Friday, June 17, 2011

Our tomatoes don't get squashed anymore

They seem to be built of steel. I didn't see this myself but apparently a few days ago, there was a news report on the telly on how hundreds of kilos of tomatoes are stuffed inside trucks and then a hundred people sit on top of them and even then they keep their shape (the tomatoes, not the men). Like you, I have also seen hundreds of tomatoes stuffed into plastic crates in supermarkets that don't show any sign of wear and tear. Quite naturally, these same tomatoes also don't burst open and send forth juicy trails that need to be wiped off with a napkin or the back of a hand, depending on how you eat. They have thick skins and no flavour. They look pretty, cut into perfect slices for a plate of salad but they do taste quite, how we say this politely, crappy.

I crave for the tastes of my childhood. The gobhi that doesn't taste like plastic. The kheera that can be bitter sometimes. The papaya that has not been artificially ripened. The brinjals that don't have an unnatural, waxy shine to them. The tarbooz (watermelon) that does not leave a bitter after-taste in the mouth. I picked up some veggies from a farmer's market in Bandra recently and I wanted to cry with happiness at just how divine they tasted.
 
I have forgotten how to eat according to the season. I have forgotten the amazing taste of new potatoes. Melons are not ripened by the hot loo winds and so they are as readily available while it's pouring here as they are in the hot summer months. Mangoes are around in winters too but damn, they don't taste the same. California apples, kiwis, figs and fruit from all over the world is available at the premium food store around the corner. I get a twinge about my carbon footprint but stash it away with the rest of the things to be guilty about and put the pack of 'foreign cherries' in my shopping basket anyway.

Pesticides in everything. We know that. We are a third-world country with too many hungry mouths to feed but still, this may not enough to justify the killing fields of Punjab.

I have been trying to switch to organic fruit and vegetables, more so ever since I found this wonderful website run by the amazing Raj Ganpath who advocates eating real food (I hope to post my own success story about fat loss and strength gain soon). 

The thing is, even leaving the expense part aside, the options in Mumbai seem to be limited. Thanks to Brown Paper Bag Weekend, I learnt about MOFCA sometime back. What is MOFCA?
 MOFCA is Mumbai Organic Farmers and Consumers Association (MOFCA)
MOFCA is a cooperative association of organic farmers (working within a 200 km radius of Mumbai) working collectively with consumers from Mumbai towards the betterment of local seasonal organic food grown and consumed within our region.

I tried to register for their Hari-Bhari Tokri last season. Unfortunately they had already reached their numbers. This season though I have registered and am quite looking forward to getting some real bel-waali (vegetables that grow on vines) subziyaan like bhindi, gourds, lauki and karela. I attended a meeting last evening and they seem to be doing some good work. They don't have a website yet but here's a concept note that they had mailed across that will explain their ideology. 
Hari Bhari Tokri- Version 2.0
From the experiences and learnings of the first season we would now like to present you with an updated proposal; Hari Bhari Tokri - Version 2.0

Before we get into the details we would like to reiterate the goals we had set before ourselves at the beginning of the first season; i.e. the promotion of sustainable farming methods in the Greater Mumbai area through;

Demonstration and sharing of sustainable farming techniques.
Creation of an alternative market model with shared risk and fair
prices for farmers and consumers.
Consumer education in order to create and sustain the demand for
Seasonal Local Organic food.

At the onset of our next season, we would like to keep these goals as
primary and try and stay away from becoming “just another vegetable
vendor”.

Starting this season we propose the concept of “Farm Sharing”.

20 farmers have pledged their lands and labour to the practice of sustainable farming methods of cultivation for this upcoming monsoon season (2011).
MOFCA will support them with sharing of technical know-how and other
farming resources, creating an assured market and a fair, consistent price for their produce and creating and managing the supply chain logistics.

In order to sustain this project MOFCA is looking for shareholders for
the upcoming season. As shareholders you will be helping to promote
sustainable farming throughout the community. In return you will have
access to part of the produce grown by the farmers.

We have available to us a total of 4 acres of farm land, cultivated by the 20 farmers partnering with us for this season. We are estimating a yield of 100 kg. / week from each acre which will give us a total of approximately 400 kilos. We have 200 farm shares available this season for public issue.

Being a Shareholder means:

You share both risks and rewards

Traditionally, farmers have borne the brunt of nature's vagaries while
consumers have become increasingly disconnected from the process of
food production, and from the human and ecological communities that
support this process. Shareholding is the first step towards restoring
the balance and harmony in our local food web.

As a consumer-shareholder, each week during harvest time you will
receive a share of the harvest. The cost of this is included in the share
price for the season and is fixed for its duration so as to be fair to
both farmer and consumer. Variety and bumper yields are our shared
rewards and scarcity and losses, our shared risks. In all situations, an
uncertain and variable harvest is the medium through which we learn
to respect Nature and to live in community.

Consumers and farmers have the opportunity to know each
other

The farmers will know who’s eating the food they are growing; and
the consumer will have some peace of mind, knowing exactly how and
who is growing the food that their family is eating.

You help partnered farmers to better plan their growing cycle.

Wastages that occur from excess produce not being sold will be
minimized, which in turn will reduce losses to the farmer and keep
costs to the consumer under control.

The liabilities of large projects are shared

The liability of larger projects which need to be undertaken for the
long term running of such a project are shared amongst all the
shareholders and not the responsibility of a few individuals.

You get weekly supplies of organic vegetables at a fair, pre-
determined price

Your share as a partner entitles you to quality organic vegetables
grown on the farms. Without intermediaries, you benefit from
reasonable, predetermined prices that will be paid direct to the farmer;
these are not subject to economic fluctuations or false scarcities. In
order to make this possible we have factored the cost of vegetables
and logistics for one season, into your share value.

The coming growing cycle is the monsoon season which begins in May
with sowing and we expect a harvest from July to October. For this
season we have 200 farm shares available for public issue, each worth
Rs 3,000/- (Rupees Three Thousand Only). This share amount will be
taken on registration and the shareholder will not have to pay weekly
for the vegetables.

For more information, you can get in touch with them at hari.bhari.tokri@gmail.com

People in Mumbai, the final orientation meet will be held on 19th June, Sunday at 10:30 am at Peddar Road, 701 Prabhu Kunj, Next to Cadbury House. 

Do go if you are interested. Hear Ubai talk passionately about the work he and his friends are doing and sign up for the Hari Bhari Tokri if you like. We need this community of green citizens to grow.

People on Twitter, err, Tweeple, please tweet this post. Share, spread the word, link to this post, mail to your friends in Mumbai. Let's get this thing going. Thank you.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tasting literature

We were talking about Kindle the other day and since then I have been thinking of what real books constitute these days. It all came together for me when my mother told me about how the famous poet/lyricist Gulzar spoke of how we have forgotten to put our fingers into our mouths, wetting them to aid turning a page. The loss of this practice has made us forget how to taste a book, he says. 

Only Gulzar could have said it. And it sounded better in Hindi.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Delurk Divus - you can't shake me off, baby

I completely forgot about this year's Delurk Divus. May 12 came and went and I forgot to pain everyone about saying hello. Well, I remember it now and don't think you are going to get away without waving at me, stranger.

So yes, you, the long-time reader who has been around for years and has never missed a post. And you, intermittent reader, who comes by when s/he has nothing better to do. And you, friend from real life, who also happens to read this. And you, blog-friend who doesn't comment anymore because come on, don't we talk enough on Facebook already? And you, first-time visitor who just happened to come over and found herself right in the middle of the delurk party. And you, the one who doesn't fall into any of the above categories. This is me, waving at you and asking, who be you? Say hi, use a nick if you are shy about real names, tell me a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? Do we share any interests? Do you want to keep reading me or should I shut this shop already? Heh, needy question, I know.

It's just one day! Tadah, Delurk Divus 2011 now open and I wait for your comments, all agog. My hypothesis is that nobody reads blogs anymore but hey, prove me wrong and I might just go back to blogging regularly again.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What's age got to do with it?

I found this in my drafts and thought it deserved to be posted, even if it is more than a year old. Try it for size, people. 

***

Every time I am found complaining about the terrible twos, mothers of kids from other age-groups reassure me that it is in fact not just the twos. Pat, pat on my head they go and say with equal parts glee and sadness that the threes, fours, fives, fifties and sixties all come with their own challenges so I might as well just jump off the nearest cliff now. Others kindly remind me that I will get to repeat this experience soon enough and isn't that a really happy thought? So I figured I'd do the only thing that needs to be done in situations such as these and made a meme out of it (popping a Valium was the other option). Simple enough - write down the age of your kid/s and tell me five things that are fantastic about that age and five that are completely cry-in-your-pillow terrible.

Adi for example is two years and nine months.

The Good
  • He has a sense of humour. He increasingly sees the funny side of things and laughs uproariously. Not quite reading 'Yes, Minister' yet but it gives me hope.
  • He is interested in books. We look forward to reading him stories at bedtime and otherwise and love to watch him get all involved and animated. We also like the fact that we can blow up more money at bookstores than ever before and blame it all on his reading requirements.
  • He shows affection. The kisses, hugs and 'I love you's are flying thick and fast now and noone's complaining. We are loved, baby!
  • He is showing clear signs of the things he is interested in and giving peeks into his personality - the music and the sports and the gadgets and one can almost see the parts that are me and that are M. Very nice. We now also know the exact areas that our therapists should look into.
  • He is becoming independent and while I am not entirely sure whether it is a good thing or bad, I like to see him try to do things on his own because hey, I have another hapless babe coming right up.
The Bad
  • The temper. We have a wicked one ourselves and now we have another one to contend with. The rage, the fury, the desire to throw things at people's heads and then proceed to bite off the latter with one's fangs, to pinch and to cause bodily harm - yes, it's all there and it's so not nice. For the recipient. It may of course serve the purpose of violent catharsis for the temper-holder.
  • The automatic NO!s - delivered right at your doorstep, ma'am - as soon as you place a request for just about anything.
  • There is a flip side to his showing affection which is his ability to display equally well the lack thereof. Very free with 'I don't like Mama/Daddy/Nani/Thatha/Paati etc. Equally free with the 'Don't talk to me's and its ruder versions.
  • The illnesses - they started the moment he turned two and started pre-school and they have been with us since. The doctor's bills have been mounting and nobody but nobody will be happier to not be seen at OPD every two weeks than yours truly.
  • The desire for control - yes, yes I know the independence cannot come without it - but good gracious, he doesn't need to control which side each parent will sit in the car, which colour tees are acceptable for the mater, the exact number of times the doorbell needs to be rung, the sending off the mother to her computer (go, work, mama), does he? Oh, he does.
I am sure you have your own fairy tales and sob-stories to share. Go ahead, tell all, either in your blog or in the comments. Non-parents, comments on our plight are welcome, just don't look too happy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

It's a panda, what's not to love?

I took Adi for Kung Fu Panda 2 while M watched over the princess, probably his favourite job in the world. This was the first time that we had reversed roles. Many are the joys of weaning, I say. The movie is absolutely delightful, possibly better than Part 1 even and will be counted amongst the all-time greats of Hollywood if I have anything to do with it. It's such a tough job balancing wit and wisdom and comic timing and such fine storytelling. I love Po, can you tell? He is the most adorable character in any movie, anywhere.

I don't like those 3D glasses though. They are so heavy and I need to wear them on my own glasses and wearing two pairs of glasses is not recommended even for the most ardent fans of spectacles. You become one yourself. Spectacle, I mean. They kept hurting me on the bridge of my nose and I fished for something in my bag to soften the impact. I could only find a coin so I balanced the 3D glasses on that and proceeded to thoroughly enjoy myself. When the movie ended, I took them off and was about to drain the last of my Pepsi and saunter off when Adi asked me what was resting on the side of my nose and much like an accomplished magician picked up the forgotten coin. From my face.

Complete Tina Fey moment, I tell you.

Did Adi enjoy the movie, you ask. Yes, I almost forgot about him for a moment there, didn't I? Well, he keeps telling me to 'do inner peace' so maybe concepts are still a little on the hazy side but overall I think a good time was had by all.

I'd like a poster of Po and the fabulous five, I think. In my room, not the kids'.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pity we can't just move to Goa

 We took the kids to Goa for a couple of days last week. Like always, we pressed the intrepid traveller in our four-going-on-forty into good behaviour with many threats of the Goa trip being cancelled if
  • he did come out from under the dining table right this minute and start eating his breakfast
  • he did not stop throwing all cushions from the couch on the floor and proceed to jump on them with his shoes on
  • he did not stop fiddling with the water dispenser/my iPad/iPhone/computer/dishwasher etc right this instant

It worked. Some of the time.

Goa was wonderful like it always is and only it can be. But more importantly, this time we were able to have a holiday and did not feel upon our return that we needed another holiday to get over this one. Part of it had to with the fact that we went with friends, also with two kids in tow and the little people did a remarkable job of keeping each other busy, discussing Ben10 and Tom and Jerry and other elements of under-five popular culture. We were so encouraged by this behaviour that other than the beach and the pool, we also took them out into the city and I finally managed to see the famous St. Francis of Assisi church. We got rained out though and despite making a mad dash from the car to the church, the kids took a spot of the water. Adi insisted that every drop be wiped off. Most fastidious.

There were attempts made to eat out at restaurants. Most of them did not end very well. Cutlery was played with, glasses of water were demanded and spilled, exotic-looking food like kiwi-tarts were ordered but not eaten and I normally ended up thinking longingly how a couple of cocktails would hit the sweet spot. In fact, given that I have recently watched the four seasons of Mad Men, I had quite a hankering for Old-Fashioned. Strangely though, I couldn't get one. Must sort that out in Bombay.

I have decided to not fight the food battle with Adi because there is absolutely no way I can win and we need to pick our battles from the rather vast array of options provided. Ragini is different though. Probably because she has been left to her devices a lot more than the firstborn, she can eat on her own and does so very well. On this trip, she demanded mangoes and watermelon and cheese omelettes and fed herself and the furniture really well.

I walked along the shore and felt at peace and later my feet looked like they had had an expensive pedicure. I have to buy a house on the beach in Goa. How wonderful it would be to have something like Diane Keaton's house in Something's Gotta Give, all noisy ocean and windy, blue skies. I'd need a dog though.

The maid situation continues to be dicey. This is also why I have not managed to blog much lately. I don't even know if anyone comes around to even check on this blog anymore. The updates have been so infrequent of late.