The lockdown has thrown us all in a tizzy. But being someone who craves a routine, it has practically shaken me, swirled me around and hung me upside down, till I said ‘I give up and take whatever you serve me’. Starting with food.

Home food has always been the cook shelling out rotis and dals and veggies that make up the ‘healthy’ meals of the week. Weekend has always been Swiggying, and Zomatoing, or in general checking out the plethora of cafes and bistros that keep cropping up all over the city. But that’s not an option now. And so, this lockdown introduced us to the world of cooking. Which meant that if anything, we are ending up having richer, more indulgent foods than before, because who in their right mind would spend time in the kitchen rolling out rotis, when you can whip up a cheesy pasta, or pizzas and burgers, or Spaghetti with meat balls? All from scratch? Add to it the brownies, and cookies and pies that are being shelled out regularly, there you have yourself a calorie abundant lifestyle.

Which brings us to part 2. Where do these calories go? You hardly move anymore. The work desk and the water cooler and the washroom and the bed are all right next to each other. The 1000 odd steps that you ended up tracking just by being in office, no longer happen. So, unless you resort to drastic measures, the only place they could settle down at, has to be your midriff.

And that we can’t let happen now can we? Especially since you might not even realize it, because it’s been months since you tried to get into a fancy (by which we mean uncomfortable, tight fitting) outfit. The Pajamas and the home-shorts conceal it all, and you have every chance of living a happy, comfortable and deliciously indulgent life, until normal life returns (hopefully) and you realise that you cannot pull up those skinny jeans beyond your knees.

Hence, workouts. I have been working out fairly regularly for 8 years now – the forms have changed. Usually it’s a quick burn in around 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer, or the treadmill, or a stationary bike at the gym. For the last 2 years, it was running outdoors, which was sometimes intensive (remember by half marathons?), but usually a decent 5K. But the lockdown killed those options, especially since running with a mask is annoying as hell. And I entered the world of home workouts.

The internet is a treasure trove of everything amazing. You cannot ever say you don’t know something and there is no way you can learn it, because – internet. The one stop shop for everything new that I have picked up online. So it pretty much works like this. I research the recipe for chocolate tart. I get a 1000. I pick the one I understand best and which has simpler ingredients, a couple of hours are spent in the kitchen with Zo playing sous chef, and voila! There we have some calorie heavy dessert for consumption. And most of it is consumed the same day.

The next day, guilt sets in and we are all set to torch (some of) the calories from yesterday. Research, research, research and voila! Workouts for everything, by so many trainers it will boggle your mind. Once again, you pick the ones which seem in line with what you want, and there you are – following Chloe Ting and Sydney Cummings and Fitness Blender, day in and day out.

So far, the cycle has worked, and the scales state that I am not wrong. It has also been fun in a away, especially realising that it is actually possible to cook stuff at home that you would otherwise pay 5 times the price for. And how just a yoga mat and 1 pair of 5 kilo dumbells can give you so much more results than year long memberships at the gym do. Sometimes.

Which is to say, I am pretty sure I will revert to the old ways once there is a choice available. And I am hoping that will be soon.

50 shades of Blue

Our vacations are very meticulously planned. May is the chosen month, because schools are closed, and the city is scalding enough for you to want to escape. Which also means that our chosen destinations are always cooler than home. We start thinking of where to go really early, as early as February, especially if there is a Visa involved. Then we get on to the whole flights, hotels, trains bandwagon, and finally when the visa is in hand, there are day-wise plans. Of where to go, what to see, how to travel around, and in my department, what to eat.

This year, we were in Greece for 2 full weeks in the end of May. But of course, it was spectacular. The thing is, we have been to Europe in the past, but more mainland Europe. There was always a lot of history and culture to explore, and also nature, but of a different kind, more of hills and greens, and meadows and mountains. Not so much the sea, well maybe a bit, but this time, since we spent most of our time on islands in the midst of the Mediterranean seas, there was more of that. The sea.

And it was beautiful to say the least. I am not going to Travelogue mode here, I cannot revisit our itinerary for each of the 14 days we spent without feel blue. We spent 4 days in Athens, in an apartment we had booked right in the centre of the city, at walking distance from the Acropolis. It was surrounded with places to eat as suggested by Mark Weins and Tripadvisor. So we ensured that we ate everything, literally everything that we had read about or heard about and had no regrets at all.

We also went to pretty Mykonos, with it’s whites and blues and cobbled paths straight out of fairytales. An absolute visual treat, the place had enough windmills to keep me happy through the entire trip, and enough spots to click profile pictures for a life time. We spent 3 days in the more famous Santorini and had our fill of the views and the sea. We did crazy things like walking from Fira (one corner of the island) to Oia (the other end), a good 12 kilometers, and hiking up the Skaros rock, all with Zo. This was 2 and a half weeks ago and we still have tans from the day, mine so amazing that my shoulder resembles an oreo. Zo remains the absolute champ that she is, and trodded along without as much as a whine.

Our last destination was Crete, an island we were told was too big to cover in the 4 days we had scheduled there. We managed to see maybe a quarter, but it fulfilled our need to wade through picturesque small towns, visit faraway monasteries and generally eat brilliant, local food. And ofcourse, there was the brilliant, blue Aegean sea – a sight to behold for life, as an underlying theme to all of these places.

The Greek cuisine went brilliantly well with our large appetite for meat and cheese, and after stuffing myself with the Bougatsas I had been craving from the day I saw a video about it a whole month before we left, I still want more. The gyros, the souvlakis, the cheese pies – all of them were relished, and seemingly are still part of us, the way they show up on the weighing scales.

Ofcourse it was a great vacation, and yes, it wasn’t so much fun when it ended. But as I am growing older (damn!) I do realize that cliches have some reason behind them. So, I really believe that just like all good things must come to an end, so should awesome vacations. So that we can sit back and plan the next one.

Unlike my usual posts, I leave you with some of the blues – that took away all of my blues.

Psst, you can see more on my Instagram page, linked on the right side here!

Athens – and it’s majestic Parthenon and the many hills we climbed for viewsAthensMykonos – and it’s blues and whites and flowers and pathsMykonosSantorini and everything everyone knows about it alreadySantorini    Crete and that road by the sea where Zo and I stood for an hour to let the waves splash us overCrete

The arrival of Ramu Kaka

Apparently I have written 14 posts in 2017, as against 77 in 2016. Which I understand is not cool at all. But I had those blog marathons I picked up in Jan, and again in April to thank – those were a whopping 56 posts, that make feel proud (and ashamed, because of the pathetic numbers of 2017) of myself. Tsk, what a contradiction.

I have no clue why, but my stomach is constantly growling today, which is weird because I had a full breakfast of rotis and a cabbage-carrot-potato curry, which I picked up quite warily, but which, somehow worked. And there is still some time, approximately 2 hours to go before I embark upon my lunch of rotis (yes, again!) and okra curry. And I have to thank Ramu Kaka for this glorious improvement in my life – one where I eat my meals on time. Actually, make that one where I eat my meals.

I have terrible problem of not being able to eat alone. I mean, I love eating alone at home in front of the TV, or in hotel room, in front of the TV or a laptop streaming something nice. But at work, I cannot eat alone. Definitely not in a cafeteria which is full of pairs and groups of happy people stuffing their faces and laughing and joking and generally having a good time. And fortunately, all through my work life, barring a year and half back in 2007, I have always had amazing company for lunch. Mostly my team, who would accompany me to pick up whatever nonsense was served in the cafeteria and then talk absolutely useless stuff while I plodded my way through it.

But this stopped when I joined my current organisation. For two reasons – one most folks work from 2, so they finish their lunch and arrive. Two, I almost always have meetings during the general lunch hours, and these are not pre-scheduled meetings, so I cannot give a proper timeline to the folks around, about my availability. So basically no company for lunch – which eventually became no lunch. I know, bad me.

On good days, I would walk up to the 14th floor, and pick up stuff that I could carry back to my desk – a bowl of sprouts, a sandwich, a chocolate (I love my priorities) or a pack of cookies and eat it while I worked. This was helpful because I could clear my mails in this half hour, but was also bad because I was always available so I could be called away anytime, my half eaten stuff waiting for me to return. But, it was not a good thing, and definitely not a healthy thing to do. The only way I could have a good lunch at my desk was if I packed one, and hahaha, are you kidding me?

Then, 3 weeks ago, we moved to the new place. Someone shared the contact of a cook on the community’s whatsapp group, and on a whim I called. I spoke for maybe 5 minutes, and all of a sudden I had a full fledged cook who said he could start working for us the same week  – to cook what I had requested. And that’s how Ramu Kaka entered our lives. And my first thought was – what an original name.

To be honest, it is a bit unfair to call him kaka, because I am pretty sure he is younger to me, but Ramu goes so well with kaka that it would be unfair to let it go. Ramu kaka is from Jharkhand, and works in multiple houses in our society. The moment he entered the kitchen – with an exaggerated swagger, if I might add – he took charge like a pro. All you need to tell him is what needs to be cooked and he begins his brilliant multitasking – and is done within an hour. And we are left with a clean kitchen, vessels with the freshly made food, and delicious smells wafting through the kitchen.

Anyway, Ramu Kaka changed my world. From eating junk, to not eating, to conveniently forgetting to eat, I now carry a dabba to office. I have never been the dabba carrying kind, except for days when the mother was visiting and insisted on cooking through the day. And every day, before I leave, I hop into the kitchen, pick boxes from my collection of Tupperware which is all gifted by my mother thanks to her fascination towards storage material, and pack a lunch for myself and The Dude.

And I eat. The koftas and the rajma and the chole. The amazing kaddu curry – which I did not believe could be a reality, because hello, kaddu. I eat it all up. Still at my desk, but atleast I have a lunch. And I look forward to see what else he can cook – to which he has said ‘anything, just tell me what you want – if required google it.’

I am a bit wary about declaring the good things for the worry of jinxing it, but it will be unfair to vent out rants and not voice the gratitude. And this is just that.

For now, all hail Ramu kaka!