Sunday, 27 July 2014

Have you smelt fresh bread?

Seeing a picture of freshly baked bread on my friend's page, my first thought was about the smell of fresh bread. It is magic, I say and if you haven't known that smell, then my friend, you haven't been initiated into the fine art of smell and fragrances.

I have always been a sense person with smell dominating the senses. Freshly baked bread is not freshly baked bread alone - It is freshly baked bread and much more if you care to allow the smell to carry you into far away lands where there are dozens of bread episodes which are time-specific. And, no matter how much you have eaten store bought fresh bread, you cannot savour the smell until you have baked a bread and waited till the smell filled the tiny kitchen and then the adjacent room before filling the entire room and finally forces itself into your head through your nose. It lives there for years to come and will come out when you least expect it to raise its head - while having tea with a close friend who remarks on your fine bread or a child who speaks of the bread in passing or a silly song that was playing while baking the bread and is now playing on the radio.

Ah, you will say, the smell still lingers but not time. Those were the days I had time and interest to bake and bask in bread and then you stop. You stop because you have smelt that smell from your memory and you yearn . . . you yearn to smell real fresh bread and you search for dough (the eating kind) and salt and yeast and you work to smell that smell and savour that smell for years to come. Time can never be trusted but memories can sure coerce you to knead and sing along.

Post-script: This post is dedicated to the same friend on whose page I saw the picture of fresh bread. She loves cooking, baking, a hearty conversation and books (smell, feel and everything about books).

Friday, 25 July 2014

Exploring the unexplored in Julie and Julia

While food and blogging are the most obvious and often written about matters while discussing the 2009 film Julie and Julia, I was fascinated by another story which though significant is not given much afterthought. I am referring to the friendship between Julia and Avis as long time pen pals. It touched a chord because writing letters and emails is something that I immensely enjoy and look forward to. I did have a couple of pen pals with whom I shared my everyday life stories and curious incidents. Inspite of not having met, there existed a bond that went beyond faces, touch and smiles. We connected via the medium of letters -- words, words and words. The anticipation was worth the joy received when I held the letter in my hand. A weary day in school would be transformed into bursts of happiness when the long awaited letter arrived. It was indeed undistilled pleasure.

Then email happened.

But the letters still were being exchanged along with long emails. The instant gratification of emails though praised to the high heavens still carried with it an element of anticipation and waiting. The few hours between hitting the 'send' mail icon and seeing a new mail notification is of course similar to the waiting of days in receiving a hand written note. I enjoy both the mediums and exploit them fully. 

When Julia casually mentions at the airport to Linda that she has never met Avis but has only corresponded with her through letters, the look of Linda's face is priceless. That was a moment that I savoured in the entire length of the movie for I know how it feels.

And today, my wait for emails is intense than the wait for snail mail for I am not expecting any snail mails in the present. This also reminds me that I have to write in order to receive and I shall soon do that.
As I grapple with teaching my students how to write formal letters, I am afraid that they will never know the joy of writing hand-written letters. I can lecture them on the pleasures and beauty of sending and receiving a letter but I can never make them understand the warmth and satisfaction of the act of writing letters.

In the meanwhile, I await an email from an interesting person.

How about you, dear reader?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Is the positive body image message creating lazy individuals

The avalanche of posts and essays on positive body image is astounding. The body and the individual relationship is the subject of many self-love promotion articles and is a relief to read when compared to the many articles on promoting a slim body. BUT what is alarming is that the signals sent by the positive body image posts, along with enabling people to love their body is also creating a steady group of lazy people. People have started loving their body a bit too much that they fail to understand that they are abusing it when they deprive it of exercise and a balanced diet.

Let me cite an example from my own neighbourhood.

X is a beautiful and successful young woman who earns an amount that is quite obscene. But it also happens that X is obese and is quite happy being so. Her success and pay package give her a confidence that many women don't have. She is independent but refuses to acknowledge that she has to be fit and healthy. I often see her consuming junk food like nobody's business and inspite of me gently coercing her to exercise, she winks at me and says, "I love my body. It is me." Agreed. But if you love your body, why not take care of it! Last week, X fainted while rushing to work and was diagnosed with low blood pressure and was advised to exercise in order to reduce her weight and keep other related lifestyle diseases at bay. Thankfully, she has started walking and also seems happier (at least her body must be for the walks!).

I admire X's audacity and openness to admit that she's on the heavier side and that she embraces her body but isn't her self-love also preventing her from exercising. If not laziness, then what?

Many individuals think quite falsely that exercising and eating sensibly is for people who are on the heavier side. When I discuss walking and exercising to many of my friends who are naturally skinny, they scoff at me saying, "Only people like you need to walk, not me." Really? Who are you kidding? Just try to bend and touch your toes with your hands. I bet your brittle bones will crack! Admit that you are either ignorant or lazy.

Eating sensibly and exercising is for everyone and especially if you actually admit to 'loving' your body, you should be able to understand its needs. Eating whatever comes your way along with working insane hours without adequate sleep and rushing through breakfast does not show your proclaimed love for your body.
I know that we all have certain body types and that they should be accepted and loved but being lazy and depriving the body of what it requires is definitely part of the 'positive body image package.' Period.

Disclaimer: If being lazy and sexy without exercise and sensible eating is what you believe in, then who am I to burst your neon bubble!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

On killing a tree and related thoughts

Long ago, in one of the poetry sessions, I cringed and squirmed at the detailed killing of a tree as depicted in Gieve Patel's poem, "On Killing a Tree" but today unwittingly I was party to killing a tree in our garden. A semi-grown nearly matured sweet-lime tree it was but sadly my lack of knowledge coupled with my domestic help's insistence, I sought a gardener and asked him to chop the sweet-lime tree. All was well until my husband roused from his slumber and followed the scene of the 'action' disturbed by the sounds. His look of dismay and choice words of admonition, nearly shook and unnerved me. It seemed quite unforgivable. Being a meat eater and watching live chickens being killed did not evoke such passion in me as the incident today. Even now as I recollect the bright green leaves and the threatening thorns of the tree, my mind fills with shame and sadness. I wonder why this should shake me and not the ghastly killing of chickens and goats and all that I consume. Perhaps it is the thought of having seen the tree everyday for almost eighteen months, watering it and at times talking to it while standing next to it while watering the plant. Perhaps it is an emotional response than a plantarian (Like humanitarian. My own coinage) one.




I mourn the loss and go on to dream of a supper of chicken curry and bread.

Leaving you with Gieve Patel's "On Killing a Tree"

On Killing a Tree

It takes much time to kill a tree,

Not a simple jab of the knife

Will do it. It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out of it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leperous hide
Sprouting leaves.

So hack and chop
But this alone wont do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.

The root is to be pulled out -
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out - snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.

(From POEMS, published by Nissim Ezekiel, Bombay 1966)


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