And this too is precious. Friends dozing off at your place, after a day of eating too much and walking way too much. There’s a quiet humdrumness in the air, the sort that comes when you’re comfortable enough to sleep in someone’s presence.
We have met so many times since parting; in different cities, over different seasons. We are different people each time, and yet in fifteen minutes we find our common ground. Continue reading Of starry nights and summer skies
My latest obsession is making jams. Luscious, lip smacking, fresh-as-the-fruit-it-came-from jam. A month ago Mum left a dozen gooseberries (amla) soaked in water on the kitchen counter, with explicit instructions to drink it every day. Them gooseberries sat pretty on the counter for a week till I remembered. By then, they were soft and mushy and I didn’t have the heart to throw them away, so into the kadhai they went.
That’s when I learnt something interesting: making a small batch of jam is one of the easiest things to do.
It definitely is easier than it looks, once the pectin and sugar have worked magic to transform into glistening jelly. The recipe is easy-peasy: take an equal proportion of fruit to sugar, cook the fruit (diced, mushed or pureed, it’s your call) in a bit of water. Since gooseberries are harder to blend than most fruits, soak it for a day or cook in water till a little tender, before removing the seeds and pulverising the fruit in the blender. Once it’s softened, add the sugar and lime juice (the juice from a lemon would do for a cup of fruit) and let it come to a rolling boil (on high heat). Don’t skimp on the sugar, as the reaction between pectin and sugar gives jam its jelly-like consistency. If the mixture looks watery even after boiling for several minutes, it probably needs more pectin: add a squeeze of lemon or orange.
The major ingredient in jam making is pectin, found naturally in citrus fruits. High-pectin fruits gel faster. Over-ripe fruits have lesser amounts of pectin, so they don’t set as well. Lucky me, I started with amla, which any Indian mother will tell you is brimming with Vitamin C (as well as pectin).
People are beautiful everywhere. Portraits by the high priest of photography, Steve McCurry.
In 1890, a fan wrote to Oscar Wilde asking him to explain a sentence in the preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray : “All art is quite useless”. How could a writer say something so callous? Did it not put to question his own existence? Wilde’s reply was both relevatory and magnificent in its brevity.
“A work of art is useless as a flower is useless,” he writes. Its purpose is not to educate or influence. A flower blossoms for its own joy. “Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental.”
Below is the transcript of the letter. The complete letter can be found on Letters of Note :
16, TITE STREET,
My dear Sir
Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.
A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.
A wonderful post about nature and souls, and the joyous instincts of children.
“Hey Mom, are trees living things or living beings?”
Our nine year old son looked into the forest then up at me as we hiked side by side along a gurgling brook. His dad and sister walked a few steps ahead of us. Upstream was the Glade Creek Grist Mill in West Virginia, a rustic wooden building with a pitched roof. Today its wet planks were framed by yellowing autumn trees.
“I guess that depends on what you mean by living being,” I said. “I think of a being as — ” I tried to think of words that would be familiar to him. I failed. “As a sentient being — something that has a soul.” The path was littered in gold, red, and toast brown leaves, and I kicked at a drift with my leather hiking shoe.
“Personally, I think of trees…
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