Thursday, November 17, 2011

You can take the Indian out of India but you cant take India out of the Indian !

I went down town to the area where it feels most like home here in Oslo  - Grønland. It's where one of my favourite stores is - one which is full of undiscovered treasures of different textures, smells, familiar banter & then  mixed in are treasures that make you feel close to home, & then the few that stir a childhood memory  - yup its the Indian - Pakistani grocery store. From dals, to all the masalas to make a perfect curry to ready-made rotis, paneer, Indian green chillies, coriander in bunches, bindi, haldirams, frooti and maggi this IS my treasure trove of all things home !

Today I went there on the  'we need more rice' trip. After trying a variety of rices available here in Norway nothing came close to our good old sona masoori, we (well more me) decided to stick with the Basmati from the Indian store. Cost wise it is identical to other rices here,so no we are not being posh unlike in India where Basmati rice means your having guests to dinner.

As I was saying - walking home I couldn't help laughing at myself lugging back this 5kg bag of Basmati India Gate Rice - nothing screamed 'I'm Indian' more than that and to make the picture more realistic I had 3 other shopping bags strapped across me and one very aromatic bag of briyani take away.

Sitting on the couch at home still laughing about it I remembered the Chumbak poster we have up in our loo - ' You know your Indian Because.. ' and so many times when friends have come out of the loo here they've laughed and remarked about one thing up on the poster than resembles what we have ..

1. Yes we own a pressure cooker (2 infact)   
2. Yup a rice cooker too
3. The toilet mug is tucked away in the corner (transported all the way from India)
4. The house doesn't smell of tomato, onions and garlic but they are 3 ingredients that can be produced on demand (curry patta &chillies included) 
5. A whole shelf dedicated to tupperware a.k.a  the collection of plastic haldi stained dabbas by the dozen  (this one is infectious a lot of our friends here now have their own personal dabba collections minus the haldi stains) 
6. Correct the fridge is jam-packed with leftovers in the above mentioned dabbas


I definitely have my 5kg bag of rice !!

Leaving me with the conclusion .. that you can take the Indian out of India but never India out of the Indian ....

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Hues Of Autumn

''Some call it autumn, some call it fall, some say the season is the best of all, look all around and you will find that fall is here.... just look for the signs. See red and yellow, orange and brown, bright coloured leaves are falling too the ground ... ''  -This kiddies song puts it so aptly.

Living in Norway you actually get to experince the 4 seasons in their entirety. Till I got here they were just the 4 main seasons that we loosely referred to. But being here and experiencing them is absolutely something else.

Autumn is now officially one of my favourite seasons - no not because I like the rain, or the mush, or the one day cold - one day hot weather, not because the days start getting shorter but very simply -
The Colours. 

A road with some beautiful houses - very close to where we live

Autumn brings with it some of the most stunning hues of greens, yellows,oranges & brown I have seen, leaving the city bursting at its brim with sunshine when there isn't too much sunshine doing the rounds.

An Autumn evening Sunset as we saw it from our living room

Autumn is almost drawing to a close &  I've clearly fallen in love with the colours considering I have inserted  them into my wardrobe.. so I will have a spot of Autumn Sunshine all winter long ! ;)
Add Mr.K's Golf bag models  the Hat & Scarf
One of my favourite purchases !
The Pattern for the Yellow Knitted Hat can be found Here & the Extremely Easy Scarf Here

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sufficient Enough Thank You's

In Norwegian Thank you is 'Takk' and the equivalent of Thank You Very Much is 'Tusen Takk'. However whenever I have used the Norwegian versions here in day to day life I have always felt like it was lacking a punch of some sort, or never conveyed my gratitude enough -  but I could not quite put it in words.

I've just read an amazing book called 'Mornings in Jenin'  (as a side note a must read) and it so happened that around the same time i was playing with the impact of 'Takk vrs Thank you' I came upon a paragraph that just explained what I felt.

**"Thank you" I answered, unsure of the proper American response to her gracious enthusiasm. In the Arab world, gratitude is a language unto itself, "May Allah bless the hands that give me this gift"; "Beauty is in your eyes that find me pretty"; "May God extend your life"; "May Allah never deny your prayer"; "May the next meal you cook for us be in celebration of your son's wedding...of your daughter's graduation...your mother's recovery"; and so on, an infinite string of prayerful appreciation. Coming from such a culture, I have always found a mere "thank you" an insufficient expression that makes my voice sound miserly and ungrateful.**

I liked the simplicity with which this paragraph echoed my thoughts, and also made me realise how a simple word like 'thank you' differs culture to culture, how using another word in place of the one we have learnt to use takes a very long time to seem right or at the very least enough to express the way we feel.

If at a level of 'thank you' there is such a huge cultural difference imagine how much more culturally understanding we need to be in a world where the starting point of most issues is religion and culture..

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Musically United By Scandinavia ..

In social gathers and get togethers over my time here in Scandinavia conversations have led to amusing discoveries of  how so many musicians we grew up listening to in our teen-boppy years were actually Scandinavian. The discovery of each artist amused me as much as it did the other person, and conversations would have statements like 'oh they are Norwegian', ' you've heard of them', ' they were popular in India?' and then of course proceed to listen & dance around to them.

Well now to the point, I've been making a list to share here in the hope I might also surprise some of you out there ..

  1. Abba *Swedish - (it has to be number one on the list) Here's the Megamix 

  2. MLTR *Danish - I had both albums on cassettes that were frequently in my cool sony walkman . Paint my love on play- rewind - play

  3. Lene Marlin *Norwegian - Remember I'm Sitting Down Here but hey you can't see me 
  4. Dr.Bombay *Danish  - We sang this song so much in Aiesec I think we even had a jive to it and I always thought he was Indian - Cal-cutta i drive my little taxi in

  5. A- ha *Norwegian - So many Catholic Club Memories come to mind on this one Take On Me

  6. Roxette *Swedish -  Age 10 and I was singing It Must Have Been Love much to my mothers disapproval

  7. Aqua *Danish - 'Hi Barbie, Hi Ken, Want to go for a ride? Sure Ken' Ah what the hell yes I listened to Barbie Girl even guilty of dancing to it !

  8. The Cardigans * Swedish -  How much I tried imitating their voice on Lovefool 

  9. Ace of Base *Swedish - So many fun dancing memories to All that She wants & The Sign 

  10. Eagle Eye Cherry *Swedish (Of African -American Descent) - Save Tonight 

  11. Whigfield *Danish - This song brings together all things Aiesec for me, what a work out - Sexy Eyes

  12. Safri Duo *Danish - Not quite the Teen Bobber when this came out but love the energy even now of The Bong Song

  13. Outlandish *Danish - One word 'Spin' and the summer of 2003 Aicha

  14. Kings of Convenience *Norwegian - I didn't really know of them till Mr.K  introduced me to them and one of his favourite songs I'd Rather Dance with you than talk with you  

I'm sure this list is only going to grow as I discover even more artists but for now it seems that Scandinavia was a part of me long before I even knew one day it would be my home ;) 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nice to Meet you .. Oops We've met! Of Norwegian pleasantries

Scandinavia in general has a interesting set of social greetings that you exchange but one particular one has got my interest :

'Takk for Sist'
So when meeting someone for the first time you ofcourse extend out your hand and say ' Helen, 'hyggelig' (the second word basically translates to 'nice to meet you'). Now initially I made sure I said nice to meet you because thats a clear indicator you don't speak the language but in the aim of 'integration' I've started using the word hyggelig which of course leads to a response / conversation in Norwegian and me looking a bit confused and waiting for the correct time to say 'err I'm sorry I don't speak norwegian yet'. So really I squash the aim in a matter of seconds but that's an entirely different topic :) But one must remember this greeting is used only the first time you meet the person.

Subsequent times that you meet this person you are going to be using the term that interests me the most 'Takk for Sist'. Literally this means 'thank you for the last time' and could be extended to either it was nice meeting you last time or thank you for the fun time we had together or the lovely dinner etc you get the picture. What's even more interesting is that time is of no consequence. The *LAST* time could even have been a year ago ... so this is clearly where my problem begins.... my most recent experience went something like this ... 

Helen: Hei, Helen, Hyggelig
Person: Hei Helen, Takk for Sist .. 
Helen in her mind: **BIG Oppss !!**

This is usually the point where I then feign ignorance of what just happened ...I think I'm just going to stick to my safe pleasantries in english and definitely ones I can wangle my way out of when met with situations like this :)

Clearly Norwegians have a  better memory than this Indian ...... Must Be All Fish !

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My DIY Attempt At Pimping Up a Set of Ikea Stools

We have 2 basic Ikea stools in our home and they are at the entrance. We use them to sit on and put on shoes etc. They were annoying me simply because of their lack of any aesthetic value they added to the area. I contemplated looking for something to replace them but I knew I would just a soon want to change that around (give how easily I get bored and want to change things around) not to mention how much I would spend on something new. Just then I had a genius thought or so I'd like to think .. of doing a simple pimp up of these stools. The good thing is that if I made a mistake it wouldn't cost me an arm & a leg and well if it came out well .. I'd be super happy and then share it here with all of you :)

So here it goes a quick step by step guide to pimp some boring stools at home.

What you need:
1. 2 Stools (or as many as you want)
2. Thick'ish Ironed Fabric enough to cover the stools (I used less than a meter)
3. A glue gun (hot glue)
4. 2 round cushions (not very thick)

How to do it:

Step 1:  Access your stool.. then place the cushion on top of the stool and cut out the bit of fabric you will need to fit & cover it. Be a bit generous as its always good to have a bit more instead of a bit less.

Step 2: Heat up your glue gun. Place the cushion on top of the stool seat and keep lifting it up and putting the hot glue between the seat and the cushion and pressing it down immediately. I realised hot glue cools very fast  and doing it this ways ensures you can quickly stick the cushion to the seat.

Step 3: Lay your fabric down print facing the floor and then put your stool upside down with the cushion on the back of the fabric. Make slits to the fabric in accordance with where the legs of the stool will come and then pick up your glue gun and start gluing the fabric to the underside of the stool seat. When doing so try and ensure that there are no creases and that the you neatly fold the fabric on the sides.

Step 4: The back of the stool doesn't look the prettiest and in the case of an Ikea stool you can screw off the legs in the beginning and when your done with the seat put a piece of material over it or a cut out board. Lazy me I've just left it as i don't really think people will be looking under the stool :) But once your done with you're gluing ... Voila you have a set of nice to funky stools and in my case definitely made the entrance a bit more attractive than it was previously :)


Price wise 2 stools were 90 Nok (that's 2 cups of coffee here in Norway) The fabric 50 Nok , the Cushions 100 Nok also both from Ikea and the glue another 50. So in about 300 Nok I have 2 fun stools.

Now I know its not the biggest achievement in the world and definitely not the hardest thing to do, but  I'm still happy that it was cost effective (as was the husband), it took 2 hours one evening (works well for my short span of attention) and I love them !! :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thank God Its Friday - More Like ..Yummy Its Friday !!!

In Norway they seem to have this fantastic work tradition of 'honouring' the last day of a working week. Each company has their own way of doing it ..In a friends company on a friday a fresh oven baked batch of Pain au chocolat arrive at the office as a mass email is sent out and everyone gathers to devour them. In my husbands company they have 'Friday Beers' the canteen fridge is stocked on a friday and post work whoever wants gathers for well ... some beers, another friends company also has beers and sometimes a games night AND in our company friday means one thing .. YUMMY HOT WAFFLES .. at about 11:15 the smell starts wafting through the office and the call for lunch comes must faster :) We also on most Fridays have a wine lottery which I've won once .. ah the joy of taking home a bottle of wine on a friday.

The weekend here is sacred and everyone knows and appreciates that. Emails from friday morning onwards all end with a customary have a great weekend attached to it, there is no sense of guilt or apology that the weekend is here - that its time for you to take a break (sometimes in India i felt that .. hence the comparison). I love that together as a company with your colleagues you welcome the weekend and have something to look forward too after a week of work ..

I normally work from home on a friday, but for  fridays i come into work like today - i can always be sure that there will be fresh waffles to greet me, make my friday happier and welcome the weekend in all its glory !!!

Have a Great Weekend :) 

Monday, May 23, 2011

For me the 'Romance In Paris' is.....

I've now been to Paris twice and 2 drastically different experiences were what i have been met with. Pre- Paris one has always heard of how romantic it is, and you step in there and you feel it blah blah blah .. well when i went there first (with my husband) both of us, well more me of course was waiting for this 'Romantic' feeling to come over us and well it never came. Yes, the city had its charm, it rained most of the time we were there, the tiny cafes were awesome but i guess i expected to be hit like a rock hitting my forehead & to be swooning in the 'Romantics that is Paris' ..(probably my first mistake)

Dont get me wrong -the holiday was fantastic - we were true tourists did all the must do's and must see's took the tour bus around, ate and drank and went to Lido and was all in all a great trip - and one that broke all the 'pre-conceived' notions. The only downside was we went when all the Parisians had actually left the city .. making it a tourists city.

My second trip with the ladies (now don't get any ideas) :) was just relaxed we had all done the must do's and see's of Paris and the idea was to well just drift with the city. In retrospect the best way to experience Paris. The holiday revolved around eating, drinking, ice cream and yes some shopping. Perfect !! It was on this trip i experienced Paris's 'Romantic' side .. Finally right :) But what I experienced for me was a far cry from my 'pre -conceived ideas of romance'...

Paris's romantic side for me lies in its peoples passion - the city was in the throws of amazing weather. The passion that i saw over conversations, or a simple glass of wine. The passion over eating a meal or indulging in ice creams after battling Que's that went all around the block or doing their weekly shopping at the farmers market, the passion they displayed when kissing in a subway absolutely oblivious of the world around them - even more simplified their passion for life in its most basic form..

So simply put the Romance is Paris is all around living life to the fullest, eat, drink and be merry and you could see they did exactly that ..

And for me that's how Paris will always be romantic :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Big Apple and its Tiny Nuances

My first trip to the US was absolutely fabulous, as much as i always said the US would be one of the last places I'd visit I actually found the change from Europe refreshing in a way. NY is everything a Big City should be and just being part of the Buzz and in a city that literally doesn't sleep is just amazing !! I did come away with a few interesting observations or so I think .. quirky little things that will always remind me of NY .. so here goes the list

1. There are 3 standard signs you see everywhere you go - they amused me because 2 of 3 were so obvious...
- Above the bar - 'Pregnant Women Should Not drink' (followed by the Hazards of Drinking During Pregnancy)
- In the Restrooms - 'All Employees must wash their hands before returning to work'
- At the Entrance of an Establishment - 'The Cpr Kit is Located Above the Bar'

2. New York is ALL about BRUNCH - yes every restaurant has a brunch menu, brunch specials, peoples lives revolve around Weekend Brunch Plans

3. There is a Minimum of a 1 hour wait for ANYTHING in New York be it to Enter the Abercrombie & Fitch store, Get an Apple Ipad 2 (this can go into many hours)or to get into a restaurant

4. Every Address in New York has a way of sounding Posh be 84th on Fifth or 192 on 17th (second one is made up .. but get my point !)

5. For the visitor, Address in New York are just difficult & unfathomable - Period !

6. You Can Never be Overdressed in New York ..

7. Women in NY seemed to have a certain belly dance style or step .. saw it everywhere .. maybe a fad ?!

8. Yellow Cabs and their In-Cab Entertainment Tv's (Note Kiran Managed to mess every tv in every cab we got into)

9. New York is ALL about Niche Specializations - A Pancakes Restaurant, A Crepe's restaurant, A Ramen restaurant not to forget the pediatric dentist and the salon that Only does and specializes in short haircuts for women

10. Clearance Sales are very Dramatic with Store Windows plastered with big signs reading ' EVERYTHING MUST GO'

11. THE TIP - they have a set of permutations and combinations that arrive at the right amount you should tip .. double the tax, 10% , 20%, amount of the tax etc even a week later i was never sure how much was right !

12. Every 'chatty' cab driver we encountered turned out to be Egyptian .. Hmmm :)

13. To qualify being a New Yorker you need to live in Manhanttan .. anywhere else is well up for debate

14. Cupcakes are the NY thing, with a cupcake van almost everywhere !

15. You Can be sure to find 2 things on every street corner - A Nail Bar & A Psychic

And that's my two cents on the subject ;)

** some of these could be generic to the US but i experienced them first in the NY ..

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Do-It-Yourself : Norwegian Style

DIY is almost like a gene embedded in every Norwegian. From simple handy craft projects to complex building of walls, patios, laying their floors, building their kitchens, cleaning their homes, maintaining gardens that are storybook worthy .. you name it and I will find a Norwegian that's done it .. and all of this comes with a self pride of being able to create & build their own.

Coming from a country like India where most of the time there is someone to do things for us ... this concept was well a bit alien not to mention absurd. Why should I build something in my house when i can get someone to do it for me without me lifting a finger, or just buy it right off the self. That parts slowly changing (not that i've built anything apart from ikea) but in small ways I'm starting to understand that pride of doing it yourself...

Thanks to friends here I've had my mini introduction to this .. with friends B & T we not only picked apples from the apple trees in their garden (this itself was a treat for me) we then proceeded to make jam, marmalades,chutneys.. out of it, then sterilize the bottles and then stored them, also add apple pie to that list .. In India I would buy home made Jam .. now i have my own cupboard full of homemade jam = a certain sense of pride of doing it myself


With my other friend M she re-introduced me to Knitting .. now I'd done this once before as a child for SUPW and honestly it seemed like the most painful thing, leaving my grandmother to finish my 'piece'. Never touched a needle after that labeling it something i would do when i was well at an age i thought would be appropriate. With nothing to do on 4 hour bus rides everyday knitting seemed like a perfect occupation and I started off .. I've finished a scarf for kiran a hat for myself and decided Tina needed one to mark her visit to Norway and made her a hat as well. This morning I put on the hat i knitted myself,and was strutting around almost wishing i could point at it and say 'yup made it myself' (a norwegian would probably point at their sweater and say the same back to me) = a certain sense of pride of making it myself.


Over Christmas B decided we should make christmas decorations and happy was I when she asked me to join, with the forewarning that my creativity skills were umm questionable. Forewarning in hand we started and by the end of the evening we had these beautiful advent candle stands (sorry about the bragging I'm still in awe)and later on something for the front door. It sits proudly on the centre coffee table at home and when Tina saw it and refused to believe we made it .. well no guesses what feeling came out = a certain sense of pride.


I think what truly enables them to do all this is 1. the time: their work life balance is almost an art form the rest of the world needs to learn. And 2. their ability to enjoy the simple things of life, in its most basic form and from that stems the need to create things yourself. (I'm not ignoring the fact that getting things done her comes at an insanely high cost and hence DIY makes even more sense - but that aside there is no denying the force of their DIY gene)

I hope this DIY gene will stay with me, and maybe I will have some new found skills when i return to India = no shortage of jobs for me :)

To the Norwegians who have introduced me to this .. thank you and hey you know who to call when you needed some labour, all in the name of cultural understanding ;)