Indian cooking

Nandini, my cousin, recently told me that as an Indian I should of course be able to do Indian cooking.
I think in many cases this might seem like an obvious statement, but I guess it just wasn’t the same for me. So to reply to her comment, I decided to make a post of this entire topic matter since it got me thinking.

I love Indian food. But then again, as long as something is vegetarian and well cooked, I’d eat it with equal happiness. That’s just me. But prior to this year, I’ve never seriously tried to learn any Indian cooking. I’ve got Italian, Mexican, British, Japanese…all kinds of cooking under my belt. But not Indian.

Which sounds really odd to many people… but I have a good reason for it.
My mum and grandmother are both super-duper awesome at what they do. And in comparison, I’m nothing short of sloppy and I do a lot of things at my own pace. I’m not particularly self-conscious about this, and neither do I feel inferior to them (I still trump them at international cooking :P)…But when it comes to Indian cooking I found that I just couldn’t REMEMBER the damn recipes every single time.

I realised recently that this probably came to be because I’m not used to taking cooking instructions or naming my ingredients in Tamil. : \ oh boy, that’s another can of worms there huh? *shoots foot*

BUT, I like to think my cooking skills aren’t too shabby either. Before I ship myself off to Toyama, mum and I were determined to get me to learn as much Indian cooking as we can. So during my India trip, I managed to pick up the art of chappati making and how to make some easy side dishes for my fantastic Chappattis.

And to be honest, it’s really heartwarming to eat my own Chappati and Channa. I nearly cried, and I’m not saying this out of self-praise….but just the feeling of “ah, so I can do this!” made me feel extremely satisfied with myself.

So MUST Indians know how to cook Indian food? I’m still inclined to say no, cuz I’m sure there are many Indians out there who just never grew up cooking or eating Indian food everyday and I’m sure there are Indians who just don’t like Indian food and I’m sure there are Indians who live in places where the ingredients are just NOT THERE.

And who am I to judge?

But I DO know that this cooking will ward of at least 10% of potential homesickness so I’m grateful for that.

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2 more weeks…

On 3rd August, I shall board a flight that will inevitably change a lot things in my life.
That’s about 2 weeks from now. So life has become a mad rush to meet people, sending off last minute e-mails, packing, getting gifts and learning as much as I can about Singapore. A mad rush indeed.

I find it quite ironic that prior to the month of May (for about 6 or 7 months), any and every information was like a drop of water in the desert and now for the past 2 or 3 months there’s been a tidal wave of information and things to do.

Of course, I’m super grateful for this tidal wave….all the same, I’m overwhelmed with all the information.@_@

OMIYAGE 

Anyhow, I’ve been out visiting museums and omiyage shopping with fellow Singapore JETs over the past few weeks. The Peranakan  museum and National museum were great and besides the photo taking opportunity it also gave me a chance to soak in what Singapore was made of.

Additionally, we also found some awesome FREE Singapore NDP themed postcards at/near these museums! Wah! Free stuff lei!! Not bad hor?? Not only that, all these Museums also have FREE touristy maps!! So naturally I took them all. 🙂 Bueh Pai Seh mah?

Shopping at Bugis was also good to get tourist-y singapore keychains at 24 for $10, Appolo buiscuits at 3 packets for $3.30 and HAWFLAKES!! at 3 packets for $1.30. Not sure if this is a rip-off, but it was convenient to buy it all at the same place. After that, we also went to Mustafa Centre (after getting lost *cough cough*) to get the much sought after Sandalwood soap at 6 for $5.70 and also managed get tea that was in a nicely crafted merlion box for about $6.70.

Yet another FREE treasure was at the MRT station. MRT maps are free for all!!!!
NDP also started distributing FREE Singapore Flag badges which I collected from SAFRA and the Tanjong Pagar MRT Xchange!!!
FREE! FREE! FREE!

My Omiyage List:
1. Set of Indian table mats
2. Indian shawls
3. Sandalwood soap
4. Singaporean keychains from Bugis Street
5. Hawflakes
6. Appolo Chocolate wafers
7. Dried pineapples
8. Dried mangoes
9. Durian cakes [preserved kind]
10. Magnets from Malaysia
11. Wooden craft pencils from Malaysia
12. Hand towel from Singapore Zoo
13. Elephant keychain from Singapore Zoo
14. Singapore badges
15. Singapore postcards
16. Singapore MRT maps
17. Flower shaped candles
18. Incense sticks
19. Singapore Tea

NOTE: It looks like a lot, BUT I might end up eating some of these myself and because most of these are FOC, I thought to myself, why not. Also, I’m only taking 1 or 2 of most of these items so the omiyage set is just gonna be diverse.

PACKING

This one’s a little tricky. I’ve packed, unpacked and re-packed several times now and it’s kind of like a weird ritual. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it will be complete till the day I leave.

Everyone has their own advice to give….and Amanda gave me some really good advice. She said “Don’t take what you want. Take what you need. And don’t take what you think you will use. Take what you WILL use.”

Question is….what DO I need? :S

Somehow, I’m coming to accept that no matter how much I pack, I’m sure to forget something. And no matter how little I pack, I will have too much of something else. That oddly comforts me.

SELF-INTRODUCTION

As I spoke to my predecessor and my supervisor, I decided to prepare my self-introduction presentation in advance and get it approved ASAP.

It’s split into:
1. About Singapore
2. About Indian Culture
3. Places of interest in Singapore
4. Theatre and Me
5. My Family
6. My Hobbies

Happy to say that my supervisor is really happy with it! 🙂 So that’s one thing off my to do list for now, yay!
She’s advised me to have English in writing and to present it orally in English and Japanese.

JLPT N4

I don’t think I bombed it…but then again, I don’t think I was brilliant at it.
The odd part is, I don’t feel terribly upset about it either.

Don’t get me wrong. I love and adore Nihongo, but something about leaving to Japan and the thought of doing nothing but listen to Japanese being spoken all day made me lose my drive to study Japanese during my time left in Singapore. :\ not entirely sure that this makes sense, but I wanted to speak  in English as much as I could.

I guess, the listening section was the easiest of the 3 papers (for me at least). Kanji as usual was….not pretty, to say the least. But I’ll live. 😛

VISA
On 9th July, we went over to the Japanese Embassy and submitted our visa applications with fellow JETs and then had a 2 hour long orientation session. We were briefed on what to expect upon landing and what the Tokyo orientation would be like and how and what to tell our students about Singapore.

We also raised our concerns about luggage weight limits, and clothing concerns during the Q and A.

And at the end of it all, we got our passports with our employment visa! woohoo! It’s a single entry visa, but I get to stay for up to 3 years with it. waw, fantastic baby!

OBSERVATION AT SJSS

Also, the Japanese Embassy kindly arranged observation dates at some of the Japanese schools in Singapore. I chose to observe an entire school week at the Singapore Japanese Secondary School between 14th to 18th July.

The school was amazing and both the teachers and students were amazingly kind. Special mention goes to Ishibashi-san who took care of me the whole time there. An extremely kind lady who made my short stay at SJSS a wonderfully memorable one.

Thank you for the fantastic memories.

Thank you for the fantastic memories.

The only problem was that it’s allll the way in west coast road. =_= 遠い。。。BUT, that said, I learnt a lot!

Of course, many of the lesson structures were unique to this school because of it being in Singapore, and I’ve been told to expect students of a MUCH lower English level. But, I got plenty of teaching ideas anyway.

Teachers often played games to teach the students grammar rules. One teacher had a students pair up PLACES with PURPOSES. For example: “Beach” would go with “to go for a swim” and make a sentence “I want to go to the beach to go for a swim.”

Another was a game that I like to call Forehead Charades. This involved one student having a card with an image strapped to his or her forehead. They would then have to guess what the image was by asking yes or no questions. I could be food, animals…etc.

Ishibashi-san also gave me 2 whole sets of J-dramas at the end of the week which took me completely by surprise. One was Hana Kimi and the other was Scrap Teacher which she gave to me saying “These are high school dramas, so maybe you can get some ideas!” :3 優しい!!!

Haiz, I’m really gonna miss the school.

REFLECTIONS
So with 2 weeks left, I wanna treasure the things around me as much as I can. But a year will fly by very quickly and before I know it, I’ll be back at least for a quick visit.  So it’s not like I’ll never see this place again.

My only hope for this country is for it to turn into a more gracious, accepting and loving society when I return.

This is home after all…..

Special People :)

Whatever I’m doing today, whoever I’ve become, I owe it to some very special people in my life.
I’ve also promised some of these special people that if I ever write a book, they’ll get at least a chapter dedicated to them…. And well, if I DON’T write a book, this will have to do 😛

EL FAMILI
Mum, Dad, Chachi, Granparents 
and really the entire clan of Indian relatives I’ve got have been amazingly supportive of all my crazy choices since day one. They’ll always have my heartfelt thanks for backing up my choices and for being the biggest supporters in my life.

I think I’ve told a lot of people about my Mum who really should be called Superwoman. She manages the house, cooks, cleans, finds time to drive me to and from work at really really odd hours, puts up with my nonsense and still manages to love me unconditionally. She’s watched every one of my show and has grown to appreciate Theatre and Japan despite having no personal connection to either of these. She’s my biggest critique and supporter, every show she’s come to she’s given me invaluable feedback that I’ve always cherished. Of course like any mother and daughter we have our disagreements, but really, I wouldn’t trade this fabulous cute mother for any other in the world.

Dad the ATM ;P ok, that’s just a running joke. But Dad’s the kind of person who comes to my shows admits that he doesn’t understand everything I do and still manages to say with all the sincerity “I’m very proud of you”. He’s a feminist in ways that I don’t think even he comprehends and he’s never brought me up to think that “girls couldn’t do it”.  He’s the one who’s gotten me into Lasalle and helped me proof read a ton of applications throughout my life. He’s also the Jiminy Cricket conscience voice in my head…although at times he does some really crazy things like adding honey and cinnamon to pancakes…milk…tea…actually he’d add honey and cinnamon to just about anything if no one was there to stop him. That and he shops like a maniac at NTUC…hahaha.

Dear dear chachi boi….what can I even say about it. It chooses nature over humans, it’s happy about me flying off cuz it can get my room, it resembles a huge coconut tree and it loves snakes. IT also happens to be my younger brother. Sometimes, it’s hard to say nice things about a person who behaves like a cactus on it’s period most of the time, but he’s a lovely person with his heart in the right place. A tsundere if I’ve ever seen one. He comes to my shows, calls me a pretentious hipster, asks me for free stuff shamelessly, demands me to cook what he wants and very seldom listens to what I have to say. But that’s what younger brothers are for. But he also cares about everyone in the family and he always there to spread logic and reason to the world. 🙂  So i wuv him too.

And my grandparents who’ve never once looked down on all my very queer choices and who’ve taken the time to listen to why I do what I do… On days when they appreciate my theatre work, on days when they ask me more questions on what I do, on days that they cheer me on, on days when they pray for everything I do to be a success (never mind that I might be doing a show about homosexuality or something equally puzzling for people of their generation), I feel incredibly incredibly blessed to be born into this particular family.

Of course, I have to give a special shout out to all my brilliant cousins and aunts and uncles and family friends who’ve ALL been there for me, cheering me on.

I know of so many women and girls in my life who don’t get to do all that I’ve done because it’s just not “traditional” or “economically-safe” or “right for a girl to do that job”. No one in my family has ever been that way. They have plenty of questions to ask, but never have they shunned me for what I am.

Theatre buddies
Cherilyn Woo and Amanda “hamhamottlinguito” Teo 
two amazing people who never stopped insulting me every time i thought Japan was nothing but an impossible dream. They’re ruthless and don’t take any of my bullshit which makes them supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-unicorn-rainbow people.

My defining moment with these two was after I’d graduated. We’d been sitting at Polar Puffs at Toa Payoh hub, discussing the future as usual….and I talked about Japan…again…at which point Amanda told me that I’d grow to be a regretful person I didn’t go there sooner or later. And at that time I did, as Cher might call an “Oh me…oh my” thing and I had no idea how I’d be able to pull it off and where I’d get the money for it…etc, etc….but here I am, and I’d never have gotten the guts to do this without these 2 ladies.

To be perfectly honest, Amanda and I didn’t start out as super awesome buddies. And if you ask either of us, we’ve had our crazy rough patches. But having worked with her over several productions, we’ve both learnt how to be brutally honest with each other. She’s also been there to ground me every time I start panicking and she’s always there to reason with me when I get another one of my crazy impulsive ideas. I also have to thank her for being an amazing amazing dramaturge and critique of my works. There’s a lot more I’d say about her, but if I talked about all the crazy things she’s said and done to me, she’ll kill me.

CHER!!!!!!!! Cherilyn (i spelt it right) Woo is an enigma. A person from a completely different time. I’d call her a princess, but Amanda might get jealous….a fellow directing grad from lasalle, I’ve lost count of the number of nights and skype sessions we’ve spent on bitching about directing woes that we believe no one else in the world will understand….Honestly, not sure what anyone would think if they tapped in on some of the late night skype sessions we’ve had over the years. Some of my most memorable conversations with her include analysing Howard Stern’s interview with Tiger Wood’s mistress. But honestly, with all the cupcakes and awkward smiles and insults, she’s a great person to plot the worst ideas with….really she’s a terrible influence. But we’ve pegged ourselves as amazing jiniuses….or so cher would like to say. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH.

Real conversation with this woman. Not made up. You can ask her.

Real conversation with this woman. Not made up. You can ask her.

Really, these 2 deserve separate posts dedicated to them, but its getting waaay awkward dishing this much praise to these 2 people who I spend more time insulting and arguing with more than anything : P And I’d go on talking about all the fabulous people in my life…but then I wouldn’t shut up…so this is it for now.

I thank my stars for whatever good karma that earned me this good fortune.