A visit to the Children’s Museum

Prasad’s handprint on a board of squishy needles.
Inside a Fire truck
Building a tree
Working at the check-out counter of the Tiny-tots shopping center.

Now you might wonder if we went to a Museum for Children or an unusual Museum for the childlike. No. We did go to the Children’s Museum but it was Prasad who had the best time there. Can you believe he had to be dragged inside?

Medha was scared of most of the stuff. She refused to sit on a cop-bike or inside the fire truck or even an ambulance for a picture. Thank God the dinosaurs that we had seen on our last visit to the museum weren’t on display!

We tried to rid her of her fears but all we got in response was a high-volumed wailing.

Papa no truck!!!

It wasn’t all bad. She did have fun at painting and other activities.

Maybe she will be an artist?
Or maybe a business owner?
A Writer maybe?
But a happy and free-spirited being I hope she’ll always be….

Vegetable Dosa


If there’s one thing I’m certain my picky daughter will eat it is a  Dosa. It takes me forever to get the batter well-ground with my Oster blender but I suffer so I don’t have to worry about her one meal a day for the rest of the week. Since Dosa is a staple in my kitchen, I try and make different versions.

Here are the reasons why I chose to make Vegetable Dosas last saturday-

1. Medha has something to eat for the next few days.

2. I don’t feel depressed on account of her not having eaten anything.

3. Satisfy my husband, Prasad’s cravings and

4. Lure our friends , Vinay and Vandu, to visit us boring parents!

The recipe for this version of Dosa was handed down to me by my mother-in-law who invented it after tasting them at Hyderabad’s Kamat hotel.

I prepared the batter by soaking  4 cups of Sona masoori rice with a cup of urad dal and a spoonful of dry beans in water all friday morning. In the evening I mixed a cup of poha to the pre-soaked rice and let it stand for a half hour before grinding the mix into a paste. By saturday morning the fermented batter had almost doubled in quantity and was ready to be transformed into Dosas.

A Vegetable Dosa is eaten with a Vegetable Curry, Chutney and Raita. Raita was the easiest to make. I mixed yogurt with grated carrot, chopped cucumber, tiny pieces of yellow onion and cubes of avocado (Add them and you’ll never eat raita without them!) sprinkling some salt.

I made chutney grinding a big block of frozen coconut with a handful of dalia. half a bunch of cilantro, a 1×1 inch coin of ginger, half a spoon of tamarind pulp, 2 green chillis, water and salt.

For the vegetable curry I sizzled a teaspoon of mustard seeds in a large pan with a tablespoon of hot oil. After the mustard seeds it was a teaspoon of urad dal’s turn to sizzle. Then I added finely chopped vegetables like Carrot, Potato and Green Beans and fried them till they were well done. I ground  a tablespoon of coconut, 3-4 garlic cloves and half a teaspoon of red chilli powder and scooped the powder out and into the pan where my vegetables were cooling off after the intense heat. In the end I perked everything up with a  dash of salt and a teaspoon of Garam Masala.

My Dosas were a hit of course but the dessert, Pineapple Ksheera, stole the show. You can see it lolling beside the Dosas in the picture. Get hold of my chef of a husband for its recipe!

Letters from Yellowstone…

“It is as though I have traveled back in time, to the very edge of the universe, where the earth, still in its most primordial stage, sputters and bubbles and spews out the very origins of life” writes the female protagonist Alexandria Bartram to her mother in the book “Letters from Yellowstone” about the Yellowstone National Park. It is late 1800s and Miss Bartram is on an expedition with Professor Merriam and a bunch of scientists to discover and catalog the plant species that grow in the park region. Her description of the park is apt even today. The earth still sputters and bubbles but we know now that it is because the Yellowstone sits on an active Volcano. We were there last month.

“Letters from Yellowstone” is a book completely in the form of letters written by the scientists to their friends and families.For me it was about one woman’s journey into the heart of Yellowstone in pursuit of her passion for the field of botany. She is too scientifically-inclined, using the scientific name “corvus corax” instead of the more common “crow”, addressing her colleague’s pet. Her interaction with the soft-spoken erudite Professor Merriam and the Indian named Joseph Not-afraid at the Yellowstone opens her mind to a world beyond science where nature is not just studied but worshiped. `

In an era when women were considered mere objects of beauty our Miss Bartram paves her own way and finds her true calling. The story of a woman taking charge of her own life in a wild backdrop provided by my favorite Yellowstone National Park was a delicious read.  As I read about how she would come across a rare species of plant and paint its likeness down to the fine hair on its stem, I realized how much I love science and research myself. I don’t think I can ever become a scientist but a learner I will always be. I consider myself a student of and for life!

“I want to match the best I have against the best the world has to offer before it is gone.”

-” Letters From Yellowstone” by Diane Smith.

Veggie Tacos

I’m a big fan of Mexican food, especially a Veggie Fajita and exclusively Prasad-made. He carefully chops up the veggies asking me to please be seated while the Master is at work. He then fries them and transfers them to a bowl. Next, he cooks the Spanish rice. While that is boiling and simmering he blends avocados, onions, jalapenos, cilantro and squeezed lemon juice in a tiny Magic Bullet jar to make a holy-guacamole. In the end he warms the soft corn tortillas and prepares a fajita by folding each tortilla once to hold a spoonful of Spanish rice, a handful of cooked veggies and a dollop of creamy guacamole. This is how our chef whips up a nifty Veggie Fajita.

A Veggie Taco is made the same way. Here, instead of the soft tortilla, a fried tortilla called Taco is used to add a crunch to this Mexican dish.This time I decided to give it a try and bought a box of Old El Paso Taco shells to hold the contents from spilling over.

Mixing  an entire pack of store-bought Spanish rice with 2 cups of water and a tablespoon of vegetable oil, I let it cook until well done.

In a thick-bottomed pan I took some oil and fried vegetables like slivers of onion, broccoli florets, chopped bell-pepper, zucchini cut in thin quarters and a whole can of my favorite Black beans. To this mix I also added a big chunk of Soy-chorizo (Add it if you find it. It makes a lot of difference!) and fried and fried until a few tossed into my mouth didn’t feel raw. I sprinkled some salt and pepper and set the mix aside.

I was beginning to feel surprised at being allowed to prepare Prasad’s signature dish on my own when he ventured to make the guacamole himself. He made a smooth  delicious paste of all the ingredients I have listed in the beginning and dressed up our Tacos for their photo-op.


Don’t they look pretty??? Well, they tasted good too but, of course, not as tasty as when our Head Chef makes’em!

Lesson #1

‘ In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since: “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”‘

                        – “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald.

And be grateful for the advantages you’ve been chosen over millions of others to possess.

So simple yet hard to remember and harder still to follow.

It was a beautiful day in Tucson yesterday without the dreadful heat. But I had none apart from my 2 year old to savor it with. So, I felt crappy and began criticizing my home-bound friends and my own boring life when I saw a man, smiling and chatting with the employees of Fry’s where I’d gone for a coffee. With the hooks on his artificial limbs he piled 2 gallons of milk onto his cart and pushed it towards the check-out counter. As he passed me by, flirting with the lady who had served my coffee, I saw him perched upon artificial legs and believe me when I say I felt like slapping myself for crying over my so-called “misery”.

I hastily called up my husband, Prasad, to tell him how grateful I am for a blessed life. Instead of criticizing my friends for not having given me company I thanked them in my mind for a few moments of solitude and reflection.

I know I will forget the lesson as easily as it struck me but I’ll try and make a daily habit of being non-judgmental.

By the way not a single friend is ready for a visit to the zoo…. Hmph!

Home away from home.

The one place that has been a haven, a second home to me here in the US is our public library.

Oro Valley Public library looks out to the Catalina mountains and lush green golf-courses. Before Medha, I’d go there almost everyday to sit by the window reading an armchair traveler or scribbling a few thoughts on a piece of paper or finishing a psychology 101 assignment. Even the thought of myself bent over a book with a tall Starbucks in my hand is enough to make me drool and smile.

When I was by myself during the day I’d go there just for a shot of energy, a boost of happiness that came with strolling amidst big shelves lined with books.

Books, with their gorgeous jackets and crisp yellowing sheets, waving at me and luring me into their worlds. I’ve entered so many of them these past 4 years, worlds so unlike mine, but each one having taught me a thing or two about life. They’ve entertained me, broadened my knowledge and made me a slightly better person than who I was.

More than anything it’s the accessibility of education that makes me ever grateful for my life here. In the US you need not own a penny to be wiser or smarter. You just need a library card which doesn’t cost a thing to procure. But when you have one, a wealth of knowledge is at your fingertips in the form of books, e-books, audio-books, magazines, CDs, book clubs and educational seminars.

Ever Since I heard of “Storytime” and began taking Medha, she has become a huge fan of the library too. At “family” and “toddler” storytimes she sings, dances and listens to stories read by Miss. Betty. At the end of each session we go into the children’s room to paint and read board books. After Medha has made me read to her some 55 books or so, I drag her out with a promise of coming back the next day. In this case I’m more than happy to keep up my promise.


The tree of knowledge outside the library reads-

“The more you read the more you know

  The more you know the more you grow

  The smarter you grow the stronger your voice

   When speaking your mind or making your choice.”

First day of pre-school…

Today as I dropped my little girl at her new pre-school I felt a sense of accomplishment, a feeling that I did the right thing for her and have set her off on a path of development. But, like all the other decisions I’ve made as a mother I began questioning this one too: Is it the right school? Is it the right age to send her to school even? Grandparents didn’t make it any easier. They cried like I was shipping their child off to an unknown place….

But in my heart of hearts I know I’ll feel proud of this day. Medha didn’t cry as I left. In fact she was excited  to go to school. She has been talking about it all the time, even in her sleep. It was just hard, this letting go of my sweet child a bit, like any other first step. 






Strawberry and Oats Cake


I made this Strawberry and Oats Cake for my friends Rachana, Sahana and their families today. It came out perfectly round, moist and delicious. Baking is always a wonder to my unimaginative mind that cannot foresee the end result. In fact the whole process of cooking is like magic to me except that after a few days of making breakfast, lunch and dinner it becomes dreadfully boring.

The idea that adding a cup of this, throwing in a handful of that and sprinkling some salt or sugar depending on whether it’s an appetizer or a dessert ultimately resulting in something so mouth-watering always fascinates me.

The pleasure of making this cake and watching the batter bake and bulge out of the pan was greater than eating it. Of course a bite of it, soft and melting in my mouth, felt good too. The best feeling of all was watching everybody enjoying my cake, even Vinay’s parents who hardly consume any dessert at all.

Writing fever

Pinned to my notice board is this quote by Melissa Hart of butt2chair.wordpress.com which I try hard to imbibe:

 A few of my favorite habits:

  • Carry a small notebook and pen whenever possible.
  • Write a little everyday.
  • Read a little everyday.
  • Take several sensory breaks a day – no matter what you are doing, ask yourself what you smell, taste, hear, touch and see in one minute.
  • Really listen to and look at people and animals. Note inflection, body language, facial expression, accents etc. This is all potential research.
  • Query an article, review etc. and get yourself a deadline. 

I manage to do all but query. I fear approaching a publication with an article will spill the beans about my incapacity to write. And I continue to fear after all the writing classes I have taken and the daily writing that I practice.