21 Intrusive Questions One Woman Should Never Ask Another

Have you been at the receiving end of a question which has no answer? Have you been been stung by a question which is not a question but a statement in itself? Have you been asked a question so powerful that it has taken the wind out your lungs and almost choked you? Have you been hit so hard by a question, that you recoiled at how mere words can have the effect of a physical blow?

Of course we all have and I am not talking or a viva voce of a 12th standard exam where the examiner grills you about the laws of quantum physics or the anatomy of a frog brain.

This is the viva of day-to-day life, where we women interact with other women – women who are our ‘friends’, women who are acquaintances, women we meet socially or just random women who flit in and out of our lives, who just ask, ask , ask – without waiting for an answer, without wanting a response, without knowing us, without a thought.

Since we women speak mostly to other women and love to talk among other things, we ask a lot of questions – all playfully, unintentionally of course!

In an attempt to make small talk we women and men too, ask questions – as fillers, as conversation starters, as ice breakers … heart-breakers?

In 12th standard exams, we used to have a booklet called ’21 questions’- questions likely to be asked in the exams.

Here is my list of 21 questions women ask each other; questions that are questioning, investigating, probing, scrutinising. Questions that do not end with a question mark, but actually with a few exclamation marks. Questions that are statements. Questions that end in tears. Private tears!

Here is my list of 21 questions that one woman should not ask another.

“When is the good news?”
‘Good news’ as in “when are you getting married?” or ” When are you getting pregnant?” The most prying, inquisitive question of all. Is there an answer? I don’t know. A few days down the line, you recover from it and think of clever answers you could have given that woman who hurled it at you. Too late!

The ‘good news’ question is designed to make the toughest among us tongue-tied and speechless as we cower guiltily at our failure in delivering the ‘good news’. We glower in shame at not being able to give the ‘good news’ that is expected of us. Nope, that new job you started doesn’t count as ‘good news’, neither does that degree you acquired last year after months of hard toil.

“Have you put on weight?”
Why oh why does anyone need to know this? You may have put on a few milligrams or a few kilograms. How does it concern the questioner?

Wish you could counter this question with positive questions such as “Are you going to buy me a new wardrobe darling?” Or “Are you just admiring my new curves?” However, you squirm shamefully, hopelessly pulling in that tummy fat, pinching those love handles, sucking in the armpit fat as if that is possible and rue the last time you ate a gulab-jamun, swearing never to go near a dessert again.

The question haunts you as you struggle with your post-delivery hormones or menopause hormones or for that matter any womanly hormones that misbehave and no diet fads help either. The question destroys the self esteem that took a recent beating and just got back on track. Why couldn’t the questioner admire your well-filled out glowing cheeks and say you looked happy? Or just say nothing. You promise yourself to go running tomorrow, eat one chapati less and hope that Ms. Question Queen will be pleased with your weight loss. As if she is going to notice the 200 grams you have lost, but you will try. Oh yes you will. You will do what it takes….with tears in your eyes.

“Have you lost weight?”
Now surely this is a harmless question? Losing weight is great, isn’t it? We are all on that losing weight bandwagon. We all want to lose, lose, lose until we get into those impossibly stitched skinny jeans that make our thighs look like sausages and need scissors to take off . But that is another story!

So ‘Have you lost weight?” is a great question. Or is it? Hmmmm, why is it that this question is always asked to someone who is already slender and a little underweight anyway? Rubbing it in, tormenting- “haha you look thinner” is what it implies. Ask anyone who has problems gaining weight – believe it or not there are plenty of us grappling with weight issues on the other side of scale.

Putting on weight is not as easy as stuffing a samosa in the mouth. It takes years to pile on a few micrograms, but in those few seconds the questioner thinks nothing of it and rebukes you with a reminder of how thin you are, how imperfect, how inadequate.

Yup, you will go stuff yourself even if it makes you sick, you will gorge on ghee, wear a few extra layers, wear padding, maybe even go underground and hibernate… until the day you put on a few kilograms to appease Ms Perfect who is prowling around with a magnifying glass with a built-in weighing scale that weighs even the smallest of bacteria and advises them to put on more weight… aiming for perfection.

Is Ms. Perfect inviting you around to hers for breakfast, lunch or dinner, so she can feed you? Fat chance! Does it ever occur to Ms Perfect that there could be a medical reason for weight loss? If it does, you will get a free lecture on her hypothesis of the investigations,treatment, medication etc you should be on. Never mind that she has zero medical knowledge and even is she did, it matters little that it is unsolicited advice that she is freely and publicly doling out. Your medical history is up for public consumption, so get ready for being held up like an exhibit. This question makes you feel like a diseased liver specimen sitting in a formalin bottle in some smelly lab, watched in awe and disgust by medical students.

“Why are you looking tired?”
Another dreaded one. You just got ready, washed your hair, used new deo, fresh talcum powder. You put on that new dress. You make an effort. You step out for a breath of fresh air.You run into the lady in the lift. And then BOOM. “Why are you looking tired?” says one woman to another.

Whoah! Didn’t expect that! “Tired?” You ask. She clucks with glee in disapproval. “Yes, you have dark circles” Oops yes. You think of explanations, excuses, apologies. Your child’s viral fever last week – sleepless nights of worrying and placing damp cloths on a hot feverish forehead has obviously taken it’s toll. No, maybe it was that heavy period you had last month. Tired, tired, tired!

“Yes I look like a panda.” You try to joke weakly while Ms Question smirks and watches you crumble to pieces. Is she going to make you a cup of coffee to destress you? Is she going to give you a free massage coupon? Think not. Yet that one minute in the lift is all it took to make you dizzy and want to go back home, dark circles, under-eye bags in tow, while Ms Question exits the lift without looking back at you. By the way, does she even know your name?

“No brother? Only sisters?”
Whew! Who knew you would have pay for your parents’ inability to have that coveted male-offspring, 40 plus years after you were born? You feel sorry for your mother for the taunts she must have endured in her days and realise that the dinosaurs who taunted her are very much alive and kicking, asking those very same questions.

Ah! what a relief it must be to have a brother! Alas! you will never know what privileges it brings… But you do know the question, and the answer is usually is a simple yes. An apology for something that didn’t happen those many years ago. An admittance of what you missed in life, a life incomplete without a male sibling. (??!!)

“No son? Only daughter?”
This is similar to the above question except that this time you owe a better explanation for having no son. Are you able to provide an excuse? How could you stop at a daughter? Why didn’t you keep going until you produced a son?

You have to keep ‘trying’ whatever that means. Different positions? Certain days of the year more productive for male offspring, perhaps? A scientific discovery waiting to be made by you? Some magic potion that the begetters of sons know of and somehow you weren’t told of it?

And then what better way of reminding you that you have nobody in your old age to look after poor you and your husband, who obviously does not have anything to do with the male-female offspring equation!

“Has your daughter started her periods?”
Shocking! But true. Subtlety is extinct, manners were never there. Imagine being asked this question by educated women in a concerned tone, as if something terrible has happened – a calamity to be dealt with calm.

You think to yourself – how clever these women are. Diagnosing puberty just like that and then having the audacity to actually ask details. They would never ask if your daughter started algebra in school or if she plays badminton in the evenings. But then none of it is as interesting as starting periods, is it? You reel from the shock of that question and then a few days later, think of clever retorts. You plan revenge – you will ask about her daughter too, then admonish yourself for stooping so low. You plan vendetta- you will ask if her son has reached puberty… in a few years. That is revolting – you tell yourself. You sigh in resignation. Life has become an open book – whether you like it or not. If you don’t want questions, migrate to the moon, or to Mars.

“Why are you not wearing your mangalsutra or bindi or dupatta or whatever?”
Nothing puts you on the defensive like this one. Who ever thought that in this day and age, women younger than you could pull you up for not wearing the symbols of wedlock. You can understand older, traditional women asking those questions. But when modern women check you out and ask why your Indian outfit is not paired with a bindi, you wonder who makes these rules of what goes with what. I think of it as a decorative sticker not a symbol of anything. Anyone who wishes to wear it should and anyone who doesn’t, why should anyone care?

But hey, this question comes out of the blue, just when you are glowing from compliments of how pretty you look in a new salwar kameez, someone goes really green and spots that blank patch on your forehead and reminds you that you are incomplete. Point taken. Something is missing… Dot, dot dot, dot…

“Are you pregnant?”
Now this is different from the first question. This is when someone looks straight at your tummy before you have a chance to suck it in and fires that salvo. Hello, you want to say – Just think. I’ve had this tummy fat for at least two years or more. Is pregnancy the only thing a rotund tummy can be?

You swear to get rid of the tight T-shirt you are wearing and start wearing long tent-like baggy shirts. But you never know- Ms Question will still diagnose a pregnancy through and through it. You just cannot win. You have to live with the glory of being omni-pregnant for the rest of your life or at least until you figure out a way to avoid Ms Question and her X-ray eyes.

“Have you done planning?”
“Yes I have planned our next vacation”.
“No, no, ‘planning’”
“Yes, I have planned lunch-box menus for the whole week”.
“No, no ‘planning”‘.

Then you figure that ‘planning’ is planning the map of your life as in ‘planning’ your reproductive life. C’mon, how can you get this answer wrong? Planning is family planning and there is no hush-hush secret way to go about it. You need to reveal the micro details – pill or copper coil, tubes tied or something else. Other women have a right to know what your plans are and you can stop stammering and just get on with it matter-of-factly! Your gynaec history is up for scrutiny and there are several women out there who want the juicy details.

“You have made only ______ for dinner?”
Oh no, now the secret is out. You made Maggi for dinner and that will just not do. How can you? Aren’t you supposed to dish out four-course meals, year after year after year, through sickness and all? Didn’t you order a takeaway the other night? Is that what you are feeding your husband?

Oh, this question is loaded, demanding a full blown explanation and it better be good. Wait till they find out you buy ready-made chapatis and are too lazy to make your own dahi. You can almost hear the sniggers. Who cares if you juggle a family and career? Round, soft chapatis are a must, not the papads that you pass off as chapatis!

“Why are you not breastfeeding?”
Now, this is a really private activity not for public discussion. But some women love to play lactation counsellor and what better way than to make enquiries into whether you are breastfeeding or not?

Much as we would like to believe that breastfeeding is and can be done by all women, it remains a fact that there are medical reasons as to why some women just cannot even if they want to. But let other women get a whiff of the fact that you cannot breastfeed and you are in for some real bashing.

So instead of putting aside the trauma of not being able to breastfeed and looking at the alternatives, you force-feed yourself some milk-inducing fenugreek seeds, pull out the torturous contraption called breast pump in the vain hope of it extracting a few drops of dried breastmilk from your tired body and hope it shuts up the woman who questions your ability as a good mother to feed her baby. Several painful, fruitless attempts later, you go back to the powdered milk, dry your eyes and get back to nourishing your baby – all the while envying the women who have free flow milk in excess and secretly make plans to steal the bottles that they fill effortlessly every hour. So low does your spirit go when another of your ilk asks this question and actually wants to know the gory details of all that nature deprived you of!

“When are you taking another chance?”
“I am not into gambling, you know.”
“Arey ‘chance’ yaar.”

You still don’t understand.

Not one to give up, Ms Q persists with- “You know, ‘chance’ – when are you having another issue?”
“Issue with what?”
Ms Q gets to the point – “When are you giving the next good news?”
“Oh, but didn’t I give the good news 10 months ago?”
“Yes, but you have only one child and that too a daughter!”

If someone could monitor your blood pressure at this point, it has reached an epic high. Chances are the B.P. machine will explode as you work out this new ‘chance’ you must take in your life in the near future so that Ms Q and others like her are happy. The question is, is Ms. Q going to help you out with your pregnancy, delivery or in bringing up your ‘issue’? Not a chance.

“You are only a housewiiiiiiiiiiiiife?”
Said like a question, but a statement in itself. Implying that all you do all day long is sweat in the kitchen, pack tiffins, watch TV serials, gossip and sleep in the afternoon. A sad life indeed!

You try to defend yourself, you tell her it’s your choice, you tell her you enjoy it – Nope, you have to justify all those hours you are at home to this stranger you just met at a party who demands to know exactly what you’ve achieved by staying at home and wasting your time all these years. “Being a housewife is not a job, you know” – she is probably thinking and you just want to scream and tell her “Yes it is. It is a full-time, year round duty!”

Anyone who has a house has to keep it tidy and running for people to live in it. It is your job looking after your house and you work hard at keeping it the way it is. And you love it. Do you think Ms Q wants to know? She has made her statement and is now glazing over, gloating over her own ‘achievements’ while you figure why you gave up your paying 9 to 5 job to become a ‘housewife’ and be answerable to random ladies who are free to punch you with it from time to time. You swear to go home and start looking for part-time jobs even if it means going to the other end of town to do it.

“You don’t do dusting everyday?”
“Well, I have a shower everyday.”

Hmmmm…in the ‘good housewife manual’, it says ‘She’ must dust her house – shelves, corners, behind furniture, undersides of tables, between fan blades, on tops of cupboards – every single day. Oops, you’ve never known such places existed! Do you dare tell the questioning lady that you don’t bother dusting the vents of the air-conditioner, ever? That would be sacrilege – you would be banished from their club.

You want to tell them that a little dust is a good thing and even dust mites take time to adjust to new dusty surroundings before they do their nasty jobs. You hope they don’t find out that you didn’t change the bedsheets twice a week as they expect you to. So you just lie. “Yes, yes, I dust every day, even after the maid has done it – just to be sure that every evil speck of dust is removed. I have a spotless house”

(“Just warn me before you come home – in, fact tell me two days in advance and I will call the cleaning company before you inspect my house!”)

“What happened to your hair?”
This smacks you in the face and makes you want to pull your hair out, just that there isn’t much left of it.

It true, it’s sad. There is nothing like hair loss to make you feel down and out. When you see your precious hair go down the drain and that patch of untanned scalp starts showing through, you just want to hide from humanity.

Just when you shake off that fear, someone notices the thinning of your hair and BAM! ‘She’ wants to know what happened to your hair. You want the earth to swallow you up, you want to be reborn with a head full of hair, you start envying anyone with a thick mane of hair, even a hairy man, you look at girls with plaits the thickness of heavy-duty ropes and feel like cutting them off (Yes, it brings out the devil in you), you look at your hair on the floor and wonder if anyone tried making wigs with fallen hair, you feel like transplanting hair from your legs onto your head, you obsess about hair so much that you end up with more hair loss. More pain. That is what this question does…

“Are you going through menopause?”
Just when you thought you’d heard everything the cruel world had to say to you, this question starts hitting you in your 40s. You are sweating (it is a 40 degrees C summer, after all) and someone puts two and two together and makes it 40. Yes, these are hot flushes.

“Definitely”. They pronounce. “Are you going through menopause?” Without waiting for a response, they expertly pick that one symptom and the verdict is ‘menopause’. A gynaecologist would learn a thing or two from these ladies. “Your youth is over, lady”- that is the message and hope you are listening. Your pleas of “Oh but I have regular periods” or some such weak evidence is rubbished aside. Hot flushes it is. 40 equals middle age. Stop wearing those jeans and behave like an aunty at least now!

Finally, you resign to your fate. Bring on the menopause.

“Why isn’t your daughter married?”
It is nobody’s business asking you a private question such as this. Yet, how many times women ask this outright, demanding question to know the exact reasons? As if it is their right to ask as custodians of our perfect society which lays down the age at which a woman should be married, for she must be married at any cost.

Only a parent can feel the pain that such a question inflicts. Why? Why? Why? The world wants to know. Not because they can set it ‘right’ but because they want new fodder for gossip at a kitty party. A question such as this deserves no excuse, no apology, no explanation – no answer. It is nobody’s business. Period.

“Why is your child so thin?”
This ones makes you sad and angry at the same time. Sad because you try your best to fatten your child to reach the ‘ideal’ chubby body weight that society lays down as the gold standard of perfection. Never mind what the paediatrician says.

Ms Q throws a cursory glance at your child and pronounces her/him less than perfect. It is all your fault – you don’t cook right, feed right or do anything right. It is all your mother’s fault for not teaching you. You fume and froth at the mouth because this woman cannot see anything else in your child and compliment it. What is wrong with being thin anyway? You see, when it come to children, thin is unacceptable, fat, sorry ‘healthy’ is great. Touch wood! People like roly-poly kids. Now go force-feed your thin child…

“Hey, what have you got on your chin? HAIR?”
Ladies of a certain vintage will know exactly what I’m talking about. At a certain age, the hair on your head starts falling and as you wonder what happened to it (other than falling in the drain and on the floor), you realise that the naughty hormones decided to transplant this hair onto your chin! As if this whole process of chin hair sprouting by the dozens is not heart-wrenching enough, someone actually spots the hair and rubs it in with this nasty question.

Okay, you admit, it is there, it is only hair and it really hurts to have it threaded or plucked. But it really hurts even more when someone keeps looking at your chin as you as they talk to you and pops this question which is far from tongue-in-cheek!

“Why don’t you colour your hair?”
You don’t realise your roots are showing until someone shoots this at you. How did you forget that you are expected to be at your perfect best at all times? Grey roots showing are a no-no and flaunting them is blasphemy! You go on the back foot, start blabbering excuses – no time, couldn’t get the right shade, it’s not your fault, it is premature greying – defective genes, you know.

Too late- you’ve been caught out and even if you have a cold, you go buy some hair colour and slap it on those hideous roots.

Why oh why do women hurl these ‘harmless’ darts at other women? Do men ask women these questions? Doubt it.

Don’t we women belong to a sisterhood? Then why are such ‘harmless’ questions which have no answers floating around so freely and ‘innocently’?

 

 

First published on womensweb:

http://www.womensweb.in/2017/09/21-intrusive-questions-nosy-women-ask/

 

 

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7 Rules to have your pakora and eat it too.

I love buffets- they are informal, you can choose what to eat, you can eat all you want and nobody is looking [ or so you think!].

But hey, what if you are on a diet and trying to cut down on eating humungous portions of food?

Now imagine being confronted by a magnificent array of Indian foods on offer at a party and the gulab jamuns look at you longingly, begging to be slurped and bitten into?

Now imagine having to look back at those wretched gulab jamuns and say ‘no’ to them! That’s right ! Can’t eat them or else all that huffing and puffing at the gym for one hour over the weekend will be ruined in one little gulp of that syrupy sugary dough ball with the come-hither looks.

If that isn’t too much to bear, imagine what happens when you sight the pakoras looking at you beseechingly and enticing you to grab a few oily gobbles.

Okay we’ve all been there and done THAT i.e cheated on our  diets when faced with the daunting task of surviving the temptations of a buffet and that too an Indian one where flavours abound and drool worthy foods just let melt your resolve and break that iron will power, making you forget your diet just for that one day. Poof! There goes one week’s worth of sweating it out and calorie burning.

So , for people like us who are on perpetual diets to lose weight here is a friendly guide to eating at buffets and not breaking the diet rules.

For those looking for serious diet rules or medical advice please look away and stop reading because this is a fun read meant for those who can laugh just as well as they can chomp.

Rule 1: Okay now I know this is silly but really helps. Eat before you get there. Yes you heard right. What is the point of going to the party you say. Well, do you want to control your weight or not, I say. There is no harm filling your empty tummy with a few bites of something healthy like fruit or plain yoghurt. So why go the party with a tummy that is rumbling and grumbling? Give it something before you go there and that way you won’t lunge for the party food like you have been on some bhook-hartaal or something!

Rule 2 : Go on a reconnaissance mission. Yup,as soon as you’ve done all the hellos and hugs, grabbed the welcome drink which should hopefully not add too much to to your calorie intake, go and check out the food – not with a plate in hand but just a little casual stroll to see what  is on offer.

Resist the temptation to take something off your husband’s plate and what he is already doing there when you are co-partners in this whole diet regime is another thing altogether. Never mind, ignore the hubby and go research all the dishes on display. Mentally tick the ones that are okay for you.

Forget the salad for now. What is the point of all this gorgeous food if you are going to munch on lettuce and cucumber.Unless you are desperate to diet of course- then by all means check out the salads and tick the ones that are not full of mayonnaise or cream or other forbidden goodies. Go for the sprouts and leaves.

But the other thing about salads is if you insist on having salads at the party , everyone will KNOW about your diet and that you are not eating proper food. How embarrassing is that! You don’t want the world know you are trying to eat less do you?

Mentally eliminate the curries that have an oily layer on top- nope that is not for you even if you spotted something green in it and thought is was full of iron.

Eliminate all the deep fried stuff – okay you really want that pakora because you last ate it two years ago and enough is enough. Right you shall have the pakora and eat it too.

Desserts: check out what is available and what you really crave. No, not all of them – just one or two. Okay done.

Having sussed out all the stuff you can have versus what you cannot have -hang around a little more. Chat, mingle, laugh, enjoy the company of friends, make new ones. It’s not all about the eating. At this point, you probably thank the dahi you had just before coming that is making you holding out this long.

Ask your friends what they like from the menu. If they have started off before you fret not.In fact, for all you know, the samosas are probably over so you cannot eat them even if you want to!

 

Rule 3  Go grab a plate. Select wisely. Try to avoid lumpy potatoes and fatty fried paneer chunks. Go for the cauliflowers and other veggies. Avoid the oily aubergines[ baingans] swimming gloriously in their oily pool. Go for dals, beans, chole and avoid anything where you cannot tell what vegetable it is. Take the chicken out of curry, the mutton out of the biryani and leave behind the curry and rice. Dont even look at the naan. If there are rotis grab them unless they are butter rotis or something similarly sinful.

It helps if you have worn a clingy , figure hugging dress because that will be a natural deterrent to eating to bursting limits.  Perhaps this should be Rule4.

Rule 4 Wear a well fitting dress where overeating will ruin your shapely contour by making you bloat. Do not wear elasticated,expanding type clothes that allow you to eat all you want. Make sure you get caught if you over-indulge. Be hard on yourself. That’s right. It takes a strong person to lose weight.

Rule 5 Do no pile your plate with a food mountain. It is seriously okay to go back for second and third helpings and yes, queuing up is a pain and so is spying the pooris at every trip because they are right at the start of the buffet line. Let the poori remind you of how you looked before you started this whole diet business. 

Serve yourself small portions. Even the pakora. Yes, that’s right. Got to indulge a little. Go on. Do yourself a service, give yourself a reward. A reward. Not rewards! Just one okay. Not one of each sinful type. Just one .

Is this cruelty or what? Who told you to go on this diet? What is wrong with being a little overweight?  The questions follow think and fast.

What is wrong with wearing loose tent like clothes for the rest of your life, you reason.Okay fine, if you suddenly feel this way, just give up and go tear into the buffet and eat like a maniac. But remember, as soon as you’ve done that ……….after the initial euphoric high, you will be nursing a hangover from all that excess for atleast a few days. Besides imagine how traumatised you will feel when you find out the your best friend survived the day eating just the chicken tikka and raita. So, let the feeling pass- don’t allow your self to be swayed – be dignified- small portions only. There is a CCTV in the room or imagine there is one or look around and spot someone watching you. That should stop you.

I love those sit down dinners where the video cameraman along with the glaring in-your-face lightwalla suddenly attack you just as you stuff a jalebi down your gullet and catch you in action -recording every single detail for posterity in someone’s wedding video where even after years, people rewind and watch your action sequence for a laugh. They should start doing that at buffets- it will help a lot of dieters.

Rule 6 : Eat slowly. Enjoy every morsel. thank the lord for this food.Let the pakora linger a little longer in your mouth. Savour the taste. Remember you won’t be allowed this luxury for the next two years. That doesn’t mean you go and grab a quick handful from the buffet. Nope, you will be lady -like or gentlemanly if you are a man and let others enjoy the pakoras as much as you enjoy yours.Resist the urge to be a glutton.Calm down. The gulab jamun should be arriving soon. The party is not over yet. Go help yourself to more raita [ skip if it is boondi raita.], go shamelessly help yourself to the last piece of chicken tikka or fish tikka. Think our your lipstick and think how the second pakora might smudge the lipliner- that should deter you like nothing else.

 

Rule 7 Some finer tips. My cousin invented this method of making a gulab jamun less gulabi, sorry sugary. Just hold the jamun under cold water from a sink for a few minutes, squeezing gently as you watch the oil and sugar leach out of the  jamun.Voila!a Enjoy the gulab jamun guilt free. Best done is your host’s kitchen away from prying eyes.[ Yes, yes i know this is daft, but hey it appealed to me, so I’m sharing it ] So next time instead of one maybe I can have two jamuns. One the topic of gulab jamuns, break the single jamun into pieces in your bowl and pretend each piece is one jamun. Seriously this works like nobody’s business. You can trick your brain into believing anything. The tummy is harder to trick. If your tummy is still hungry, obviously something wrong there. But go look for anything fruity on the menu. You probably overlooked it in favour of something naughty. Go help yourself to fruit from the fruit platter if any. Otherwise fruit salad will have to do  and fingers crossed it doesn’t have cream in it. Take the fruit and leave behind the custard.

As for the cake, how can you refuse a birthday cake!! Leave it for the children, have a tiny bite from someone’s plate or if you must, have a slice…….take the cake and leave the icing behind.

Sorry to offend people’s sensibilities. But this is what the world has come to.

If you think there is a lot of food waste [ mostly form you not doing justice to the burgeoning food menu], take some food with you. Ask the host to pack some for you and give it to someone less fortunate than you.

It will make you feel good, stop all the food going waste and hurrah your diet is untouched.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good news, I wrote a book……..

Yes, I have recently put my book ‘A-Z of being an NRI’ on Amazon.

Those who have followed my blog, might remember that more than a year ago, I wrote on this topic as part of the A-Z blogging and some of you suggested I should compile a book. So, here goes, I’ve done it for what it’s worth.

All profits will go to charity. I am still looking out for a charity that is desperate for help.

Here is the link to the book, available on Kindle and in paperback form.

I would love to get feedback and /or a review. Most of all I just want all you NRIs out there to enjoy it as I did when writing it.

 

FORBIDDEN FOODS

Have you ever ogled at and salivated over something from a distance, but never had the guts to go the whole hog and sample it?
Has something teased and tantalised but failed to tempt you into trying a little bite?
Have you walked past something and often wondered ‘ “Hmmmm, wonder what that tastes like?”
Here is my list of forbidden foods. Some remain untried, untested, untasted and some are tried, but never to be tried again.
1] There is a certain type of egg bhurjee vendor who set up a tiny stall atop a wicker stand, in a bylane near VT, at twilight. The eggs sat at the corner of the round flat frying pan, they are cracked open onto a bed of masala of onions, tomatoes and what not and then ‘THAK, THAK THAK’, the metal spatula aggressively, but expertly scrambled the eggs into a bhurjee. A sight to behold, but not sure if the gut would hold up!
2] Neera: This summer drink is derived from ‘Tadgola’ which is toddy palm and then fermented. How many times, I have looked at a Neera Vikri kendra on the Bombay Pune road and wondered what it tastes like….is it like coconut water? Does it have a kick like alcohol? Why have I never seen a picture of it or seen a glass of it?
3} ‘Gola’: yup, never had one of those. School friends would eat these beauties which are simply compacted shredded ice balls with coloured sugary syrup poured and squirted on to it. Purple, dark green, canary yellow, bright red, even black[ kala khatta……….I’m still drooling on this one]…….the girls would slurp on these cold treats in summer and I would just ogle, but think of what bugs were in that icy water. Sigh! I haven’t LIVED!
4] Our maid used to eat a certain dessert on certain days. It was sabudana[ sago] kheer with jaggery in dilute milk, I think.
Every time she had it and I passed by, I wondered what it tasted like. I think I’m going to make this one day.
5] In First standard, there was a child in the playground who used to get rice with some kind of curry on it. I drooled over it and wanted it so badly. At the age of 5 I had no idea of the culinary delights of this world, so I asked my mother to give me rice and tomato ketchup in my lunch box…In fact I insisted on it…..obviously not the same thing and not a combination I will ever have again. The mystery baffles me to this day.
6] At that same age, our neighbours had lots of guests and they were eating some kind of gooey, cubical, sticky sweet-looking, jelly like food. They ran around playing and biting enticingly into the green and orange. For years it haunted me, this sticky toffee in different colours. I was sure it was sweet and finally I described it to my Dad who instantly knew what it was. Badam halwa? Don’t know I said but when we went to Chitale Bandhu and saw those delicately wrapped, cubes of translucent coloured thick jelly like sweets, I knew I had found it. Yes it was Badam halwa and it was as yummy as it looked.
7]Okay now the piece de resistance…… I was about 10 and my baby cousin from America was visiting. She ate this delicious looking carrot puree from a bottle. It was Gerber baby food.Forbidden food for a 10 year old. But I had to find out what it tasted like, so I helped myself to a spoonful……OMG! never again , will I do that again…..sugarless, saltless and tasteless! Serves me right for stealing a baby’s food!!!

Foreign foods on an Indian tongue

QUIZ:
A thin lentil pancake eaten with a spicy, tangy soup. Answer: DOSA
WITH SAMBAR!
Indian tempura, with delectable onion/ potato fried in garbanzo bean flour, served with a green cilantro dip : Answer: BHAJIAS / PAKORAS WITH CHUTNEY!!!
A triangular filo pastry with a delectable potato filling tempered with cumin. Answer: SAMOSA!!!!!
Vegetarian Paella flavoured with exotic cinnamon and saffron.
Answer: Vegetable Pulao!!!!!!!!
Golden dumplings soaked in syrup laced with a hint of cardamom. Answer: GULAB JAMUNS , of course!!!!!!
Steamed, square Garbanzo bean flour sponge cakes, tempered with mustard seeds and a garnish of cilantro. Answer: DHOKLA!!
Rice pudding flavoured with the scent of rose water. Answer: KHEER!!!
A crispy spring roll with gram flour noodles and delicate spices. Answer: BAKARWADIS!!!!![ I haven’t made this up]
Now, enough is enough….
We have gone too far Anglicising/ Internationalising [ if that is a word] to repackage and market our Indian foods to appease to the world.
But now it’s time to Indianize a few international dishes to suit our sensibilities. So here goes
A wada pav with mostly non-veg tikki. BURGER.
A thick spongy bhakri with tomato chutney and grated paneer, baked in a tandoor-like oven. PIZZA
A flattened meduwada without the cumin and coconut, eaten without sambar. BAGEL
A sweetened meduwada, very similar to a Balushahi except less sweet. DOUGHNUT
Semiya/ Shevaiya with a non-spicy thick tomato kadhi with non-veg koftas. SPAGHETTI WITH MEATBALLS
Seaweed wadi with bhaat/chawal filling. SUSHI
A rectangular samosa with a bland filling of fermented paneer, onion or non-veg. PASTY
Chana dal pakora in thick chapati with white chole chutney. FALAFEL AND HUMOUS IN PITTA BREAD
A soft sticky khichadi made with special arborio bhaat,that can be veg or non-veg. RISOTTO.
A long wada pav with non-veg tikki, eaten with red and yellow chutney. HOT DOG
CAESAR SALAD: a rough koshimbir/kachumbar without dahi, containing non-veg and fried pieces of pav.
Maida or makkai Chapati with veg/non-veg sabzi , soft rajma and chawal. Avocado chutney and sour malai served alongside.
BURRITOS!!!!!!
That’s it! What’s in a name? A gula jamun by any other name will taste just as sweet……….
The proof of the kheer is in the eating.
Bon Appétit or shall we say khao piyo, aish karo!!

E-Free Day :No electronics for 24 hours

Written for Indispire

 

 

Imagine getting up in the morning and no one greets you with a virtual Medu wada or a GM, complete with a bouquet of e-flowers!

Imagine getting  up when your eyes naturally open, without a digital alarm waking you with a cheesy film tune that screams-“Get up, Subah ho gayi- Its morning!’

That’s right , no electronics to nudge you or greet you before you’ve had a chance to let go of your early morning dream.

This can only happen on a day when someone confiscates your phone and all the electronic gadgets that you surround yourself with all day and night long, clinging to them for dear life as if they are your lifelines.

So anyway….it’s morning. No WhatsApp, No Facebook. You have no idea what your friends across the world are up to or whose birthday it is. In fact, your brain has lost the power to remember birthdays or dates. After all what is FB for ? And what good is a phone if it cannot tell you what date it is.

So E-Free day promises to shock the body and brain in more ways than one.

But just imagine, , what a typical day will be like without these gadgets glaring into our sleepy eyes and buzzing into our stressed, over-informed brains

7 am: Oops, over slept, but hey what is that sound? A rooster crowing? The ringing of the milkman’s cycle……..

8 am. I actually look at my breakfast as I eat it. There are no ‘jokes’ to amuse me. I don’t have to LOL at people’s forwards or send them e-‘namaskars’ randomly and so generously when I don’t mean it. I just enjoy my simple breakfast, chewing on every bite without choking.

8:30am: I look out of the window on the way to work, listening to the sound of rain and watching it quench the parched earth.

10 am . At work. I seem to have tons of free time. Why am I not feeling tired as usual? Something is missing. I hate to admit it but I feel lighter not just because I’m not carrying my wretched ‘over-smart’friend but because I’m not feeding myself useless, utterly useless information.

1pm: Lunchtime. I’m actually looking at other people, as in, looking at real people across me and looking at their food. I feel like talking, as in, actually opening my mouth and attempting a conversation, speaking. Yes, I can speak. I almost forgot I could! Hmmm feels kind of nice to speak.

5pm. time to go home. No games to play on the commute home. I am missing my Candy Crushes!By the time my station comes, I feel energised, because I managed to doze off for a few minutes. Hmmm maybe I will bring out the old badminton racquets and play with my cousin, this evening.

8 pm: I am at a fancy restaurant with my family, all without their ‘smart’ pieces of luggage. The food arrives. Alas! No food photos, no selfies. What is life without recording what we eat and drink!! So we admire each other in person, compliment each other and actually appreciate the aroma of the food, the presentation and eat our dinner slowly, cracking jokes and pulling each other’s leg.No ROTFLs needed, we just laugh wholeheartedly only when we feel like.

11pm: No one is wishing me Gn or Tc. Do people even care about me? But  today I actually managed to cuddle my child and say a proper Good-night.I look at the crescent moon outside.It’s been ages since I saw clouds drifting lazily across the night sky. The sky is lit with stars. Real stars. I can look at them for hours and hours.The breeze touches my cheek and I realise that I cannot ‘forward’ that feeling to my 1052 e-friends even if I had all the e-gadgets in the world.

At the end of the day, we realise that all the Es in our life have robbed us of the simple pleasures of life.

Our bodies and brains deserve better. Surely we can live one day of our important and busy lives without all the E- stuff that runs us.

Just ONE day- an E-Free day. Is it that hard? Who knows? Can we do it? Are we brave enough ?

E-Free can be any day of the year or several days of the year.

So unhook yourself from the thing that lives your life for you and Get a Life!

 

 

 

TRAIN STORIES-Part I. ‘Goosebumps’

The time was 7 pm ish
I was on a local train travelling towards VT. This was a long time ago when Mumbai was still Bombay and CST was Victoria Terminus.
Now, I am a veteran Bombay-Pune train traveller, having sat on many an upper luggage berth in 2 feet of cramped space, right next to the blades of a celling fan.
But there is something about local trains that is eerily different from the long distance ones.
Anyway, here I was on my own, in the ladies compartment which was steadily getting empty. As it emptied of women, some unsavoury looking male characters jumped in at various stations.I looked at them , pulling my handbag closer, contemplating getting off at a station and boarding the general compartment.
But I stayed put because there were a couple of other women in the compartment.
Masjid station was approaching and by then, the only women left in the compartment were another young woman and me. The ‘chokra’ boys were getting a little too animated for my nerves and I desperately hoped the other woman was travelling all the way to VT.
The rough looking boys in rags hummed film songs and I was inwardly freaking out praying that I reached VT in one piece.
The smell of masalas filled the air and to my despair the other lone woman got up and started to get off at Masjid. I looked at her in panic as she alighted, still wondering if I should get off and go to the ‘general’.
And then……. I saw her turning towards me, staring at me, smiling a smile that will haunt me my entire life. As the train pulled out of Masjid platform, through the bars of the wretched windows ……… the smile remained fixed, unwavering.
The next five minutes from Masjid to VT were the longest five minutes of my life. Who cared about those boys anymore.
That smile had unsettled me forever!

Cracked Cups: broken not shattered

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I’M PERFECT? or IMPERFECT?

Don’t we all just love the sickeningly sweet mugs that have super exaggerated  titles like : World’s greatest wife or Hot babe or Number one cook or Wonder woman or whatever?

Cups and mugs that are not for drinking mere beverages but meant as  trophies for the perfect woman.

The woman who can cook, clean, multitask, love, produce kids, work outside the house, look good all to perfection. Does such a woman exist? Maybe she does, maybe she doesn’t. Who knows? Perhaps, perfection lies in the eyes of the beholder…….enough to want to gift her a trophy that proclaims her number one status.

 

Well, I am certainly not one of those perfect woman as in all my years I have yet to be given a mug/cup/tumbler which declares me as a perfect being. Thank goodness for that.

Imagine waking up every morning to a message that implores me to live up to an ideal I can never be.The stress of trying to be this ‘best in the the world’ would be too much to handle.

So I have decided to invent some mugs/cups/ trophies for those among us, including myself who are in need of some cheer.Why do those teacup manufacturers wherever they are, in China or Muradabad, not make crockery for lesser mortals who fall short of the high standards, of being 100%, of being the ‘bestest’.

Why not have crockery that is defective but still proud of being so?

What is wrong in drinking from a cracked, chipped, stained, half-eared cup?

So here is raising a cup to all those less than perfect humans out there who need a trophy or two to honour themselves, the way they are…………………….

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STYLISHLY STAINED

 

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CHIPPED BUT CHIRPY

 

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LUKEWARM

 

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WORLD’S WORST COOK :)…….We can’t  all be the best can we?

 

 

Indian English that only we Indians understand

I’m starting a new series of Indian English terms that only we Indians use and understand.

We invented these terms/words and we use them confidently and brazenly as if they actually exist in the English language. Who knows? A few years down the line these might even creep into the English dictionaries. After all ‘shampoo’, ‘guru’, ‘avatar’, ‘bangle’, ‘jungle’ and so on are Indian words that made their way into the English language.

But lately I’ve noticed some terms being bandied about which are not Indian words but English words that Indians use and each term has a connotation that only we Indians understand.

So let us start with a cheerful term:

RETURN GIFT

 

What is a return gift?

Read on to find out.

When we were children, which was a very long time ago, we attended birthday parties and gave a present to the birthday boy or girl.

A couple of Amar Chitra Kathas or a pack of sketch pens with upto twelve colours but certainly not forty-four or one of those orange-yellow metallic pencil boxes with geometry set or if our budget was a little more generous, it was a single Enid Blyton book. But even that was really stretching it, because if I remember correctly it cost around Rs. 10 and we are talking about the 80s. The packaging was also with the same standard shiny paper and yes, it was recycled.

At the end of the party we were given a balloon, a pencil, eraser[ we called it rubber] and some hardboiled sweets like Ravalgaon ones[ or eclairs if the hosts were slightly well off]. That’s it. It was as simple as that. We called them ‘back presents’.

Sometimes we got nothing at the end of the party, aside from the balloon. But then our presents were simple too. The party was all about the party games and food.

A homemade cake with no icing or a shop-bought simple square cake with gaudy brightly coloured icing, hard icing flowers with silver balls which we all wanted to eat, but turned out to be too hard, samosas, wafers in a single flavour[ salted, oily, non-branded], home-made green chutney sandwiches and if we were lucky, there would be chole and bread or puris. If were were really lucky there were gulab jamun. Yes, most birthday parties, in our middle class homes had this standard menu.

Party games were standard ones- passing the parcel[ nope, no presents between layers of newspaper, only one winner and yes , everyone had to do ‘punishments’ like sing a song, bray like a donkey, slap the person on your right or something equally silly, if not outrageous for today’s touchy world, but perfectly sensible to us in those days and so on], musical chairs[ highly competitive, no political correctness, birthday boy or girl did not have to win and had to compete like everyone else, no second turns]. Parents conducted the games and the prize if any, was a pencil or sweet. That’s it. No clowns to entertain the guests, only Papa or Baba to hold forth and play clown, teacher, master of ceremonies and so on, while mother slaved in the kitchen.

 

Fast forward to the present.

First of all, the middle class is no longer middle class. Birthday parties are not what they used to be.

Venues are not necessarily at ones home. What are function halls for, anyway?

Menus are exotic, complete with ‘welcome drink’ and what have you.

Event managers thrive, themes are a must, clowns and Mickey mouse are already so yawnworthy…. Give us something new for goodness sake! No not Dora again and we had ‘Frozen’ last month. Yes, boredom sets in easily. We are difficult to please.

Presents are ostentatious looking, in grandiose packing, complete with a fancy carrier paper bag which costs a bombshell on its own.

Actually let us not even into what goes into a present.

I am more intrigued, actually , outraged by something that goes by the name of ‘return gift’.

What! What is a return gift? Is it a gift you return? Is it an unwanted present that is repackaged and forwarded?

Nope. For those who don’t know, a ‘return gift’ is the new age, exclusively Indian English term, for a gift that one receives at the end of a party. A term, much like the ‘welcome drink’ …….a sign of the times, of new money, actually lots of new money and all the means to flaunt it. Why not?

But why call it ‘return’ gift?

Well, who knows? Many happy ‘returns’ of the day?

It does seem like whoever coined it, wanted the ‘return gift’ to be like a return of favour.

You give me a present, you do me a favour. So what it is my birthday! I will magnanimously return the favour. So, I give you a present in return. So we are both even. Quits. Equal.

Is that what it means? Well, the word ‘return’ does seem to imply that doesn’t it.

Why blame Indians for coming up with the concept? We have the concept of party favours or goody bags in the West which do sometimes contain an obscene number of goodies that threaten to outdo the cost of the birthday present.

But somehow, the ‘return gift’ does so blatantly, without holding back. In your face.

Without a middleclass care, it is ready to outstrip, outshine and upstage the birthday present, if finances permit.

Now picture this.

Children love presents. Children being children, will, in spite of being well brought up and all that, despite their parents’ protests, refuse to leave a birthday party unless they have received their party bag, sorry ‘return gift’.

‘ Go ask Monty’s mother for the party bag because we are leaving soon’ might sound better than ‘ Go ask Monty’s mother for the return gift’, but they do mean the same thing.

But imagine if the ‘return gift’ is a couple of pencils and eraser. Is that a good enough ‘return gift’ in return for the 2 feet X 2 feet, one kg Monopoly set you gifted the Birthday boy or girl? No ? Are you thoroughly disappointed? Well, yes, if you were expecting a ‘return gift’ and it is your fault for calling it a return gift and expecting a return of favour.

Now if you called it a goody bag or party bag, you[ or your child] wouldn’t be so disappointed would they?

Think about it.

Anyway, the ‘return gift’ here to stay.