Racquetman

Over the past week, I’ve rediscovered and acted on my desire to play tennis again, thanks in large part to finding a hitting partner who was willing to play as well.

The first time I learned how to count score in tennis was the Wimbledon 2005 Final. I was in Pune then, and Federer played Roddick that year. All of us watched that match as a family, and it was my chikappa who taught me how to keep score. Eventually, it became a game, where after the point was done, I would yell out what the score should be and we’d confirm if I was right by using the television graphics. A large portion of this was quite confusing to me, because the multiplication tables I learned for 15 had 15-30-45, while scores went 15-30-40.

I only properly began to follow the sport once we moved to India though. The 2008 Wimbledon tournament was the first sporting event I saw after our move here. Given the community I reside in is filled with tennis fans, it was easy to grasp why the sport was so beautiful and fun to watch. I understood how points were constructed, and Uncles routinely provided commentary on matches that had recently transpired when we met up.

I can’t place a finger on when, or how, I picked up the sport. Before moving to India, we bought a set of tennis racquets because the community we moved to had tennis courts, and we wanted to be able to join into any games that happened. This was definitely my parents’ idea. The community here was so small, that initially there were only 4 of us who were the same age. 2 of us, who ended up becoming classmates a few years later, used to go around to the tennis courts and mess around at half court with these colourful tennis balls I had at the time. We had no idea how to play “technically”, but we got to run around and hit a ball across from each other, which was extremely enjoyable. What stood out beyond that for us was the satisfaction of being able to craft our own rules – the one I clearly remember is that we refused to follow the Singles Court dimensions, and included the Doubles lines for where all we could hit the ball.

It was probably in the middle of Grade 8 that my parents purchased a tennis racquet for me and decided to put me for tennis coaching. The program ran within my community, and was run by a very close friend of my parents, so it was fairly easy to get going. From the beginning of 2011, then, my weekends were filled with an hour or two of tennis each morning, and then an hour or two of basketball. It was a fantastic 3 and a half year stretch of playing the game with a Coach. The Uncle who ran the program was one of the first people I actually played with in the community – my parents told him how much I loved field hockey, and we had met up twice and played at the end of his lane, passing the ball to each other and dribbling around, which was rather fun.

I hated waking up early on the weekends, so my mother was faced with the task of helping me beat my inertia. I was fine once I got out of bed, but that struggle was real. I think coaching started at 7:30AM or something, which was an absurdly early time for me on a Saturday morning, especially given how after piano classes on Fridays, I’d only go to bed around 10:30PM, or 11PM – which was very late back in the day. I look back at that time now and wonder how Uncle had the motivation to wake up early in the morning to coach kids for tennis. I think what I’m struck by the most is how much he must’ve enjoyed it, and enjoyed being active, to wake up so early on his weekends.

Naturally, coaching brought with it some seriousness. When I started off, I used to lose to younger kids who had been playing for longer – something I disliked. Eventually, those small things started becoming goals: I need to be able to actually rally with this person, forget playing with them competitively. I found inspiration from this boy who was in Grade 4 at the time (he’s now graduated from high school), who played (and still plays) with his dad really frequently – almost every other evening, I would say. He was ridiculously consistent with his stroke-making, and it took very, very long to either fatigue him, by which point, you were too fatigued to think straight.

Tennis also taught me how to be really patient. There was this one kid who excelled at hitting deep, high, top-spin shots, so the ball would clear the net at an absurd height, bounce, and then spin even higher – taking away, for a player of my skill level, any opportunity to control the ball on return. I’d try to hit the ball with a lot of speed to eliminate any chance they had to return it similarly, but mess up because of a lack of control. The other way I learned patience was in picking up tennis balls after the exercises. There were usually just 2 or 3 of us in our age group playing, so there was a lot of balls to collect to get the chance to play again. That was a slow, painful process. Being lazy to bend down and pick them up didn’t make it any easier.

My fitness level, which is not very great at all, always betrayed me. I never worked consciously on improving my stamina, hoping it would happen along the way, but, as I know now, that doesn’t happen. I remember losing inter-house matches at school in Grade 10 despite having gone for coaching for 2 years and feeling terrible about it, but trying to laugh it off. It was only a year after that, where I managed to play some other tournament hosted by the coaching group I attended, and do reasonably okay at that, in the presence of my parents, that I felt like I had made progress with the sport.

It’s around then that I gave it up. Academics and my other extracurricular passions became a convenient excuse at school. At University, life was a convenient excuse – I enjoyed other things a little more than I thought I’d enjoy tennis. I came home several times, and throughout my life at that point, I had always played a team sport and an individual racquet sport, but at University, I didn’t do either properly. I never carried racquets back, so I had no external motivation either. One evening in third year I played with a friend of mine, but naturally, with the break, I was abysmal.

Naturally, picking it up again this week has felt really good. I’m getting to spend time with a friend of mine, and getting some exercise in while I’m at it. We’re both navigating the art of recovering something embedded deep in our muscle memory (this is especially true of the serve, because phrases like the trophy position, pronation, and the continental grip are stuck in our brains), and messing up terribly on some occasions. We’re having fun though, and that’s worth every bit of the time we spend on court. To paraphrase Elton John, “Oh no no, I’m a racquet man

Home Court Advantage

Last evening I stepped onto the basketball court within the complex I reside in, ball in hand, to do some shooting drills. I’ve been experimenting with the idea of doing this over the past week, thinking about all the precautions I need to be taking while I’m at it. Speaking to friends about the idea gave me a lot of ideas, and taking the plunge felt great. It’s been about 3 years since I last played on the court here consistently. I used to try getting up before my internship and shooting hoops each day before I went to work when I worked at a place close to home. That was good fun.

This is the first time I’ve picked up a basketball in over a year, easily. Last time I played was probably April 2019 or something, where we had the interbatch tournament at University.

Shooting around for a bit felt really good, yesterday. I instantly felt like I had lost power in my wrist, and that I had to support the ball at all times with my weaker/guiding hand. I didn’t have the range that I did earlier at all, nor the accuracy. It was just me, the ball, and the court though. With earphones on, it felt incredibly blissful. It got me thinking about all the conversations I’ve had about basketball in recent weeks.

One of my closest friends from law school circles is a prolific, passionate basketball player, who studied in Bangalore. Just last week we were talking about the tournaments we went to, and we discovered I attended a tournament he was in charge of organizing, and he came to our community to participate in the inter-community tournaments our coach used to host (you can read about those here). So we met each other in Grade 9, and then probably came within inches of meeting each other again in Grade 12, but only actually met at University, and kept in touch ever since. He’s one of the few people I talk to every day. That discovery showed me how small Bangalore really is, but also how I may have just-missed so many people in my life in the past, only meeting them when we were both at the right place, at the right time.

Standing on the court made me think of that again. I’ve met so many really cool people through basketball, and my school friends and I are close because of how terrible we were as a basketball team, but how much we enjoyed playing the sport each day. Honestly, if you saw how seriously we took our games during the PE period, and during lunch sometimes, or even when we were messing around, I don’t think you’d think we were all terrible players. It got very intense. It’s one of those memories that you know you can hold on to even when everything you’re striving for goes wrong: that if you love doing something, the results hardly matter because the journey is far more enjoyable. We won only one basketball game as a school team, in 4 years of playing the sport together. We won a medal because we got a walkover. It was honestly absurd. We complained, became unmotivated, but continued going for tournaments anyway.

The other thing that came almost naturally to me was the drills themselves. I didn’t have to think about them as much. The movement was sluggish, and the scores were abysmal, but everything felt like muscle memory. Every single movement I made, every shot I took, and every angle I stood at felt like it came from someplace wired deep within my brain. Professional athletes must feel like this every time they play a match, what with the amount of practice they put in and the number of years they’ve practised. It felt mathematical and methodical. The drills my coach taught me were based on breaking up the shooting arc into parts and figuring out exactly what angle, speed and height you had to release the ball at to get that “perfect” shot.

The reason I enjoyed this so much was that during the initial years basketball coaching was offered within my community, I was the only boy who went for classes, and the only person in the “above 10” age group. As a result, for quite some time, my drills were separate. They were things I did alone, with the coach monitoring and instructing. This was especially true after classes when coach didn’t have to rush off anywhere else. He just hung out with me, and I’d end up going home sometime only around noon, when I used to leave home at 7:30AM for tennis coaching followed by basketball. Playing alone brings that back. That comfort of knowing so much is within your control.

It was beautiful. I may not play as regularly anymore but I don’t want to forget how much I enjoy the game. I don’t want to forget how much I gained from my home court, and the kind of confidence I feel when I’m home. 

La Madre

Dear Mother,

Yesterday was your birthday. Over the past two years, I’ve been in Dubai to celebrate it with you. One year we’ve gone to Bollywood Park and had a full day out as a family, and another we’ve gone out to a wonderful dinner to share in your joy. This year I was not there, and it’s the first time in a while that I haven’t gotten to see you up-close, behaving like a giddy child and excited by the smallest of things on your special day. I’m glad we did what we did though. The zoom sessions, a free-entry/free-exit policy! The entire thing made it feel like it was a real party. Staying online for the entire thing brought me as much joy as it brought you – mostly because I heard lots of your childhood stories, and people laughed along with you about them.

Every single year I’ve racked my brains to figure out how to make your day memorable. Appa and I have really struggled, especially after all the things you do for us. Let’s take this year only as an example. I was fully prepared to chill at home alone on my birthday, and at the most, consider ordering some outside food. I’ve been home alone for a while now, and while I’ve enjoyed it, you were perhaps the first to sense that maybe I wasn’t a 100% sure I wanted to spend my birthday alone. Chikamma, you and the family figured out all the logistics, Uncle came and picked me up, and I was with them the entire day. But it didn’t stop there. You gave me explicit instructions to stop doing whatever I was doing at midnight and log on to a zoom call with you and Appa. Then you showed a 10-minute video that brought me to tears. It didn’t just make me well up a little the first time I saw it, but I was visibly moved by it each time I played it through the day.

Usually, people make 1-minute videos. Attention economics premises itself on the fact that human attention is a scarce commodity, but boy oh boy do you know how to make me concentrate. You managed to reach out to friends: old, new, surprises – through e-mail, facebook, and Whatsapp! I feel like if I had friends where technology had not fully penetrated, you would have sent them a postcard requesting for their co-operation in this endeavour. You got family to participate, and, you put in the effort to bring it all together, with detailed instructions, illustrations, and learning how to use Windows Movie Maker.

This is not new. It’s just this year’s story.

Do you see how much pressure Appa and I are under?

Which is why I’m glad you take your own initiative in planning your birthday parties. It makes our lives so easy to know that you’ll be happy with everything as long as we follow your instructions and comply with what you’ve envisaged in your head. For us, I think Appa and I are happy to contribute in small ways – helping with your technical setup, proofreading the party invites. Who can forget your 40th birthday celebrations – where we had instructions to play the keyboard, and dance with you, and write a prepared toast!

Just you wait though. One day we will surprise you. I just hope you let us.

Happy Birthday, again!

Love,

Tejas

The Cousins

Over this weekend, I had the opportunity to spend time with two of my second cousins from my mother’s side. Most of the time I was with them, while playing with them and participating in everything they wanted to show me, I felt trapped in a bottle of nostalgia.

To understand this you have to understand my family, so I’m going to give you the lowdown. My grandmother is the eldest of four siblings. My mother, as a consequence, is the eldest of all the cousins. If I’m not wrong, there’s around a 15/16 year difference between my mom and her youngest cousin.

That carries through to me. I’m the eldest of my second cousins. I was born in 1998. The next of my second cousins was born in 2008. In those 10 years, I was the only “child” in the family. When I was younger, I used to take these trips to Bangalore for my summer breaks, and while I spent most of my time at my own grandparents’ house, I was essentially in community care: across all my uncles and aunts, and all the grandparents in the family.

However, there’s been a persistent nomenclature issue within the family – so my mom’s generation, for example, call some of their Uncles/Aunts by their first name. As a result, I didn’t append the usual “Tata/Ajji” to their names. Instead, I appended “Uncle”, or “Aunty”. So within the family, and I legitimately feel this happened purely on my mood, or what I heard around me:

  • I refer to some of my grandparents as Ajji, and Tata
  • Some of them I call Uncle and Aunty.
  • Everyone in my mom’s generation except my mom’s sister, I call by their first name
  • Everyone who married into the family before 2011 is called Uncle
  • Everyone after is called by their first name.

Are you with me? I feel like this would be easier to produce on a family tree/chart. If you’re not with me though, basically, I break convention when it comes to what I call people in the family.

Honestly though, this nomenclature thing? Not too much of an issue also. The only people who I remember complaining were the Uncles, rather, the people I called “Uncle”, pre-2011. Apparently, it made them feel old. For the rest, we’ve never discussed what I call them, why I call them that, although we’ve made fun of it a fair amount. The reason I think it’s a non-issue is that the respect is there. Just because I call them Uncle instead of Tata doesn’t mean I don’t respect their seniority within the family, or that I won’t listen to what they have to say with an open mind.

The reason all of this was important was that everyone in my mom’s generation was called by their first names, right? That’s also because when I was at my grandparents’ place, literally all the cousins would come and play with me, or hang out with me, entertain me, and indulge in every single activity I was indulging in. With the age gap at the time, even though I knew they were my mom’s cousins, I always felt like a younger sibling to them all. Before I went to meet my second cousins, I felt this sudden jolt of realization – that to my second cousins, the age gap is very similar. We’re in the same generation, but in essence, I’d be interacting with them with a similar age gap to when my mom’s cousins spent time with me.

So, of course, my first question was, what will they call me? Am I just Tejas or am I Tejas anna, or will I be called something else? My chikamma and I discussed this before I went there and we were both equally curious about this. This is because I’ve been away from Bangalore for 5 years, and prior to that, what with exams and all, I haven’t properly spent time with my second cousins. Never before have I had the opportunity to just go hang out with them and get to know them. While Zoom meet-ups have offered up the opportunity in the lockdown to interact with most of them, even those we’re far away from, nothing compares to meeting everyone face-to-face.

Turns out I’m Tejas anna.

We did a lot of fun things when I met them. We played a lot of Xbox, where they showed me their favourite games and how they played them (I was thrilled to be with a console again). I helped the younger of the two figure out how his elder brother was beating him on motorsport games (which basically involved picking the fastest car and the track he knew well – and not allowing them to play on any other track, hilarious!). We played a lot of Uno, where there was a lot of “rewinding” and reversal of moves. I lost nicely in chess. They showed me around where they hang out with their friends. Of all this, the bonding that happened over videogames, a hobby I’ve also only recently taken to, was the most enjoyable for us all. They play the same games I play with my friends, and they beat me at it too.

It was then that nostalgia hit the hardest. I discovered the wonderful world of computer games while sitting with one of my mom’s youngest cousins on his computer. He showed me Need for Speed, and at that time, burned me CD’s to take home, install the game on my grandfather’s laptop and play. I still have all those CD’s – every single one of them. He taught me the rules to Pool and Snooker through a game called Cue Club. He made me my first social media account – on Orkut, and him and his sister bought me a lot of Coca-Cola and Thums Up, and bakery snacks, while also showing me my first Kannada movie ever. During my teenage years I always wondered what 20-year olds took out of hanging out with people who were barely into their double digits. It’s now that I realize how much affection and love I was showered with when I was younger, and how, honestly – they could have pretty much chosen to do anything else with their time, but they hung out with me. I’m really hoping I get to recreate that with their children too. See, they’re cool enough to introduce them to all these games and everything anyway, so I need to figure out what “cool” thing I can bring to the table.

I also helped out with studies, if you would believe. Well, to be honest, of course I did. That sprung another round of nostalgia – for all the holiday homework I never did during my childhood, and how much all my mom’s cousins and my grandparents (all of them) had to try to get me to do bits and pieces of it before I went back home to Dubai. I was not half as cooperative as my second cousins, and I’d put everything off to “tomorrow”, which ended up being the last day of vacations. Procrastination is a key character trait, one that developed early, as you can see.

My greatest rediscovery of the weekend though was Lego. I missed Legos so much. I’ve written about Lego before, but it’s only when you play with it that you realize how much time you can just spend with Lego sets, and how creative you can get with them. We made a short stop-motion film with 10 photos of a whale, and messed around with Lego sets a lot. I think they must’ve built, from scratch, at least 6 things over the weekend.

All of this is about my cousins though. My mom’s cousins also “grew up”, right? As time’s passed by, naturally they’ve gotten busy with work and with their families, and I’ve been busy with things too, exams for the most part. The result of this is that after I moved to Bangalore, my contact time with them reduced significantly. I feel like I definitely saw them more – both frequency-wise and concentrated amount wise when I was on my summer breaks. So this gave me a chance to spend time with one of them once more.

That was nice. We recounted what has to be the most famous story within the family,  the “accelerator cut off” incident. This was the TVS Champ era, and in the electrical system gave way, leading to the bike stalling. My aunt carried me home in her arms, and went back to collect the bike from where it stalled. By that time, in my excitement, all I had managed to reveal to the public was “accelerator cut off”, complete with hand gestures. That’s remained an illustration of how articulate I can be when I want to. I learned so much more about them – questions I’ve never asked them about, about their hobbies, their interests. And of course, I got to meet my Uncle – someone again, I’ve met rarely. I rediscovered what an incredible cook he was and how much experimentation he did, effortlessly. That aside, I also learned about him and how good he is at videogames too. With adults whom I’ve only previously spent time with as a child, its the time now that I feel like I get to know who they are a little.

Too much nostalgia happened for one weekend. I also feel much older than I did before the weekend transpired. This elder brother/brother role, in general, is a new one for me. I’m curious to see how it develops. I don’t know who I’d be without my Bangalore trips, without all the time I spent with my extended family when I was younger. So many preferences were formed then: eating saaru, requesting for chitranna, gulab jamuns, and watching Test match cricket for the full day. I can’t forget some of the gifts I got at the time, including a chimpanzee that just hangs out with me in my room to this day. I’m so grateful, and it’s so nice we can all be a part of that, even if in a small way, for someone else.

Sporty Feelings

As an avid sports fan, I often cross over the line of respecting sportspeople and not hating on teams and persons associated with these teams. For example, I support Manchester United, and I am a fan of the Red Bull driving program, but Sebastian Vettel (and consequently, at present, Ferrari) as a driver. Consequently, for me, it’s almost a natural response to resent Liverpool Football Club and Manchester City, and despise the fact that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are winning so consistently. As a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m extremely disappointed that another team has dominated the NBA for so long, and as a Royal Challengers Bangalore supporter, it is disheartening to see Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians do well year after year.

I’m going to focus this entry on individual personalities. Over the course of the last two years, as Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his fifth and sixth Drivers World Championship titles, I’ve grown increasingly disgruntled with seeing him win so regularly. I’ve watched a lot of videos, and with Formula One in particular – and this can be extended to several sports, there is a lot of effort put in by the team (in the construction of the chassis, for example) that complement the driver’s ability to drive quick. What becomes clear is that Hamilton’s dominance is down to there being perfect harmony, efficiency and success across both fronts. I noticed that I was getting frustrated at him for winning because Vettel was fading in comparison. I also particularly disliked listening to the “Get in there, Lewis!” that I was forced to hear at the end of pretty much every race I watched. In a very weird way, I found myself developing this feeling of contempt toward Lewis Hamilton. Similarly, when the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry was at it’s peak, I found myself disliking Rafael Nadal (a position that has changed considerably). Recounting a list of sportspeople I have, at some point, disliked, is far too tedious an exercise.

Essentially though, I’m fairly certain these sportspeople could not care less for my opinion. I am just a consumer of the entertainment they put on at differing levels of sporting talent and ability. So as Formula One is about to make a return, and with the things that have happened over the last couple of months, I’ve found myself wondering:  Where does my dislike stem from? Is it worth it?

This essay at its core will attempt to address that question. If you want to stop reading here, the answer is: No, not worth it. Stems out of strong passion for team/personality I support for sporting ability owing to playing style/success/joy received while watching said team/personality.

Essentially, like I’ve outlined above, it feels like any dislike I develop only appears after I develop a preference for a team or a person. Supporting Vettel between 2010 and 2013 was essentially not liking Alonso to win a race (despite knowing how talented he is as a driver). It doesn’t come from anything else, usually. Unless I see repeated instances of individuals and public figures doing things I disagree with: that’s another reason I usually find it difficult to like them.

The reason I think it’s not worth holding onto those feelings anymore, stems out of something bigger. This period, the coronavirus period, has given me the chance to really think about how I look at sports and entertainment and public figures generally. It’s become more evident now than it was before that these individuals have personal and private lives – lives that some of them have opened up to us, and some of them have left closed to us over the past few months. They’re all incredibly talented as sportspeople to be at the pinnacle of their sports, but it’s this personal side that’s really shone through recently. Holding on to the dislike, I found it difficult to understand the kind of projects that these drivers, for example, commit themselves to in their free time, and the kind of things they think about and express outside of Formula One. Something I noticed was when some celebrity I disliked expressed an opinion I agreed with on an issue, my brain seemed to switch on a “be wary” mode, that claimed “oh they’re doing it for the PR”, while an identical statement by somebody I liked already led to the “oh good on you for showing support” mode.

I don’t think that should happen.

Now, how do I reconcile this with being a sports fan with clear preferences?

I think I’m going to appreciate sporting talent more – become a little more objective. While this is hopefully not going to lessen the amount of passion I have for the club/individual I support, I think I’m going to appreciate talent and skill far more now. Offer compliments and say good things when someone I don’t support wins (unless there’s genuinely something to be ticked off about). What I’m hoping this will do is reduce the amount of distaste I have for them. It’s too negative a feeling to hold on to.

The second is to observe the kinds of things these individuals do away from their primary arenas if they choose to share it with us. A lot of individuals may do things they don’t share with us, but several of these public figures have public platforms – and they can use these positions to influence so many things around the world. A lot of them do, and I’m woefully unaware of those happenings, of the kind of good they’re attempting to generate with their spheres of influence. I’d like to follow that more keenly, if nothing, to understand who these people are more – because they’re just like us – they’re people. None of them have done anything directly to hurt me: so I don’t think I should hold any negative sentiment against them.

A recent example of this is looking at everything Lewis Hamilton did. I’m glad he spoke up when he did, and he’s got a lot of conversation in the paddock about the exclusivity of Formula One, which is already financially inaccessible to so many individuals. There’s a broader conversation about diversity it’s triggered off, and I do have a heightened level of appreciation for Lewis off-track for how incredibly he seems to have matured over his career learning from his past, and how he manages so many things at one go without letting them affect his main passions. I’d like to learn that. There’s also the six world championships which I have to admit come out of a level of domination we haven’t seen in a while. He’s in a class of his own at the moment.

I really don’t know why I’m trying to be so objective about something that incites so many emotions in me. I’ve cried when the team I’ve supported has lost Test matches in cricket. I didn’t sleep when the Netherlands lost the 2010 World Cup Final and I was supremely ticked off the day after India lost the 2017 Champions Trophy Final. All of those, however are examples of chances being grasped at better than the opposition. I’ve got to admire and respect that.

A large portion of this thinking is also inspired by “Hate to Love” on the Cricket Monthly, the AB de Villiers edition is here.

Take A Walk

Yep, the title of this post bears resemblance to the Passion Pit song. I’m sensing a theme with my writing in the sense that I tend to get into the rhythm of things whenever the story I’m writing about has a connection to music. Maybe it’s the rhythm of the song, the memory of the song, or even something as simple as the fact that this song is now playing on loop while I write this blog entry. Whatever it is, it works, and today, I’m grateful for it.

The thing I’ve been most disappointed by as a result of not writing regularly is how there’s no physical record of how I’ve spent each day in the last month. I love that about writing – about documenting. It helps me remember each day distinctly. I know I’ve been productive, there’s been a lot happening: spring cleaning, house repairs, a lot of thinking, and a fair amount of learning at the end of each day. It’s unfortunate not all of it was succesfully documented. Nonetheless, it’s integral that I look forward to all the things I will get to document soon.

Over the last two months, something I missed was the freedom of walking to places. I enjoy walking. When we visited New York, and when I took a trip through Netherlands and Germany, I was amazed by the amount I ended up learning about the city and the feel/vibe of the place by walking along the footpath and following a map till I reached my destination. I equally enjoyed exploring places with just the informational booklet and maybe an audio-guide with me, instead of tour guides showing me around. It just felt more organic, like my interaction with the environment I was surrounded by was not limited by how much another individual was willing to part with. So over the last two months, I’ve just missed the freedom of vast expanses I could explore – even paths I’ve tread on before.

Earlier this week, I had the first opportunity to step out. To do chores, no less, but step outside of my community by foot – to explore my neighbourhood once more, while taking the necessary precautions of course. I’ve never walked this stretch before in my life. Usually, I walk bits and pieces of the entire stretch – to get to a bus stop, or even go to the bakery outside the complex with my friends when they’re all around. I stepped out of the house to do bank work, and it was on that walk that I thought about how much the neighbourhood had changed since we first moved in. 

It’s getting closer and closer to 12 years since we relocated from Dubai to Bangalore, and something I’ve been quite vocal about is how protected I’ve been inside my gated community. When we first moved here, the place I live in pretty much had nothing surrounding it. The closest proper grocery shop was about 7 kilometers away, and you had to plan really carefully while stepping out so you finished all your work before getting back, just because of how inconvenient it was. The walk I took showed me the reality of today. Literally anything I could imagine or ever need was within the walking distance: from necessities like electrical supplies and staples (for which there are multiple vendors) to luxuries like bakery goods and fast food. I could walk and get everything I wanted.

I generally use my time in Bangalore to bring to  my parents’ attention that I wish I could drive our old Toyota Liva. I miss that car dearly. In the current circumstances with the coronavirus and the lack of public transport especially, I think the ease of access with a vehicle to move around (I could do with a scooter too!) was something I’ve brought up a couple of times, much to my parents’ dismay. It’s all a big joke – I’m very pleased they disposed of the car when they did, we had no immediate, urgent use for it. The thing I realized on the walk though, is that if we did indeed have a vehicle with us, I’d never take a walk like that.

It’s been a whole week since I took that walk, and a week since I started writing this blogpost. It’s the first post I left in my drafts for far too long, but actually completed, instead of trashing because it lost it’s relevance in my life. Since last Monday, I’ve taken these long walks every evening.

I love these walks. They get me out of the house, and they give me one hour to listen to an audiobook in peace, catch up on phone calls, and finish a bunch of other things I’d feel like procrastinating if I was in the house. Obviously there’s the fresh air and all that good stuff too.

The one thing I have mixed feelings about is that I’m becoming a pakka Bangalorean again. Three months can change you so much. Given the trope, I’ve generally resisted talking about Bangalore weather with people, even though I do boast about how wonderful it is on occassion. My roommate from college loves Bangalore weather far too much because of what his other friends have told him about it. Now, I can’t stop talking about it. I begin conversations with my parents every evening telling them how wonderful it is right now, how pleasant, how airy. My friend from Gurgaon tells me he’s suffering in some 40 degree heat, and I’m so grateful I escaped from Ahmedabad’s summer because here, the weather is the perfect representation of the Goldilocks principle. It isn’t too bright nor too gloomy. It isn’t too hot nor too cold. It’s bloody breezy, but it isn’t raining. 

It’s just right. 

Exploring Languages

This post stems out of a new course of study I am undertaking: the study of German. This is new for me.

I have some background to German and Germany. My father studied German for a short amount of time while in primary school and was fortunate to visit the country for work (he’s retained quite a bit of his knowledge today). My best friend’s mother taught us both how to count till 10 in German when we were younger, and I joined his family in affectionately calling his grandfather Opa. I can recall other bits and pieces, the 2006 FIFA World Cup being held in Germany definitely prompted an exploration into their history and culture, especially because it overlapped with being introduced to Adolf Hitler in our History lessons at school. I represented Germany at a Model United Nations conference once. Subsequently, in more recent history, I was lucky to be extended the same good fortune of visiting Germany and meeting some friends there.

Additionally, my study of the language is aided significantly by the years I spent studying French and the excellent teaching that I had which grounded my fundamentals in the subject and gave me the confidence to express myself in a tongue foreign to my own make-up. I cannot discount how much of a role that background in a prominent European language from the Romantic school has played in my exploration thus far.

At this moment, I’m roughly two weeks into lessons. So no, I am not a native German speaker, nor am I anywhere close. I do, however believe that if I apply myself appropriately in the next few months, I can gain the skills necessary to go on a lifelong journey of picking up the language. That’s the insight I have at the moment.

Additionally, of course is the fact that I am in love with foreign languages and the kind of things they expose you to. Outside of professional utility, I think studying foreign languages has opened up this window to culture and media consumption like not much else has. It was in school that I read Persepolis on the recommendation of my French teacher, and discovered Corneille, Jean-Baptiste Maunier (of Les Choristes fame), and managed to read Le Petit Prince too. Translated media rarely has the same impact that the original text does, particularly because I do believe there are no perfect translations. The meaning and connotations of words arise out of historical contexts and circumstances that are unique to individual/common cultures, and that is irreplaceable, as much as we strive to make it so.  

Turning back, however, to why I think I’ll gain skills to begin a lifelong journey into the language. I don’t think we will ever fully know languages. There are differing levels of proficiency ascribed to the skill at which one can use their ability with the language, and naturally other markers (exams and certificates to proof proficiency, and so on). However, even with our mother tongues and native languages – we will know how much we choose to know, and how much we each individually choose to explore. For the most part, my thinking happens in English. Taking that as my illustrative example, I’m on a continuous path of learning the language more and more – I learn new words even today, words I’ve never come across before. I understand the diverse manner in which these words can be employed to create differing effects. The ordered systems that make up a mode of linguistic communication are things I explore each day I think and use it. That’s true for every language I am exposed to.

Developing that proficiency in German, to consume more media, to carry out more conversations, to use it more frequently – I’m not sure where it will take me. I’m excited to see where it does lead to. I’m very fortunate to have a teacher who understands why I’m studying the language, who encourages me by pushing me to take to the language quickly, and more crucially points out my errors immediately and repeatedly. I am finding out that the classroom is the place to make mistakes and gain confidence. You’re just less likely to make those mistakes in regular conversation that way.

Finally, I’d also like to admit how much this lockdown has helped me brush up and rediscover languages I lost fluency in, while learning new ones. As I’ve chronicled before, the Kannada project is the big one I have going on at the moment. Side projects however, have included Spanish, Italian, and figuring out why on Earth I can read and write the Arabic script but not speak it beyond saying a few phrases. All I hope for is that I tick off more languages off my list.

This is not a sponsored advertisement of any kind for Duolingo, but I need to give credit where it is due. They’ve developed a fantastic, gamified platform that has so much additional content to make the learning enjoyable. The community side of things on the application is also testament to how much languages can connect us all. I’m glad it exists across platforms, and that I’m discovering that too.

The Writing Habit

This writing habit of mine is a funny thing. I say habit, but I break it every once in a while and end up coming to the same conclusions. At this point, this is probably the tenth time on the blog that I’m writing about breaking my writing habit and the kind of things it has made me think about. However, each time, although the conclusion is the same (that I need to write), I find that it is a different thing that triggers the break. Recognizing those triggers for me is as important as anything else I do, because if, one-day, I ever read my own blogs again, I’ll be able to understand why there was a random gap between posts when I considered myself to be a daily blogger.

So, why’d I end up on this break? Three things happened all at once in the past two weeks:

  1. Fear: I was talking to a high school friend of mine when I first vocalized this fear building up inside of me that I would run out of stories to tell, particularly given that most of my stories, and most of my writing revolves entirely on observations I make in a given day. During this lockdown I’ve been really fortunate to have found a routine that works for me, and I’ve stuck to it almost religiously, but being slightly confined, I began to get scared that my writing would reflect a broken tape-recorder, with the same observations about the kitchen, or maybe something else I found in the house, but not much else. My friend told me this wouldn’t be the case, especially because I notice new things so frequently, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by that. The realization I’ve come to now is that life will go on, and this blog has essentially always been a chronicling of the things I find fascinating on the day to day. Letting that fear stop me from writing, and this is something I’ve felt before as well, is premeditating that nothing story-worthy will happen in my life henceforth, which is simply not true. Life goes on, things will keep happening, so I shall continue to weave stories out of them.
  2. Longer conversations with parents: My parents and my family are the most ardent readers of this blog. It’s weird to think that now, especially given the kind of things I write about, but I’ve never been conscious of my audience while writing here – given that I am not writing for an audience in particular, so there’s never been a filter on content. Over the last few weeks, my parents and I have spoken for longer durations each evening. It’s a combination of things again, but they are free-er at the end of the day, as am I, and we have these free-wheeling conversations about everything under the sun. I usually end up telling them my stories, and they’re the best private audience to observations I’ve made throughout the day. Writing about them almost feels repetitive. In short, I became lazy. If a story is good enough, there’s no harm in saying it twice. In fact, I think my parents will get the preview to all future blog posts, because it’ll probably be one strand of the conversation that ends up making it here.
  3. Lull: The last two weeks have been a lull for me in terms of actual productive output. There’s been a blip. I’ve been consuming more content, but I’ve not reflected or written about it. In some ways, that’s because I’ve been changing up my routine – which has tired me out a lot. In other ways, it’s because I’ve not noticed where the time has gone. For example, it actually only occurred to me yesterday that I hadn’t written for over 10 days now. Inconsistency is easy to cultivate I think, especially without fixed, tangible deadlines. Hobbies don’t have those unless you really want to set them. Lulls seem a part of life as well, you know, but I think the ambition moving forward is to have stories in reserve – those longer stories that deserve telling when there is time on our sides.

Time to write away.

Any way the wind blows

Doesn’t really matter to me (but it did).

My house is situated right across from the sewage treatment plant (STP) that is located within my community. As a result, I grew up with a foul stench emerging and wafting into my kitchen premises, or into my bedroom – the two rooms that faced the STP directly. To avoid that, we often shut windows earlier than normal, or just didn’t open up some windows – these big ones in our hall, for example. I refused to open two windows that faced the STP out of the fear that the smell would just diminish all my senses. It was actually horrendous. My father tried encouraging me to do this quite a few times, because of the cross-ventilation it offered when the other windows were opened up as well. I did not think the risk was worth the reward.

In fact, this STP business became a community-wide issue when I was younger. My mother was involved in a lot of the community politics, but basically, the STP issue, and any decisions made on the STP directly affected residents that resided in our row, particularly 4-5 houses, but benefited the entire community without impacting their living environment as much [because people consider their living environment to be limited to the things next to their house, and not as far away]. A lot of financial and egotistical challenges later, things ended up getting better because the community pulled through and under some able guidance and direction, ended up implementing a solution that helped us all live better lives.

As a result, the stench is pretty non-existent these days. From time to time, I get a whiff of the old sewage smell and I think that not much has changed in my life. Other times though, I’m more appreciative that my kitchen windows can now be left open and I can actually smell the food that I’m cooking, as opposed to the food that’s been processed first by a human body and then by a plant. I even opened up the hall windows a couple of times.

However, in an extremely selfish sense, I refused to take any chances with my bedroom. Till this morning, that is. There was a lovely breeze blowing all through this area today, and I could hear the breeze hitting the windows in other rooms. Its rare that we have warm, sunny days with this level of breeze. Usually breezy days are typical non-sunny days in this city. This felt like summer though, so I really did want to try the cross-ventilation stuff my father had told me about.

I took the plunge and opened up one of the windows that faced the STP, because I was not confident enough to try out two.

Throughout the day, I have had the most wonderful breeze in my room. In comic strips, breeze behind individuals or objects is represented through these wispy, curled lines to represent a natural force that moves them around. I felt those wispy lines behind me as  I walked around the house today. That, with the added positive of a lack of smell, has made me grateful to the wind-powers today.

I do wish Bangalore had more wind-power plants though. Today would have been a good electricity day. Another set of reflections though, is how temporary all this wind, and smell, and such is. They were a fixture of my childhood – I used to get so angry about some decisions the community took, and the kind of odour that pored into my home and confounded me daily. I look back today and whenever I think about opening windows, I can only think about the smell and the correlated, consequential anger. Nothing else. Wind moves around though, and emotions do too. I no longer breathe the same air I breathed ten years ago.

So any way the wind blows, shouldn’t really matter to me.

Tubelight Moments

I would understand if you saw the title and expected a blogpost about a sudden realization I’ve had today, or sudden realizations I have generally. Those happen extremely rarely these days, and when they do, more often than not, it’s usually a realization of how much time has passed.

This afternoon, I managed to change the tube lights I have in my bedroom. As a result, my room is more illuminated than it was before. My eyes are still adjusting to the brightness. It’s around 12AM at the moment, yet it feels like it could be any time during the day. There’s a warmth to this light and the way it spreads across the room that makes the room feel bigger and more welcoming. I understood that only because I haven’t had the light on for the past two months, relying on a smaller, round, circular light on my ceiling.

When I was younger, this tube light used to be in our living room. It moved into my bedroom when I first was given a bedroom of my own, and it’s been with me ever since, which is now a period of 14 years. I can’t recall a time without the tube lights in my life, so I have a feeling the fixture was purchased before or around the time I was born. While that is a long duration of time, after the light turned on at night, I was thinking about all the moments of my life that the light has shined on, and some snippets deserve mentions.

Well, the first one that came to mind, is the fact that the tube light saw me sneak onto my computer to play RuneScape when I was meant to be studying. That’s an early memory, because I definitely needed the light on at night to be doing anything in my room at all.

Then I have memories of struggling to switch off the light and climb atop my bunkbed in Bangalore. I used to sleep before my parents went to bed, and climbing to take my place on the bunkbed was quite a bit to manage in the dark. I used to be terrified of the dark as a child, and I am, to this day, pretty scared of heights. Turning off the lights meant that I had to tackle both my fears together, which was not something I was particularly good at. I remember switching off the light and almost leaping up the ladder steps to get to the bed before the last flicker of orange that shone on the edge of the light went out.

Finally, of course, are all the memories from studying. The tube light was my companion on late nights, which was anything past 11:30pm on schoolnights and pretty much most weekends. It was also my companion during board exams, where my fear of forgetting things made me wake up and revise. I remember doing this for one exam in particular, my Chemistry Paper 4 exam, which took place on my 17th birthday in 2015. It was the day after the law entrance exam, the CLAT, and preparing for both had meant revising for the Chemistry paper in the car on the way back home from the entrance exam to University – an odd feeling. I went to sleep worrying that all my studying was going to be for nought because I had spent the Sunday meant for Chemistry doing something else entirely, so I woke up around 4:30 and began to revise away. During those board exams, my friend and I used to get to school and back together, and I dozed off in the car after I picked him up because I could not keep my eyes awake.

Thankfully, I stayed up through the exam.

It’s odd that the tube light in my room has also always meant the coming of evening. Lights in the house used to go on at different times, depending on the amount of sunlight available. I remember the kitchen and the hall going on first, because there was very little light poring through the curtain, and evening television always necessitated good light conditions. My room, on the other hand, was often without light when I came back from playing outdoors in the evening. I used to use those trips outside to the football field or to the basketball court to split up my days – into “school” and “after-school”, but it was only when I came back home and turned on the light that it struck me that my day was coming to a close.

Naturally, therefore, the tube light has been witness to several pieces of homework put-together at the last minute. The tube light was the first piece of electrical equipment I learned how to fix from my grandfather.

There’s just one thing to say in conclusion. The tube light rests above my piano and below my air-conditioning unit. As a result, it’s seen some of the most infuriating times in my life – the piano practice and the mistakes I used to make. It’s also provided the light to some of the most inspiring things I’ve done with music. Sight-reading, for example, is a skill I am extremely proud of, and the tube light provided the source that guided me to each note.

May these tube lights live longer than the last set did.

Goodbye, GNLU

Dear GNLU,

This evening you informed me that my seminar papers had been cancelled, effectively concluding our final-ever semester together. In the few hours that have passed since, I have not stopped thinking about you for even one moment. You and I both know that we will not forget each other, and that there are never really any goodbyes. Simultaneously though, we both know that we need the closure, to complete a journey we both embarked on five long years ago. I may never get to hear what you have to say, but I do know that I will wait forever for a chance to hear your voice once more. I don’t want to leave things unsaid.

The first time I heard your name, I was in Grade 11. Another one of your companions told me tales of the people you took in and the families you built. I learned about your tenacity – your willingness to push forth against the toughest of circumstances. I understood that not everybody viewed you the same way, that you split opinion, but that you were unwavering in your objectives and proceeded with them nonetheless. I heard of your swaying moods, your hallowed halls, your infrastructure, and your grey walls. I was enamored by the way your name rolled off my tongue, a single syllable when pronounced as a word, and endeared by how unassuming your companions were.

I just wanted to be your friend.

So, of course, you rejected me, and twice, no less. I flew from Bengaluru to Odisha, and Odisha to you so many times, I was certain I qualified for frequent flier miles. I understand now that perhaps you doubted my commitment. After all, I loved Odisha. In those three weeks, I settled in, made friends, and tasted Law for the first time. For a long time, you remained a distant dream. I thought of you when I went to sleep, and thought of you when I woke up each day. I struggled with an internal dialogue, urging me to try to strike up a friendship once more. I caved in, and I am so glad you opened up to me.

In the past five years, we have become best friends. We’ve spent eight months together each year, and even when we’re apart, I introduce myself using your name. We’ve organized events together,  and traveled around the country with each other. You’ve taken me places I had only dreamed of as a child. Literally, as a child. I was 12 years old when I fell in love with the idealistic image of the United Nations. You took me there. I was 15 years old when I first heard of the Jessup. You took me there too.

Most opportunities I wanted, you handed me on a silver platter. Timely internships, project resources, University-level debating, editing books, starting a blog. You just made things happen. You didn’t care too much about what it cost you, or whether I reciprocated your affection. You just made sure I had every single thing I needed to be happy.

You knew me so well, you knew I would enjoy trying things I hadn’t ever thought of – especially the food you showed me. Onion rice, Aloo tikki Chole, cheese paranthas? I knew none of these, but I love them now. Your favourite things became my favourite things: from music, to clothes, to the committee t-shirts I collected each year. You introduced me to your culture, your language, your other friend circles. You trusted me with that, and I am ever so grateful.

You helped me rediscover my passions of the past by reminding me how beautiful they all were. I was scared to quiz after Grade 8, yet, you showed me the way, sending along guides to help. I thought I would let go of Model United Nations after I left school, but year-on-year, you brought me back to a society of people I cherished. There were some things you couldn’t convince me about – public music performances remain one of them.

You remained my best friend, but you were never the jealous kind. You wanted to share me with people, and you gave me a community I loved. Across five years, you introduced me to people four years elder to me, and four years younger to me – so I always retained some inter-generational perspective (I cannot believe your new friends were born in 2003). I hope you never forget how blessed you are to have such a diverse set of people in your immediate circle, and that you forever ensure everybody gets to appreciate it.

Just like any other set of friends, you made an impression on me by imparting to me the strangest quirks. Today, when the electricity trips in my house, I long to hear someone scream “Shoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot” into the void. All text needs to be formatted and justified in Garamond, 12 point, and I have begun to love blue font in e-mails. I love completing and making citations uniform. I am hungry at 1:30AM in the morning, 6PM feels strange without prayer, and cricket on the television is not the same as catching a glimpse of the sport as I scurried past the field you had. I double-check my WiFi is connected once I log-in, and each time I move my laptop around my house, I double-check that I wasn’t logged out automatically. I am unable to use a toilet without double-checking that the bidet and the flush work, and the door locks properly.

However, in my opinion, you were not without your flaws. You were reactive at times, not as responsive as you ought to be. You were discriminatory, harmful, and hostile. At times, you were a bully, attempting to shape people in your image, not fully allowing them to find themselves and flourish on their own. You were judgmental and authoritative. Some decisions you made were without reason. Sometimes power went to your head, and you failed to account for the opinion of your friends, your custodians. I hate how rigid you were about “attendance”, and how much stress you caused everybody around exam-time.

To be fair, though, I was not without my flaws either. You brought out the best in me, but you also brought out the worst. When I made mistakes, I am glad that you called me out on them, because I know they will never be repeated. When I made mistakes, I am grateful you forgave them when you could, but took distance from me when you could not, because it was that decision that avoided us both more pain. Each time though, as you have with so many others, and as you will continue to do, you made it a tremendous learning experience that made me better.

You taught me so much, friend. You taught me about love, unconditional, and conditional, and about loss. You taught me about people. You taught me about the Law in more detail than I knew before, and about where my own morality lay. By teaching me about injustices, by showing me what they looked like, you guided me toward my understanding of what I believe justice needs to be. By helping me understand hate-culture and hate-speech, you taught me where freedom of speech lies. While I am grateful I learned them in a protected environment, a smaller circle than what the outside world is, sometimes I wish these lessons were taught another way, I genuinely do. Ragging, for example, is something I hope you leave altogether and wean all your friends out of too.

Having to split off from a romantic partner hurts. Having to split off from a friend hurts equally. This one is no different. It sucks that we’ve come to the end of the road, because I look at some of our happier times and I wish we could turn back to those moments and live in them once more. We both know that we’re past our expiry date now though. We’ve given each other everything we could so far. At least, I know you’ve given me everything you had to give, and I know I tried. I only hope you feel the same way about me. Just with other splits though, it is going to take time to adjust to a new normal.

After five years of letting you dominate my facebook and twitter, I will now have to resist the urge of sharing your posts on social media. Unless you do something incredible, which I am sure you will, repeatedly, and soon – you will have a share from me, and a public display of affection and pride.

Thank you for giving me a home when I felt like I was losing one. Thank you for being my physical family when I missed my family who were far away. Thank you for giving me the privilege of your association, and your company, which I will miss dearly.

Thank you for making me the human being that I am today. I know this is bittersweet since we will no longer be together, but life has a funny way of connecting us all sometimes. I’m fairly certain we will see each other again soon.

I know we are going our separate ways today, but please, never forget, I will always be rooting for you. I will root for you to succeed at everything you choose to do. I will support you to be better, to improve, to innovate, to progress. We aren’t going to be as close from today, but if you ever need me, I will be there to help.

I see the good in you. The bad, I see as your unrealized potential. That said, I’m always going to be proud I am your friend.

Love,

Tejas

Indian Sweets

Today was the day after my birthday, and the last day I spent time with my family for a few more weeks as I’m returning home tomorrow. Therefore, all I wanted to do over the course of the day was to show gratitude for everything I was able to receive yesterday. I wanted to maximize the amount of time I spent with them, and I’m pleased as punch tonight because I’ve done just that. A large part of it boiled down to how much time I spent away from my phone and my laptop, taking a break from work and e-mails except for a few hours in the afternoon. The rest of it is down to cooking. Here are three stories.

I cooked pasta for my chikamma and my uncle this afternoon for lunch. At home, I usually prefer making penne. I find that it absorbs the right amount of sauce and cheese for the kind of pasta I like it eating. It’s also a lovely shape, and the most appropriated shape for pasta recipes, especially the Italian-American kind. This afternoon however, I cooked some spaghetti. I wasn’t sure how much sauce it was soak up, and tried adjusting the ratios, slightly unsuccessfully. The pasta was a little thicker than I think my family would have enjoyed. Cooking it, however, was a ton of fun, since my uncle was on a break from work during the cook-time, and was curious to see what I was doing and when I was doing things or making decisions about adding stuff. That conversation was very enjoyable, especially given that off-late, when I’ve been cooking, I’m usually listening to audiobooks or podcasts, or watching YouTube videos to keep me company. Some icing on the proverbial cake was having access to aerated drinks while eating. I haven’t had the sugary stuff since the lockdown began in India, and it was nice to enjoy Thums Up when I could.

The second and third stories are related.

I love Gulab Jamuns. They are by far my favourite Indian sweet. There is a lot of associative memory that makes it my favourite Indian dessert, but the emotion aside, objectively, I believe there are few sweets, when made even averagely, that can compare to gulab jamuns. My grandmothers are blessed with incredible jamun-making hands. Every holiday I spent with either of them, I had gulab jamuns galore. So many gulab jamuns. There has been one instance where I’ve eaten a box of gulab jamuns in Pune over three days, and then flown out to Bengaluru and eaten another box of gulab jamuns with my grandmother here over the course of the next three days. My grandmothers love pampering me with my cooking. While my paternal grandmother in Pune is respectful of my desire sometimes not to overeat, and knows to offer but not force, my maternal grandmother enjoys expressing her affection for me by smothering me with food from the second I step into her house.

My grandparents had no idea I was coming over here. To be very frank, we didn’t either – the logistics were dicey and we were not certain of our plans working out till I arrived. As a result, my grandmother didn’t receive the advance notice she relies on to prepare things. I knew it would bother here, despite the fact that she cooked me some kharabhaath and rice kesaribhaath yesterday. I ventured forth and got some jamun mix. Together, we made gulab jamuns. Learning how to make them was an excellent reminder of the kind of teacher she was in her heyday, and the kind of teacher I want to be. I often joke that my mother is overbearing in the kitchen and I find it difficult to pick up cooking from her because she doesn’t allow me to do stuff without showing me. My grandmother gave me the instructions, stood next to me doing her own things, while I attempted and picked up on the skill. The result was amazing.

My love affair with gulab jamuns continues, and my respect for my grandmother has grown manifold today. The dexterity necessary is something I struggled with, and I am in awe of the kind of work she manages with her rheumatoid arthritis. I was not an excellent child when it came to nagging my grandmother about her fingers, I admit that, but I respect her so much more after today.

After a quick tea break, my grandfather decided to get in on the act.

He enjoys making cobri barfi, a solid, dense, often milk-based sweet for the family. I always assumed that he enjoyed making it because so many people loved eating it. I am yet to meet someone in the family who has not enjoyed eating his cobri barfi, which is extremely consistent in its taste, and is never too sweet a sweet, which is an important criterion. However, today, while we chatted, I learned that it was actually his favourite sweet, and making it for people was the perfect excuse to get some for himself. Plus, he doesn’t let ajji enter the kitchen when he makes it, which I find hilarious. He couldn’t really remember exactly how he learned the recipe, but all I am grateful for is that I know how to make this now. I’m going to carry this one forward, tata.

It has become abundantly clear to me that as a family, we show our love for each other through food, among other things. I’d like to learn all of the dishes important to the people in my family, even if I’m not the biggest fan, only so I will never miss them. There are recipes they know, and feelings they have while cooking on the basis of which they make decisions – how much salt to add, how much chili powder to put in, and that judgment I’d like to develop. That way even when I’m far away from home, I’ll have a little bit of everyone with me, always.