Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Love


That's my kitchen table this morning. There's the apple cake I baked yesterday. My coffee. A yam I don't know what to do with. A bowl of oranges. And linen embroidered by my grandmother long before I was born.


I just noticed how many round things I've put together there. Circle on circle. Spheres and orbits. I hadn't realised I'd done that. I have a terrible cold - stayed up the night coughing - so I don't know what I'm doing anyway, but there might be some subliminal therapy in circular things. Tai chi. Yin yang. Cake.

There's something else circling around in my head. A poem Chotto-ma wrote yesterday. She's been writing a lot. Suddenly, fiercely. Writing, writing, writing. Stories, poems, and a movie script called 'The Blues' where two lonely girls born with blue hair find each other and becomes friends.

This is her first poem, complete with her spellings. It made my cold better.



LOVE 
by Chotto-ma


Love is our 
own naicher.
Love is our
life.
Love is evrything.
Love is what
we like.




[Glossary: naicher = nature. We like to keep our spellings nacheral.]




Monday, 17 November 2014

All gone





We woke up on Sunday and looked out of the windows to find all the houses and trees gone. The parked cars, the pavements, gone. The church across the street gone, its moorish spires stolen by diaphanous djinns. The sky no more, sucked up into itself.

Outside our windows, the world was whipped cream. Thick, white. You could dip a finger in. Or, if like us you were walkers of a less sane mind, you could put your shoes on. At 7.40 am on a winter morning, you could put your shoes on.




You could walk through familiar streets as if for the first time; fog makes a first time of everything. It makes everything seem as secretive as half-told stories. Houses whisper, people in them sleep and dream strange dreams. Nothing stirs expect the hours.




We walked for a long time; I don't know how long. By the time we decided to head back home, the fog had begun to lift. Headlights passed. A tree appeared in autumn leaves like a girl in gold lamé returning home from her Saturday night. We could see the church now, its neon sign reminding people to be saved on Sundays. The djinns had returned its spires before the people at Sunday Mass noticed anything amiss. A man stood by the park in a clown costume drinking coffee.




When we climbed the stairs home, the world was returning, sharpening. There would be other fogs, other out-of-focus fairytales. For now, there was coffee as dark as the outside was white. And pear cake with cream. Thick, white.



Pear & Yoghurt Cake with Orange Sour Cream Icing

This is a throw-everything-in-a-bowl kind of cake, so the recipe that follows is unconventional. As in, it may seem suspiciously whimsical and simple for a cake, but hang in there. It will rise to the occasion. It's the best cake I've baked in a while, and certainly my favourite icing by far.







Ingredients

For the cake:
2 pears, not too soft, nor at its firmest; peeled
2 cups of plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain set yogurt (not Greek)
3/4 cup coarse brown sugar
2 heaped tbsps butter at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the icing:
600 ml sour cream (that's usually 2 small tubs)
1/2 - 3/4 cup white castor sugar (adjust to taste)
Grated zest of 1 small orange






First the icing:
Hang the sour cream in a clean cloth to strain the water out. This should take an hour.
In a bowl, add sour cream, sugar and half of your orange zest. Give it a good mix till smooth. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Keep aside.






Now the cake:
Pre-heat your oven to 170 degree C (350 degree F).
In a large, deep bowl sieve the flour and baking powder together. Throw in the sugar.
Crack two eggs in the middle. Add the butter. Pour in the oil and the vanilla essence.
Now, with your hands, or a wooden spoon, give it a mix in a nice clockwise motion.





Into this tight batter, add yogurt. Mix till it's a lovely smooth consistency.
Hold the pears above the bowl and with a knife scoop slivers of it into the cake batter. Let the juices drizzle in. Gently fold the pear into the batter.
Grease a medium (9-inch) cake tin with butter, and pour the batter in. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.



Cool completely. Then slather the icing on top, and sprinkle with remaining zest.
Refrigerate for about an hour before serving. Enjoy!























Friday, 7 November 2014

Her first tune


One Sunday past, when the outside was still orange with autumn and not as naked as it is today, a little promise was kept. Remember that promise of music? The one I could see in the far distance when a piano edged in through our doorway, and Chotto-ma had her first music lesson?

Well, on Sunday I was stretched out on the sofa between a doze and a dream, and D was sitting on the armchair with his feet on the coffee table, when Chotto-ma brought him his guitar. She wanted him to play it while she played the piano. Then she sat down on the black stool as she does, feet dangling, back straight, fingers curved on keys. And she played. D followed her lead, and she took him into the tune she'd been hearing in her head.


It took me a while to realise something special was happening. My ears had been expecting a playful plonking of one of her lessons, but her book of notes was closed, and what I was hearing was her first little composition, her own tune. As one note followed another, I sat up. D looked at me, grinning, still guitaring along. Midway through their session, I remembered to record.

It's quite something to hear your child make their first music. Somewhere between magic and a punch in the plexus. Who knew? OK, OK, you even cry a little. And then you try to play cool. You also kiss her and eat her up; for which you never need much reason anyway.

And then, with her little tune playing in your head, you go into the kitchen, to bake something you've haven't baked before. But you figure, her first tune deserves your first apple crumble. So the three of you chop up some apples, tickle some flour, find the cinnamon, sprinkle the sugar and have the house smelling like November.




So here it is: Chotto-ma's first composition for you to listen to, and an apple crumble for after. The composition's called 'Sunday morning' because it's what our Sunday morning sounds like.



'Sunday morning' - Chotto-ma with Ba









Apple Crumble

This is the simplest, quickest crumble there is; and adapted to our taste, as everything is. It's lower in butter and sugar than most crumbles, but it's also less tart, so the sweetness finds its balance. It's good.


Ingredients

450gms apple, peeled and cubed (Gala or Braeburn works well if, like me, you don't like your crumble tart)
A pinch of cinnamon

For the crumble:

300 gms plain flour, sieved with a pinch of salt
160 gms of coarse brown sugar
150 gms of butter cubed at room temperature
A knob of butter to grease dish





Preheat oven to 180 degree C (350F/Gas mark 4)
Put the flour, sugar and butter in a large bowl, and rub it all together using both hands till it forms  a mix that looks like breadcrumbs.
Grease baking dish with butter.
Mix apples with cinnamon, and place in baking dish.
Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until crumble is browned and apples are bubbling.
Serve with custard or cream.








Saturday, 25 October 2014

Bilet

I don't quite know how to begin this post, so I write a line, delete and wait. And then I decide to tell you: I don't quite know how to begin this post.

When I'm excited about something, I can never lead up to it with any amount of graceful restraint. I just have to put it out there - plop. And since 'out there' means out here, to you who know me, I can lose the grace and do a dance and tell you that my second fiction is out.




It's a story called 'Bilet' and it's now on the wonderful Tupelo Quarterly; it's also my first publication in the US.

You can read 'Bilet' here:
http://www.tupeloquarterly.com/bilet-by-pia-ghosh-roy/




[PS: Many of you emailed me saying that a comment you posted hasn't been published. Please know that if you don't see your comment here, it means it hasn't reached me. Apparently, you need to be connected to your Google Plus account, or a Blogger account (even if temporary) to be able to comment. Or just choose 'Name/URL' from the drop-down menu at the comment box.
Thank you - for persevering and writing in; I appreciate it more than you know.]

Sunday, 19 October 2014

You at six

Let's first face facts.

You're six.


Like every year, this leaves me stumped. And like every year, Ba and I talked about the day you were born, and the morning we brought you home from hospital. You should've seen us, Ba and me - two utter amateurs, all by ourselves, no family in the country, clutching onto a teeny-tiny person swaddled in a great length of cloth. I remember standing outside the hospital in the October sun holding you while Ba went to fetch a taxi. If I close my eyes, I can still smell you; the one-day-old you. I can still feel the texture of the crocheted white blanket you were wrapped in. I can still see your little face, eyes shut in sleep, nose wrinkling with the first smell of the outside, the smell of sunlight. Your skin peeling in little patches. Everything new - arriving, waking; all at once.

When I say it was just the other day, it was.


The only difference is that now we don't have to hold you gingerly anymore. We can squish you and squash you as much as we want, and you squish us right back. You also write us letters - long letters, sitting in school - which you give us when you come home. Sometimes you keep them in your hidey-holes, little surprises for us to find. On your birthday, as Ba and I sang your birthday song early in the morning from under our duvets, still groggy, the sun rising behind us, you bounced out of your bed and ran into our room, and after we'd given you your birthday card, you said you had something for us too: you ran downstairs, there was shuffling, and then you ran back up holding a card. You'd made us a card for your birthday with a letter inside, and kept it hidden all week. But there's nothing you keep hidden on these sheets of paper  - all your love is in there in careful handwriting. Every emotion, every time you've ever missed us, is on it. The way you see us is on it. And we've never looked better. I'm always humbled by how powerful, how uncomplicated, this love is that buzzes and crackles and flows without ebb.

When you're not writing, you draw. Yes, you still love to draw. Visual references of your world,  journaling things that stick to you. Like rainclouds and rooftops, geese flying over water, a wild hare in mid-leap.




You also drew your birthday party, only the guests looked a little different, and decidedly four-legged.



The actual birthday party though was by no means less wild: sixteen six-year-olds; it would've been calmer with the animals.





You had a Totoro Party in honour of your favourite movie, with a popcorn-and-sushi screening at home. And party bags with soot gremlins and chopsticks.



And finally a cake that made you so happy, that it made all the late-night baking and smearing and Totoro-drawing worthwhile.



Apart from Totoro, these are some of your other favourite things at six:

The animals you collect; a veritable zoo, each animal with its own name: like Cuba and Havana (the leopard and her cub - gifts from Bobo), Chandan (the St Bernard, because you love the smell of sandalwood), Charcoal and Snow (the black horse, and the white), or Snot (the snake; because that's what he feels like).



Taking late night walks by the river, your dim little torch showing us the way.

Discovering the joy of reading your first chapter book. But still much preferring to sit on my lap listening to old favourites like the Beatrix Potter books on your desk.



Going to Ba's Aikido class and copying his every move on your own little mat. 

Making tiny sculptures that can sit on the tip of a finger. Like this dog and baby Totoro you made today.



Coming into our room, crawling under our blanket and snuggling between me and Ba every morning before our day starts, and we run late for school.



Dancing with me, and making music with Ba.


Chotto-ma, how we love you! From the ends of your short, spiky hair to the tips of your six-year-old toes. You make music for us every day. And every day, we wonder how we created a note so perfect.