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Friday, 24 January 2014

Little more than words

My school offered multiple opportunities for co-curricular activities. I would be too lazy to carry my swimming bag most of the times, which is why I can barely wade in water. I will not drown (unless thrown into a sea) but I cannot swim any of those fancy strokes. However, I would wait for the Library classes. Even if I had fever, I wouldn’t mind making my way to school to browse through the fictional world of printed matter.

Later, I enrolled in a British Council library and would walk the 30 minute distance from my house to get my 3 books for the following fortnight. I love reading books.

Due to various distractions, my speed of reading has reduced. If the number of pages per book is divided by my speed of reading, the time taken to finish each book has increased phenomenally!  

When I first came to Jakarta, I did not bring a story book from India (This was mainly because: like most other people who fly from the same point of origin as me, I didn’t find the 23 kg weight allowance; enough) 
Nonetheless, soon after I came I found my way to buy a Nora Roberts publication in this now-not-so foreign land.
I read slower now. However, I still register the words for long.

The other day I read: “She would remember this. William and her walking home in their soiled aprons.” Later, when I was washing dishes in my kitchen and realized the dire need of an apron, my mind went back to the world created by Nora Roberts.

“The incense stick was lit” is a rather bland statement (If sentences offer some reaction on the tongue, at all!) I once read somewhere: “The smoke from the incense stick made the overhead shelf grey, and the soot left its mark just as strongly as the sandalwood smell.” Now that’s what registers forever! And this line left such a mark, that I don’t know where I read it; which book or author. But I always remember it when I sit to pray. And when practicality dawns, I even pull the incense stand away so that the shelves retain their original colour!

When I write a book, it will have the following lines:

  • ·          “The fragrance of the jasmine wafted into the kitchen and fused with the smell of grilled cheese and freshly baked bread, as Marita was on her cooking spree again this weekend.”
  • ·          “Her pencil heels made an uncanny sound against the hard, black coal of the road. In the middle of the night, it was the only sound in the vicinity. Then suddenly, a car took a sharp 60 degree turn around the corner. It came towards her in full speed and the screeching tyre over-powered the sound of her heels.”
  • ·          “She dug into her wallet to find her key. She wanted to use the rest-room, prepare a luxurious bath for herself, set the frozen pizza on the grill and even hear the missed voice-mails. She had always been this way. Always, living a few steps ahead of her present activity, in her mind. Planning her next steps, making and ticking of to-dos in her head.Then suddenly, her mind came back to the present. Where was the darn key, she asked herself. Why didn't she learn to keep it in the designated pocket in her bag. Digging through the coins, chewing gums, flash drives and papers and the ugly, little comb she finally got her hands on her house keys!”
  • ·          “He knew it was Sunday and it was time to take his children to the park. But it seemed like he had just gotten into the quilt for his afternoon nap. He tried to tell himself that their loud laughter and cheerful screams would please his heart, once he got to the park. He even told himself that, he could buy an ice-cream too after their play-time was over. After many such conversations with himself, he finally sat up on bed and smiled wide when he saw his little babies getting dressed, excitedly, to go out with Daddy!”

I hope that, one day I can tailor a beautiful story with sentences which offer intricate detail and paragraphs which people retain, remember and most importantly, relate with! :D 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Being Vegetarian

Having spent a little over 3 months in a city where people eat almost everything possible, I feel proud to have held my ground on being a vegetarian. There have been times when I have had Oreo Shake and Red Velvet Cupcake in a restaurant: sat there for over an hour with a group of seven other people, and eaten just that! This was, in a Japanese restaurant. A Korean eatery was the most uninviting place for me. As a result of my culinary habits I am compelled to have biased affection towards Italian and Mexican food. Indian food is obviously the Santa Claus, providing me the joys of a full stomach from time to time.

In the hotel where I was staying, I would most often eat Mango Salad with Garlic Bread, or Pesto Pasta without chicken. After about a month of living in the hotel, I once noticed a new menu on offer. It was as if some of the items on the menu had been crafted especially for me. I thought to myself: finally! The staff and chefs felt a slight mercy towards my rumbling stomach and perpetually semi-satisfied appetite. There were “two” new vegetarian items they could serve! I ordered the first: I forget what it was called, but “Japanese Vegetarian Noodles” was the description of the chef’s recommended item. There came the “udon-something” noodles, and to my disappointment, the thin glass noodles were laced with fish oil! Fortunately, the choco lava cake with vanilla ice-cream came to my rescue again. The next veggie thing on the new menu was Spaghetti Aglio Olio Classic. It promised to be spaghetti with garlic, chilies and herbs only. For lack of enough options, I took a chance and enjoyed the seemingly spicy meal to my heart’s content.

In a pub, you would see me sitting with a glass of Caprioska and Cheese Nachos, while my friends feasted on fish and chips, chicken lollipops, beef-somethings and what not! I was happy with my Nachos with a tang of jalapeno in it.

In the food court which occupies a considerable area of the mall adjacent to my office, I was delighted to find Burger King when I first came to the city. A week later, Burger King decided to leave me alone. Even though they offered me a bean burger which was quite different from my favorite typically Indian alu tikki, I missed it. Looking for options again, I went up to the staff at the Pepper Lunch counter in the food court. “Ada vegetarian?” I asked in my half English-half Bahasa tone. “Gada”, he replied; meaning a stern no! With a grim, sad, hungry face; I walked a full circle around the food court. Coming back to Pepper Lunch, I watched as several people came and ordered their delicacies of rice with fancy parts of ‘edible’ animals. After eyeing other people’s food like a greedy child, I stood there for a while. Salivating and staring, I stood there trying to find a fix to my “being vegetarian” problem. After about half a score dishes had been swiftly served by the staff, I walked up to the counter and placed my order with faked confidence. One steam rice, one portion corn, cheese and butter. Yes, that was my order. Surprisingly, my little experiment ended pleasantly. Pepper Lunch serves their meals on iron plates, the kind of plates we use for sizzlers. So, my sizzling concoction of rice, cheese, butter, corn and pepper was not so bad after all. (Though, quite fattening!)

Among my other memories of being a vegetarian in Jakarta, are the days when I have shoved the beef shavings off Nacho chips and gulped it down, made myself Maggi to keep the vicious cycle of digestion in process and of course, there have been times when I have let myself down miserably and gone to bed in disgusted hunger!