Merry Christmas!

Christmas Tree
Happy Holidays!

Wish you all a Merry Christmas!

(Image taken from a phone camera, apologies for the poor quality!)


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Recipe for Disaster – Part 3


A pinch of salt

I had never cooked a full meal by myself, and I had no idea where my mother kept the various ingredients in the kitchen. In fact, I didn’t even know the names for most of the spices stored in the jars inside the drawer. But I still had time. I flipped through a few cook books to find recipes that I could actually understand, with ingredients which would not raise suspicions.

I shadowed my mother, and found out the difference between baking powder and cooking soda – they were in different types of containers, and one had a label on it. But telling Jeera from the Ajwain was much more tricky. We were definitely not depending on either of those for our cooking.

It was the night before d-day. We said our good nights and slipped into our beds. Amma was still in the kitchen, keeping the last of the dishes inside. We heard the flick of the switch and all the lights were out. We waited another 15 minutes before sneaking out.

Capsicum, onions, tomatoes, paneer, orange food colouring, ginger, chillies, vanilla essence, eggs, cocoa, flour, curd… We had all our ingredients in place. But it wasn’t till we started washing the vegetables, that we realised the challenge before us.

Cooking, and especially the dishes we had decided to cook, were easy enough. But in the silence of the night, could we actually cook without waking up our parents? We couldn’t cook rice in a pressure cooker. No electric grinder for making the purée. No pounding the ginger, and no careless handling of utensils.

But we had taken this challenge, and we were going to pull it off. Anna beat the eggs and sugar as silently as he could, while I chopped the onions. We kept rice on the open flame, and cooked it like the way our ancestors did before the pressure cooker was introduced. We tossed the onions into oil, before it became warm and covered it up, to muffle the sizzling sound.

It was just when the cake batter went into the oven, that we heard something. We looked out of the kitchen. The bedroom light was on. Amma was up.

‘Here we go again!’ I thought to myself. Another plan botched up. But my brother wasn’t going to give up.

He ran towards the door, and stood in front of amma, waving his hands from side to side, blocking her view and preventing her from moving forward. I switched off the kitchen lights, and hid behind the door.

‘What are you doing up at this hour?’ amma asked in a half sleepy and confused tone.
‘Err.. I was thirsty! And… I wanted some warm water… I was just going to bed… What are you doing up right now?!’

Too tired to argue, she didn’t ask how the light turned itself off behind him, and how come he wanted warm water in the middle of summer. That could be done in the morning.’Good night. Go to sleep.’

We waited another twenty minutes before resuming. The tomatoes, capsicum and paneer were added to the onions. Red chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala, a dash of food colouring, and the kadhai paneer was ready.

We poked the cake with a spoon. It came out clean. We thanked our stars, and took it out. The rice had cooled down a little. We mixed up the curd with the rice and added fried mustard seeds, chopped chillies, and diced ginger.

It was well past midnight when we placed everything on the table, the paneer still in the kadhai, the cake still in the tin. The curd rice went into the fridge.

We placed a greeting card and a note on the table, and went to bed – tired, but content. Mission accomplished!

Please don’t wake us up in the morning. We slept really late. There’s cake, kadhai paneer, and curd rice. Wish you A Very Happy Anniversary!

PS. We didn’t put salt in anything.

* * *

Jeera = cumin
Ajwain = carom seeds / bishop’s weed
Paneer = cottage cheese
Kadhai = a type of thick, circular, and deep cooking-pot (similar in shape to a wok)
Image Credit: Cascading Bridal Bouquet CC-BY-SA-3.0


A Limited Palette, Unlimited Possibilities

This week, The Daily Post asks the WordPress community:

Are animated GIFs the stuff of junior highschool hijinks or, are they the political cartoons of the new millennium? What do you think?

My first reaction to this question was, ‘Huh! Those silly little things! Who makes GIF Animations any more?  When the web has evolved to PNG and a billion colours, why would anyone even think about a format which has only 256 colours?’

But then… I was reminded of something…

There was a time, when I was obsessed with them. My inbox was full of them. I never had ‘important mails’. But cute cartoons, waving back at me, were important enough for me to collect. These virtual creatures became another collectable item, gathering virtual dust in a folder on the hard disk…

And then, I learnt to animate.

Simple Card For E-mailing Family & Friends

A month-long summer programme introduced to me, persistence of vision, and frame-by-frame animation. An acquaintance showed me the terrifying interface of Macromedia Flash. One look at it, and I came running back to the comfort of MS Paint!

I searched the web-world for freeware. It was fun learning to use applications like Art Rage. Using a small GIF Animator, I strung together individual frames and added, what I thought, were cool transitions.

Dragon Blink
Accidentally Breathing

I found a cute dragon cartoon on the net, and coloured it. I made the dragon blink, and saved the in-betweens in Jpeg file formats. I had no clue, why the quality of the image degraded each time I saved it. Two years later, I got the answer to that.

In our graphic designing class, our teacher tried to explain, what lossy compression meant. While most students stared back with blank expressions, I silently patted myself for being smart!

During our sketching class, I casually mentioned playing with wheat flour, as a child. My art teacher pointed out to me, ‘When you were a child, you were willing to experiment. By using flour and Papier-mâché, you were being creative.’

I realised what he meant, and it applied to almost every other aspect of life. The moment we learn the ‘proper way’ to do things, we refuse to accept anything else. And once we do that, we close our minds. We not only lose our willingness to experiment, but also, our creativity.

Creating these GIF animations was just one of the ways I expressed myself. For me, they were, they are, and will always, represent fun, and creativity. They represent a time when I was willing to experiment, and learn on my own.

New Year Card
Limited Palette, Unlimited Possibilities

*  *  *

I never thought I would ever go back to GIFs. But I did end up making one not so long ago, for a post. And that’s because that is the only format WordPress allows for standalone animations!

ArtRage – Even after brushing hands with the big guns, I still love it!
Movies13 – a newer version of my main weapon – available at Jans Freeware

Disclaimer: Potential users are requested to use their judgement before downloading any software. Do not hold me responsible for any harm to your computer. While I have used the above mentioned products, I am not, in any way, endorsing these products.


A Long Time Ago…

Once upon a time, little children made greeting cards using many things – the chief ingredient was, however, called paper. Many children enjoyed it, but some didn’t. So they employed adults to make them, or went to the marketplace.

Then one day, something called the ‘Internet’, entered the kingdom. It didn’t like what it saw, and started its quest to find an alternative. It made friends – lots of friends. It was knowledgeable, and paid regular visits to everyone. It became very popular, and eventually conquered the kingdom of ‘Human Race’.

Under the new rule, greeting cards lost favour with the peasants. Many children, adults, and trees were happy with this, and they all are trying to live happily ever after…

*  *  *

I was rummaging through a shelf, looking for a piece of cardboard. It was the bottommost shelf – home to a lifetime of scrap paper, greeting cards, fancy and colourful invitations.

An Assortment Of Beautiful Paper

Since childhood, paper has fascinated me. That bottom shelf, is my treasure – the different colours, and textures, some glossy and many handmade. While most were addressed to us, there were a few which were given to me because I loved collecting them.

As children, we made our own cards, and gladly received those made by our friends. By the time we left school, the concept of anything hand-made, was all but dead. Even though I would have loved to make a card, I feared, that it would be misconstrued as a miserly act. So we occasionally bought cards.

With the advent of the internet, and increasing emphasis on saving trees, cards have become electronic. And why not – it saves trees, and a lot of space in our cupboard!

After finding what I was looking for, I began shoving everything back inside, when a few cards caught my eye. A beautiful batik card, which was mailed to us by relatives, and a hand-made card. Both beautiful in their own ways.

A small portion of the handmade card

I unfolded the hand made one. In a world ruled by everything electronic, my friend had taken out the time to make something for me. It was the last hand-made card I received, and perhaps the one I will treasure the most…