Gazing out of a window…

… while travelling has to be one of my very favourite things to do.

I’ve enjoyed it as long back as I can remember. Growing up, our biggest journey used to be the journey from Jamshedpur to Kerala, every summer. It used to take 3+ days, and just gazing out as the train sped by, was just amazing.

The change in landscapes, as we traveled across states. Dry, arid land in some, gorgeous greenery in some, waiting for the river crossings with bated breadth. For some reason, we all used to love it. The largest bridge over a river, in India, it was a treat for us. We used to wait up for it, in case the crossing happened at night. And the disappoinment, in case we dozed off, despite our best efforts, was just massive. How little it took, to make us happy in those days.

River crossings apart, the other thing I used to love was watching the changing scenery, the houses that we whizzed past. Some opulent houses, some tiny huts, some buzzing with activity, some abandoned…

I would weave stories in my mind about the people who lived there, and their lives. I would imagine a farmer’s family, eating their dinner, as we rode by, just as dusk fell, to the sound of our train rushing past. I would imagine that the train would serve as their clock, timing their lunches or dinners, or maybe bedtimes.. or just a nuisance that would spoil their afternoon naps, until they just got so used to it that they no longer even noticed it..

Seeing ladies chatting with their neighbours, would make me wonder what they were discussing.. gossip? Or perhaps, the rising costs, or their children or maybe stuff that I could not even imagine in my wildest dreams. .. I would assign lives for them. That smartly dressed lady setting off on her scooter, would be a bank employee, the man waiting impatiently, at the railway crossing for our train to pass, was late for work, and was anticipating his boss’s disapproval. I could spend the whole day, looking out, with no-one for company, the stories in my head was enough to keep me busy.

What brought it all back? Yesterday, while we drove across Goa, I saw, what looked like an abandoned house. It was palatial, completely built(from the outside) but not painted, and looked completely abandoned. Weeds grew around it, and there was a sad haunted feel about it. Now, abandoned houses are the best for imagining and weaving a story around them. They would most definitely have a story of their own. A rich merchant, perhaps, who started building his dream home. A mini palace, everything was almost done, when he suffered such losses thathe had to just abandon the house. Bankruptcy threatened him but try as he might nobody was ready to buy it. People in the village were terrified that the land or house brought bad luck. What could explain such a sudden reversal of fortune?

Or maybe, the merchant refused to sell it. He hung on to it because it had a special place it his heart.. He knew that one day, he would be able to redo his house and live there.. Until then, it stayed there, neglected, uncared for, but thought of, fondly, with dreams still woven about it…

I suddenly realize that its been so long since I’ve been on a train journey, through lush fields, dry lands, and past little hamlets.. So long since I’ve done this, let my imagination run riot…

Food on my mind

Reading has always been a window to a lot of things for me. To different ways of life, experiences and(perhaps, most importantly) food.

As long as I can remember, I remember being tantalized by descriptions of food. Not that I was a foodie by any standards, I was a picky eater, driving my mum crazy. Despite being a picky eater, the one thing that would induce me to try stuff was the food described in books. Enid Blytons descriptions made my mouth water. What exotic stuff they ate. Scones, eclairs, wafer thin cucumber sandwiches, pickle… I suspect I started eating our Indian pickles after reading about them in those books. Little did I know that those pickles were a world apart(and far less tasty, now that I have tasted them). I figured that the eclairs they ate were not the same as the Cadbury’s eclairs that we got from our shops, yet in my imagination, it was the same. I was fascinated enough with scones to try them as soon as I could when I landed on English shores.

Not all my food fantasies had nice endings though. Once I told me grandfather than sardines sound so exciting. The famous five used to carry cans of sardines and tuna. It was such a disappointment when my granddad showed me what sardines actually were. And tuna sandwiches, those are something that even Enid Blyton will not persuade me to eat now, but then it was just perfect – in my mind. But the books were magical that even knowledge refused to defuse my fun. I’ve imagined that my idli with sambar was actually meatloaf, who cared what meatloaf actually was. In my imagination, that was it, and delicious it was, I can assure you. There was this short story in our English Literature syllabus – in ICSE, about Subbiah a road side vendor, who used to sell the most delicious idlis and dosas. That had me drooling despite the fact that it was regular fare at home.

Now, as a grown up , who has traveled( a fair amount), and eaten most of those exotic foods that I had only read about, I still drool. Writers who weave food and recipe magic. Books that transport you to another place, making you lust for luscious tomatoes, crisp salads, delicious gravies that tantalize your tastebuds, the aroma of bread being baked, the description of chappathis puffing up, soft, snowy idlis, perfect, crispy dosas, cheese that take you to another level.. Those books on Italian cuisine, makes me want to drop everything and eat those heavenly pizzas with truffles, or perhaps pasta, tossed perfectly with the seasonal vegetables.. of course, its not just books that make me drool these days. Blogs are far more efficient, what with pictures and recipes to boot, is there anything stopping me? My weight ought to stop me, but even that isn’t a strong enough deterrent.

I just realized that life has come a full circle. Now, I have company. My six year old comes up and tells me, ‘ oh, this sounds so delicious, Amma, rosemary bread with wild mushrooms! Please can I have it! I feel like eating it after reading this book’. Of course, that has me grinning like a Cheshire cat and I guess the least I can do is bake her some bread, if not rosemary bread, right?