Thursday, April 19, 2012

A leaf out of my memory book and cupcakes!

It was the summer of 1992 during my 8-week break before moving to the ninth grade. Since my family had suffered a traumatic loss just a couple years prior to the time frame that had driven us to despondency, my dad decided the time was ripe to splurge on a long-awaited vacation. The choice of places was easy - our beloved Delhi and my dad's personal favorite - Kanpur. I was more than thrilled because it was to be my first visit to Kanpur and I couldn't wait to get back to Delhi to meet all the familiar and much-loved faces of my childhood. The multitude of Uncles, Aunties, Bhaiyyas, Didis compounded with the friends I had from school, made it an impressive number of people to meet in the fifteen days we were going to spend there. The itinerary was all charted out and ready by the end of March and I could barely manage to stay composed during the austere annual exam season. Do you happen to remember the feeling that washes over you, the moment you finish penning down the answer to the very last question, on the very last day of the very last exam, in the very last half hour? You are so relieved that your mind almost forgets to nag you that you are pretty worried over how that History exam from two days ago is going to turn out. (History exams were my worst nightmares in those days, you see. I could never reconcile with the fact that you had to memorize and remember mundane details with precise timing of when they happened and what repercussions followed. In retrospect, I attribute that middle school paranoia to being taught by an intimidatingly stickler duo – Ms. S and Ms. F.) I had been subjected to a fairly big change very early in life when we moved from North India to South India. If you remember the India of the 80’s and 90’s, this was a huge deal; analogous to moving to a different country because everything changed overnight. Delhi – a swanky city I was immoderately fond of – was too hard to let go and it continued to haunt my dreams in a pleading way. So when my dad proposed this trip, I was jumping with joy thinking of the happy reunion with my favorite city after three long arduous years.
On the day of departure, I was dizzy with happiness with the only sad part being parting from my three little sweethearts – Revathi, Bharathi and Madhu aged 3, 3 and 6 respectively. The trio sisters and I literally lived under the same roof and regarded each other as 4 happy sisters. I could wax eloquent about the relationship I shared with their parents (R Uncle and G Auntie) but I should save that up for later. I will never know what it is like to have an Uncle of my own but I sure do know what it felt like to be treated as one of his own. G Auntie was more sibling-like and I adored her for everything she was. After hugs and kisses with R Uncle’s family, my dad and I reached Chennai Central. We were greeted by the characteristic unpleasant odors of the railway station that brought back a lot of memories from our tryst with the station in the 80’s. Nevertheless it was a heartwarming feeling in spite of spotting rats scuffling around near the tracks. We had a coupe sleeper to ourselves for a whole two days and two nights and no sooner had the engine tugged at the coaches, than I buried my nose in one of the bunch of books I had specially brought along for the long journey. Ah! Paradise found! Today, I would give anything to being able to do something like that – be a kid on a summer trip with no worries nagging at your mind that you can actually finish reading books in the peace and quiet of a train’s coupe compartment with its multifarious rocking motions, gently caressing you to sleep. After a panoramic journey punctuated with many picturesque sights, we alighted from the train on to the Kanpur Station when the night was still young. A minor glitch in the colossal travel system caused a mere couple hours of delay. But we were still living in the sans-mobile-phones era and little did we know that that would cause this glitch to mutate itself into a mini-volcano. Here’s how that came about.
My half-Punjabi cousins who meant to receive us, showed up much earlier than the train’s arrival and to their chagrin, got informed by the Information Desk that the train was running late by 4 or so hours. Hence when we arrived just a couple hours late, there was no familiar face that we caught a glimpse of. Well…they still had the PCOs (Public Call Office a.k.a payphone) at the station, right. All one had to do was tender some change into the device and make a call for rides. Off we went, in search of a PCO and soon managed to find one which was flanked by a seemingly odd bunch of four guys, hanging out together. We decided to wait up behind them but no, that was not meant to be. The man who was the biggest of all, wore a yellow silk shirt with black trousers and had sunglasses perched atop his head. A few beads of sweat glistened on his temples which had caked the excess talcum powder there, giving his face a white outline. My memory has faded a little but I will not be exaggerating if I added he had a red cloth tied like a scarf loosely around his neck which partially concealed a few heavy gold chains. The corner of his mouth was adorned with irregularly shaped tiny red blotches – marks left by red drool while chewing on paan (betel leaf). The other three guys fit the bill of stooges and looked like the sorts that wasted time piddling around at public places. My womanly instincts flared up the very instant the Yellow Shirt guy started giving us undue attention and I looked askance at him. My dad, I was sure, didn’t smell anything rotten but I had a funny feeling in my tummy. Anyway, this dubious chap greeted us cheerily and offered to help us out by getting us a cab. We declined his offer politely by stating all we had to do was to make the call. He not-so-lightly patted the back of one of the stooges’ heads and asked him to rush an order of soft drinks for us. We refused again but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. To paint an accurate picture, he was weaving the word “Sir-ji” a lot in his conversation as in --> Aap Bolo Sir-ji, Hum aapko taxi pakadvadeyngey sir-ji, Aap chinta math keejiye, sirji, Aap number bolo, hum mila key deyngey sir-ji. (Translation --> Do not worry my respected sir; we’ll get you on a cab in no time; I will dial the number for you, sire, just let me know the phone number.) The number was dialed and the message conveyed, which ensured the waiting cousins left for the station immediately after. As we sat making small talk with this shady bunch sipping our drinks in the waiting area, two things happened. 1- I felt a hand graze my back a couple times; the first time I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt but the second time, my heart was in my mouth. 2 - We were attracting a lot of stares from the folks in the waiting area. The gang promised to bring us something more (dinner may be!?), for which they momentarily disappeared and lo behold, two families approached us and told us to get the hell out of the place. I distinctly remember what one good lady, clad in a crisp saree and big bindi with a perfect pedicure, had to say to my dad – In Kanpur, there is no paucity of Goondahs (crooks) in the current times; they target naïve tourists and you have a young daughter; so please take care and leave while you still can. If my dad had slight doubts lingering in his head after the first gentleman had warned him, he had none left, after the lady made her statement. Seizing the opportunity and praying that we lose them, my dad and I scurried away into the teeming masses of people gathered near the exit. I was praying we would miraculously melt away and within five minutes, we were in a cab, speeding towards the cousins’ place. Adrenaline rush is an understatement; it felt like a great escape, akin to the ones in the Hindi movies. My dad must have been deeply disturbed by the events that had transpired surely, because he never once brought this up with me again. The eventful night came to an end, with us being welcomed warmly by the friendly and lovable Lab Retriever at my Aunt’s. The poor cousins returned in due course after the second futile trip to the Station that night. As we were cozily huddled together with the family on the couch after being plied with delish hot parathas and subzi, the phone rang. Wondering aloud who it could be at that hour, my aunt answered the call. It scared the living daylights out of me when I heard the Yellow Shirt guy on the other end of the line asking for me!?! How in the world had he gotten the number? Of course he had memorized it, when he had fleetingly dialed the number, feigning concern for us. Oops! Butterflies fluttered around in the nooks and crannies of my anatomy. I was determined to not let the inner fear belie the stern note in my voice telling him to not call up again. The irksome calls would not stop for a couple days at which point, we enlisted the help of a specific someone to convey in a brusque way (read with the use of threatening/intimidating/curse jargon) to leave us alone. That did the trick…sure enough, the stalker did abandon us after that.
Contrary to the lousy manner in which the much awaited holiday had commenced, the rest of that trip went fairly well, interlaced (not particularly in that order) with - extended family reunions, sightseeing expeditions, Lucknow forts, shopping for Lucknowi Kurtas, Punjabi weddings, IIT Delhi Campus parties, childhood BFFs (Manjula and Preethi) meet-ups, primary school visit, authentic Delhi khaana and the likes. Today, many years later, whenever I reminisce about the days long gone, the Yellow Shirt guy unfailingly makes an appearance in the Kanpur Station scene playing out in my head. :o Interesting, it is, how certain people inadvertently end up getting locked in memories forever of some unlikely others.

As far as a recipe for this post goes, I wanted to write about some cupcakes I made for Vee’s birthday last year. Vee and Kzee (the new addition to the Blushing Basil household who turned two recently) chowed the entire batch down in less than two days. I followed the recipe for these Real Strawberry Cupcakes, verbatim from All Recipes here. The only change I made, was to reduce the pudding mix to 2 tbspns instead of 3 tbspns to give it less of an artificial flavor. The cupcakes turned out delightfully soft and very moist.

Frosted Real Strawberry Cupcakes

All right, signing off now! :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

My first bread and an incomplete post!

One of my posts from drafts (talking about July 4th, 2009 and the weekend after) -
I am back from a refreshing double bonanza of lovely times over the past two weekends. The weekend before the last - the July 4th one turned out to be memorable because one of my very best friends visited us with her family. It feels weird to be writing 'her family' because her hubby happens to be an old classmate and good friend too. So the new member in reality was her cute little seventeen-month old. Anu and I met after a gap of 3 long years but it really felt like we had seen each other just the previous day. I always seem to get this euphoric feeling only with friends that I am most comfortable at heart with and do not have to worry about anything. They arrived in the wee hours of Friday morning (July 3rd) and a beautiful four days whirred past us. Though we did make it a point to go places almost every day, we didn't do anything spectacular or crazy. But just hanging out with each other after eons of separation was sufficient to effuse our souls with bubbling spirits. I was particularly enchanted by how the boombox can instantly calm a seventeen month old with an inordinate fondness for music. Music of any sorts seems to make him go from absolutely refusing to swallow his tiny bite-sized morsels of food to sitting around and dancing to the tunes (that's when you sneak in some food into his mouth). In short, Pranav was a delight to be with and he made us laugh a lot with all his sweetly naughty antics. The one other highlight of that weekend was our seventh-floor apartment proving to be an excellent vantage point for watching fireworks on the night of 4th. As the adage goes, all good things have to come to an end, Monday night saw the entire family pack their bags and leave. Farewells always make me way too queasy and I despise them. But we assured ourselves this time around saying we would be meeting up soon enough. (I'll have to wait and watch to see if that prophecy comes true now.)

The following weekend was a planned trip to Yosemite - planned solely with the view of taking my dad around but which soon got morphed into a hearty party of eight of us when our friends accepted our trip plan with alacrity. We booked a family suite at Cedar Lodge and I should say I was quite impressed with the maintenance and cleanliness of the place. It was a comfortable stay in the wilderness that did a good job at erasing all signs of weariness from us folks who had driven for over 5 hours to get there Friday night. We awoke on Saturday morning to the soft chirping of birds on trees surrounding the cabin and within minutes got organized into a team making cheese-mint sandwiches for breakfast. (One good thing that is an undeniable part of nature trips is you are not counting calories simply because 1-you can't afford to and 2-you are feeling assured you are going to burn them off during the day. :)) We were fortunate to enjoy the company of yet another kid for this weekend - Sunitha's little one Sathvik (a three-year old this time). Sunitha and Ram were pretty efficient at having him all dressed and fed, well before the ETD. By a half past nine in the morning we were driving through the very scenic serpentine road (that culminates in the entrance to the Yosemite Park) alongside the gushing Merced river. My heart always does a little victory jig inside me while experiencing anything remotely mountain and to be at a place which clearly earns the privilege of one of THE BEST mountain parks where nature seems to be untouched by man's threat, was nothing less than experiencing heaven to me. When we were hiking back from Lake Mirror, we were pleasantly surprised to share the road with a hirsute bear cub for a few brief moments. Though you have an unknown fear gnawing away at some corner of your heart, you cannot ignore the sheer adrenaline rush you feel that makes you want more of it.


Back to the present (March 24th 2012) - I don't remember the details vividly enough anymore to expound on that good trip of ours over two years ago. So one shall just say - Well! It was an absolutely relaxing and exhilarating trip one had during the first trimester of one's pregnancy. :) I was/and will continue to remain enamored by the pristine beauty of Yosemite.

If you know me really well, it wouldn't surprise you that my first bread was a focaccia. A focaccia - with olives, rosemary and lemon. I primarily used this and this to create my own version detailed below. I baked this over a year ago but I distinctly remember that both Vee and I enjoyed a slice of this every day for a week along with a hearty cup of oatmeal. We just couldn't get enough of it!

Focaccia just before sticking in the oven
Baked goodness - Olive-Rosemary Focaccia

Ingredients -
For the Dough -->
1) Active Dry Yeast - 1.5 tspns
2) All Purpose Flour - 2.125 cups
3) Warm Water - 1 cup
4) Salt - 1/2 tspn
5) Olive Oil - 1 tbspn
6) Extra Flour for dusting - a little
7) Cornmeal - a little
For the Topping -->
1) Kalamata Olives (pitted; sliced) - 1/4 cup
2) Black Olives (pitted; sliced) - 1/4 cup
3) Fresh Rosemary - a few sprigs
4) Olive Oil - 3 tbspns
5) Garlic Cloves - 3 (Thinly sliced or crushed)
6) Sea Salt - 1/2 tspn
7) Cracked Black Pepper - 1/2 tspn
Method -
1) Dissolve the yeast in warm water.
2) Take the solution from step 1 and fold together with half the flour, olive oil, sugar and salt.
3) Wrap the bowl and let it sit for 15-20 minutes in a warm place.
4) Mix in the remaining flour and knead well to make a soft pliable dough.
5) Refrigerate overnight.
6) The next day, the dough needs to sit again in a warm spot for 1-2 hours.
Shaping and Topping -->
7) Pour the dough on an oiled baking sheet (dusted with a little flour and cornmeal) and shape it like shown in pic.
8) Get creative with the toppings. :)
9) Stick it in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for about 15-20 mins.
10) Let cool on a cooling rack before slicing through...

Monday, October 19, 2009


Best wishes from the blushingbasil household...
(Diwali classics in the pic - Mullu Murukku (lentil fritters), Almond Halwa and Mango Shrikhand)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fenugreek Leaves' Sambar

When I sit down to write a post, most often I do not have a clue as to what to write about. The recipe part is the easier of the two. So for the story part, I just begin with whatever is on the top of my mind at the moment and then ramble on about it. Today's recipe about Methi Sambar is a neat recipe and turns out to be one of my faves but there's nothing glamorous about it that I can write stories about.

To play catch up for the months I have been missing out posting -

Feb - left me frazzled since the rush of things so demanded to exercise some of my old-time indefatigable spirit. (No, I don't enjoy being that and did pleasantly surprise myself that I could pull it off (again).)
V-Day - Though the practical half of my brain agrees that the hype about Feb 14th is one pompous marketing gimmick that is prevalent worldwide, I have to confess that I got bitten by the V-day bug a long time ago. Gimmick or no gimmick, I associate this day with a colorful kaleidoscope of events ever since my undergrad days. The anticipation and nerves felt was very infectious even to a person completely untouched by the fever (like me). The atmosphere remained charged all through the week and culminated in very different ways for every walking soul. It also led to a lot of "illegal" betting as to who would give THE card to who and the act of speculation turned out to be the top-rated sport of the month. It was considered perfectly normal (for even those very serious-in-life-first-benchers) to bandy around gossip. You could hear a lot of shushing in the corridors when some much sought-after maidens or hunks passed by. Times have changed and a decade has rolled by...V-Day has metamorphosized to being more predictable and pleasant. But I sure do miss the feeling of restlessness that so accompanies folks in their very early 20s. ;)

March - February segued into March and things mellowed down quite a bit. It was suffused with numerous fun events, a refreshing change to enjoy blithely, after what seemed like forever. (The two girls I consider "best" friends were on a long vacation in India and I couldn't help missing the insanely interesting phone chats.)

April - saw me very excited when my dad finally booked his tickets to here. Albeit he was never against visiting here, it took convincing from at least 15 different people to make him take a break from his teaching job at the college. The tough part was trying to drive down the fact that "now" was indeed a good time! He arrives in the first week of June and needless to say I’m thrilled. Apart from that, we also had one of our customary potlucks, complete with dress code and all. Though donning a sari is one of the most complicated tasks for an artistically-challenged imbecile like me, I never relent and make use of any opportunity that comes my way. The guests arrived resplendent in colorful and trendy kurtas and saris. We had a ball of a time hogging and playing games until late into the night.

May – was good especially because of all the summer shopping I unabashedly indulged in. On Sundays, Vee and I did some serious trail biking on our mountain bikes on the ever-so scenic trails in and around the Bay Area, wending our ways to the summit. Riding alongside a bubbling brook or going downhill on a bumpy dirt road unfailingly proves to be a catharsis of all the built-up stress.

June - After work, I love watching the sunset from our 7th floor west-facing apartment. The garnet ball that sinks into the horizon has one musing over whether this epitome of serenity could indeed be the rambunctious sun that scorches mercilessly during the day. The shimmering light adorns the worn-out city like a jewel. (hmm...dreamland eh?)

Getting back to this recipe, I am quite a fan of the unique taste of Fenugreek leaves and always have stuck religiously to Aloo-Methi to relish it. The downside to Aloo-Methi is I can't make it as often as I'd like due to the high carb nature of potatoes. My quest for an equally interesting dish minus the high carb levels led me to this intensely flavored sambar. This is one of those recipes which I credit to Amma.

Methi Sambar served over hot rice and pan-fried plantain

Ingredients -
1) Fenugreek leaves - 2 large or 3 small bunches (leaves separated with short stalks on - washed)
2) Mustard seeds - 1 tspn
3) Fenugreek seeds - 3/4th tspn
4) Red chilies - 1
5) Toor dal - 1.5 tbspns
6) Asafetida - a generous pinch
7) Green chilies - 2
8) Toor dal - 1/2 a cup (separate from #5)
9) Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tspn
10) Olive Oil (or any cooking oil) - 2 tspns
11) Tamarind - Gooseberry-sized ball (soaked in 1/4 cup of warm water for 20 minutes)
12) Sambar Powder - 2 heaped tspns (Scale this down if your sambar powder has a lot of heat in it.)

Method -
1) In a pressure cooker, heat oil and season with ingredients 2-7 adding one at a time and evenly frying them.
2) Add in washed toor dal on top of the sauteed condiments.
3) Stack cleaned and washed fenugreek leaves as the third tier and pour just enough water so the lentils get cooked.
4) Sprinkle half the salt you intend to use for the dish along with turmeric powder and pressure cook for 3 whistles or 8 minutes if you are using an electric pressure cooker.
5) Squeeze the juices out of the soaked tamarind, add some water if needed so that the extract is no more than 1/2 a cup.
6) Boil the tamarind water with the remaining salt and the sambar powder.
7) After all the steam has cooled off, pour the tamarind-sambar powder mixture into the cooker and mash slightly.
8) Simmer for 5-7 minutes until it all comes together. (You can add more water if you like your sambar thin.)
9) Serve along with hot rice and watch the hungry folks dig in!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oh man! We did it!

As a principle, I wouldn't want to write about something that has been/is going to be written about a lot but today I can barely contain the enormous rush of feelings towards ARR, Resul Pookutty and Slumdog as a movie in general. Millions are the diehard fans of ARR (like me) in India and scores of us right from the moment we heard Chinna Chinna Aasai in Roja way back in 1991, but the very realization that this adorable wonder-boy from Chennai has transformed himself into a leaf in the history of India is simply mind-blowing. The sheer delight in being able to perform on a stage as prestigious as the Academy Awards by itself is an achievement of a lifetime for any Indian. I'm sure fellow Indians would agree with me, we would consider that as pride unequalled even if ARR hadn't bagged any award last night. Seeing him exude his trademark unassuming, soft-spoken, very-common-man-like persona in a ceremony which is probably the ultimate showcase of glamour, riches and beauty was a breath of fresh air that serves to strengthen scores of age-old adages.
Resul Pookutty and ARR - we salute you! Jaya Ho!
P.S. - The only other truly remarkable thing about last night was getting to see that "the three kids" got to attend the Oscars too. What an indelible mark in the hearts of the families of those endearing kids who live in the Mumbai slums!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bell Pepper Delight!

Oh no! Nooooo!
Oh yes, I chickened out! I hate to admit it but I have been pretty apprehensive about even attempting to type in the address bar out of fear that guilt and emotion threaten to overcome me. I do not know if other bloggers experience something as insane as this but I kinda' hate visiting other blogs as well when I set foot into such a self-created predicament. Writing this post is almost like a confession about my dark side in reality. Vee says he suspects I must have suffered some trauma during childhood for me to react in this ridiculous fashion. But I've assured him that that is not the case. I have always been this able-minded individual right since I was a kid (almost like the kid in Robin Cook's Mutation, you know ;)). I have been busy no doubt, but the very feeling that I am unable to be religious in what I started haves me feeling like I want to throw up each time I hear the word "blog". My dear reader, if you didn't think I was that crazy while reading the beginning of this post, I'm sure you must have concluded I am no less than a mad girl whose madness has reached swooning proportions. The funny thing is I have been doing these kitchen expeditions which turned out to be good successes but no, I simply wouldn't click any pictures of those dishes. It is like the urge to click pictures for the blog got thrown out the window and got bulldozed by some roadwork vehicle. A classic case of nut-ism!
Q - So, how do I make peace with myself?
A - By being back with a bang! (Bang reads as a damn good recipe in my "mental" (literally) dictionary!)
Also, Anu kind of prodded me to at least post "something" (anything) because she's absolutely tired of looking at the Oats Pongal post for ages now! Should I waste some of my blog space lamenting about how busy it has been and blah blah? Hell, no! It is clichéd to say "Life is a rollercoaster" but I continue to be appalled by the sudden out-of-the-blue twists and turns. May be that's what keeps one's interest "to live" piqued. Imagine a world where everything was as utopian as it could get - you'd die out of boredom within a month!
Some good healthy recipes have been crowding my inbox these past 3 months which I am hoping will soon transform themselves into blog posts to see the light of the day. :)
Today, I have a lovely recipe up my sleeve to blog about. The name that I have coined for it might be misleading because in reality it is a dry curry which can be had as an accompaniment with any gravy or dal over rice. (Lest I incur the wrath of my Tamil friends here, this is called podi-idicha karamadu in my parents-in-laws' home.) Bell pepper had (yes, "had" not "has"!) been one of my favorite vegetables during my Delhi days. I wonder if it had something to do with the cooler climate in the north that had us hankering for the hot shimla mirch subzi or if it really was the bell pepper we got in Delhi during the 80's that was bursting with oodles of flavor. There was this kid named Ruchika in my class whose swanky lunch box always had some toothsome Punjabi curry or attractive fusion dish in it. Thanks to our moral ethics' cops (a.k.a. prefects), who took it on themselves to ensure the kids shared their food, I always got a bite or two of her appetizing lunches! Back home, I used to urge my mom to make the same dishes, Ruchika's mom's way. It was a tough call for her, since all she had to work with, was a 6-year old's description of the taste and appearance. But since moms' are born kitchen scientists, the outcome always turned out palatable, close to the original and more than enough to bring a smile on a kid's face. The huge hybrid bell pepper that we find in the U.S. sure does have a delicious crunch but it doesn't come close to its Indian counterpart which had a distinct hot taste to it. I personally prefer the red bell peppers to the green ones here. Also, I have taught myself to dress up the American pepper in ways which make the pepper feel special and loved.

Here goes one very South Indian recipe -

Ingredients -
1) Bell peppers - 6 medium-sized ones - chopped into 1" pieces
2) Oil - 2 tspns
3) Mustard - 1 tspn
4) Curry leaves - a few
5) Asafetida - a pinch

Fry in 1 tspn of oil, cool and grind to a coarse powder -
1) Bengal Gram Dal - 3 tspns
2) Whole Urad Dal - 3 tspns
3) Coriander Seeds - 3 tspns
4) Red Chilies - 3
5) Asafetida - a pinch

Method -
1) In a pan, heat the oil and splutter the mustard seeds, followed by curry leaves and asafetida.
2) Dunk in the chopped bell pepper.
3) Sprinkle water and cover and cook in low flame until almost cooked.
4) Turn up the heat, fry for a minute and sprinkle the ground powder.
5) Toss around until coated evenly and then continue frying for a few minutes.
6) Serve along with rice and gravy of your choice!

Note - The bell pepper can be substituted with pretty much any vegetable of your choice.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Candlelight Vigil for India - I

Posted from my drafts - written a while ago- of course there have been many developments after this but those have been saved for part II.

It's been a while since I posted something new around here and I was bubbling with so many delightful incidents to spin my stories around. But alas! The past five days have left me too sober to think about anything other than the state of affairs in my home country. It is a rude awakening for folks like me who tend to complain (or crib) at the drop of a feather. For the past few days, I have been looking at my life with the eye of an insufferable on the borderline of indulging in self-pity. But all my little misgivings with life have seemed to have shied away in the wake of the magnitude of what happened at Mumbai. This entire Thanksgiving, I have been glued to the couch in front of the TV and after the international telecast on CNN got cut, I have been drinking in the inspiring journalism on NDTV 24X7 Live. Sometimes my heart feels so numb that my mind starts playing tricks on me and I drift into a trance where I am certain I have imagined it all. If only life could be that fair!

In the past three decades, "We, the (Indian) people" - think we have been through it all - from watching riots break out outside our homes on various occasions including brutal assassinations of at least two prime ministers, having some of the most terrible politicians history could have ever seen rule over our land, observe passively one tragedy after the other engulf the country - Bhopal gas leak, religion/caste centric riots, slanders and wars, natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunamis claiming thousands of lives, - to being thrown in a world where the air we breathe is deemed unfit according to international health standards. Of course, Indians are a very resilient lot. How else could we have borne all this? Whatever happens, L-I-F-E goes on. Correction - Life has to go on. We are a developing country after all, who cannot afford to take some time off for ourselves for mourning, can we? Whether that is a good thing or not is debatable but there is no refuting the fact. So deep down in your heart, when you have this smug feeling about adversity and wonder what could be worse, along comes a reminder of terror that sweeps you off your wit's end. To hear about "something" that happened in the news is one thing and to actually experience it live as the horror revealed itself little by little over three excruciatingly long days is a different dimension of fear altogether.
May be that is what makes our heart wrench when we hear the words 9/11 to this day many years later and it is the same familiar feeling that is gripping our souls today about Mumbai.
May be that is what has rekindled the flame of revolution in the hearts of the youth in Mumbai.
May be that is what the media has decided to showcase in their fight against dirty politics.
The "media" have been typecast as news-hungry gossip-mongers since forever of course. But akin to all other things in life, "not all" media is bad, right? We expect radical changes, then we'd better get used to the fact that positive journalism can act as a fast-acting catalyst. After all, life is all about taking risks and shattering the umbrella of "conventionalism". If I may say so, the only lucrative outcome of this tragedy is that India has learnt to recognize "both" of its worst enemies - the "religion-less" terrorists themselves and internal politics leading to costly mistakes. The citizens have risen and taken it upon themselves to ask precise questions - "Why were the intelligence reports from the U.S. ignored? What took the NSG commandoes more than 7 hours to reach the location? Why aren't our cops better trained/equipped to handle chaotic, dangerous situations?" The past has to be dug up and cleansed thoroughly in order to usher in the new "tomorrow". Security analysts in the U.S. admit that the stand that U.S. has always taken against India-Pakistan tensions cannot continue to be played by the rule-book anymore.

Looking ahead...Many were the images of carnage that moved us to tears but one of the most striking images that brought with it a breath of fresh life-saving air is that of the citizens (people) holding candles in the dark of the night (some until as late as 1:00 a.m. in the morning). Their glowing angry faces represents the future of India, I thought. I hear them talk day in day out in what is now being called as "We, the people - Citizen's Movement" and I'm transfixed by how lucid they are in expressing their opinions. Why does the voice of the common "man" whose average intelligence is much higher than people-who-shall-not-be-named get buried beneath all those bureaucratic blankets? Not anymore, I pray! The vigil has begun inside the country but what can we, who are away in greener pastures, do? The inability to do anything has been ravaging my being. I say to myself - there could be something we could do to bring about a radical change too. I examine my conscience to look for answers to whether I've inadvertently stepped into the shoes of the clan of the younger generation that decided "enough is enough" a long time ago and fled to greener pastures. I have an urge to not just sit around pondering over this but actually do something. I realize every small step will be one step closer to the goal and the flame that the folks in Mumbai lit up, is blazing through every Indian's heart.

May the flame remain immortal!