Diwali In Auckland


(PS: that is not my home, it is my neighbors’)

To me, Diwali is the festival of food, particularly sweets. Families all over would create  culinary masterpieces and the very air would be infused with myriad aromas. When Diwali is passes by my house would be filled with lots of food, boxes of sweets. The sweets are delicious. They are perfect eatery when I am wandering or standing near the refrigerator door.

I have many favorite sweets. Over Hindu calendar year, there are many festivals where sweets are obligatory. During Diwali, we would go to our cousin’s place to exchange sweets. The purpose of meeting people is to catch up, spend quality time. For me, that never mattered, I am not much of a people person. I enjoyed Diwali as long there was enough food.

I decided this Diwali would end with sweets. This was not nostalgia or delusion. I can’t eat food and be instantly transported back to home. I don’t need sweets to recall what home is like on Diwali.  The evening would be alive with firecrackers’ noise. Mum would startle hearing a burst of a cracker. My dog Jimmy would run around smelling food. He got quickly immune to the noise of crackers.

Dad would watch a Diwali celebration concert on TV. The concert would be terrible but he would keep switching channels. Navin, my brother, would play on his phone or roam the town with his mates. If he is out, he would come home half hour late at the minimum. He always did that making everyone fret over his ETA.

Eventually, everything would work out fine. The entire house would be lit with oil lamps and decorating LEDs on the windows, dry color floor artworks (rangoli) outside the house. The LEDs lights toggle their brightness. It would continue to dance and emulate the twinkling the stars for the rest of the night. The Pooja (prayer) at home would finish quickly while Navin or I would make sure that Jimmy doesn’t eat any of the sweets.

Funny how easy it is to recall mundane memories at times like this.

Auckland is different. There is no startling noise of crackers, no decorating LEDs. But I decided that tonight at least there has to be a meet and catch up. The main reason was food obviously. I made a plan, invited some friends to a nearby Indian restaurant. As I cycled there, I could see which houses have Indian families. It is easy to spot that one house in a lane with LEDs adorning the porch. The house which has oil lamps lit on the veranda. Someone started fireworks as well.

I was not the only Indian out eating today: meeting everyone and greeting them ‘Happy Diwali’ was familiar to the days in India. Over the entire year, no one would say hi to one another, and on Diwali, everyone would greet each other like we are some long lost cousins.

The food was amazing. The essence of Diwali for someone like me was achieved. It was with a bunch of people who I can count on. The familiarity made food more precious. I didn’t miss home today as I thought I would.

Sometimes I Surprise Myself


I have been cooking in a new country for a month now. Sadly, only once my cooking has produced something that I couldn’t get enough of.

I do not cook bad all the time. I don’t cook amazing either. The very first time I cooked lamb chops, I followed a recipe. The result was so good, that I wanted to cry in joy at the taste.  ‘I made this’ I thought amazed. And I have been trying to reproduce the results ever since.

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But aside from the served dish, there are a couple of cooking things that I have mastered.

I heat up oil in the pan and add mustard seeds. The seeds pop and emit a great fragrance. I can add oil-blackened seeds to rice, lentils or anything else I have made. The aroma of the fried seeds, called tadka in India, is so good that everyone say ‘smells good’. I smile and try to tell them I didn’t do nothin’.

I don’t like large chunks of vegetables. Actually, I don’t like vegetables in general but I understand their importance in my food. So I spend time meticulously cutting onions, potatoes, carrots. As finely as I could. My previous housekeeper asked me how do I find so much time, I should just cook them in whatever shape they are. I didn’t tell her the answer but I don’t like that way, I like the way these small vegetables taste. The surprising thing: the chopped onions are now almost perfectly diced.And then I caramelise them so they are almost burnt. I could eat that with everything.

I have made mistakes. Twice, I cut my fingers with chef’s knife, once cutting onions and yesterday while cutting potatoes. After I bandaged my finger yesterday, my eyebrows were raised. ‘Wow, that was bloody efficient of you’ I praise myself (no pun intended) but I’m the clumsiest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Roommates cook, sometimes I watch them. That’s how I learned how to cook pasta, embarrassingly. I praise them when their food looks or smell fabulous. Sometimes they offer their good food to taste, sometimes they don’t. I always offer food to taste. Food is always better when shared.

When I got here, I was prepared to eat anything I could cook. I was wrong, I want to eat food that does not makes me nauseous. If that means that I have to spend more time in prep so be it. I spend more than an hour cooking. I don’t regret it, I have found that cooking is actually fun.

I never expected myself to say that.

PS: I just completed 2 years on my blog.

Tranquility


Today was pretty much normal. Aside from the fact that we had to present our engineering projects to the professors, yeah it was normal.

The project was approved, officially. And then we went to lunch. And lunch isn’t the commonplace restaurant like McDonald or KFC. We went to a shabby dhabba kind of place.

For its Misal Pav.

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Misal Pav

I used to eat there when I used to practice my street play in college. I knew, a few of my friends knew it. All heard about it from me, of course. The food there was long overdue. I loved eating there, so did a few.

It was kind of fun to enter a small stall and ask seats for ten people. They had to array their customers around to make space for all of us.

We ate.

We laughed.

One got scared of a small cute black kitten.

We laughed again.

And again.

It is a memorable day in itself for me. Possibly the best I have had in a week or so. No worries, just favourite food and congenial company.

But the day got better for me after it.

I am not a atheist. I am not a believer either. I don’t know what I believe in, but it may have its roots in fatalism.

Temples are not for me. All the carillon ringing is never amiable. But I always adored Sikh temples or Gurudwalas.

Ever been to one? No? Then I highly recommend you to go there. It is like unparalleled.

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Sikh Temple

Doesn’t matter when I go, with whom I go, it is the place that imbues peace to me. The Tranquility there is always surreal.

I could never shut my mind. There is always something that my brain keeps processing (Engineers will laugh at this!) A moment of quiet for me? Absurd.

Today I got it. The ten minutes there, I just looked. My mind didn’t even dare whisper a thought. For once, I was at the place where I stood. My mind didn’t take a trip down the memory lane.

And I relish those ten minutes profoundly.

I could hear my own heartbeat. Listen to the ceiling fan spin, cutting the air.

Whenever I visit Sikh temples, I never know what to do. But my subconscious does. Most of the time it is like I have lost control of my limbs, and my subconscious drives me. The number of times I prostrate myself, how much time should I bow my head. It is never a decision, it is autonomous.

So definitely I enjoyed the lunch. But the temple’s quietude I will not let go.

As I write this post, there is a peace in me that I never feel, and now I am basked in it

Thanks For Reading
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