Homemade Veggie Lentil Soup

Living at home with my parents over the past year, I’ve been cooking a lot of new things and have definitely broadened my cooking skills. My latest success was homemade veggie lentil soup (well mostly it was a success – both my Mom and Dad had to add some extra salt to their bowls – they love their salt!). I tend to stay away from soup recipes that require veggie broth — I think it’s much better to make everything from scratch. I like this recipe because it’s dead simple and doesn’t require a lot of steps.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 2 small potatoes
  • 2 crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 7-8 cups water
  • cilantro
  • turmeric, fresh green chillies, red chilli powder/flakes
  • lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Chop all the veggies, garlic, and cilantro. Crush the tomatoes in a blender.
  2. In a big pot, mix water, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and olive oil. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add potatoes, lentils, and crushed tomatoes after a few minutes.
  4. Simmer for about 25 minutes.
  5. Season to taste with fresh cilantro, turmeric, chillies, salt, pepper, and lemon. Lemon gives it a nice zesty flavour!
  6. Serve with a side dish (fish or chicken), or for a light lunch, with a baguette or crackers & cheese. Will serve up to four people (for a couple days LOL!).
  7. Enjoy!!
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Homemade Veggie Lentil Soup

A Walk To Remember

It was a gorgeous day today, sunny and only -3 degrees! (balmy for January in Ottawa). In the afternoon, my Mom and brother went shopping, my Dad took a nap, and I decided to take a long walk. Well initially I thought it would be a short one, but I ended up walking and exploring for over an hour and a half.

I walked through trails and along roads, to the Beaverbrook plaza, through puddles, and across a little bridge over a stream. I saw many people along the way – a woman out for a walk with her young daughter, a couple taking pictures of the sky, and a girl walking her dog.

At Beaverbrook plaza, I saw that CHEO Autism Services is opening soon. It’s so great that the plaza has become a hub for community services – there is the Lotus Centre which offers music therapy for special needs children, Main Street Community Services, and now CHEO Autism as well. It’s amazing that there are so many resources available for special needs kids and low-income families, and I can only imagine the synergies that will be created between these three organizations.

I walked over to Kumon, hoping to run into my friend Sanjit who runs the centre, but it was closed for the day. I guess the kids get a well-deserved break on Saturdays!

Eventually my legs started to tire and I walked home, snapping photos and selfies along the way. Here are a few:


When I got home, my Dad was in his PJs making tea. I went to my room and lay down on my bed to relax – just as I was getting sleepy, the doorbell rang (my Mom and brother were home), and I heard “Mitttaaaaaa….. I need you in the kitchen!”. Then the real fun began. ;-)

Home Is Wherever I’m With You

Wow I can’t believe I’m finally getting around to posting this – it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve been on this site!! I wrote this on Dec.3, but then my computer died before I got a chance to post it

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Sitting at the Starbucks at the MARS Centre, listening to Christmas tunes, beside two young women who are discussing careers and gossiping and talking about job opportunities at UHN. Earlier today I learned the dance sequence to Beyoncé’s formation video:

Okay, okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Prove to me you got some coordination, cause I slay
Slay trick, or you get eliminated

It was a fun class, and I was exhausted and didn’t think my body could take it but somehow I survived it and even had a bit of fun. Like a lot of things these days, things seem to register as fun well after the fact. :-) There was a girl next to me who I would turn to every time I didn’t catch what the instructor had just shown us. Too bad she ended up leaving early! I wish I could post the video we took but it is forbidden for liability reasons. :p I hate that I have to abide by all these rules… I wish I could just write whatever I want, but I guess censorship is part of writing, or at least thinking about others feelings. I don’t know how Malala did it.. makes me admire her even more. Writing anonymously from her little house in the village, knowing that every word could get her in trouble. And yet still managing to keep a smile on her face!

It’s been a rough little past while, as you can probably tell since I haven’t been writing my blog posts which is very unlike me. However I have been walking the 10 KM at least once I week so I will write them all eventually.

Week 45!! It was a memorable one. I woke up early since I had promised Arvin that I would join him for a session at landmark forum. He asked me to be his guest since he is working on a documentary about mental health and addiction – his documentary profiles three people on the streets who deal wih addiction, and shows how they became addicted, their childhood, where they grew up, relationships, etc. I’m meeting with him next week with a few other folks to brainstorm further [Update: this didn’t end up happening – they met all the way up in Etobicoke!]. I walked from the Distillery where I’d been staying for most of November (at Samir and Shannon’s place while they got married in India), past some beautiful churches, up Jarvis, and to the hotel boardroom where the event was being held.

At first I was skeptical – I had heard both good and bad things about Landmark – some of my friends swear by it, and some people say it’s like a cult and they are really aggressive in getting you to sign up. So I went in skeptical, and emerged inspired. It was the stories that did it for me. One girl spoke about how she and her mother were separated for so many years because she held onto grudges and hadn’t fully forgiven her, and then during a Landmark session, she decided to call her and surprisingly, her mother was at a Landmark course just across the street from her! At that moment she realized that her mother had never actually abandoned her, she was always there. Hmmm… as I’m writing this it’s making me realize that I’m not alone either, and even though I don’t see my loved ones all the time, they are always with me. It’s hard to remember these things when you are feeling a little lost and hopeless (or a lot lost and hopeless).

Following Landmark, I walked out to the Allan Garden conservatory which was closed but I love that area so I sat on a bench there and FaceTimed my sister (or maybe she FaceTimed me, I can’t remember). We were both still upset by the Trump win… in fact I think I still am. I can’t believe how hard it hit me!! I had a great time at Sheldon’s election party, and then as I fell asleep, I was hoping that when I woke up, I would hear that Clinton had won, but instead I read that it was Trump. And my body locked up, and I felt SO much anger. Roshni and I talked about how she had been debating with Dad over a few things, but I could’ve told her that there is definitely no winning those debates!! Lol. Chris also felt really upset about the Trump win, because he resonated a lot with Clinton and what she stood for. I’ve noticed that all the leaders have been very positive in terms of making statements about working in harmony (like Clinton, Obama, Sadhguru, my Mom)… but I don’t know if I buy it. Usually I’m so positive but lately I’ve been a negative nancy to say the least. Where has my sense of humour gone?! There are moments it surfaces, usually around people. I miss the kids I was tutoring, I miss my old life, I miss my creative writing classes, I miss my old self. Not that I’m not grateful for my job and where things are heading, it’s just hard letting go of the things you love.

The next part of my day was pretty wild, insane, magical, unreal. In the middle of our FaceTime call, my phone died, which was pretty odd since it had 42% battery, and it normally works even if it’s 1%. I had an immediate urge to go home, charge my phone, make plans, absolutely anything to get escape this anxiety of being in the unknown – but instead I took it as a sign to explore and I wandered into a church at the corner. As I read my book, The Bandit Queen, about Phoolan Devi, my mind started to spiral into depression and I didn’t think I could continue. The words started to blur and not make sense and my mood got so low. And just then a woman came up to me – she had short black hair, was of African descent, very thin, and exuded kindness and warmth. She asked if I was staying for the event that evening, and I said what event, and she said that they were having an International Fair where there would be foods from all different cultures and music and dancing. I asked what time it was at and she said that it started at 5 PM. I glanced at my watch and it was only 3, so in my head I thought I probably wouldn’t stay that long – she caught my look and said vehemently, “You must come” so I agreed, still not entirely convinced.

I tried to read my book again, and that’s when a short man approached me – he had long white hair and a long white beard (he kind of looked like Santa Claus, or a character from Lord of the Rings), and he also asked me if I would like to join the festivities that evening. Now I could hear the universe loud and clear – I was going! In case there was any doubt, he handed me a long paper ticket and said that this would get me in (the cost of the event was $20, all proceeds going to children’s programs at the church). Just as I was thinking, now what am I going to do for the next two hours, he asked if I was hungry and of course I was, so he led me down to the basement and suddenly I felt like I was in another world. It was like I was in one of those black churches from the sixties, back during Martin Luther King days, where everyone was wearing those amazing hats and long dresses. There were people from other backgrounds too, there was an Indian family who had just left, and I would say white was in the minority. The man brought me a plate of yummy vegetarian food, and I heard from the guy sitting next to me whose name I now forget, that that is one of the values of the 7-Day Adventist church – they believe that a vegetarian diet is best for the mind, body, and soul. Similar to Hinduism in that way.

As I ate, I asked this guy so many questions about their beliefs and his own life story. He said that he was the only one in his family that was religious, the others weren’t into it and didn’t really understand his connection with the church. It’s hard going against the grain and doing something that your family doesn’t approve of. It reminds me of this movie I want to watch called Moonlight, about a boy who black and gay and growing up in a poor Miami neighbourhood. So excited to see it with Rhonelle after the holidays!

I told this guy (let’s just call him Evan because I’m going to keep talking about him) that I had stayed at Chris’s parents place the week before and stayed up all night reading The Book of Job, one of my favourite bible stories. Poor Job didn’t stand a chance… yet eventually his faith in God was restored and he was blessed with fortunes far beyond his wildest imagination (probably because like me he figured out that your imagination doesn’t exactly function in times of despair). Let’s hope my story follows a similar path to the other side! Evan’s eyes widened as I continued to share my insights on Job, and he pulled out a booklet from his bag that was a summary/study of guess what – yep The Book of Job! He said that every week in his church they study a different part of the bible and this week it was Job. What a crazy coincidence.

Then Evan started to excuse himself – he said that he had to set up for a workshop about anxiety and depression. That’s when my eyes grew wide. Oh wait, I forgot to tell you about the other amazing person that I met at the table – her name was Candace and she and I instantly connected. She had been through an abusive relationship and suffered from low self-esteem and didn’t have much money to live on. I told her about things I’d been going through too. It is amazing how we were able to be so open with one another. She and I were welcomed by Evan to join the workshop (he could probably tell we needed it!!). We listened to videos by an expert on mental health and addiction, and then did activities around goals and ways to overcome obstacles. Finally it was time to forget our woes and just play and have fun. We went into the adjoining gym for the International Fair, the event that had enticed me at the start to enter this magical place. Candace and I sampled food from all over the world in that little gym – India, Guyana, Kenya, Jamaica, and many more. We danced and let loose. We had ice cream and authentic home-cooked treats, and watched the kids having so much fun running around and being free.

After the event, we took some pics in the abandoned church (picture above). I was wearing my favourite t-shirt that says “Home Is Wherever I’m With You”. I love that T-shirt so much! Then we got to the bus stop and met this cool homeless guy who was sitting there drinking, and who ended up asking me out! He was actually really sweet; he said that sometimes, a person just needs to talk. How right he is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World Became A Slab Of Lead Sitting On My Chest

Week who-knows-what. All I know is that I’m not stopping. If I can do this walk in this state of utter devastation, that means I’ll do it forever. And it’s amazing how it still always delivers – there are twists and turns, darkness and loneliness, and magical coincidences and friendly strangers that guide me. There is insight into what is deep within, and what I’m holding onto. There are moments where my pride gets the better of me, and moments where I let it all go and reach out for help, so that I can talk to that friendly compassionate voice on the other end, who brings some light in the darknes and takes me home. And for all of it I am grateful.

I headed out around 3 PM from my home, and walked to Aakanksha’s place. Her grandfather greeted me (I’ve been having fun chatting with her grandparents since they are here visiting, and it’s been helping me practice my Gujarati). I went inside and her dad came downstairs and told me that they must have forgotten the session, and so he called his wife and sure enough, they were still at Carlingwood Mall. So I said it was ok, that I would come back another day. The grandmother was a little hurt that I was leaving so soon (she said “What? Is my company not good enough?”) so I stayed for a bit and had some tea and chatted with her. Before I left, I went to visit the Mandir and the symbols of Lakshmi and Ram and Sita and Hanuman and Durga, and I needed to do that, because there is still so much hurt, and also it feels so nice being in the presence of God. And I say that not just because of the mandir, but all-around. Throughout all the pain, there is God, there is love, there is hope. (catch me on another day and I may sing a different tune!!). I saw that the grandfather was reading a Krishna comic book as I walked out and I made him promise to lend it to me when he is done with it.

Then I wandered over to the park nearby, in the 40-degree sweltering heat, and that’s when everything fell apart and I felt lonely and torn, and that same relentless pain of the memory of when I saw him with her at Nathan Philips Square, that memory that hurt me so deeply, came up and made me crazy and there was nothing to do with the pain. So I went on the swing and I pumped up and down, over and over and I was flying high. Then I messaged by friend Neteesha who is going through something similar and she really understood, and made me feel so much better. Wow. Thank frickin’ God for friends. She was funny and compassionate and was like ‘Fuck them’. I made a typo and said ‘Suck them’ which is kinda funny but probably not a bad idea either. Hahah. People keep telling me that I need a fling but I’m pretty sure that’s not what I need. I just need a latte. And some other stuff that I probably shouldn’t mention here.

I took a path down Stikine Drive, that led to a park and to a beautiful old building that used to be a school-house until 1963 and is now a community centre. They have weekly Toastmasters meetings there, where I’ll be going tonight with my Mom. Isn’t it just beautiful?! I think my Toastmasters group in Toronto is going to be jealous.

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S.S. No 1 March, Kanata

I ran into a man there with his two dogs who told me a bit about the history of the building. It was built in 1886 and housed children from European immigrants that had come to Canada from France, Germany, and Holland. These families worked on surrounding farms and sent their kids to this school to learn. Can’t you just imagine it? At lunch, the kids would swim in the pool (which is now a water hole in the Kanata golf course). I didn’t see the water hole but I’ll check for it the next time I go. In 1985, it became a Children’s Art Centre, and is now it is a meeting spot for people in the community. It reminds me of another place called the March House which used to be a restaurant and is now a rustic spa.

I walked to a little clearing in the woods nearby, and was engrossed in an article in The Star about Egyptian Olympian Doaa Elghobashy playing volleyball in her hijab. You go girl!!

I have worn the hijab for 10 years. It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.

And then. Enter Beyoncé. I watched the video “Sorry” and it blew my f’ing mind. If you haven’t seen it, take a look and be prepared to be amazed:

Then I ran into a man with his daughter and they were engrossed in this Pokémon Go game that has taken over the city. Everywhere I go there are people on their phones trying to capture these little critters. It makes me feel like I’m living in a fantasy world (I already feel like that considering how many 69’s and signs from the universe I see everywhere). He convinced me to download it and I’m definitely going to try it out – hopefully the next time we go to Andrew Haydon park, the park where I grew up, where we’d used to have picnics and make kitchdi and go for walks.

Then I continued on and got to Chapters where I had a tazo chai latte and read a bit from The Prisoner of Tehran. Marina Nemat might be the bravest woman I know. She refuses to reveal the names of her friends, despite the demands of the prison guards and even though she is aware of the lashes that will ensue. But her heart is another story. It must close for awhile because she is unable to process the amount of emotional pain and shock she is in. Imagine being safe at home one day, and then being thrown into the world’s most notorious prison. “The world beame a slab of lead sitting on my chest,” she says.

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While there, I leafed through the Anna Karenina colouring book (I have a copy of it back at home in Toronto). Also Roshni bought me the novel which I’m really looking forward to reading! I wonder if it is the same one that all these beautiful quotes are derived from.

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Following Chapters, I walked down Campeau towards the library (stopping to say hi to the bunnies along the way – I swear they have taken over this city). I watched a game of tennis which made me long for simpler times, when all there was to do was just play, or maybe it reminded me of how my Dad and I used to play badminton here. Or maybe I was just dying to get into the game. Then I got to the library just as it was closing.

I walked home along Beaverbrook, talking to my friend Vaishali, telling her about my darkness and my journey and thankful for her kind voice and understanding. Finally made it home, greeted by my parents who are always there and constant and so amazing; my dad a little worried because it was so late, and my mom smiling and happy, never doubting that I would make it home. Not sure where my brother was, probably listening to music in his room. It felt good to be home.

 

 

 

 

Every Day Is My Birthday

Just got home from the Sai Centre in Ottawa, where we sang bhajans and devotional songs as part of the regular Sunday program. I walked in to a song about Radha and Krishna, which brought tears to my eyes. It’s been hard to find the tears lately, the release that I need so much. I’m grateful to be at home during this time, surrounded by my amazing parents (Mom who is always happy no matter what, Dad who is calm and even-keeled) and my brother who brings a fresh young perspective to everything, and reminds me of Drake and hip-hop and working out and just enjoying life, not taking anything too seriously. I’ve had a lot of anger lately at life in general, wondering how I’m going to make it through, but deep down knowing that I already have.

I was distracted in my thoughts, then riveted in the present moment by the most beautiful voice of a young man, probably in his twenties. I had never heard anything like it and I let the sounds pierce my wretched heart. (ok there is me being dramatic again!). At the end of the singing, we watched a discourse from Satya Sai Baba, who is an enlightened being whose religion of love and motto of “Love All, Serve All” spreads love throughout the world and continues to inspire millions who dedicate themselves to service in his name. He passed away a few years ago, but his spirit and influence lives on. It was great to hear his voice, coming straight from the heart, speaking of how to purify your heart from hatred, anger, and jealousy.  Jealousy is a big one for me! I never thought I was the jealous type, but lately I’ve discovered that quality within myself and it ain’t pretty. And there is bitterness too. But over-arching is my ache and my desire to better myself, to enjoy this very moment and appreciate life. In the discourse, Sai Baba spoke of how he always laughs when people wish him Happy Birthday, because he is always happy, every second, every minute. He doesn’t wait once a year to be happy. Ok I get his point, but I love my birthday! It actually reminds me of why I was born and makes me feel immense gratitude. He was wearing a white cotton robe and his hair was messy, and he looked so simple yet radiated so much love and light. My parents were a little frustrated with the translation since it kept overlapping with his speaking, but overall it was a pleasure to listen to. I was sitting next to my Mom, who was immersed in prayer, and my Dad was on the other side (men and women are separated), sitting at the back where all the cool kids sit.

We went downstairs for food and it was so nice to be served a heaping plate of Indian saks (potatoes, paneer, channa masala) and of course the sweets which are always the best part. I sat with my Dad and Srikant Uncle and another man whose name I didn’t catch, and I ate mostly in silence since some of the bad feelings were overtaking me. They have been deep down for awhile, and seem to surface at certain times. It’s quite overwhelming. I have an appointment with a psychiatrist this week, I will see if we can increase the dosage of my medication or do something so that I can keep going and do the things that I love. It’s hard to believe that I’m back here but such is life I guess. My Mom came and joined us after serving which always brings a smile to my face. She is a glowing light!! She introduced me to a friend who asked if I lived in Toronto. Of course Toronto always makes me light up!! It’s my city after all. I’m going back there this coming weekend and I can’t wait! I then ran into Renu Auntie who I hadn’t seen in ages (I used to have a big crush on her son Rahul when I was young, every time Tuje Dekha Ho Yeh Janna Sanam would play, I would think of him). I told her that her son was so good-looking and she said that he is married with two kids now! On my way out, I was called over by a very happy grandmother, who looked like she was in her eighties and treated me like her daughter (“I just want to hug you!” she said). I have never seen such a happy person. She thought that I was my sister who she had met in India at the Puttaparthi ashram. She asked if I spoke Tamil which I didn’t (although people tell me that I look Tamil lol!). Then we left and drove home, stopping to fill up gas at the Costco which is crazy because it looks like you’re at customs with the crazy long line-ups.

Also my Dad said that he would pay for me to go to Iceland with my friend Jasmine which is super exciting! I’ve been wanting to go for awhile so it would be amazing if that works out. There is also a wedding in Phoenix that I want to go in December, and my friend Neesha’s batchelorete party in Vegas, and also her wedding in Mexico next year which will be amazing. So many exciting things ahead! Iceland is off-season in October but that just means better deals. K now I’m thinking about jobs and money, so I’m off to see what’s out there. I am really dying to work!