Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Narnia…a Revelation

Before I say anything, I must thank my friend because of whom I was able to enter the magical land of Narnia. You may scoff at me saying, ‘What a pig. How difficult is it to buy a book,’ but then I would have said, ‘Is it worth it?’
I had never read any of the Narnian collections, and even when the films had been released, the childish context would put me off. I still have not seen the movie, and I think that is how things will remain. When I was gifted the entire collection for my 22nd birthday, I was gracious enough to say ‘thank you’. But I really was questioning myself on the inside…”Will I be really reading that?’

So with much bias and uneasiness, this month I finally picked up on from the box. ‘The Magician’s Nephew’. I stared long and hard at the cover picture. It was not very flattering, just three intersecting rings a lion’s face at the bottom. Whatever.

When the story began with a certain Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, I was thrown off. Where did the two brothers and sisters had gone? What is this? (You see, I had seen certain snatches of the movie, and though I knew they were from the second and fourth book, I expected them to same throughout the seven books.) Like any boring day, I trudged through the first few chapters. Initially I found the concept of jumping in and out of the pools a little irritating. It really made no sense. But the beauty was that it is not supposed to. When my cousin told me to read the book, keeping in mind a parallel world, I did so. And that was when the shackles of adulthood gave way to pure imagination.

And as Narnia sprung forth from Aslan’s song, my interest bloomed. And since then these books have been literally unputdownable, where I have been picking up the next as soon as I finish the current. The Horse and his Boy is my second favourite till now. (I am yet to read the last one.) Following their journey through Tashbaan was such a rich and brain stimulating part. It reminded me of ‘The Mummy’, the movie where they travel through the sandy cities. And even Prince of Persia, where splendour was seen in abundance. It took me back to the days I spent reading Arabian Nights. Harem pants, horses and caravans, curved footwear, wine being served from slim flasks and so much more.

The book that caught my attention the most (till now) is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Like an enthusiastic adventure reader I enjoy my sea voyages. And to pair that with their separate island hopping excursions that take them down different paths, both divine and hellish. As the ship breezed through the waters where a kingdom could be seen underwater, I too felt as if I was on board.

Now I am half way through The Silver Chair, and with every book the twists and turns that spring up at me, leaves me wanting for more. Now I don’t even know what awaits me when I will be picking up The Last Battle.

But in retrospect, the story of Aslan sent my mind spinning. Like an good practising Catholic I have been taught by my mother, about God, His love for us and the Bible. And in the first chapter, Genesis, God created man. That is the birth of all creation on this planet. (Lets not get into a debate whether science trips religion or vice versa.) Similarly, Aslan created Narnia. Other similarities then started to crop up. Remember the tree from which Digory had to get a fruit back to Aslan? Just like the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Digory was tempted to eat, but he did not succumb.

When God called upon Noah to build an ark, He told him to choose a pair of every kind of animal. And so did Aslan, when he chose only the talking beasts. Towards the end of the book, Aslan sacrificed himself for the sake of Edmund. Just as Jesus did, and then they both rose from the dead. Aslan because he was innocent (and as per the rules of deep magic) and the other, well we know that already. In the fourth book, Prince Caspian, in the land of Narnia many, many years later, some of the creatures refused to believe in the existence of Aslan, just like us when we are in trouble. Even when Aslan attacked Shasta and Aravis so they could meet and join forces, similarly we see God working in His various mysterious ways.

A chronicle that talks of much more than just for children. With greed, betrayal and thirst for power, these books made me look at myself in a different way. It made me want to hold on to that inner child and never let her go. For if she did, the gates of Narnia will be forever closed for her.

All pictures have been sourced from google.

Monday, July 16, 2012

‘That Kitchen Goddess’

When it is five minutes to ten at night, I gear up for one of my most favourite cookery shows – Nigella’s Kitchen. Be it Nigella’s Bites, Nigella’s Express, I am a BIG fan. To watch her cook is like a stress buster for me. And with that gorgeous smile on her face, as she whips up cake after cake, cooking does seems less stressful.

The joy in watching her in action is because she is not ‘perfect’. And she does not claim to be one either. You see her snipping the tomatoes into smaller pieces with a pair of scissors as they sit on the blazing pan, I mean how many professional chefs would do that. That is the key.

A person with no professional qualification, she is mightily steered ahead with pure, naked passion for food. When she adds icing to her creations, she mostly prefers to draw in soft peaks and hypnotic swirls, not your usual flat and pristine icing of a pro. It makes one feel comfy in the kitchen, not getting one’s nerves so high strung. She makes me feel that is it alright not to fret if I can’t produce a cut, chop and slice that is immaculate. And I thank her greatly for that feeling. When she roughly chops up the herbs with her crescent mezzaluna, it gives the cooking a beautiful rustic feel. Remember how sometimes we crave for ‘ghar ka khana’? Nigella’s cooking is just that. My cousin does not take too kindly to her. “She is so.” She prefers your pristine kitchen, mostly like Donna Hayes (her’s has to be the one sans mess). Aah, but who argues. To each his own.

Nigella has the most amazing way to get her kind of cooking across to the masses. She does not patronise the viewer as she attends to her meatloaf with care. However, when she talks about it, she uses phrases which convey that she too had to battle some problems in the kitchen, but not that they could not be sorted.

Everytime, she drops in a huge chuck of butter into the pan, or throws in oodles of chocolate, my mother will always shudder and get upset.

“Look at the amount of butter she uses. You would think she had nothing to worry about!”

It is said that one should not trust a skinny chef, and that is was I told my mother last night. She eats heartily and of quality ingredients. Maybe that is why she is still so radient at her age.

Many have accused her of indulging in food porn, but who cares when you see the food she whips up so effortlessly. Good food is also meant to be savoured with the eyes, and her food delivers it without a doubt.

Short cuts is also one of her methods. But, sometimes when facing a time crunch, it is practical. One has seen her add ready made green curry paste to a mixer filled with green peas and cream, or quickly empty a packet of gnocchi. But that is alright in normal life. It is not the Masterchef kitchen, where using packet custard would be like a spear through Gary’s side.

And last but not the least, as the credits roll at the bottom of the screen, you see her inevitably reaching to her fridge at night and slipping the last slice of meatloaf between bread and digging in. That is what I relate to the MOST!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Visiting the breathtaking Himachal, yet again!

The hot chocolate at Garden Cafe in the Tibetan colony near Bir, that both comforted as well as disappointed me. The weather was perfect and as we sat all cosied in out jute chairs, our hands curled instinctively around the cup. But, a sip laid bare the disaster and deceit of serving Bournvita in the guise of Hot Chocolate. Nevertheless, with the chill in the air, we sipped the warm beverage dutifully and gratefully.

The mega pasta served in layers. The tomato sauce was very 'rustic' and the herbs used were whole and grainy. The thick strips of cheese were delicious and the crowd of sliced black olives was a treat for the eyes and the taste buds.

Me and my friend, on our way to the Tibetan colony, taking a shortcut. The path was blissful and enchanting, however when a stray dog decided to follow us, pretty closely, taking turns to sniff our hands, both of us got pretty wary.

The Tibetan prayer flags that brighten the landscape.

Tibetan writings/prayers chiselled into stones, painted and embellished. They adorned a peepal tree set in the heart of the entrance of the monastery.

A facade of the monastery. The bright colours stood out amidst the grey sky and looked every bit as enchanting as Shangri La would have.
 It is a pity I could not take my camera on this trip. The pictures have been taken from my phone, a humble one. Nothing fancy and hi-tech. So if the pictures seem a little blurred and pixelated, forgive me.

That pungent bulge

My obsession with garlic is never ending, and this soft pastel sketch of the same is proof of it.