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9 Things to Do When Frustrated

9. Drink.
Alcohol might not be the answer but it’s the best time you’ll ever have failing. Unless drink turns you into a raging asshole, there’s nothing like a stiff drink to make you feel better. And if it all goes wrong and you wake up next morning with a horrible hangover and no magical solution to your troubles… well, now instead of feeling vaguely nauseated with a hole in the pit of your stomach, you’re actually throwing up your stomach! Progress!

8. Yell.
This is very easy if you’ve been drinking. But even without the benefit of strong drink, a good scream lets the universe know what you’re going through. Find a pillow first if you have neighbors. Be considerate.

7. Sex.
Go ahead. It’ll probably be the worst sex of your life because you’re spending all your time thinking about your problems but if you try hard enough, you might be too tired to do anything about it other than sleep on it. That’s good.

6. Bite.
Really hard. There must be some secret hormone release mechanism in the nerve endings in your teeth because biting feels so incredibly good. You can just feel the aggression flow out through your molars. And unlike punching something, you don’t end up with bruises on your fists or a police report and a free psychiatric evaluation by your nearest state-owned mental hospital. Just make sure its not a human being or a small animal or something because… well, no need to go full psychopath. Yet.

5. Run.
For your life, I mean. Pack your essentials, buy a ticket out of town and get the hell out. Let someone else pick up the mess. It worked with your mother, why can’t it work now? Sigh. Dreams are free, right?

4. Shop.
If you can’t actually afford to buy something, then hit up a large department store and window shop. What goes on in that dressing room as you try on clothes that you have no means or intention of buying is nobody’s business but your own.

3. Exercise.
So running away is not for you. Well, try some running but this time make it all about your health. By the time you work out all the fat and pound out your temper, you’ll be red, sweaty, and in the best shape of your life. You might even fit into your aspirational pair of jeans! If nothing else, this lets you take out that forbidden, half-melted credit card for a round of cute exercise gear.

2. Eat.
So you’ll get fat off your steady diet of Hagen Daz milkshakes, but so what? It’ll make you feel better and you can work it off with some more of that rabid exercising or gratuitous sex you’ve already tried and discarded.

1. Blog.
When in doubt and all else fails…

 
28 Comments

Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Life, Personal

 

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On Guzaarish

On <i>Guzaarish</i>

Everything that’s wrong with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie-making is evident in the opening scene of Guzaarish: Sophia (a deliciously zaftig Aishwarya with heavily painted face, wearing some Victorian granny’s trousseau) carefully wakes and takes care of quadriplegic Ethan (Hrithik, in the one avatar left out in Kites: Jesus on the cross). It’s a great scene – or it would have been if we didn’t have Dominique Cerejo singing Smile in the background, reminding us that sadness lurks just beneath the artfully bleached surface.

Everything that’s right with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie-making can be seen in the song Udi by Sunidhi Chauhan: the normally contained Sophia takes Ethan out on the town to celebrate a rare outing and throws off her inhibitions to do it. Ethan is a man who likes to make jokes about all the sex he isn’t getting (among all the other things he can’t do any more) and needle Sophia in the process if he can; Sophia is a woman who keeps tight control of her feelings, quicker to scold than coddle. They’re surrounded by people as she taps along to the rhythm, strums an air guitar, and occasionally breaks into dazzlingly graceful steps – he never takes his eyes off her for a second and she meets them at the end of her uncharacteristic performance, making it absolutely clear that it was all for him.

It’s a searingly intimate moment for these two people. Sophia who knows every inch and working detail of his body, and Ethan who will never see more of her than what she allows him. Some movies can’t evoke that sense of amour even by making the actors take their clothes off.

And that to me is Guzaarish‘s big problem: it’s half a great movie. Because it’s made by that most tragic of beings, half a great film maker.

Personally speaking, here was a subject that pushed my buttons. It’s partly because euthanasia is a topic close to my heart for a number of reasons, not least of which is family history. But also because it addresses my greatest fear: a loss of control.

There is a scene in which Ethan proves a point to the cartoonishly unsympathetic prosecutor (Rajat Kapoor) by locking him up in a box. “I couldn’t move at all!” says the indignant lawyer, gulping in deep breaths. Well, sure. But the bigger issue was that for those terrifying 60 seconds, he was absolutely powerless.

The most vile crimes in our world are when man forcibly exerts control over his fellow man. Torture, rape, murder, home invasions, kidnappings… to find yourself at the mercy of a fellow human being, to have your agency stripped away from you, is grotesque. Ethan, of course, is not victimized by those around him – but the results of their good intentions are the same. And his life is a series of confrontations where he is forced to accept his helplessness. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a nightmare.

A less sentimental filmmaker would have let Ethan’s tragedies speak for themselves: his empty threats that turn to pleading, his fantasies of feeling the surf rush through his elegant feet, the dreams in which he soars on beams of light, the easiness with which people grant or withhold his desires, the way he’s repeatedly urged to remember what his life means to others as though that’s the reason for his existence.

These are not experiences that need particular emphasis or gilding. You’d have to be an unimaginative, insensitive moron if you can sit through a scene in which a doctor (Suhel Seth) threatens to declare his perfectly rational quadriplegic patient mentally unsound if he explores all his legal options and fail to be enraged with an overwhelming sense of WTF.

But storytelling, in all its forms, requires a certain amount of manipulation. You need to take your audience with you. Bhansali, ironically for a man who made a paean to the right to make your own decisions, is hell-bent on dragging you by the arm to a foregone conclusion.

He manages to sneak in a couple of renditions of What a Wonderful World – one by Marianne D’Cruz for a picture-perfect Nafisa Ali and one by Hrithik himself – and underscores Ethan’s utter helplessness with the help of a leaky roof and (a hilariously out-of-place) Makrand Deshpande among other things. He even throws in a languidly morose ex-girlfriend (Monikangana Dutt) who apparently lives in a mausoleum sans furniture and repentant nemesis (Ash Chandler). Worst of all is his protege Omar (Aditya Roy Kapur, lately of Action Replayy), an imbecile wrapped in a hideous pink bow – I kept hoping Sophia would take a knife to him some dark and stormy night but she never did, alas.

More mystifyingly, after making a huge hue and cry about how absolutely everybody is against his decision, the movie is at great pains to show public opinion careening on to Ethan’s side, complete with banners and slogans. “Good luck, Ethan!” smiles a reporter on TV as the judge prepares to deliver his verdict. I mean, I’m sure he appreciated it, but… you know? A little tact, lady.

When Guzaarish fires, though, it’s the hands-down weepie of the year.  “I can’t live without you,” a battered Sophia tells a sulky Ethan. It’s one of those things people say when they fall in love. And then she offers him a way out, because when you love somebody so much that you can’t live without them, you do things for them you would never dream of doing for anyone else.

PS: Because I simply couldn’t resist – here is Robert Downey Jr. (who played the lead in Chaplin) singing Smile.

What? I’m not crying. I have allergies, okay!

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Before RED

Before <i>RED</i>

The best thing about the internet is that some amazing recommendations can come from the unlikeliest places, including random message boards. For instance, I recently found out that long before they made RED, which stands for Retired Extremely Dangerous in the 2010 movie of the graphic novel starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and Brian Cox as a quintet of international intelligence old-timers who take on a high-level conspiracy that threatens their lives, there was Hopscotch (1980).

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Brian Garfield, Hopscotch is about CIA operative Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau) who is REPRetired Extremely Pissed.

It all starts in Berlin, where Kendig, one of those older men in grey whom nobody notices, walks into a beer garden and laconically points out young spies to West German intelligence officers while conducting what appears to be an aria in his head. He leaves the main man alone – that is Yaskov (Herbert Lom), head of the KGB, well-known to Kendig for the past 20 years – so he can confront him alone in the street, remind him gently of West Germany’s great dislike of Soviet spies, and retrieve the sensitive information before sending him on his way.

Yaskov tells Kendig that he could make a run for it. As the thought of the two of them chasing each other all over Berlin comes to Kendig’s mind, he shakes his head: “We’d look like Laurel and Hardy!” he says in disgust. Yaskov agrees, hands it over and lives to fight another day.

Unfortunately for Kendig, things don’t go over as smoothly Stateside where his new boss Myerson (Ned Beatty) is the result of a regrettable internal promotion from the “Department of Dirty Tricks”. Clearly, they frowned at showing civility to a Soviet agent at the DDT, because Myerson turns Kendig into a glorified file clerk awaiting retirement for letting Yaskov go instead of bringing him in.

Or rather, Myerson tries. Kendig walks out of Myerson’s office, proudly decorated with photos of him doing manly things like shoot and fish as well shaking hands with Nixon, and coolly destroys his CIA file, hops on a flight to Salzburg, and arrives just in time to take part in a mysterious, extended conversation about the intricacies of wine with a foreign lady. This is Isobel (Glenda Jackson), a sort-of-former lover and definitely-former agent  who quit to marry well and is now a well-off widow with a fearsome German Shepherd for a companion.

Isobel knows Kendig’s unexpected visit can’t be a good sign. But even she’s surprised when she finds out Meyerson, a little man with an unpleasant expression who decorates his office with pictures of him shaking hands with Nixon, catching fish, and shooting the camera while cautioning his wife against renting their vacation home out to filthy Democrats, is now his boss:

“See-you-next-Tuesday Meyerson?” she asks.

Kendig isn’t quite sure what he’s supposed to do now that he’s out of a job (other than listen to all the opera he wants) but a visit of commiseration from Yaskov gives him an idea – he’s going to write his memoirs! Detailing every last, horrifying, gut-wrenching, underhanded operation he’s been involved with over the past 20 years. Of course, this comes with a side effect of possible assassination as Isobel points out (which leads him to make this face), so he decides to send it out, one chapter at a time, to all the major intelligence agencies of the world.

Myerson is incensed enough to launch a manhunt. Especially since the book is mainly interested in exposing his shortcomings, in more ways than one. “Hello, you short person,” Kendig says cheerfully to a photo of Meyerson before he starts on another chapter. “Pay attention, shorty!”

As the CIA and the KGB (Kendig is spilling quite a bit about them as well and Yaskov is naturally interested in the CIA material, recognizing a valuable source of information if only he can get his hands on him) search for him, much to the amusement of the rest of the world, Kendig has found a nice little hideaway in Myerson’s Democrat-free vacation home. One hilarious (seriously!) bout of bad Southern accents later, the local chapter of the FBI is trying to shoot him out.

“I now know what the FBI stands for,” Myerson says bitterly as his beautiful, expensive house goes up in smoke along with his quarry. “Fucking Ballbusting Imbeciles!”

With Matthau singing The Barber of Seville at the Spanish border, a re-engineered Belgian Tiger Moth that glides in a graceful ballet around an infuriated Myerson, dumb sidekicks, loyal attack dogs, and the always-delightful Sam Waterston as Kendig’s protege-cum-replacement, it’s leagues removed from the kind of spy movies we see today. Myerson clearly won the war as far as pop culture is concerned.

But it’s also the reason why Hopscotch is absolutely ageless. And now available on Criterion. So you really have no excuse.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2010 in Books, Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Rakht Charitra: Suckered Again

<i>Rakht Charitra</i>: Suckered Again

Here’s a sentence I type less and less often as the years go by: I was truly excited to watch Ram Gopal Varma’s new movie. A fictional account of the blood-soaked real life of Andhra Pradesh politician Paritala Ravi, Rakht Charitra sounded interesting and right up RGV’s alley. Gore, politics, revenge, it had to be a knock out of the RGV park.

Well, I don’t know which angel RGV decided to piss off by taking a dump in its bed, but Rakht Charitra is terrible. Not in a lights come on and you look over at your date and immediately apologize for picking this movie of all the tens available kind of way, but in a shoulders slumped in defeat as you slowly huddle into your miserable seat and sadly shake your head way.

Rakht Charitra is an orgy of all the hacky bits of filmmaking that have become the RGV hallmark of late, from mysterious/dizzying camera angles to boomingly obvious background scores to attention-destroying close ups of every other actor’s nostrils… now with the added benefit of the worst narrator ever employed by a movie. Bar none. His one direction seems to have been: “Pretend every word you speak is a breech baby to which you’re giving birth.”

And what words they are! After introducing us to the town of Anandpur, the kind of skeevy, dusty, violence-strewn place that we’ve now come to expect of our rural interiors at the cinema, our narrator helpfully informs us in his over-enunciated, weirdly accented manner that blood is the accepted way to settle things here – especially when it’s a matter of ego, women or privilege. And therefore, he continues, the history of Anandpur is a history of blood. A rakht charitra in fact! So clever.

Apparently RGV only expected idiots to come watch his movie (and yes, I feel like one now, thanks for asking!) because this distressing pattern doesn’t end after the introduction. Instead, the narrator regularly puts in an appearance to thunderously explain a scene, after which you see the scene take place.

  • “The snake is coming out of his lair!” – the villain is about to leave his house.
  • “She didn’t know this then but he had set out on a long journey.” – and our hero hops on a scooter and rushes off to his faraway, troubled homeland.
  • “His ego was hurt by X event so he asked his assistant who was behind this deed.” – three guesses what happens next.

The sad part about all of this, the reason I’m so viciously disappointed, is because there’s actually a good movie hidden somewhere in the middle of this mess, performed by actors who’re pretty good at their jobs.

I feel especially bad for Vivek Oberoi, a man on the Ben Affleck road to redemption, who turns in a what I suspect was a fine performance if only I could penetrate that cacophony of tricks RGV unloads on top of it. There was his (unintentionally) hilarious entry scene, for instance, wherein he exudes menace, riding a Bajaj scooter and opening the unoffending gate of a suburban house in a nice neighborhood so he can ask for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage. The one standout scene, before it succumbed to the everpresent trowel-full of obvious ham, comes late into the film when he stands before the pawn he’s just utilized to his best advantage, standing bathed in the golden glow of the sun, a well-barbered young man in shining white, all the better to appeal to public opinion.

I try really hard to go with the movie presented in front of me, rather than the movie I think ought to exist in its place, but every so often I come across one that is the equivalent of an old friend who greets me by slapping a dead fish in my face. It gets rather difficult to look past the fish to the friend standing beyond. I honestly feel RGV is a man with a lot of interesting, creative ideas who, in the wise words of Tim Gunn, doesn’t know how to edit. So he just sticks everything in there.

Anysmellydeadfish, the movie begins with an easily manipulated politician called Narasimha Reddy whose righteous friendship with his lower caste protege Veer Bhadra lasts all of two watered-down Scotches after it is given the evil eye by a painfully obvious manipulator called Nagamani Reddy (Kota Srinivasa Rao). The fallout results in a simmering caste war that promises to play out at the local elections, threatening to unseat the Reddys from their power base. Nagamani, with Narasimha’s blessing, then takes his grudge just that teensy envelope-pushing bit too far and assassinates Veer Bhadra.

His mantle of idealism thus falls on elder son Shankar (Sushant Singh), who carries it with grief, pride and a healthy dose of guerrilla warfare. This obviously gets him murdered in short order as well, leaving just Pratap (Vivek Oberoi) to carry out the family mission: kill all those who wronged their family and, time and energy permitting, society as a whole.

Unfortunately, once Narasimha and Nagamani have been despatched, with a modicum of elan I might add, Pratap finds his troubles aren’t over. Now Pratap is a wanted terrorist and Nagamani has left behind his infamous son Bukka (Abhimanyu Singh), who “changed the definition of vile” the ever-knowledgeable narrator informs us over a montage of said Bukka being suitably changing the definition of vile. Sigh.

Happily for Pratap, Bukka is an equal opportunity son-of-a-bitch and has succeeded in pissing off Shivaji Rao (Shatrughan Sinha), a carpet-bagging movie star turned politician, whom he hilariously scares away from Anandpur with a few well placed bombs. Outraged that he, the man who regularly beat up entire armies single-handedly on the big screen, was forced to turn tail and run offscreen, Shivaji wants to know: “How can a demon like Bukka exist in a democracy?”

“What do you mean how?” asks his befuddled assistant. “He exists therefore he is.”

I chuckled far more heartily than this little sally deserved but at a certain point, you take your joy where you can get it.

Thus, Shivaji and Pratap join forces – Pratap’s no dummy after all, and he’s powerfully attracted to Shivaji, the most Machiavellian figure he’s ever met, and his amazing ideas like keeping Pratap out of jail by turning him into a politician so he can murder all he wants while staying above the law. Oh, Nagamani, if only you and your pitiful tumblers of Scotch were alive to watch and learn, abashed, the art of skillful manipulation from a man who prefers to stroke the heads of gold tigers than rapey sons.

As the problem of Bukka is solved, with more helpful exposition from the narrator, Pratap sets about his business, cleaning town and taking names. In between all this is an honest cop (Ashwini Kalsekar) who shows up to remind you that honesty never pays, especially in an RGV movie; and various wives, widows, sisters, hookers, pillion-riders, billboard models and girlfriends, all of them sad, desperate and sinned against, except for Nandini (Radhika Apte). Pratap’s college sweetheart turned wife, she is the sort of fool who calmly listens to her beloved telling her he’s indeed a much-discussed murderer who plans to murder again and decides that’s just what she’s looking for in the father of her children. Off she goes to walk silently by his side in the forest and give meaningful looks in the background. She’ll get hers, I guess.

In the sequel! Wherein Pratap will be presented with his butcher’s bill. But apart from the little “scenes from our next movie” they tacked on to the end of this one, I have no idea what that will look like because here’s a sentence I will never use again: I am truly excited to watch Ram Gopal Varma’s new movie.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Spoiled for Good, not Evil

Back when I was a teenage asshole, I used have great fun yelling out important plot points at my extremely spoiler-averse BFF. I think she basically walked around with her hands plastered to her ears for a whole week after Gupt came out until she could see it too.

And then there was me – the girl who’d read Agatha Christie novels back to front because I always “like to know”. It’s earned me a number of puzzled frowns and blank stares over the years, even from fellow ending-addicts who prefer to leave at least their mysteries unspoiled, but it couldn’t be simpler for me: I derive very little satisfaction from figuring out whodunnit, I’m a lot more concerned with how and why. I’m not really looking for a two-in-one “Get a puzzle free with this story” deal.

I’m very specific about what I like.

The ends of things, especially a book, is often a good indicator of what the rest of the material is like. There’s a reason why the most famous line from Gone with the Wind is from the last chapter – that’s where authors often store their best work. A book that peters out or pulls its punches at the climax is not a recommendation, no matter how powerful the prose or sky-high the praise on the cover. I might still pick it up, but I’ll know how to manage my expectations.

Reading Matt Yglesias and Ta-Nehisi Coates on the subject, however, I was reminded of AMC’s Rubicon, which just wrapped up its freshman season this Sunday. I suppose you could call it a sort of bait-and-switch: you’d expect the story of Will Travers (James Badge Dale), an intelligence analyst and “pattern recognition expert” whose chance discovery of a mysterious code leads him down a deep, dark rabbit hole and soon endangers the lives of all those close to him as well as himself, to come with a lot more bells and whistles.

Instead Rubicon‘s the kind of show that the British still make, the ones that are put on a diet of speed and steroids when they decide to remake it for the American market. It’s a show unafraid to take its time, devoted to establishing not just the world in which its story unfolds but also its atmosphere.

Little things about Rubicon appear designed to evoke fleeting memories of uneasiness you might have experienced over the course of your life. I don’t have to be an analyst on the brink of a momentous, life-threatening discovery to understand that feeling of paranoia when you’re walking down a deserted street in the middle of the night and you start imagining that that guy who got off at the same stop as you might be following you home with evil on his mind. I don’t have to be planning catastrophic world events to recognize hushed conversations that fall silent at the sound of high heels clacking on the floor of a temple to modern architecture.

Half the season of Rubicon was seemingly devoted to building these little moments that might have made you impatient at the time but ultimately served to underscore later events. If you hadn’t heard Maggie’s sad observation to Will, “This is the closest we’ll ever come to that lunch date, isn’t it?” or glimpsed her face after her disastrous booty call, the scene where Will confronts her about her betrayal wouldn’t have landed with the punch it did.

But how many people stuck around to watch that take place? Not many if even reviewers needed to be lured back:

At one point, Rubicon was in prime position to set the world record for “slowest paced episodic television show.” I even joked that I wasn’t smart enough to understand Rubicon. As it turned out, though, it wasn’t particularly confusing, it was just boring. Through the first three episodes, no character ever seemed to turn on a light let alone say something interesting. Minutes of screen time would be spent watching a guy we barely knew sit alone in the dark. I’d think, wait, that’s what I’m doing right now; why would I want to watch someone else to that on television?
[...]
Somewhere, around the sixth episode, something happened. I mean that literally — something finally happened. But things kept happening and, most importantly, the characters started developing personalities. I’m not making this up, Kale Ingrim (Arliss Howard) just may be the best character on television right now.

I was hooked early on, but that little nugget about the 6th episode caught my attention since my general rule for a new series that I find interesting is 6 episodes: that’s how long I give it to reel me in, after which, 9 times out of 10, I’m as committed as I can be without a wedding ring. Just ask Bones – I even forgave it that all time low of a season 4 London-based premiere.

But not everybody hangs around as long as I do. Not even me, if I find it heavy going. It took me just three episodes to bid farewell to Boardwalk Empire although it’s apparently going through a renaissance of its own so I might have to revisit and stick around for the full six.

And that’s the point about getting spoiled – if somebody were to tell me “stick around because things improve at such-and-such point when this-and-that happens”, that only makes me more inclined to watch it. Unless those plot points don’t appeal to me at all, in which case I’d be grateful to save my time because the Lord knows there’s no dearth of quality television out there.

But I’m apparently the minority.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Books, Entertainment, Movies, Personal, Review, Television, Video

 

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Cheese Pakora Begorrah

As Winter comes creeping up, I thought the time has come to share with the world the joy of cheese pakoras. Or, as my father likes to call them, “Not Really Pakoras” – a sentiment shared by the entire male sex according my very informal poll. Ingrates.

However, they’re delicious, hot, comforting, easy to make, very forgiving of adaptations, and quite filling for a snack. In short, they’re perfect!

Other than those pesky health issues they’re bound to give you, but who cares about a heart attack tomorrow when you can eat yummy pakoras today, right? Right!

Cheese Pakoras
(serves 2 – or 1 greedy person like myself)

Ingredients:

Cheese – a handful grated or two slices. (You can use any melty cheese although the more fancy ones are really wasted here. Just go for your usual cheddar or Velveeta or similar local variant for best results. And you can adjust the amount of cheese up or down as you prefer too)

Flour – three heaped tablespoons

Egg – one, beaten.

Onion – one half, chopped fine but not minced. (You could substitute one leek or four spring onions, less if you’d rather)

Chillies – One or more, according to taste, red or green, minced is good but not necessary. (You could substitute with jalapenos or even crushed black pepper. I prefer red chillies because those little flecks of red look great in the batter)

Milk – cold, three tablespoons or more, enough to bind without turning the batter into paste. (Substitute with cold water if you’d rather. Do not use hot water because it will melt the cheese and turn the batter runny)

Salt – a pinch. (Seriously, a pinch – because the cheese and egg will make it salty)

Oil – enough to deep fry

Method

First off, if you’re using cheese slices because you haven’t got anything better (ah, college! OR ah, laziness!) in the fridge, then go ahead and dice it up by running a fork lengthwise and widthwise. Use a knife if that works out better for you. If you’ve got grated cheese, then good for you, you’re ready to start.

Beat the egg till frothy with the salt, add the onions and chillies and beat till incorporated. Now add the flour and mix. Tumble in the cheese and give it a couple of turns so everything comes roughly together. Next add three tablespoons of milk to the mixture.

Use the same tablespoon for the flour and the milk if possible so that the measure is consistent. Add more milk if necessary. You don’t want the batter as runny as your usual pakora mix, but you don’t want it to be a sticky dough either. Too runny and the milk will overwhelm the egg and the pakoras will lie limp on the bottom of the pan like octopi suffering from ennui; too sticky and your pakoras will just taste of flour, a gluey warmth that sticks to the roof of your mouth in a decidedly uncomforting way. Your ideal batter should easily flow off the spoon but still roughly hold its shape for a few seconds when it plops back into the bowl.

Don’t stress if your first effort isn’t perfect though – the point of the cheese pakora is for you to relax, make stuff out of things that are already in your fridge and scarf it down (preferably with ginger chai) before you notice anything about it other than its guilty deliciousness. Once you’re hooked and experimenting with these once a week to your doctor’s horror, you’ll soon figure out your sweet spot.

Now as this involves melty cheese, I strongly recommend a nonstick pan. But go ahead and use the sticky kind if the nonstick is still in the wash. Pour tablespoons (yes, the same one with which you measured out your flour and milk) of the batter into the hot oil. Since these are made with egg, they’ll puff up to twice their size, so you’re not being mean with the portions.

Cook on medium-low heat. Stand back because these will spit and spatter as the cheese inevitably comes into contact with the oil. A minute on either side. Remember these are made with ordinary flour and contain cheese, so you don’t want them to turn that reddish brown of your usual pakoras. They’re cooked on one side when they puff up and are ready to be flipped over; take them out when they turn a gentle golden brown all over.

Yields about 10 pieces, crispy on the outside and melty on the inside. Drain and serve with your favorite sauce. I prefer Sriracha or Maggi Hot & Sweet. It goes great with leftover Taco Bell sauce too.

If you share my father’s exacting standards and would rather eat something more traditional, check out the video above. That looks crazy good.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2010 in Life, Personal, Video

 

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Cleanup Detail

SouthIndian mothers are all the same

When Jenny McCarthy was on Oprah recently, she had a funny story about posing for Playboy for the first time – the Bunny-to-be had just stripped down for the shoot when she noticed everybody else was struck dumb. The cause? Her hairy hoo ha.

(Honestly, the things you read on this blog! While you’re at work too, you naughty thing!)

McCarthy didn’t know this was a big deal because, well, why should she? Maybe little girls these days are logging on to the internet and learning that their vajayjays are supposed to look a certain way i.e. the way it used to look before they hit puberty (God, I hope not!) but back in the day, the only person likely to tell you what to do with your bush when growing up was your mom and she was unlikely to hold up porn stars as preferred grooming idols.

Well, those days are over. Behold, the concerned parent of the 21st century: bikini waxing her toddlers for their own good. There’s even a term for this handy service that’s ideally supposed to permanently damage follicles in just a few sessions, eradicating the need for any pesky waxing, shaving or trimming as an adult – Virgin Waxing. The “virgin” in this case apparently refers to the hair growth… you know what? Excuse me a moment while I ask of the universe:

Are you fucking kidding me?!

I admit, I’m fairly conservative when it comes to things like children and their upbringing. I don’t have any but this doesn’t stop me from having opinions all the same. It is the last remnant of my conservative childhood and I hang on to it, because nothing I’ve seen out there has really challenged it or made me even come close to changing my mind.

In the way of tweens, I wanted to get my legs waxed the moment I saw a schoolmate sashay down the hall in her short skirt at age thirteen. I had the skirt all right, but I wanted those legs. Those shiny, shiny legs that looked so very adult.

“I think I’m ready,” I told my mother as she got a manicure at our salon.

“Girls are doing it very early these days,” agreed the man who usually waxed her legs, sizing me up.

Ma looked me in the face and laughed and laughed and laughed. When she finally caught her breath, she said one word: “Chee!” And that was the end of that.

In fact, I’d graduated high school before my mother would let me wax anything at all. And when I got my eyebrows done for the first time as a special treat at age sixteen for my cousin’s wedding, it was a family affair with one of my aunties standing over the poor parlor assistant’s shoulder and loudly whispering, “Don’t cry! Remember not to cry!” as my eyes watered copiously.

Of course, being a good mother, we did have talks about personal grooming. From manicure to shaving sets, cosmetics to creams, the best part of growing up with a mother who has sisters is that there’s no dearth of advice on everything from acne treatments to what is the correct amount of toilet paper.

And we eventually talked about pubic hair – but the emphasis was always on hygiene, not sexuality. In our house, grooming wasn’t just about being attractive. It sounds very corporate sloganish but every summer my grandmother would repeatedly remind me (in case my mother wasn’t doing it enough) that good grooming is about having pride in oneself. You take care of yourself because you deserve it, not to impress other people.

“This is not the way for good girls to walk around the house before the first lamp is lit in the evening,” my grandmother would say. “You should first wash, then powder your face, put on a bindi, comb and tie your hair neatly, change into freshly pressed clothes, and then come downstairs to see the first lamp. That’s what a lady looks like.”

Deep in my rebellious phase when I refused to comb my hair and adopted a hobo style (quite an ingenious feat considering my mother was still buying my clothes), I wasn’t ready to listen. But nobody pulled me down and forcibly combed my hair, nor did anybody force me to change my clothes. At the time, I thought it a victory over the Establishment. Later, I was quite puzzled because the Establishment at our home is quite capable of breaking the backs of little guerrilla efforts like that.

It took me years before I realized that part of the lesson my grandmother and mother were trying to teach me was that self-worth is something only you can determine for yourself. If they’d forced me to look presentable according to their stringent standards, as they well could have at the time, it would only have appeased their sense of worth, their image of a family member, not mine.

I don’t even want to imagine what lesson those little girls with their permanently waxed genitalia are receiving right now.

[Thanks (?), Jan!]

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in Life, Newsmakers

 

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