Our team at work went for an offsite to NIAS in Wassenaar. I wrote a small feature on the outing. I am sharing a snippet (the one which Purab made me read out again):
Autumn is an extraordinary season. The trees laden with orange, brown and red, shed their leaves. Ripe with the experiences of the entire year, this purging of excess is liberating. Autumn prepares for winter a time of silence and rest. Lest we forget, in this stationary season much work is done. Below the surface, life prepares, and waits. The reflective black waters of the fountain in the Persian Rose garden is stirred, from these ripples emerge messages, onwards we must proceed.
Yesterday I made a cake that was butter-and-milk-free. I wanted to celebrate with my friends and the fact that most desserts have milk or butter in them bothered me. My son, almost 7 years old, has cow’s milk allergy and can’t eat many products that we often associate with kids – pizzas and cupcakes. The more I learn from his journey the more I realize that kids have such resilience and strength. I am teaching myself to cook in a different fashion so I am happy to share the success of this cake.
Recipe for basic soya cake INGREDIENTS:
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup sunflower oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or Triple Sec
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup soya cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and oil. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the soya cream until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.
I used Renshaw fondant and Wilton decorating gel for decorating.
There is always so much more to read. I find myself in conversations: “No, I haven’t read that.” The prospect is thrilling and worrying. There is that constant niggle – out there could be that one book I wish I had read before putting pen to paper. Each day passes in the pursuit of that text. Words tumble out easy and smooth from the tip my fingers but my mind is in the jungle – hunting. I am reassured with, “But that’s always a constant.” If the quest got over, there was no other material, I would feel defeated. A battle that I willingly lose everyday. I like the manner in which the pile of my books comfort me in the cold. The buffer between the chill and me.
Here: Sitting waiting for Bambi to complete his swimming lesson I am traveling to 1950s Georgia. America – a country I have never visited.
The rain pours, the wind whips the flag, the scrawny brown boy struggles to keep his head above blue waters in the deep end.
There: I read on, she has just birthed on a mattress on the road. Her child unwanted in every way.
Here: I wipe his soaking body and he trembles and shakes, words flood out of his mouth. He is excited. He tells me how it was easy. I squeeze him like a sponge to take the damp out of his bones. He grabs my neck and rubs his nose against mine smiling into my eyes.
In the evening, over cups of tea and tostis, and later wine we talk, “Have you read Althusser?” I shake my head, “I have it on my list.” “You must, really, it will change your views about this, really, I insist.”
Radhadesh is peaceful – all you hear is this gurgling stream.
Grilled skies and cold weather in Dusseldorf.
And gates to who lives there? And why haven’t they cleared the Autumn leaves? Have they forgotten or been forgotten.
The Chateau du Lac.
Drive from Dusseldorf to Radhadesh.
To all things bare and all things lush.
Of derelict houses and brambles.
Graffiti and life covered in walks around Genval.
Genval — was very pretty.
Saturn Mall in Dusseldorf. Apoorva got a haircut and I bought a hair dryer.
Radhadesh – an ISKCON temple in Belgium’s Ardennes.
A pink sunset over the river Rhine.
Graffiti in Genval – introspective: retrospective.
A walk after a very massive breakfast at the Chateau du Lac.
I clicked a series of pictures called – Gates.
The Radhadesh gounds.
There is something very magical about Radhadesh.
Christmas tree in Dusseldorf – Altstadt.
With the old fading, and the new gushing in…
We drove from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf. From Dusseldorf to Radhadesh. And then to Genval. From there back home. It was an impromptu trip. I felt my creativity was clogged. I could smell the rust inside my head. And, I knew that all our friends would be away. We packed light, threw caution to the wind (not really – we do have winter tires but that term so aptly sums up the headspace) and galloped away.
I wrote more than I typed. I read more than I watched. The hills, a tiny town, a hidden lake, waiting, learning, talking, grinding the tip of the shoe into grey gravel, feeling cold till the bones and then hot in the head – eating and sleeping and waking up to eating. It was a sweet holiday. I got to know Bambi a lot better. His big eyes see bigger dreams, irrational ones, I stop myself from rationalising. There is plenty of time for that. I watch how he meticulously plans his day and I see me. I hear him hum and I notice Apoorva. Then I see him for who he is … the bit not like me, not like Apoorva, just him … like him.
I would advise going away to come back. To text friends from random locations. To tell them that however far we run they remain so deliciously close. I recognise my own need for isolation, for solitude, silence to hear my thoughts talking to each other, giving each other a good fight as my friend Natasha would say. Oh they fight and then they move on, just like you said Natasha. In ways that I still don’t understand I am finding myself.
I thank you 2013 – perhaps not as sincerely as Apoorva would but in my own way. You were a difficult year. I am glad you are over. I wish you peace. And I wish all my readers: