A 2017 Retrospective—Do I have the gall to reflect on 2017? If I can say one thing about the past one year, it has been one year of “aliveness.” I have felt more awakened and alive—for good and bad—this year more than any year I can remember in the past, except maybe childhood when all experiences, small and large, have an acute sense of being in the moment. As Sean Kelly writes in this op-ed: “To be alive is to have the passion of Casanova without its isolation, inconstancy and despair, or the resolute certainty of Kant, without its monotony and insignificance.” To really feel alive, in essence, is to capture the passion of the moment—when everything is in sync and the past, present and future seem to be working in tandem—without fully losing the regularity and beauty of a routine. For me, the best daily feeling of aliveness is that ideal moment in my morning yoga practice when I reach backbends and everything has built up to that moment when I drop back and work to come up again. Aliveness is that moment when we capture the best of whatever is in the present moment while staying grounded in the reality which surrounds us. It’s like watching the kids whenever they’re playing in the sand or swimming—fully immersed in their moment.
2017 has been my year of “aliveness” – from the January Women’s March on Washington to the Bangalore protests against Gauri’s murder. It’s been a year of really high highs and really low lows. Our family made the decision to transition to Bangalore for this one-year sabbatical, particularly after the loss of Amma (my MIL) and the day-to-day living of political realities with a husband reporting on Donald Trump’s presidency. We left our comfortable Takoma Park, MD home and made the move to our Bangalore home, one we have known only as a vacation home for the most part. It was, by far, the best decision we have made in our marriage (beyond having children), but it has not been without it’s challenging moments.
The highs have outnumbered the lows. We have gotten to spend valuable time with family and India friends. Diya has enjoyed her first year of school and made new friends. Dhyan has also started a playgroup and we see him growing and changing daily. We’ve traveled around with the kids in Karnataka, Sri Lanka and Singapore. We have enjoyed the fun and frivolities of living in India—from playing with neighbors to weekend brunches and swimming outings at the Taj, and dining and date nights (which are far more difficult to come by in the US). Chidu and I have been able to work and get regular nights of sleep—truly magical.
We also experienced great loss this year. Amma left us in March, and the horrific murder of Gauri in September left us traumatized and saddened. We were awakened to that fact that that we had traded one crazy, political reality in the US for another—equally misguided one—here in India. The gravity and weight of these losses overshadow our year and somehow have a way of creeping into every moment of silence that avails.
- What a roller coaster. It’s been one year where every moment reminds you that you’re alive—sometimes high and other times frighteningly low. But here in our household we march ever onward surrounded by higher ideals.
Every now and then I get it—the intense craving for that blister-boiled outer crust bursting with soft, chewy, starchy bliss. Yes. I recently had a bagel day. I had to have that goddamn bagel and I had to have it as soon as possible. Living in the DC area, bagel cravings can make for difficult days. There was one a time when I was single and footloose—When I need a bagel it was time to head north for a quick NYC trip. And yes, I’ve traveled 4 hours to NYC to pick up bagels. Those days are long gone so I search for the best local bagel eatery around.
So far, the best I’ve found is Goldberg’s Bagels. Goldberg’s is a proper bagel. I received my bagel education by watching bagels being made from scratch at the now (RIP) closed H&H Bagels in Manhattan. I used frequent their Upper East Side location with every visit to the Big Apple. Every bagel has a few essential elements: The dough has spent a few days in the fridge. It’s risen properly. It’s kettle-boiled (the most essential part), placed in cold water, and then baked. Bagels are laborious. And when prepared with any other method, they are not bagels. They are imposters and one can immediately tell by texture and taste—usually even by appearance.
Goldberg’s bagels are made using traditional methods. They are fresh and offer the right mix of simplicity. The outer crust is a solid, mildly tough texture. The inner crust is soft –neither cake-like or doughy (signs of bad bagels). No, it’s more like a brioche without the buttery finish.
So, that’s it—the only proper bagels I’ve really found in DC are Goldberg’s. One doesn’t go to Goldberg’s for the ambiance, the surly staff who clearly prioritize their Jewish clientele over others, or their terrible sandwich menu and bad coffee. It’s not a place I recommend dining in. I can’t speak highly of their cream cheese or lox—only the bagel. It’s the place you go to as a stop-off from 495 to get your bagel and take home, and my 3.5 year old likes that they have a chocolate chip bagel. I go for the everything seed or onion bagel.
We recently had the good fortune of a memorable meal with friends at Kinship, the latest restaurant by visionary Chef Eric Ziebold in Washington, DC. Kinship is what I would call a “concept” restaurant which has a menu inspired by the single concept of Kinship.
“Kinship: A feeling of being close or connected to other people.” -Eric Ziebold and Ceila Laurant
Ziebold and Laurant define kinship with culinary items placed in one of four categories on the menu: Craft, History, Ingredients, and Indulgence. The organization of the menu around these four terms is as delightful for the diner as it is appealing to the academic social scientist in me.
Each category includes 2-3 appetizers, main courses and dessert options from which diners can pick and choose. My dinner selection centered on crafty indulgence with a focus on ingredients for dessert.
Highlights included morels served in a light mushroom sauce with poached egg and porcini as well as a splendid foie gras prepared to perfection with a sweet apple jam base (indulgence). As a main I opted for the duck confit (craft) which did not disappoint with its well-perfected texture–one of the best I’ve had. The homemade bread and butter provided to the table also adds a nice touch.
As a dessert our table opted for the salted caramel peanut bar–peanut, chocolate ganache and salted caramel with a scoop of bourbon ice cream–what more could one ask for–though dessert are on the smaller side compared to the typical DC restaurant and I would not recommend sharing.
Other notes about the restaurant-the wine menu is extensive and they serve a variety of wonderful fruity reds with a large selection of Cabs and Pinots, which accompany most of the meal items well. They also have a well-rinsed slection of whites. This wine menu is among my favorite in DC, with Blue Duck Tavern being my absolute favorite. I also like that the Kinship menu provided the option of half bottles. I do not know if there is a sommelier on staff and it would have been nicer if one had stopped by.
The waitstaff were professional but still appear to be getting their act together. A better trained and more well spoken set of waitstaff could really elevate this restaurant placing it among they top DC dining destinations.
The ambiance is perfect mix of modernity integrated with concepts from the slow food movement–a minimalist heaven with a touch of home-like comforts, especially the set up at the bar. I felt like I was sitting inside of a Kinfolk magazine, a modern hipster’s delight.
Kinship Rating (5 point scale)
A heartfelt emphatically present, incrementally inspiring mom or dad or coach can liberate an ambitious child to take the world by the horns. As adults, we have to take responsibility for ourselves and nurture a healthy, liberated mind-set. We need to put ourselves out there, give it our all, and reap the lesson, win or lose. The fact of the matter is that there will be nothing learned from any challenge in which we don’t try our hardest. Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities. -Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence (Highly recommended vacation reading)
And just like that…our vacation in Costa Rica is coming to a close as we wrap up our final day. Three weeks have gone by quickly, but the trip has served our purpose—providing a beautiful new and relaxing space for exploration and unwinding, and for making us realize how fortunate we are with our day-to-day lives back in Takoma Park, MD. We’ve also faced some difficult questions and sought answers to those questions. Most importantly, we are now ready to return home—refreshed and excited for what the remainder of summer will entail.
Every period of travel introduces new lessons. In February we spent the month in Bangalore. Overextended in work, I was reminded about knowing when to stop and rest—when to say “enough practice/work/activity for today.” Now as we find ourselves in Guanacaste, the Northwest province of Costa Rica for the month, my morning yoga practices are fraught with lessons of balance, especially as I move through standing postures, Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana. These are postures that are always and never a struggle—in the sense I get into them without hassle but can struggle immensely depending on my desire to work on them in practice. Also, after attending a great workshop with Krista Shirley in April, I was reminded of all of the various ways I can work on these postures to strengthen bandhas and really ground myself in practice. I’ve definitely been more aware since then. I feel progress has been made…until the last few days.
Every morning over the last week I lose my balance in these postures and struggle to bring them back together again. Astrology would suggest this has something to do with some activity between Neptune and Jupiter. We’ve also just had a full moon with all kinds of energy jumping everywhere. After a few days of rest and realignment today’s practice was better but still a struggle.
I delve deeper to explore what these balancing postures have to say about my life and the current state of my mind as I try to balance so many aspects of daily life—home life vs. professional life, my children’s needs vs. my own, career choices, and the many multidimensional aspects of all my interpersonal relationships.
There are the big questions—confronted with the question of what to do next with my career, where I want to be in 5 years, and the most valuable way to spend time now to maximize present and future happiness?
As I explore these deep questions I am once again humbled by how the practice of ashtanga yoga has led me to delve deeper through the lens of balance. I find no immediate answers, but do see a need to step back and to let go of the easily identifiable negative aspects pulling me down to focus on the positive aspects propelling me forward. While not easy, the lesson is humbling.
“Practice and all is coming.” -Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Photo credits to my amazing husband, Chidu Rajghatta.
So, after all of the hype from Indian media the last few days about this latest San Francisco barista craze, I had to try it.
This new trend also happens to be the cold remedy for millions of Indians, including my Mother-in-law, and has a long history in India for treating sore throats. I was told when I was living in India back in 2005 that if I would drink a version of this concoction at the onset of a cold, it would stop the cold from progressing. The tumeric and pepper coat the throat, and after drinking it you’re not supposed to drink anything else for 30 minutes. It does seem to have benefits when I’m not feeling well, but until now, I’ve never considered making it into a latte or related type of beverage. I’ve always just crushed a teaspoon of peppercorn and mixed it with a teaspoon of turmeric and 1/2 cup of warmed milk. Over the years I’ve grown to like the sharp taste of the tumeric combined with the pepper, but confess, that I gagged the first time I ever tried it.
The latte is a much improved upon variation, and one I may just happily enjoy as an afternoon alternative to herbal teas.
1 teaspoon haldi/tumeric
1 teaspoon fresh cut ginger
1 teaspoon coconut oil
5 Black peppercorns
A sprinkle of cinnamon
A pinch of sea salt
Honey to taste
1 cup milk of your choice
How to make:
Heat milk on a stovetop.
Grind all other ingredients in a coffee grinder with a touch of water.
When milk begins to boil mix ingredients together. Stir or use a milk frother until it reaches your desired consistency.
Pour and enjoy.