Monday, April 30, 2012

Thank you for the music….

She is a fairly active 89 nudging 90, but in my mind she is still the young nun with sparkling eyes and a happy smile.  She taught me science in school and the piano outside school hours.  There was something about her: Joy? Infectious enthusiasm? The love of children? The love of sharing? Perhaps it was a combination of all and more, but we loved her and loved to be in her company.  She taught and we learnt, seemingly effortlessly.

Sr. Genevieve is a childhood memory.  I last encountered her when I was eleven years old at Maria Goretti Convent School, Bareilly, some fifty years ago!  Another time, another place. By some strange coincidence, I was able to catch up with her again, and that too at a time in my life when I was retraining my keyboard skills after a long (make that very long) hiatus. I bumped into a couple of Canossian nuns, enquired after her and was provided a postal address in Belgaum, to which I sent a tentative missive.  Would she remember me?  She did!  And now we enjoy a sporadic correspondence.  She is still buoyant, still encouraging, still affectionate – not deterred by age or infirmity.  And she still teaches music!

I have neither training nor experience to teach, but thanks to the eternal optimism which afflicts most religious, another nun has roped me in to teach her ‘little ones’ how to sing.  It seems as though a circle has been drawn over time – what I have learnt, I will now pass on.  

I am grateful for not just the imprinted memories of ‘do-re-mi…’ and childhood songs, but also the example of patience, encouragement and the gentle humour which accompanied the lessons.  

Sr. Genevieve, you were and are the perfect mentor. Thank you for the music. Thank you for being you.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

An AI in an EI Kitchen – Part VI: Learning to love Lonvas

Every true blue, dyed-in-the-blood EI knows his or her Lonvas.  My husband’s credentials were faultless and so, obviously, he loved his Lonvas twice a day, every day, if possible.  I, being a loving wife, resolved to provide accordingly.

The recipe book was helpful – the ingredients and method were the simplest I’d ever come across.  How mistaken!  First heat the oil.  Did that.  Now throw in the pods of garlic and smash them in the hot oil.  Well, that’s exactly what I did.  Have you tried smashing hard garlic in hot oil with the back of a spoon?  The garlic slipped and slid all around the base of the utensil and the hot oil spluttered and splashed (the numerous blisters I sported were testimony to that) and frustration rose proportionately.  Garlic conquered, I added the meat and stirred to let it brown.  Not too bad. Now add the bottle masala.  Not wanting to appear stingy, I added a ladle full. Now add the thin milk from a coconut.  I looked at the coconut in all its perfection.  How does one get thin milk? Called up sis in law.  She explained.  Came back to meat now browned to black.  Removed utensil from the stove.  Cleaned and scraped the coconut and extracted thick and thin milk as directed (thick comes first and then the thin!).  Added as indicated in cookbook.  Added  bottle gourd, skinned and diced (Right? Wrong! It needed to be cut to look like the brackets at the beginning and end of this statement) Tamarind juice and salt to taste completed the ingredients. Covered the vessel and allowed to cook till meat tender.  Opened lid after specified time and looked at an unholy curdled mess.  So much for a simple, can’t-go-wrong recipe!! How on earth did it become an unchallenged favourite?

What unlocked the memory?  An introduction to an EI who remarked, ‘So, you married an EI, do you know how to make Lonvas curry?’  And I replied with aplomb, ‘With both hands tied behind my back.’  Well that would be a stretch, but you get my meaning.  After all the years and having prepared hubby’s favourite at least three times in the week, I am definitely an expert.  I can, in my own estimation, turn out an impeccable Lonvas with its smooth creamy gravy and distinctive aroma.  I love to make it because, yes, it is simple and it lends itself to such a variety of combinations: shark fish dressed with a generous sprinkling of garden fresh coriander leaves; egg poached in the bubbling gravy, vegetables mixed as in a harvest festival, meat and veggies, prawn and veggies, lobster, crab.  I could extol the virtues of Lonvas till the end of time.

The funny thing is that while the EIs love it, others turn up their noses.  I can’t imagine why.

In my unbiased AI opinion, it is delicious! And yes, I could eat it twice a day, every day if possible!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The collected works….

Through all my years of reading, I have fallen in love with certain authors.  So, when I come across Omnibus Volumes sporting ‘The Collected Works of…’, I promptly grab them off the library shelf and indulge in a read fest.  Reading and re-reading favourites is a joy-filled event for the bookworm, as any bookworm will tell you!  I have cried my way umpteen times through Little Women, chuckled as heartily through all of Durrell and Herriot and sat terrified (despite knowing the outcome) through tomes of Crime and Horror – a genre that has just too many favourite authors to list here. Right now, I am indulging in PD James, Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie from the past and look forward to the new acquaintance of Jonathan Kellerman and Carol Higgins Clark. 

That’s the beauty of the printed word.  It is there, to visit and re-visit.  It allows you to look forward to new friends in the offing and to keep up acquaintance with old.  One need never lose touch.

Which is why I am sad.

In the past week, we have enjoyed a series of Masses for the blessing of our homes in the Easter season.  This means that we have also enjoyed a series of sermons which have been instructive, inspirational and practical.  Sermons that are sadly transient because they are spoken and are alive for that time span only (perhaps a little longer till memory fades).  The homilies were delivered by different priests, each drawing on personal experience, adding their own touch of humour and sharing their interpretation of a topic. Each was unique.  Each was a treasure.  

One tech-savvy priest blogs his sermons, shares them on Facebook and they are there for all to visit; saved in e-format with the option to print.  They can be returned to whenever the heart demands and they can be shared across time and space, for the love of the Word of God is timeless and is relevant to all people without exception.  Social Media take a bow!

Now, if only we could persuade all our priests to preserve their preaching as well – a sort of ‘Collected Work of Best Sermons’!  

And here’s a thought to wrap up this blog – the printed message in my morning paper: living on earth might be expensive, but we get to travel around the sun for free!  

Now, isn’t that something!