Monday, August 13, 2012

Baking Egg-free and jibes

A couple of years ago, (it could be slightly more than that too) I suddenly developed an interest in baking. Not that it was new-found. My mom had made a house-shaped cake for my first birthday, in an age where there were no electric whisks and all that. Everything had to be done by hand - artisanal - as it has come to be known today.

There was a small hitch though. Baking egg-free. Because of my belief systems and also because I wasn't a fan of the eggy flavour. I couldn't tolerate this taste since when I was a 2-3 year old, reportedly. I wouldn't touch ice-cream that had egg-based custard. I would say "it smells weird" in Marathi. A language, as I would have said earlier, which was the first I ever learned. And sadly forgot after we left Mumbai - The place I referred to as 'Ghar' for years. 

Now when I said I make cakes, the first question would be - How? Eggs? And I would say egg-free. I would probably face a good stream of jibes about how sad it is, yadayadayada. 

Only thing is I have seen so many people fawning over, lets say, non-Indians who have become Buddhists or follow the Yin-Yang method of eating and say wow, you don't eat eggs? meat? Spicy food? That's just AMAZING!

However, being a vegetarian all my life, if I said, I am a strict vegetarian, but eat dairy products (and please don't leave a comment saying that milk is non-vegetarian. This is just the way I am) the next thing would be why don't you try some meat or the other. I was once asked to 'try' Deer meat in Canada. Now for the life of me, I cannot imagine how people would have the heart kill such a peace loving, beautiful animal and eat it. Not that hens and goats or cows go on a rampage and wage war. But well that is my opinion. Saapdunga, nalla irukkum. Pazhagikkonga, I would be told. I'd rather starve than eat meat. Something that Ilayaraja sir also said when we went to the concert to Italy. I was surprised to know Raja sir was a very strict vegetarian. And incidentally, we were the only two, if I remember right, that survived on flavored yoghurt and apples for more than a week. And I live to tell the tale, more than 8 years on, no? I remember Raja sir chiding a gentleman, a vegetarian, who said he was soo hungry that he'd eat a hamburger, "You might as well cease to live". The remark hit home.

Anyway, coming back, two years ago it was difficult to find an oven in Chennai. Now there are at least some options! On that note Miele India, if you can read this, there is no point in selling an oven for 2.5 Lakhs if it cant even hold a basic 10" round pan. Please get real.

Now, a lot of people have taken to baking. I don't know how this fad started. I used to be taunted by so many on Twitter when I posted a pic or two about egg-free cakes. And I once made an egg-free macaron. Yes the French Macaron, and not macaroons. Tastes amazing. Got it right after 6 failed attempts. And realized the 6 times were a failure mainly because of my oven. I soo wish more of these oven brands come down. The hobby bakers list is growing like mad.

Nevertheless, I learned Vegan baking was big in the US. So is egg-free, nut-free baking, mainly because of food-allergies. I am not vegan, but adapted recipes to egg-free only. 

And now there is a huge community of bakers and even more people asking for egg-free recipes. And now, I am smiling to myself. And I don't mind taking some credit for the change because of all the egg-free cake tooting I did on Twitter the past couple of years.

It could be something as simple as hobby-baking. But one more lesson learnt. If you choose to not bend over backwards and stick to your beliefs, things will change. For your benefit. Especially when it is not hurting anyone, really.

As for being made fun of about being a vegetarian, that will never cease, definitely not in Tamilnadu :)

Friday, August 03, 2012

Life sometimes teaches us many things. I continue to learn. I can count with my both hands and a few toes the number of people that have contributed with well-wish and prayers to the person I am today. Only one person can take credit for this human being I am today, that is my mother. 

I happened to tweet about relatives  today and how suddenly I am remembered in super distant family circles that I have no idea about. I mean, you need to grow up with these people to know who is related to you and how. But then that's a different story. I happened to be in one of my sarcastic moods, but 140 characters sometimes doesn't convey sarcasm. It gets interpreted by the reader as anger. I wonder why. Sometimes, what I tweet is plainspeak. Perhaps someday I need to videotape 140 characters so that people know how I look :p OK now that's really too much, but I had to say that.

I repeat time and again there are things I won't forgive this Mr God for. And that is for the tough life mom had to face. For all her brain and intelligence, which truly intimidated and scared people then and they did everything they could to stop her, and they succeeded, sadly, and they are some of the biggest names in the classical music arena that one might know today. Celebrated as legends, great musicians. Perhaps. But I sadly saw faces that were loathsome behind all the marks of devotion that graced foreheads. Behind the silks. The said sanctity. Conniving. And I saw some 'great' people's true colours when I was around 8-9 years old. Was I disappointed. I totally was. The next time I met some of these people, even if mom told me to do a namaskaram, I wouldn't. I'd embarrass her. But that was me.

I was training to be a Carnatic classical singer. I belonged to a lineage. A certain school of music. Playback singing as a choice that happened when I was about 13. Around the same time I switched to Hindustani Classical music. I was a CCRT scholarship holder for young talents, was receiving the scholarship for Carnatic Classical, at a time when my judges were doyens like Smt Mani Krishnaswamy. Not easy to pass under their sharp ears and eyes. I remember her with fondness, one of the few people I truly respected in the Carnatic music field. 

However I threw in the towel and decided I will not sing Carnatic music - Why? Because I could never get on stage and praise some of the musicians I have known to be downright mean and unjust. I could never bow to them in obeisance. Even if mom kept telling me to respect the Saraswati in them. And then I was like why does She dwell in them at all? They don't deserve it. Such was my sense of perhaps misplaced justice (or whatever it was, foolhardiness or anything else you may want to call it) and I decided I ll never sing Carnatic classical on the competitive arena. I might sing it because I adore my mom's school of music. The way she sings. But not otherwise. My progeny will learn from her. Was my mom disappointed? Of course she was. She was sad. Perhaps she cried without my knowing. But she let me have my way. Inspite of people believing she has an iron hand over my life, she has let me take most of the decisions in life. I think any other parent in her stead would have asked me to shut and force me to sing Carnatic Music. Overnight she switched over to teach me Hindustani classical, something she pursued when she was in Bombay (that's what the city was when I was born there) for years. She was apprehensive, because she did not have a 'stamp' of a 'successful' musician. So she sent me to a few people. I would last 2-3 classes. And bounce back. That's all.

Sometimes they say you need the proverbial fire in your belly to push you toward your dreams. Just when I might even hazard to think that perhaps, just perhaps, God is contemplating being kind, the fire returns :) Someone's wrongdoing, a word here, an action there. And trust me on this. These words and actions have a certain effect. It is not about ignoring weirdos really. There are people we must ignore. And people we must not make the mistake of ignoring.

One might think that I had it easy with a break like Kannathil Muthamittal. But, (I have quoted the Late Pt Bhimsen Joshi before on this blog I guess), "if you had to see the path I had travel, you'd not want to be where I am today". 

But what makes someone a fighter? What is it that gives the will to fight instead of just throwing hands up and resigning, with enough already (must say here there was a point in time, not too long ago that I thought it was end of the road, end of music, everything {not to be mistaken for suicidal tendencies - [have to put that disclaimer too coz God knows how that will be construed]}) *those multiple brackets I last used while battling algebra... Oh well anyway... I drift.. these words will typically fit in a speech bubble hovering around the 3rd line to the top from here. Ufff!*

So anyway, what's the point of this post? Which I have come to type down after more than a month? Ah yes. 

Someone on Twitter told me that when I was introduced people used to make fun of me because I said "Amma this.. Amma that" I am here because of Amma. I mean, really, why so much vitriol? Why does it irk people that I am grateful to mom? Not that it missed my mom's notice that she used to come when an interview would be shot and tell the crew to edit the portions where I mentioned her. Yup she did that. Glad most crew didn't oblige. (Nice people :D)

And today the same people respect me for who I am, and mom too. I couldn't help but smile to myself that it takes about 10 years plus to prove yourself. It takes a decade for people to know what you stand for. Not that I really wanted to prove a point, in retrospect, but, I learned today that there is nothing wrong in sticking to your guns if its based in truth and dharma. (Yudhistra is my role model. But being completely like him won't work today. But I try) No matter how uncool you are perceived to be. No matter what the 'cool'er people think. Your life is yours to live. For yourself. Your own conscience. None of these '4 people' really care a damn. They'll clap if you do well. Spit on you if you don't. Very few people will ultimately matter. You are lucky if you have those few people with you, fighting with and for you. If you think you are alone in a battle, know that you are not. The creator and the Universe is with you. As long as the war is based on Dharma (In my Humble Opinion).

Until some years ago, mom fought a lone battle. And then I joined in. Life goes on. Is battling fun? Absolutely :) I have music with me all the time and when I need a break, I bake. That's all :p I bake egg free.. I bake quite well too even if I say so myself... I must put up a photoblog.. ah well. I am no good with the camera.

Just a couple of days ago I heard a pretty caustic compliment (yup there is something called a caustic compliment) about the awards I won for Sarakathu. Its divine grace that I won every award that I was nominated for this year. All thanks to Ghibran, the composer, for that. Vairamuthu sir and Sargunam sir too. I think once in a while God decides to hand us a candy once in a while. :D

Anyway the reason I didn't blog in a month was I had a viral fever attack. And absolutely no urge to write either. 

To you, reading this post, if someone is constantly contributing to the fire in your belly, while you are working toward your goals, say thanks to the prodding. Because they are losing all their energy in irritating you then work toward their betterment. And hence you are getting ahead. 

In our pursuance of whatever we want to pursue, if we but take that extra effort to be righteous, it all seems worth it. In the end. In the middle. On the way. Throughout.