Sunday, February 17, 2013


Permit me dear friends to share with you my thoughts and my experiences with ear piercing and tattooing. I am sure like me, many of you are eager and cannot wait to get the lowdown on these exotic, esoteric practices but did not know whom to ask. When I used to see people with their ears, foreheads, eyebrows pierced, and tattoos blazoned beautifully on all parts of their bodies, my thought was : Are these people crazy ? Sleazebags or what ? Being from an earlier generation ( God, how it hurts to admit), I only associated these practices with Popeye the Sailor and Fat old rednecks with ponytails/ bandannas round their heads riding equally fat Harleys.

Truth to tell, I was always fascinated by Tattoos, and getting myself tattooed was always on my agenda, but the fear that something could go wrong always stopped me from getting this done. 

Let me start with piercing my ears : it is painful, but the pain goes off once the wound heals, which takes about 2 weeks at the most. I am sure you all know of my love for piercing my ears : I have eight such in each ear ( 7 of them self inflicted ), and they all look very beautiful. My pierced ears with the accompanying doodads are invariably the topic of conversation with anybody who sees me, not only for the first time but even every time thereafter. In fact many of my facial imperfections go unnoticed because of my earrings, the focus being diverted to my ear and earrings. That's a good thing too, otherwise I would be bombarded with lots of unsolicited but well intentioned advice as to how get rid of my scars, pimples, blackheads etc., with all of which I am plentifully endowed.
                       I don't remove the earrings everyday, and I have no problem sleeping with them. 

Just as I was crazy enough to have my ears pierced, I had an equally crazy desire to get my belly button pierced. I did a lot of research on the net looking for the best point at which to get it pierced ( Up ? down, sideways ? angle? etc. ), the pain factor, the essential after care procedures and so on. Finally one day, I mustered up enough courage to go ahead and get it done. I hit upon and settled for the dangling belly button ring, as it looked pretty, simple and cute.

Then came the dreaded part of getting it pierced. I was mortally scared about the impending pain, about the slow healing process thereafter and worse, about things that could go wrong : possible pus formation, infection, inflammation and all those not so trivial little things started worrying me all of a sudden. However, I pushed aside all these nagging doubts and gave the piercing man the go ahead signal. I also made it very clear to him that he should make the piercing deep enough so that the ring does not come off at the slightest tug or when snagged with articles of my clothing.

The piercing got done without any pain, may be because of the local anaesthetic applied, and the belly button ring looking absolutely gorgeous, I couldn't take my eyes off it. The deed done, after care instructions were carefully noted down and everything seemed to be going fine

People close to me were allowed to take a peek at this wonderful thing. People were all praise for my courage, and kept on admiring it. I felt so proud to have finally done it. It was just maybe 1 month before my daughter's wedding, and during the wedding, all her friends wanted to have a peek at my belly button. At first I was embarrassed and hesitant to show it to them. But their oohs and aahs emboldened me to show it off to all comers, now with more confidence and unabashed pride.

In the first few days I was mentally discomfited and physically felt some discomfort to have the ring dangling from the belly button – like an interloper. But I soon learnt to overcome these sensations, gradually getting used to the ring as being apart of me to a point that it was no longer bothersome or intrusive in any way. I was taking good care of it and it seemed to be healing well.

Three months flew by uneventfully. Then one fine day it just fell off all of a sudden. Maybe, the piercing was not done deep enough, I don't know. I was so disappointed and dejected, depressed and sad.   Even today, three years on, memories of the ring saddens me. For remembrance and solace I have only a photo of the ring taken when it first became part of me.

Now I plan to have it pierced one more time and this time will choose the ring wisely. No more the dangling types for me, for I do feel the dangling type was also one of the reasons for it to fall off. Luckily the whole procedure did not cost me much. This time around I plan to get it done by a more experienced and qualified person : it might cost me a little more : but for me, having a ring around my belly button is certainly worth the time, effort and money spent on such an exotic ornamentation.

I now come to the matter of getting a Tattoo. The belly button experience made me put off tattooing for a long time. Every time LA Ink, Miami Ink were aired on TV, I would watch the shows with utter fascination and rapt attention. Just watching the artists creating masterpieces made me want more and more to get myself also inked.

My daughter and son in law both have beautiful tattoos, and both of them said it was not painful at all and their tattoos also healed beautifully. They told me not to be afraid, and I should get it done without a second thought.

                                             Our daughter, with her 1st tattoo
In September of last year a visit from my daughter along with her husband, finally made it possible for me to get tattooed. They had planned to get one more tattoo done on themselves, and insisted I too came along and fulfill my long pending desire.

I just took the plunge, and went along with them. Since this was my first tattoo, I chose to keep it small and simple. On the spur of the moment, I decided on Sagittarius - "The Centaur", because that is my astrological sign. I could have selected something more intricate, but then decided to take it easy the first time.

The mythic centaur has the upper body of a man, and the lower body and legs of a horse. The icon shows an archer, an arrow, or occasionally a bow and arrow. This sign makes a great statement as a tattoo design of all the zodiac signs since I hold it to be the most fashionable and chic of all mythical creatures in the Zodiac.

I got it done near my shoulder blades, and on my right side, so that it would be visible but not in a flashy sort of way even when I wear a saree, or some broad necked top.

The tattoo artist of the studio we went to was very nice person with more than 10 years of experience in the art of tattooing, and knew his job well. He also had other experienced tattoo artists to work with him and they were all very good : each specialized in one particular facet of tattoo art.

I learnt to appreciate the skill and the extreme patience, dedication of a Tattoo artist, and felt they deserved every penny of what they earn. One can become a Tattoo artist only if one has the flair for it, not every one has that in him/her. Seeing them from such close quarters was definitely a wonderful experience. They have to concentrate, and do it bending for hours depending on how big or intricate the work is, for in their job they cannot afford to make mistakes. That is why it is all the more important to go to a well established Tattoo studio.

My Tattoo healed beautifully, convincing me that not all things in this world can go wrong. Even otherwise, I daresay I have the courage to tread into territory where no man has gone before, even when doubts nag. If I decide on something , I just plunge into it headlong, whatever be the consequences.
My message to people who would like to experience these things, is to just go ahead and get them done, for you have only one life to live and live it to the full without any fear. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Yummy Dhudhi / Bottle Gourd Halwa or Pudding.

I always wanted to make this sweet dish, but somehow, never really got around making it.

Bottle gourd is one of the earliest vegetables cultivated by man, believed to be originated in Africa. It is one of the favorite vegetables in Indian Cuisine. It grows in humid weather of India, Sri Lanka and other tropical countries. One can make lovely slightly watery dish to go with the Indian bread/Chappaties along with channa dhal (Bengal gram dhal). One can make Koftas, Kababs and and sweets out of it. It is a versatile vegetable somewhat like carrots.

The various health benefits of this readily available and low priced vegetables may not be known to many Indians, yet it is loved by all Indians who find different interesting ways of cooking this vegetable and try to include it as much as possible in their daily diet.

Since it very low in calories and high in fiber (100 gms. has only 12 calories), it supposed to help in weight reduction if taken on daily basis  in the form of juice, which should not be strained.  Bottle gourd is 96% of water, therefore is a very effective drink for weight loss. It also cures all stomach related problems, gives a healthy glow to the skin, improves hair growth,  is very good for the eyes, and of course there are too many benefits to list here.
One can make soups, gravy vegetable, puddings, and many easy and interesting dishes with this vegetable.

So here I am sharing with you the Halwa or pudding which I made with Bottle gourd today.
First I grated the bottle gourd and squeezed out all the juice. The squeezed juice should not be thrown away, it can be drunk like that itself or can used to make dough for chappathi,  use it to add it to soup or anything else but just don't throw it away. I had about 2 and half cups of grated bottle gourd
In a heated non stick pan I added just half tsp of ghee/ clarified butter, and fried some chopped almonds and raisins,  took them off in a small plate. In the same pan, I fried the bottle gourd gratings for about 2/3 mins., then added 2 cups of slim milk to it.
You can see in the picture how nicely it is thickening and boiling, and soon it started to leave at the sides as it started bubbling:

now it was time to add some sugar, not much, for I wanted to retain the sweetness of milk, just about 6 tsps .
Now after the sugar melts everything should come together giving it a slightly thick pudding texture:

time to add the nuts, raisins, cardamom powder, a pinch of nutmeg powder, keep on stirring for a minute or so, and then remove it from the gas.
Now add  few strands of saffron which had been soaked in warm milk, and a very very tiny bit of edible camphor to this pudding or halwa, then transfer into nice glass bowl:

 This sweet dish is ready in about 15 minutes.

Time to dig into this delicious fiber rich, chewy pudding with nuts to give that additional crunch, and enjoy my guilt free dessert with all my heart.
One can add pistas, cashews too if one has them in the house. No need to add any green color to it, for it looks beautiful and good as  it is

Don't you feel like making it this very minute ?