#10 Postcard – Pour the rice in the cooker. Don’t think!

Whenever you decide, still unmotivated, to walk into your kitchen again, you will have cooked rice waiting for you. And if you have rice, you have a meal. Sort of.

I hate preaching and sharing unsolicited advice. At 27, many a time I’ve walked uninspired into my kitchen unable to cook, and doubted whether I should keep rice in the cooker to boil. And I can vouch that I’ve never regretted half-heartedly pouring that 1 cup rice-2 cups water in the rice cooker.

So tip a lazy measure into the cooker and go back to sprawl across your couch, watch the rest of that Netflix series. Whenever you decide, still unmotivated, to walk into your kitchen again, you will have cooked rice waiting for you.

And if you have rice, you have a meal. Sort of.

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#9 Postcard – On Writing

Stephen King says, If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you do it until your fingers bleed or until your eyes fall out of your head?

In On Writing, Stephen King talks about how he arranged saxophone lessons for his son when the seven-year old fell in love with the instrument. He soon knew that it was time to stop, and that the sax was not for him. He knew not because his son stopped practicing, but because his son practiced only during the classes set for him.

He says it’s better to move on to an area where deposits of talent may be richer and the fun quotient higher.

This follows an observation about gifted writers, good writers and bad; more importantly he acknowledges the existence of bad writers. It is satisfying to read things you have thought yourself. One can only wonder, however, which category one belongs to πŸ˜€

At this point, I was glad that managers of the world have not read the book, or they would know how to quickly verify it when candidates tell them My profession is my biggest passion. Okay, let’s not bring day jobs here. Moving on.

He says, If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you do it until your fingers bleed or until your eyes fall out of your head?
Why did Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird stop at one book? Her own answer is – “I have said what I wanted to say, and I will not say it again”. Arundhati Roy says “Fiction takes time”.

I haven’t read enough to write about writers’ rules. But I guess people do what works for them, in general. Some find rules that worked for others, some set their own. The most interesting always being gems created by breaking the rules.
But like other fields, it’s important for mere mortals (which is most of us) to know rules of the game before we break them.

#7 Postcard – The librarian

Saturdays are good because you can leave the library an hour earlier than usual. Saturdays are also Bring your kids to work day. If Miss Dena from admin office brought Bella Anne to the library, M’s two girls would be upset to leave by 5.

Saturdays are good because you can leave the library an hour earlier than usual. Saturdays are also Bring your kids to work day. If Miss Dena from admin office brought Bella Anne to the library, M’s two girls would be upset to leave by 5. After saying their goodbyes, the children would run in circles in the outside lawns until Miss Dena raised her voice, and M would have to put on her stern face.

The downtown library crowd was more engaging than the South East branch where M was posted the first six months. There, the crowds were mostly parents dropping by after work to pick up books for their kids, always asking for recommendations (the South East branch stayed open till 8).

In downtown, the weekday crowd spanned university students, retirees and stay-at-home parents with their toddlers. They were also more patient in the queues to drop the books, actively participated in workshops, and took their time to learn the automated check-out and check-in machines – even Carla who was 84, one of their oldest patrons, and still visited regularly during the pandemic. It was partly why she enjoyed working in a library, a similar crowd at a Walmart line would no doubt form a disgruntled bunch.

So many of those self-help counters had stood empty for over a year now. The staff still regularly stacked the New Releases shelves, updated audio books on the website, and had recently refurnished the top floor lounge, although occupancy was down to less than 20%.

Saturdays were more idle because there would be no inventory arrivals, no new Interlibrary Requests to process. M sat at the reception with Bullock, the young assistant who had recently moved from the west coast, and talk about the California housing crisis (It was home, but I already love Texas). The kids would spend time in their section on the third floor without bother (except that time almost two years ago when they first tried to open the Emergency door, sending alarms and the security running, and her heart almost rose to her throat as she rushed to the elevator). Most summer Saturdays they would be occupied in workshops – origami-making, marble painting and crafts – attended by the staff’s young children, pre-teens from town and a handful of sportive adults.
Hardly anyone had attended them in South East location, but who thought it was a good idea to open a branch near a factory site?


In the evening once the girls were downstairs, Bullock would let them grab office stationery from her desk – marker pens, custom HB pencils and colored paper. M would then take them to Flying Fish across the Museum of Art, leaving their bags in the car. The girls always got fish and chips with extra dip and a soda drink, she would have the catfish sandwich with iced tea. Sometimes they’d order a plate of calamari rings. (Only once, when the kids were off on summer camp, she had tried their margarita with the then-assistant).

The grill had a wall dedicated to polaroids of first-visits, there was a picture of the three of them pinned up there from their first day at the place. That was also the day the emergency alarm went off, there was no Dena or Bullock present, it had been a lonely rollercoaster Saturday with the kids. Nonetheless, having them spend weekend at the library was a huge convenience.

M listened as the two of them munched and talked about how many books Stephanie read that day (Paula did not like to read), or how they had dozed off during the recycling workshop. Some days they bumped into Mrs. Sanders on her way back from the university.

As they drove home, the girls argued about whether they should move to California themselves (everyone is pretty there like Miss Bullock, that must be real boring, it went on). M looked at the weekend or what remained of it at her disposal. Tomorrow she had to run the laundry, sew the pinafore sleeve Paula had torn earlier in the week, and get the long pending car-wash. But tonight she’d finish the dishes while water filled in her tub, proceed to light those bath candles that’d been lying in her bottom drawer for over half a year, and then she could attend to the new release of Murakami, waiting in her tote bag.

From the Origami workshop at Arlington Public library

#6 Postcard – Young attempts at fiction, poor imagination

After I was done with the story I genuinely contemplated burning it, then realized if burning was an option there were worse things that I needed to take care of first.

When I was 12, I started writing a long short story in my diary. It was never intended for anyone else to see, and after I was done with it I genuinely contemplated burning it, then realized if burning was an option there were worse things that I needed to take care of first.

I made the story up as I went, it consumed the diary and continued in a new one before I gave up.

I didn’t give up because the writing was bad. I knew that after some 4 pages when I struggled to find alternatives to said/reckoned.

I probably gave up because I couldn’t keep track of who’s who or what had happened previously. There were boring conversations that annoyed me, but I was aware it stemmed from my poor writing and creativity πŸ˜€

Soon after, I started on another story. The central character was a 14-15 year old science geek (he’d know way too much if he was older and I didn’t know much to write about), he was a rebel who did not accept the names of celestial bodies, and called them what he wanted to.
In hindsight, I think a science geek might not have been so unreasonable, but a science geek didn’t write the story and hence.

This time I limited people count to 2.

He would open with I’m watching the sun tonight and the quirk would be revealed by his friend’s Oh you mean the moon, of course. (I just cringed again after 15 years :D) The kid was a lazy, unimaginative noob like me and switched the names shamelessly.

The plot didn’t advance much, so I embarked on an exercise where I’d derive inspiration from movie trailers and spin the outline story (no naggy dialogue). I started with 2 movies – one starred Kavya Madhavan and I don’t remember the other.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is at age 12 I was convinced I was terrible at fiction, and of the limits to my imagination πŸ˜€

#5 Postcard – Work, school, weekends

I couldn’t wait to get out of grad school. Now I can’t wait for the long weekend.

In grad school, by the third and last semester, I couldn’t wait to get out of college.

My final semester was fall 2020 (August to December) so the frustration was all the more justified since it followed 5 months of staying home, and we were looking at another 4 months of online classes.

Friends that I spoke to couldn’t wait to leave (“get out”), what with the assignments, job market and the added stress of catching a virus while chasing deadlines. In fact, we all agreed students from my batch who graduated in summer probably lucked out.

I was also done with the lack of free weekends. Really, college is this long extending week that only ends after the final submission. It does help that the schedule is posted at the start of sem so you can plan out your life and, on a cheerful note, take an occasional break. Nobody did though, we just had days of limbo where we got nothing done.

Puneeth said, But once we start working we’ll just go back to waiting for the weekend, I don’t want that either.

I knew he was right, that’s how I remembered workdays as well. That, and the complete lack of energy to ponder or finish a running thought, because you leave early for office and are exhausted by the time you’re back home.

Which is why I love working from home, among other reasons that have been discussed at great length on LinkedIn. Yet by Wednesday I’m waiting for Friday again. It is comforting to know it’s 00:53 on Thursday as I write this.

I’d love to go back to the company from college, but I’d still choose my work over a life without off-days.

#4 Postcard – Convent schools, boarding life

There’s a Catholic school a 5-minute walk away from where I live. They have an adjacent church with a cross atop a spire that’s visible from my window, and church bells ring now and again during the day.

There’s a Catholic school a 5-minute walk away from where I live. They have an adjacent church with a cross atop a spire that’s visible from my window, and church bells ring now and again during the day. When the bells ring, I wonder what the kids in the school are up to – Is it time for a prayer? Are they assembling in a special room for lunch?

Of course these questions pop up because of the many rituals we had in school. We had a Mary behind a glass wall at the entrance landing that kids jostled to touch for morning blessing, and a chapel with clean floor tiles that was always deserted. When Principals changed, we wondered if the new Sister would be stricter or distribute nicer gifts on Children’s day. There were speaker announcements to gather somewhere class-wise to deliver yet another announcement, and a bunch of similar school things.
What I was most curious about, however, was the school’s boarding facility.

From what we’d heard, life there was unappealing – you had to pray at least twice a day, wash your own clothes, go to bed early, other general dull stuff. However, to me, the plus that paled all cons was that you could walk the empty grounds in the evening when nobody was around, the red earth glowing in the brilliant evening sun.

That was a sight you only saw if you happened to be at school for summer classes, or in the evenings after board exams while walking to the main gate entrance. Or if you had to arrive in the early hours for a class trip or an ISC meet – in which case you’d likely be running around to locate a student or to grab hold of your event’s teacher-in-charge. And you would steal glances from afar of the ground stretched out in the twilight, like stealing precious memories. πŸ™‚

In tenth during Youth Festival week , a junior in our dance team was staying at the boarding cos her family was not in town. She was a window into the intriguing world with her tidbits : they had to wake up early in the morning, sit at a common table for meals, show up on time for prayer at the sparkling-clean chapel. One evening before practice, she went to her room to leave her bags and brought back with her the evening snack – it was pudina chutney sandwich, humble, believable. But of course, I thought, you could stroll around the ground any time you want to, alone or with a friend, in non-uniform clothes (slightly crinkled, because you washed them yourself), soaking in the peace.

After our last board exam in twelfth, we were slowly walking from New hall to the front gate. It was our last day in school, in uniform. We were exhausted and hadn’t planned anything special, no clicking pictures either. I think Divya said that out loud, the rest of us nodded and hmmed. As we passed by I realized I never got to stay at the boarding, never got the golden grounds to myself after all.

#3 Postcard – Domestic happiness

Of fresh laundry, domestic chores and the increasing returns of cooking. I couldn’t have thought this thought last year.

I cooked ramen noodles today, using my own condiments instead of the packet mix. I got way too full from eating and drifted into sleep while watching KVizzing with the Comedians, on the same couch that I was finishing up my book yesterday.

Cooking is probably the only chore out of all the drudgery that one must go through – including laundry, doing dishes, sweeping/mopping, cleaning up after cooking – where I get increasing returns over time.

I mean, I do get a sense of domestic happiness when I carry a still-warm load of clean laundry from the dryer back to my closet. Each time I walk in to pick up a clean t-shirt or a pillow cover, I can’t wait for the dirty pile to fill up so I can return their sweet Tide scent to them. But the process stays the same. Nothing changes.

But with cooking it’s an improving curve, still, for me.
I have tried pad thai from 6 places here so far. While they didn’t taste all that different, at least half of them had no crunch left in the vegetables and were overwhelmingly doused in soy – which raises the thought I could’ve cooked it better. And I couldn’t have thought this thought last year.
I don’t feel too strongly about pad thai though.

After waking up from my nap, I had another half-plate of my ramen – it smells distinctly of fish sauce which I don’t mind and there is the crunch from cabbage.

There is also some joy in just looking at my kitchen shelf and wondering – what if I get cooped up in here for two weeks? It is a convenient thought because my groceries would never last more than two weeks, and my imaginary emergencies cap at two weeks πŸ™‚


I just had my third cup of kattan for the day, noticed I’m running low on brown sugar and am low-key excited because of the high I get from restocking. There must be a name for this?


#2 Postcard – Low hanging fruit & Kafka on the Shore

To put down in words what lies behind the simplest of exchanges – in this case, a pause – must be some gift indeed.

If you told me today morning as I woke up, that I’d go on a reading spree and finish Kafka On The Shore by sundown, you’d have surprised me. I have not covered 350 pages in a day in years, I think. It’s not a feat by any standards, not even for the 14 year old version of me. And these pages were generously spaced and had wide margins.

Did I do this so I could write about the book in today’s write-up? I don’t think so, the story is brilliant and the book a page-turner.

I did do something else, I have to admit, because of the question, “What do I write about today“. I cooked three dishes – I used beans and diced tomatoes from cans, store-bought curd in a tub and a ready-to-boil fish curry masala so the whole thing took less than an hour. It was hard to not think I could write about this at various points.

200 words a day is low-hanging fruit, intended for those who find it difficult to get writing done. So once they hit the target they look forward to writing more until they slowly stop paying attention to the count. The other side to it is to prioritize Quantity over Quality – to do it before you do it well. I guess I’ll start somewhere in between.

Although I could write 200 words about the garlic I chopped for Rajma masala today (I didn’t count my words, but I had the narration going in my head as I peeled the cloves and made thin slices out of them). There was a tidbit I wanted to throw in about Nigella Lawson explaining why she loves canned tomatoes and how they’re a lifesaver though many look down on them; much like 15 year olds playing pretend-cooking-show hosts while they’re in the kitchen.

Of course I listened to her 10 years before I’d actually use canned tomatoes, and it’s one of the few things I’ll be sure to miss when I leave this country.


I’ll leave you with the below 2 lines from the book :

“Kafka, I-” She stops, looking for the right words.
I wait for her to find them.

To put down in words what lies behind the simplest of exchanges – in this case, a pause – must be some gift indeed.

#1 Postcard – New chapter

My brother sends home postcards when he travels to new places.

This is the first piece from the series Postcards from Texas. The target is 200 words a day, for a month.

My brother sends home postcards when he travels to new places. He’s great at developing habits and spreading joy among loved ones in his own ways. The few postcards I read were addressed to Amma, he would have scribbled a line or two on the front followed by a Take care that had accumulated warmth during its journey to our local post office.

The content would be something like it was raining heavily while he was at the mailing office, or that the place had more mosquitoes than our garden in summer.

He asked me to send one home from Arlington, I googled how to send a postcard via USPS and my enthusiasm was quelled by the options and my perennial inability to choose.

My postcards are going to be in the form of blogposts. I don’t think I’m sending them home, I’m sending them in the way of whoever happens to read them, and whoever thinks they want to follow this series.

200 words a day for a month. I’ve been better positioned to begin than now, but one has to start somewhere, sometime.

Maybe I’ll write about the book I’m reading or the Vietnamese eatery that serves grilled pork sandwiches, or the old people at Arlington music hall or just about what I ate.

I’ll try to make it less self-indulgent than my reality, but these things have a way of spilling onto my writing.

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