It has been two days and a few hours in Dilli (I love it that way), and our homecoming could not have been any better. Our visas got approved, we gorged on lovely food and splurged on ethnic wears. Nothing could dampen our enthusiasm except the obvious complaints of the scorching heat and the blaring traffic. Seriously, we had no idea that the circumstances would be so favourable, especially after a harrowing flight journey of fifteen long hours followed by the fatigue and disorientation of jetlag. There were the rains too, accompanied by the nostalgic smell of wet earth and childhood. So this time the Gods weren't crazy! Ever since we got into the taxi from the airport I cannot stop humming the peppy number "Yeh Delhi hai mere yaar/ bas ishq, mohabbat, pyaar" (This is Delhi my friend, the land of love), one of my Rahman favourites. What else but this song, so simply yet so perfectly, can describe "Hindustan ka dil" (India's heart) and the eternally unbeatable mood of its people:
Iske baayen taraf bhi dil hai, iske daayen taraf bhi dil hai
Yeh sheher nahin mehfil hai.
(It has got a heart on its left as well as right side
This morning I woke up with a throbbing migraine which is normally accompanied by an irritable temper. Although painful, I am quite used to such depressing days at least once in every fortnight. So here I am, sitting with a cold compress balanced on my head and typing away my frustration. And ginger tea isn't much of a help always. I need to vent it on somebody and who better than my mute, eternally tolerant blog. I wish I could fix these tormenting headaches with the 'swish and flick' of a magic wand. But unfortunately this is a real world that I live in, where mortals have to deal with pain that could be anything from a skinned knee to a broken heart. The cause of my ordeals are mostly my nerves, a bundle of gnawing raw nerves. Therefore losing my calm and being perfectly obsessive-compulsive comes naturally to me. With only two days left for the journey home, I should be thrilled, which I am. But what actually rules my hours now is my fretting and peeving over inessential trifles. It is quite a raging battle of the dos and don'ts, the will happens and won't happens inside me. Surely our apartment will not perish to the lakeside spiders who just crawl up and love making their tiny webs in our living room. I know my blooming geraniums won't die of Sam's friend's neglect, who actually is a very nice person. Why on earth should anyone, who breaks into our apartment, steal my cute decorative mug that says 'cat lover' out of all things! Also it isn't all that complicated to be a daughter-in-law, or is it? Whooop!!!
Before I come across as a complete raving lunatic, I must stop my worry marathon here. I wish I could borrow some steely nerves from somebody. I also wish 'obsession' didn't always have to come with its annoying twin 'compulsion'. Sigh!!
A moonlit summer night back home. This is our mango tree bursting with this year'sharvest. Thanks Bapa, for sending the seasons attached in emails.
So the restlessness has finally made its way into my days. The time has come when nothing, absolutely nothing can inspire me to be at peace with myself. My mind feels like a giant time bomb, ticking away furiously. In just another week I shall have what I have been longing for since what feels like ages. At last, after a year and a half, I will be home, that one word which is so powerfully potent of exciting so many emotions at one throbbing gush. The carnival of faces of your loved ones, the celebration of the familiar, the surprises because so many things have changed...
At the moment I feel a little blurred with emotions and so I have run out of my word bank. I think I must borrow the haunting nostalgia from Agha Shahid Ali'sPostcard from Kashmir, which has often been by my side whenever the longing for home has swallowed me up.
Kashmir shrinks into my mailbox, my home a neat four by six inches. I always loved neatness. Now I hold the half-inch Himalayas in my hand.
This is home. And this the closest I'll ever be to home. When I return, the colors won't be so brilliant, the Jhelum's waters so clean, so ultramarine. My love so overexposed. And my memory will be a little out of focus, it in a giant negative, black and white, still undeveloped.
Plum cake, one of my much prized initial successes as a baker
I came across this little piece of truth in one of the cooking websites - "Nothing is more attractive around the home than the smell of fresh baking". It has been a month and a little more since the baker in me has been on a full-throated song. I must have baked more than five cakes, completely mindless of the bursting calories, and thus jeopardizing our fitness routine and dietary resolutions. I have always enjoyed cooking but had never given much thought to the age-old, classic art of baking. The only baking that I had ever dabbled in before was the traditional American fudge brownie from the oh-so-convenient brownie mix. And that ain't much of a talent. So after reveling in the pride of a frequently complimented cook, the time had come to don the mantle of a real baker. I wonder why it took me so long to think about baking from scratch. May be because I am a little idiosyncratic, therefore the 'new' or the 'different' does not strike me immediately. Somehow I am always stuck with the old, repetitive pattern. There are many 'lates' in my life, including Harry Potter and Friends, both of which have become so crucial to my existence that without them my world would seem rather drab. Before I stray any further, let us get back to baking. So there I was, scouring through allrecipes.com for a simple cake, something that ran the least chance of being a disaster. I went for the orange cake for I wanted something exotic as well, and there I was beating eggs and grating orange zest. I had planned it as a surprise for Sam but the heady aroma of orange and baking gave it away. However the cake had turned out really well, the way cakes should be - moist and soft. Hurrah! With such a triumphant debut, there was no stopping me. I searched for variety and more flavours and ended up making them all - orange cake, chocolate cake, banana muffins, fudge brownies and even a plum cake. The trouble is, if I am good at something, I become obsessed with it till I have had enough of it and this is exactly the situation with my current baking spree. It just feels the most perfect thing to do.
What I love the most about baking, other than the hypnotism of the senses, is that it keeps my mind off from wandering away. I feel a soothing calm while baking, as if it was a healing process. The little swirls of aroma crawling out from the oven purge my mind of the buzzing monotone of life. At the end of a messy day, you know when you add eggs and butter to flour, it turns out perfect. And nobody can take this comfort away from you. Absolutely nobody.