Friday, February 20, 2015

Asha #1000speak

Still, heads turn, questions asked and eyes lowered in pitiful sympathies. But unlike a few years ago where I pretended I had nothing to do with her, I hold her hand tightly, letting her know that "we are in this together"

I harboured a strong jealousy and dislike towards my sister, Asha, all through our growing up years. She had our parents, and our grandparents too, dancing on their toes around her, leaving them catching for their breaths whenever they did find time for me, and even then they lectured me on 'on how to behave, when with her' instead of asking me about my day.

"Asha, come here", " Asha, say Ma-aa", "Asha, Asha, Asha!", but Asha wouldn't budge from her place despite the repeated callings and looked straight through us, focusing on the wall behind. At times, she would suddenly jump at me, snatching Rosa, my favourite doll, out of my hands, biting me, if that's what it took to get Rosa from me. My parents would rush to the bloody scene then, like peacemakers, asking me to forgive Asha and act like an elder sister even though I was two years younger to her.

When it were my birthday and we went out for a family dinner, she would scream her lungs out, bringing the entire place down and as we had to rush back home without cutting my birthday cake I couldn't help but agree to the strangers' passing comments over my parents 'lack of control over their own daughter' and 'poor parenting'.

Mentally subnormal the society cried out, making my mother cry and my father hide away at home ignoring his important peon position at Govt. of India office for days. While grandmother turned the kitchen into an experimental hub, rubbing salt, chillies, mustard, incense and what not to ward off the evil eye, grandfather was sure that this was a western syndrome that could be treated with isolation.

Home tuitions for Asha, further angered me as I couldn't help but compare the luxury she was offered while I had to lug my heavy school bag and catch the early morning school bus, traveling 15 kilometers daily. It wasn't fair that she was still on 'E for Elephant' and I had to deal with subjects such as History and Science.

Life is a struggle I had thought then, in my early adolescent years. That was until I heard the word 'Autism' for the first time.

The walls were thin, of our poorly constructed government quarters. So thin, that even though my door was closed that fateful evening and the loud thunders and heavy winds kept rattling against my rusty windows, I could hear Dr. Chakraborthy's gruff voice. Wolfing down the hot onion pakoras and ginger tea, the doctor, a close friend of grandfather's who was now an Amreeka-returned was doling out his precious advice about Asha.

" This is no mental illness but a neurologically based disorder of development. Austism! Have you heard about it?"

Putting a name to the strangeness that was associated with Asha, made me change in a way. Made me curious if nothing more. I started accompanying my parents to the white walled pungent smelling halls, to doctors trying to speak to Asha in mimicked tones, to the never ending train journeys, to discovering that there was a world outside our ignorant village in Bengal, to Asha flapping her hands and running like a chicken in the unknown streets of trying to find a cure. But there wasn't one. We tried our best, but there wasn't a silver lining found in the thick leaden hued sky.

It was when our skepticism in the physical world around us and Asha's behavioral abnormalities had reached its tipping point, we were led to an Ngo that runs a special school for differently abled children.

There, watching each volunteer engage with an autistic child with compassion, managing multifarious labours with such love and gratitude, I felt a pang of guilt. The journey I set on then, from 'we are different' to 'we are together', I should have made a long time ago, walking beside my elder sister, bearing few scratches in return.

It burned me to cross that bridge, but it lead me to knowing her for who she really was. From never having looked up to my elder sister, now I wished desperately to see the world through her eyes eyes. wished to understand the meaning of her complex, intricate and unique ways of communication, wished to be a part of her story which I had denied all these years.


This is a work of fiction.

Written for #1000speak for Compassion.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Mouth half open, head tilted above
gazing intently at the million stories
the cobwebs had to tell,
He was in his own world, one 
that was far removed from reality,
that had turned him into a ghost,
that had still left room for hope...
Hope, that his lost love would return.

Eyes closed, gently lying down
listening to the voices of
strangers in love, celebrating, dancing,
painting the town red,
She was in her own world, one
that was far removed from reality,
that had trapped her...
trapped her beneath the innocent lilies, 
that lay heavily on the black casket.


Linking to Wordy Wednesday 5 at B-A-R

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Magic of Truffle Muffle

I am always excited around Birthdays and Anniversaries, not mine but my near and dear ones. I start planning weeks ahead, thinking of new surprises every year. I like to capture the 'Ah' moment, the smile on their faces, the glint in their eyes. 

This year was no different. With January and February being celebratory months in the family I had started scurrying for THE surprise well in advance. But things weren't quite adding up, until Facebook came to my salvage. I had been following Gauri's blog for a while now, and the artistry and imagination that goes into baking her cakes is insane! So I thought why not try customized cakes for hubby's 30th birthday and Mom-Dad's 30th anniversary; it would definitely be a shift from our usual loyal friend, the Black Forest. 

A Facebook search led me to the Noida based home bakery, Truffle Muffle and I was sold in few seconds as I scrolled down the fantastic display of her cake pictures.

I ordered a Minion Cake for my 'Óne-in-a-Minion-Hubby' and the vanilla-blueberry cake was way beyond my expectations, and the look on M's face priceless! The minion figurine still sits at his work desk!

For my parents it was the Scrabble cake. The moist chocolate cake with butterscotch crunch filling was devoured within 48 hours!

Work of art, aren't these? But what's even more amazing and inspiring is the young face behind it all. Drishti Anand at just 23 years of age has achieved what only a few of us can dream of.

What inspired you to start Truffle Muffle? We would love to know the story of the birth of this home bakery?

I have been running Truffle Muffle, a home bakery, for a little more than 2 years now. 
These two years have been life changing to say the least; I used to earlier teach in a school as a nursery teacher..haha!! ya!
I was a teacher for a year and used to take a few orders as a part time thing. Soon I realized that I was not happy with just another job. It had actually started much before...
Post college, while I was still deciding on what to do in life, I taught chocolate making whilst doing a nursery teacher's training course. 
Casually I asked my Dad one day if I could start a home bakery doing designer cakes, he agreed and that was it!! 
So if you see it was very random...I used to do bake a lot when I was still in school, and love it...
Infact I used to help my Mom as a kid too and we used to make dry cakes for home eating. 
The final push however came from my best friend, who knowing of my passion, kept motivating me to take this up full time and without him I guess Truffle Muffle would not have been what it is today, as he has been the best critic and support!!

There has been a huge spurt in cake and baking industry, especially start ups and home bakeries. What makes Truffle Muffle stand out?

I think I really believe in quality and not quantity. There are a fixed number of cakes I can actually do in a day, which is very less as everything is prepared from scratch; the cake batter as well as the fondant I use is homemade!!NO PREMIXES!!

I also believe in constantly trying out new things. Apart from cakes, I also do dessert jars available in different sizes, cake pops and designer cupcakes.
For valentine this year I have introduced BOX OF LOVE!! It has loads of yummy goodies, a mix of all things we do, and I am very excited to see the response it gets. :)

How do you keep yourself updated with the 'in' cake trends. Any favourite baker or couture cake websites you follow?

There are lots of them but one such inspiration would be McGreevy Cakes  I just love her creations!! Yes,trends in the cake world keep changing and we have to be updated...with the internet it is easy to explore and learn from many online common forums where genuine knowledge is shared. 

Just good baking isn't enough right? Customers always want something new, something creative. Do you feel pressured sometimes with customer demands, and how do you cope up with it?

In fact more than baking etc, I feel pressured when people call me to tell they hate fondant and I just don't know where to start from. I want to tell them that they have to eat mine to change the perception. :P 
I mean fondant is made of sugar and it will be sweet but they come up with things like its gummy,chewy over over sweet, very thick etc. It really gets difficult because they have had terrible designer cakes experiences and it is difficult to change their perceptions.
Yes I do have to come up with different flavors in designer cakes which gets difficult as we can't do much of creams etc as that might spoil the look of the cake but I do try to make it as moist and as tasty as I can, yet keeping it a designer piece.

What are the future plans for Truffle Muffle?

Future plans are to have a big bakery with an attached workshop and a talented team of designers!! haha!!

Any advice to youngsters who follow the same passion as you and want to start out in this industry?

I would like to say, above all else do what you enjoy the most and make it your profession. Then sleepless nights because of work or all day long handwork will not seem tiring at all and trust me you'll love it!!!
A Dabangg themed cake
A Baby Shower Cake 

Hop on to her FB page now to see more such fabulous cakes. I know you can't wait! :)