Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Bold and the Beautiful

I've said this before but it doesn't seem to have flushed the rats out yet so here we go again. I'm seriously pissed at all those snoops who regularly invade my blogspace but don't bother to leave a courtesy note. Even just a little line saying Hello I was here, nice blog you have here or whatever. So to those furtive lurkers from Apia, Samoa, Singapore and Calcutta, West Bengal, whoever you are, either step forward and introduce yourselves or quit spying on me.

On to happier things, ever been on the panel of a beauty pageant? Ok, so beauty pageants aren't quite politically correct anymore but the enthusiasm they generate is still enormous. Especially at the undergrad level. And especially among the male population of said level.

At work, we have these little pageants as part of the annual sports and socio cultural fests and I've been on the panel for the third year running. Not exactly all fun and games as you might suppose. There's usually a great deal of planning and coordination that goes on behind the scenes. The girls practise catwalking and general deportment and are made to watch videos of past year competitions. And then of course, there's the little prerequisite that not very many beauty queen hopefuls enjoy - the interview round.

The first time I was a judge, the three of us on the panel, all female by the way, hadn't been told about it in advance. At the last minute, we were just told we had to ask a question of each contestant. Whoa, thinking up intelligent but not too taxing, things to ask at such short notice and in front of a very interested audience is not exactly a picnic at the park. All I could think of was What's your favourite colour. Naaaw, my two agitated co-judges said, something a little more complex. Another colleague sitting with us had obviously watched a few more pageants on TV and was able to come up with a little more happening questions. Like which person do you admire most and why. We ordered her to write out good questions to ask while we assessed the girls who'd already begun nervously sashaying up and down the stage.

Last year, the problem was solved with a list of questions already neatly printed out for us. All we had to do was pick them off the list. The girls too had already been made acquainted with the list so they knew what to expect and were able to sound considerably more intelligent and much more composed than the previous year's batch, poor things.

This year, the interview round was simplified even further to soothe the jittery nerves of the girls by informing them, albeit just a half hour or so before the event, which question in the list they were to answer. Question #1 would go to contestant #1, and so on. All they had to worry about now was prettifying themselves and pirouetting around confidently. Which they did beautifully. Salut, here's looking at you, kids!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Land of my Heart

Today's the 14th anniversary of my mother's death. Looking back, it seems unbelievable we've gone through all these years without her..

Sad reflections apart, the view this morning is one major reason why I a-d-0-r-e winter up here in the mountains. Thick, low lying clouds fill the hills and dales making for a brilliant illusion of stormy, wild, white seas.

Having lived most of my life in mountainous terrains, I often find it extremely taxing spending any great length of time in the plains. And in especially bad moments, it gives me a feeling close to claustrophobia not being able to see anything beyond the next few buildings. In the mountains, you always have a vast, unhampered view of houses and people below or above you.

Perhaps I unconsciously draw comfort from the fact that I can actually see life around me or perhaps I'm just a mountain woman at heart.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Chilli Pickling for Dummies

Here's a nice easy way to update your blog....woops, did I say update your blog? I meant a nice easy way to make chilli pickle :D

At this time of year, we have lots of these red hot little chillies called vai-hmarchate here, literally translated into birds' eye-view chilli. Get loads of these, make sure you break off all the stems and discard any that are even partially squishy. Then get a fork and pierce little holes into them. This can get pretty tedious but it's to make sure the the oil and masala gets properly marinated into the chilli innards.

Next you get a packet of pickle masala. Told you this is a recipe for dummies!

You then liberally sprinkle it all over the pre-fork-pierced chillies, like so....

Then you heat a liberal amount of oil in a pan and pour your spicy concoction into it. Make sure the heat's not turned up too high, and keep cooking till the chillies are tender...

Wait for it to cool down and then pour into a jar. You can put it out in the sun for a couple of days or you can eat it right away if you want to. And hey presto, you're all set for a red hot chilli winter!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Looking for an Echo

Despite living in a fairly small town, as you get older and pinned down to an unrelentingly unchanging everyday routine due to work and family obligations, it's rare that you get an opportunity to travel back in time and visit old haunts. This week I jumped at the chance to go back to my old college. I haven't gone back for over 20 years though I'd heard there were plenty of changes. Thursday was the perfect opportunity. It wasn't going to be some yawningly formal do that would've kept me rooted in one spot all day but a total fun outing - my college volleyball team was playing a rival team in a fiercely contested, very noisy final. The first two games went our way after which I slipped away for a walkabout...

Once upon a time, there used to be an empty field here, behind which was an old sprawling corrugated-roofed building which housed the college hall, classrooms, library and the students' recreation room. Now there are all these separate concrete buildings and volleyball and basketball courts.

This used to be the Science building where, as the junior-most class we were regularly shunted around these classrooms with elevated back benches. I don't for a minute suppose the tables and benches are the ones we'd used long ago but the scenario looked eerily the same..

In my time, there had been just a large wooden gate at the main entrance which I can't recall ever seeing closed...

The administrative building is new and freshly painted but at least it still stands in the same place it had always stood..

And peeping in through the empty English dept. room, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sketched portrait of my old English teacher who had died shortly after I passed out. We had always adored John Ruata because apart from being a good teacher, he was young and with it. He'd once even been persuaded to get up onstage with a guitar for a song at some function. But he'd also once embarrassed me in class. In a small Honours class of some 8 or 9 students, I'd been fighting heavy eyelids and had nodded off for a minute when he remarked something along the lines of the air down in the campus valley not being quite what it should be but that didn't excuse anyone from sleeping in his class! Rest in peace, U John, amid all the echoes of happy times...