“Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
Anton Ego, Ratatouille
This lockdown has served as an inspiring cooking school for the elites of the Instagram society. Chefs have emerged from the debris of nothingness to conquer the web traffic with their gastronomical stories and posts.
Personalities that were struggling to put forward a decent pack of noodles have turned into baking masters doling out chocolate cakes, custards, puddings, pizzas, pancakes and much more!
While these items look visually appealing under the extravagant filters, and that is what Instagram is supposed to do, we cannot comment on their taste or flavors. But hey, that is showmanship either on television or social network. It is one thing to have an imagination and expectation from a certain Rishabh Pant and another seeing him face a decent attack. Then again, maybe all this cooking stands in good stead as they prepare for a married future!
Well, you might ask, why am I reacting to somebody cooking at their leisure? In my defense, I am used to watching my feed fed by the brilliance of Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris, and Matt Preston. Wait, that is it! Isn’t it? Suddenly this year we have to deal with the newly found judges on my favorite show Masterchef Australia; just like this feed from the self decorated chefs.
I can no more see George dissecting a dish and present it beautifully in three plates with a grace of a figure skater. I can’t see Matt draped in colors that could put any Bollywood production to shame. I can’t see the brilliance and delight of Gary when the contestants deliver a cracker on his advice.
With all due respect (not sure how to quantify that yet) to the new judges, I miss the brilliance I was used to. A non-refinement that is hard to adjust to among the many adjustments we are making during Covid19.
I know, I know. Change is good. It keeps you on your toes. But just for this while, just for a bit, I would like to relax and enjoy the things that I loved just the way they were. Including the crapy food that my dear Instagram elites were used to making – regardless of how delicious it looks now.
When life gives you lemonade, make lemons! And life will be all “whaaat”?!
– Phil Dunphy from Modern Family
As it stands though, any lemonade available has been sucked out of the lemons by life! And any minute reminiscence of life leftover from before the pandemic has been threatened by the social onslaught from Masterchefs of Instagram and Facebook.
Much like Indian cricket is defined pre and post-Ganguly era, we may end up defining life as pre and post-pandemic era.
There used to be a certain joy and sparkle announcing a WFH, now it’s like sentencing someone for rigorous imprisonment. For people working in information technology, though I barely qualify for the same having spent 8 years in pharmaceuticals, working from home is like checking emails. A part of their job. And yet, I am finding it extremely frustrating as the hours get longer and it becomes difficult to take any timeout from work.
But it is not the same for everyone. While there is tremendous hate-building up among people against the Chinese government, over 1 billion people still can’t resist killing time on TikTok. As a drug TikTok seems to be more effective than Salman on Eid or hydroxychloroquine on Corona. For a nation that increases its death count overnight by 50%, China seems to be in complete control of the situation. It’s like watching Dhoni playout 6 overs on a trot knowing he can come out triumphant in the end. Just maybe we get up to a news tomorrow that Chinese scientists save the day with the cure on Covid19! Everything needs to be planned precisely, like Dhoni.
While it’s all depressing on TV, its slightly better being on the phone with friends who don’t understand the cheat codes available in Ludo. Life is always a hack after all. How much do we lose before we are able to hack our way through is the only terrifying question?
And I hope a Phil Dunphy would be able to answer that even if it means making lemons from lemonade.
PS: Phil Dunphy is a character from the Web Series Modern Family, who seems to have all the answers.
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Growing up, my dad narrated the story of a Japanese lady who stitched the torn seat of the train she was traveling by. Exceptional people, I thought
My memories also include, a Japanese calendar that used to change every year. Starting December I used to look forward to a new kimono-clad lady that would adorn our side wall. In my little head, it was an event!
Fast forward, 16 years later, I knew a lot more about Japan. I knew about the lightning-quick Shinkansen, the beautiful Geishas, stunning cherry blossom and Japanese tenacity in the wake of natural disasters. Drawing a ten-day plan we hopped onto our Nippon Airways flight. A simple itinerary with five days in Tokyo, followed by five in Kyoto – and day trips from our two base locations.
As we boarded our first metro, the melodious chant of “Shibuya, Shibuya” echoed from the recorded announcement. Once inside, I noticed that in spite of the metro being fairly crowded, there was pin drop silence. For a minute it felt like inside a church. With people considering it inappropriate to talk while in trains, especially on phone, it took me time to realize the etiquettes in Japan were very similar in almost all public spaces. On the escalators, people stood on one side to allow others to rush past. Though what took us by surprise was the sheer humility of the people. Like the ticket collector that came out of his office and walked with us to the bus stop so that we didn’t get lost. An old couple bowed down multiple times to say, arigato gozaimasu (thank you) when we offered our seats on the train. Our calligraphy class hosts who offered us homemade regional delicacies after learning about our love for food. It was an incredible experience.
For the Japanese Cherry blossom is the essence of Life, an ephemeral phenomenon, a reminder that life is short but absolutely beautiful!
“The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.”
~ The Last Samurai
And the Japanese celebrate it with aplomb! We could see entire families pulling in with bags of food and drinks in various parks. With rugs placed below the cherry trees, there was finally some noise and laughter!
Tears of joy, is an expression that I would now associate with cherry blossom. A walk along the Kamo river with shutterbugs finding the perfect pre-wedding shot, a stroll in Kyoto’s obnoxiously beautiful botanical garden or peddling around the city with no particular destination but just soaking in the cherry pink, red and white that nestles along the red and green thatched roofs.
During the blossom period, everything from tea to snacks is flavored with cherry flowers, including Senbei. Being from India, snacks made of rice are a staple for us but Senbei is in a different league in terms of texture, taste, and variety. But what turned out to be a surprise package was the Japanese patisseries. Japan can truly pass as the new France. Be it chic boutiques or food cars, pastries in Japan are surprisingly mouth-watering and delicious. The love for green tea is evident from the souffle and KitKat that dominate the restaurant menus and supermarket racks respectively.
Food presentation is an art form in Japan. Restaurants advertise various meals in transparent boxes, including sushi rolled nicely with different fish that coerces you to pick up more than you could bargain for.
While there are limited things I did prefer from the Japanese food delicacies, there is no dearth in Japanese gaming options. I have had my fair tryst with gaming, but when you walk across four storied buildings dedicated to games in Akihabara, Tokyo, you know the Japanese are in a different league. Zealous gaming centers aside, there are buildings dedicated to animated character toys, electronics, and cameras that intend to test your credit card limits.
Speaking about cards, many shops including some McDonalds don’t accept cards. For a technology-driven country, this was a real surprise.
Technology is a big part of Japanese life, from robotic companions to robotic deliveries in restaurants, the most astonishing was the smart toilets. With lights, seat temperature, water, flush, music – everything controlled by the microcontroller, it was more like a throne that Jon Snow would aspire for! (or so I thought until Jon was sent off!)
While the Japanese are still rooted in their traditions and values, they are more modern and digital than the west! It is this contrast that is both perplexing and interesting and makes me want to visit this beautiful country again.
She sat there all intense, About to throw the desk and get over with it. And then she sighed and smiled, She knew I was watching her then. I wanted to click her, But I just captured the moment with my eyes.
She gets nice dimples, Her hair curled, falling nicely, though not been attended for a while. And she looks beautiful when she smiles, Her enthusiasm is beyond compare, like a little girl bubbling with energy.
I see a girl still figuring her life, her dreams. Juggling work with study, her hopes held high and life in her stead. Barcelona has been kind to her, But home she still longs for.
Her honest interpretation startled me, Not used to being judged so quickly, But her eyes were open for a conversation, And as they met mine I knew she was listening, And that I found a friend.
That is what this trip was all about, Making new connections, Sometimes for a few minutes or hours. Connections that you would treasure, And the time that you would recollect with a grin.
Isn’t that life? For life is like popcorn, At every turn, someone might just pop up, Someone that you might like!