That first time..

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Husband and I. Our first picture together. Young and care-free.

I have currently registered for a ten-week online writing workshop. It was the top most from my have-to-accomplish-this-year lists and boy, it is so intensive. Makes me think harder, dig deeper, look into the well of my experiences and draw energy from there. Gather inspiration and dwell on it. I will write more about the workshop later, but in this second week, one assignment was to write about the List of Firsts. Here is a section from what I wrote.

The first time I failed an exam was when I was 13. A singing exam. My mom used to send me to her friend to learn Hindustani classical music. The Sa Re Ga Ma Pa was just not my cup of tea. I loved to sing and listen to music, but those alaaps and ragas were way beyond my comprehension. I sorta hated the class, the only silver lining being a guy from the neighbouring building used to come down to see me walk to to the class everytime. I was 13, stalking was glamorised by the Hindi movies and I loved being the centre of attention. I was the only one among my friends at that time who had a secret admirer. But once I failed that exam, (God! how miserable was the day of the test, the examiner would shudder everytime I answered her question), I convinced my mom or perhaps my teacher convinced mom that I should stop coming to the class. Good riddance, but those secret stalker/admirer sessions also came to an end.

The first real date husband and I went on was the Kala Ghoda festival. Six months before we got married. We knew each other since the 9th grade, but both of us had evolved from being gangly teenagers to what we were then. Still awkward, but more educated and more aware of the world around us. The freshness of that time still lingers in my head. To be 24 and independant without any major responsibilities, it was awesome.

I remember that first kiss way back when I was 18. He was my first real boyfriend, apart from the dozen crushes I had by the time I was that age. The anticipation of the first kiss was building over for a while, but there was no place where that coziness was permitted. And then about a couple months after we started dating, we were at a friend’s house after college. And that was the day. I remember stepping back and wanting to record every little thing about that awkward time. We were in my friend’s bedroom, her heap of clothes and pile of books were staring at me from the table and I was constantly worried that what if mom finds out where I am. I would be dead.

My first breakup was obviously with him, a year after we started dating. I was heart broken, ofcourse, but I vividly remember knowing that this was it. It was good while it lasted, but now was the time to move on.

When I was working in a bank, I used to smoke for about a year. It was cool back then. Being independant, being able to smoke without parents knowing it, hanging out with my 6-years-younger brother and smoking with his friends. How silly, yet how cool! But the first time I smoked, it was so disgusting. A group of us from the CA class would stand near a railway station (all of us aged 19-20) and we would pretend to be chic. I could never inhale it deeply and exhale, it would just be staccato bursts of in and out, in and out. And most of the time it would burn away between my fingers. Later I genuinely began to like it, and one particular brand of clove cigarattes was beautiful, but that was a different time and age. I haven’t smoked a single one since getting pregnant and having the baby, and I dont want to get back to it. Ever. But again, it was a good time in life. And I will remember it for that.

I read somewhere recently, that the period from 15-25 is the period we remember the most. It is the period of most novelties, the most number of firsts. It has a strong impact on our memory and I think it is also because theose events are most discussed. I remember, till the time we got married, me and my best friend would discuss about the day in detail, EVERYDAY. And dissect every little thing anyone said and make sense out of it. Now a lot of events are so mundane, they go unnoticed. Two days back, the husband came back from a 4 day tour. I felt as if I hadnt seen him in a long time and couldnt wait to snuggle in and cozy up in his warmth. This event could have made headlines with the said best friend, but in the larger scheme of things it feels very usual. Even un-romantic when it comes in context of marriage, but how important it was for me, at that time.

The first time I held my baby in my arms is also a very precious moment. He was perfect. I had made him. I always wanted to be a mom, and here I was. This little 3 kg dumpling would be my aankhon-ka-tara. And right now, we have a long list of firsts by him, in his first year, almost everything he is doing is for the first time. First smile, first little tooth, those first steps wobbly like a drunk, first time he said mumma, his first little kiss on my cheek – all of it is treasured beyond words.

Of course everything is documented now – a dozen photos and videos each day, so the list of firsts is extensive, but our generation relied on memory. We might be the last ones to do that.

Cheers,

Rutvika

Mango Cupcakes and what would it have been had I failed.

I have never failed an exam in my life.

Does that mean I am super brilliant? Heck no. That just means I haven’t taken up enough challenges in my life. It means that I have stayed in my comfort zone , doing things I have been sure about. I had even registered for some exams, and chickened out at the last-minute thinking I am not prepared, I am sure gonna fail. Hence there was no exam which I took and failed. But there is a major flaw in this system. It restricts my view of the world. Though not blatantly, but in my head it makes me think “Oh, I am quite cool”. And there goes that.

When I gave my Chartered Accountant (Indian CPA) exam, luckily for me, I cleared it all in the first attempt. But what if I had not? Would I have had the guts and the patience to take it again? or would I have chosen another career path? Would I have excelled far better at something else or become a sloppy worker, just going through the day? There is no way to know.

In school whenever anyone asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always answered heroic professions like a criminal lawyer, a journalist etc. And apparently, I answered with such conviction that even now when I meet someone from school, they are shocked to realize I did not pursue law or journalism. How and when accounting profession came in my life is kinda fuzzy in my head. I just registered for the first exam because I think everybody in my college was doing so, and cleared that exam, the next and the next and here I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I am mighty proud of my profession and the security a valued degree provides me. But as I said, it put me in a comfort zone I am reluctant to get out of. But sometimes, I get a strong urge in my heart to do something extremely challenging. Something which I have an equal chance of failing at. Something which will make me sit up and be scared about. Something which brings out the edge in me.

My brother is currently taking entrance exams to get into the MBA colleges. In one exam he scored 99 percentile, which means he is better than 99% of the population taking the exam. You would think that life is set right? No. The day and age where we live, the college admissions are closing at a whooping 99.4 percentile. How can you beat that? It is so fucking crazy, that I feel I am luckier having passed all that and be here. So there is no room to complain, but there is this feeling of insufficiency in my heart. It feels I can do much better, I need some push. To do more.

But I also feel there was a time and stage in life to do all that. Now I am 28, married for 3 years and wishing to take personal life to the “next stage”. Yeah, yeah I know that shouldn’t change anything, considering how liberal and encouraging my husband and in-laws are. But it does. That does not mean it is lost on me. May be I will do something which will (pleasantly) surprise the hell out of me. But for now, I wonder “what would I have done had I failed in the CA exam?”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : Do you ever wonder what you would have done, had you failed in one of life’s important stages and how different life would have been? Do write in the comments section, I would love to read.


Mango Cupcakes with Mango frosting:

Mangoes are back! Summer in India gets extremely hot, but it brings the luscious oh so sweet mangoes and hence I am not complaining. The color, the fragrance, and then the eclectic taste. Last year I made the no-bake mango cheesecake, and this year the vibrant super soft mango cupcakes.

Mango cupcakes

What you will need:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 3/4 cup ripe mango puree (about 2 mangoes pureed)
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

For the frosting:

  • 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp softened butter (not melted)
  • 2-3 tbsp mango puree

What to do :

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 170C. Line muffin pans with paper.
  2. Beat butter till it is pale in color and then add the sugar. Beat till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and fully incorporate.
  4. In a separate bowl, take flour and baking powder. mix it well together, to prevent biting into a chunk of baking powder.
  5. Fold the dry ingredients with the butter mixture.
  6. Add the mango puree, grated ginger and milk. Continue whisking till it is fully homogeneous.
  7. Pour it into a pan and bake for 20 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. To make the frosting, mix together icing sugar, butter and mango puree. Add more icing sugar if you want stiffer frosting and more mango puree if a smoother frosting.
  9. Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes and eat. 🙂

mango cupcake platter

Notes :

  • The cupcakes stay well at room temperature in air-tight container for upto 4 days. If keeping in the refrigerator, slightly heat in the microwave before eating.
  • You can skip the ginger, but it brings out the mango flavor beautifully.
  • Canned mango puree can also be used to make the cupcakes.

Drool worthy mango cupcake