Saturday, November 18, 2006

My Experiments with the Kettle

This is in continuation to the previous post :

A solution to the coffee problem [or the 'lack of coffee' problem] came across in the form of the electric kettle that Rash brought. We both were terribly thrilled with all the exciting gastronomic delights that were made possible by the kettle. For inaugaration, we decided on making coffee. The ad on the TV showed making instant coffee to be the next easiest thing to drinking a cup of water. The girl in the ad, her family (to whom she serves the coffee) .. even the coffee pot seem to be smiling!! So, we started off with sachets of Instant coffee powder and a bottle of water.The instructions on the pack said :
Step 1: Heat 150ml of water , to the point where it is just about to boil, but not boiling.
Step 2 : Add to this, the powder from one sachet
Step 3 : Stir
Step 4 : coffee is ready ! :D
So, we were all set to go! Problem 1 rose in the form of lack of a measuring cylinder :D Being chemists, or rather, biochemists, we were used to measuring using cylinders and flasks, but how does one visually estimate 150 ml?? Then, we, the young scientists, calculated that the bottle was a 600 ml one, so, roughly about one-fourth should suffice. Problem two was making the decision as to when the water was "Heated to the point where it is just about to boil, but not boiling". After a lot of watching the kettle (and trust me, the watched pot truly does not boil! ), we decided that the water had heated enough. Then, poured it into our coffee mugs [we believe doing things in style, you see..], added the powder and stirred (see, we did not forget a single step) and with a prayer on our lips, we took our first sips of the stuff........ and, realised, that the coffee was great.. if only, you could evaporate half the water from it :D Well, the one-fourth had apparently become more than a one-third while pouring out!

The second tryst with the kettle was making Maggi. Feeling that our canteen wala over-prices and under-serves maggi, we decided to make it with our newly acquired possession. Afterall, Do minute hi toh lagte hain , maggi banane mein! Well armed with packets of Maggi, plates, spoons and ofcourse, water, we began with our cooking experiment. This time, with additional care to add just as much water as the packet said, we proceeded with caution and excitement. The delicious aroma of maggi began to fill the air, and mouths watering, we waited for it to be done. After a much-more-than-do-minute wait, we had to sadly acknowledge that this time round too, the water was in excess.The instructions on the pack are for cooking maggi in an open vessel, where you can bring the water to a boil and let it evaporate, while the noodles cook; a facility, which the kettle, inspite of its several virtues, didnot possess! We, then, formulated a hypothesis that while cooking Maggi in the kettle, one should always add half the amount of water specified on the pack!! [ a bit of free gyan for those of you who cook using a kettle :D]

The lesser I say about the time I made tomato soup in the kettle, the better it is! I will just assure you that both the kettle, and ourselves are still very much intact! :D

By and by, after several attempts, few successful and well, few unsuccessful, we have now become experts at "Kettle Cooking" [Like , Microwave cooking :D] . We can infact, write a book, " Kettle cooking - to do and what-not-to do" It'll be a best seller among hostel-dwellers, for sure !!

The Cup of Life

I have been a confirmed coffee addict since my childhood. The moment I had my first sip of coffee from amma's cup , I was hooked. Amma recounts tales where I would insist for "Taapi" in toddle tongue! There is even a small cup back home, which was exclusively meant for my coffee and I remember sitting, cradling my cuppa, slurping away happily. :D

Over the years, the only thing that changed was the cup size and the number of servings. I grew from being a small coffee addict to a big one [pun fully intended :D]. During my II PU exams, I was going steady at nearly 8 cups a day and, I am sure, if anyone made a study of the stuff flowing through my veins [though I can't say why they might want to do it :D], they would most likely find it to be coffee !

Amma is a firm follower of "too much is too bad". So apart from using minimal oil while cooking (which is good), she also believes in adding minimal powder while making coffee (which a'int :D). Annu, on the other hand, shares my love for strong coffee. The coffee he made for me, in the mornings on which I managed to wake up real early, was the best I have ever had. Nearly black, with minimal milk and a pellet of Sweetex, its aroma was enough to drive out the last wisps of sleep from my eyes and get me out of bed! Those early morning coffees with Annu, sitting at the dining table, planning out the study schedule for the day and winding up with washing and putting away the cups... it is a memory I'll always treasure..........

Being from a strictly coffee-brewing family, I never ever had tea till I was in my 10th class. Friendship with Prati started off a spree of new experiences, one of which was the introduction to tea. We had most of our discussions (which ranged from topics like Saankhya philosophy to the latest fad in dieting :D) over hot cups of tea that she prepared.

That initiation was a real boon, for I soon moved out of the 'coffee lovers' paradise'. Hostel life has its own sets of plusses and minuses [like everything else :)], but adding to my cup of woes here, is the lack of a real good Cuppa ! The people here believe in running through the day with tea sloshing away within them.. elaichi-waali chai, adrak-waali chai, masala chai.. and what not! But, none of this can substitute my beloved Cuppa and, I never miss a chance of going to the Shack and filling in on my dose of caffeine for the day.

Exam times still see me going faithfully to the canteen to have a cup of the sweet, milky stuff called 'Coffee' by the vendor. While I insist that the caffeine helps me stay awake, Rash says it is purely psychological, and tell you what, I agree with her. That vile machine-brewed liquid probably contains a speck of caffeine, just enough to keep a fly awake for a few seconds!! Most of the times, it seems to have a soporific, rather than a stimulating effect on me and I sleep much better after a cup of coffee from the canteen than after a cup of milk :D But we, humans, are creatures of habit and coffee is one such habit I haven't been able to shrug off. Bliss, still, is a cup of coffee - black, strong and totally life-giving :D

Thursday, November 16, 2006

An Apple a day..

Just returned, after finishing an exam. End sems chaalu, finished two, many more to go! Feeling quite relaxed during exams this sem, quite a change from my BSc days, where my exams would spell sleepless nights for the whole family! Last minute prep, endless cups of coffee, late nights and a lot of pestering amma.. "Amma, layek zatta nave?? " :D Praying, bribing God, 'pls pls, see me through this time round, I promise I ll be better prepared from the next time' !! Now it all seems like a dream, one you remember with fond feelings and a smile on your face....

Exam time now means, lukkha in the evening, sleep a while, listen to some music, an early dinner, then sit down to study... couple of hours down, go into Rash's room, gappe for a while, with prolly a coffee and even, a Maggi to follow! Back to study.. sleep in the early morn, wake up after couple more hours ..Gone are the days when staying up till 3 AM was a herculean task, which won admiring glances in your friends' circle.. Now the phrase 'night out' is as common as 'hi' or 'good luck' :) .. Study hard through the morn, a bit of nbd (come on, you cant have exams without a bit of ndb :D) .. then, it is exam time!! The paper's generally not bad.. and with the relative grading system, if your paper is going bad, you just hope so is everyone else's! :D All's well, that ends well.. and, the exam is done!!

Enough about exams for now, time to justify the title of the post :) Been listening to Fiona Apple, and, Am I hooked, or what!! This lady has an amazing voice - mezzo-soprano - and her songs have extremely powerful lyrics. A welcome change from hip-hop teengirl stuff that most female popstars do. Her style of singing is great as well.. lots of 'gamaka' [dont know how else to put it! ] . Listeing to "paper bag" now.. Here are the lyrics :

"Paper Bag"

I was staring at the sky, just looking for a star
To pray on, or wish on, or something like that
I was having a sweet fix of a daydream of a boy
Whose reality I knew, was a hopeless to be had
But then the dove of hope began its downward slope
And I believed for a moment that my chances
Were approaching to be grabbed
But as it came down near, so did a weary tear
I thought it was a bird, but it was just a paper bag
Hunger hurts, and I want him so bad, oh it kills
'Cause I know I'm a mess he don't wanna clean up
I got to fold 'cause these hands are too shaky to hold
Hunger hurts, but starving works, when it costs too much to love
And I went crazy again today, looking for a strand to climb
Looking for a little hope
Baby said he couldn't stay, wouldn't put his lips to mine,
And a fail to kiss is a fail to cope
I said, 'Honey, I don't feel so good, don't feel justified
Come on put a little love here in my void,' he said
'It's all in your head,' and I said, 'So's everything'
But he didn't get it I thought he was a man
But he was just a little boy
Hunger hurts, and I want him so bad, oh it kills
'Cause I know I'm a mess he don't wanna clean up
I got to fold 'cause these hands are too shaky to hold
Hunger hurts, but starving works, when it costs too much to love

This lady's a gem!!! :)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Still feeling catty! :)

Garfield rocks, totally!! :D

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Talking "cats and dogs"

Seeing a couple of kittens in the mess today morning reminded me of my pets - both past and present ones. I have had the fortune to experience the company of both dogs and cats.

Dogs are the best ego boosters you can get! A dog loves its family (as in, the one that is rearing it) completely. If you have seen the total devotion on a puppy's face, you'll understand what I mean. They make you feel as though you are the king, the sole priority in their lives. The rousing welcome given by a dog, once you are back home (even if you have just left just 10 mins back :D) is enough to pull you out of the deepest dumps! But, a dog also develops various accessory feelings such as jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness. It sulks if it feels it isn't getting attention, resents show of affection towards any other animal, especially babies or other dogs. It gets hurt, and suffers the pain which accompanies such great love and attachment.

A cat is a much more bindaas creature ! :) As a friend once remarked, "You own a dog, but a cat- owns you! " It stays with you, but never lets you take it for granted. It sets the rules, all the terms and conditions for its stay. It decides what food it will eat and where it will sleep.. and , you are very much mistaken if you think you can coax it to do otherwise! If you dare be adamant and refuse to agree to its terms, then it has no qualms in leaving you and moving on! "The cat, with its indignity and independence is very much like what the human animal should be but isn't" (Paul Corey). It shows affection, but with a kind of detachment. The moments when a cat chooses to love you - other than when it needs food-
you feel as though you have been blessed! It is as if a monarch, looked down from his perch on an elephant, at a lowly peasant and smiled at him. That is the attitude of the cat, towards the human it is living with! It does not consider the human its master, it is more like, 'I deserve all that you are doing for me, because I am gracing your home with my presence!' In cats' eyes, all things belong to cats. They are the ultimate followers of the Charvaka philosophy! They care not about the future, they totally believe in what they have at hand and aim towards total gratification of sensual pleasures! As Abe Lincoln remarked, "No matter how badly cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens " :) Curiously, these strong willed creatures do not rake up the human ego. They seem to radiate this calm statement of " I am your cat, You are my human" and it must be their self assurance that somehow convinces us to willingly give in to their terms and rear them at home! How nice it would be if we could be like cats - Lovable, affectionate, yet not clinging, moving on when life is not going according to their terms, unwilling to compromise, independent, having utmost self esteem and self confidence, very sure of what they want in life and also getting what they want!
Before winding up, here's a panel featuring my favourite cat :

A Knotty problem

Thoughts are a lot like proteins [I can hear a huge cry from my friends "There she goes about proteins again " ! :)] Proteins are also dynamic, vibrant entities. As long as they fold correctly, " God 's in His heaven—All 's right with the world!". But when they misfold, chaos reigns. A spanner is thrown into the works. More chaos, if the misfolded one starts aggregating with the newly formed ones, setting off a chain reaction of misfolding. Total lack of function. Mayhem!

As I was saying, thoughts are a lot like proteins. As long as they are clear, all is fine, and you are at peace. A single crooked thought can set off an exponential increase of unhealthy thoughts, till you feel your head is a time bomb ticking away steadily, ready to explode the next minute. You feel it would be such a great relief to get those thougths out of your mind.

Infact, everyone should have a personal Pensieve. [remember your Harry Potter.. and , if you havent read one, from which era are you?? :)] The Pensieve is to thoughts what a chaperone is to those poor misfolded proteins. It allows you to take out all those knotted thoughts and put them away from your mind. There, far away from the confines of your skull, they untangle themselves, and sort themselves out to a point where you can go back and analyse them. In the meanwhile, the remianing thoughts in your mind also get a chance to revive and flourish. So, that is what this blog is to me.. a Pensieve, to pen down both the knots and the what-nots of my mind. :)

Statutory Warning : If you are reading this blog for an intellectually stimulating experience, Stop! These will most likely be the ramblings of a confused mind, trying to sort out itself. But if you too are a sailor, adrift, trying to find his bearings, maybe you can relate to what is being 'penned' down here .