Confessions of a Hardworking Lazy Ass

We are all lazy at some point. We know what it means to procrastinate. All of us hate it, except that we don’t. We all have read and agreed with all the memes of laziness doing their rounds on the internet. Most of us like to defend our lethargy in one way or other. At times it’s health issues, or sometimes it’s not having enough money or resources or not having the aptitude for it. But more often than not we admit to being lazy and just laugh it off like it’s of no importance. Hell, we even take pride in being the biggest procrastinator in the room and boast about our last minute adventures.

Sometimes, however, not working yourselves hard enough can be tormenting. Not because it affects productivity, but the lack of it causes a lot of stress. It gives you the under achiever’s complex. It gives ME the under achiever’s complex. I feel like I should get a lot of things done in a day; I make heartfelt promises to myself only to lose track of time while watching some K-drama. And just like that the whole day flies away, then a whole week and then a month and I look back and realise that I haven’t moved an inch. At that point I DETEST myself. I regret having been a good-for-nothing sloth and immediately get planning in order to mend my ways. In the evening that day, my husband gets home, knows my mood is off, knows why it’s off and reads a list of the things that I have accomplished since the three years that we know each other.

That lifts my spirits up but only so much. Deep down I get this feeling of fooling him into thinking that I am a hard worker. I don’t really deserve his pride, or anyone else’s for that matter. No doubt I am in a much better place career wise, but it’s not enough. It isn’t enough that I take care of the house all by myself, make meals twice a day (most of the times) and still manage to earn a lot more freelancing than I would have at a full time job. It isn’t enough that my work is my passion. It is not enough that I do this even with my chronic headaches. It just isn’t enough!

This is probably because I know full well that I am capable of accomplishing so much more, but that’s where my lazy ass gets in the way. When it comes to being lazy, I reckon that I have an angel and a demon, each perched on my shoulders, whispering warnings and sermons into my ears.

The demon lures me into the temptation of procrastination. He makes me believe that it’s not necessary I work up to my full potential. He lets me think that I should allow myself the privilege of doing nothing because I suffer from everyday migraine. He nudges me with an elbow and says, “It’s okay! You can order food today. You cooked lunch. It’s fine if you spend an exorbitant amount on that Chinese place you like for dinner!”

The angel wakes up late. The angel always appears at hindsight. He just gives me looks full of disapproval. That’s enough to tell me that I am only looking for excuses of putting my work away as much as I can. I can see him look me up and down and that lets me know how much out of shape I have gotten.

The demon again pops his head and whispers, “Hmph! So what if you have grown fat? It’s not like you can resume jogging! Not with that headache!”

The angel just narrows his eyes and the demon purrs, “Oh come on! That chocolate is just to make you feel better!”

The demon lets me sin and the angel judges. I sin and I judge. And on and on it goes, even late into the night. And that results in the formation of this blog post.

 

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1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – Book Review – Spoiler Free and Minimum Plot Reveals!

You can love a book for its story or the way that it is told, the characters or plot intricacies or for the feeling that settles into your gut as a post-reading experience. And that is what 1Q84 did for me. It crawled into my skin, made home within and gave me this unsettling feeling, which, try as I might could not dust off.

It is evident from the title of the book, that it has got to do something with George Orwell’s 1984. While 1984 thrives on a futuristic, post war dystopian world, Murakami plays with parallel universes. His female protagonist, Aomame slips into an other worldly Tokyo that has many eerie situations to offer. Aomame struggles, and I struggled with her to make sense of her surroundings. It becomes even more complicated with the arrival of the male protagonist, Tengo who has a penchant for writing.

Aomame, who is secretly a moral assassin and Tengo, who treads a dangerous path of ghost writing for a dyslexic teen girl are both thrown into a sequence of sinister incidents that they must first recognize, understand and then escape. What is remarkable is how the author builds a painfully slow connection between Aomame and Tengo. It was as though someone gave me the daunting task of listening to a chalk scrape against a blackboard in slow motion. Having said that, I certainly don’t mean that the story is boring. It is interesting in an abnormal way.

Although at the base of it all, it can be termed as a love story, calling it that would be a description taken out of context. Aomame and Tengo who are worlds apart, and not metaphorically in that, encounter some if the finest book characters who have distinct personalities supported by great past stories. The book becomes even more gripping due to its non-linear format where the reader travels back and forth in time with the reminiscing characters.

I was most fascinated with ‘the Little People’, who serve as yet another disturbingly magical concept. At the centre of the plot, lies a religious cult group, that is trying to erase the evidences of a crime they may or may not have committed. In the midst of all this brooding environment, Aomame and Tengo must figure where they stand – both individually and together. The manner in which Murakami manages to weave in some great insights to life and philosophical views, is only proof of what a fantastic writer he is!

As for the ending, I wasn’t particularly impressed by it. I felt like I skipped twenty pages just before the climax. The struggle and tension that slowly but surely builds through the book, just collapses towards the end without a final edge. I felt that the ending was a bit too easy, too convenient. But then again, that goes well with the general unsettling feeling that the book provides.

All in all, the tale is gripping and won’t let you be on cloud nine for most days while you’re at it and that is exactly why you should volunteer for the experience. In a nutshell, please read 1Q84!

 

 

Dilemma of a Modern Writer

“Makrand, please! Try to understand my point of view!” Pankaj spoke into the phone.

“What other point of view could you have than saving your own skin?” Makrand snapped.

A brief silence followed.

“This is when you should apologise, don’t you think?”

“Look Pankaj. I’m sorry mate. But I am not willing to-”

“Your will does not matter at this time! You have to take desperate measures during desperate times. And this, right now, IS desperate!”

“What if I refuse?”

“Then your job is on the line.” Pankaj sighed. “All the sales team wants is numbers! Look Makrand, between you and me I know this is stupid. You are a very talented writer. But please, please silence your ego this once. Just be back in the game. Just for a couple of months, until we get our readership back, write what the readers want to read.”

“And what do the readers want to read? Oh, I’ll tell you. They want me to write stories of modern city girls being forced to marry. They want me to stop being creative and whine about the atrocities against women. And not even the real deal! Oh because who wants to read what happened to some farmer’s wife in Khandesh, right? They want me to write bull-crap stories under the name of feminism when not even half of them understand what it means! Have you SEEN what the writers spew, Pankaj? Their readers are those women who are nicely tucked away in the warmth of their perfect families only to dwell on shitty stories of kitchen politics and show their good-for-nothing support in the comment section. Have you seen…have you really taken the time to READ those blogs? And those comments? They are pathetic! PATHETIC, I tell you!”

“You’re being a little harsh don’t you think? These are real problems. And women DO connect with these kind of stories because they live them at some point or the other. They may not be national issues but they are real problems.”

“I know they are and I sympathise with them. But I’m a writer, Pankaj! Every muscle, every bone within me is born to write and write good! And you lot are just trying to convert me into a machine. A machine that manufactures the same stories, the same plots over and over again. Just to appease the masses. And now you want me to write listicles? Are you kidding me? 10 reasons why your BFF, huh, B.F.F. is your sister! 15 times Virat Kohli showed us that he’s the man! 20 things you should do before you turn 20. 15 reasons why you shouldn’t get married! Bah! You want listicles? I’ll give you one! A 1000 reasons why you should hire monkeys to do my job! There! That should be a good one, no?” Makrand paused to calm his nerves.

Pankaj spoke again, “Times are changing, Makrand. It’s not a George Orwell anymore that takes the crown! And our company doesn’t want to produce one either. We’re not a publishing house, Makrand. And I don’t mean to touch a raw nerve here, but you know what happened the last time you approached one. We all do things we’re not proud of on our way to success. I don’t want you to lose your job to some fresher who’s going to Google their articles. I want someone who keeps their head on their shoulders while working.”

“What do you want me do?” Makrand asked, surrendered.

“First, I want you to focus on topics that are a sure shot success. You know, tear-jerkers for instance. Stories on friendship, someone dying of an illness…”

“Those I write already..”

“No no, your writing is too symbolic, too advanced. You need to take it down a notch. Keep it comprehensible. Our target audience is not keen on knowing how well you perform as a writer. They just want articles that vent out their feelings. They are frustrated by the injustice around them. They want to see that reflected in your writing. They want you to make their point.”

“Right. So writing skills don’t matter.” Makrand made a statement as though taking notes, but his sarcasm got through.

“They do! But, not all that much. You know we need to keep publishing blog posts twice a week. We want posts that our audience agrees with. We don’t want to keep any room for disagreement whatsoever.”

“So you want me to step down from my skills, those skills that I think sets me apart from the rest, and write in order to get more shares and likes on Facebook. My experimentation won’t be rewarded. In fact, I might be sacked for it…for trying to do better.”

“If you do better then no one will sack you. But what do you mean by doing better, Makrand? We’re not distributing Pulitzers here. You know how we measure the success of a post, don’t you?”

“Yeah, by the number of likes and shares you get on Facebook for it.” Makrand drawled.

“Precisely. Oh and tweets count too.” Makrand ‘s bitter tone was apparently lost on Pankaj. He continued gleefully, “And the second thing I want you to do, is drop your attitude.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh come on Makrand! I’ve seen you criticize other bloggers left and right! You think you’re the only one who is true to his writing. The only one with principles and all…an honest writer. Well guess what? Everyone has the right to write. Whether or not they’re good at it. Any Tom, Dick and Harry should be given a chance to express themselves in anyway they like. Just because they don’t get their spellings right, doesn’t mean that they should not be allowed to write at all.”

“I never said people shouldn’t write! For crying out loud, they should!” Makrand cried, now unable to contain his frustration. He stopped for a moment to regain some of his control and said, “Okay, here’s the deal. What really irks me is that these stupid, horribly written sad excuses of blog posts get more likes than those that I pour my heart and soul into. I burn the midnight oil, I struggle to outdo myself with every next article, I…I know my articles are worthy of appreciation…a lot more worthy than that stupid…STUPID trash that they keep sharing on social media! Everyone can write. Anyone can write! If fact they should, I say, they should! But what’s happening to the readers??? What’s wrong with the audience, Pankaj? Can’t they tell what is good writing anymore? Don’t they flinch at bad grammar and misconstruction of sentences? Just like a writer, Pankaj,  a true reader’s loyalty should lie with the language!”

“Oh for heaven’s sake, Makrand!” Pankaj hissed. “Its not always about the correctness or the righteousness! How many times do we have to go over this? Look mate, I know this is hard for you. But you must realise. What is the most important job of a writer? Connecting with his readers.”

“No it’s not.” Makrand cut it. “It’s staying true to their writing.”

Pankaj sighed. “Okay. What will you have me do, Makrand? Do you want me to go and tell the sales head that you won’t be writing for us anymore?”

“If that’s what you think is right, then suit yourself.”

“No that is NOT what I think! I do not want you to leave because it would be too sad and unfair. If it was up to me, I’d have gladly let you experiment with your writing. Okay how about this? For now, you write what we tell you to write. Plain, simple stuff. You know our readers don’t have the time neither are they in the mental state to read long complicated articles. If they had so much time, they’d be reading a book, not checking the social media. Most of our readers are office goers, Makrand. They just want something that can act as a background noise for their stressful day. They want things that they can agree with and quickly. Something that can entertain them during their 5 minute coffee break. Now you write and write like an obedient employee. And I’ll have a word with the management. I’ll try to convince them to open a new segment for you. Where you can write what you wish. All that excites you and makes you feel proud and everything that you just said. But this current segment has to change its course. It has to change from class to mass if we want to sustain in the business. How about it?”  Pankaj asked hopefully.

Makrand smiled at the effort that his friend was taking to persuade him. He knew his morals were not going to bring him money. He knew he’d have to mend his ways and adapt. Adapt to the changing times. He’d have to throw his creative writing out of the window momentarily. He’d have to descend from excellence to average in order to survive. A small “okay” was all Makrand could manage to say to his friend. He hung up abruptly and got to work.

He turned on his laptop and started typing. He opened his article with the title, “The vandalized mosque”. Then frowned and erased it. Now he wrote, “10 reasons why you should befriend a Muslim.”

***The End***

Feature Image Source: magxim.com

Sister Sister.

Meg, my twin and I grew up under the watchful eye of our loving parents. Unlike most kids at school, our childhood was smooth-sailing and without complications. Our mother was an at-home Mom and also a PTA member. Dad had his own printing press just 2 miles away from home. For most days, he came home in time for dinner. It was imbibed in us that dinner time was family time. We would say our prayers and dig into the lovely food prepared by Mom’s skilled hands and share with each other all that passed in the day. Our family was picture perfect.

Until one day, when Gary came into the picture. Gary was Meg’s boyfriend. Tall and lean, sporting a leather jacket and torn jeans, hair loaded with gel, Gary was as different from us as one could be. The day Meg brought him home, Mom and Dad fell silent. Their disappointment was evident on their faces. “Hey guys! This is Gary. I have been seeing him for the past couple of weeks.” she introduced Gary. I wasn’t fond of Gary myself. As the days progressed, he seemed to be bringing out the worst in Meg.

Later, I tried to broach the topic myself a number of times. Sometimes I dropped subtle hints and at other, I would openly confront her. But Meg would just boil up with anger. She was not easy to talk to. She was, and I agreed to this reluctantly, my “Evil Twin” as some of my friends had christened her. Even as a child, Meg threw more tantrums. She bossed me around and stole my toys. There used to be bite marks on my hands and cheeks. I, on the other hand, was a bit of a pushover. Meg had always been a rebel. Although my parents loved both of us equally, I tended to respond to that love in kind a little more than Meg. It might be my imagination, but Mom and Dad were far more lenient with Meg than with me. Meg was the problem child and even so I always found myself getting punished more often. But then, they also seemed to pay more attention to me and tended to satisfy my needs and wants more.

Over the past four months of dating Gary, Meg was getting involved with him deeper and deeper. My parents, in turn, grew more and more anxious with each passing day. Meg’s relationship with Gary was taking a toll on her behaviour with all of us. The usual relaxed environment of our home was quickly getting replaced by a strained one.

“Why don’t you talk some sense into her, Mom?” I asked my Mom one day as I sat on the dining table peeling peas for her. My Mom turned to look at me. “Kelly?”

I frowned. “Yeah? I said you and Dad should make Meg understand that Gary is not right for her.”

“Well, we have tried to tell her, haven’t we?”

“Mom! It’s clearly not enough. Can’t you see how she’s changing? She’s becoming rude and arrogant and even aggressive! I would have grounded her but I am only her sister and you know how she…how she throws things at me when she’s angry.But you two are her parents! She HAS to listen to you!”

Mom sighed. “I will have a word with her tonight.” “Tonight?” I asked tentatively. Mom nodded curtly. Then she gave me a penetrating look and turned away hesitantly. I saw her blink away her tears just before facing her back to me. Mom too was worried sick about this Gary thing and rightfully so. Meg was her daughter after all. She couldn’t bear to watch her own daughter’s downfall.

At dinner time all four of us ate our food in silence. “Meg?” Mom began awkwardly looking at me. Meg didn’t answer. I nudged her with my elbow. “What?” Snapped Meg. Mom and Dad both looked up at me sharply. “Go on!” I mouthed at them.

“Listen, I know we’ve been through this many times already.” Mom started. Meg glared at her pausing abruptly from carving her lamb. “Look,”Mom continued quickly. “I am not saying that you should break up with Gary. Just maybe reduce meeting him so often?”

“And why would I want to do that?” Meg countered.

“Meg!” I interrupted. “You know we are worried about you. Gary is…he’s different you know? We are afraid that he’s going to drag him down with you.”

“Look, it’s none of your business alright? You just stay out of it.” Meg glowered at me.

“See? This is what I’m talking about! Meg, you’re becoming so arrogant these days! Not caring about what your family feels. That day you threw a vase at my head, Meg! That could have seriously injured me!”

“SERIOUSLY INJURED YOU? BUT IT DIDN’T,DID IT?” Meg was now wild with anger. What followed next,was something that would not even be my wildest imagination. Meg turned her carving knife in her hand, pointed it down at the table and brought it down towards my left hand in full speed. Before I could even comprehend or see what was about to come at me,  the knife had pierced through my hand and I shouted more in shock than in pain. The excruciating pain, though, followed a moment later.

“KELLY! NOOOOO!” I saw my parents rush towards me. I was shaking from head to toe and I whirled around to look at Meg. She was already out of sight. Waves of intense agony were shooting up my arm and I wailed loudly. I saw the blood gushing out of my punctured palm and I could handle it no more. The panicked faces of my parents swam in front of my eyes. Darkness started building around me and I was soon completely enveloped by it. I had blacked out.

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“She’s blacked out..Oh..oh dear!” Carrie said between sobs.

“I’ve called 911. They’ll be here in no time. It’ll be okay. I have also called-” Jim tried to console his wife.

But Carrie cut in. “Okay? Okay, Jim? What about this is okay? Is MEG okay? Is Gary OKAY? IS KELLY OKAY?”

“Shh..” Jim put his arm around Carrie and rocked her back and forth gently. “For now we have to focus on taking Kelly to the ER.” No sooner than he had said this, that the noise of sirens echoed outside their house.

Jim ran into the living room and flung open the door. A team of three paramedics rushed in. “In the kitchen! She’s unconscious!” Jim shouted at them.

“Stretcher!” One of them shouted to the other two. The two men ran back outside to get the stretcher while the third followed Jim into the kitchen carrying a medical kit.

He threw a quick glance around and got to work. “Explain how this happened?” He said as he opened his first aid box urgently.

“She…she stabbed herself.”Carrie told him. The paramedic frowned at this. “What? Why?”

“She..didn’t know what she was doing.” Jim answered.

“Mr. Fischer! I’m coming in!” A voice called from behind them and a young man rushed in to the scene. “Oh dear…he said. Meg?”

“Who’s Meg?” The paramedic demanded.

“OUT OF THE WAY PLEASE!” Bellowed the other two paramedics who had brought the stretcher in now. They held Kelly’s limp form tightly by the shoulder and legs and hoisted her onto the stretcher.

“Mr. Fisher, please explain the situation as quickly as possible.” Said the paramedic in a polite but professional manner and quickly drew out a writing pad to which a form was clipped. “And who is Meg?”

Jim and Carrie were both pale and looked sick. . The young man who’d just come in stepped forward. “No one.” He said. “Meg is no one. I am Dr. Gary Micheal. Kelly Fischer here was put under my care. She has a severe case of schizophrenia. You can have my card.” Saying this, he drew out a visiting card from his jacket pocket and handed it to the paramedic.

The paramedic looked him up and down eyeing his strange choice of clothes for a doctor – a brown leather jacket and torn jeans.

“Mr.Fischer,” Gary turned to Jim. “Please, explain.”

“Kelly imagines that she has a twin sister. She calls her Meg. It’s been 5 years now. Initially, Meg used to appear only sometimes. Now she has become a huge part of her life. So much so that Meg runs her life! She controls it! Today, she attacked herself thinking that Meg attacked her. She had a row with herself over Dr. Gary, who Kelly thinks is a delinquent and also Meg’s boyfriend.” At this point Jim broke down. Carrie rubbed his back gently.

“Continue the rest in the ambulance, please.” the paramedic gestured them all out of the house.

Within five minutes all six of them crammed into the vehicle with Kelly sprayed across the stretcher in between.

Jim was about to continue with the details of the event when he noticed Kelly stir.

“Kelly!” Jim cried. Carrie bent over Kelly too.

“We’re right beside you, sweetie.  It’s going to be fine, Kelly.” Carrie said softly.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s me, Meg. Who’s Kelly?”

 

***The End***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Audio Narration

It is not every day that I make myself proud. It takes a lot even for me, to please myself. I am more often than not critical of what I do. This time however, on this one rare occasion, I am very, very pleased with what I have managed to procure. An audio narration of one of O Henry’s finest works…The Gift of the Magi. After plugging in Stephen Fry’s Harry Potter series in my ear for long hours and being enthralled by it for over the past month, I finally gathered the courage to build an audio book in my own voice. When I started recording this short story, it almost felt like it was my calling! It is not the result that has brought a proud smile to my face, but the effort that I willingly and passionately put in to arrive at it. This little project has brought me far greater joy than most of my commercial recordings.

And I am hardly the judge, but O Henry is such a writer whose words you do not read, but they jump into your mouth themselves, only to be cited with the right emotion, at the right place and pauses, and with just the right amount of emphasis and force, metering themselves into just the flow that can only be called, perfectly appropriate. And lastly, I am weirdly thankful to him that he died over a 100 years ago leaving his work of short stories into the public domain such that the likes of me could record and publish them under creative commons without facing the wrath of the daunting copyright issues.

Go ahead, sit back and relax and lose yourself into a 15 minute audio ride of The Gift of the Magi!

The Diary of a Face Blind Ghost

NOTE: Face blindness is a brain disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces. Face blindness is thought to be the result of abnormalities, damage, or impairment in the right fusiform gyrus, a fold in the brain that appears to coordinate the neural systems that control facial perception and memory.

Source: http://www.medicinenet.com

Feature Image Courtesy: http://www.friendshipcircle.org

I remember the odd, taste deep in my throat, like I ate metal. I remember the taste of my own blood. I remember what made me taste it and who. I remember it was Bad Mom. I remember Bad Mom’s sweet voice, almost a whisper.

I remember when mother died. I remember when they took her away. I remember how it all happened. I remember how bitterly father wept. Twice. First when mother was gone and second, when I.

I remember the fall…the great, great fall. I remember bad Mom’s cold, sweet “Goodbye”. I remember staring into the hard ground, the land flying up to me in seconds. I remember the contact. I remember the pain. The pain that was present everywhere in my body, but my head the most.

I remember the shrill voice, the voice of Bad Mom, the loudest it had ever been. I remember father running towards what lay of me on the ground. I remember father’s screams and his trembling hands.

I remember how father gently gathered me in his arms. I remember the siren. I remember the lights and the moving bed. I remember the new voices shouting and strangers lifting me up. I remember a strange beep and then nothing at all.

I remember the dark and I remember the cold.

And then…I remember me looking at me like never before. I remember my hands and I remember my legs. I remember father’s sobs but…

The man crying beside my body….I do not remember. I remember my father’s face, but this man’s is strange and crooked. I remember what Bad Mom looks like. But this wailing woman I do not recognise. I remember floating above three figures. One was lying motionless on the bed. Now all I remember is a woman standing behind a man and the man kneeling by the bedside.

I remember the fall, the great, great fall. I remember Bad Mom’s cold, sweet “Goodbye”. I remember father’s crying face. But these three people, I do not remember.

 

Fall Colours to Fall in Love With – Japan

The only reason we postponed our trip to Japan from October to November, was because we wanted to witness the vibrant fall colours. Both my husband, Daniel and I hail from western India and spotting autumn colours here is as common as finding a penguin in the Sahara desert. So no matter what, we wanted to experience autumn in all its glory even if it meant enduring the biting cold weather. And boy was it worth it! The beauty of the shrines, the spotless streets and alleys and the rivers and lakes increased ten-fold! Therefore, now, I proudly present to you the unforgettable red and yellow hues of ‘Japan in November’.

#1 Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto (12/11/2016)

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#2 Opposite Heian Shrine, Kyoto (12/11/2016)dsc_0342

#3 Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto (12/11/2016)

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#4 Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto (15/11/2016)

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#5 Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama, Kyoto (15/11/2016

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#6 Himeji Castle (16/11/2016)

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#6 Koyasan (18/11/2016)

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#7 Fuji-Kawaguchiko (21/11/2016)

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Looking down at Lake Kawaguchiko from the ropeway.

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#8 Some random picturesque scenes that I just could not not include!

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Somewhere near Kiyomizudera, when we lost our way to the main temple.

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Walking down the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, were these little autumn decorations.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post. For more on what to eat in Japan go visit my previous blog post:  WASHOKU AND OTHER JAPANESE FOOD – WHERE TO FIND WHAT

Washoku and Other Japanese Food – Where to Find What

It hasn’t been too long since our honeymoon in Japan. Apart from the gorgeous sights of the fall colours the one thing that we terribly miss each day is the food! While organising the photos from our various gadgets, I thought to myself, “Hey! Why not make a Japanese food blog?” and here I am typing into my laptop getting all excited and nostalgic!

Here’s a list of all the Japanese food items, both recommended and not so recommended, that we ate or passed by during our 15 day trip including Kyoto, Osaka, Fujikawaguchiko (Mount Fuji) and Tokyo.

#1 Japanese sweets at Haneda Airport (Tokyo)

So we had just landed in Japan and our excitement knew no bounds. Although we did relax a bit on taking a ton a photos as the trip progressed, the initial madness resulted in us pointing and clicking away at whatever we laid our eyes on. These are images of typical Japanese sweets. They were so elegant and delicate looking that we didn’t have the heart to eat them. Or that is what we told ourselves because they were far from being pocket friendly.

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#2 Melonpan and Other Bakery Items

Food wise, Japan impressed us most with its bakery items! Since most of Japan and Kyoto more so, must be traveled on foot, it gives a much wider scope to explore local restaurants or food stores. One such we encountered was a small bakery while treading our way to Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto.

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Although we were stuffed enough with scrumptious breakfast our host had served us early morning, we couldn’t commit the crime of just walking past this store especially when its sweet smell wafted into our noses. We stepped into a world of a variety of delicious looking breads, cakes, pasties and rolls. Everything looked both wonderful and expensive at the same time.

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Melonpan

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So we decided to grab a single melonpan for both of us and as we bit into the sweet bread we knew at once that we would be eating a lot of these everyday. It was the lightest, airiest and melt-in-mouth bread we had ever tasted. During the next few days of the trip, we were delighted to know that supermarkets like the Seven-Elevens and Family Marts also keep these at a much cheaper rate. But there’s a world of a difference in the way they taste. So if you’re travelling Japan like us for a limited number of days, don’t give it much thought to spend a little extra on baked items offered in local bakeries. They are positively much much better than what you’ll find in chain stores.

#3 Ginkakuji Temple

The small street that leads to the temple sells souvenirs and snacks. We relished these shu cream puffs and chicken karaage and takoyaki. I had heard a lot about takoyaki but neither Daniel nor I enjoyed them a lot. The filling inside was too soggy and undone. I don’t know whether they are supposed to be that way or we ate the wrong ones. But the cream puffs- all three kinds- Matcha, caramel and vanilla flavoured were just awesome!

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#4 Kyoto Station – The Food Heaven

Daniel and I both instantly fell in love with Kyoto station and without a doubt this became my favourite place to be in all of Japan. It is nothing like a station ought to be. The night view is so romantic and breathtaking! It has a huge open staircase that covers ten stories and, of course, an elevator alongside. The last floor is all about food! Among others like pizza, pasta and curry-rice stores, there are plenty of ramen shops which are all equally crowded and you must wait in queues for seats to get empty. But here’s where Japan excels. Outside every store is a vending machine which displays the menu with images of the dishes where you must pre-order, pay and get a coupon. On one hand it seems that the queue is getting longer but on the other, people keep gushing out and the seats keep getting empty quickly.

We ate huge bowls of pork and chicken ramen to our heart’s content and all the exhaustion of air travel was long forgotten.

#5 Fushimi-Inari Taisha Street Food, Kyoto

After attempting the 3 hour trek of Fushimi Inari and failing at it halfway for being out of shape we consoled ourselves with a vanilla soft serve each before starting the descend to the base. By the time we came down the hill, we were famished and were relieved to find a narrow lane full of food stalls just before exiting the premises.

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This guy posing happily for all his customers

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Rice cake dipped in sweet soy sauce

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Potato fries. These were too oily and strictly OK taste-wise

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Bacon wrapped o-nigiri or rice balls topped with pickled ginger. These were the best of the lot. Too bad we didn’t find these anywhere else again.

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As amazing as this looks, there’s really just about a spoonful of actual juice and a lot more pulp that ends up getting wasted. And if I remember correctly, it’s not worth 200 JPY.

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This desert was superb! Both the custard and chocolate varieties were delicious!

#6 Mount Fuji – Hoto Noodles and Fuji shaped food stuff

During our pre-tour research we read a lot of great reviews about Hoto noodles which are only found in Fuji. So we looked forward to try these once we reached Fuji Q Highland. We ordered one all mushroom and one pork hoto noodles. Personally, I didn’t find them all that great. Since I had already tasted ramen a couple of times before and had fallen head over heels for it, I found these thick noodles a little too rubbery and the stew salty. The one attractive element though, is the way it’s served. Plus, it’s too much for a single person. So if you’re hell bent on trying this make sure you order just one between two persons.

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Fuji-san shaped cookies. We bought these near lake Kawaguchi

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Mt Fuji shaped ice candy. Although it was biting cold outside, we snacked on this while waiting for our bus that would take us back to Tokyo and kept fighting for the white jelly on top.

#7 Osaka ExpoCity

We were dizzy with joy when we exited the Pokemon Gym in ExpoCity, Osaka. To top that, we lunched in Gundam cafe and everything we ordered was worth the money.

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You can select the character of your choice for your mug of hot chocolate

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Omurice and Alfredo pasta

#8 Osaka Bay

Of all the places we traveled in Japan, this is the most happening. It is a whole picnic package! It offers a host of experiences including a cruise, a popular aquarium, a ferris wheel towering over the city and Tempozan market place that has some of the best mall foods.

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After ordering these chicken and pork cutlet rice bowls we went straight to the mall’s balcony that looks over the wide and windy bay area. This was hands down one of our most remembered lunches of the trip.

#9 Himeji

As soon as you step out of the Himeji station, you can find the Himeji castle peaking from above the high trees that line the sidewalks of a single stretch of road that separates you and the castle. It is best to walk this street than wait for a bus. It was nearly 10 a.m. in the morning as we picked up speed towards Himeji castle and scanned the area for lunch options we would be needing on our way back. We noticed a small family run store that served Unagi or eel rice bowls and sure enough, we dropped in here for lunch.

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This was by far the best teriyaki chicken! The mayo, the bed of rice, the pickled daikon radish and miso soup, each balanced the other out perfectly.

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The Unagi was grilled to perfection and the seasoning was light and delicious. We thought it was a lot like Bombay Duck both in taste and texture and enjoyed it to bits.

#10 Odaiba (Tokyo)

This man-made island holds a lot of interesting buildings. One of the most visited is DiverCity mall because of its iconic Gundam statue. This was also our first shopping stop in a notably huge Daiso store where we shopped till we dropped. As we entered the food mall in the same building, we saw it was bustling with energy and all stalls disappeared behind long queues. With no choice left we opted for Okonomiyakis (more like sizzlers than the authentic self-grilling ones) and concluded our lunch with cream filled crepes.

#11 Okonomiyaki and Monjayaki in Asakusa (Tokyo)

Thanks to our friends residing in Tokyo, we were introduced to this extremely local place, the kinds we see in J-dramas! For me this was a dream come true! Tiny places which could hardly be called restaurants, serving the popular green bottled beer and mixed smells of grilled meat and alcohol. I felt like a reporter going under cover for a story! We entered this uncomfortably small restaurant cum bar and settled in plastic chairs in a corner, surrounding a heated grilling pan.

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Spinach and cheese Okonomiyaki *** Highly Recommended***

#12 Narita Airport

This was our final meal which was carefully chosen after counting all the small change we were left with. This turned out to be the best departure brunch Japan could bid us farewell with – Omurice, sausages and Spaghetti Carbonara!

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#beingaajoba

“अगं आधी माझ्याकडे भरपूर नवीन कपडे आहेत ते बघ. त्यातूनच काहीतरी काढ शोधून.”, इति आजोबा.
माझ्या लग्नात आजोबांनी कोणते कपडे घालावे हे ठरवण्याकरता मी त्यांचं कपाट उघडलं. आजोबांकडे फार काही मोठं ‘wardrobe collection’ नाही हे तर मला माहित होतं, पण त्यांच्याकडे इतके कमी कपडे असतील ह्याचा मला त्या मोकळ्या, ओसाड पडलेल्या खणांकडे बघून शोध लागला.
”आजोबा! तुमच्याकडे फक्त ११ शर्ट आहेत आणि त्यातलं तुमच्या म्हणण्याप्रमाणे असलेलं सगळयात नवीन कापड हे किमान ५ वर्ष जुनं आहे!”
“अगं! थांब तुला सफारी दाखवतो माझ्या!” असं म्हणत आजोबा माझ्या आत्यांच्या लग्नात घातलेले कपडे दाखवायला ‘माझ्याकडे बघ किती खजिना आहे!’ अशा थाटात पुढे सरसावले. आजीनी कपाळावर हात मारला. २० वर्षांपूर्वीचे कपडे म्हणजे ”तसा नवीनच आहे. मी कुठे घातलाय एवढा?” असं म्हणणाऱ्या माझ्या आजोबांना मी “looks” देत आईबाबाबांना म्हटलं, “चायला, आपण आजोबांची शॉपिंग खूपच lightly घेतली. पहिलं त्यांना घेऊन जाऊ उद्या.”
‘माझ्या आजोबांचे कपडे’ हा एकंदरीतच घरातला आवडीचा विषय. त्यांचा घरी घालायचा एकमेव गुलाबी शर्ट असो किंवा त्यांचा भोक पडलेला ‘गंजी फ्रॉक’ असो. आणि होय, आमच्याकडे बनियन ला ‘गंजी फ्रॉक’च म्हणतात.
पण ह्याच माझ्या आजोबांबद्दल एक पुस्तक लिहून काढता येईल एवढे कंगोरे त्यांच्या व्यक्तिमत्त्वाला आहेत. स्वतः वर कधीही वायफळ खर्च न करणारे, नाका समोर चालणारे, भरपूर वाचन करणारे, सगळ्या नातवंडांना इंग्लिश आणि संस्कृत शिकवणारे, रोजचे वर्तमानपत्र छापणाऱ्यानेही बघितले नसेल इतक्या बारकाईने वाचणारे, गोडाचे महाशौकीन, तल्लख बुद्धी आणि माझ्यावर सगळ्यात जास्त जीव असलेल्या आजोबांविषयी आज उगीचच लिहावासं वाटलं.
वयाच्या ३०व्या वर्षापासूनच आजोबांचा एक डोळा काचबिंदूमुळे पूर्ण बंद आणि दुसरा मोतिबिंदूमुळे फक्त २५% काम करतो हे मला ५वीत समजलं. कारण त्यांच्या वागण्याबोलण्यातून कधी जाणवलच नाही मला! त्यांनी कधी त्याचा स्तोम नाही माजवला की कौतुक नाही केलं. मी जी २६ वर्ष त्यांना ओळखते त्यात एकदाही “मला दिसत नाही. मला जमणार नाही” असं वाक्य मी त्यांच्या तोंडातून ऐकलं नाही.
मी घरातलं शेंडेफळ; माझ्या आजी आजोबांची सगळ्यात धाकटी नात. माझ्या २६व्या वर्षातसुद्धा मला आजी आजोबा आहेत, ते ही जसे होते तसे, ह्यासारखं दुसरं luck तरी काय? लग्नानंतर मध्ये गणपतीला घरी आले तेव्हा आजोबा वयाच्या ८७व्या वर्षी, मला हवी म्हणून बासुंदीसाठी ५लिटरचे अडीच लिटर होईपर्यंत दुध आटवत बसले होते. आजी त्यांच्या मागे बासुंदीची इतर तयारी करत उभीच होती.
वयाच्या पंचाहत्तरीपर्यंत पार्ला ते दादर up-down करून, भर भर पावलं टाकत संस्कृतच्या शिकवण्या करायला जायचे. त्यांच्या मते रिक्षा करणे हे महा पाप करण्यासारखं असल्यामुळे अर्धा अर्धा तास चालत जायचे सगळीकडे. आणि एखादवेळेस रिक्षा केलीच तर मग ती मज्जा अजून वेगळीच. त्या रिक्षावाल्याला नको इतकी माहिती देत, अधून मधून “righttttt” आणि “lephttttt” असं म्हणायचं. ”जरा side में खडा करो. ये इस्को उतरके वो बिल्डिंग में जाना है जरा… वो क्या है, उस्का क्लास है उधर…” अशी सुरुवात करून पुढची १० मिनटं, मध्ये रिक्षा का थांबवली ह्याचं कारण समजावून सांगायचं. मग काय? संध्याकाळी घरी आल्यावर टिंगल करायला आम्हाला मिळालाच की विषय!
आता आजोबांच्या काही सवयी माझातही उतरल्यात. उदाहरणार्थ, गाळण्यात अडकलेली चहा पावडर चमच्याच्या उलट्या बाजूने दाबून त्यातला एक थेंबही फुकट न दवडणे, ज्या ताटात जेवलो ते ताट वापरलंय की नाही असा प्रश्न पाडण्याइतके साफ करणे, आवाजाच्या वरच्याच पट्टीत बोलणे, इत्यादी.
माझे कणखर पण प्रेमळ आजोबा आता मात्र थोडे थकले आहेत. कंबर आणि ढोपरं दोघेही त्यांच्यावर रुसलीयेत. आपल्याला बघण्याखेरीज काहीच करता येत नसल्यामुळे helpless होणं हा एकमेव option. मी पुण्याला परत जायला निघाले की आजीआजोबा आतल्या खोलीत जाऊन निमूट रडत बसतात. मी निघायच्या आद्ल्यादिवशीपासून आजोबांच्या चेहऱ्यावर भलं मोठं टेन्शन असतं. मी गेल्यावरसुद्धा पुढचे दोन दिवस, “मनी गेली ना गं?” असं दिवसातून दहा वेळा तरी आजीला विचारतात. मग आमचा regular Skype lunch करताना, काही न बोलता नुसते माझाकडे एकटक बघत बसतात. हल्ली अधूनमधून थोडंथोडं विसरतातही आणि मग बिचारे आमच्या टर उडवण्याचा विषय बनतात. आता my आजोबा being the आजोबा that he is स्वतःवरसुद्धा मोकळ्या मानाने हसतात ही गोष्ट वेगळी.
“आजोबा चहा करा ना!” पासून “आजोबा चहा करते हं!” पर्यंतची आमची २६ वर्षांची journey आता आता एका क्षणाची वाटू लागली आहे.