Saturday, 18 August 2012

Maternity

At the ripe middle age of 36, I am a part-time carer, part-time teacher (at home! ) and full-time mother to my little girls, aged 8 yrs and 6 yrs old. I'm in relatively good health too, apart from a non-life-threatening illness that will be with me forever now. So, as I said, I feel fine, inspite of the complicated way the doctors are treating me which means I must never have any more children, ever. Not at all. (Due to medication I'm on, for life now...) This finality, this decisiveness has, suddenly, made me a tad bit broody.... I mean, if I had a choice, I'd have probably not tried for another child, but having the decision taken firmly out of my grasp has left me feeling cheated, somehow. You know the feeling a woman gets when she sees another woman holding a newborn baby close, the tiny form held protectively in her arms... or when a pregnant mother contemplates a supermarket buy, one hand absently stroking her baby-bump... Sometimes, when these things happen to me, I miss the times when my girls were babies and I'd be getting frowns to 'put-them-down' and couldn't resist a cuddle!! Well, they're still cuddly, but much bigger now (not to mention heavier!!)...and over these eight-odd years of being their mum, I've come to understand and comprehend a whole lot more than I did in the years before God chose to give me this unique gift; maternity... I think of the time when they were little, born one-by-one, as naturally as it is possible, given the NHS. I miss the memory of their tiny curled-up fists, the translucent nails, the little features and eyes tightly shut....
It may sound cheesy, or even over-the-top, but the truth is, I never really appreciated the whole concept of the difference between 'men' and 'women', before I met my husband. Yes, I was aware of the physical, mental, cultural and temperamental variations between the two sexes, but to me, atleast, being a girl seemed like one hell of a drawback! Physically, atleast until I hit puberty, I did pretty much all the things my brother (and sister) did! We played cricket, ran about, rode our bicycles and 'explored' our neighbourhood.... But one fine day, it all changed and my world imploded when I realised that girls n boys have a fundamental difference. With the onset of (unwelcome, uncomfortable and wholly undesirable) periods, I felt horrid and wished I had been a boy. So much for my pre-pubescent physical angst...Things began to change slightly after I finished school and it was time to choose a University course. I found out I couldn't go away, out-of-town to a university of my liking, to pursue my studies, Heck, I couldn't even take off for six months of apprenticeship training as part of my degree course! My gran always fretted and worried about me if I were running late to get home, my father, trusting yet troubled, sat silently in the living room, the light of a single paper lantern illuminating his solemn features. He'd try to read, or listen to the radio as he waited, trying and failing to hide his frown of worry when my 'time problem' studio dragged on and on... or when he sheer scale. It wasn't easy, because I could see how many worries, how much of anguish I was heaping on my family; my Dad, my Gran and I hated myself for being a girl... Those were the years when I used to feel 'wronged', somehow....
It wasn't until I first realized I was expecting a baby, that I fully grasped the beauty of the miracle that God has bestowed upon womankind! My first thought was of my own mother; and all of a sudden, I found myself sobbing from the sheer pain of losing her as a 17 year old, and the bitter-sweet joy of how happy she might have been, to know that her scrawny, barely surviving, fighter of a baby was now at the receiving-end of the very same miracle.. the one that God wrought, to bring me to life...
My second, and almost instantaneous thought was, I needed to tell my husband! I managed to tell him without too many tears, so he'd not worry there was something wrong, and we fell into each others' arms, sobbing (me) and grinning (him) at the same time.. As the enormity of the faint pink  lines sank into our psyche, we hugged for joy and smiled the widest smiles! We did another test, just to make sure, and when I came back out (of the loo) positively beaming, we looked at the strips together scarcely able to believe our eyes! It was like the most beautiful day of our lives was near; okay, maybe not near enough seeing that it was still three-quarters of a year away, but near enough that we could envision it....!
After a memorable pregnancy, involving lots of absurd cravings, some predictable, some unimaginable (Southern Fried Chicken followed by mars bars, anyone!!??) I had my first-born... but that's another story...!! This blog is about, amongst other things, the way my life has changed ever since I became a mother.....Just thought I'd make a point!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Devil's Food Cake

The image that caught my eye!


About four or five months ago, I was talking to Dad on Skype, and he mentioned that he'd love to try baking a cake, and asked me for a good chocolate cake recipe. At the time, knowing my Dad, his likes and dislikes and his attention to detail, I wanted it to be the best recipe I had laid eyes on (i.e, tasted). It had to be simple, with easily resourced ingredients, accurate measurements and not too much jiggery-pokery of the hand. Most importantly, I wanted to send him a recipe which I had tried, tested and baked myself.
Truthfully, the Devil's Food Cake recipe has been the most awesome chocolate cake we've ever eaten at home. I found it in an old, discarded magazine at work, and flicking throught it on my dinner break, I noticed the mouth-watering recipes for all things chocolate (Actually it was a collection of recipes of 'chocolatey' treats, included for their 'pulling-power', guaranteed to make Valentine's Day sweet!)
I was thinking of it for a whole day and night, before adopting the very same recipe for my chocolate-Loving Husband!! To try it out, I baked it for his birthday last week, and my daughters decorated it in their own OTT style (with huge chocolate stars and fifteen cherries instead of four or five!). So when the resultant cake surpassed my expectations in terms of simplicity of the process, time in the oven, level of difficulty and TASTED HEAVENLY besides, I decided to send it to Daddy too. Even better, I thought I'd share it on the blog, making sure it reaches all chocolate lovers, everywhere!

Dearest Daddy,
I hope you try this recipe and enjoy the resultant sweet-surprise! I know, some of the ingredients (cream of tartar, margarine, bicarbonate of soda etc) are not typical store-cupboard fare, but trust me, a little hunt in the supermarket, and you should have no trouble finding them there. Do make it if you like, and you will  be in for a shockingly good cake!
Happy Baking!
Love you,
Ruch

Devil's food cake
Makes 12 slices

For the sponge:
215 g (7 1/2 oz) plain flour
230 g (8 oz) caster sugar
1 1/4 level teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
40 g (1 1/2 oz) cocoa powder
140 g (5oz) soft margarine ( I used STORK vegetable fat for pastries/cakes etc with great results)
240 ml (8 1/2 fll.oz) milk
1 sp vanilla essence
2 medium eggs

For the chocolate icing:
115g (4oz) soft margarine
40 g(1 1/2 oz) cocoa powder
350 g (12 oz) icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3-4 tablespoons milk
Shards of chocolate and raspberries for decoration
(Cadbury's Flake, split, cut or chopped will do nicely too!) See- Cadbury's Flake

To make the sponge:
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.
  • Grease and line (with baking parchment paper or simply use butter paper) two 20 cm (8 inch) round cake tins.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar, and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the margarne, milk and vanilla essence and then mix by hand until smooth.
  • Add the eggs and beat for one minute with an electric hand-held mixer. It is important not to over-beat the mixture.
  • Pour into the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • After the cake has risen well, (I always have to tweak the timing to suit my temperamental oven!) remove it from the oven and let it cool in the tins for 10-15 minutes. Thereafter, remove it from the tins and cool on a wire rack or the wire grille of the oven before icing it.
To make the chocolate icing:
  • Cream the margarine until light and fluffy in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the sifted cocoa powder and icing sugar to the creamed margarine and beat.
  • Blend in the vanilla essence and milk until the icing is smooth.
  • Use the icing to sandwich between the two sponge layers then smooth it all over the cake.
  • Decorate with the chocolate flakes and raspberries.  
ENJOY!!!!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Dearest Bhai...

My Dearest Digvijay,

For those first, early childhood memories,
of playing, running and the bedtimes with Ba and di's stories,
from the time we started going to school,
to the time you became teenaged and cool,
and went away to the NAVAC and did us all proud!!

From your little' adidas T-shirt n 'ganju-patel-picture' days,
from your patience and sportiness as you taught me to bat, catch and bowl,
when you played Cricket with Gopu and the gang,
for the way you taught me to ride a bike and climb trees,
the way you stayed with me always,
whether in person or in essence,
...I had attached myself to you with an invisible umbilical...

For my fondest memory of you looking in on me,
from the window grilles of our Yelahanka home,
When I was, futilely trying to memorize the times tables' tome,

For the comical things you did to distract and prevent Dad from dhaap-ing me,
and the way you patiently heard me when I'd "let it all out",
from your belief and faith in my abilities, and your amazing acceptance of me just the way I am.

For your untiring encouragement and  honest judgement whenever I needed guidance and another opinion,
for allaying my fears,
for the million ways you became my best friend in life,
and even now, ARE, helping me survive,

from the sum-of-my-parts,
from the depths of my heart,
with every prayer I say,
your name, your happiness and joys are uppermost in every way,

Today being the one day I never forget to thank the Lord for giving me a brother such as you,
I am ever so sorry I won't be there in person,
nor even the significant Rakhi that always reached you on time... but this year is more poignant to me than all our past Rakshabandhan's put together,
simply because you have been here with me on so many occasions in the last year, in my life, in my heart and as an answer to all my self-doubts and worries, pain and suffering...
There is no other, quite like you in this universe, because no one else is in my place and has been redeemed by your love...

For you, and your love, my brother,
I am deeply grateful to the Lord!

HAPPY RAKSHABANDHAN...
yours,
Ruch


P.S- Rakshabandhan (रक्षाबंधन ) is a Hindu Festival, celebrated on the full-moon night or poornima of the month of Shravana, a holy and auspicious month in the Hindu Calendar. Raksha means protection and bandhan means a tie or a relationship. Essentially, this festival signifies the bond of love between a brother and his sister, with the sister tying the Rakhi on the righ-hand wrist of her brother, and praying for his well-being and happiness, his life and his success. The brother, in turn, vows to protect his sister for life.
Legend goes that the widowed Rajput queen of Chittor, Rani Karnavati, sent a rakhi to the Moghul emperor Humayun, seeking his help, when her subjects, her life and her honour were at stake. Her plea was answered and Emperor Humayun aided and protected her land and person from the attackers, bringing the Rakhi and its notable significance home...
This is the tie of love and hope, or prayers and trust, or sacrifice and valour, striking a chord that resonates in all our hearts, whether we are hindu, muslim, or Sikhs, whether we are brothers and sister by blood or choice, near or afar, together or apart.... On this one day, every sister prays for her brother and thanks the Lord for keeping him safe and happy.