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Posted in Books, Recipes

Gingerbread Man Cookies

Baking is something I have always enjoyed (even before quarantine), but I only found time to do some experiments around Christmas, one of which was recreating a recipe from a fairytale called ‘The Gingerbread Man’. I followed the description in the text for the decorations, and they turned out perfect for a winter evening.
"She made a big batch of gingerbread dough, then rolled it flat and cut it in the shape of a gingerbread man. She gave him raisins for eyes, a cinnamon drop for a mouth, and chocolate chips for buttons. Then she put the gingerbread man in the oven to bake."
Prep Time 30 mins
Course Snack
Cuisine English, Fictional
Servings 20 (should serve a small lovely group of friends)

Equipment

  • 1 Oven
  • 1 Cookie Cutter
  • 1 Stand Mixer optional

Ingredients
  

  • 6 tablespoons softened salted butter
  • 1/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses or honey
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • a gingerbread man cookie cutter
  • a few choco chips
  • a few raisins
  • some royal icing

Instructions
 

  • Cream the butter and sugar together, and add the molasses along with an egg. Add all the spices (if you only have the whole spices, a mortar and pestle works wonders to bring out the perfect flavour of these cookies!) and fold in the flour.
  • Bring everything together and lay it out in some cling film and chill it overnight or if you are not too ambitious then for 4-6 hours. It might be a good idea to use a rolling pin and flatten the dough out beforehand, while it’s still in the cling wrap so that it is easier to cut out shapes later on.
  • Once you’ve had your afternoon siesta, spring up and get back to making these cookies. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and use the cookie cutter to cut out shapes of the Gingerbread Man. If you feel that the dough is sticky, pop it in the fridge for a few more hours and resist every temptation to add more flour! Remember the warmth from your hands is the last thing the Gingerbread Man kneads.
  • Spread out the shapes on a lined baking tray and set the oven for 175°C for about 10-12 minutes. Let it cool before smearing with icing. Use the chocochips and raisins to make buttons and eyes. Show no mercy and bite its head off.

Posted in Epics, Poetry

The Royal Tank

Silver shoes can take you anywhere
Maybe even home
But silver is just a shiny grey
And the quest for emerald leaves you jaded

The yellow brick road
Only leads up to a garden path
And the golden shower flowers
Swirl up to be ruins of a safe haven

In a stale pinafore
I have never felt more stripped
In a secure mock-neck
I have never felt more strangled

The wicked witch came with her weight
But remained the keeper of the royal tank
The cowardly lion came with all his might
But became a seeker of the storm’s eye

Oh Dorothy! Didn’t anyone tell you?
You can waddle all your way home
And harbour all the wishful thinking
But, these moccasins will wear out one day.

~Poem 35

Author’s Note: The imagery is based on Wizard of Oz, a famous classic written by L. Frank Baum. “Royal Tank” denotes a neighbourhood in Delhi, i.e. Hauz Khas, a place that felt like home to me at one point. As opposed to the visual adaptation, the shoes that Dorothy wears in the books are actually silver. The color of the shoes was changed to red to take advantage of the new Technicolor film process used in big-budget Hollywood films of the era.

Posted in Prose, Stories

Death Sweet Death

Trigger Warning/Disclaimer: mentions of death and suicide; also note that these are just passive thoughts.

Valerie Scarlett Cassandra was found dead on 28th February at the crack of dawn in her room, the only place that was familiar with all her inner demons. She had slit her wrists the previous night, for reasons inexplicable to others and somewhat even to her. All she could fathom was that she had lost the will to carry forward in life. She had no energy to carry out the most basic chores, including braiding her hair, brushing her teeth or even making her bed, let alone indulging in her interests of baking treats for her beloved ones, picking up a children’s classic to unfold layers of her distorted life or summarizing her thoughts with all the fanciest words she could find. But, just before she chose to end her life, she somehow found just the right amount of strength to grant herself all her desires one last time. A few hours before she passed away, the 27-year-old treated herself to a full English breakfast with some tea to go with it, and spent the rest of her day writing poetry, and even dolled up a bit in a fluttered-sleeve top, which she paired with a half-circle skirt and pranced around like she lived on a prairie. Some would say she celebrated her end.
It wasn’t until late evening that she decided to wrap up her life, but not without finishing her tasks — she made her room look all pretty with gingham bedsheets and vintage-inspired curtains, cleared her desk of scattered notes, and removed all the cobwebs and specs of dust that somehow mocked her very being. On entering her heavenly abode, one would see some fresh yellow and peach blooms entangled with a few stems of baby’s breaths, a bookshelf full of intellect, a collection of cameras that captured both staged and mundane seconds, and on further inspection – her drained body and soul with her lower limbs akimbo.
Tears and regrets lasted only a day, and everyone carried on as usual. The birds still sang in chorus, the fruits of spring hit the newly-tarred roads, people moved on like they would after a movie ended, and that is exactly what she wanted too. What she did wasn’t a cry for help, but a sign of being able to let go of worldly things.
If only it was easy to comprehend the paradox in feeling numb, this obituary would not sound morbid.

A Cluttered Mind #3

Today is the last day of the year, and I know it won’t actually change my state of mind, but I do reckon that it has given me a fresh perspective. My week long absence from work (I did log in today, but only to make a note of my tasks for Monday), has helped me recuperate. I was able to think more deeply, decide what my goals this year look like and what I need to say to various people, and most of all I was able to catch up on my sleep.

Just a day ago I had been wanting to visit the nursery to buy some herbs for my terrace garden and also buy some ingredients for baking from the grocery store, but I did not have any energy at all that day to even get up from bed, let alone look presentable enough to step out. I did not force myself to get up or engage in any other activity, instead I stayed inside my blanket fort and just reviewed how my year has been, in my head. I did go yesterday though! I bought some thyme, rosemary, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, parsley, chives and also some succulents.

My main issue was actually a sum of two opposite things: the lack of socializing/face-to-face conversations in addition to an introvert burnout, which happened from having to interact with newer people, dealing with various situations and learning more than was required. I know they are quite contradicting, but it is what it is. Then the next big issue was not being able to process the situations I was in. The earlier months were alright – I had a fresh perspective, new goals in my professional and personal life – and as I am writing this, I am proud that I was able to achieve all of them, despite the few regrets I have. Spring just brought in disasters for my family – ***** struck both my parents one after the other and this disaster continued till summer. It wasn’t as simple as falling sick and recovering, it meant several trips to the hospital (which were our only outings till monsoon), and we ended up spending a lot of money just on tests and medicines. And to make matters worse I strained the wrist of my dominant hand. And like a crazy person, I just went on working, thinking it would heal on its own, but in the process I damaged it further. Again, more money was just spent on doctor appointments, tests, medicines. I became severely deficient in Vitamin D and B12, and I could actually feel the lack of physical energy. A lot of people belittle this and just say “oh, everyone is deficient in Vitamin D”, but several lockdowns have made it worse for many people. (My younger brother actually had rickets when he had just learnt how to walk – we used to think his penguin walk was cute, and did not realize he could have actually been in pain until someone pointed it out!) During those weeks it was raining continuously, and that had a severe impact on my mental state. I could not write using a pen, braid my hair or help out with washing the dishes. I tried to go out for daily walks, but alas! I could not be consistent with this either.

I had more work than usual too during fall, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was being unable to process the various changes. I got to know of some news right before my birthday, and that made me bitter, hateful, resentful and worse. In the early months of winter, I got to know of another news, that involved some bit of my past creeping into my present, and that made me even more hateful. I am still a bit bitter about all this, but I think time should heal that. The last two months did not bring in any happiness as such, although I was able to go out more, enjoy walks, interact with my colleagues/friends and chalk out my thoughts here. I know these write-ups aren’t creative at all – I am just trying to get into the practice of writing again by using this tool.

To sum it up, I had one roller coaster of a year. It wasn’t a pleasant time in the slightest, however, I do have a very odd sense of achievement for not wasting my year! And this includes me staying in bed for one week too. I am also extremely grateful to the few friend who constantly checked up on me, and my colleagues as well as my boss who listened to all my rants, motivated me, offered help, and were the most supportive among all the people I know.

The year taught me a lot, and I hope I can actually apply this knowledge in various spheres of life. Just to put this out there – I do acknowledge that others did have it worse. I will not argue over this at all.

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A Cluttered Mind #2

My mind doesn’t feel any less cluttered even with the holiday season now in its full bloom. I still feel like doing a hundred and one things in one go. But as I am currently off from work I am hoping I could achieve at least a few things on my agenda. On the bright side, work life has still been fun. Last month, our team went out for breakfast and just last week we had a Christmas/year-end party. I even had a game stall for Pictionary, and it was a hit!

It has taken me a whole year to realize that I haven’t given time to myself at all. I channeled all my frustration, negatives thoughts, sadness towards my work, as a result of which all my hobbies started feeling like a task. A few of my dear colleagues actually explained why what I do is not good for me in the long run, and I think they are absolutely right. It is true that I have avoided all my emotions from the fear of slipping into a void. I have been repeatedly told to take it easy, which is a struggle for me, but I know that I am trying. Here is some evidence as well: I recently watched a K-drama called ‘It’s Okay to Not Be Okay’ and like the title suggests, that is all what it was about. It touched on different mental health related issues, mainly on trauma and healing.

I know I will have a huge backlog when I return, but it somehow gives me something to look forward to. I am thinking of using my holidays by exploring the city I live in, buying some plants, working out and baking too! In fact, just this week I made some gingerbread man cookies for my colleagues. They weren’t as perfect as I wanted them to be, but I will try again, and even post a recipe for a new section for my blog. I *might* even try to upload pictures/videos of whatever I do the entire week on my Instagram account.

I actually did not have much to say today, but it was feeling odd having a post titled as ‘A Cluttered Mind #1’ without a second part! Do vote below if you’d like more posts like this in the future. By the way, I still haven’t made up my mind over continuing my language course, but there is a 70% chance that I might end up going for it.

A Cluttered Mind #1

Hi! I know it’s been long, but I do not wish to make any excuses for my absence, so let me just jump on to what I wanted to post. Today I was watching a film (quite a surprise for me since I zone out while watching movies) called Julie & Julia. The movie tells the story of two women as the title suggests – one who is struggling with a mid-life crisis and the other who is trying to find passion in her living, which eventually turns out to be cooking. Julie begins to write a blog, and actually finishes her goal (unlike me, who promised to get back into the swing of writing and replacing all the photos on my blog with my own creations, but then life happened). I had watched this movie before, but it’s only now that I could relate to it more. In the beginning of the film, Julie suggests that she is never able to complete anything in her life. For instance, she attempts to write a book, but never gets around to finishing it. And I could not relate more. There are several things that I have tried – learning several languages, portrait photography, baking, journaling, some courses – and left midway!

Speaking of baking, I used to bake every weekend, but now with working from home, the notion of relaxation/leisure seems to have vanished. Back in 2019 I had this goal of trying one recipe from every country in the world, but I have obviously failed. During all the lockdowns, I felt like it was just a waste of time, since we could barely get up from bed and cook a proper meal. Maybe I lack the passion, or hobbies have started to seem like a task for me.

I don’t know why I am writing this – because I never rant publicly. But maybe you all could help me come up with a decision over something. I have actually been learning a foreign language (some of you know already, but let’s see if we can keep this a mystery unlike my attempt of hiding my identity out here) for a whole year now, and I am wondering if I should continue with it or not. The downside of this task is I get a lot of homework, and I do have to sacrifice my Sundays as well, so I am not sure what I want to do! But then, I do want to complete the third level at least and acquire some professional skill, because I wasn’t as ambitious before.

And now as I am about to hit the publish button, I do feel like adding some sort of artwork/photograph to this post as well.

As you can see, I have added a poll below, I might not listen to you or you might not bother voting, but at least I do have the satisfaction of writing this.

Posted in Epics, Poetry

You, me and my yellow teeth

When the hot rain washes the traffic cones,
It will be you, me and your pinstripe shirt
With an urge to kneel on the terrazzo flooring,
It will be you, me and my yellow teeth

While the woods still bear the fruits of spring,
It will be you, me and your faint cologne
With cold sweat staining our glazed bedding,
It will be you, me and my yellow teeth

Under the april sun and cottonwood trees,
It will be you, me and your growing melanin
With feverish bodies wrapped in gingham prints,
It will be you, me and my yellow teeth

On a summer evening that feels like years,
It will be you, me and your snow blue jeans
With smiles that feel like softened butter,
It will be just you, me and my yellow teeth

~Poem 34
Posted in Prose, Stories

Water Bodies (Part 1)

It was that time of the day again – night. The security guard’s whistling sessions were creeping me out more than I already was; the dogs were howling in chorus, allowing my heartbeat to synchronise with it; and finally, there was the ticking of the clock that was growing more and more prominent with each passing second.
I had come off to a place where no one could question me, no one could judge me and no one could dictate me. If my being alone is what everyone else wants, so be it! And as I said this, I pulled out all the elements from my body, one by one.
My shadow was the first one to leave, and honestly, this action didn’t even surprise me. I then lay my mind and heart on the ground, and they began quarrelling while walking hand in hand. Then, it was my soul’s turn. It acted a bit reluctant at first, but it gave up as I applied more force. It stretched out of my body and wandered around the stars, not knowing what to do next. My conscience tried to talk some sense into me, but I shushed it and let it dissolve in the atmosphere.
The street lights conked off, foreshadowing a series of events. A few bubbles appeared and danced around me as if I were the supreme light, but in reality, I was just a target of their crystal ball like properties. I knew they were teasers for my upcoming plight or rather additions to the current one.
I tried to prick the first bubble – the texture of which felt gooey – with my index finger, but it pulled me into a different world; one with an ideal starry night at a seaside, bearing just the right amount of darkness and the right amount of sparkle. But then again I knew, this scenery wasn’t as pristine as it looked. 

A quarter part of my body watched over the gentle sea that balanced both its soothing self and its rage admirably, while my soles attempted to prove their obstinacy by halting their movement. They started longing for an outrageous wish, of transforming the ever beautiful sand dunes into quicksand. And this desire, to my astonishment, crawled into my veins like an epidemic. I witnessed it come alive as the perfect blend of oatmeal and gold vanished and a swamp came into existence.
The adamant marshland tried to swallow me up, but a sudden downpour lent me assistance in standing back up. It transported me to a distant place and it occurred to me that the conniving droplets were saving me for themselves. Luckily, I was able to locate a safe spot, just enough to protect me from the merciless raindrops. I waited for the shower to subside and so it does. I extended my hand out in the form of a cup to be sure of its departure and subsequently pulled my limbs out of the shade and started walking towards nowhere. However, the coast remained clear only for a while as I met the torrent of water halfway with no place to run or to hide. I decided that I am not up for a battle and fled from the scene, letting the raindrops smack me as they pleased. Maybe giving in was showing cowardice on my part, but I did not feel like I was in a position to justify my actions, even to myself. And I did not need to either, with my conscience being gone.
I ran and ran only to be drenched by another water body again- my sweat. The muggy atmosphere caused it to stick to my skin. I paused for a moment to regain my breath, but all the sweat seemed to drain me. My mouth felt dry. I did not feel thirsty in particular, yet…

To be continued…

Washing emotions away
(Picture credits: Sara Herranz)
Posted in Prose, Stories

The bee, the butterfly and the blossom

Dawn had just begun sprinkling her fairy dust on our homeland, and it clearly meant another day of struggle for me. To others what I experienced was just another natural phenomena, but to me, it was something greater; something worth pondering over.
Being a flower meant I had certain responsibilities to fulfil, and catering to other’s needs was one of them or maybe all of them. Either way, I had to please everyone just by being present; be it for early morning strollers or for a canine’s claim for territory.
My usual contemplation was often interrupted by the butterfly’s noiseless arrival. The fluttering of her wings was as subtle as one’s blinking of eyes while the patterns on it were so detailed and symmetrical, that her body seemed like a fine piece of tapestry. Like a pair of scissors, she would fold her wings, with the exception of slicing the winds into a scented breeze. Using the word ‘scissors’ or any other pointed object for that matter and her name in the same sentence could have been morally incorrect and visually disturbing, but that’s what helped in creating a juxtaposition with her dainty self.
Young girls saw her as another ‘pretty thing’ nature had to offer and they frequently set out to chase her. They, however, remained oblivious to the fact that she was swift in her movements. Perhaps the human species used her as a metaphor not because she was a universal emblem of love but because this was the closest they could get to her. And honestly, who could have even guessed that she was once tightly wrapped in a silken covering and even before that was locked to the ground?
Just when I would attempt to give her a description better than that of ‘The Mill on the Floss,’ she would come and perch herself gently on one of my petals. As a reflex, my petals would stretch out further and form a curve in a manner that would allow her to fit snugly. Not to sound vain, but when she landed on me, it felt like she was adding to my beauty. The motifs on her front fell perfectly in sync with my artistic structure. Together we made a lovely pair of one charming being atop the other.
She was certainly one pleasant soul, and the nectar she collected appeared bland in front of her as it was I who would end up relishing on her sweet aftertaste once she made her departure.
It was only a matter of minutes before my busy afternoons were put to a halt by one busy creature herself. Her stinger was always upright like some high-headed noble and probably too sharp for others to notice her mellow and grounded side. One could say that she was the epitome of ‘Pride’ but at the same time subject to ‘Prejudice.’ She was, of course, impulsive and blatant in her conduct and in many cases, these traits overpowered her. For instance, if a passer-by would trace my ends out of affection, she would be quick to charge at him or her. In her defence, she was just being on the lookout for me. In fact, she was that one spirit who in spite of being reckless could induce the right notions in my mind.
Furthermore, her sipping on my nectar left me with a tingling sensation- something moderate yet extreme; something more balanced. Nothing could have been more proper and well in place than this.
Could I have been any luckier?
One let me experience unfamiliar senses, the other made me more sensible.
One followed the laws of nature, the other justified it as well.
One was magical, the other mystical.

But as soon as I would summarise a comparison between the two, dusk would make it dawn on me- that they were possibly an ideal match, and I was unknowingly providing them with a potion that would let their saga blossom.

One true pairing
(Picture credits: Unknown; Source: We heart it)