My love affair with Panzanella Salad

So i pestered my friend Chitra at to publish a recipe i am in love with for a while. And the kind and talented woman that she is, she obliged by posting it on her site.

Click here to check out my love affair with the Panzanella Salad.

A Lucky Chops jazz obsession, too much cycling, nostalgic poetry and a reading mood inspired by autumn may result into more posts here. Stay tuned.

oh yeah, that’s Chitra and I hogging on some delicious Nachos and burgers in the back of a van in Ahmedabad, India.


Of ageism and youthful writing

Last evening, I had an interesting chat with my student. Alex and I are the same age and ours is mainly a conversational one on one class. He is highly intelligent and very sharp with his language skills. Since his language is based on a solid base of Greek and German, for him English is turning out to be a fun thing to play with. We met after a few week’s gap and turns out he had read a forgettable thriller where he kept turning pages to find out what happens and the build up was not worth it in the end. It was so disappointing and insignificant that within a few weeks, he had already forgotten the name of the book and the author. He was sad about how a lot of new literature turned out that way.

img_1603I told him I was reading Bill Bryson’s recent book ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’, and how he observes life and cities and things around him during his travels. There are chances that many of his readers will never go to the places he has been to. And even if they do, will hardly get to see things that he sees – the man has some peculiar interests – but every chapter of his has a build up and pay off of its own. He heads to Davon, he heads to Cornwall, he heads to Yorkshire and you wonder what inconsequential yet memorable experience will he have now, and how it will make you wonder about the world. There is thrill without suspense. Of course the genre is entirely different, but a writer can keep you gripped without any suspense in his story.

Alex mostly reads German books and he told me he was not familiar with Bill Bryson. That was invitation enough to tell him more and I embarked on ‘how Bryson usually travels alone and writes about his experiences’ rant. But then thinking of ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Brief History’ and ‘Thunderbolt Kid’ and ‘Home’ and many of his non-travel books, I took that back and said, he writes about everything. There was no way to categorize him. One thing  he is not, he is not forgettable.

And then I said something strange. I said he is already 60-65 and he is old now and he is still traveling. Alex exclaimed, ’60-65 is not old!’ and I immediately took a back flip. I am an agreeable type after all. Of course, my bad. 60-65 is not old. And why was I being ‘ageist’ with one of my favourite writers of all people. The conversation took a different turn in my head.

Why did I say he was old? I started reading Bryson more than a decade ago. I have aged in my mind and since I consider him a wise old man, he has aged further more. Could that be it? But people in that age bracket are retired. Calling him old isn’t too out there. It touched me more, because I have started feeling old of late. I have more experiences to relate to. My sentences start with ‘a decade back’, ‘when i was this age, I never did this’ or ‘in my experience’ and I turn into a woman with advises i would have dreaded a decade earlier.

Bryson himself pokes fun at his age in this book, he forgets roads, he is more accident prone, he is not allowed a certain things by his family, but that’s just good old British teddy bear image he has. His writing is as youthful as ever. And that made me feel more euphoric than ever. I can also reverse my dreadful old woman feeling and shred it through words. You can be any age when you write. And So here, I re-open one medium of writing that I have loved (this blog), that i had closed down for no good reason. I feel more open to take risks, like a young woman again. I could thank Alex and Bill Bryson. Age is just a number. Writing and traveling are forever.



Incoherent monologue

Swinging between optimism and utter pessimism, you wonder if everything is ever going to be okay? And forget to enjoy the fact that everything is okay right now and that’s something to cherish.

You watch, read, think about, listen to things that mostly don’t matter to you or concern you. Isn’t 90 per cent of our time occupied by irrelevant, unnecessary things?

Finding coherence in thoughts you intentionally feel satisfied in being misunderstood. That would be perfect. But you know what will be horrible? Being ignored. Even those doing the ignoring want to be noticed for the fact that they are ignoring.

The world moves about in circles, goals, to-do lists, discipline, targets, status reports, even creativity doesn’t yield if you don’t work on a time table. The only thing about the creative-types is, their time table emerges out of the chaos, it is not pre-determined.

No one tells you that achieving exactly what you set out to get can be anti-climactic, and when you feign satisfaction, the act of fooling yourself makes the self hatred bearable.

The inner monologue is a dangerous beast. Especially when you are supposed to limit your output to simple language that your target audience can understand. When the only person you wish to reach lives inside your own head, keep an open mind, people love strong opinion, but just be the right amount of opinionated.

The unparalleled Alan Rickman

How do you write a tribute to someone you are not yet ready to let go of and didn’t even know you felt so strongly about them. And yet, somehow, actors and performers make you feel like you knew them, after all you have spent time with them, thought about them, sometimes more than even real people who exist around you.


In case of Alan Rickman, Professor Snape has kept a generation on the edge. Snape may have been boxed into anti-hero list, Alan Rickman played Snape to such a perfection, that I feel somehow that also affected the way Rowling wrote Snape right from the third book on.

Remember ‘turn to page 394’?

There would hardly be any reader of Potter-verse who doesn’t conjure up the image of Alan Rickman while reading the books, or even think of Severus Snape without him in mind.

There are no literary parallels to the type of character Snape is, just the same way, you can’t categorize Alan Rickman the actor. He could fit into a silent brooding Jane Austen hero mould as simply as he could be the first Die Hard villain.

i am more disillusioned than ever with the world, the industry i work for, the way people and politics function these days, and yet, even while feeling sad, Snape and Rickman make me feel hopeful, not everything that’s grey is black.

Rickman immortalized Snape in such a way that his own passing has suddenly reminded the world how much we love him, and will continue to do so. Always!

Search for balance continues…

I was waiting and waiting and waiting to feel positive enough to write here and that moment has finally arrived.

Too much awareness of what’s going around you can often result into numbing of senses, or at least i seem to think that happened to me. My excitement levels about things that i actually loved doing were scarily subdued. Yet, i knew and waited for a random trigger that makes me want to be excited and happy about things i love.

Many such triggers came this year:

– We bought our first German apartment

– We survived a crazy, emotionally taxing road trip in the US, not to mention the constant loop of travelling and writing about it.


– I finally got back to the classroom to teach

– My first longish short story in Gujarati was published.  If you can read the language, here you go: No-Hard-Feelings

Still i could not find my trigger. Turns out, when you are looking for getting excited about little things, big changes are not going to cut it.

So comes along an enthusiastic Hank Green video about feeling all charged up while looking at other people getting excited about their own interests, set me off.

I am glad i saw it on the morning of Gujarati New Year. Great wishes to everyone who celebrates, while i sink into my little bubble of new found excitement.

I also kind of feel inspired by this School of Life piece on ‘Wisdom of Pessimism’ that sensibly talks about pressures of constantly being positive. But wallowing in harsh reality doesn’t work either.

Search for balance continues…at least i will be writing about subjects that excite me while that goes on.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent. Picture from

Award seasons open up a lot of fake praise for genuinely cool movies, and also bring up more heartburn for the snubbed real deals.

Anyway, I fancy myself a movie connoisseur and end up watching most of the Oscar worthy performances during the first few months of the year. Not the best way to reach the gems, i know!

Though i have a crush on the Lego Batman this year and that snub will be difficult to get over this year. This year seems to have a very good list of snubbed flicks.

I watched St. Vincent last night. The story and Vincent’s character had a lot of flaws, just like the real world. Of course Bill Murray was Bill Murray. Vincent’s real agonies, family, beliefs are never discussed, but they flip out revealing the real him nevertheless. His story was predictable in a way, just like Oscar nominations on most years.

Melissa McCarthy had toned down quite a bit and was a very realistic mother going through a divorce, but it was Naomi Watts who had turned it a few notches up with her East European Lady of the Night act. It was the boy, Jaeden Lieberher, who stole the show. As if the whole movie played through his eyes.

There is something about the growing up and finding positive role models and keeping yourself together in the world that we live in is going to be a more challenging task for the coming generation. Little Oliver is willing to believe in the goodness in an unlikely Vincent who drinks, gambles and swears (which are no excuses, mind you), we can do with more such searches around us in reality as well, can’t we?

The whole world at the moment can do with a little dose of ‘grow up’ medicines, sugar coated kinds of course. That idea is flawed too, just like everything else i guess.


So I’m playing Family of the Year’s Hero on loop and like millions of movie buffs, ‘Boyhood‘ made me obsessed with that song.boyhood

We watched ‘Boyhood’ over the holidays. It was followed by a very big stack of discs and all the leftover movies that we either missed in the theater or decided to wait for the DVD. Turns out our library only had the German version of it. We decided to go with it any way. So watching Boyhood in our newly acquired language made it even more special.

Everyone interested by now knows how the movie was made over the span of 12 years, and Richard Linklater shot the movie for a few days every year and captured the real life growth of a family. And it is so subtle it hits you on a very different level.boyhood2

Music, hobbies , existential crisis, bad decisions, good and bad haircuts, dwindling confidence, it has everything that makes a normal life. And I get a feeling it has had a very profound influence on Ellar Coltrane who plays the central character Mason who grows up to a unique boy, just like everyone else.

Generally, experiments of art can be interpreted as pretentious at some or the other level. Boyhood defies that. It tells you your own story. No matter what culture you come from, growing up is hard and normal and everything we never expected, but have to go through anyway.

You have to watch it for yourself. Award season has its own process, but for me this movie wrote a permanent place on my all time favourite list.


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