Happiness is not just a nine-letter word

Happiness is a packet of fresh curry leaves.

To be precise, a packet of fresh curry leaves that remain fresh for more than a week under refrigeration. What? I am dead serious! You see, I was brought up in a place where Mamma saying, “Go fetch a couple of curry leaves” meant running to the backyard and ripping a strip of curry leaves with delight (I used to love the sound; still do matter of fact) without losing momentum, and then running back to Mamma in the kitchen. Even though we didn’t use curry leaves in everything, there were special curries that were incomplete without them. The famous fried mashed potato with onions and curry leaves, for example. Dad’s special chicken curry with curry leaves and lemon leaves. And raw papaya fry that I used to have only when Mamma would throw in a few curry leaves. You get the drift. The curry leaf tree was, and maybe still is, one of the major fixtures in our backyard, and amazingly grew taller than me over the years so much that I had to stand on my tippy toes to grab a handful. Anyways, so what I really want to say here is that I had missed my curry leaves in Hanoi. A lot. When making fish with coconut milk. When making fried mashed potatoes. When making sooji upma for breakfast. And so, after eight long months of lamenting the incompleteness of my curries and fries, when the husband brought back home a packet of fresh curry leaves, it was all I could do to stop taking in the smell again and again. And yesterday when I made upma for breakfast and the utterly scrumptious fragrance of fried onions and curry leaves lingered in my kitchen for hours after, I was happy. Idiotically inexplicably grin-stuck-to-my-face happy.

Happiness, incidentally, is also a new Philips blender. No, this is not an endorsement.

Any cook worth her, or his salt would swear by a mixer/blender/grinder in their kitchen. That I survived for eight long months without one must be quite a feat (no wonder my sister asked me, “How?”). And yesterday, when I finally brought back home my swanky new blender, the cook in me was almost day dreaming of the possibilities all the time. Milk shakes, frothy iced coffees, juices, chutneys! And tomato onion pastes that get ready in a jiffy! Oh, and did I mention this brilliant sunny side-up maker that makes perfectly round shaped sunny side-ups? It is ridiculously simple (a ring a steel placed on top of the pan) and yet it caters to my affinity, sometimes bordering on obsession, for all things symmetric. My kitchen must be so pleased with itself now.

Happiness is, naturally, a trip to IKEA. And no, even this is not an endorsement.

Well, I talk about curry leaves and blenders, don’t I? A mega store that has everything a home needs is kinda like my paradise, ain’t it? So talking a walk around paradise and occasionally stopping by to pick a piece of it to bring back home would indeed be contentment at its peak. Forget the hundreds of ringgits we end up spending on each trip. Forget the aching shoulders after carrying the bulky bags. What matters is that now, after eight months of living in a place I knew I would be leaving anyway, I am now, for all intents and purposes, settled. With an 18 piece dinner set (and not melamine plates that we’d bought individually), proper serving bowls (and not Tupperware that I slammed on the table straight from the microwave), and even a proper set of six cups (and not mismatched coffee mugs and plastic cups for when we used to have guests). It feels like a home now, it really does.

Happiness is a walk around Little India out here.

Selamat Datang Ke Little India” the huge sign says. And you do feel welcome once you walk under the colorful archway that marks the beginning of Little India in Kuala Lumpur. The first sight that meets your eyes is a bright fountain, all pink and blue and green and orange, bang in the middle of an intersection, with intricate patterns carved on it. And then the small orange and blue archways and beautiful lamps on both sides of the road. Flower shops selling thick garlands and baskets of jasmines and sticks of yellow and white chrysanthemums. The next thing that you would notice is the noise. A mish-mash of Bollywood songs blaring from one shop, and a Tamil song blaring equally loudly from the next shop. Loud conversations. The sizzle of dosai batter being spread on a pan somewhere. The occasional Hindi slang. By then it will be difficult to not note the heady cocktail of smells that hits your nose. Sandalwood incense burning somewhere (by the smell of it, almost everywhere), Indian snacks being cooked in different “restorans” and the unmistakable aroma of desi ghee. A hint of jasmine wafting from somewhere. And oh, the amazing smell of spices! We walked into one of the chaat places and ordered pani puri. It was not the best pani puri that I’d had, specially since my standards were set quite high by those pani puri walas back home with a makeshift stall where one could get, on good days a stomachache and on bad days, jaundice. Still, it was probably the best I could hope for in Kuala Lumpur. But Little India became precious in my eyes when I saw shop after shop selling colorful bangles. At that moment, I once again became the girl in my graduation days, who would save money each month to go to Ahmed Market in Fancy Bazaar to buy yet another dozen of bangles to add to her ever growing collection. Happiness, undoubtedly, is a total Indian feast for all of my senses. That too, in a foreign country.

But ultimate happiness, in the end, is an iPod on shuffle that plays all of your favorite songs as if on intuition. I mean, I could go all goo-goo and gaga over all the housewife stuff, but nothing beats going, “Oh but that’s one of the best songs ever!” for each song that my iPod doles out to me.

The little things. Hasn’t it always been about the little things?


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