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Testing the waters

I always wished to learn swimming some day in my life. But I realized that it was more of a need than want when we booked a Snorkeling tour a few years ago during our Goa trip but could not get into the water as the coordinators warned us not to try if we have don’t possess this basic life skill. Imagine going on a boat to snorkel, where rest of the folks enthusiastically dived into water and we were sitting inside the boat like stupid dumb spectators killing time by watching others do it. That day I decided that I will learn swimming some day. Like a lot of other things on my checklist, this one was forgotten soon. Well, there weren’t many opportunities to learn when we were in India. We moved to Sydney, got our kids admitted to swimming classes and inquired for Adult classes. Unfortunately there were advanced classes for adults but no basic ones. Last year our local Aquatic centre launched Beginner lessons for adults. We kept procrastinating as there were other priority tasks (as is always the case). One fine day when Abbas went to renew Mantam’s swimming lessons, he called me and said “We’ve been pushing this to the backlog for ages. I’m getting both of us enrolled. Let’s do it.” I was shocked, “Whattt? We can’t afford it now, we have too many things going.” Abbas “Arey, we will always have too many things going. Let’s do it.” Me replies “Errrr, if you say so, fine! Let’s do it then!!”

 

Each group has 4 students and one instructor and they conduct 30 minutes class every week. Abbas and I were in the same group and two other men. I missed the first class! Abbas came home and told me that other two guys are also not complete amateurs. I was a nervous wreck before my first class. Abbas could float and also move ahead in water, although he didn’t know the techniques. In my case, I could hardly even stay under water for more than a few seconds. The D day arrived and when I spoke to the instructor, she asked me where should she begin from. I told her that from the most basic level as I have never ever done anything in water! She tried to hold my hand and drag me forward, and told me to lift my feet from the ground. I was worse than the kids who learn swimming. My feet refused to budge. She gave me a pool noodle but nay, my feet were as adamant as before. She then procured a kind of waist band that helps people float from somewhere. With too many gears to lean on to, in my first class I learnt just lifting my legs from the ground but they were still diagonally immersed in water. Phew!

 

We started going on Saturdays to practice. We bought a pool noodle for me to practice. The fun part about going over the weekend was that a lot of other parents came with their children to teach them. In our case, the roles were reversed. Mantam were my teachers, strict ones at that. I was the tantrum throwing child saying I just couldn’t do it. They would comfort me, encourage to do better, applaud when I did better. I thoroughly enjoyed being a kid to my doting daughters. These practice sessions helped me so much. I let go of the waist band in my third class. With due progress, I learnt to float without any clutches. I was on cloud nine the day I floated by myself, without any help. I missed one more class due to flu. Altogether I took about 7 classes, at the end of the term, I was able to float and swim the distance of a metre on my own. We have decided not to go for any further classes. We need to practice more and more with our patient, in-house, loving instructors.

 

Any of you who has been thinking of learning some new skill, but never got to do it due to fear or other commitments taking priority, I insist that you do it on a whim right away. Trust me, tomorrow never comes. Live in the moment and make the most of it.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Driving diary – Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2:

Practising with Abbas pretty much came to an end after that incident. Then came the month of March and I picked up the phone to call the driving instructor my friend had recommended. It was a landline number and nobody answered my call, I left a voicemail with my number and requested to call me back. A few days passed but there was no response. I called back in the second week of March and Mr.H picked up. he said tht I was too fast in saying my phone number that he couldn’t comprehend my phone number, gah! Unfortunately I was too late and he was going to be out of the city the following weekend. And I could only take classes over the weekend. So I booked classes in the 3rd weekend of the month.

In the first class, I drove quite decently. I asked H if I should postpone the driving test as we hardly had any time to prepare as there was hardly any time to practice.It was too early for him to say anything but Abbas told me that there is no rush and it was better for me to reschedule the test. We moved the test date to 11th April. With some breathing space, I took 6 classes in all over three weekends, 1 hour class every Saturday and Sunday. H’s way of teaching was so plain and simple that I could easily grasp. I grew more and more confident with handling the four wheeled demon.

On most Saturdays I would drive like a dream. H used to say “You are really smart. Well done” And the veyr next moment I would make one mistake after the other. It was funny sometimes all the silly errors I would commit. Once H told me to take the right most lane and I had the right indicator on even after changing lane. I was under the impression that he wants me to take right turn. H said “Why don’t you turn the indicator off?” I retorted with “Because I want to turn right”, And guess what, he pointed towards a couple of big bright signs right in front of my eyes that read ‘No Right Turn’. I was always good at 3 point turn and kerb side parking but sucked at Reverse parallel parking. H taught me an easy way to reverse parallel park and I started doing it perfectly. And guess what! That day he made do a kerbside park and I did a totally crappy job.

H was a funny man, he would sometimes get stressed when I made mistakes but immediately try to lighten the moment. If I ever sped up and exceeded teh speed limit, he would say “If you like pushing a lot, don’t push the accelerator, push me out of the car”. If I rotated the steering wheel more than necessary, he would say “The steering wheel is not your husband. Control your emotions”. There is this one place where the speed has to be less than 40. As soon as the 40 zone ends, H would say “After this sign, you can increase the speed. But that doesn’t mean you can push accelerator to 100. Keep it below 50”. It might not sound funny when I write it here but when H spoke with his Iranian accent and his dramatic expressions, it was hilarious. When I would crack up, he would say “Are you laughting (read laugh-ting) to me?” H would keep telling me that I either stop my car too close to the stop line or too far. I started working on it and was getting better. Once at a traffic signal, I stopped at what I thought was the right distance from the stop line and at the very same instant a car came to my left and stopped way ahead a of me. I asked H “Have I stopped at right distance?” He nodded in agreement. I asked him “What about the car to our left?” He instantly replies “He already has the DL. Once you get yours, you can also do that!”

In between the classes, I drove a couple of times with Abbas and even he could feel the difference in my driving. But his passenger vision had not gotten any better and he still thought I drove too much into the left side of my lane. And the very next class I started intentionally placing the car towards the right and H freaked out and asked “What happened to you?” When I told him why I was driving the wat I was, he said “Don’t drive with your husband any more” Hahaha. As days passed, Abbas started saying things like “You might get your DL in second attempt”. Nobody, known to us, had ever passed the driving test in our suburb in the first attempt as it is known to have difficult routes. Abbas had passed at his 4th attempt. The day before the test, Abbas said “In the remote likelihood that you get the DL tomorrow, I would be doomed for life”

So folks, the D-day finally dawned and I had taken the day off. The test was to begin at 10 AM. I hadn’t had a good sleep the previous night. H came at 8:45 to practice for an hour before the test. I drove well by consciously remembering all the mistakes I had done in the previous classes and not repeating them. Though I committed a few new trifle ones instead. When we reached the RTA at 9:45 and got out of the car, I had a stomach-churning feeling. I was very nervous. But I observed that H was even more stressed than I was. When my name was called out, he accompanied me. The officer my signature on a form and said go to your car, I’m coming. H wished me good luck but he was visibly worries for me.

I got into the car, put my seat belts on, started the car, officer did the customary indicator checks and got in. He just said that we will drive around the local area today. Whenever I ask you to turn left or right, do so. If I don’t say anything, keep driving straight. He did exactly that like a robot. I kept telling myself that I will not forget anything, and give my best shot. I drove at the right speed as per the road marking, used indicators diligently, didn’t miss a single shoulder and mirror checks. I might have stopped a bit close to the stop line once. And one mistake I did was during the 3 point turn (which apparently was my strong point) after going forward, coming backwards and then I was supposed to go forward. I used the indicator, did my head checks and observations but guess what I forgot to change gear. As I slowly let go of the brake, I felt that the car was slightly moving backwards. Immediately I changed gear and moved forward.

After we came back, I parked the car. The officer and I went back inside RTA. H came almost running to know how the test went. I told him that I was alright. The officer called out my name and I had butterflies in my stomach. He said, with the same robotic expressionless voice, “Congratulations, you passed”. Believe me, it sounded too good to be true. I just couldn’t wait to tell Abbas and make him fall off his chair. H was finally relieved and was very proud. That, my friends, is how I succeeded in achieveing what I thought was not my cup of tea.

PS: For those curious, Abbas is still not able to believe that I got the licence.

PPS: I have kept my precious I-got-my-DL-in-the-first-attempt trump card to use in occasions if and when he tries to show me upper hand while driving

Special thanks to all you lovely people (you know who you are) for the encouragement. Wouldn’t have done it without you.

Love,

Seema

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Mystery Box & Signature Dish

You must guess by now what I’m talking about? Yes!!! I’m talking about the reality show Masterchef Australia. This is the only show apart from Spelling Bee that we, as a family, watch on TV. During the last season, Mantam also watched every episode with keen interest and started giving me comments on every dish I cooked as if they were Gary, George and Matt. What started as fun conversations somehow inspired me to apply for the next season when there were ads asking if you had it in you? On a whim, I sat down to fill up a big questionnaire consisting of 60 odd questions and submitted my application for Masterchef Australia season 9. I had read on one of the previous contestants’ blog that she had applied for consecutive 5 years to get an invitation for the audition. Hence I forgot about the application and went about my life as usual.

To my surprise, in a couple of days when I casually checked my mailbox, I received an invitation to the audition of Masterchef. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I thought I must be hallucinating. In the evening when I reached home, the kids came to hug me as Abbas had told them about the audition. They were super excited. I told them I couldn’t go coz if I got selected then I would have to commit a few months of my life to the show. I was simply not prepared for it at this stage when we have our mortgage on the cards and also no support from family here to help Abbas. Honestly, I was too nervous to go and cook on such a big platform. I cursed myself “What was I thinking when I applied for it in the first place?” Mantam started giving me all the advice that I have raised them with “Mumma, participation is more important. Don’t worry about the results. You must go Mumma” They even started talking about how they will help around the house and began taking up a lot of responsibilities around the house as if preparing for my absence already. I asked them “What if I really go away and when I come back, you all would say that I’m not required here anymore?” They hugged me and assured that it would never happen. Mannu even warned me “Mumma, don’t go and purposely cook bad food so that you don’t get selected and get to be with us.” Tammu asked “ Mumma, do your parents watch Masterchef Australia? If you come on TV they will be able to see you.”

One of my friends H gave me a very practical advice “Don’t worry about crossing the bridge before it is constructed. Just go and gain the experience and have fun.” With Abbas and the kids too motivating me alongside, I replied to the audition invite in affirmative. The first round was to be a Mystery Box challenge. All I had to take with myself was my ID proof. They would provide ingredients under the mystery box and I had to cook a dish which had at least one of the ingredients as the prominent component of the dish. It was a nerve wrecking run up to the audition day as I lost sleep over a few days. I had no idea what would be under the mysterybox and there was no way I could prepare for it. Forget about getting through, all I hoped for is that I don’t make a laughter stock of myself and make something presentable and edible by the end of one hour.

The D-Day came and I went to the audition. The best part was meeting last year’s contestant Jimmy Wong. He chatted with us about how he knew exactly what we were going through and shared his experience. He also motivated us and shared some tips and advice. We were inducted into the professional kitchen and standing in that kitchen was itself like living a dream. There were so many rules around working in that kitchen. There were cameras just like in the actual Masterchef show. When the countdown for 60 minutes started, we were allowed to open the Mysterybox. I had to quickly plan what I would make and get going. I think I was calm and composed and hence was able to coolly put up a dish on the plate at the end of the hour. I had two cuts on my fingers which I had got nursed in between.

When I was called to take my dish for tasting, I was anxious. My fears were completely brushed away with the awesome comments I received. One of the judges asked me for the recipe, the other said that it was one of the best curries in the audition. One judge said that it was the first time ever that she wanted to have the entire plate by herself. I was on cloud nine and it felt surreal. When the judges had tasted all the dishes, four people were selected from our batch and I was one of them. I was asked to come for the second round of audition after two days.

The second round would be to make my signature dish. I was too pumped up from the previous cook that I think I became over confident. I attempted to bring together an unrealistic amount of elements on the plate in one hour. Because I had taken upon myself a lot to accomplish in the limited time, I unnecessarily stressed myself out and made some silly mistakes under pressure. Even before the dish would be tasted by the judges, I kind of had a clue that I had messed up. And their comments confirmed my suspicion. I was disappointed not with the verdict but with myself for having done stupid mistakes and not playing smart in this round. The mistakes I committed kept haunting me for a couple of days. I have come to terms with it now and back to business as usual.

Although I didn’t get through the second audition round, the experience I gained can’t be expressed in words. I am sure to try my skills next year again. I have one year to prepare better and learn new skills, techniques to hone.

I can’t wait already 😀

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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