Thursday, 20 July 2017

Days of Monsoon and Eggplant Curries


Dear Diary,
Monsoon has arrived in Bangladesh. The skies are sulky and grumpy, prone to sudden teary outbursts as the grey clouds float sombrely by. The environment has taken a matted ash tone and movements are slow. We trudge through muddied paths, slipping and swimming in mire, wait in long, snaky traffic that makes us sympathize with Lizzie Borden, and  cancel plans because of sudden torrential rains. I hate the monsoon season. I also hate Dhaka summers and winters. I am not a pleasant individual and I admit that.

Life is difficult, yes, but perhaps the worst of all this is the existence of a certain group of people who decide to write verse regarding the 'beauty' of Dhaka rain. I am often alternately amazed and repulsed by the optimism of these people, who find such so-called beauty when there aren't any, these poets of Facebook who ponder on the exquisite delights of having a steaming hot cup of tea while listening to the gentle pitter-patter of rainfall outside. I cannot help but despise them, unfortunately.

One good thing that has borne from the mud of the monsoon season is the desire to undertake more cooking experiments. For the last few weeks, I have been scouring Pinterest (a.k.a the greatest place on Earth), hoping to unearth rare and hidden culinary jewels. I have a soft spot for Indian cuisine. Their use of spices and oils and experimentation with taste and flavor is curious and interesting. Plus, the fact that they use more or less the same ingredients as us makes my grocery shopping cheaper and easier. After days of endlessly browsing Pinterest, mouth hung open, wondering why I look at pictures of food when I'm hungry, I found a dish that really got my goat going (sorry).

Eggplants are the Ryan Reynolds of vegetables. They are so wonderfully diverse, playing dual roles as both a side-dish and a main dish. They can soak in the spices, be the perfect companion to even the most difficult of foods so beautifully that it's a wonder they haven't been proclaimed the mistress of all food already.

My fan-girling of eggplants aside, I present to you my Hyderabadi Begara Begun. I won't lie and say that making this was easy. Tempers were flared, fights occurred, their were some tears. However, in the end, my cook and I pulled through, resolved our inner differences and created a dish that was alternately sweet and sour, spicy and nutty, with smoky eggplants, resplendent in all their glory, lying

on a bed of creamy curry, and which was appreciated by the finickiest of eaters, i.e my father and my aunt. So, without further ado, I present to you-

The Lazy Brown Girl's Take on Hyderabadi Bagara Begun. 

 
Ingredients 

1. 2 medium-sized round eggplants.
2. 1 tsp poppy-seeds
3. 1 tsp white sesame seeds.
4. 1tsp fenugreek seeds.
5. Slightly less than 1/2 tsp cumin
6. 1 tsp coriander seeds
7. 1 tsp red chili powder
8. Slightly less than 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
9. Salt to taste
10. Sugar or jaggary to taste
11. 4 tbsp onion paste
12. 1 1/2 tsp garlic paste
13. 1/2 tsp ginger paste
14. Juice of handful of tamarind paste
15. Coriander leaves and chopped green chilies

Method

1. In a kadai, dry-roast the peanuts, poppy-seeds, sesame seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin, coriander seeds, red chili powder. Next, grind them to a fine paste (add a little water to ensure a rich thickness). Mix it with two tbsp of onion paste and some salt.
2. Wash the eggplants thoroughly. Make a cross-wise slit along them (take care to keep the stalks intact, otherwise the eggplants will break). add a portion of the paste in the slits. (This is an annoying process and will take time. You might want to hurl the eggplants across the kitchen during this time. Don't.)
3. Once the slits have been filled, and your hands and face are a spicy mess, rub oil on eggplants. In a pan, add a bit of oil and place the eggplants there. They need to be roasted to a smoky tenderness before they can be cooked.
4. Once the eggplants have turned soft (poke them with a fork), heat oil in a kadai over medium-high heat. Add the rest of the spice mixture, along with the rest of the onion paste. Stir and make sure they are not burning. Add some more red chili at this point if you have a fiery spirit.
5. Add the roasted eggplants and stir. Pour water until it just about covers the eggplants. Cover and turn the flames on high. Stir from time to time to ensure the spices don't get stuck to the kadai.
6. After about 25-30 minutes, the water should reduce, the eggplants should be softer and the gravy thicker. Add the tamarind juice and sugar. Taste and adjust and add a bit more salt if needed. We a sweet and sour spicy dish with a  nutty base.
7. Add the garnish, stir a final time and serve immediately with a steaming bowl of white rice.

Notes: You can make this dish more exciting and add 2 large chopped tomatoes to the gravy, along with the spice paste as well. The tomatoes will make the gravy red and tangy. However, you'll need to adjust your tamarind paste and sugar so that the dish isn't to sour.
This dish is a tricky one. Eggplants, although delicious, are deceptive creatures and need to be monitored regularly. So, have patience and you'll find a beautiful Indian curry in front of you, one that will be enjoyed by all family members (except for the weird ones who don't like eggplants. And let's face it, do we really need such negative forces in our lives?)










Wednesday, 24 May 2017

An Absurd Monologue On Philosophy and Mini Pizzas


Dear Diary,

The Kajol (Kohl for the citizens of the world) are to us Bangladeshi girls what the Sonic Screwdriver is to the Doctor, which means it's very, very handy. Before you close the gates on this blogger as just another wannabe nerd enthusiast (which is not far from the truth), let me go back to my fact about the Kajol. The little stick of black has the power to transform even the beadiest eyes into the doe-eyed gaze of Suchitra Sen. With a slight flick on the edges, out goes Ms. Morning Puffy-Eyes and in comes Madhubala, the subtle temptress. It is the dividing line between, " Wow! you look gorgeous! I must make you eternally mine!" and " Wow! Who died?" The Kajol is such an important facet of a deshi girl's morning routine that a day without it will inevitably mean that at least two people at work will ask us whether we are sick, sad, dying or have given up on life and love. God bless our ancient ancestors who decided to one day dawdle their eyes with coals just for the heck of it. They were the trend-setters.

The days crawl by, wheezing and asthmatic as they blow hot air in your face. Shame becomes a thing of the past as people just stop caring about clothes when the 7th circle of Hell is cooler than Dhaka. Sitting in front of the dining room table, looking sadly at pictures my traitorous friend, whom I had generously given a ride home to, took of me while I was sleeping in the car and then proceeded to post on Facebook  gleefully, I realized that life is cruel to generous people. I wondered what the meaning of life was. Was there any at all? Am I just destined to imagine myself happy as I plod on, pushing life uphill, only to have it roll back downhill like my social skills? I then decided to make mini pizzas.

Mini pizzas are  fun, easy to make and can be an interesting addition to any party. You can even experiment with the toppings and add your favourites. Since I was making these mini pizzas for my sister's children, and since they have inherited my sister's tendency to be suspicious of almost everything in life, I was a bit more careful and refrained from adding too many spices. However, feel free to add as much spice and pepper as you desire!

The Lazy Girl's Mini Pizza Recipes

Using these measurements, you can make a maximum of 6 mini pizzas. To double the number, just double the number of ingredients used.

Ingredients

Pizza Dough

a. 400 grams (1.5 cups) of flour

b. 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of yeast

c. 1 teaspoon salt

d. 3 tablespoons of olive oil (if your wallet is not feeling generous, you can use soybean oil instead)

e. Water (as required)

Pizza Sauce

a. 3 tablespoons of canned tomato paste

b. 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves (if you have a fresher option, please use a handful of them!The fresh ones are wonderful)

c. Salt and sugar to taste

d. 4 finely chopped garlic cloves

e. Water (as required)
 
Pizza Toppings

a. 10-15 pitted black olives, sliced

b. 10 mushrooms, sliced

c. 1 large onion, sliced

d. 10 chicken or beef sausages, sliced (vegetarians can skip this one out)

e. 1 large green capsicum (the kind our mothers gave us as an alternative to kacha morich (green chilies) because she knew we were wusses and couldn't handle the heat. Well Ammu, you can't protect us anymore. Life is our green chili now!)

Method

1. Pizza Dough: Mix yeast, oil, 4 1/2 a cup of water and sugar in a bowl and leave aside until foam starts to appear on top.
2. Take a large mixing bowl and mix in flour and salt. Make a hole in the center and add in the yeast mixture. knead the dough until you have a semi-sticky manageable mixture. Leave it to rise and double in size for at least two hours.

3. Pizza Sauce: Mix the tomato paste with around a 1/2 cup of water. Do not make it too runny. Add salt and sugar in proportionate amounts so that you have a balanced sweet-and-salty sauce that leans more to the sweet side. Add in the garlic, mix well and leave aside.

4. Once the dough has risen, make six mini dough balls. Flatten them until they are 2cm thick. Add a small dollop of the pasta sauce to the dough and spread it around.

5. Next, you add the toppings in a circular pattern so that it represents an ancient symbol from the old world just for the heck of it. Place the mini pizzas in a lightly oil-brushed tray and pop it in the oven. Leave it there for 15-20 minutes at a temperature of 200 Degrees Celsius.

6. After 15 minutes, take the mini pizzas out and, if you're feeling fancy, garnish with basil leaves and serve.

 Apologies for the picture. It is not of the best quality but I am technologically challenged. However! My father, a.k.a the residential guinea pig for all my cooking experiments, hates pizzas with an unreasonably strong passion. Yet, he admitted, grudgingly, that these tasted quite good. So, hopefully, you'll enjoy as well! Until next time!  

 


   



















Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Art of Lazy Cooking

Summer is here with its lazy, insolently hot afternoons. Everyone is sweaty, angry, one mosquito bite away from losing the last thread of sanity, my father especially so. Every once in awhile, I catch him glaring at the construction workers perched casually outside our window (we live on the 3rd storey, by the way), laughing as they play catch and drop with a ton of bricks and a sheet of steel (their happy hour is 7:00 AM on a weekend), happily oblivious to the fact that the resident next-door is contemplating their slow deaths. I would have felt almost sorry for them, what with their miserable working conditions, floating work schedule and meager allowance. However, I am my father's daughter and therefore  do not hold myself to such noble esteems. Such is the eternal urban dilemma of the privileged class.

Today was a rare off-day from work so I wrote down a list of all the activities and projects I had bottled up in my shriveled mind for weeks. I wanted to utilize all my hours, learn new craft, create, love, live! Being the proactive individual that I am, I did nothing from that list of course and spent the whole day sleeping, rolling around in the bed, sleep some more and wake up again to generally make life very distressing for everyone else in the household. As a person, I am not very tolerable and I acknowledge that. However, one activity I have attempted from the list is cooking. Cooking is my silent therapist. I can bash, cut, mince, boil, imagine the fish head I just chopped off is the head of a former flame or a deceitful friend, without the slightest twitch in my conscience. People may call me crazy, and they may be right. Cooking, however, relaxes me and I feel as if, for a few brief hours, people (a class of beings I generally dislike immensely) has ceased to exist.

Today I have attempted to create my own version of Asian sticky chicken wing. One distinguishing quality that almost all Bangladeshis possess (other than a superb ability to see something and immediately find 50 flaws with it, and then observe with careless superiority how he or she can make something far better at far less cost. This applies to food, clothes, the Sistine Chapel, Shakespeare and every other sphere of human life) is our ability to perform a task with the bare minimum waste. Outsiders to our culture might call it resource management but I can only say that we hate spending money and our mothers warned us that everything we waste, will wait for us in magnified proportions on the Day of Judgement. So, after scourging every single essential ingredient for the recipe from the fridge  and the shelves, and after a quick stop at the grocery store to buy the chicken wings themselves, I managed to create my own version of Baked Asian Sticky Chicken Wings. As usual, I used my father as the guinea pig and after his seemingly heartfelt positive reviews, I have decided to write the recipe here. Here it is!

The Lazy Brown Girl's Baked Asian Sticky Wings 

Fair warning: I am not very good with measurements. I know people love exact measures of salt and sugar but life doesn't work that way and neither do I. However, for the finicky few, I have added approximate measurements.


Ingredients 

1 kg Chicken Wings

1/2 Cup Dark Soy Sauce

1 Tbsp Sesame Oil

1 Tbsp White Sugar

1 and a 1/2 Tbsp Garlic Paste

1/2 Tbsp Ginger Paste

1 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce (optional and I think I will skip it next time)

1 Tbsp Honey

1 Tsp Cornstarch

1/2 Tsp dry-roasted sesame seeds

Water (as much as is needed)

Method 

1. Wash and clean the chicken wings thoroughly. You do not want a piece of feather stuck in your throat. Trust me.
2. In a semi-large bowl, add the Soy Sauce, Sugar, Sesame Oil, Hoisin Sauce, Garlic and Ginger paste together and stir thoroughly, ensuring that all grains have disintegrated. If you want to make your wings spicy, you can add 2 finely chopped green chilies or, if you're feeling particularly adventurous, 1 tsp of red chili powder. Add the washed chicken wings and cover them with the mixture. Leave in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. The sauce will seep into the chicken the longer the marination.
3. After 8 hours, when you suddenly remember while watching Game of Thrones and after observing your maid's annoyed glances, that you left a bunch of chicken wings marinating in the fridge, take the bowl out and preheat the oven at 204 degrees Celsius.
4. Brush the oven tray with oil, feeling like Gordon Ramsey as you do so, and carefully place the chicken wings (after removing the excess marinating sauce. Do not dry them completely. Keep the marinating sauce aside) in alignment with each other. Bake for 30 minutes, after which you turn the chicken wings and cook the other side for 30 minutes more.
(You might need to brush more oil in the tray at this point so that the chicken wings do not stick. I learned the hard way.)
 5. Meanwhile, place a saucepan on the stove and stir in the remaining marination sauce. Add around 1/2 a cup of water and stir. Add honey to sweeten the sauce and cornstarch (mix with a tsp of water so that you don't have cornstarch globules in the sauce. I learned the hard way) and stir until the water has reduced and the sauce is not too runny.
6. Once the chicken wings are baked (the total baking time is approximately 1 hour), mix them with the sauce. Sprinkle roasted sesame seeds on top and serve immediately.
Baked Sticky Asian Chicken Wings


















I hope you enjoyed my culinary experiments over the weekend. Now, work beckons and I must be off. Until next time!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Remembering My Friend, The Fried Cheese.


Dear Diary,

In less than a few months the year 2016 will end to herald another year of uncomfortable self analysis and another year closer to inevitable death (I've been going through Nihilist memes on Facebook a lot these days.) I came to this realization as I sat, one typically boiling hot day, staring at my flowers wilting on the windowsill (aptly called 'The Old Maid'), the sparrows eating the petals happily  and the cook idly watering its leaves and asking the reluctant maid next door her monthly salary. As this year has been just about as friendly as being shot in the face with a nail gun while simultaneously being punched in the head with a sledgehammer, I cannot say that I will be sad to see it go.

Oscar Wilde once said, " Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are all dead." That is a very optimistic and beautiful string of words coming from a man who was jailed for being gay, treated like drain water by his lover, and who died poor, unhappy and alone. Optimism is the biggest killer of joy. No. If I had to give a face to the current state of my thoughts, it would resemble Poe- brows crossed, saggy eye bags and generally hating everyone and plotting their demise (I won't add the moustache because that would hit too close to home, i.e my face). So, the cure for all physical and mental maladies, I am told, is to stay busy and active. Read books on positivity, they (the Internet gurus and my cousin) said. Watch happy films; exercise and breathe in the freshness that is life. Naturally, because it all sounded nice and pretty, I did none of that. Instead, I became hooked on a dangerous drug (kids, I am warning you, this is important). This drug is so potent, so heady that I am having constant withdrawal symptoms. I am talking about comedy shows on YouTube. Binge-watching every new episode of Saturday Night Live, rewatching old and new episodes of Conan O' Brien, finding Zack Galafanakanaka attractive (that's when I knew my life hit rock bottom)- I'm telling you, comedy is the new drug. It basically does everything hard drugs do (minus the hallucinations, elevated heart-rates and feelings of mistaken grandeur because let's face it, no amount of drugs can bring in talent if you don't have any. No, you don't sing like Robert Plant and your guitar-playing sucks). It (comedy) makes you happy, allows you to forget about reality for awhile, releases a feeling of peace and comfort,  and then generally plummets you back to Earth and you realise you didn't pay the chicken-seller the money he's due and that there's a cockroach sharing your bed with you. Comedy is bad, people.

So, I turned to the age-old therapy-cooking, There is something very soothing about the repetitive motion of slicing vegetables and stirring gravy in a hot pot, sweating until one's a pool of salt in the kitchen. Yet, strange to say, today I didn't fret and fuss over Pinterest and Goodfood to find exotic recipes to experiment. Today, I made the humble fried cheese. Sometimes, nostalgia gives me company in the funniest ways. The humble fried cheese (sliced cheese fried in oil to decadent deliciousness) was my staple snack when I was a child. I would implore my mother or the kitchen help to make it for me all the time. The crusty surface, chewy and warm, giving away to a melted core of hot, gooey cheese- this was the stuff my dreams were made of. Over the years, I completely forgot about this little treat from decades ago. Today, I ate my fried cheese with the same gusto of a seven years old girl, its taste taking me back to old houses, little adventures and childish secrets (like the small jewellery sack filled with sand that I used to carry around, pretending it was gold. I was an odd child.) It made me, usually so cranky and bad-tempered, slightly happy. Life sucks and this world is horrible but I'll always have my humble fried cheese to take me down a happier memory lane. I thought of all this as I snarfed down cheese quicker than you can say "Hi!". That's my contrasting nature. Internally thoughtful and philosophical. Externally, a starved hippo on speed.

With this long and meandering entry I shall bid you a farewell. But before I go, I would like to leave two quotes here. Oscar Wilde, the stupid, optimistic, happy dunce who's also a genius writer whose works can leave the reader speechless by its sheer beauty and depth of human understanding, also once said, " To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance." And that is perhaps the truest and purest form of love there is, mostly because we hate ourselves most of the time. But we're stuck with us for life and beyond. Might as well just try to tolerate and, perhaps, love ourselves. Who knows? It might take us back to a place we discarded a long time ago, a place where we felt safe and loved, all our needs and wants met with a simple dish of fried cheese. And, maybe we might start saying to ourselves, as we munch on cheese like a hobo, " Hey...we're not that bad...we're actually kinda cool..."

My second quote is by Chandler Bing from 'Friends', who once said, " Someone on the subway licked my neck! Licked my neck!" Now THAT is profound.

Goodbye.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Yoga and Salad-The Art of Living Healthy For a Day

Dear Diary,

Today I have started on a quest to regain my health. Initially, I was to start this quest back in January, a new year's resolution I jotted down eagerly and zealously back in the distant days of December 2015 (along with learning how to drive and to go on a rough and ready trek in the far-off regions of Sylhet (My imagination runs wild but my body remains rooted in front of the television). However, because my traitorous body decided to be sick and useless, and because I was quite lazy, and because winter was still hanging around my room and making lazier than a fat cat in front of a bowl of warm milk, I decided to start my journey towards a healthier lifestyle in this glorious month of February. I was to start  last week but after one session, and due to my own ineptness, I postponed it to this week and started today.

Was I excited about my little project? Yes, very much so! Was I aware just how difficult and gut-wrenching it would be? No, I was not. As a result, I suffered. Before I undertook this (in my eyes) a mammoth task, I was quite excited. I already jotted down a list of things to do (I love making lists. Making lists and never following them is the treasured hobby of a lifelong procrastinator) and what-not.

Straightaway I decided that Yoga was the path towards glorious healthiness for me.Excitedly, I made a list (again) of all the postures and poses I was to perform.  In my head, I imagined myself to perform various yogic moves and postures (Asanas they are called), my legs twisted gracefully behind my arched back as I breathe deeply and peacefully, heading into a state of tantric meditation. I woke up early in the morning (8:00 AM) before the rest of the household stirred from their sweet slumber. Straightway, I started for one of the complicated Asanas, the one where you had to lift your whole body up from a lying down position, so that your body resembles a wheel. I started so,imagining my back to arch like a glorious swan bathing in the water. I never realized until then how supremely inflexible my whole body is and how weak. I have no strength in my arms (they flap around my side, toneless and useless, not being able to lift anything of a little weight, let around my whole hulking body) and my back does not understand the term 'arching gracefully'. It only stays straight as a board while sending signals of muscle pulls and pain to my brain. Instead of deep,   calming breaths I exhaled short, choppy gasps and, finally, with a deafening thump, I fell on the floor, a state of shame and despair.

I thought that maybe I should start-off with something easier. Perhaps some stretches to ease the hamstrings that were so suddenly and rudely jolted into action after years of inactivity, So I stretched my legs out and tried to reach my toes with my fingers. I could barely reach them and, in the end, I had to bend my knees and touch my toes. Basically, I just sat with my knees up and touched my toes. It was a sad, shameful 10 minutes for me and I quickly gave it.

My excitement cannot be blunted,however, and I made my way to the kitchen to whip up something healthy. A bit of poached egg, some fruits, and a mushroom saute. The thought was pleasing. After eating my breakfast, along with one more egg, some rotis, 6 fried eggplant pieces with the oil still dripping from them and two helpings of last night's chicken curry, I was ready to take a brisk walk around the rooftop before heading for work. Aside from a bunch of crows trying to chase me, I enjoyed that walk thoroughly. I plan to go for another one soon.

By 12:00 PM, I was thoroughly exhausted at work. I looked around me, everyone active and eager to go about their day's work, refreshed from a long sleep, their stomachs full from an unhealthy and delicious breakfast. I looked like a wreck. My brain decided to take a stand and go on a strike while my body felt like it ran 3 marathons. I couldn't help but take a 5 minute nap that turned into a 20-minute slumber. When I woke up, I saw my boss eyeing me balefully. I could tell he wanted to throw something at me. Hastily, I jumped up and pretended to type some important document (but actually typing Facebook in the search bar). While looking at video of a dog petting a cat, I realized it's 2:00 P.M and that lunch time. I also realized that my whole body hurts and that I had bones in places I didn't know existed. I opened my lunch box and started munching on a healthy array of chickpea salad with lettuce and chicken. Satisfied, I continued perusing through dog videos again. By 4:00 P.M I was hungry again and scavenging around desks, begging people to give me some disgusting and unhealthy food. Life is hard. I don't know how long I can continue with my diet. I realize it's only been a day yes.

Well, I best sign off for today, carrying my painful body and shattered ideals of Yoga with me. Maybe tomorrow is my day. Maybe I won't even exercise and be the lazy, slob that is my true calling and that which I should accept. Who knows? But, for now, Adios.




















   

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Gardening Madness

Dear Diary,

The fall of November is upon us and the sun is blazing in all its splendor. The departure of summer was a long, hot one. Everywhere, people were desperate for rain. When the rain started to pour in bucketfuls, people longed for the summer again. We as a nation are very high-maintenance. Now, in the second week of November, the mornings are hot and the nights are cool. I think people will hate that too. Very soon, we shall see rickshaw-pullers pedaling through dark roads and alleyways, wearing monkey caps and army jackets. Rich men and women will dress up and look as if jewelry stores threw up diamonds and gemstones on them, to hang out in weddings and Westin lobbies (they have new seats now).

I look for new hobbies to distract myself from my fast-approaching spinsterhood. I had taken up sewing as a hobby. However, all that was missing was a rocking chair and a pince-nez. Otherwise, I looked like a spitting image of my grandmother. So, I quickly gave that up before people started  and turned to gardening. Gardening is a wonderful hobby, a thing like no other. In our apartment it becomes a fight for one's rights. Our roof is taken over by thugs that we affectionately call buas or maids. Like property fights of the olden days and basically typical fights in villages, the buas believe that whatever grows on the roof if course theirs and they have a right to eat,drink, steal or adorn themselves with it. We tenants cower in a corner with our plants when they come over. Any time, any second, it might be taken away from us, a fruit plucked for careless consumption, a flower picked to adorn their hair as they flirt with the carpenters next door.
Fool that I am, I still gather the courage to plant things secretly on the rooftop. I have recently taken upon myself to create a vegetable garden in the rooftop. Potatoes and garlic and mint, to be exact. Every morning, I rush to the roof, furtively looking at my barren pots to see if the buas dug up the soil and went away with the potatoes or the single garlic cloves. I cannot help but see predators everywhere. Even the birds do not spare me from my justified paranoia (I saw a crow eyeing my potato plant. I must remember to splash it with water again). These hobbies only made me realize how, more strongly than ever, my inner housewife longs to come out. For decades, I have hidden her under the guise of the modern day woman, the one who ties her hair back severely and whose heels clicked and clacked when she walked down the hallway. The one who works all day and parties all night, dancing  in night-clubs, bar and party-hopping until the dawn peeks over the horizon.
Sadly, my hair is a loose mess by the end of the day, my flats make a flop flap monotonous sound instead and I go to bed by 11:30, the mere idea of night-clubs making my whole body ache. I remember how a friend and I once went to a night-club in Pattaya and, after 15 minutes of perfunctory dancing, both of us wondered where the nearest exit was. Good times.

No, my friend, my inner housewife is now stronger than before, the one who perks up at the thought of going to the crockery section of New Market, is positively alight with delight when Pinterest uploads a new hackneyed way to wash the bathroom sink, the mother hen of a party and the one who goes crazy on a grocery shopping spree (cabbages and lettuces? I'm there!) I clearly must set it free.

I write all this furtively, hiding behind the monitor at work. Weekdays, try as one might, are just not fun. Outside, the Bengali autumn sun beckons us. The skies are blue, the little patches of grass growing on footpaths that are not grabbed by developers yet are green and, this morning, I saw the little sparrows hopping on my window sill, furiously demanding rice and crushing my flowers as an act of revolution, chirping loudly. All throughout, Mother Nature is weaving little bits of magic in our grey city of concrete. During such joyous times, when the sunshine beckons us to sit inside our rooms with the air conditioner in full blast, and we dare not go outside and incur its hot wrath, when the buzzing gossip of rotund aunties lulls us into gentle slumber, it is almost a sin to be working in the office instead. And, instead of gazing at the gentle swaying of trees in a summer breeze, one has to see the faces of colleagues, poor souls who look as if their souls cannot bear the crushing overwhelming sensation of another slogan for a hair oil anymore, hunched over PCs, typing away, one digit at a time, desiring nothing except the quick release of death, cursing hair oils to death. Yet, such is my case and the fate of many others slaving away in front of me. These are my observations as I sit in front of my neon screen, doing absolutely nothing. These are moments of delicate observations and questions about life itself, philosophizing the meaning of being. Then my boss walks in and I am forced to pretend to be happy with my life.

I hear my name being called. I must be off now, to stand by the printer and pretend I'm waiting to print an official document. Toodles.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

On Books And Primate Dystopia

Dear Diary,

Life has beset me with many problems that I have conquered, back hurt but head held high (it's also partly because the doctor said I should change my posture on account of my bad back). From sneaky tailors who mooch off of me for an extra stitch, to dealing with the heartbreak (and mortification) of cooking crispy friend chicken with the chicken still raw inside- I  have faced them all. With the new Bengali year upon us, I feel I should pat myself on the back and say to myself, " Aye!"

Yet, as I wonder when these adventurous escapades of mine will be recorded by historians and ranked alongside Tagore, Shakespeare and Stephanie Meyers, it frequently comes to my attention how high the level of discrepancy is between the perception of male and female writers. For centuries, the history of World Literature has been dominated by male writers and female writers have been delegated to the sidelines. During the 17th and 18th century, most of the writers of the latter category either had to use male pseudonyms for their works to be given weight ( George Eliot, the Bronte sisters). While some managed to dig their way out of the male dominated world of words (Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley), others were not so lucky.

But that was in the spring of youth, when I was but a child. Now, as a grown-up woman of undefinable age, I find that things are still bleak as ever. Women in literature are not given the weight that they deserve because their writing is thought to be silly or too emotional, even when their works are politically riveting, nuanced and witty or psychologically analytical. Male counterparts are given more weight, even when basically what they're writing about is more or less the same. And when male readers do enjoy the works of female authors, they usually hide their fascination for fear of I don't know, embarrassment I suppose. I have had my male relatives coming up to me to surreptitiously ask in a side whisper, " Hey kid. You got any Agatha Christie?" But all this is in context of my little world by the way and not representative of the whole world.

Perhaps things will change by the time my works are recorded and people read my experiences and think, " Here was a witty woman, whose works shaped the land upon which human society now stands." Or perhaps they will discard my writings and in the distant future of the year 3020, when the world is ruled by apes and monkeys, they will find it in the dregs of the Internet and think, " That girl had problems."
I'm hoping it's a mixture of both.