Traveler| Foodie| Fashion Blogger

This is a role that people often assume, when creating their social media posts, accounts and blogs. I have seen the same tagline in a bunch of Instagram accounts. “Hypocrisy?”, I asked myself? Then when I thought about how I felt about them, I wasn’t too far away. The reason? “I love bitter guard, like you do chocolate”, said NO ONE EVER!

Traveling

There is a calm that descends over you when you have your life in your hands. Everyday life is always affected by those around you, but when on a vacation, you know you are doing things you like and want to do! While growing up, my travels were restricted to the few places with temples in Tamil Nadu. I was more than happy with just that small outing with family. It wasn’t till I had the first taste of having itineraries, and travel without family, that I looked at it as something more than just visiting people, being touristy and settling down in my comfort zone. I continue to make family trips, but their nature has changed. The same trip to my native town in Kerala had me look at the different things. What used to be just randomly gazing out, and taking things for granted, was all about small things like the kasavu that 60% women wore to the temple, the Kalimark panneer soda that we packed on our way out of Coimbatore, the coconut and palm trees, the same beautiful and cute little tiled roof temples, the bumpy roads, and the buttering up of people to get some extra neipayasam, at the temple stall. They all had a new charm to them! So this new revelation that travel means different things at different times, to different people, and is greatly affected by the company, purpose and experiences, gets you addicted to it.

Food

If we didn’t have as many foodies, we would all be stunning-looking people, there won’t be so many diet fads going around, and there will not be as many restaurants. I still wonder why the tastiest of things is so unhealthy and say, the bitter guard is packed with goodness. Being from South India, an early fascination for ‘North Indian’ food develops. I used to order bhel puris and chole bhatura, every single time we went out to eat. Being a picky eater, I was never one to venture out of my comfort zone. So I was 16 when I tried my first pizza, and my first piece of panneer. Looking at me now, you can very well infer that there was no looking back after that. Things in India picked up, and it was time for the global scene! Enter Subway Sandwiches, pastas, bubble teas, Chinese food, and in recent times, even Mexican and Thai food! With so many options in hand, who wouldn’t have a favorite!?

Fashion

This part, I believe is an inherent style that each person has. Fashion, I believe is all about perception. Truth be told, I have always wondered why models on the ramp are given weird hairstyles sticking out, weirder eye make-up, and the weirdest lip colors. Maybe there is a reason. We don’t see people in everyday life wear green lipstick, purple eye make-up and so much gel in their hair, so I wonder what the audience of these fashion shows are looking for.

Now I am sure there is a reason.

The clothes, again, what one person wears on the red carpet, may not be what you gave a thumbs-up for! Who doesn’t feel good when they are complimented about a new haircut, a new style they tried while mixing and matching clothes, and a new accessory they picked up, while trying to be bold, and different!

Lifestyle

I believe that every single choice you make and habit you develop is a lifestyle choice. Having an organized home, putting away money for travel, eating out only over weekends, eating healthy, your profession,every single one, a lifestyle you choose for yourself.

So my blog falls into the same pile of every other blog and social media account out there. If you are an oddball, and you start your own blog about lifestyle choices, guess what, it is bound to fall in these categories. Welcome to the rut!

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We get closer to turning 2…

I meant to post this on March 1, before we turned 2, but oh well!

As written on March 1….

My dad reminded me this morning that exactly two years back, H landed in Chennai for our wedding. The scene is still pretty vivid in my head- the entire bride’s entourage; appa, athai, cousin, ET all, along with the groom’s family, waited for a glimpse of his head bobbing over everybody else’s (he is pretty tall, you see!). Appa wanted to garland him as he came out, and knowing how embarrassed H would be , I was all set with my phone camera in hand, to capture that moment!

Two years later, looking at that picture, triggered an entire afternoon of memories from where it all started, leading up to the wedding.

H is not even remotely cheesy, and I think I am almost there with him, so I will skip all the details and get on with where the wedding preparations started.

I always thought that when it came to my wedding, I would be extremely excited, be a part of every decision made, every single thing bought, and being bride-zilla meant I could have my way in everything I had dreamed of! This is not even close to any part of an Indian wedding! The funny part was, I wasn’t even complaining. When it came down to the specifics of how many people would be invited, how many people I was going to call, the caterers, the invitation designs, the photographers, the venue, and so many other things, I was extremely overwhelmed, that I was more than happy letting others make that decision for me.

I would do a few things differently if I had to do it again now (H has already given me the glare for even talking about ‘do it again’,so it will not be happening)!! I met random maamis, maamas, friends of my dad’s and distant cousins. However, so overwhelmed was I, that I was cut off from everyone and missed inviting some important people that I would have liked to have with me on the day. I could have made a few decisions to make my dad’s life easier (after all, he was going through the same amount of work, and decisions to make!).

I was looking forward to all the shopping, but when it came down to just having two weeks after I was in Chennai to get blouses stitched, and lehengas made, I had to resort to letting others choose a few things for me. I wanted to stay away from silk, and this made life hard for H’s family! They had to make my nine yards specially made with ahimsa-silk, and go to a thari to look at zari saris that were made of ahimsa silk (a post is long due on this one). Every time someone asked me if I was stressed about the wedding, I would so, “Why stressed?It’s fun!”. In my defense, I did think that it was, until the wedding was done. I had been stressed subconsciously! It came out in short bursts, as I looked for some space to breathe with loving aunts around me while changing sarees or getting my makeup/ hair done. What should have been a fun affair, and some stolen moments between rituals of them making fun of me, pouring in a thousand suggestions, and feeling like an active part of the bridal brigade, turned out with me estranging myself from the fambam.

But our wedding wasn’t without its funny moments!

When I landed in Chennai, so naive was I, that I thought only my dad and athai would be at the airport! I had the husband’s extended family waving to me too, as this was the first time they were meeting me, after all! Here I was with 2 big alcohol bottles from the Dubai duty-free store,while meeting my in-laws for the first time!

Then there is that popular story of H walking out on me at the reception. This story comes up in every party, friends get together, or my go-to funny story (my contribution to any place I want to make conversation!). H found our photographer very annoying because he kept re-clicking pictures when people closed their eyes. Our reception, as a result of the slow photographer, and the crowd, went on for about 5 – 6 hours. It was a while before we got to the family and close friends’ portraits, and we were allowed to sit in that fancy sofa provided to us. The clock struck 11.30, and H got up and left in a huff. Here I was, the poor bride, thinking that the husband-to-be would come back after a drink of water. Comeback, he did, but this stime he came out wearing his “potatoooo” minion t-shirt! I los it. i think that gives the end of the story? :p

Then there was the other time when the aforementioned wonderful photographer would ask H to “wet his lips” because he found it very dry in the pictures.

So brides-to-be, bridezillas and the saner brides, please note. Your wedding will be what it will be. It’s not just about you, but the people around you and the memories you make of it. Enjoy every single moment, and yes, that includes the moments that don’t go your way too. There is no such thing called a stress-free wedding. Soon after your wedding, you will think back to the funny times when you did something totally out of character,the times you made your aunts and uncles and parents happy, and the times you were sane during your wedding! Do not be afraid to delegate! A bad saree can make for a story, but an angry bride will make for sour moments. So chill…

These memories and lessons- learned, along with a few embarrassing moments, flooded to my memory. I (we) still haven’t gotten around to seeing our wedding pictures and videos. Maybe completing two years should be reason enough to get to it?

The story of an Indian, vegetarian in a foreign land!

These are no longer the days where people land in a foreign land and are left stumped about what to order in a restaurant, what to cook as a student, what groceries to buy to make it taste remotely like paati’s saapaadu. Our uncles and aunts and several Indians who came before us, have already established a foundation for us F1/H1B visa holders landing with US flag’s starry eyes and dollar signs in our heads. Let’s face it; with competitive tests, assignments, bagging assistantships and staying with room mates, food should be the last thing you need to worry about! Oh, how we wish that was true!

Things are definitely easier these days. My room mate had bought samosas for me to have for dinner the moment I landed, and two days later, another new room mate’s sister sent us a huge USPS dabba full of bakshanam. This was followed by visits to relatives’ who hosted us during holidays and always sent us back well fed, and with a big box of brownies, milk sweets and lemon pies to share with the other forlorn souls near the university (who came back with their own stock). There was someone around, who’d make a trip to India each break, and they would come back with 2kg of bakshanam and sweets, from the mothers who thought that their kids (paavam) were cooking everyday for sustenance. Sambar and rasam podi came from four or five households in the very beginning, and stayed in the top shelf/ freezers in zip lock covers, to be transported two years later, upon graduating, to the new accommodation we moved to on finding jobs.

Our cousins, sisters and brothers visited us every now and then and took a few of us for nice lunches and dinners which they thought we didn’t get often. This was true to an extent, because for the first two semesters, we were restricted to the free pizzas handed at events around the campus. (The ten or more pounds I put on the very first month in the US, can vouch for my unlimited supply of pizzas when I wanted them. If you were vegetarian, of course, you’d have to limit yourself to the cheese pizzas. So sad!). If your town had a Chipotle, you were saved. Black beans, rice, pico de gallo, salsa reminds you of rice, channa masala and thakkali thokku. Closest associations to Indian food! and of course, the chappathi,er… tortilla!

So what’s the struggle, you ask? The struggle comes mainly from trying to order in non-Indian restaurants. Some restaurants (just not steakhouses/ seafood places) give you the stare when you ask for vegetarian options. H always rolls his eyes the moment I start ordering something, because I am always directing the chef on how to cook and present my dish. “Can I have the combo three, replacing the chicken enchiladas with mashed potato enchiladas, have black beans instead of refried beans, and oh, do you cook your cilantro rice in chicken stock?!”, “Is your roasted tomato soup made with veggie broth?”, “Can I just have the baked potatoes, without the bacon, please?”, “Does your marinara sauce have meat in it?” and the list goes on.

I have to pat myself on the back, for finding ways to stay vegetarian all these years. There are things you learn not to order. Thai soups that come with your lunch plate usually have oyster sauce in them, or some restaurants make their marinara sauce with chicken stock, or some authentic Mexican places make their tortillas with lard. Can you blame my dad or H’s mom for asking for “thuliyoondu thayir sadam” for dinner?

So here’s to all the struggles we have, on days we don’t want to cook, have no relatives in the area that day, and no Chipotle around in town!

What’s my calling?

mood04

 

I spend two hours of valuable time everyday commuting back and forth from work, and my mind keeps me entertained! Last night was another example; Miss D was drawling away on the radio, taking a whole minute to complete her short sentences. “Howww aree you aall doooiiinnnggg? It is a beuuuuutiful day todayyyy…”, she went on and started giving callers (I still wonder if it is a group of people set up to provide questions, for her to provide relationship advice to!) her opinion on how they should run their lives! That’s where my mind wandered off.Hmm, I can definitely do a better job at being a radio jockey? Then I thought about my short-lived tryst at public speaking. I had lifted my sword as the Rani of Jhansi at a fashion dressing competition when in middle school, and froze there,  glittering Rani dress, mang tikka, big bindi, et all, but no words of encouragement to the open mouthed (and now snickering) middle school kids. Rule that thought out!

I then thought of how my decisions had always been a process of elimination. I don’t like this, this, this, this, and oh, that doesn’t sound like a bad option, I would think and land at the only option on the table. So if not an engineer, what would I have been? What was my calling? I am one of those people who dreams big, but is too afraid to move out of my comfort zone to try something out. An average person (read non-Indian) changes their career seven times in their life. I have changed it about thirteen times (all in my head). I have loved being a part of so many extra curricular activities when in school. Dance, music, art, and even the Exnora club! I loved every one of them, all except my physics and chemistry that I was doing in high school! In one dream, I was an active volunteer with the Exnora club, doing my master’s in Waste Disposal,in another,I was teaching tiny tots Carnatic music, and in another one, I was a personal stylist, telling the ladies ( and some clueless gents) what would look good on them!

There have been several occasions at work, when too much stress has always left me thinking “Maybe I am not cut out for this!” I was moving from my first job, and a few uncomfortable days at my second one proved me wrong. Some of the traits, that were hidden at the first one as a newbie, came out while handling situations at the second work place.My survival instincts had to be used because I was now outside of my comfort zone, and hey, I survived! I was not bad at my job, I had been inexperienced. A new city, new work and social environment, new responsibilities, and a new husband gave me perspective!

The new place and no known faces around in the beginning, and the long commute, made me wallow in self-pity. The commute did one good thing though; it gave me enough time to think about what would make me happy. I decided to stay as actively involved as I possibly could in everything I liked. Sure, I can’t make a living out of trades that I was no master at, but I can still stay in touch to stay happy! Bharathanatyam classes, Paint Nite once in a while, blogging (I did miss mentioning that I had had a penchant for words and writing as a kid, that I completely lost touch with), reading, styling my clothes ( read shopaholic) and singing for myself and my family can keep me as happy as making a living out of any one of them! In fact, happier; now I am proud to be the jack of all trades, but the master of none! 🙂

The image used is off the internet. You gotta love Calvin and Hobbes!