Heartbreak – At 28

Life can be surprising, even scandalous, but somehow we manage to surprise ourselves more.

I am aware that as an single unmarried woman I should wait until marriage to write this, or to share anything related to love for that matter, like all good girls do. Now that all of us are over it, let’s move on.

The first thing you do after a heartbreak is remove all of what were your songs from your current playlist. Otherwise you run the risk of Spotify selecting it randomly from your list, and you breaking into a fit of crying while driving on Interstate 20 at 8.30AM on your way to work. If you don’t want to lose the songs, move them to a non-current playlist so you can play them at a future time when your heart is mended, the memories have been overwritten and the songs don’t poke you anymore.

Today morning I woke up and was watching a video on Insta, as you do on Sunday mornings, and somebody mentioned something about drooling. It hit a nerve and reminded me of the time J once drooled on me, and both of us broke into laughter. For a moment my still-foggy and freshly heartbroken brain couldn’t place when it had happened on our timeline.

It struck me that it’s only been a couple of weeks since then and I’m already forgetting details. We had such a short time together, and if I don’t want to “lose” these memories I should probably write them down. At some point. But do I want to “keep” them?

I’m a huge believer that we all have only a short while in each other’s lives (well, ideally more than a couple months which was the case with J, but anyway), so I tend to keep my love close and my memories closer. This time, I don’t know if I want to keep them, let alone keep them close, which is very, very unlike me.

I remember once going to Pious Achan and telling him I’d learnt something about myself. Pious Achan had replied, We’re always discovering new things about ourselves. That was five years ago.
Life can be surprising, even scandalous, but somehow we manage to surprise ourselves more.

Kitchen for One : Eggplant

Today’s a soup kinda day. It’s -9 degrees and windy outside, this is what it looks like from my bedroom window.

I had also grabbed a bunch of spinach last night at the Asian grocery store and I’ve got plenty of canned beans in my kitchen drawer, so it should be an easy fix. But I’m writing about eggplant today.

I went through an eggplant phase in grad school where I added it to every vegetable dish I made. Sambar was incomplete without the mushy teal-skinned floaters, sometimes it was questionably matched into my garam masala-potato dish (tasted good only the first time). But a majority of the time I fried easy circles of it and had it with rice, like at home.

My aunt in Atlanta once made yummy Baingan Bharta for me when I visited her. I ate it with curd and rice at her place, then brought back a tupperware dish of it. I think I rationed it for a week or so, it was smoky and spicy with ample bits of charred skin and I didn’t waste one bit. So when Fall break came, I tried to make my own. I asked Samadipa and she told me, like the recipe, it’s tastier if the eggplant is cooked directly on the stove. But it’d be too messy on the stoves here so I seared it on all sides and then cooked it on a pan.

The version of Baingan Bharta I attempted then was probably a Lite one, cos all I had to do was scoop out the cooked flesh, mixed it with freshly chopped onion and coriander leaves and that was the dish. It was surprisingly tasty and my Bengali friend approved of the looks. There was a fair amount of the skin that inadvertently made its way into my final dish, but I think it only made it better.

Earlier this month on a slow day after Thanksgiving break, I decided to try making it again. This time I followed an oven-recipe that called for broiling the vegetable. I first made holes all over its skin with a fork and then rubbed it with oil, from my grad school recipe. There is zero mess in this recipe, the flesh comes off easily.

Broiling an eggplant : You can see the oil bubbling 🙂

Honestly, it turned out less tasty than my basic coriander-onion-eggplant mix, there was hardly any smoky flavor which makes me think I should’ve kept some of that skin in. Have you tried this dish?

Also here’s an eggplant story that describes my 27-year old personality (not anymore at 28) : Once I walked into a Walmart on a cold winter night to buy an eggplant. I can’t remember why but cooking was most definitely the intention. So I grab one off the grocery section, walk into the self-checkout lane and wait. I’m soon overcome by self-consciousness, standing there with a single eggplant in hand – you’re somehow acutely aware of singlehood while shopping. You would’ve seen the size and girth of eggplants here above too.
So I walked back to the shelf, grabbed a bunch of cilantro that I didn’t need, and walked confidently in to the checkout lane again.

Weeks later I threw out the cilantro-gone-bad from my fridge.

Kitchen for One : Kombucha Mocktail

On Sunday mornings (or whenever I wake up) I put on music and it’s nuts how happy I get. Psychiatrists should be more concerned than they are about this dopamine phenomenon. Sometimes it happens on week nights and my brain decides a cup of coffee would be a great idea – and I only noticed this pattern last week after a series of bad decisions and messing up my sleep schedule. It’s like my subconscious calls for more fixation and chaos at the same time.

Recently somebody asked me what I did till 1.30am every week night. Which is, you know, a valid question and one I hadn’t given much thought. I mean do you think about what you do everyday? I should – I make to-do lists almost everyday. Once some four years ago Bhavana, my senior at work, had said my Chrome always has a 100 different tabs open – Fabric Lore, Stack Overflow, Team Naach, I don’t remember the rest. The sad part is it’s true even now.

Like 70% Indian students in the US I had self-diagnosed myself with ADHD three years ago (“this explains so much!”) but don’t think that’s true anymore. But I try to stay off coffee. I go nuts and my primary emotion is Why isn’t everyone conquering the world right now, there’s so much to see and do before we die!.

So after cleaning out my fridge this morning I was going to visit this Asian market to buy supplies for Korean Army stew, and finally try out Enoki mushrooms from ASMR videos. Then I stopped myself. I was going to publish this mocktail recipe first. Let’s finish 1 out of 389 things that are in progress.

I made this recipe last night, it’s a a 3 ingredient mocktail, 4 if you want to add honey but it’s optional. It’s by Zaynab Issa from Bon Appetit and it came up on their YouTube channel.

All you do is crush blackberry (or any other fruit) and mint (or basil), add to it a Kombucha of your choice, stir (don’t shake) and serve in a nice glass. I initially strained the mixture for a picture, but didn’t want to waste any so it’s been added back in. This second picture turned out better too. Here’s the original recipe on their website, I don’t think you need the honey if your fruit releases enough sweet.

I started drinking Kombucha last year after my cousin and my aunt, who’ve both been in the US for a while, recommended it for my gut and acidity. Yoghurt is the alternative, but prolly won’t work for this drink 🙂

Kitchen for One : Skillet Mom

I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. – Julie Powell

Life is uncertain.

That means, I can do my dorsiflex exercises every night yet not know when my ankle’s full range of motion will be back. My physiotherapist that I pay $100 per session can’t guarantee it will. But I do them everyday and it does get a little better every time, but I don’t know when and whether I’ll attend the jazz classes I signed up for.

It means I can go to bed at 1.30am hoping to get 6 hours of sleep but stay awake until 5 only to wake up at 8 with burning eyes. Or that I might spend another winter in Texas. Or only meet guys who always want something short-term, or watch my favorite bedsheet get stains on it because my dryer decided to act up in that same drying cycle.

But that’s why we love cooking. Because we know that after a long-ass mentally tiring day or week, after lining up that long list I just cranked out, if you cook bacon on your newly seasoned cast iron skillet, the fat will bubble like so and the bacon will crisp up like so and your skillet will be all the better for it.

Plus you end up with a nice breakfast for yourself. 🙂

I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick.

Julie Powell (1973-2022)

PS : I bought a new cast-iron skillet and had bacon for breakfast thrice this week to “season” it!

Kitchen For One

The lady in the apartment across from mine has a view into my living room-kitchen situation. Only she knows (well, now you do too) the way I chomp down boiling Wei-Wei noodles straight from the pan first thing after I’m back from a grocery trip, standing at the sink with abandoned bags on the floor, leaving the the icecream at peril and the frozen fish to thaw.

Living alone has been a humbling affair so far. I finally realized that the unholy hair that grazed dishwashers in previous apartments must’ve been mine and not a roommate’s. There’s been so many other discoveries from living alone, of course I have to enjoy it since I chose it (and since I pay a ton in rent).

I always wanted to live in Mia’s house from Princess Diaries. With cozy, lived-in cushions strewn across rooms and throw blankets laid on mismatching couches that you could throw yourself onto after a long day at school/work. And most importantly, the many ugly, wide-mouthed mugs.

These were obviously picked up off shelves at a neighborhood Ikea or Walmart by the budget-conscious artist battling Targetly tendencies (we know they’re not from Target cos they’re – did I mention this already? – not pretty). The mugs were the nicest characters in that movie. Held in warm palms at windows as evening rain beat against car wipers working relentlessly on the street, while you’re safe at home with nowhere to be.

So I would’ve never imagined that kitchen towels and not mugs would become my best friend. My palms are constantly wet and they have indeed been saved.

With great freedom comes.. interesting discoveries

The best part about having my own kitchen is obviously the freedom. Last week I found that I can fix the sweetness of my pineapple snack by simply drizzling a little honey over it. This was a snack to sustain me while I waited for my dosa to cook. I should.. elaborate.

Not for the faint of heart – the dosa wait

In the time that dosa crisps (on its first side), I can put together a sandwich from scratch with neatly zigzagged mustard AND ketchup on it AND eat it. So now I’ve lost my sentiment attached to dosas. I like idlis more anyway – practical, fluffy, easy on the stomach. The 20s shifted my priorities and ruined me, and the near-absolute freedom means dosa batter often lives in my fridge for over 3 weeks.

There’s also been more concerning findings. I can and will consume a whole pork curry prepared with 1.25 lbs of meat within 24 hours simply because it tastes good. (It always tastes good too, which might be a problem and is most definitely a brag)*. Boiled milk can last for a week in the fridge, circumstances that led to this finding remain dubious. Costco hotdogs will taste exactly the same at home, nobody misses the crowd.

Of course all personal preferences had to be reaffirmed in the new apartment – do you like eggplant in your sambar, ginger in your dal and tomatoes in your meat? Will you be depressed if you don’t eat rice for 3 days straight? Do you truly like aromatics including the divisive bay leaf, or was that before gaining kitchen real estate?

Then there’s the random lessons I brought with me picked up over time watching homecooks and reading recipes at the back of magazines. Stay away from vinegar when you poach an egg, poaching only needs a vortex – I’ve held on to this theory despite never having done a practical. Add salt to water while it boils to avoid spots on the bottom of pots. Raise the heat when you add mushrooms to anything and do not cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.

The nice thing is life is long enough that I can hope to slowly put them to use one by one. (:

Leaving you with a little bit of Nigella I borrowed.

Dreams of home are back

These days I dream often of home. It’s usually me being back in Trivandrum. My brother is driving my Mazda, which was shipped across continents for (apparently) no good reason.

The other day I cooked rasam. I couldn’t decide on what to cook, which is where I struggle most when it comes to cooking. I got the idea from Uma who was preparing rasam the previous evening when we spoke. I had a nice meal (which means there was fish), and then I had a post-lunch nap.

These days I dream often of home. It’s usually me being back in Trivandrum. My brother is driving my Mazda, which was shipped across continents for (apparently) no good reason. Towards the end of the dream I watch as my 23kg-luggage bag shuffles away across a container belt, while logistics of my return flight hover around my head like calculus in cartoons. It’s as if I’m contemplating shipping back my stuff to Texas, but not myself.
Wonder why.

Over a month ago my physiotherapist had asked if I miss home, and I quickly said no, just the people, things, and some of the places (lol).

Interestingly, after my big fat lunch I dreamt that I was back in school on a late evening. There were crowds by the stage and something loud was playing on speaker. It must’ve been School Day, you could hear commotion and cheering from back there. I was rushing from behind the stage to our classrooms near New Hall, there was a sense of urgency to the whole thing but I have no idea why. I spotted many familiar faces, made up and in costume. I quickly waved at a friend, it seemed I was surprised that she showed up in my dream still in her uniform. Some were friends from undergrad. All of us weirdly affiliated.

I couldn’t with my dazed dreamy head make out the timeline, but I had to.
If I was still in school it meant I might have to practice for a group song I was better off lip-syncing to anyway for everyone’s benefit.
If I had just got out of high school I might have to attend felicitation and line up backstage – but in that case someone should be looking for me.
If I was in undergrad and just visiting, why were my friends in costume and practising? Or was I in the present, working in the US and visiting teachers?

If my physiotherapist ever caught me in a dream these days I’d respond What are you talking about, I don’t have to miss home when I am home.

I remember being a bit sad when I woke up, and realizing it was Teacher’s Day in India.

Ants, Balls, Rolling My Eyes

I was thinking about ants today and realized I haven’t seen one in a while. But I saw a cockroach today – I just moved into this new apartment last weekend and am already seeing roaches.

I thought about ants today because I thought about balls, and that one time I found an ant holding onto the warm fabric of this guy’s underwear. I commented something which I immediately laughed at cos the whole thing was too witty to me. I don’t know why I had to tell you all this, but I’m glad all of that’s out of the way now.

Balls. Ants. Roaches. The human mind is quick. Of course what’s interesting is if we go further back… we probably won’t do that today.

Recently someone told me I rolled my eyes while they were speaking. I know for a fact that if I did roll my eyes (which happens often, my face has a mind of its own) it had to be at something else and not at whatever they said. I don’t know if it’s worse that I was likely mentally checked out when they spoke, but truth is I could’ve been rolling my eyes at a million different things.
I’m constantly annoyed by the temperature of AC no matter where I am. I’m pissed that loud people get away with talking over others, both around me and everywhere else in this world. I’m mad at the % of genes I inherited from dad’s side instead of my mom’s. In some ways I’m also upset about disturbing that unsuspecting ant in its haven.
There’s so many other things seething in there, I’d be impressed if I rolled my eyes at what they said. Of course if you, instead, said Pay attention, I would have to agree and take your advice.

Fleabag and its Success

I rewatched Fleabag again today.

When I first watched it, I really liked it. But I was confused by its popularity, given Fleabag’s self-described sexually deviant nature. I guess I also didn’t realize people would enjoy being in someone’s head so much.

My experience has been a lot like Orange is the New Black in that, when I find people watching the show and mention I’d watched it once, they go “The full thing?” because it’s intense. Quite intense. It’s a good thing people often find they tolerate, even enjoy much more intense things than they knew they were capable of, or had the appetite for.

I found Fleabag during a broken-heart period of my life (read: present), but also at a time when I’m not moping in self-pity. And I think what people like in her really comes down to her authenticity. How she’s refreshingly raw and doesn’t shy away from her sexuality, but suppresses all of her guilt deep within. How she plays the role of the less cold yet awkward sibling that’s relentlessly trying to connect with her affectionate, stern sister. It’s endearing how she yearns for connection yet doesn’t quite go looking for it, how so much of her behavior is a cry for help (as we find it is in life), and how she begs to confess her sins because that’s what’s really eating her up.

It’s this that I think makes Fleabag so likeable. That she’s got her own stash, is unabashed in her shortcomings, of which there seems to be ample (and exaggerated) supply, but tries her best to go about life. Of course her sense of humor and her ongoing dialogue with us help, and I am happy with its success because it means people can deal with real people on screen.

Falling

“Holy shit”

This is an unkind beginning to a story, I am borrowing it nonetheless.

“Holy shit”

My ex knew me before we met. He told me he had a feeling he’d fall in love with me, and then we met and he did fall. His words.

When I was in grad school, I had a classmate I liked. I had just broken up with the ex, I decided I wasn’t going to crush on this guy, and it probably wasn’t nice cos we were classmates and what if we ended up in a group project together? It was a semi-professional program and surely it wasn’t nice.
I imagine there’s a huge chunk of population that finds it off-putting when people do everything intentionally. I find it detestable myself, but it’s how I’m wired. Years later all I can think of is, Not nice? ACCORDING TO WHO?

Only until late Spring though, when another classmate asked me out. I was surprised cos I thought, Wait, that’s allowed? Unfortunately we didn’t go back to college after Spring break, and then we had classes and assignments, and those things took over.

Then I met someone last year. I knew them before we met in person, I knew they were committed already, and I was very scared I’d fall for them. So this was just another crush that I was going to gulp down and hopefully turn into nothingness. I remember meeting them for the first time and thinking Holy shit. This was going to be hard.

It doesn’t help that everyone else I meet or have met haven’t come close, or that my best friend says he must be something since I’ve talked about him as much if not more than my ex. I know I’m doing myself a disservice, but after days and weeks and months I think at this point I’m just calling a spade a spade.

I watched Fleabag today. The ending was moving, because I know what it’s like to like someone who’s not available, and to move on with life unimpressed (in Fleabag the dude was married to God).

Anyway, I like the elevator scene from 500 Days Of Summer. I like how I have tried multiple times to intentionally control feelings and then failed every time. Luckily actions are less involuntary.

WFH for the summer!

So I took the highway again last week, after a break of 2.5 months. Of course that’s nothing compared to my initial break of 27 years before I started driving 😀 But getting reacquainted was far less daunting than I expected it would be.

My ankle is slowly healing and getting its flexibility (and hopefully strength) back. I’ve been working from home for these 2 1/2 months, and likely will be for another month or so. I’ve been to office twice in this time and can I say just how much I prefer my home-office, that’s inches away from my bed?

This is a new development cos a couple months ago I would drive to work twice or thrice a week with no complaints, and was in fact happy to do so. I remember a colleague mentioning, When you’ve worked here long enough you wouldn’t be so excited to spend a whole day in office. I see what he meant now.

I always have to wear a sweater or a cardigan while I’m in my cube at work. Back home even if we set the AC low at 72 (that’s super low for me), I have a space heater that I use for my room.

And snacks? What about snacks! At home I can munch on any thing I want. It also helps that my bath room is closeby at home, especially now when I think twice before taking a trip to the loo or the water filter at work to not work my ankle too much.

I also like keeping my ankle up at a comfortable angle while I’m working, and everything is set up well here since I’ve had months to adjust and rearrange things.

What about attending calls from home? Can’t do that if I’m in office either due to bad reception and having to walk away from my desk.

I thought I’d miss my colleagues more, but before I sprained my ankle, on two consecutive days I went in to work and returned home by afternoon cos nobody else from my team showed up. I don’t miss doing that.

And I definitely don’t miss the traffic, and I love not having to drive back in the scorching Texas summer with the sun blasting its way into my eyes through sunglasses. Phew.

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