Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The year in passing ~ its been a good 2014

Its the last day of the year and I have nothing but gratitude for this year. This post has been in my head and heart for almost two weeks and then as I made my coffee this morning I panicked that I wouldn't find the time to write before the year closed. So here I am, coffee cup in tow, trying to recall things from this year that I will come back to and fill my heart with when I need to. 

I dont really believe in resolutions that have to begin in the new year, infact my chosen day of the week to start something new is not monday, but tuesday. I think it is counterproductive to wait for a date or a fresh year to start something you really want to try or begin or go back to. If I feel strongly enough about something, a day, date or a week is not going to hold me back.

Such was the previous year, so tumultuous, that anything after that would have been cake walk. But for a couple of things, some very painful, this year has been all kinds of awesome. 

The year started well. Anything that would take away from my happy shiny disposition was discarded. I will remember January for the long beautiful morning walks with Sage and K and the pit stops for chai and some days samosas :). My best friend N was in India for an extended period of time and we spent some good time together. Sage was severely epileptic, K traveled quite a bit and I gave up my 'girls only' travel plans. 

The last day of January and the first week of February saw us take our annual family vacation to Goa. We needed the time off, we needed to be alone, to heal, to recover and to plan the year ahead. K spent a lot of time going back and forth to panjim because he threw his very expensive phone in the bathroom. It was catharsis in a way, because that phone was kind of like the last vestige of the previous year. But it was one of the most beautiful relaxing vacations we have had. I met my fellow food bloggers and explored the opportunity of doing a blogger meet later in the year. 

Once back in Hyderabad, I got myself a gas powered oven because my classes were in full swing and the power situation was so erratic. Most decisions in my life have been pondered over, stressed about and I think I am fully prepared and yet don't make the commitment, and BAM! something will happen that will shake things up so badly that I will have to react, respond and decide immediately. After months of saying yes I need to invest in an oven and I need to do a recce and all of that, a day before a very important class, unbathed I drove to the nearest kitchen appliance store and based my decision on which brand would deliver immediately. I bought myself a Glen 4 burner, oven gas range and I haven't looked back after that. I did have some post purchase dissonance, it took me a while to figure out the new functions, I had to send the fridge out of the kitchen to accommodate the new oven, but its been working beautifully and I love it. Best 24k spent ever!

The most significant part of March, was that the Escapades page hit 10K likes. It was a surreal moment for me as I sat in front of my computer refreshing the page, taking screen shots at 9999 and tearing up. For the journey of a few intense months, I couldn't believe what was happening to my venture. M my friend who IS (she made me edit this :P) my Entrepreneurial Partner hifived me virtually and we had a moment of silence to savour it. B came over and we played holi with the pooch. The heat was beginning to turn maddening and I was bracing myself for the summer months. 

April, with its heat brought the Indian General Elections into focus, no one, no matter how apolitical could escape the bombardment of campaigns, candidates and the general chaos. In a home that is mostly silent on issues, K and I could not help but have polarised opinions on everything :) We eventually could not vote because we didn't get our voters ID cards on time, but that hardly mattered to what was a watershed year for Indian politics. The state of Andhra Pradesh also was going through a traumatic phase with a split evident. I know that smaller states lead to better governance and all of that, but to be torn apart and live through the chaos till everyone finds their feet is very disturbing. The only thing that I spent all my effort on was my classes. I did a lot of them and felt good at the end of a super tiring day. Sage, even with his epilepsy, continued to be a darling and waited till I was hands free to have an episode even on days when I had 12 people to teach. Work-wise, I did a lot of reviews of restaurants and that meant a lot of food :D

I cannot remember anything that sets May apart, except for the mind boggling heat and towards the end of the month, again on a spur of the moment decision, I finalised a space to move my classes into. Escapades Culinary Studio was born, just like the first class I took. No planning and pondering, just a compelling force that pushed me. Amma was here, the house and family was trying to adjust to my schedules and the number of people that would come and go, but I felt it was unfair to ask them to adjust anymore. Meal times got delayed, Sage remained leashed for hours on end and the general demands on home and family proved to be too much. I remember the phone call with my now landlord, a flutter in my stomach and my heart pounding real hard as I negotiated my rent. I did all of this on my own, consulted no one, took no one's advice, just listened to my madly pounding heart.

The separate state of Telangana came about in June. The city was coloured a bright pink after the TRS which was the main party that campaigned for statehood. I was unable to decide if I was happy or sad. A tumultous couple of months would follow with no time to breathe. The meeting over a meal with food bloggers in Goa in february and the discussion over doing a blogger meet in August was taking shape. The studio was launched with a first class and I had to catch a moment to savour what I had created. I had a cup of coffee in solitude as I sent thanks for the energy and the courage to do what I was doing. We had a great first month and it was reassuring to have old students come back for more classes. I had a freak accident and tore a part of my ear off, got it stitched and didn't allow it to derail any of my plans. On the 30th of June we had Amma's cataract operation. Dr. Mandeep who has been her doctor for three years invested the time to study her case, reassure her and prepare her for the surgical procedure. MIL, K's mom was the pillar of support and courage for both me and amma. She spoke to amma, reassured her, encouraged her and even volunteered to take her for all her preliminary tests because I was tied down with Sage. Amma's operation showed me a side of her I always underestimate. She didn't rely on my help even on the day she was completely sightless. She managed her post operative time so well that it made me draw from her. She made a full recovery in a few weeks and can see much better now. 

I turned a year older in July, I spent the day with Amma and the doctor getting her check up done. In the evening, my friend B sent me a beautiful cake via my baker friend S. She replicated my life and studio on a cake, it warms my heart to be surrounded by friends and family who take the time out to tell me I am special. Planning the Indian Food Blogger Meet consumed most of this month. The painful brainstorming, treading on eggshells around people with egos more fragile than bonechina, and the determination to not allow my vision to be derailed consumed me. I spent every ounce of my energy to give direction and shape to something I had been dreaming of for a few years. I found a like minded collaborator, but working against the negative forces which were also part of this group tired me. On a personal note, I overcame a lot of personal demons, especially surprising myself with my ability to sell an idea to sponsors who eventually became collaborators. July was quite simply a crazy month for me. 

August 1-2 and was euphoric to say the least. All the hard work, planning, late nights, gripe and heart break was put on show. We had a fabulous meet even if I say so myself. I met many like minded, talented and simply amazing bloggers, a lot of who I admired from afar, some I call friends and a lot more I was meeting for the very first time. IFBM set a very high bar (no pun intended), engaging with the best from the blogging world, showing value to what had been just a hobby and more importantly not lowering our standards for anyone. Despite all the tiresome mind games and personality issues, the meet was a success. I didn't really bask too much in the glory of it's success, we had pretty good press coverage and yet, the vacuum that it created forced me to withdraw and introspect. The loss of energy was mind blowing, and for the rest of the month, I felt as limp as a balloon that lost its air, I withdrew socially and my classes and studio took a beating. I needed to disconnect from everyone and everything that I was forced to engage with. I needed time to restore my personal balance and center my energies. 3rd August also saw the death of a friend's mother under the most shocking circumstances. She died alone, sitting up and was found a few days later. It devastated the son, but affected me in a way I didn't think was possible. After the high of IFBM, this month and the next plunged me into depths I couldn't imagine existed.

September is always a difficult month, I lost my dad this month a decade ago and this year, I lived through the sudden illness and ultimately death of N's father. Uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and before our eyes, in three weeks he succumbed. I have been meaning to write about this and how I felt, but words fail me. I saw a man who faced death with grace and strength, who bore pain of a sort I cannot even imagine with the reassurance that his faith provided. I marvelled at his strength, I couldn't imagine a lesser person going through what he did. I saw him surrounded by his family and those who mattered the most. I couldn't help but relive my father's journey. The contrast could not have been greater. Uncle's death affected me in a very personal way, it gave me closure for my own bottled up decade old grief. I was drained, emotionally, physically and spiritually. For the first time, I was asked to speak at a funeral, I admit I choked up.

The only thing that kept me going was that I began baking commercially for a coffee shop. Walking to the studio, turning on the oven and getting to work really forced me to dip into all the strength I possessed and try and function normally. K made a long trip to China and Hong Kong on work. So for most part of the month I was left to myself. 

October saw my garden flourish for a brief while. I had an abundance of herbs, tomatoes and a few salad greens. We had a lovely diwali, first with K's family and later in the evening with J &B in their beautifully decked up home. I took my first festival hamper orders and it was nothing short of madness but I loved putting them together. On the personal baking front I discovered the joys of ready-made puff pastry. This was a month when I tried to get back on my feet and make sense of the last few intense months. 

November saw a flurry of activity around friends, meeting old ones and making some new ones. I did a fun fruit mixing event at a hotel and got a close brush with Page 3 folks of the city. Large scale baking orders kept me busy, along with the studio doing multiple classes. I made Kachi Biryani Hyderabadi style one afternoon and it restored my faith in my own cooking. My home kitchen was super busy with churning out packed lunches for K and I got a mild "The Lunchbox" feeling at times. K and I celebrated our 11th anniversary and like I always say, more better than worse

As the year closes and this day is almost over, I reflect upon this year. The year that I found and embraced myself. It has surely been a year of abundance. I took pride in all that I did, overcame my fears and set higher goals for myself. The many opportunities to do good work, challenged my skills and intelligence. The forced quietness made me appreciate all that I have ~ family, friends, Sage, my work and my independence. For the love and respect that comes to me when I least expect it. I want to savour this love and be worthy of the respect I have received. It inspires me to do a lot more than I have and makes me a better though quieter person. This road I have taken, this path I am walking on, feels scary at the same time that it fills me with exhilaration. Sometimes I hug myself, sometimes I look around for a familiar face or a hand to hold. I feel overwhelmed and challenged and loved and scared all at the same time. I am surrounded by people, places, ideas and thoughts that continuously inspire me and make me want to be a better version of myself.

For the year that lies ahead, I want to start with gratitude. And I most definitely want to move out of my comfort zone. And stay inspired

Thank you my dear readers for staying with me. Whichever way you choose to celebrate, may the year close on a blessed note. And the coming year should bring love, warmth and good health to you and your loved ones. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tis (almost) the season

It's like I don't want this year to end. I've tried and failed miserably to make it last longer by ignoring the days and dates. I looked at my phone calendar this morning and was shocked that it is already the 18th.

At the beginning of this month, I swore I would make the last month of the year really count. This meant that I would work hard and end the year on a high note. After the first week, all of that went down the drain and with it, I went into a downward spiral of lackluster energy.

I spent a whole week watching videos online, whole chunks of the day just went down the drain hole that is the internet. A few mismanaged days and a whole week was lost. I managed to pull myself out of the hole and attended to some family commitments on the next weekend and had the whole shebang over for a lunch which I enjoyed making, but didn't enjoy eating!

Classes at the studio have been slow. And today I told myself that mentally I had checked out for the whole year. I hope to do my customary year end post which serves as a reminder for all that I have done, what I missed and what I look forward to in the new year.

I've spent long days reading, sleeping, really giving my attention to my cooking, cleaning the house, watching over Sage and cuddling with him. To me this is enough and I am not going to shame myself with regret at having wasted a couple of weeks. As the festive season kicks in, I haven't even put up the Christmas tree yet, will remedy that tomorrow.

Amma was to spend christmas with me this year for a change, but she's had a bout of ill health that's left her drained and so she's decided not to come over. It will be just us for Christmas now as always. I'm hoping to make it small and meaningful. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Of this and that, but mostly K

Its been a while. Yes, far too many posts have been typed and left to die a slow death in the drafts folder. Far too many posts remain still in my head. I just popped in to say hello and that all is well.

The previously mentioned house help lasted all of 10 days and I was back to sweeping and swabbing. I got another lady to help in a few days and although she is as slow as a snail, she is sincere. That I can live with.

October with the exception of Diwali was a rather slow month for me in terms of my activity at the Studio. Classes happened, but not always with the energy that I like to infuse. I kept at it, because once I have people and they surround me and I am in my teacher's mode, something magical happens to me. I forget the bad mood, the aches and pains and tiredness, the angst with everyone in the universe and hunger even sometimes. I only want to give my all to that batch of eager beavers who are waiting for me to teach them.

On one of our long drives one night about a month ago, with Sage sitting in the backseat with the window open, K said something so different from what I am used to listening that I stopped in my tracks. He said, "you have something I envy. Diligence and a sense of responsibility and commitment which I don't have. Your passion is backed up by solid hard work. The money you earn comes because you work with your hands, each pie of it." In the 19 years that we have been together, this is the first time he has said something like this to me. When you have known someone for more than half your life, it is difficult I guess, to make observations which seem well thought out. One tends to generally go with the everyday flow of things, characteristics they have are slightly blurry from the near-ness. And mostly we focus on the niggling irritants much more than we need to. 

K also told me that if it were him, he would have thrown in the towel and said Fuck it after the third month. And here I was, years later still going at it. He told me that I put the work ahead of me and not my ego and that no matter what, I get up, get dressed and show up for work.

It is not that what he said sounded like praise to me and hence I liked what he spoke. If anything, I value K's opinion on most things, he does not offer a knee jerk reaction to anything.

So at a time when I was really pondering over the wisdom of the added burden of the studio, this came like a nice testament of what I was trying to do. I was energised and felt good again about my decisions.

Sometimes, it is nice to have a vote of confidence from people who's opinion counts. I have a lot of well wishers, those who regularly give me a few shots of confidence, who I call when I am down in the dumps, need to bitch with or just plain whine about my life. This was different.

When you spend so  many years together, there are almost no secrets. You are stripped naked, inside and out. One can second guess every move, every intent, call a bluff from 500 miles and press where it hurts the most. Most of the times, we use these secrets because there is nothing else to use. This day was different. I was grateful not just for the encouragement and praise, but for the fact that time had not dulled his perspective. He was still honest with me, only thing being I liked what spewed out of this honesty.