I am a busy writer, mostly in my head. There, I am prolific, engaging, witty and a bit Wodehousian! I like to walk, read, cook, travel, watch content on streaming sites and review them, and constantly ponder about my parenting skills. My favourite place on earth is my ancestral house in Kerala, which no longer exists.
I had a moment of epiphany the other day. In the act of measuring out rice, I paused just as I was about to fling a few grains back into the container. It was a reflex action. I have seen my grandmother and my mom do it in our South Indian household and here I was, absent-mindedly doing the exact same thing. Why was I putting the grains back? I have a dim memory of my granny explaining that this ensures the rice container is never empty! A wish and metaphor for a plentiful larder, and life.
In today’s changed circumstances, when India is a ‘land of milk and honey’, maybe this ritual makes no sense. But I am loath to ‘unfollow’ these. Here are a few more:
To ward off the ‘evil eye’ while praising a loved one, look up at the blue sky!
If you want something badly, deprive yourself of something you love (especially in the food category) for the necessary duration.
Don’t plant coriander in your home as it’s a bad portent and could force you to leave your place of residence.
Don’t make a firm decision about anything important just before you go to sleep. Sleep on the thought and decide the next morning.
Never say ‘I am leaving’ when you leave home. Instead, go with ‘I am leaving now and will be back’.
The rigorously-enforced childhood ritual of popping the Seven Seas fish oil capsules and Calcium Sandoz tablets every day!
Never shampoo without oiling your hair first or you will catch a cold.
East or West, Pears soap is the best!
Never, ever cut your nails after twilight.
You will never get exact cooking measurements from that generation. Everything is – ‘a pinch’ of masala or ‘a small fist’ of rice or ‘throw in’ some pepper.
Ward off the evil eye by circling a person’s aura clockwise and anti-clockwise with a fistful of salt and in utter silence.
This list can go on. To me, these are some quaint and harmless traditions, which I am happy to continue as a link to the past.
6.30 am: I wake up with a start. It’s Monday. I feel its blues. I really don’t want to walk today, not with a mask on. I so hate the mask. I want to curl back in bed. I hear the seniors chatting in the garden below and I haul myself out. I decide not to wear the blue surgical mask. I don a cotton, chequered one, instead.
7 am: It’s been my ritual to listen to M.S. Subbalakshmi’s morning hymn – the Suprabhatham. It’s 20-minutes long and I manage to walk about 1.6 km in that time. Kind of slow. Today some fatigue has set in. I select the gayatri mantra and listen to its repetitive chants for 10 soothing minutes. I have met most of the regular walkers and exchanged greetings with them. I have ignored my undone shoe laces so far, but a feisty senior points to them. I sheepishly bend and tie them.
9 am: I have breakfast fatigue. I haul myself from the dining chair and open my laptop. The yellow stickie note has a long list of to-dos. I stare at it for a while and wonder if changing the colour to lilac will help. I change it to lilac.
11 am: Upto my neck in work, I wonder if I will survive the day. In between work I have made a paytm payment for ‘exotic fruit’, a google pay for ‘exotic bakery’ and cash to an apothecary (ok, ok, chemist) for completely unexotic medicines, decided the lunch menu, checked with the aircon guy about servicing the aircons (will he wear a full PE suit? Will he wear gloves? Can he please not speak or breathe while he is at my house?), complained to the broad band provider for the slow wi-fi, and ticked off my son for excessive chatting on online school.
2 pm: I feel sleepy (rice, that bane of my existence and balm for my soul), but there are calls galore. I think dreamily of grabbing a book, my phone and go sit in the garden. And the mask? That decides me. I stay put.
4 pm: The ache in my back is accentuated today. Sitting on chairs not meant for long hours of sitting. I finally cave in and order a study table and chair for myself. There seems to be nothing temporary about wfh, anymore.
6 pm: A friend calls. I feel the acute need to socialize. But it’s an impossible dream. I haven’t stepped out of my apartment complex in months.
7 pm: I am in a dejected mood as I go down to for my evening walk. It’s been a crappy day at work. I couldn’t do my intermittent fasting, which means I will go up and pig out. I don’t want to meet a single person today. I look at my playlist. I decide to go with U2 and blast it. For 30 blessed minutes there is only Bono in my ears. I go up in a happier frame of mind.
9 pm: I am in a baking mood. I decide to bake a loaf of bread. I look up the ingredients, and start my prep. My house help shakes her head at me and I promise not to mess up the kitchen. An empty promise and she knows it. She leaves me alone and as the rest of the household settles down, I bake.
The lockdown has revealed something of human nature. With lockdown gradually lifting, do reflect, which of these are you?
The Mask Wearer: Are you the cover-the-nose-and-the-mouth wearer, the under-the-nose wearer, or the chin-mask wearer? I have a particular problem with those who wear their masks under their nose. They are the smart-ass ones who know the harmful effects of their exhaled breath to themselves, especially while exercising, and prefer to free their nostrils. To hell with everyone else. Those who wear chin masks, what can I say. Respect!
The Baker: Everyone and their grandfather is a baker today. I too fall in this category. I baked like a crazy person which also kept me sane in the first few months of lockdown. In the dead of the night I made the house smell of floury butter and sugar, and I really should be given an award for that.
The Selfish Shopper: This has revealed to me the most about people. At the little mart in our building we have had to queue up to shop in turns. And you have the eternal searcher who manages to check everything on the shelf and put it back and takes 45 minutes, while the queue outside gets longer than the one at the booze shops when the lockdown lifted.
The Walker: I am a walker. It’s been a joy to walk every day. Since gyms are still shut, the walking routine has become my touchstone for sanity. Fellow walkers, whose footsteps I can now recognize, keep me motivated. I invariably do a mental count of who is missing from the roster every morning and every evening.
The Background Scorer: Many have experimented with having a uniform backdrop for zoom and video calls whether internal or with clients. Honestly, I find the artificial backgrounds quite disconcerting. If you move your arm, it disappears into a seamless void. But artificial or simulated backgrounds are the best bet especially for those living in crowded homes with little privacy. Some, you will note, have sterling backgrounds – from expansive paintings, beautiful, potted plants, to wood-paneled book shelves. Yet another kind of segregation.
The Dresser: How must you dress up for a zoom call? Do you keep it casual (wfh edits, anyone?) or do you go super formal? A mix of both, perhaps? I confess that I do keep it casual, but with a touch of make-up. I mean, there is nowhere else to dress up and go now, is there? And the sheer joy of speaking to people without a mask!
The Social Animal: Lockdown has been tough on everyone, our nerves are frayed, we are not able to meet and spend time with friends and family as before. But the fact is, we can’t pretend all is fine or normal, either. It’s selfishness to irresponsibly socialize and put others you come into contact, at risk. Someone suggested ‘friends bubbles’ like flight bubbles. Hmm.
The Video Makers/Insta Poster: So, one of the cute trends of lockdown has been families/friends stitching together into entertaining videos. Closet actors and wannabe dancers have all been flushed out. A harmless and fun way to bond during lockdown. Just keep it short, folks!
TheGroup Former: There are WhatsApp groups of all sorts for my residential society, including one for mops and brooms. I kid not! When temporary house help was banned, residents had no choice but to order all manner of ‘magic mops’. Bingo, a group was formed for bulk orders. There are groups for exotic fruits, readymade foods, high-end groceries, bakery items, baking implements, south Indian batters, fish and meat supplies, all manner of snacks.
The Nostalgia Stirrer: Posting photos of past travel is a way of re-living and vicariously traveling once again. I am somewhat guilty of this. It’s nostalgia and hope for normalcy once again. The happiness it gives, is worth all the rolling of the eye from others!
The Smart Entrepreneur: There are more women working from homes in new businesses than ever before. For everything from making rotis, dosa batter and masks, to offering webinars in cooking and baking, and how to be an effective parent during this pandemic, women are truly acing this lockdown!
The Do-Gooder: From those not paying a dime to their part-time help during the months of lockdown to those contributing to all manner of causes in effort and cash, the lockdown has indeed separated the wheat from the chaff. This has been the biggest revealation of all.
And The Paranoid: I confess, as the lockdown progressed my paranoia increased manifold. It was and is driven mainly by the need to protect the seniors at home, but the 24/7 looking over the shoulder has resulted in constant stress. I know of others like me and it’s not a pleasant and happy place to be in. The panacea? Netflixing, Walking, Reading, Blogging, Baking, Cooking, Gossipping!
I obsess about food and I dream about food. And what can be more fun than writing about food! So, here I am, starting with the South Indian Kerala cuisine, which I love to eat and dish up. Except the meat and fish dishes, none of the vegetable dishes I have mentioned below use onions or garlic, which is uniquely Palakkad, my hometown in Kerala. And yes, we use tons of curry leaves and coconut in our cooking!
By no means exhaustive, here are the 13 dishes from Kerala, I believe you have to try!
Mutton stew with aapam: This soupy, white, coconut-based mutton stew is just what the doctor ordered – on any day. It’s small chunks of mutton cooked with onions and potatoes, ginger and green chillies, with coconut milk being added to it later, along with curry leaves and some pepper powder. A dot of ghee (clarified butter) takes it to another level. Teamed with lacy aapam (made out of a fermented batter of rice, coconut and a few other ingredients), or even our local pav bread, it is simply delicious. Many like to eat it like a soup, even. And one can make it as delicious with just potatoes and onions!
Avial: This is literally a hotchpotch, rather bland dish of vegetables, which somehow scores high with everyone. A medley of vegetables – carrots, beans, drumsticks, red and white pumpkin, ivy gourd (tendril), elephant yam – are cooked with salt and turmeric powder. Later, beaten curd, curry leaves and ground coconut-green chillies mixture are added, along with a dash of coconut oil. Easy peasy!
Chicken fry: This has many variations, of course. The one I make has tons of onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, fried, into which I add the marinated and cooked chicken. And then fry it on slow fire, till the rooster crows. Ok, am kidding. Just an hour of slow frying will do. And what a lovely dish this is, with a slightly crispy texture.
Sambhar: I am from Palakkad which borders Tamil Nadu and sambhar is as much my dish too as any Tamilian! This is the ultimate in terms of balancing pulses or dal (toovar dal), vegetables (bhindi to radish to brinjals), tamarind and spices. I like my sambhar a bit crowded and tend to add many vegetables. Have it with rice, the beans or cabbage podthul (featured below) and some papadam, perhaps? Truly sublime!
Beans/cabbage podthul: Minutely cut up the beans or cabbage, season with rai or mustard seeds, slit green chilli, and urad dal, cook with a dash of turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt, add some grated coconut once it’s cooked. Though it sounds bland, it’s a must-have at any Kerala sadya or festive meal.
Mango Curry: This is the dish to make in the summer season, when mangoes are aplenty across India. It has chunks of mangoes ground with coconut, red chillies and curd, which is then cooked with cucumber in turmeric, salt and curry leaves. Yum!
Pineapple pachhadi: You cook pineapple with turmeric and salt, add ground coconut and green chillies and beaten curd, and voila! You have a lovely, soothing, sweetish dish, which goes well with rice and rotis!
Puttu and kadala curry: This is Kerala’s favourite breakfast. It’s rice flour and scraped coconut steamed in a special apparatus called ‘puttu kutti’ (which has by the way featured in Ellen Degeneres’s show!) It’s eaten with black chana curry or vegetable stew.
Fish curry: One can make this with different kinds of fish. I love to make this with black pomfret or halwa as it is called locally. The fish is cooked in tamarind water with onions, ginger and green chillies. Ground coconut-red chilli mixture is added to the fish, along with plenty curry leaves. Serve this hot with rice, what a combo!
Fish fry: My mom has this long and winding road to a fish marinade, which I am only now beginning to really appreciate. Marinate the fish with turmeric powder, red chilli powder, ginger-garlic-onion paste, and salt, and refrigerate for a few hours. Then fry it in the tava or pan.
Sardine or mathi fry: Most people I know are wary of sardines, and with reason. It’s full of small bones, and difficult to eat. Till someone teaches you to chew through most of the bones, except the central one. In my case, my dad did. I marinate it as any other fish for frying, and then on a tava do a vagaar of rai (sesame seeds), curry leaves, green chillies and grated coconut, and fry the fish in it. Oh it’s so tasty, and this fish is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Ney choru or ghee rice: This dish I learnt very recently. Yes, as the name suggests, it does need dollops of clarified butter or ghee, in which the basmati rice is fried, before it’s cooked in water. Garnishing it with fried onions and fried cashew nuts is a must. This rice goes with absolutely any of the dishes mentioned above. The aroma will get you first, before the taste slays you!
Chicken or mutton biriyani: The Kerala biriyani I haven’t yet mastered. But I hope to, soon. This is one of my favourites, especially the one you get at Fountain Plaza restaurant in Fort, Mumbai. The succulent meat, surrounded by its spice mix in the bed of rice, with fried onions on top, has to figure on the list of top dishes to be tasted.
Contagion (Amazon Prime): This Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s triology) 2011 movie is eerily prophetic. It’s about a virus originating in Southeast Asia which spreads across the world in a matter of days, leaving millions dead in its wake. The cast includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle (you saw her as Elizabeth Bennett in the BBC six-part series, the best ever adaptation of Pride and Prejudice), and Kate Winslet. What shakes you the most is the prophetic warning, with messages like social distancing, washing hands thoroughly, etc. These are the exact catchphrases of the current corona crisis too. The movie ends on a positive note though, with a vaccine being developed and an insight into how the animal to human jump of the virus happened. If you have not reached the point of saturation with corona news, watch this movie.
Hunters (Amazon Prime): Set in 1970s New York, this is about a small group of Jews who are hunting down high-ranking Nazi officers living under assumed identities in the US. These officers had notoriously tortured the inmates in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, among others. The star of the series is Al Pacino. The series lags a wee bit in the fourth episode, but then picks up again. Overall, not brilliant, but watchable.
Special Ops (Hindi, Hotstar): I just started this eight-episode series, and suddenly find myself on episode 2! It centers around a RAW officer Himmat Singh, superbly played by Kay Kay Menon, and his 19-year-long manhunt of the sixth terrorist and whom he believes is the mastermind of the 2001 attack on the Parliament in New Delhi. No one else believes there was a sixth terrorist. To track this mastermind he has placed five agents in cities of the Middle East, even as he is today undergoing an audit inquiry into how he spent Rs. 28 crores in 11 years, without being able to give a credible account for any the spend? I am loving it so far. I hope the pace and premise are consistent till the end.
Marriage Story (Netflix): Directed by Noah Baumback, this movie is about the breakdown of the marriage of a highly successful theatre director played by Adam Driver and his wife played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson. The movie takes no sides and by turns, you empathise with both. It chronicles a divorce, as also the inherent sadness in an unraveling relationship, which was once so full of love. A beautifully enacted and narrated story. It fetched a best supporting actress Oscar for Laura Dern, a favourite of mine, ever since I saw her in the mini-series Big Little Lies. The movie is a tad bit slow but worth every moment of screen time.
The Grand Tour (Amazon Prime): I was introduced recently to this by Sachin. Initially I resisted as I have no great love for cars or interest in them. But after watching a couple of episodes, I was hooked! It has been created and anchored by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, after they quit the popular BBC series Top Gear. So, it is a show about cars, with the three testing, test driving, racing and ribbing each other, apart from great conversations back at the studio with a live audience. I love the show for the crisp diction, sparkling wit and sarcastic conversation between the three, their camaraderie, as also their rivalry – I was shocked to hear them cussing and calling each other names on TV! It’s British wit at its best. And the best part is, you can watch randomly any episode and enjoy it. Maybe along the way, you will pick up something about cars…or not!
50 Shades Freed (Netflix): Okay, so you are fed up with all the serious stuff and need something more risqué, erotic, and well, romantic. This movie, fourth in the series of movies based on E.L. James’ ’50 shades’ books, is just the right one for you. If you have read the novels, then you won’t find it difficult to plug into it. The story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey continues, now they are married, even more amorous, and more, er, adventurous in their romps. But always a threat looms.
‘Educated’ By Tara Westover: A beautiful, uplifting book by Tara Westover, who has been brought up by very radical and extremist Mormon parents in America. Her siblings and she are all homeschooled, and work the family scraps and junk business while stockpiling provisions, fuel, and weapons against the approaching “End of Days”. Tara manages to break free and go to college at age 17 and goes on to do her doctorate from Harvard. But she is scarred by the deprivations of her childhood, her parents’ radical worldview and one of her brothers becoming completely violent and abusive, Tara often being his target. This is a sad, poignant, but also a very uplifting book about the triumph of human spirit and the triumph of education. Evocatively written, with a wealth of introspection and insights. A must-read.
‘Three Cups Of Tea’ By Greg Mortenson: It’s literally an account of one man – Greg Mortenson’s – quest to build schools in remote areas, starting with the first one in the Balti region of Pakistan. A mountaineer, he gets lost and strays into this Balti village where the locals take him in, and where every conversation, however serious, begins with 3 cups of tea. He decides to help the villages build a school, returns to the US to raise funds and transports material from Peshawar. It’s a story of acute hardships and iron will and determination. Mortenson has come under much criticism from people who claim that he is delusional, and his organization corrupt. In my opinion, if after reading the book, if even one person gets enthused to do something similar, this book has accomplished its goal. Lovely account of one man’s journey of conviction.
‘Twice Born: Life and Death in the Ganges’ By Aatish Taseer: I love Aatish Taseer’s books. More his non-fiction than his works of fiction. I picked this book up with great enthusiasm. Taseer with his rather unconventional parentage of Indian journalist mother and Pakistani politician father has from the beginning been on an existential quest. His first book – Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands, a biographical account of his travels across the Islamic world, culminating in Pakistan and his difficult, estranged relationship with his father – was brilliant. This is his second book of non-fiction, set in Benares or Varanasi, a bid to understand this India so isolated from his own version of India which is largely centered around New Delhi. I am halfway through the book and it’s been an engaging read so far.
Books by Jojo Moyes – ‘Paris for One’, ‘Me Before You’, et al: Books by Jojo Moyes are easy, enjoyable and interesting reads. It’s got romance, strong stories, interesting female protagonists, and breezy language. Perfect for these socially distanced days.
‘The Master’ By E.L. James: Aha! What has E.L. James come up with now? After her controversial ‘50 shades of Grey’ series, what else could she have up her sleeve? Well, this latest novel is a story about a rich businessman who falls for his cleaning woman, who is expectedly ravishing, sensual, the works. Then follow many erotically written sex scenes, and a storyline which is well, adequate. But who cares? Did anyone pick up an E.L. James book for its storyline? Naah.
My office has been working remotely since the last week. It’s a novel situation. Going into it, I had wondered how we would all cope. Strangely, I have realized over the course of the week, that I have never been as productive and efficient at work. Work is something I cling to, in the hope that some things haven’t changed. It’s almost a desperate desire to make myself believe that life can go on as normal. That life is normal. That a minute virus cannot play such havoc in our lives. Despite every evidence to the contrary.
We live in interesting times. It’s I believe, a Chinese curse. There are so many things I had taken for granted. Hopping into a cab to go to work, a quick hug to a colleague who had just returned from a trip, sharing food at lunch, the easy banter, those quick meetings outside the office. Who would have thought that going into a cinema or eating out, which we did almost on auto-pilot, would become the very things that threaten us today? I view with suspicion the passer-by who just coughed. Was it a dry cough, I have caught myself thinking, fearfully.
The routine of the days, which I had sometimes chafed at, is today the very thing I crave for. I crave the daily human contact, those stimulating conversations, and the sheer ordinariness of the pre-corona days. I was guilty of skipping my exercise routine on some days, giving in to laziness and inertia. Today, while I circumnavigate my building endlessly, I miss the gym so much, it’s almost a physical ache. The school days, the office days, meeting my friends every day – these were the blessings that I never counted when I had them. The only silver lining is, my family is around me, and unlike so many Indian parents with kids studying abroad, my son is in my safe circle.
I catch myself thinking longingly about our travels and our last big trip which was three months ago. I wish I had stopped and lingered for a while more on that white snow, breathed in more of that crisp air. I wish I had cast one more glance at the vistas we were leaving behind, instead of eagerly thinking about home. When will we travel again, happily and without care? When will we get over the suspicions which have become such a daily part of our psyche in such a short time?
Now it seems ironic that we were watching that show on Netflix about a dystopian world. Our dystopian world is right here, not far into the future, not in 2050. We are living it every day. People with masks, and sanitisers at every entrance to everything, are our realities today. The way we have been forced to isolate or socially distance ourselves is our reality today. Someone said this is our planet’s way of repairing itself, of replenishing its resources. If that’s true, it makes me immensely sad. Did we have to lose so many of our freedoms to realize the privileges we had? If these are interesting times, give me boredom and routine any day. I crave it.
“I wish I knew how to quit you.” – Jack Gyllenhall in Brokeback Mountain
“Your eyes are amazing, do you know that? You should never shut them, not even at night.” – Oliver Martinez in Unfaithful
“I love you. You complete me” – Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire
“I have crossed oceans of time to find you.” – Gary Oldman in Dracula
“I would rather have one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One.” – Nicholas Cage in City of Angels
“I’m also just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.” – Julia Roberts in Notting Hill
“Swoon. I’ll catch you.” – Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient
“It seems right now that all I’ve ever done in my life is making my way here to you.” – Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County
“I love how she makes me feel, like anything’s possible, or like life is worth it.” – 500 Days of Summer
“You had me at hello.” – Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire
“… If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love … I love … I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.” – Talulah Riley in Pride and Prejudice
“I think I’d miss you even if we’d never met.” – The Wedding Date
“I guess when you’re young, you just believe there’ll be many people…you’ll connect with. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.” – Before Sunset
“I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.” – Ryan Gosling in The Notebook
“It’s like in that moment the whole universe existed just to bring us together.” – John Cusack in Serendipity
My son is the most social person in the family right now. He can strike up conversations with strangers, ask to borrow the phones of mere acquaintances, and volunteer to attend every social event in the family. I would love to say it’s the way he’s been brought up, take some credit for this new persona. But I have to concede that his recent social transformation owes everything to Youtube!
It began rather innocuously. About four months ago Ishaan announced that he was going to start his own channel on Youtube. We said okay, do you need any help? Apparently, the only help he needed was in setting up his account. Before we could say “Shawn Mendes”, he had recorded his “introduction” and his lip sync to a Shawn Mendes song, as also a rendition of the Harry Potter song in 99 seconds. Swept away in the tide of his new interest we offered him many suggestions. But Ishaan marches to the tune of his own drummer and that drummer bears no resemblance to his parents!
Since then he has posted more than a dozen videos ranging in length from a minute to 5 minutes, from “reaction” videos to horror ones. We praised him extravagantly for his shorter videos, while gently conveying to him that only his fond parents will have the patience to sit through his five-minute ones. Initially he expected people to “like” his videos just because he had posted one. He was hurt that everyone didn’t organically like and “subscribe” to his channel. This was his first rude awakening in the world of social media. I served up a lecture on how content is king and how there is no alternative for good content. He looked at me in genuine surprise, what’s subscriptions got to do with content?
His obsession with acquiring subscribers brought out a competitive spirit I had never suspected. This was partly fueled by an unacknowledged but definite battle for subscribers he started with his closest friend in school who has his own channel too. Strangely, while they compete they also enjoy and take pride in each other’s vlogs. Ishaan reminded me several times a day to send links to family, all of which I dutifully did. The subscriber base stayed firmly under 50.
Lady luck smiled on him a couple of months ago. He attended a social event in the family and a bit diffidently asked his cousins whether they would subscribe to his channel. Seeing their instant and enthusiastic response he knew he had stumbled upon a catchment so rich it boggled his mind. Suffice to say, he came away from that event many subscribers richer!
Encouraged by this success, he developed a multi-pronged strategy to boost his subscriber base. From neighbours he meets in the building lift to my mom’s doctor who paid a home visit, to our house help, he has caught many a hapless person by surprise. He has also approached his school mates, though peers can be brutal in their feedback. He not only managed to assure them that he will cater to their particular interests in his videos, but also promised them a treat when he got his 100th subscriber! A promise he kept.
But when he raced past his 150th subscriber we were intrigued. How was he acquiring subscribers at such an astonishing speed? That’s when he made the comment which we are still trying to digest! “A few well-placed comments, some strategic business transactions”, he told us, guffawing away. We realised he had figured out reciprocal subscribing with Youtubers whose vlogs he regularly watches. And “well placed comments” on friends’ blogs gets them to subscribe to his! For me this was a new side indeed to a son I always thought was more a dreamer.
The content monster in me wants to help him come up with more professional vlogs, with structured content. I have my own ideas for what will work well, all of which I want him to try. I want to iron every crease and smoothen his path. The urge to interfere is overwhelming, yet, I curb it. I know the best way he will learn is by experimenting and learning on his own, by making that shaky video and that clumsy one, ultimately, giving rein to his imagination. And when I watch him bravely facing the camera, I thank God for his initiative and his courage. And his now nearly 180 subscribers! Many, many, many more than what his “content specialist” mom has for her blog!
Your reason for travelling to the Arctic Circle is most probably to see the Northern Lights. But know that Norway and Finland, parts of which fall in the Arctic Circle, offer so much more! Go with an all-embracing attitude and don’t be disappointed if you don’t see the Northern Lights. Often, it’s dependent on clear skies and distance from city lights. Frankly, just seeing the white Arctic world, and breathing in that crisp, clean air is enough reward.
Layer up! You absolutely need inner thermals, your normal tee or top, a heavy sweater or fleece, and finally a down jacket. There are two types of downs – duck and goose. We chose the goose down from the Columbia brand for us, while our son insisted on a duck down jacket from Decathlon. And both options worked well.
Get a good woolen beanie for the head as also a thick muffler/s to wrap around your neck. Very, very essential.
Don’t scrimp on mittens (which work better than gloves in my opinion), and good water-proof shoes. If you are going dog sledding or plan to spend any kind of time on the tundra plains, this clothing will protect you in terms of keeping your chest and legs warm. Additionally, you will be given snow suits to wear over everything. Yet, the extremities – ears, nose, hands and feet will remind you why it’s nice to be a citizen of tropical climes!
If you follow a vegetarian diet, may be this is the time to eschew it in favour of a seafood and meat diet! Okay, am kidding. While we went crazy about the meats and seafood like salmon and the creamy fish soups, vegetarians need not despair as there are enough sandwich, potato, waffle, salads, cake, pasta, pastries options.
Beware of melting, slippery ice. While you will get spikes at the hotel/Airbnb you are staying at to attach to your shoes (please don’t carry them from home), be careful while walking on the ice anyway. Thick snow is safe, it’s the melting snow which is to be feared. Most public places here scatter gravel across the car parks, roads and pavements, especially on the black ice which forms on pavements. Despite that there will be patches of slippery ice.
Drive slowly and carefully on the icy roads. The roads are cleared constantly of snow, but sometimes the mix of oil and residual ice can make the roads slippery. This is not the time or place to show your F1 racing skills, believe me.
The bite of the wind against your face can make you cry and your nose run! Carrying a napkin or some tissues in your bag may not be a bad idea. Some people wear face protector masks in the intense cold. Whatever works for you. I find such masks claustrophobic though, and made do with dabbing my nose every once in a while (sometimes not so elegantly I must admit!)
Norway is a true cashless economy. I don’t even know what the local currency NOK looks like as we got by completely with our credit/debit cards.
They take their public holidays very seriously. And everything is shut on those days. We were in Tromso in the week of Christmas and had been warned. We stocked up on enough provisions to last us a long siege!
You will see busloads of Chinese tourists here, so much so that, menu cards in Tromso’s popular restaurants like Egon, are in Chinese too! This is not an essential fact to know, I guess, just an interesting one!
The people of Norway are helpful, punctual and polite. They are very direct communicators, and will answer you to the point. It seriously encourages you to put forward your best, most succinct self with them.
I asked Ishaan for inputs and he says beware of ferocious polar bears in the Arctic! A very useful tip indeed! Well, it is wishful thinking. You are not likely to come across any polar bears! Sadly!
“That’s sick, dude!” said my colleague! I stared at her for a moment, before I realized she meant “Wow”. Sick, to mean awesome? Another colleague wanted to know all the “goss” (gossip) from a meeting, while checking if the boss had “bounced”, meaning had the boss left office! “I think I am going to dip” said another, to mean that now he was going to “bounce”.
Welcome to the world of millennial lingo! I have still not sussed out most of their language, but what I have heard so far is utterly and comically fascinating! It’s a most desirable bonus of working with a bunch of lively millennials.
Every generation has had its slang which defined it. I remember being called an ‘enthu pea’ for my overzealous participation in English class. I cringed every time I heard it, though I didn’t mind being called a ‘cat’ (as in “she’s quite a cat”, said admiringly).
English is the most mauled languages of all times. Do you remember (and if you are a pre-millennial, you will), the horrible phase when short cuts were used in text messages, like “dat, dis & der”. Shudder! Thankfully it’s mostly died down. As P.G. Wodehouse would have said, God is in his heaven, and everything is right with the word, er, world!
One may accuse the millennials of many things, but certainly they don’t resort to “dis, dat & me2”. Instead, they have decided to be willful, resorting to completely contrary words to convey emotions, like “sick” when they mean superb, and “snatched” to mean something or someone is looking good. As in, she looked completely “snatched”!
To the millennials, their “squad” is their “fam”, even if sometimes their squad can make them “salty” and they may feel like “throwing shade” at someone in the squad. Translation? Their group of friends is like their family, even if sometimes they feel upset at a friend and they end up talking crap about that person. They particularly “throw shade” at anyone being “extra”, as in OTT.
Have you noticed, millennials are mostly gender neutral in their speech. They refer to each other as “bro” and “dude”. But tender emotions are always in the air, just expressed differently, I am told. So, if a boy or a girl sends a direct message on Instagram to the object of their interest, it’s called “sliding into someone’s gram”! But dare you use the phrase “Netflix and chill”, as apparently, it’s a highly sexual, pick-up line or invitation for a romp between the sheets. Who knew? But all is not lost. Once you do have a significant other, you can refer to them as “bae” (before anyone else)! If the relationship unfortunately hits a rocky patch, then of course you start giving or getting “can it” vibes!
Being very mindful of their need to maintain balance, millennials love to “vacay” (vacation) often, and failing that, at least go to parties which are “lit”, meaning, really happening. You could also be “turnt up” if you were at a lit party, though I have been warned, “turnt” could also mean “horny” or “turned on”! And would you wear expensive second-hand clothes to such a party? You will, just that such clothes are referred to as “pre-loved”. Seriously? Pre-loved? This reminds me of Marie Kondo way too much!
The millennials live with some glaring contradictions. They hate carbs, I mean seriously hate carbs. I feel like an absolute pachyderm eating my rice next to them. But they can’t do without their quota of chocolates. They can get really “hangry” (hungry angry) if they don’t get their daily chocolate fix. They are obsessed about health food and chocolates. Go, figure! Next to this they love their “sesh” (session) with the squad, which could be “goss sesh” or simply a “catching up sesh”! And anyone who isn’t in sync is of course a “wack” (whacko).
If you want to gain millennial approval, just go “savage”. It has nothing to do with savages and cave men, and everything to mean someone who is hardcore. It’s said in an appreciative manner. And if someone’s worthy of emulating, then they are “goals”. As in, “Look at her at 45, she’s serious goals, dude”.
Millennials, like many among us, have FOMO (fear of missing out), while the more evolved ones embrace JOMO (joy of missing out). But most millennials do fear going on a BT or “bad trip” (drug induced), much to the relief of their parents.
While they don’t necessarily suffer from hubris, millennials do think they are GOAT (greatest of all time), definitely they are the greatest of their own times! I must be really “cray” (crazy) to write this blog post, and I just hope I have “killed it” (done well), otherwise my young colleagues may accuse me of being a tired “boomer” (referring to those born pre-1965), while I will have to remind them that I am actually GenX…just one generation before them!