the room and perhaps doing some thinking, but the rest of the people need to be in the house. When there is nobody at home except me and Arjun, I take him out to the park or to meet relatives, friends. In a typical Indian joint-family culture, alone-time is never an option, and strangely I am glad for it.

But to write, I need to sit in one place and think and put those words out on a screen or a paper. So today when everyone was going out too attend a family function, I opted to stay at home and write. And all I could think of was my baby, the fight husband and I had last night, then all of the conversations I am missing out while I sit here in front of the laptop and everyone is chatting and laughing and doing all sorts of fun things someplace else. I admonish myself and get back to writing a short-story I want to send for a contest. It’s about complex relationships and family etc and thats when I start thinking about the stuff to pack for my brother-in-law who leaves tomorrow to go back home to Michigan. Palak parathas are to be made, oh wait, but do we have palak in the house? No, I should ask my maid to get some on her way. The almond pistachio cake I baked yesterday for him is slightly burned at the edges, I should bake one more. And my little niece, I have to get some chudidar and kurta and may be even some bangles for her. And so the list goes on and on. And while I stayed back home to write, all I am doing is not writing.

It makes me wonder if I am cut out for this solitary task which is writing. But reading those words on paper, which a few minutes back were only in my head – gives me pleasure. So may be I should write, albeit in different surroundings. When Arjun was born, I resumed writing in a month, as soon I had recovered from the shock of child-birth. Most of my blog-posts in the last 20 months have been typed on my iPhone notepad. Writing and scribbling while I am nursing Arjun or later feeding him roti-sabzi, making edits when I am trying to make him sleep, and publishing straight from he mobile app at times. The output has not been enough, not as much as I would like it to be. Then I tried the 10-minute technique. Writing non-stop for 10 minutes without pondering too much or without editing. The thinking part of that 10 minute writing happens when I am playing with Arjun , or in the shower etc. But all of that is not sufficient. If I want to call myself a writer (oh, how badly I want that), I should devote more time to it. Not be afraid of being MIA in some places because thats a conscious choice I am making.

I was talking to my aunt – who I whole heartedly admire – she has published 3 books in last 3 years, is an incredible mom to two teens – I realised that like any other craft, writing requires a lot of discipline. She is my aunt by marriage, and so I do not have her genes, but I have her guidance, which is valuable. And so I must sleep a little less, utilise my time efficiently and sneak in atleast half hour of writing every day. And that does not mean reading articles about writing or scrolling through Facebook for ‘inspiration’, but actually shooting out words which make sense.

In an article I read recently in The Atlantic, there is a line which says – ‘What aspects of life (a bigger family, marital stability) does the artist sacrifice for his work?’, I realised that being an artist entails sacrificing something. What and how much is each one’s to decide, but it is sure not a rosy path.

And thus, today onwards I will write each day. Pitch ideas to different publications, participate in online writing contests and write in my journal.

This is a promise I make to myself and as we tell Arjun – a promise is a promise is a promise.

xoxo,

Rutvika

A new role in life : Mentoring a 12 year old girl

MMI school

At the school with MMI mentors and mentees

I have a little piece of news to share with you.

A couple of months back, I interviewed to become a mentor for a 12 year old girl through Mentor Me India (MMI). I got selected, went through two induction programmes and soon a new relationship in my life began. I was nervous before the interview and really wanted to get selected. Then I was super anxious the day I met my mentee, Without any prior experience with kids that age, I bit my nails worrying if she would like me and I would like her. But the guys at MMI are awesome, they tried to match the mentor mentee pairs in such a way that we would have some common interests. I fell in love with my little young girl the minute I saw her. I am not romanticising it, but do you know that unexplained tug at your heart when you meet someone for the first time and feel a connection? This little girl, Gauri, came right towards me and held my hand. All my anxieties flew out of the window.

This mentor mentee program is designed on the lines of Big Brother- Big Bister program in various countries, where a brother mentors a young boy and a sister mentors a young girl over the course of minimum one year. These relationships go beyond a year once the mentor-mentee pairs get involved in each other’s lives. But the initial commitment is for a minimum one year. MMI ties up with schools working in low income communities and the school is the meeting ground for first few months. These mentees are from an economically poor background and most people around them are employed at unskilled jobs with very less or no education. To have a mentor in life is to have some didi or bhaiyya who can show them what they can achieve with right education and awareness of the world. With professional guidance from MMI team, I am sure all of us mentors can make some difference in the lives of these mentees.

Gauri and Rutvika

Left – Gauri’s drawing of me. Right – Me drawing her.

On the second day after I met Gauri for the first time, I got a call from an unknown number. It was her calling me from a PCO. She had taken my number but her dad doesn’t have a cellphone, so I didn’t expect she would call me right next day. She said that she missed me and was thinking about me a lot. I can say I miss you to someone only after careful deliberate preparation and here this little girl easily told it to me- her didi who was non-existent till yesterday. The enormity of the situation struck me. These girls and boys have hardly anyone who take an active interest in their life. Their parents, who are overworked themselves can provide the basic necessities, but hardly anything more. Sure there are exceptions, good and bad, but generally these kids are one among a lot and neglected most of the time. So when a didi/ bhaiyya seems to be interested in them, they are drawn like magnets. We were appraised about all of these factors at the induction and the MMI handbook is very handy, but in a real life scenario, you are on your own.

I told Gauri on the phone that she should concentrate on her studies and that I will see her the next weekend.

Cut to the next Saturday, all the little girls whose mentors were not going to come that day, or all those whose mentors were late even by 5 minutes, were crying. Literally crying with a flood of tears. The teachers tried to placate them, but still Ganga-Jamuna was free flowing from their eyes. The boys on the other hand tried to show how they were unperturbed and continued to monkey around. I was late by 15 minutes (Note to self : never to be late) and Gauri told me that she thought I would do ‘khaada’ which means an ‘unexplained absence’ in Marathi. I told her I would never do a khaada, if for some reason I am unable to come, I will tell it to her in advance. She accepted it, but oh how do I reach her since she does not have access to a cellphone?! God only knows. Thankfully, one MMI co-ordinator is always available on call to help me reach out to the mentee, so we will have it covered.

Last Saturday it was mentors-meet-parents day. I met her grandma, her mother passed away a few months back in an accident. When she told me about her mom, this little girl of 12, she was very upset. I was at a loss of words. I am a mother to a toddler and often have nightmares about being in an accident and imagining what my son would do without me. Even the thought makes me dizzy. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I am paired with this girl. Maybe I can understand her situation better, but pray tell me, how do you understand something that is your worst fear?

Her grandma has taken charge of the household since Gauri’s mom passed away. She spoke fondly of her daughter-in-law. Later they also took me to their home, a cozy, welcoming house with several photos of different gods stuck to the walls. 2-3 of her cousins, similar to her in age, came to ask me if they can get a didi and bhaiyya too. I told them that I am Gauri’s didi, but the school along with MMI can get them a didi/ bhaiyya.

It is wonderful being a part of something larger than our self and little circle of things. I hope the time we spend together can be of some value to my mentee and that we grow together.

Meanwhile, if you know how 12 year old girls behave, what activities they like, what stuff to do with them, good economical places to show them, will you let me know?

Thank you!

Rutvika

The Cheat Code

I met a friend for dinner last week. She has two little girls under 10 and is a very smart woman. She recently found out that her husband has been cheating on her for the last 4 years. With a woman he used to work with. Many a times in the past 4 years her husband used to be on an official “tour” and apparently he stayed with the other woman, in the same city where they live. My friend has been married to this guy for 15 years after dating him for a couple years in college. She is totally shattered, but also very angry. She feels cheated and feels really stupid that she did not find about it earlier. It felt bad to hear all this, but at the same time I felt relieved that she knows about it now and refuses to take his bullshit anymore.

And then the maid who works at my office. She is married for 5 years to a guy and few months back she found out that he has been already married since last seven years and has two children aged four and two. Do the math. All the while when they got married and started living together, he was already with his wife and married the whole time. The maid is unable to conceive and when her husband readily agreed to get tested, I was surprised. I couldn’t help think that he already had a child somewhere. But this guy beats up all logic. He has splendidly convinced the maid that he loves her. And was married to that other woman only because of family pressure. And that both the children, mind you, two times, were sheer accident when they were made to sleep together by his mother.

The fact that he has taken dowry in the first ‘arranged’ marriage has been ignored by my maid. The guy is not willing to leave any one of them, and keeps assuring my maid that he can’t live without her. And cherry on the cake – he even drank phenyl to commit suicide when she threatened to leave him. As you can guess, he survived very well and now has her undying devotion.

But it happens to the best of us. Previously, in my early twenties, for a few shoddy months, I dated a guy from work. He was already dating our mutual friend. I was so blind and such a idiot (I punch myself even as I write this), I could see daal mein kucch kaala, but I refused to believe it. He chased me with gifts and flowers and sweet words and I fell for it. He was quite a pervert. When we went out he would ogle at other women right in front of me. And still, this went on for a few months. How I hate that part of life. But sometimes you have to date terrible people to cherish the good things you have.

Back to my friend. her husband now tells her to forgive him. His excuse – ‘Everybody does it, only a few get caught.’ It is as if he is asking forgiveness for simply getting caught. She is adamant on divorce, but doesn’t know how she will manage two kids and all other practicalities by herself.

Of the things that I pray to god, first is to keep life interesting and second is that husband and I are never disloyal to each other. God cannot help in both these things, but my wish is sincere. Extra marital affairs really disturb me. When we were watching Bajirao Mastani (the movie) it kept troubling me that Mastani toh haat dhoke Bajirao ke peeche padi hai. Bajirao – a married man with children. Although I believe that this movie is way different from history, but something like this (even a movie, yes) leaves such a bad taste. It gives me nightmares.

I cannot imagine what my friend and maid are going through. One is the first wife and the latter is the other woman. Both loved deeply, one still does, but where does this lead them?

I don’t even know what to tell them, it is difficult to fathom what is the right thing to do in these cases. My father a retired Mumbai police officer has seen several such cases, I ask him what I should tell them if they ask for advice. He says “Each case is unique and delicate, but divorces based on alleged affairs result in long drawn-out cases and often in total denial by the accused. And this leads to no or or very little maintenance and alimony from him. Hard choices have to be made. Money or integrity.”

The local police NGO my friend went to bluntly told her to accept that man back and forgive him since he is admitting that he made a mistake. Because nothing works without money. If you need him to keep contributing towards raising the kids, do not file for divorce.

The idealist in me cannot adhere to this notion, but it is the truth. Ask around, you will know. Good education and standing firmly on our own feet is the only salvation for women. This cannot be stressed enough. But what about these two women? Only time will tell.

Rutvika

Hi-Hat Chocolate Cupcakes

Inside of a high hat cupcake

I have been eyeing these Hi-hat cupcakes on Pinterest for so long now, that I had to make them sooner than later. They are essentially choclate cupcakes with a frosting and dipped in melted chcolate, like your Mc Swirl in Mc Donalds.They looked daunting. What if the fluffy white meringue on top which gets dipped in the chocolate just melts away? What if the chocolate doesnt hold and starts dripping? What if the entire frosting collapses and settles in a puddle on the cupcake? It would be an epic bake-fail, but curiousity got the better of me and I made these. And beleive it or not, they are super easy! I watched a couple videos about making the frosting and then adapted a Martha Stewart recipe to make mine.

High Hat cupcake

Droolworthy chocolates

Hi-Hat Cupcakes!

What you will need :

For the cupcakes

  •  2 cups maida
  •  ¾ cup cocoa powder
  •  1 tablespoon baking powder
  •  ½ teaspoon baking soda
  •  a pinch of salt
  •  1 and ½ cup castor sugar
  •  2 eggs
  •  8 tablespoon melted butter (I use Amul)
  •  1 cup plain yoghurt
  •  ½ cup warm milk
  •  1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  •  1 and ½ cup chocolate chips

Ingredients for chocolate cupcakes

  1.  Mix the flour + baking powder + baking soda + cocoa powder + salt. Sift it so that it gets aerated and there are no chunks of baking powder or soda.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk butter till pale and add sugar. Mix well.
  3. Then add the eggs, one at a time and whisk into the butter.
  4. Mix in the yoghurt and vanilla.
  5. Now with a rubber spatula fold in the dry ingredients and the milk in two additions. Always start and end with the dry ingredients.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 180C for 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, line a muffin pan with paper liners. Drop the batter into the pan and bake for 20 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes clean.
  8. Let it cool in the pan and then on a wire grill completely before frosting.

Chocolate chip cupcakes

For the meringue frosting

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 and ¾ cup castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Making meringue

  1. In a large heatproof bowl, mix all the ingredients and whisk with a manual whisk or a hand held blender till it forms soft peaks.
  2. In another vessel, heat water till it simmers.
  3. Put this bowl with egg whites on the vessel over the stove/ gas. Whisk continuously till it forms stiff peaks and the temperature of the egg whites goes upto 70 degrees C on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, keep it whisking on the simmering water for 10 minutes, it reaches about that temperature and then egg whites are safe to be consumed.
  4. Then remove from heat and keep whisking till it cools down considerably and frosting thickens.
  5. Do not stop whisking in the entire process or egg whites will curdle.
  6. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a big round nozzle.

For the chocolate coating

  • 2 cups chopped chocolate
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil

How to proceed:

  1. Combine chopped chocolate and oil in a microwave safe bowl and heat it in bursts of 20 seconds, whisking in between, till all chocolate is melted. Alternately, you can heat it over double boiler.
  2. Let it cool to room temperature.
  3. If the chocolate hardens by the time you are ready to dip, heat it in microwave for 30 seconds and it will be liquid.

Chocolate dripping

ASSEMBLY

  1. Now the cupcakes are ready to be frosted and dipped.
  2. Frost a high pile of the meringue frosting on each of the cupcakes. Refrigerate for a couple of minutes before dipping in chocolate.
  3. Keep the melted chocolate in a high wide glass. I used a measuring cup for it.
  4. Now grab each cupcake by its bottom and carefully dip it into the melted chocolate and remove it. Don’t worry, it will stay put. The meringue will not melt, you have my word.
  5. Put it in the fridge and let it sit for half hour before cutting.
  6. You high-hat cupcakes are ready!
Hi hat cupcake with chocolate frosting

Eggless Cupcake with eggless buttercream frosting

Notes :

  • Some recipes call for cream of tartar in the meringue, but I havent used it. It stays well and holds shape even without the cream of tartar.
  • Ensure that the instructions int he recipe are followed well, let the cupcakes cool down before frosting. lt the meringue sit in the fridge for a few minutes before dripping in the chocolate and let the chocolate be at room temperature but still  liquid.
  • In the Mumbai humidity, the chocolate ont he frosting starts to sweat as soon as you take it out of the refrigerator. There is hardly anything that can be done about it though.
  • If you want an eggless chocolate cupcake recipe, see here.
  • If you want an eggless chocolate buttercream frosting see here. Meringue frosting looks prettier because of the black and white combination, but you can use any other stable buttercream too.

Cupcakes with chocolate frosting