Buddy

Last week at noon time the normal activities were in motion. We were closeted in our respective rooms hunched over our screens.

Occasionally I would look out to soak the greenery. A car happened to pass on the road outside and Chocolate gave a furious chase from our side of the fence. Interestingly another object was tailing Chocolate and barking along.

Well maybe Chocolate has got her friend over I thought. This had happened a couple of times in the past few months. But unlike earlier pals this one seemed a lot smaller in size.

Stepping out to check I was in for a surprise. It was a Pup.

Each morning post breakfast Chocolate would head out in the woods or to the nearby village, maybe this time she discovered a Pup and tagged it back. Well we had neutered Chocolate long back and maybe she decided to take matters in her own hands. Hmm.

Around this time Ayaan walked out of his room after his online class. “Wow, a Pup?” And in a second the Pup was in his hand which delighted both of them.

In the last two years Chocolate had grown in size and had developed her independent views. For Ayaan as he lifted and tickled the Pup it was joy unmatched. A memory reclaimed.

Meanwhile Sim got some food and the Pup gobbled it in record time.It was seeming to me that perhaps the Pup was going nowhere. It wanted a home, love and food. And Ayaan was soaking the raptures.

In between madame Chocolate trooped back to a bewildering scenario. She couldn’t believe what she was witnessing. Sure she had got the Pup home to play and all that, but watching the Pup being cuddled by Ayaan and feeding from her bowl was agony magnified. 

She growled, she snarled, she wrestled. But the pugnacious Pup was least perturbed. A punch from Chocolate was duly returned back though in smaller measure.

Gradually as the day passed Chocolate and the Pup got into a typical relationship. One minute they would play and the next squabble then play again. They even found time to wrestle and damage the coriander patch 😦

We were now faced with a big choice. Do we go to the village and inquire or do we keen the Pup at home?

And sometimes life forces take things in their own hands. The next two days it poured and there was no way I was taking the Pup out to the village to investigate.

Simultaneously the Pup was adjusting happily at home and changing a few routines.

Chocolate who would sleep in the living room shifted with Pup in the store room. Which was great for us as it ensured a quiet night for us all.

Then Ayaan asked the obvious question, “We need a name for the Pup right?”
Maybe Chocolate needed a pal so how about Buddy. A for Ayaan, B for Buddy and C for Chocolate”.
“Yes, I like it” and he put his seal of approval.

++++++++++

Late Night Encounters

Late Night Encounters::
“Tomorrow morning ill let you know how Liverpool fared”, I assured Ayaan as he tucked into bed. 

The Champions League football matches are played mid-week and our time zone ensures that its practically impossible to watch live. Because matches start at 1:30am India Time.

My own sleep ritual is to keep the BBC football page open on my phone. So that whenever I get up I can check the scores immediately. 

But tonight was going to be different as I was going to realize.

At some point in the night Chocolate started barking. Which isn’t entirely rare, but this time her bark was stronger.
Sim had sent Chocolate out of the front door. It was quite cold and misty but our warrior was out in a flash.

Grudgingly I pulled myself out of my warm blankets. 12:30am showed the clock. Woolen socks on and head & ears covered I ventured out. Something about her bark made me wonder.

I opened the door to the terrace to get a larger view of the gardens. Then I froze. On the ground below me stood a large wild bison. And a few feet away Madame Chocolate was barking furiously.

It was a strange match up. An average Wild Bison weighs 1000 kilos and is documented to cause human casualties if disturbed. On the other corner was her opponent weighing 19.3 kilos.

“Dogs don’t know their size, in their head they feel like a Lion”, a friend had shared long back.

Chocolate’s self illusion was winning the turf war. The Wild Bison now disturbed in its late night snack moved away from the garden and headed to the vegetable patch.

This solved one problem while creating another. The vegetable patch had no vegetables but lots of delicious grass as the Frosting weeks had slowed our farming activities. From the terrace I couldn’t view but only hear sounds of grass being chewed, an occasional snort and Chocolates movements.

” Come back Chocolate” I yelled. Then pleaded. But she was in no mood to leave the Bison. The Bison was in no mood to leave the lush grass. And I was desperate to get inside.

After a while with no luck in enticing Chocolate in, I went back inside and resigned myself to a long night of wait and watch. On impulse I picked the phone.

The football match was about to start. It was past 1am.

Suddenly the night and the events stopped feeling gloomy. Liverpool got on to a bright start and midway was leading 2-0. The game continued with intrigue on the football patch and the vegetable patch. Attacking gestures, deft movements and barks of encouragement.

Liverpool held on to win. As if on cue Chocolate got weary of the Bison and came back and went straight to her sack.

It was well past 3am but I thought there is always a brighter side to everything and switched off.

” Who won Dad?”quizzed Ayaan early morning.
“Liverpool won and Chocolate had a hard earned draw”, I summed up the Late Night Encounters.
–++++

On the trail of the Log Cake

Like all good tales this begins with a conversation and a cup of tea.

It’s a weekday morning and I am just back from an exploration trip, excitedly sharing my discovery with Praveen the owner of Imperial Bakery. Also the spot in town for perfect chai and Samosa’s.

“During my school days we would explore a lot more but the real treat was going over to King’s Star Bakery. They would have fresh Honey Cake, Ribbon
Cake, Japanese Cake and Log Cake”, Praveen mused

“Log Cake, what’s that?”, having sampled the first three this was new to me.

“Yeah, unfortunately its not available now. Folks of this generation only want Black Forest Cake”, he added with a shrug, “but you could try your luck at
their shop across the street, you never know”.

With the hot chai having revitalized my soul I headed across in all earnestness to King’s Star. Unfortunately the shutters were down.

But hey right next door was Virtues Bakery, a place rated highly by my friends Kris & Resa. What better time than now to make my first visit?

So in I walked and declared my request. The staff said no we don’t make it anymore. But the owner behind the counter turned his head.

He had that forlorn look before he added, “people nowadays just want Black Forest”.

Strangely Black Forest was now sounding like a Black Plague.

I came back and shared my discovery and new mission at home with Sim & Ayaan. Which turned out to be a mistake.

Next day post breakfast Ayaan asked, ” Dad will you find the Log Cake?”. I wondered if this is how Vasco da Gama, Shackleton, Christy Columbus, Magellan et all felt the same at some point.

Meanwhile a fierce storm was brewing in horizon and life’s priorities changed. Critical matters like Log Cake fell off while mundane matters like power supply – visit to Electricity Office, a charged computer for Ayaan’s mid-term assessment, heating Hot Water for Bath etc took over.

After three days the Storm finally passed. The Sun was back and on cue Ayaan inquired, “Will you find the Log Cake?”

It was time to source fresh leads. My friend Harshad who runs a flourishing textile business suggested I visit Jai’s Kings Star. An off shoot of the original King’s Star.

It was Friday evening. “Ayaan do you want to come for an adventure?”, I quizzed. I’m guessing he said Yes because in a flash he was out to open the gate.

We drove into Town and surprisingly got parking right opposite Jai’s King Star. The Town was clearly coming back to life but to my dismay the shop was shuttered.

So off we went to Willy’s to nibble into sandwiches, cookies with coffee. Strolling back we saw Jai’s King Star had opened. What luck!

In we walked and declared our request.

“Yes, right over there”, pointed the young owner.
“Wow, I thought it’s not made anymore. I had almost given up hope”, I shared.
” Well, since the tourist had disappeared the locals kept nudging me to make it” he responded.


“I’m glad, I’ll keep coming back for more”, I beamed in anticipation.
“Oh, but the tourists are coming so I won’t be making it anymore”, he shrugged, “it will be the usual stuff… Black Forest, …”

——————————————–xxxxxxxxx————–

History of the Log Cake:

Before I headed out I did a google search and came across a delightful blog – My Parisian Kitchen. Sharing the story of the Log Yule Cake.

“The tradition comes from a very long time ago, even before one started to eat log shaped cake for Christmas. Long ago, a huge log was placed in the fireplace after being blessed to protect the house and its inhabitants (and sometimes sprinkled with oil or wine as an offering) and then burned for the occasion of Christmas Eve. The log had to be big enough to smolder overnight (and even up to Epiphany day, 12 days later in some regions!). Choosing the type of wood, the log itself, and who will place it in the fireplace or light it was of greatest importance. It is even said that ashes or the firebrand who had served were supposed to protect (from thunder, devil …). Traditions varied from one region to another (and even from one family to another).

Fire places became smaller and smaller, and cities bigger and bigger, making this tradition quite unease to respect. Logs burned in fireplaces were replaced by even smaller, sometimes decorated, placed as a table centerpiece. It is then that started to appear cakes with the shape of a wood log, even imitating bark.

As for many dishes, several stories last. Was it an invention from the Parisian pastry chef Antoine Caradot located rue de Bucy in 1879? Or from another based in the city of Lyon earlier in the 1860s? Or from Prince Charles III of Monaco’s ice cream and pastry chef, Pierre Lacam in 1898?

Nevertheless, the symbolic cake substituting wood log was quickly a success and tradition changed from a real log to a fake log, our now classic Yule log. Since the beginning, Christmas yule logs were made with Genovese sponge cake (baked in a particular mold before the cake started to be rolled up) and buttercream, already with decorations (holly, leaves, mushrooms ….). The first flavors were probably chocolate or mocha.”

Light within the carnage

On Tuesday night the storm arrived. The fierce winds and pelting rains would continue for the week. Power supply in our town was an obvious casualty.

A day later I mustered courage to step out and check the damage. Bent steel electric poles and toppled trees strewn all around. The carnage was lethal unlike the one’s I had seen here.

As I passed St Thomas Church I saw a twisted steel pole and a two man TNEB team fixing a new pole with rustic tools in hand. When I came back a proud tall electric pole stood next to the previous bent pole.

Few sights of human grit have stirred my heart.

The scale of damage was still enormous and the TNEB team was stretched thin. But help was arriving from the neighboring districts.

Luckily Ayaan’s school had temporarily paused the online classes. Office work for Sim and me though was limping along aided by the UPS.

On the fourth day – Saturday I bumped into Rafeal the Senior Foreman and he said they would address our lane today. The major repairs on HT (high tension) lines were done and they would now pick the LT lines. My hopes rose.

Meanwhile Ayaan’s school announced the resumption of online classes starting Monday.

Unfortunately the same day a major snag hit the HT transformer and the entire town fell back into darkness. It would take a day for the snag to be fixed.

I was running out of time and hope.

The only option was to buy a generator. It would be an expense, a pain to maintain and add to some pollution but our life would resume.

Saturday evening I called the only large consumer electronics store in our town aptly called the Big Shop. No they didn’t stock Gensets but tipped me off about one distributor in town who could help.

Armed with a rough location map amidst pelting rain I found Devaraj. His office was a tiny room full of Genset and batteries stocked over each other and two plastic chairs.

Occupying our respective chair we discovered a new problem. Language. In broken English I explained my need and he seemed to understand.

Yes a Genset was available either for rent or purchase. And despite the next day Sunday being a complete lockdown he would come and install it.

The decision was about to be made when two men walked in. They had come to collect their UPS battery which was being recharged by Devaraj.

In that moment of shared suffering a conversation broke out between us. They were Techies from Bangalore who had temporarily shifted back to work from home because of Covid.

“Why don’t you look at Solar?” suggested Sampath who worked with Accenture. “Devaraj had recommended it to us, but we will be going back to Bangalore so I didn’t consider it”.

Solar seemed like an exotic remedy. A step in the unknown. And I had no knowledge about its effectiveness in the hills.

Sampath sensed the situation and stepped in as a translator. A cost benefit comparison with a Genset indicated a clear preference towards Solar.

” No running cost or maintenance and a 20 year warranty” added Devaraj.

And so in that moment a decision that I had always dreamt of was made.

Was it providence that someone walked in right then in that small shop and decided to help, I would never know.

The next day Devaraj arrived with his nephew and two kids aged 6 & 11. The sharp boys bridged the communication gap between Devaraj and me moving from Tamil to English.

The installation was swift. In an hour it was done. Solar was activated.

” Are you sure it will work?”, asked Abhimanyu aged 44 ever again anxiously.

” It has a 20 year warranty”, assured Sherwin aged 11.

Meanwhile the main power was back at home. The TNEB team had set up a parallel connection and our lane was lit up again.

But the doubt still stirred in my head. How effectively would the solar panels charge the UPS? And in ambient light how reliable was Solar?

I had even bought a MultiMeter to check the battery.

And then it happened.

The next day a truck overfilled with logs disturbed the electricity lines opposite our house. Sparks flew, the truck screeched, the voltage fluctuated all evening and at night power went kaput.

The next day I got off the bed at 6:30:am and checked the Battery health. 12.9 volt responded to the MultiMeter.

‘Well now’s the test. By half day I will know if the Solar panels will charge the UPS”, I muttered.

At 8:45:am with the mountain sun still ambient I went out to check the level. It had moved up to 13.9 volt. I was delighted.

At 10:am I tested the level and it was hitting 14.9 volt. Almost full power.

Solar had truly delivered.

Let the storms come now, the Sun will always shine behind the clouds

 

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Typical scenes across town

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New Pole to replace the Bent one

Wedding & a sense of Duty

As our vast and populous country was battling Covid our tiny little hill town was doing fine. Sure we had a few cases spring up but by and large Nilgiris was Green zoned and Covid free.
But a false sense of security can have consequences. And the folks of Nilgiri’s were going to discover soon.
There are but a fistful of large private firms in the hills. One such firm is the Needle Factory in Khetti valley. Its Public Relation Officer – PRO role is to visit surrounding villages and develop business and probably good cheer.
In May the situation seemed to be in control in the hills.
Armed with a sense of Duty and unfortunately Covid 19 the PRO wanted to make up for lost time. In a short span he completed his traveling assignment and also notched up 100 cases.
The town went in a spin. Restrictions were imposed on shops, the inter district Bus was shut and so was the Ooty Bus Stand.
As the town was recovering from the first blow a second jab was brewing.
A wedding was planned in a nearby village. Unfortunately no one wanted to miss out including Covid 19.
By the time the wedding hangover drowned and the Collector frowned, Nilgiris was playing like a Cricketer on song. Smashing half century new cases a day.
Soon Brian Lara’s epic score was surpassed. The local Covaipost stated 621 as of Friday yesterday.
” How did this happen?”, I asked amidst a conversation with my local friend Rajesh.
” Well Abhi, weddings are a community affair and unfortunately the Block Officer did not prevent it”, he elaborated, ” Infact he went for the wedding”.
” Really ! The Collector must be fuming mad”,
” Yes, he has been suspended. But he said he’s anyways in Quarantine “.

A piece of Land

“So where are you from?”, asked the dapper Mr Sajnani.

We were dining at Sunnys, Bangalore’s chic European restaurant a couple of years ago.

” Oh, we just shifted to Ooty recently”, I blubbered.

” Really”, he continued, ” you know all my vegetables come from Ooty”.

To me Ooty, rather the Nilgiri’s thrived on two prominent activities – Schools and Tourism.

This conversation planted the seeds for the third discovery.

” Tarragon, see if you can grow that”, was his passing tip.

Of course the first step for me to was to Google and know what Tarragon was? Aah a Herb I noted.

Gradually our new life settled in the mountains.

Nilgiris is blessed with spring weather through the year. Lakes abound the green hills and fresh air fills your lungs.

Tucked behind the daily signs of tourists and school busses whizzing by there seemed to a bit of farming happening in every nook and cranny.

A few months later I was to meet Mr Babu an Agent to help get the transfer paper for our car. His small office was in the heart of Ooty town.

I had to wait as he wasn’t back from lunch. As I looked around I saw an inspiring sight. Amidst the nearby commercial buildings there was a small open patch. And a man was doggedly working his mini tractor on it.

The contrast hit me hard.

In Mumbai there would be an earthmover working to create the space into a High-rise structure. Here his endeavour was to create carrots and potatoes.

Slowly we managed to get our vegetable patch in shape.

Overtime we had turnips, potatoes, beans, peas, carrots, radish, coriander booming in our garden.

But for me it was more of a Zamindar approach to farming. Help was available and my role was to limited to procuring material. I wasn’t actually dirtying my hands.

Once while driving a large bend I saw a Truck zip past in high speed. I noticed two large words on the front window – Vegetable Express.

I thought it was cute. Considering the speed at which he was flying. Or perhaps an urgent delivery for Sunnys in Bangalore.

Sometimes if you see something different you wonder if there is a pattern. I seemed to be seeing plenty of Vegetable Express in town.

” Abu how many Vegetable Express trucks are there in town?”, I quizzed at our favourite fruit store.

” I think more than 3000, why do you ask?” he wondered.

” Just curious”, I replied. A bit like Ayaan’s Secret Seven the pieces seem to be falling in place.

Meanwhile Life continued.

And then Covid happened.

As I adjusted to a new daily rhythm my eyes opened to fresh avenues.

Time was available in plenty. And with work shut down there was no excuse of being busy. Why not pick the pitchfork and start?

The mind of course had lots of rational doubts. Why dig if there aren’t any Seeds available in the lockdown. Where would i source the vermi composte from..

But I decided. Dig first and figure out everything else along the way.

And like they say if you walk along a cool path the path will support you.

Working the pitchfork for an hour I discovered was a terrific exercise. Over a few weeks I was fitter. On cue Ayaan was pottering around too.

” If you dig a little every day you can’t have a bad thought in your head” shared Kris from his experience in Sweden.

With the vegetable patch getting ready i felt why not work the flowers too. So on a hunch I went to check if the Blue Mountain Nursery was open.

What luck.

And the normally busy owner had all the time to chat. He helped get Hydrangea, Dianthus, Sedum. While i was billing i noticed packets of Herb seeds.

Wow I wondered. Maybe the Tarragon prophecy comes true. Maybe i can try Herbs next.

The typical mind flashed – But Abhi you don’t know basil from parsley, rosemary from thyme.

Who cares ..we will dig and figure it out.

 

–+++——————-

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Boardgames & Rations

Boardgames have been a super hit last few months. And since May with the resumption of delivery services iv been ordering new games at the rate of ordering take aways.

Despite a growing number of Boardgames the top game for Ayaan had always been King of Tokyo. A fun game where powerful figures compete to rule Tokyo. On each turn you have multiple choices to attack, heal or build which makes the game fascinating.

The pattern though was getting set. A new game would arrive, Id learn the rules and we would play. A few hours later Ayaan would invariably come back and say, ” but we have to play King of Tokyo also ?”.

Then Forbidden Desert arrived. This game flipped everything. To begin with its a collaborative game. A space craft has crashed in the Desert. You have to find the missing parts – engine, propeller, solar capsule, et and flee before the Desert gets you. You choose a role between a set of adventurers – Archaeologist, Water Carrier, Navigator, Explorer, Meteorologist each with unique abilities and start your Adventures.

Ayaan’s been hooked. So far we have had a 50% survival rate as we all have to get out together. Key is to plan Water rationing very carefully.

While we were practicing rationing in the imaginary world the real world caught up with us.

This week I woke up to no power. Which seemed unusual as heavy rains hadn’t arrived yet.

After a while I called Ramamoorthy the Linesman to check.

“We have some painting to finish so as a precautionary measure we have shut it for now”, he explained.

Temporary lack of power is not an issue in the hills. At 7200 feet height no one needs a Fan here. And the daylight takes care of internal lighting. Its the night that becomes an issue. But hey I have a UPS and that can take care for a while.

The power didn’t arrive in the night and Ramamoorthy said he would check the next day. We switched to UPS rationing mode.

Morning I went to the Sub Station office 500 meters from home.

I walked to the Assistant Engineer who was standing outside and inquired.

He had an annoyed look, ” The road department was trimming the shrubs and dead branches. They weren’t careful and they have short circuited the supply lines at multiple places”.

The entire team was heading out to find specific fault lines and fix. A painstaking activity.

The team would cater to the populated parts first before coming to the quiet Deer Park Road. Minority last on priority. Which makes sense in this case.

Meanwhile more rationing time.

The next day UPS was on its last leg. And I was back in the sub station. Ramamoorthy the Linesman is out working on it they said.

I didn’t have much to do. So I went looking to check where he was working.

I found Ramamoorthy and his young assistant in a discussion. They had found the faulty pole. The young lad was about to rappel up using his arms and legs.

On cue the neighbouring Farmer and the Caretaker from the Forest Department Guest House walked up. And so did Chocolate’s pals the three stray dogs of Deer Park Road.

No one wanted to miss the late afternoon show.

The young man was now up and Ramamoorthy was firing rapid instructions in Tamil. After a while it was discovered that the problem was more complex.

Ramamoorthy decided to rappel up. I was surprised, he was probably 50 and plumpish to my eye. But lo behold, he seemed to roll back the decades and was up in a flash. I was full of respect and wonder.

It was getting late evening but luckily the rain clouds stayed away. Atlast the glitch was finally fixed and the two star acts rappelled down to our gratitude.

Back home we finally had Power and the starved UPS could happily recharge itself.

“Dad now lets play some Boardgames”, chirped Ayaan, ‘Im getting Forbidden Desert”.

“Of course, makes sense, bring it on !”.

IMG_20200611_171845-+++++———–

 

 

 

Booze Pals

Disclaimer: This really did happened.

——-

April 2018 we had made a recce trip from Mumbai to Ooty. Plan was to stay for 7 weeks like locals and see if the mountain life was worth to make a permanent shift into.

The house we found was perched on a hill. The narrow approach road was a steep one kilometre climb driven on first gear.

We gradually settled into a new rhythm. Walking up to fresh air and terrific views with a slow pace of life.

In a typical hill town basic amenities are susceptible to breakdowns typically caused by Nature’s moods.

But on this occasion the Human race put forth its finest champion in play.

One morning we woke up to realise there was no electricity. Which was surprising as there was no element of heavy rains overnight.

The word was that electricity to our area would need a major repair. This also meant there was no motor to pump water. Water was to be rationed till power resumed. A quick double whammy.

Later in the morning I asked the caretaker – Why had the power snapped ?

He rolled his eyes, ” I had walked down to investigate. Apparently a big truck with construction material was trying to climb the narrow road last night.

As the truck started to climb the driver realised the rear wheels were slipping. The gradient was too high given its load.

So he gently reversed the truck back and parked it.

“That would have been it, ” continued the caretaker with sadness building up, ” unfortunately he sat down for a drink with his friend. His friend chided him for being unable to drive the truck up.

A few pegs down Mr Friend declared let me show you how it’s done. The deflated Driver handed the keys.

The truck stared its climb again. The first bend was easy. The confidence was high in the truck cabin but the laws of gravity were now being questioned.

As it passed the second bend it was clear this mission was doomed. The truck wheels were slipping badly. Alarmed Mr Friend jammed the brakes which only caused the truck to swerve into a compound wall of a house.

The heavy truck aided by powers of gravity swiftly smashed the wall and continued its downward trajectory.

A parked car was pushed down. The car promptly rolled down knocking off a two wheeler before smashing into an electricity pole 50 meters below

Finally the now tired truck decided to keel over and block the narrow road.

Next morning a large crane, electricity department, police, insurance folks and the municipal team descended to take stock.

It took a day and a half before power supply was resumed and the water started getting up.

All those staying above were technically quarantined for the duration.

” I wonder what happened about the friend?”, I asked.

” I wonder which brand they were drinking”, responded the caretaker with twinkle in his eye.

—++++++——-

Sunday Notes

Sunday notes:

The town has opened up. Word is Venkateswara wada has reopened too.

No breakfast at home, ill get Wadas I announced as i sped off first thing in the morning.

As I entered Commercial road I saw Jones the tyre repair man setting up his shop. In a small town he is not a tyre repair man but a friend who happens to repair the tyre.

A thought flashed as we waved at each other.

At Venkateswara im getting the delicious hot wadas packed. I request my friend to pack another separate parcel.

Homeward bound I approach Jones again. I stop and call out ” Jones I got something for you” and share the parcel.

At that moment he dazzled the most amazing smile with a Thank You.

Im driving back filled with the joy transmitted by Jones.

As I circle the Ooty lake I notice Prema Nursery has opened its doors.

I slam the brakes and get inside the little green shed. Im guessing im the first customer post lockdown.

The first thing i notice on the counter are Dahlia bulbs. And the beautiful Dahlia images start dancing in my head.

” Can I get 5?”, I request.

Wait, he says and ducks under the table. Opens a drawer, ” I’ve got better ones and infact this one has a shoot coming out too”. What luck !

Back home im thinking where to plant them. In life one spontaneous moment leads to another. I identify a place but it requires preparing the flower beds. Weeds have been busy last two months.

Post lunch im working the large pitchfork in the flower bed. Its just 30 minutes of work but for a city bred slouch like me its back breaking enough.

Bed prepared but back aching I decide Monday is a better day to plant the bulbs.

In the evening the rain gods decide to visit our hills. The cricket game is quickly abandoned and we rush indoor.

” Boardgames ?”, I suggest to Ayaan.

” No I have a new idea”.

Each time he suggests this line of thought I have a surge of instant resistance within. I love my comfort zones🤷. But gradually im learning to listen and be.

” We will play with my toys in the Study room.” the little boss declares.

So off we go with toys and plonk on the mattress creating an imaginary village.

And a strange moment occurs.

I have a music app playing a UK radio station on my phone. An Air Supply number comes up. In that perfect moment im just feeling the song and I notice my Guitar lying in the corner.

Since Grade 7 I have made multiple attempts to play. Bought new guitars and re-fixed it, joined classes..to no avail.

But right then it just felt i should try again.

Maybe the inroads into cooking and watercolor have given the confidence, i don’t know.

Maybe ill try and learn the Guitar one more time.

_–+++++———-

Banana 2 Bread

The Bananas started it all.

As our new found love for cooking we decided to pick a fruit a day. Step two would be to scroll YouTube for simple and fun recipe.

The Chocolate Banana French Toast caught our fancy yesterday. It looked delicious and within our severely limited skills.

The recipe began with a loaf of bread and the edges sliced off. After a while I finally got the French Toast in the oven. But I realized that I had a mass of bread edges on the platform.

Loathe to discard it I went back to YouTube for recipe for bread edges. And to my joy discovered a simple process to make cutlets out of it.

So in went the bread edges, rice flour, lots of masala and herbs. And the cutlet batter was ready for next day breakfast.

Meanwhile the oven timer sounded off and i went to check on the Chocolate Banana French Toast.

I offered the first piece to Ayaan and awaited his verdict. Being a true 7 year old he tells you exactly what he feels. So I was anxious.

A couple of bites and then he spluttered out, ” Can you make this again Dad?”.

I had achieved my Noble Prize for the moment.

This would have been it. But unknowingly id started a cascading effect. There was no Bread at home.

In these Corona blessed days I wasn’t keen to step out just to buy a loaf. My next planned stocking trip was a few days away.

But confidence was high. And I thought..why not try and make Bread at home? Our Swedish friends Kris and Resa had made a loaf for us earlier and shared the recipe.

I sat and read the handwritten recipe about twenty times. It seemed very simple. But the cloud of doubt was very high. Bread making was a road never traveled.

Added to it being a devotee of fresh bread I was sure i would mess it up.

I called Kris and spoke to him. He guided me and ended by saying ” you can do it and reach out to Resa and me if you need any help”.

That was that. I took the plunge.

With all purpose flour, water, salt and yeast i prepared the dough. The dough took a pretty shape. I covered it for the night.

” Ayaan tomorrow that dough will rise upto the lid”, i exclaimed as another 7 year old.

Morning came and i went to check. To my horror the dough remained the same size.

It hadn’t moved up an inch.

It was too early to ping Kris. So i went to YouTube to check. And promptly i had so many reasons presented that i shut down YouTube.

Finally I texted Kris with the update and cry for help.

I got a prompt question- Share the picture of the type of Yeast used.
” Abhi you used dry yeast. You have to proof the yeast. Do that and it will work”, it was Resa navigating me now.

” Proof it? The last time i had to proof something was in chemistry and math. And boy did I hate that!”, I thought.

A simple YouTube video taught me how to proof dry yeast. Of course I managed to mess up this simple process the first time. But being so easy second time I was destined to get it right.

I had now activated the yeast or proofed the yeast.

Back to the waiting dough and some more kneading. After a while it was time to bake it.

I kept asking Resa an endless stream of elementary questions – do I cover the baking tin, how long to bake without the cover, how to check if it was ready, how to cool it…

Finally the Bread was done. I took a picture and showed to Ayaan in the other room.

“Whose Bread is this?”, He asked.

“Ours, why?”, I said somewhat surprised by his question.

” Oh it looks like the one Kris uncle gave us”, and he was off to the kitchen.

A warm slice of bread was in his mouth soon.

An hour later post dinner he was tucked in bed. Story time was over.

” Good night Ayaan”.

” Dad, can I get one more slice? “