Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens. 7 of my favourite things during the Lockdown. Covid19 Lockdown journal. 39

A picture from a few days back. Those whiskers...

Remember how I tried to recreate memories of our Candies weekend breakfasts of yore by making minced boiled egg sandwiches earlier in the lockdown?

Life as we knew it

Well, I don’t need to do that anymore. Candies is open for deliveries and K treated me to their egg sandwiches last Sunday. I grilled the sandwiches at home after picking them up from the masked and gloved delivery person (I remembered him as the manager at the Reclamation branch), and then gave in to their buttery eggy hugs. Not the same as going there of course but one has learnt count ones sandwiches. I mean blessings!

Candies boiled egg sandwiches. We like them grilled/ toasted

Baby Loaf had begun to snooze on the window sill by then after his many breakfasts and ador/ petting sessions earlier in the morning. He came out to say hello to the sandwiches before he went back to sleep. We finished breakfast. Sat to chant on a full and happy belly. Then K went to the kitchen to make a Parsi gambar nu papeta ma gosh using a recipe she found on Parsi Khabar.

I lay on the sofa and lolled a bit after breakfast. Then came to the study. Checked on Loaf who was asleep and snug, then took a catnap myself on the bed before I sat to write.

'These are a few of my favourite things'

I woke up humming 'Raindrops and roses' from the Sound of Music and then decided to jot down a few of 'my favourite things during the lockdown' just as Maria coaxed us to do in the song.

Ironically, while I had begun writing this a post a few days back, we were in midst of a cyclone situation when I sat to complete it today. Reminiscent of the stormy night in which the song was set in the movie.

Baby Loaf has been a bit tense and we have been trying to calm him and assure him. He is just a year old according to the vets so possibly does not have much memory of rains either. 

This 'few of my favourite things' story is for him. 

Thankfully the cyclone did not hit our part of the world and I want to thank all those who had us in their thoughts and reached out to check on the three of us. From what I gather, the Nisarga landed at Alibaug and it is those there that need our prayers and support during this trying time. I also want to thank some of the residents in our building and our watchman who worked to ensure that we stayed safe as did the city and state authorities who took preemptive steps.

You can hear the birds chirping again

1. A slice of Baby Loaf to start with 

Checking and answering reader comments/ mails while Loaf snuggled up beside me
a couple of days back

K says that I can spend the whole day looking at Baby Loaf, our cat. I would argue that so could she! 

I often watch transfixed, while he sleeps. As he shifts positions, clasps one hand with another and tucks them below his chin, or gets up and does a cat and camel stretch, turns and sleeps on the other side, or shifts his little neck a wee bit, or twirls his tiny paws. All with his yes shut. He looks so snug and yet vulnerable and I want to squish him all the time. Watching him sleep is indeed a day long docudrama for me.  I feel happy when I see him eat. Especially if he finishes home cooked hood or packaged wet food, which he does not really like. 

It wakes me up no doubt when he comes into the bedroom in the night and the morning and meows but I love seeing him when I wake up. I love coaxing him to get up on the bed while I laze. Going to the hall to feed him. To see him settle on the floor for a bit after that while I go back to bed. Sometimes  he gets up on the bed and snuggles against Mummy Loaf for a few secs before he jumps off.  Or lies by my feet. We love it when he comes to the bedroom in the afternoon and goes to sleep on our bed or cuddles inside K's cupboard and sleeps. 

Those are the only long stretches that we get around him. Like me, Loaf likes his space and is fine with affection, as long as it is in small doses. The only exception being when I write or do a broadcast at my desk. He then settles down on the platform in front of my desk and mulls over life. Or goes to the window sill behind me where he cuddles up beside the statue of Lord Buddha and watches me as I work. 

When he sees K work though, he meows and joins in on her work ZOOM calls or steps on the broom when she sweeps. It is as if he thinks daddy is not to be disturbed at work, but one can be playful with mummy while she works. 

I need to give him a talk on changing gender equations! 

2. Finely Chopped Breakfasts 

The Parsi poro K made yesterday

Morning breakfasts with K have become a special and cherished Lockdown tradition. 

K is not a breakfast person and did not have them usually. Exceptions being when she and I would go to neighbourhood cafes such as Candies, La Folie or Salt Water Cafe (and earlier Just Around the Corner) on weekends for breakfast. We cannot go to cafes for our breakfasts now and miss that sorely.

I offered her a bite of what I was having for breakfast one morning at the start of the lockdown and she had it. This then became a regular practise.  I make a portion for her when I make French toasts, cheese and veg grilled sandwiches, fried eggs or omelettes or egg bhurjee and toasts, or egg rolls for my breakfast. 

She usually gets into her work ZOOM calls by then. I surreptitiously slid her a plate and then settle at the bistro table with mine. It is a rare day when we both get to have our breakfast at the table together. I would want more of that, but am more than happy that we can do this thanks to her work from home routine. 

Yesterday was an exception, K got ten minutes between two work meetings and offered to make my poro, Parsi for omelettes. The end result looked so like the omelettes of the Irani run Vohuman Cafe at Pune that I decided to dab some butter on to the poro to build on that 'peaceful, easy feeling.' 

We usually have lunch together too which we never did before. Again with her on the sofa on ZOOM with me passing down a tray. Me at the table. Not mindful eating, yoga teachers would say. Yet, one feels very blessed about this. 

3. The Kitchen Cabinet

Finding peace in the kitchen in the morning after the Amphan Cyclone

As I have written here before, the kitchen has become the centre of our apartment during the lockdown. Cooking has given me joy and peace during this period. 

The day after the cyclone in Bengal and Odisha for example, when I was feeling wretched after seeing the images of the devastation and human misery left behind in the wake of the cyclone. Being barely able to connect with my mother who was in Kolkata and not at all with my aunt or grandmom, sucked.

I headed to the kitchen feeling listless. Thawed some mince mutton and then proceeded to make a kheemar jhol (minced meat curry) based on memories of my childhood. It was a spur of the moment decision. I was lost in the process while I cooked. My mind in a meditative state. Focused on the act of cooking, choosing the spices, the chopping, the stirring, the blending, the sense of anticipation on how the dish would turn out. I needed to escape from reality for a bit and the kitchen helped me do so.

I have cooked during the lockdown in a way that I have not in a long time. In terms of regularity, experimenting with vegetables or even reprising old recipes like when I made the chilli chicken after years for the #amphanrelieffundraiser on Shubhra Chatterjee's Historywali Instagram page. I enjoy making various grilled sandwich combos which are tasty and nutritious for our building watchmen in the evening. As does K. It’s a very small gesture I know and we don’t do it everyday, but fulfilling still.

I have become very particular about cleaning the kitchen when I am done these days. A reflection of how important the kitchen has become to me. 

Some of the happiest times in the kitchen for me are when I look at leftovers, gravies, vegetables, meats, parathas and try to figure out ways to repurpose them. #LoveYourLeftovers as I call it on social media, exhorting others to do so too.

3. Look who's back in the kitchen!!!!

Gambar nu papeta ma gosh

K has returned to the kitchen with a vengeance for the first time since the early years of our marriage. Her cooking style is different from mine. She researches recipes and follows them meticulously. Hand pounding spices if need be! Coming out often hours after she entered the kitchen, as most of the recipes she chooses to make are laborious ones. Especially the Parsi ones which she has never cooked before. 

It started with the Parsi chawra which she made for the first time and for which she used our mortar and pestle for the first time. The one I had got back from Chiang Mai but now hardly use. Then she made a dhansak, which is considered to be one of the most complex dishes around, and which she had never made before. She used a recipe from Bawi Bride for this and one from 101 Parsi recipes for the chawra. On Sunday she made another dish that was a first for her. The gambhar nu papeta ma gosh. A braised and roasted mutton and potato dish based on a recipe from the Parsi Khabar site.  The meat was so tender, the potato so cherubic. We had bought the mutton the Sunday before she made this from Mohsin Shaikh of Janta Mutton Shop. He is based in Worli but you call him on 9820420136 and place orders in Bandra. Helps if you can pool in and get a few more to do so.

Gambhars are Parsi community meals which are usually sponsored by an individual and are inaccessible to non-Parsis like me and I loved our Sunday lunch which gave me a taste of it.

We have really enjoyed our home cooked meals during the lockdown and have got addicted to them. A happy fallout of this is that I have shed some excess weight since the lockdown started despite my nightly farsan and/ or dark chocolate snacking. Around 5 kilos or so if one goes by the temperamental manual weighing scale at home. 

4. What's on TV tonight?

The binge side of midnight

What else? TV makes me happy. Well, not TV in the conventional sense, but we do stream from OTT platforms on to our television. We watch Atul Khatri's IGTV show 'only positive news' every night on the phone.

There were shows that made one smile such as Panchayat on Amazon and most recently, the new 'Somebody Feed Phil' on Netflix. There was After Life which made one smile in a wry way and the writing was so spectacular in it. Then the very Karan Joharish, This is Us.

Fauda, Homeland and now Money Heist, which we recently started watching, held us by the edge of the seat. There was Patal Lok which we watched despited the gory bits. Jerry Seinfeld's new special on Netflix, where he showed how it is possible to make people laugh for an hour without taking refuge in invectives and body parts related humour, was such a burst of fresh air. At times I watched old BBC classics such as Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister and timeless comic Hindi films such as Jaane Bhi Do Yaro and Gol Mal in search of a smile.

We binge on snacks when we do so and that is not a good thing of course. Better than watching the news though. Or clicking on WhatsApp forwards. I don’t keep track of Covid counts in the city, in India, across the world. Just try to do our bit to stay safe, keep others safe and help those who we can.

5. The gravy trail

The paratha express

Let's not forget the 'paratha express.' I am talking of when the doorbell rings at night and it is the watchman with a bag from our friends the Grovers from down the lane. Punjabis who send us a stack of fresh parathas ever so often, with piping hot rajma or kaali dal and at times, a mix of both.

Or it could be the Badamis, our Goan neighbours and friend from downstairs. A mother and daughter duo, bearing brilliant desserts baked by the daughter who bakes as she is bored as college is shut. Good for us! They love to play with Baby Loaf and we all love their visits.

Or it could be the intercom buzzing with news that our friend Shaswati, a Bengali, from a couple lanes down had come by and dropped some of the delcious Bihari maachh, doi maachh, Bhopali gosht, dhone paatar bhorta etc that she might have cooked for herself and wanted to share with us.

We treasure these food parcels of love that come our way. Sometimes we cook and send some too but are more often than not at the receiving end of their largesse. 

6. Meet the next workout influencer!

Exercise. Yes! You heard me right! I know that you would not associate me with exercise. I would not either.

I have not reached Jane Fonda workout video level yet. Or is Shilpa Shetty yoga videos a more current example? K says my references never are! Even the headline here is based on Sound of Music. Hope you have heard of that!

I like taking breaks between writing to do lumber exercises. Once Loaf joined me too! That aaa when my physio Juoti has come for a session. He enjoys her visits as she is a cat mother herself. 

I always climb the stairs up when I go down to pick parcels. Continuing with a tradition that started when he came into my life and used to live on our staircase then. That is when I stopped taking the lift and have continued to do so though he lives with us now.

I began stepping out after 9 pm wearing a mask a fortnight back. Walking up and down our deserted lane. First for 20 min and now 30 min. It was not easy to do so initially with a mask in the heat and humidity. Every step felt torturous. I then played 70s and 80s rock music on my phone as I walked and carried my earphones with me. Think Sultans I’d Swing, Romeo & Juliet, Born in the USA, Dancing in the Dark, 57 Channels, Human Touch, Heavy Fuel, November Rain, Eye of the Tiger, Billie Jean, With or Without You ... you get the idea. I soon forgot the time and then got used to the effort. I can't tell you what a big difference just stepping out in the open and moving ones body made. Psychologically even more than physically. I never take calls when out. Nor do I check my phone. I treasure this time like a prisoner out in the yard. I make sure no one is around me on the road of course.

The mask is a pain. Coming home and changing, showering and washing the mask before I take a proper drink of water is a pain, but man, do I look forward to it. 

7. Work beyond the 9 to 5 life

Amphan find raiser cooking

Work makes me happy!

If I remember my physics lessons in school, work is measured by multiplying the distance covered from point a to point b with the force applied. (I had to Google to check this!)

Using that logic, 'work' for a freelancer would only be measured in terms of paid assignments. Commissioned work. That is what I used to think too when I had just made the transition from being a salaried employee in the corporate world to a freelance writer. Then realisation struck. Thankfully!

I realised that there is  more to work than just client commissioned paying work. That the efforts you take to educate yourself and learn new skills and tricks, to hone your craft, to develop your voice and identity, is work too.

This realisation came of use during the lockdown where I might have done just the occasional assignment and yet have not felt directionless or restless on a single day. From creating cooking videos through Instagram stories, to sharing frequent updates from my day. Posting content about the foodie side of our life during the lockdown. To starting off two properties which I had planned to for a while and had not done anything about earlier. #FoodocracyIndia to share stories of local eateries. #FoodocracyForWomen to share stories of women entrepreneurs in the F&B space. Moving both to video, live broadcast and podcast formats. Something which inertia had made me resist for long. 

Then there is this Covid 19 Lockdown Journal which has made me rediscover the joys of blogging about one's daily life once again. This is the 39th instalment of that!

Forget what physics says, this has been one of the most fulfilling periods of my work as a freelance writer so far. I have loved every bit of it.  I know when then time comes and when 'winter turns to spring', it will flourish commercially too. 

That’s the power of faith. In my case I get this from my Soka Buddhist practise which gives me hope and joy, some of which I try to share with you through my work.

Well I have told you about what brings me happiness during the Lockdown. Why don't you now give it a good think and tell me what makes you happy these days? I look forward to hearing from you.

Here is the original song from the Sound of Music.


k said…
Lovely. ��