Tuesday, 3 May 2022

My Dad: Engineer Par Excellence And Mr. Fixit to the T!

 Three on three....no these are not the marks of a short quiz but the number of years it's been since we lost our Dad, three years today on May the 3rd, 2022. As always, when I think about him, it is hard to imagine that he is no longer with us and lives on only in our minds, memories and in our hearts now. And so once again, as I have done on his first and second death anniversary, I have to go back to the 1970s and sift through my earliest memories...one year I wrote about my general memories of him, last year I focussed on his cooking skills and my food memories and this year I have to write about his technical skills, which were a large part of his profession and consisted of one of his favourite hobbies too! Few people are lucky enough to do what they truly enjoy, in my Dad's case, it was fixing things! 

Photography has been a huge part of my Dad's life since he was a school boy. His father gifted him a camera when he was a ten year old student at The Bishops School, Pune Camp, and he began going to the photo studio of a very good family friend of theirs, who was a top photographer of his times. Thus began his early lessons in photography and he developed such a passion for it that it was to last a life time. When he was doing the Young Officers Course in Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, he was already developing his own photographs, by converting a bathroom in our huge colonial bungalow into a dark room, as and when needed, and he used to be ably assisted by my mother. Never one to be content with one specialized skill, he decided he wanted to enlarge photos too and hit upon the idea of building an enlarger of his own, as buying one was out of question, as it was way beyond his pay grade! I must have been around four years old and as our play room adjoined the kitchen in that house, I have a very distinct memory of him rooting around in the kitchen cupboard. Then I remember him coming away with two shiny, deep, bowl like vessels and disappearing with them. I remember being upset about my mother's items being appropriated in this manner, though my mother was right there and she had no objection! 

Today, when I was discussing my memories of this incident with my mother, she told me those were two aluminium vessels with dome shaped lids, which had been gifted to her by one of my great grandmothers on the occasion of my naming ceremony! Aluminium is a very shiny metal, so my memory was spot on about that and maybe I had got upset when I saw him carting them off because those two items had been part of an occasion important to a new born me ....Memories seem to run deep into our subconsciousness, don't they?

The next day, my Dad proudly called us to view his enlarger and those two vessels had now been painted black and perched proudly on top of the whole device, which worked wonderfully well. I don't remember this, but I'm guessing I magnanimously forgave him for stealing my mother's kitchen items! Here is the enlarger, now forty plus years old and clicked a few years ago by, who else, but my dad himself.

                      Many a photo was enlarged by this device, hand made by my dad.

                        This  Bazooka like lens was a favourite with him for wild life photography!

As technology advanced, my Dad ensured he kept up with the times, and brilliantly edited his own photos on his home computer. He was also always happy to help my mother's uncle, another brilliant photographer and a very skilled surgeon as well, to edit and upload his photos, something Uncle had always found challenging, given his age. Dad's knowledge did not extend to just photography but to all the software related to photography too. It was no surprise that the very first computer, along with its witty mouse, ( I remember being highly amused by this term as a teenager) entered our house in 1990, at a time when most of India had not even heard the word. My Dad had bought it from a fellow officer who had purchased it while on a stint abroad, but had no clue what to do with it upon his return to India! 

So when something went wrong with my gynaecologist cousin's son's first birthday photographs, and they refused to reveal themselves, despite repeated attempts by professionals, she thought of my Dad! After all, all my cousins had spent their childhood watching their mothers give my Dad various electronic gadgets for repairs, the minute he came to our hometown on his annual leave. And he never disappointed them, the gadgets were in top shape again long before his leave was up...And once again, after a few hours of concerted effort, he did manage to retrieve those precious pictures, which he then saved for one set of very happy parents! 

Since my Dad was in Signals, communication was the very core of his work and he was on standby twenty four by seven. When half of India was in queue for a land line and the other half couldn't even imagine owning a phone, we had not one but often two lines, right though the 80s until the mid 90s. And there was always one extension at my parents' bedside because Dad had to be contacted at any time when the lines were down, further afield. Whenever his commanding officer ( CO) called to give instructions, my sister and I would immediately be all ears to listen to my Dad's side of the conversation. It went something like this, " Ajay here, Sir. Yes Sir! Right Sir, it will be done, Sir ! No problem, Sir! Right away Sir, copy that Sir!" We would go into fits of laughter, cramming our hands into our mouths to keep from laughing out loud, lest we be heard by C.O. Uncle at the other end. And all the while our dad would be glaring at us, even as he focussed on what was needed from him and gave all the politically correct 'colonial' responses. And guess what, if my Dad was entrusted with the task, it always WAS done, Sir...right away, Sir! 

Olfactory memory is also an important part of everyone's childhood. But while other four or five year olds might remember their mother's favourite perfume or the fragrance of their grandmother's incense sticks, I have only one smell lodged firmly in my brain, from those times. The smell of the soldering gun being used! The sticky brown ointment like cream from the tube being dabbed on to the board, the gun being switched on  and then the wires being soldered in place and the circuit being complete! Though I was very young, my dad often roped me in to hold the circuit board steady and that's why I guess I experienced this aspect so closely. I have no memory of what exactly it was that he spent so many after-office hours making, but my mother told me it was his own, powerful music system.  He had even built the speakers from scratch, getting the wooden part made by a carpenter. We had the system for years and it worked beautifully until the entrepreneur in my Dad woke up and he sold it off! Many years later, my father in law once roped in my then five year old daughter for the same task of holding the circuit board, while he soldered something he was working on. For me, the circuit was then truly complete....

His skills were not limited to just building a music system. He could play any musical instrument he laid his hands on, be it the flute, the harmonium or the harmonica! He had never had any formal training but belted out popular songs as if he had been a professional player. Ironically, in the two days that he was at home in between hospital stints in April 2019,  the last thing he ordered on Amazon ( I told you he was tech savvy and would give the younger generation a run for their money where shopping online was concerned!) was an advanced harmonica ( a mouth organ). He played one last song and recorded it too...His swan song? Today my son has that harmonica and having inherited my Dad's instrument playing skills, ( he plays the drums, the guitar, the saxophone and the flute), he is trying his hand at it.

In the India of then and even in the India of today, for reasons I personally fail to understand, owning a car or up grading to a better version, is considered a huge deal. Maybe this attitude stems from our socialist policies of the 60s, 70s and 80s, when everyone was in a queue to buy a simple Lambretta or Vespa scooter and only the 'lucky' few owned cars. Well, my Dad got his hands on a used but fantastic car in the early 1980s itself and the model was called the Hindustan 14. It resembled  the car in 'Herby Goes Bananas' and I absolutely loved it! He was often found to be tinkering with the car's engine and the bonnet was popped open more often than it was not! In the late 80s, he even changed the colour of the entire car from a silver blue to a dark blue, which he told me was an " Oxford Blue". Well, given the fact that he was an artist too and very skilled at painting pictures, it wasn't surprising that he knew his colours well. He certainly wasn't a person afraid to experiment. This car carted us and our friends around and moved all across India with us, until he decided it had grown too old and it was time to bid it goodbye. The car he drove for over fifteen years was an Indica and as he became unwell, nothing I said could persuade him to sell this truck-like diesel engine car and buy something lighter and easier to drive. He took care of it like a baby and so deep was his knowledge of cars, that no mechanic ever dared pull a fast one over him, every time the car needed some repairs. We had no choice but to sell it after he was gone.... here he is with his car and sure enough, the bonnet is open! I believe he loved the engines more than he did the cars themselves! 

And having a particularly skilled engineer Dad meant that we never had to miss our favourite Sunday morning television serial in the late 80s, in case of power cuts, which were frequent in Gauhati, Assam, where we lived then. He would simply pull out our 'Herby's' battery, connect our small black and white television set to it and lo behold, our television miraculously had power, with all the Army kids thronging to our house, once the news was out!

Many men bake these days but how many 'make' the oven they bake in? My mother, a good baker, had a traditional round 'Bajaj' electric oven, common in the Indian homes of the 70s and the 80s. But she had a deep hankering for the 'rectangular, upright ' oven of her childhood, but with a twist! Her mother's colonial oven had been one that worked on a wood fire, hers of course would need electricity. While on one of our shopping jaunts to Gauhati city, a few kilometres away from the army and air force station he was posted to then, my Dad came across a decades old rectangular oven, albeit one that was designed to work on a kerosene stove. I clearly remember it sitting in the shop window, a dusty old thing. But his uncanny eye spotted its potential immediately and he bought it without batting an eyelid. And then he set about converting it to an electric one, right from designing the circuit to locally procuring the materials he needed . He succeeded and how! Some of the best cakes I have ever eaten were baked by my parents in that oven, which was truly a labour of love by my Dad.

                    It looked something like this and is a hundred plus years old today! 

If baking was my Mother's forte, sewing like a professional was ( and still is!) her fondest desire. So with that in mind, my parents bought the much in vogue in the 80s, the sewing machine called the Singer Fashion Maker! My contemporaries will remember the Singer advert which showed the fanciest of clothes being stitched in the least possible time. Well folks, we actually had that beautiful, shiny white machine in our home, and all our fancy clothes were designed by our mother but were still stitched by the neighbourhood tailor! This was because that machine had issues since day one! Either the thread would get jumbled, or it would get cut, or the cloth would get stuck or the motor would stop, you get the picture! Now this was a challenge like no other for my techie Dad and he set work at once. Countless hours were spent after office, trying out each 'foot' that came with the machine and made different types of stitches. He analyzed and evaluated each action and its repercussion, before giving my mother a list of Dos and Don'ts and making her practice under his eagle eye. Thus, he trained the machine to behave itself and we had no further trouble. And a decade and half later, when my mother had progressed to newer and fancier machines, she gave me that one and I happily churned out soft toys for my toddler daughter on it. I used to look at it bemusedly as it purred along, for I well remembered its antics before my Dad had tamed it! 

And the knowledge that that machine had imparted to him stood him in good stead, when he was posted to Jammu and Kashmir again, later in his career. Someone had ordered many brand new fancy sewing machines for the unit but no one knew what was to be done with them. So my Dad demonstrated how the machines were to be used and showcased all the fancy stitches that could be produced. The women of the unit were suitably impressed and the machines were sold off in no time, thus freeing up unit money! Truly, there was nothing he couldn't turn his hand to.

And then there is the story of how my Dad lost out on his Engineering Drawing Gold Medal. This one I do NOT remember as I must have been barely three, but my mother tells the tale often enough for me to see it in my mind's eye. All the officers of his course were doing their engineering in the College Of Military Engineering, ( C.M.E), Pune. It was rather far from my grandparents' home but the day of the submission, my Dad was staying at home and drove across town to college  and unfortunately got caught in a rainy squall. He  was completely drenched by the time he reached and his drawings were a damp, sodden mass too. His fellow officer and good friend ( he retired as one of our top Generals) told my mother later that the minute he saw my Dad looking half drowned, holding his wet drawings, he knew the gold medal was exclusively his! Otherwise, no one came close to my Dad in engineering drawing, but fate had conspired otherwise that day...

I do not need to see a gold medal to understand how technically skilled my Dad was... I witnessed it all my life, until the day he passed away, three years ago today.

Friday, 18 February 2022

Of Bakes, Kitchen and Classroom Stakes

 As the academic year in India draws to an end,

Your keen ears, to my rant, please do lend.

When the pressure in my classroom becomes too much to take,

I run into the kitchen and begin to bake. 

As I, unsalted butter and brown jaggery do cream,

I begin to let off some steam.

The end of an academic year in India is chaotic, to say the least,

To feel a semblance of control, I sometimes try to whip up a feast.

Morning, noon and night, students with doubts do me bombard,

Even as I ensure my cake tin is floured.

Just as I feel I'm being driven around the bend,

A new student query pops up, saying many others do me recommend.

As I begin to fold in the peanut butter and whole wheat flour,

Other students begin messaging about final exams that were smooth, by far.

A pinch of baking powder and of baking soda, a dash,

A cup of hot milk, some curds blended in, and the cake's oven-ready in a flash.

My just home from school teen will smell it from the door,

Even as my kitchen clock strikes four.

I'm refreshed and ready again to conduct my next academic batch,

And my wits with my razor sharp students, to match.

Then a thought strikes me, we'll be empty-nesters soon,

So how will my kitchen, to me then prove a boon?

Neither my husband nor my mother nor I can afford an extra kilo or two,

And my canine kid's diet is always planned through and through.

There won't be much in the kitchen for me to chop, mash and pound,

But I can hope and pray my daughter, by then, might just be around!

Then I'll enter the kitchen in between classes with renewed zest,

And will feel once again, truly blessed.

I'm an Indian to the core,

Cooking for the children is never seen as a chore,

And with a plethora of food varieties, it's never even a bore.

I'm so glad that in Kenya, my classroom and kitchen share a door!

                                              Wholewheat peanut butter and jaggery cake, eggless. 

Recipe on popular demand!

2 cups whole wheat flour OR 1 cup whole wheat flour plus 1 cup Ragi ( nachni) flour, 1/ 2 cup unsalted butter or ghee ( clarified butter) , 1 cup powdered jaggery, 3/4 cup peanut butter, 1/ teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, a few drops of vanilla essence 1/2 cup curd, 1 cup warm milk. For a coffee chocolate variation, add 4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa and a few teaspoons of instant coffee.

Method is in the poem! Bake at 180 degree fan,  for an hour or until dry in the centre. Cool, cut and enjoy!


Sunday, 26 September 2021

For Months So Stressed, Then One Day Doubly Blessed


                                     The Dream they had seen.... the boy in his White Coat! 

More than six years ago, in May 2015, my sister in law came to visit us here in Nairobi for the second time and she had three of her friends in tow. I knew that with eight of us in the house, my class schedule, cooking and taking my guests sight seeing and for shopping in between, meant that I, along with my regular house help, needed an extra pair of hands. And so through my then house help's contact, a young girl, in her early twenties, entered our lives and for the next few weeks helped out as and when needed, until the guests left. Subsequently, school closed for summer and the kids and I left for India. In the interim, my regular house help who was an older lady, had a stroke (she recovered later but was unable to work again) and so by the time I came back from India, the young girl who had been a part timer, now joined us full time. Was she sent to me to pave the way for what was to happen in 2021 or was I sent to Kenya, way back in 2011, to ensure a certain event took place smoothly in 2021? Only God can answer that question, but honestly, what were the odds that this girl, with a brilliant younger brother, would come into MY orbit, a place devoted almost solely (pun intended!) to education? 

For the next two years she worked sincerely and honestly for us. She grieved with us when the meritoriously won medical admissions of non resident Indian students were arbitrarily and unfairly cancelled and rejoiced with us when our daughter secured a place the following year, in a medical college in another country. Most folks who want to do medicine don't get in the first time around, let alone twice!

All this while, her  younger brother, who lived with her and was a year older than my son, continued to shine academically and did very well in the 8th grade Board exams, which are mandatory in the Kenyan system. I had never met the boy but I supported him in whichever way I could, with books, shoes, clothes and then he won the Member of Parliament's scholarship for the four years of High School. We all celebrated with her that day, in 2016. And then with her brother settled for the next four years, she got married.

In 2017, we moved houses and she moved across town with us but soon left for a maternity break. My daughter, though away from Kenya, cried buckets that day and I too was very sad to see her go. We kept in touch and I sent gifts for her baby boy when he was born. Soon it was 2019 and my Dad was hospitalized and I had to  urgently leave for India for who knew how long...My husband was very busy, my son was in high school and there was only one person I could trust to care for my canine kid, manage the house and cook Indian food, while I was away...I called her back.

After my Dad passed away and I brought my Mom back to Kenya with me, our house help too was full of grief and tried her best to make my Mom feel comfortable here, without me having to say a word...One day I asked her what her brother planned to study once he finished high school. " Medicine", she said. I was taken aback as I know, first hand, how difficult it is to get admission and how long and expensive the whole process is....but I said a few encouraging words and kept following up on her brother's progress. 

In March 2020, the pandemic hit, Kenyan schools closed and her brother was back in the village with their mother, in despair, as it was his 12th grade board exam year, but he was not ready to give up on his ambition. He continued studying at home with a few other boys. My own mother was stuck in our home town during the lock down but she wanted to encourage a group of the village boys who were studying together. So she announced a small cash prize, in my Dad's memory, for the boy who would get the highest marks in the test the boy's cousin, who is a teacher, had set for them that particular week. This boy won hands down and we sent him the money but large hearted as he is, he shared a part of it with the other boys! That was the day I decided I would do my best to help him. Little did I know then what that would entail and just how many people the world over would be involved!

 Schools in Kenya finally opened in January 2021 and the board exams were held a couple of months later, with results being announced in May 2021. My house girl was so terrified of the results that she asked me to check them online, just like I had done for his 8th standard board exam results! And here is what I saw! ALL As!

And here is the SMS I received after the results, from a boy I had never met but five years earlier, had sent a dictionary for, as my house girl had told me he needed one. I had forgotten all about it, but he hadn't!

Once the results were out, I was after their blood to keep checking admission applications, requirements and last dates. Due to Covid, everything was online and this boy, back home in a remote western Kenyan village had to go by bus, to a Cyber Cafe in the closest town, every time he needed to check or update anything to do with the university admission. With gadgets popping out of our collective ears, strapped to our arms and glued to our eyes, one truly wonders at the disparity....But one saving grace was that as he had topped his school and county, he was gifted a Laptop by the County Governor, just a few days before he moved to Nairobi.

The admission results were finally out and he had secured a place in Nairobi University's prestigious MBBS ( Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) program. My house help's screams of joy rung around our compound, startling my mother and our neighbours too! Then I began pushing him to apply for the County scholarship and to see if the Member Of Parliament whose office had sponsored him in High School could do so again. The County office kept telling him his name was on the list of applicants but there were no funds and disbursal of scholarships would be delayed. Meanwhile the last day to pay the fees, 13th September was fast approaching, with no money from anywhere in sight. The boy's father had abandoned the family long ago to set up house with another woman, and my house help is now a single mother too, supporting another sister who is in High School, along with her own son, on the salary we pay her. The boy's mother ekes out a living by growing her food on a small piece of land in the village,  and has no income in cash...Where would the fees come from? I finally told him it was my personal guarantee that his fees WOULD be paid on the due date and he would start university this month.

Seeing how upset I was about the lack of the promised scholarships and the prospect of the child losing his seat, my husband said he would pay the fees and my mother too said the same. In the past, my parents have paid the fees for many students doing their engineering, nursing, teaching and other degrees in India, including our house helps' children and other needy students. But I wanted a long term solution as this is Kenya, everything is at least thrice as expensive as India, it is a long course, the requirements are many and we are here only on two year permits....I had to build a community for this boy and we, by ourselves, had to be the last resort.

In desperation I messaged a friend who is part of an education board and asked her if there was any way I could go and meet someone in the M.P's office. It turned out she knew the M.P personally and she spoke to him and got me an appointment for the next day, which was Friday, 10th September. I was beyond grateful! As my house help and I made our way to the M.P's office, I told her to send the boy to the county office one last time to ask about the scholarship, before he came to Nairobi, the following day. The answer, which came even as we were waiting for the M.P, was the same: funds delayed.

My house help and I waited for nearly four hours but the Honourable M.P was delayed in his other office. Finally I had to leave as I had a meeting with my son's cricket coaches, which had been scheduled days earlier and then I had to rush home to teach a class. But I managed to explain the case to the office manager and his assistant, pointing out they had funded the boy throughout high school and asked if there was any chance they could continue the same for university fees. I could not let this boy lose this hard earned seat! They politely pointed out that they had been allotted funds only for needy school students but were suitably impressed with the boy's grades....I left and finally two more hours later, my house help managed to meet the M.P. He listened to the whole story, took down her number and promised her he would be in touch. 

Saturday morning rolled by and there was no word from neither the County nor the M.P and no money. I had already spent sleepless nights where I had chalked out what I would do if we ever faced this very scenario. I had spoken to the Fund Raising site in India which my son had successfully used to raise fees for the engineering student in our home town , during the pandemic, the previous year. They pointed out they could release funds raised only to Indian beneficiaries, whose names were on the admission documents or to their close kin or directly to Indian universities. Then I had researched foreign fund raising sites but not all released funds to Kenya. I finally found one which did but they would release funds only after thirty days. My husband held off paying our credit card bill in case we fell short, since the donations from my friends in Europe and the United States would not be released in time. I had also opened a PayPal account and visited Safaricom twice to activate my M-PESA account, which I had held off doing for the last ten years in Kenya, as PayPal releases funds here only through that. I had to link the online fundraiser to PayPal, as that would free up some of the money faster. I decided to use my mother's account for donors in India who trusted us and I had spoken to my Chartered Accountant back home about taxes on donated funds. He had pointed out there was no exemption and my mother very graciously allowed me to use her account and she would pay the income tax on the raised money from her personal funds, as they would be clubbed with her income. For the donors in Kenya, I had decided to share my house help's number so they could send her any amount they wished to directly, and the money would be ready when needed. So Plan B was more than ready in my head and unfortunately, the time had come to use it. 

By early Saturday evening, once I knew for sure no scholarship money would be immediately forthcoming, with less than thirty six hours left to pay the fees, I launched the fund raiser. It took a few hours for it to be approved, but by close to midnight Kenya time it was finally active and visible! I immediately shared it on FaceBook . Then the wait began and I woke up on Sunday morning with some hope in my heart and my mother and I shared it across the few WhatsApp groups we are a part of and my mother also sent it directly to a few people! 

Our students and a few generous friends in India NEVER disappoint and many donations came through into my Mom's account. A few friends from Nairobi too sent money to my house help. No amount was too big or too small and we were grateful for every single rupee or dollar or Kenyan shilling...One of my Yoga teachers saw the link on FaceBook and asked me on WhatsApp what 'our' target was ... I was so touched that she had automatically included herself in this fund raising effort...She said she would visualize the goal and we would surely reach it. She sent a generous donation and also told me, if we fell short, she would pay ALL the remaining money that would be needed. I was stunned but I assured her that my mother had already told me she would do that herself but then she simply said, "Aunty and I will share that amount then, if needed." 

On the online fund raising site too, money was coming in, with a few of my childhood friends and a school friend who is a doctor herself in the States, contributing, along with a few people from Kenya. By Sunday night, in less than twenty four hours of making the fund raiser live online, we had more than enough funds for fees ( nearly USD 1580, which is, Rs.1,16,000 approximately, before deduction of the fund raiser website charges) the hostel room and for a few other college supplies. One generous gentleman from Kenya, whom I do not know personally, donated and left a note that we should contact him in case there was a shortfall in the fees, he would put in the remaining amount! AND we had a list of people who had messaged to say they would contribute on Monday morning. For the first time in many days, I went off to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Empathy is a double edged sword...it benefits others but can be agony for the empathizers themselves as we are able to put ourselves in other people's shoes only too perfectly. And trust me, those shoes pinch.

I had asked my house help to get her brother, who had arrived in Nairobi by then, with her the next morning as we would go and pay the fees in the bank branch closest to our house, as soon as I finished my Monday morning Kundalini Yoga class. I never miss any class if I can help it, and that day was no exception. Coincidentally, it was with the same teacher who had offered to pay the shortfall in fees, if any! Even as the class was on, ( at yogilateswithnidhi.practicenow.us) at around 9:00 am Kenya time, my house help popped her head in and excitedly told me that the M.P had called. Then she shut the door again. I didn't think much of it and wondered if he had called to ask if she had managed to collect the fees as that was the last day to pay...As soon as the class was over, I excused myself and told the teacher we were leaving to pay the fees and promised to update her. She wished us luck! 

Then I came out of the room and saw that my house girl was nearly delirious with joy! She showed me an SMS which had come at 8:59 a:m. The Honourable Member of Parliament had paid the ENTIRE fees for the first year of University from his PERSONAL funds! I was shaken to the core. What a truly honourable man! It was as if a load had rolled off our collective backs. The first thing I did via Facebook and the WhatsApp groups, was to ask folks to stop sending money, as the fees had been paid. Now we had enough from the fund raiser, to pay for the hostel room, scrubs, white coat, medical tests, eye check up and spectacles, stationery, printouts, legal notarization fees and some amount would be left over as a buffer for the following year, in case the County scholarship did not come through at all. A few folks insisted on sending money even then and we told all the others that we would surely ask them during the second year, if required. There is truly no dearth of generous folks around us....A friend passed by to personally drop off her donation, even after I had stopped the fund raiser, saying students have many needs besides fees, and we could use her money for anything. So I gave her money, along with the amount donated by my mother and our two generous children ( BOTH of whom had separately told me, that since I have access to their bank accounts in India, I could just take whatever was needed, and even break their fixed deposits if the necessity arose, but paying fees on time was very important... I was moved, to say the least!), to the boy, to buy a basic smart phone and a few other things that are essential for life in a hostel. This friend met the boy and gave him some excellent advice, critical for students starting a new life! I was so grateful that this busy lady spent many precious minutes talking to the boy. Another kind friend from India gave permission to use her money to buy clothes for the boy, now that the fees had been paid! One does not realize as one goes about one's cushy life, how much a child needs and how expensive everything is... I certainly realized it while handling donor money, weighing the pros and cons of every item, seeing where we could save, what was essential and what was frivolous, hunting for a reasonably priced notary ( met a lovely lady advocate!), the cheapest government hospital for all the medical tests needed for admission, a value for money phone and giving whatever items I could spare from my house, just to save more donated money for next year.

I had given our night guard the responsibility of tracking down the boy's Kenyan Identity card, as it was critical for admission and had been delayed due to the pandemic. He went and met a very efficient lady on a high post in the relevant office, who managed to expedite the process and in three days he had collected the card for the boy, foregoing some of his precious day time sleep! Help is not always monetary...and so many people we don't even know personally have helped us in this entire process. I wanted the boy to have the right spectacles before he started classes and even those were delayed due to non availability of blue block lenses, but my optometrist managed to finally deliver them yesterday, so he can carry them with him to the hostel tomorrow, since he won't visit his sister again anytime soon. 

As I pointed out to my Kundalini Yoga teacher, if I had bunked class and left earlier with my house girl and the student to pay the fees, they would have been paid twice as the M.P had given NO indication whatsoever that he would pay, the money would be stuck in the university account, until who knows when, and we would have been left with barely anything for the hostel and all the other myriad expenses...As she pointed out to me, "Kundalini Yoga doesn't just wish for miracles, it relies on them!" 

And a miracle, aided by God, many generous donors and a very generous Indian educated Kenyan M.P, it certainly was.... After months of being stressed, this deserving boy has been truly blessed! And since then he has appeared for the County scholarship interview too and if he is awarded that scholarship, his fees for the next few years will be taken care of and all the remaining donated money will be used for hostel costs for next year. Will he be thrice blessed? We will know soon...but we will never forget how donors from across the world, regardless of their religion or country of residence or origin, saved the day for an unknown, economically challenged Kenyan boy who will, one day, be a doctor...He starts his first formal day of classes tomorrow, orientation got over last week! Wish him luck!

And the boy's mother who is very thankful and grateful to you all, sent me this gift from her village, red beans and peanuts... She said she has nothing but she was crying all the time, while we were organizing the fees....A person who shares with others what little he or she has, NEVER has nothing... How I wish you all could taste these Kenyan Kidney beans... I used some today and we had our lunch with a full heart...

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Ink Dots On The Quick Sands Of Cyber Space

 For the last few months, from Google Mail just one message has frequently come,

Which makes me want to, in the opposite direction, run.

"You're out of storage space",

And thus to delete some mails began my race. 

"Buy Storage" was the message that would repeatedly flash,

Was this a gimmick to make me part with my hard earned cash?

I'm a Microsoft fan, Hot Mail is my lifeline,

So why should I give Google even a dime?

(Though recent marital allegations against the Windows founder have shocked me to the core,

I still remain staunchly faithful to the Microsoft store).

Classes on Skype, an Android phone and an HP lap top,

An expensive, half eaten Apple has never made my heart stop.

Every day, after classes, I would spend minutes ten.

Deleting mails from the G Mail den.

When I reached 2019, mails from my Dad snaked their way through,

The number of mails from him just grew and grew.

He remained a G Mail fan until the end,

Though "Out Of Storage" messages were currently driving me around the bend.

2019, 2018 were mostly about blood count reports,

The Lab kept us in the loop so we could, our parents, from a distance support.

Suffering from Deep Vein Thrombosis, some had been forwarded by Dad himself with pride,

To show that with INR tests ( prothrombin time) he was making many a stride.

As I delved further and further into my box of mail,

2017, 2016, messages from the time he was fit, began flooding the computer on a large scale.

All the Human Resource programs he had pan India conducted,

He had, with pictures and write ups, meticulously documented.

Then showed up his blog, " From Here And There",

Where he often wrote about life's incidents, unfair and fair. 

Reading those again brought a quick tear to my eye,

Well, I'll be honest, I simply began to cry.

When a person is dead and gone,

The written word does one beckon,

Into times now well and truly past,

Who knew that particular mail would be his last?

2016 2015, then came photos he had clicked of the times we had had fun,

And then mails about all the work for me he had done.

From something simple like a passport scan,

To the more complicated attachments from the dreaded tax man.

More mails followed of scans of insurance payments and property taxes,

Of forms and details of my former educational franchises. 

In those days, I just had to him a mail shoot,

And all my issues in India magically got the boot!

Tech Wizard, crazy Army Colonel, and also a Colonel's son,

He knew how to automatically get things done. 

2014, 2013, 2012, then followed mails of his travel itineraries,

His fear of flying meant road and rail were the beneficiaries!

'Perfect travel planner' describes him well,

Those mails, if published today, will surely those destinations sell.

I couldn't bring myself to hit 'Delete',

Without those, my memories of my Dad in cyber space wouldn't be complete.

I'd only heard about footprints in the sands of time,

To be born, to live, to die is life's rhythm and rhyme.

But then in these past few days, I have discovered ink drops scattered across G Mail,

Can be as poignant as hand written letters in the era of mail by the snail!

Today, as I, to manage our 'Empire' in India, struggle,

And as I, my Mom's bank work, donations, insurance, taxes, simultaneously juggle,

The tiny but persistent thought begins to niggle:

Indian children, no matter their age, really do their parents 'for granted' take,

Our parents' motto is," Anything and everything for their children's sake"! 

I had not realized  how much I had relied on my Dad,

Until Google forced me to check what all in my mail box I had....!

This tiny vignette from my mail box gives a small glimpse, the mails ranging from my Dad's travel plans to Kanha Tiger Reserve, to some life certificate needed by the Life Insurance Company of India for my daughter, to the quotation to get some Air Conditioners installed at home in India, a scan of a picture of my father in law with a former American President that my son urgently needed for his 6th grade social studies class, to some post office investment forms I needed....you get the picture! 

Monday, 28 June 2021

Happy Birthday, Girl!

 Sanjana, our daughter, came into my life at a time when I was buried neck deep in academia. I was in the middle of my first Masters degree then. Commuting back and forth from the university, in my home town, on a two wheeler, staying up at all odd hours to study and asking my doctor if walking up and down in the garden, studying from a book in my hand counted as a 'walk', because I literally had no time during the pregnancy, with exams looming over my head, to even go for a 'proper' walk. She was a 'surprise' baby but had timed her entry into the world so beautifully that I never missed a day of university nor of the 'Advanced Diploma in Italian' I was pursuing then. I went on to top the course, with one hundred percent marks in the finals. In fact, when fellow students called me up to come and  collect the diploma, I had to tell them I was due soon and was avoiding commuting long distances in the final month and would someone please collect it for me. To say they were all shocked is putting it mildly, no one had even guessed I was expecting, when I had last seen them a couple of months earlier. So studying was definitely encoded into her very DNA and needless to say I had a very smooth and easy pregnancy. 

A few days before she was born, my husband had to go to Dubai for a job interview. So, interestingly and most ironically, our baby's first 'shopping', which included a designer Pierre Cardin baby carrier, uncommon in the India of more than two decades ago, was done in the United Arab Emirates. Little did we know then that a mere eighteen years later that baby, by another twist of fate, would end up there to pursue her Bachelors Degree in Medicine and Surgery. My love of chocolates and ice creams is legendary and so of course my husband grabbed all the chocolate he could buy, before he came back to India, just in time for her to be born. I spent the entire weekend, 27th and 28th June, gorging on chocolates and I often tell Sanjana that the weight of the chocolates pushed her out on 29th June, sooner than my original due date of 3rd July. Medical science may not buy this theory, but I definitely do!

Monday, 29th June,1998: Of course I had a problem with the date! I knew at least four other people who were born on that day, all fantastic people ( you ALL know who you are!), but like with our son five and a half years later, I wanted a 'fresh' date for our baby. I was willing to settle for 1st or 3rd July (2nd July is my late mother in law's birthday) but was I given a choice in the matter? No! Just after dawn, on a wet, rainy, soggy, blotchy, dreary Monday morning, my amniotic sac broke and a short while later, just as the sun burst out from behind the clouds in a blaze of glory, my husband, my mother and I drove to the hospital.

The doctor said it would be a couple of hours before I would be moved to the labour room and mercifully a private room was available, so it was alloted to us. I was highly irritable because I was forced to lie down and wait quietly and lying down is not something I do easily! I'm usually to be found actively working, studying, cooking, embroidering or reading at the very least. By the time my son was born, ( do read 'Happy Birthday, Child!'), the doctors knew me and my pattern better, did not impose 'lying down' on me and I was happily strolling around, until they told me to step into the labour room.

That long ago monsoon Monday morning was also when we discovered I had inherited my mother's, maternal grandmother's and great grandmother's pattern of naturally painless deliveries. So I never had any so called 'labour pain' but my daughter, after her stints with wailing, screaming women, in the ObGyn wards of her medical college hospital and summer internships in Pune, refuses to believe me. All I felt was the painless pressure to 'push' but of course the doctors, all three of them, while clustered around me, in the labour room, gave permission for that only in the final moments.

And so much to the astonishment of the doctors, in a surprisingly very short labour for a first baby, to the tune of gentle rain beating down outside, Sanjana was born well in time for me to have lunch at my usual hour of 1:00 pm and leaving the medical staff free to have theirs on time too! Those who know me well, know how particular I am about my meal timings and it looked like our new baby had heeded that too! I had hoped that my newly developed voracious appetite would abate, now that the baby was out, but no such luck. I couldn't wait to get into my room and tuck into a good, hot lunch. I had missed breakfast that morning! The second time around I made sure I had had my breakfast before we set off for the hospital. But I was still starving after our son was born, again well in time for me and the medical staff to have lunch, so that plan didn't work! 

So impressed were the doctors by my calm demeanour and my casual conversation with them at the height of labour, on topics like why episiotomy is not a choice in India, APGAR scores and later why a vaccuum was used for the delivery, that one of them actually went out and complimented my mother on such a daughter! I think, they all, like my daughter many years later, had rarely encountered such a naturally painless experience and couldn't believe it had nothing to do with me or my pain bearing capacity, per se. More than five years later, just after my son was born, in just fifteen minutes of painless labour, the same lady doctor would go on to tell me that with 'my ' pattern she would have had twelve kids! I was ready to hop off and walk to my room after our daughter was born and I had been tidied up, and asked them if I could but the horrified nurses restrained me and transferred me to a stretcher and then I was wheeled to the room. I did not make the mistake of even asking this question the second time around, but quietly gritted my teeth and bore the indignity of being wheeled around on a stretcher, when I felt perfectly fine.

Sex determination tests are, of course, banned in India for reasons well known to all of us, but I instinctively knew beyond any shadow of doubt that we were having a girl. So after anxiously asking if the baby was fine, I only perfunctorily asked my husband what it was. He gave the expected answer and it felt so good to be proved right. And of course all my baby clothes shopping featured pink very predominantly! That very same daughter doesn't approve of associating colours with gender today, but what can I say, I'm old fashioned that way....

Interestingly, she was the only girl born there that day, the rest were all boys, six or seven of them, and one of the nurses had the audacity to tell me that I should have had a boy, just as I was being taken, sorry 'wheeled' to my room. I am rarely rude and usually remain calm but discrimination against women is a 'no holds barred' topic for me. I had just had a baby, less than an hour ago, but that was no deterrent for me to turn around and give her a tongue lashing I'm sure she remembers to this day. I angrily pointed out that what she had just said was the root cause of India's skewed sex ratio, one of the main causes of female foeticide and all the other issues that a son centric, patriarchal society brings in its wake, pun absolutely intended. I pointed out women are the backbone of any society, the very fabric that weaves the two genders together and she should champion the cause of the girl child, not make people hanker for sons. She was duly apologetic, but I wonder if my words resonated in the air that day and permeated into my new born baby's body, mind and soul because today, anyone who knows her, will tell you she is one of the strongest feminists they have ever encountered. Her Senior Seminar topic, when she graduated from High School, was 'Making Misogynistic Monsters' and centered around how a male dominated society contributes to creating men who think they are a cut above women. It was very well received and her paper was among the top ten papers and her presentation made it to the top ten too, a rare honour! 

It wasn't until we came home with her three days later, that I realized I was solely responsible for a newly minted, helpless human being ( my husband left within a couple of weeks to start his new job)  and the saga of caring and nurturing continues to this day...

Soon after, I started my second year of my first Masters program, and so this was a child who spent her neo natal months surrounded by my books. Later when she began sitting up and then toddling, I had started my second Masters and yet again she was surrounded by my books and now hers too! But she was a calm, steady child who loved to eat, be read to, and played quietly by my side, for hours at a time. My research papers and heavy historical tomes would be scattered all around us in her room, but she never even touched or tore anything. I often tell my son it was a good thing she was born first, because had he been born first, I would have had to abandon my own studies and take up cricket as a full time occupation. This boy, born, while India played Australia at Melbourne in February 2004,  began batting as soon as he could sit and I spent hours bowling to him for years, until he began school at the age of three. And, mind you, I had to stand and bowl, sitting and bowling did not cut any ice with him...He began speaking really early, saying a few words at the age of seven months, and one of his first words was 'stand', if I had the temerity to sit down even for a second. Our daughter, on the other hand, inspired by and enamoured of my parents' wonderful dacschund, Speechka, declared at the age of five that she wanted to be a vet and coolly informed Speechka's vet, our beloved Dr. Dhokrikar that she would take over from her one day! She also added, as a side note, that she would call Dr. D to step in whenever she went for a 'modelling' assignment! To say I was embarrassed by her five year old precociousness would be putting it mildly, but our vet was highly amused. Well, she ended up studying human medicine but still loves dogs more....And everyone tells me she could pass off an a model, but mercifully for me, she doesn't model! 

Today is the first birthday I have spent apart from her since the day she was born, so I felt I owed it to her to write her 'birth' day story! When I celebrated my 23rd birthday, she was already in my arms, as a tiny baby! Does she think she could be responsible at her age for another human being? As she very candidly and characteristically put it, in language I disapprove of ( swear words, I did warn you, I'm old fashioned!), when I asked her, " Hell, no!"  

But then she was such an amazing baby, that she made it very easy for me! 

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Of Pulverizing Poignant Emotions In Pickle


Ruby red chillies and ones that are a brilliant emerald green, 

Coated with fragrant spices, immersed in smoked oil, are through glass jars seen.

Plump, lush lemons, that are paper skinned,

Have been, in cold mustard oil, firmly pinned.

Their colour is still a bright, sunshiny yellow,

Unlike the state of my mind, which is somber and mellow. 

From my online classes I've taken a short break,

And today, I was determined to my favourite pickles make. 

But the state of the world weighed heavily on my mind,

I thought of the many people, worldwide, who are in a bind.

Whole spices did I  roast and pound, 

Sauted, stirred and coarsely ground.

Even as the entire melange in warm oil swirled,

My mind, with deep rooted sadness, whirled.

I absolutely cannot fathom how oxygen cylinders can be sold in black,

Of how many ventilator beds there is a lack.

To, at exorbitant rates, sell what nature gives us for free,

In itself, to me, seems like a crime against humanity.

Such folks have, not just on their faces, but on their collective conscience a mask,

WHO will take these evil hearted criminals to task?

And then I suddenly realized, whatever on my troubled mind had sat,

Had just been fully absorbed into my pickle vat!

I momentarily felt freer and lighter than I had been,

Whether my pickles emerge unscathed from the tumult of emotions, remains to be seen. 

If only it were that easy to make whole a world that is broken,

I'm doing my bit, but it's no more than a token.

Find something that you enjoy doing from home,

There truly is no need to outside roam.

This morning, I was free, I could have chosen to gallivant,

Instead, I chose to replenish my pickle stock that had become scant.

If we have to be out and about, let's double mask up and not oscillate,

Between the decision of to or not , vaccinate!

As soon as you can, get your jab,

At life, it may be our last stab.

Currently I can only WhatsApp my close family from afar,

But soon, I'm hoping I can safely fly black and personally hand over a pickle jar!

Monday, 3 May 2021

Men CAN Cook: The Proof Lay In My Dad's Pudding!

 A few weeks ago, on a Recipe group I follow on FaceBook, a mother had shared a picture of something her twelve year old son had baked. Everyone was praising the boy but one woman commented that how nice it was that a boy was cooking and baking too....This absolutely got my goat, though I didn't say anything on that forum. We live in the 21st century, for heaven's sake and are we STILL saying that it's good if boys cook too? There can be no worse way to unnecessarily distinguish on the basis of gender than by singling out boys for 'indulging' in activities traditionally 'meant' for girls.

In our house, my sister and I ( yes TWO girls born in the 70s, another slap on the face of patriarchy and so proud of my parents for delivering this stinging one, pun intended!) grew up watching my Dad cook. Some of my earliest memories of my Dad stem from watching him make Chinese food every evening, post attending his course, to supply it to a restaurant in Mhow, in Madhya Pradesh, where the Indian Army had sent us then . This, of course, was eons before everything Chinese became an anathema to the world. Our playroom adjoined the kitchen, so that my mother could keep an eye on us, while doing the more mundane chore of cooking three meals a day! But this also ensured that I, as a three year old, had the best viewing point whenever my Dad was gliding around in the kitchen. Ajino moto ( Monosodium Glutatmate or MSG ) became a part of my vocabulary long before I could spell it and much before its hazards were known to the world and it was subsequently banned from our kitchen by my Dad! 

My Dad absolutely loved food and as a young, newly commissioned officer of the Indian Army, was often found in the kitchen of the Officers' Mess. He began garnering a lot of knowledge from experienced army cooks and they, in turn, must have been delighted that a young, newly minted officer was showing so much interest in their profession. Once the Commanding Officer of each Regiment where he was posted every three years, discovered that the new officer had a passion for cooking and was an extremely talented chef, the 'Mess Officer' duties were heaped on his head! So by day he was the Communications Engineer, ensuring seamless communication between officers, soldiers, units and regiments and during parties or VIP lunches and dinners, he was to be found in the kitchen, adding his own unique, signature touch to each dish. No dish left the kitchen until he had been satisfied that its colour, aroma, taste and consistency were exactly as they should have been. The menu du soir ( of the evening) would be artistically calligraphed on stiff card paper and would be placed at the head of the buffet table, during every party. Once, a friend and I sauntered into the Army Mess dining room for a peek at the menu, at a party where kids had been permitted. The first thing the eleven year old me noticed under the main course was ' Peking Duck'. I asked one of the servers to summon my Dad from the kitchen and, eager to show off my knowledge of Geography, loftily informed him that the capital of China was no longer called Peking but Beijing and hence he had made an error! He was highly irritated at being disturbed while he had been neck deep in kitchen supervision and told me no matter what the city was now called, the dish remained 'Peking Duck'! You only have to look up Wikipedia today to see how deep my Dad's knowledge of cuisine was and how ahead of his times he had been...Thirty four years after this incident, which stands out in my mind like yesterday, it is still 'Peking Duck', with Peking being used as an adjective!

As his interest in cooking kept on increasing, he wanted to add more to his already formidable repertoire of recipes. And thus began our cook book collection! When most of India had not even heard of pastas and pizzas in the mid 80s, my sister and I were often found flipping through one of his favourite books on Italian cuisine, 'Mama D's Pasta And Pizza', after we had run out of everything else to read! But more than any book, he cooked by instinct alone most of time, which I believe, is the hall mark of great chefs. Very few 'store bought' ground spices cut ice with him and he often roasted and ground his own spices at home, frequently giving me packets to use in my own kitchen. I remember once, many years ago, I had hosted a dinner for thirty people in our house in Pune. An aunt refused to believe I had made the chick peas myself and kept saying they tasted as good as my Dad's chick peas did! I was highly amused and said that was because I had used his home made chick pea spice powder. She remained unconvinced and felt I had secretly roped in my Dad to make this simple yet highly popular dish! 

But even my dad was not always infallible in the kitchen. A few decades ago, when I was a school girl, he was making a few kilos of chick peas for a party we were hosting in our home town, for my mother's extended family of fifty plus people. He added sodium bicarbonate for the chick peas to cook faster and something went terribly wrong and the whole dish hissed and fizzled and turned completely sour. My dad calmly walked out into our garden and tossed the whole sorry mess under the small mango tree. It remained there for many days and I used to often go out and gaze at it sorrowfully for many weeks (until it finally merged with the soil), because throwing out food is practically unheard of in Indian households...I have never ever used sodium bicarb to speed up the cooking process, so deeply did this incident scar me. On another occasion, when my Dad was posted to Pune and we lived in a huge colonial bungalow, we had invited my then newly married maternal uncle and his wife for dinner. They were fond of fish and so my Dad had especially bought fresh fish for them. But by the time he finished cooking it, he realized all was not well with the fish and being almost as paranoid as I am about food poisoning, he chucked it into the garden again! This time, our beautiful March and Spider Lillies flower Bed was the recipient of this rotten offering. I thank God every single day for turning me completely vegetarian twenty five years ago, so I never have to worry about rotten meat products or fertilized eggs! Yes, you guessed right, it was none other than my Dad who found a half grown chicken in what we in India call 'vegetarian eggs', while making a Spanish omelette....Enough to put me off eggs for life!

The tea and coffee connoisseur that he was, he went the extra mile to buy coffee beans of his choice, roasted them in the Gas Tandoor (oven) at home and then ground and mixed them in the right proportions. On the days when he went through this whole process, trust me when I say our house smelled much better than the pretentious Star Bucks or its more humble Indian avtaar Cafe Coffe Day, both of which burst upon the Indian scene decades after my Dad's gourmet coffee had entered our home. He specially ordered the tea varieties he used, either online, or by requesting kind friends from Assam to send him some. Then he blended them and put them in a jar labelled with his own name, 'Ajay's Tea', and woe betide anyone who touched that jar! He himself was more than happy to make tea for family and friends as only he knew how to make the perfect cuppa from that combination! Today, exactly two years after he has gone, the jar, still neatly labelled, stands empty in my mother's kitchen. No one dares to touch it even today...

In the early 90s, when my Dad was home on leave, our housing society in our home town, hosted a cooking competition. All the neighbours, who knew what a great chef he was, encouraged him to participate. He made a fabulous vegetable biryani ( a spiced rice dish infused with vegetables and yoghurt, topped with browned onions and saffron) and no prizes for guessing who won the first prize! All the home makers who had participated were agog and eagerly wanted to learn some tricks and skills from him. Yes, because in the 90s, it was truly rare for men to cook at home and even rarer to win prizes for it. Whenever my Dad was in the kitchen, neighbours walking past our house would be tantalized by the aromas drifting out on the road and would often stop and call out from the gate, asking if they could pop in for a taste of whatever was cooking! My Dad, ever hospitable like my equally skilled in the kitchen paternal grandmother, would welcome everyone...

When he visited us in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in 2006, he cooked a fantastic repast for my daughter's 8th birthday. Everyone who attended that party still fondly remembers the food he had cooked that day. His expertise did not extend to just cooking but also to laying the table in such a way that the food was showcased in the best possible manner . And to top it all, he was great at food photography as well so we have superb photos to remember those bygone days. 

Every single item here was lovingly prepared and clicked by my Dad for his grand daughter's 8th birthday party. 

He was very particular about the table being set perfectly and the crockery had to match and be complemented by the cutlery and the glasses too. He deliberately chose a common design for a dinner set he bought in the 80s, saying that if anything broke during our frequent transfers, it would be easier to replace! We use it in my parents' house on special occasions to this day! 

                                                   This dinner set is thirty five years old! You can also see my parents' collection of glasses and tea sets in the background. Every aspect of cooking and serving the meals truly interested him and food photography, long before Instagram came on the scene, was one of his specialities too. 

From one of the many dinners my parents' hosted before my Dad became ill. Every item was personally cooked by him and both my Mom and their skilled cook were always relegated to sous chef duties!

When my parents visited us in Nairobi in 2012 - 2013, I encouraged my Dad to host a cooking class in my children's school kitchen, organized by the school's Parent Teacher Fellowship, of which I was ( and am!) an active member. All the proceeds would be donated to our PTF fund, to be used for various good causes, throughout the school year. My Dad agreed very readily and we had a huge group of ladies eagerly signing up to learn to cook a few items which are a staple part of Indian cuisine. The venture was a massive success and we generated a lot of funds for the school that day, all thanks to my Dad's skills. We also hosted a dinner party for friends in Nairobi ( yes, seems like a dream in these times, inviting friends over and actually sitting next to each other without masks!) and one of the items my Dad made was rice and corn croquettes. I still vividly remember his fingers, which had been adept at pressing a gun trigger all through his army life, now gently moulding cooked rice and corn together into lozenge shapes, imbued with finely ground coriander and chillies, before deep frying them...needless to say this appetizer was a huge hit later that evening. I then encouraged him to submit the recipe to an international Cook Book the school PTF was publishing and so it was that a recipe of my Dad's appeared in print in Kenya! 

                                                                  That's the recipe book! 

                                        And here is the recipe if anyone would like to try it....

On of my fondest memories is from March 1989, during the Indian festival of Holi, in Gauhati, Assam. My parents never participated and locked themselves in the house along with us, but that particular year my Dad allowed us to go and play with colours with our army and air force gang of kids, probably after we had begged long and hard. When we got home, after a long day of smearing colours on each other and soaking everyone with coloured water, we saw the most perfect, pale yellow, lemon souffle waiting for us on the dining table. My dad urged my sister and me to take quick showers and then come and try the treat. We needed no further bidding and soon we were back, freshly tubbed and scrubbed. The first mouthful of that sweet, light, frothy, lemony goodness was enough to induce food ecstacy and had me craving for more...Such was my Dad's expertise in recreating even this very colonial dessert. For him, cooking was all in a day's work and the proof did, indeed, lie in his pudding. 

And yes, the title for this post was inspired by a cooking show my Dad loved to watch in the 90s. It was called 'Yan Can Cook'! So apologies, Yan! I replaced you with Men! 


My Dad, as a newly commissioned officer, that's when he first began taking a keen interest in cooking! 

My Dad: Engineer Par Excellence And Mr. Fixit to the T!

 Three on three....no these are not the marks of a short quiz but the number of years it's been since we lost our Dad, three years today...