Book review: The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

for you

This is my favorite book. This time, I shall only share excerpts from this wonderful book that stayed with me.

“For you, a thousand times over.”

“Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.”

“…attention shifted to him like sunflowers turning to the sun.”

“But even when he wasn’t around, he was.”

“When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal a wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. There is no act more wretched than stealing.”

“…she had a voice that made me think of warm milk and honey.”

“My heart stuttered at the thought of her.”

“…and I would walk by, pretending not to know her, but dying to.”

“It turned out that, like satan, cancer had many names.”

“Every woman needed a husband, even if he did silence the song in her.”

“The first time I saw the Pacific, I almost cried.”

“Proud. His eyes gleamed when he said that and I liked being on the receiving end of that look.”

“Make morning into a key and throw it into the well,
Go slowly, my lovely moon, go slowly.
Let the morning sun forget to rise in the East,
Go slowly, lovely moon, go slowly.”

“Men are easy,… a man’s plumbing is like his mind: simple, very few surprises. You ladies, on the other hand… well, God put a lot of thought into making you.”

“All my life, I’d been around men. That night, I discovered the tenderness of a woman.”

“And I could almost feel the emptiness in [her] womb, like it was a living, breathing thing. It had seeped into our marriage, that emptiness, into our laughs, and our lovemaking. And late at night, in the darkness of our room, I’d feel it rising from [her] and settling between us. Sleeping between us. Like a newborn child.”

“America was a river, roaring along unmindful of the past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins. If for nothing else, for that I embraced America.”

“…and every day I thank [God] that I am alive, not because I fear death, but because my wife has a husband and my son is not an orphan.”

“…lifting him from the certainty of turmoil and dropping him in a turmoil of uncertainty.”

“…sometimes the dead are luckier.”

“He walked like he was afraid to leave behind footprints. He moved as if not to stir the air around him.”

“…and when she locked her arms around my neck, when I smelled apples in her hair, I realized how much I had missed her. ‘You’re still the morning sun to me…’ I whispered.”

“…there is a God, there always has been. I see him here, in the eys of the people in this [hospital] corridor of desperation. This is the real house of God, this is where those who have lost God will find Him… there is a God, there has to be, and now I will pray, I will pray that He will forgive that I have neglected Him all of these years, forgive that I have betrayed, lied, and sinned with impunity only to turn to Him now in my hour of need. I pray that He is as merciful, benevolent, and gracious as His book says He is.”

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Masala Vada Recipe

Preparation Time : 3 hrs soaking time | Cooking Time : 25 mins | Makes : around 20

Recipe Category: Snack | Recipe Cuisine: South Indian

Ingredients

Channa Dal – 1 cup
Small Onion – 10 or Big onion – 1 big sized (finely chopped)
Rice flour or Rava – 1 tbsp
Coriander Leaves – 3 to 4 tbsp finely chopped
Oil – for deep frying
Salt – to taste

To grind:
Fennel Seeds(Sombu) – 1 tsp
Red Chillies – 2
Garlic – 5 cloves chopped finely
Ginger – half inch piece

Method:Untitled

  1. Wash and soak channa dal for 2 to 3 hrs. Then drain the water completely and keep aside. Grind together the ingredients listed under ‘to grind’ to a coarse paste.Set aside.
  2. Then grind channa dhal to a coarse mixture make sure it should be thick. Then transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add onions, sooji, coriander leaves, salt, garlic fennel paste and mix well.
  3. Arrange them in a plate ready to deep fry. Heat oil in a kadai and deep fry them till golden brown, turning over both sides. Drain it on a tissue paper.
  4. Do not add water, it will look crumbly but will get together easily. Make equal lemon sized small balls out of the mixture, and pat them on your palm to form a circle to medium thickness.

Book Review: The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

Okay, first things first. The God Of Small Things is a very very clever book, but what makes it exceptional is that it is both beautiful and crafty, a rare combination. This book has structure. Lots of it. She effectively creates a language of her own, a juvenile lucid language which complements the wistful mood of the book beautifully. The plot moves around in space and time with masterful ease and one can’t help but experience a vague sense of foreboding, a prickly fear in the back of your neck.1997 Arundhati Roy God of Small Things

From what could have been just another tragic incident, Arundhati Roy weaves a poignant story about the loss of innocence and the far-reaching devastation caused in the aftermath of one tragic event. She examines every character with a genuine warmth, their motivations, insecurities and most importantly, their unfulfilled dreams, the definitive universal human tragedy.

‘The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.’ Voltaire said. This book is an appropriate example of how true that adage is. Like a loving mother with only one piece of pie, she withholds information and doles it out at the most opportune moments, yet never does the plot become incomprehensible. In fact, we lap it all up and can’t wait for the next serving. To even attempt to summarize the plot would be to take everything away from it because, well, surprise!, the book really is about the Small Things. And the Really Big Things.

On one level the book is about freespirited Ammu, our very own Madame Bovary. It’s about Rahel and Estha, Ammu’s twin children, their innocent childhood infringements and the soarings and stiflings of their little hearts, their complex entwined lives which are governed by the Love Laws, that lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much. And how long.

On another level, it’s about the idea of men being social constructs. About our lives not really being in our hands. About our lives really being governed by the forces of the invisible big bad things, a sadistic child holding a horshoe magnet to the disparate iron filings of our small, insiginificant lives. In short, a History lesson. A lesson in Indian caste dynamics and the communist movement of Kerala. About how the Really Big Things often seep into the Small Things, like tea from a teabag.

What hurts the most is not the intensity of the characters’ suffering, but the fact that it is extremely commonplace, their suffering, like labour pains, like the food chain. An Indian food chain tragedy, based on caste and other offerings History left behind in it’s wake. It demonstrates how all caste-based violence is ecological, based on fear, the strange fear the powerful have for the powerless. Us and them.

At the end of it, what I got from the book (I think) was that though the Really Big Things might be really fucked up, most of the times the Small Things more than make up for it. Really.

Book review: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

OB-ZB616_ijhump_DV_20130927053103A melancholic tale narrated with restraint and distance. Seeing how the tone was set in the beginning, I didn’t expect to be drawn in to the story, wasn’t sure what to expect.

But call her (Lahiri) the plot whisperer.

Here, time will fascinate you, moving abruptly, standing still, spanning generations and decades–yet still managing to stay organic to the plot. The plot and story have so many intricacies that it is time which directs it all.

Picture two young boys growing up in the 1960s amid the lowland of Calcutta, getting into mischief that suits boys their age. In the background, picture the remnants of the partition of India which led to the division of the Bengal province; picture the infamousNaxalite movement in India (communism; Maoist ideology, Marxist-Leninst politics). Picture one brother being headstrong and the other more conscientious. Picture yourself embracing their closeness at the beginning while also being uncomfortably aware of subtle hints from the third-person narrator that something is about to put a wedge between this brotherhood.

Now fast forward.

See them grow older; meet a bookish young wife who, even in the midst of conservative society, has feminist ideals and crude ambition.
See an obstinate and cruel mother-in-law.
See a marriage made in love and another conceived for convenience.
See the wetlands of a Calcutta neighborhood contrasted with the coast of Rhode Island.
See intellectualism battle civil unrest.
See the living suffer, watch the dead live.
See the ugliness of post traumatic stress disorder.
See one mother live with anguish, see another live with ambivalence.
See your skin crawl from a mother’s abandonment.
See what it means to live a life of exile.
See what happens when people refuse to reconcile the past.
See the ghost who ruins.
See happiness intertwined with misery and agony.
See how people can be raised the same, yet lead different lives.

You read some books and through gestures, symbolism and impeccable details, they subtlety teach you things you never knew.

This novel has the sophistication of a political novel. I hate to even do this comparison, but close your eyes, and you would think that it was a male author writing about male characters. Told from the third-person narrator point of view, the tone embodies the coping mechanism of the characters: stoicism–just what is needed to accompany a heartrending story without the melodramatics. At times the narration is so distant, it is as if only the storyteller is present (which, by the way, the storytelling here is stupendous). Then just at the right moment, the narration gets closer, so close that you and the character become one, you see their point of view clearly and you may not agree with them but you certainly ‘get’ them.

I love when I sense characters, when the plot doesn’t stray but goes forward with such purpose that all I can do is follow to hear what happens next, learn what I’m supposed to learn. Love when I start to feel sorry for characters, wondering why they all end up so miserable, and then I learn that…wait…I’m wrong because in the end, they all don’t end up in misery–though for some it is a long time coming. 

Tasty and Spicy Raw Mango Chutney Recipe

Prep Time: Under 15 min
Cook Time: Under 30 min

Serves: 4 peopleman

Ingredients
1 large (about 350grms) Raw mango
1-3/4 cups (about 350 grms) Jaggery, powdered
1/2 -1 tsp Mustard Seeds
2-3 tsp Ghee/oil
A pinch of Turmeric (optional)
1-2 dried Red Chilli (optional)
Pinch of Salt (to taste)

Method

1. Peel the mangoes. Its optional but I have always peeled it like my mom.

2. Now slice it into flat pieces.

3. Its OK if it gets uneven – it doesn’t really matter.

4. To a pan, over medium heat, add jaggery and 1 cup of water.

5. This is done to melt the jaggery – takes around 4-5 minutes

6. Filter this to a cup. This straining is essential to remove any scum or debris (that’s mostly found in jaggery). Keep aside.

7. In the same pan, add the Ghee and when hot, drop the mustard seeds. Add Red chillies if using.

8. When it starts spluttering, add the mangoes.

9. Stir gently for few seconds. Add turmeric, if using.

10. Add about 1-1/2 cups water

11. cover and cook for around 5 minutes.

12. Remove the lid, give it a gentle stir and without the lid continue cooking for another 8-10 minutes or until it starts becoming mushy.

13. Now add the Jaggery water,

14. Stir and simmer further for another 10-15 minutes,

15. Until it comes together into a thick sauce. The consistency will depend on your family’s preference. If it becomes too thick for your liking, add few tbsp of water to rectify it.

Green peas pulav or Matar paneer pulav

Matar paneer pulao is a easy  to make main course dish prepared with flavored rice, green peas, cottage cheese and other ingredients using pressure cooker. This type of pulao can be made with any other variety of rice. If  brown cardamom is not available, one can use green cardamom in place of brown cardamom. (Instead of 1 brown cardamom you can use 3 green cardamoms)  Any other vegetables like beans, carrots, corn can be used in this dish.

pan

Ingredients 

1 cup basmati rice
2 cups paneer cubes
1 cup green peas
1 large sized onion, chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeic powder
4 garlic flakes, crushed
½” ginger piece, crushed
1 tsp garam masala / goda masala
few coriander leaves, chopped
few lemon pieces
2 tbsp ghee (adjust accordingly)
salt to taste

For the Marinade :
½  cup curd
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chilli powder

Whole Spices for Tempering 
7 cloves / lavang
4  cinnamon sticks / dalchini
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds / jeera
2 brown cardamoms / 6 green cardamoms  ( slit from one side)

Method 

  • Whole spices for tempering / TadkaWash and drain the rice and keep it aside for 10 minutes.Heat some amount of oil in a frying pan over a medium high flame and stir fry the paneer cubes for 5 minutes. Remove and keep it aside.
  • Mix together the curd, chilli powder and salt in a large bowl and beat it  lightly till smooth paste.
  • Marinate the stir fried paneer cubes and keep them aside for 10 minutes.Heat ghee  in a  frying  pan over a medium high flame and add the whole spices for tempering except cardamom.
  • When they crackle nicely, add onions, ginger and garlic. Fry till the raw smell of the ginger and garlic disappears and onions become soft.
  • Once the onions become soft, add the red chilli powder, turmeric powder and  garam / goda masala and cardamoms.  Saute for a while. Now add the rice and  saute for a minute.
  • Add green peas and saute for a minute. Add marinated paneer cubes. Saute for a minute and mix well.
  • Transfer this rice mixture to a pressure cooker, pour 2 cups of  hot water over it, add  coriander leaves  and salt. Mix well. Cover the cooker with a lid, place it over a medium high flame, take 2 whistles and switch off the flame.
  • When the pressure goes, remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork. Serve hot with lemon  and any tasty side dish such as  subzi, salad, raita, pickle, papad, bhajji, curd etc.While eating, squeeze the lemon juice over the pulao, mix it using the spoon and enjoy it.

Rava Upma Recipe

INGREDIENTS (measuring cup used, 1 cup = 250 ml)upma
  • 1 cup roasted semolina/sooji/rava (fine variety)
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped finely
  • 1 green chilly, chopped
  • 1 tsp chana dal/split and skinned bengal gram
  • 1 tsp urad dal/split and skinned black gram
  • ½ inch ginger grated or chopped finely
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds/rai
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds/jeera
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves/kadi patta
  • 10 to 12 cashewnuts/kaju
  • 1 to 2 tsp sugar (optional) or add as required
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 tbsp oil or ghee
  • salt as required
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. prep up the ingredients for the upma – finely chop 1 medium sized onion, 1 to 2 green chillies and ½ inch ginger and some coriander leaves. also take the 8 to 10 curry leaves, 10 to 12 cashews, 1 tsp chana dal and 1 tsp urad dal.
  2. heat a pan or kadai first. add 1 cup rava or cream of wheat.
  3. begin to roast the rava. stir often while roasting the rava.
  4. the rava or sooji grains should become fragrant and start to look dry, separate and crisp. don’t brown the rava.
  5. switch off the flame and then add the roasted rava in a plate and keep aside.
  6. in a pan, heat 2 tbsp ghee or oil.
  7. add 1 tsp mustard seeds.
  8. when you hear the crackling sound of mustard seeds, it means they are getting fried.
  9. now add the ½ tsp cumin seeds along with 1 tsp chana dal and 1 tsp urad dal.
  10. fry till they begin to brown a bit
  11. immediately then add cashews and begin to fry. by the time, the cashews get golden the dals would also get golden.
  12. now add the finely chopped onions. saute the onions till they become translucent.
  13. then add the chopped green chilly, ginger, curry leaves. saute for a minute.
  14. then add 2.5 cups water to this mixture. add salt as required.
  15. then add sugar. sugar is optional and you can skip it. we prefer a slight sweet taste in the upma and hence we add it. stir well.
  16. on a medium to high flame, heat the water and let it come to a to a rolling boiling.
  17. when the water comes to a rolling boil, lower the flame to its lowest. then add the rava in 4 to 5 batches with a spoon.
  18. once you add the rava, stir immediately.
  19. then add the next batch of rava. stir again.
  20. this way keep on adding and stirring the rava up to the last batch.
  21. quickly stir and mix well. the rava grains absorb water and thus swell and get cooked.
  22. cover and allow the rava upma to steam for 2 minutes on the low flame.
  23. then swtich off the flame. here the rava is cooked and the upma is ready.
  24. lastly add about 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves. stir well.
  25. serve upma with coconut chutney or lime slices or lime pickle.