I’m exhausted. I spent weeks researching Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, turning myself into a stalker for the purpose of creating a profile. I’ve been researching Sikh Writers so that I can finish writing a Conference Paper arguing against the abundance of Punjabi writers and lack of English writers in the global Sikh community. My room was never messy until I joined the MFA program at San Jose State University. It’s just not possible to stay clean while working full time and going to school. No matter what my mother suggests in terms of maintaining cleanliness and organization, it’s just not possible. Demi’s The Empty Pot and The Firebird sit on top of a messy pile of children’s picture books. This is a new interest; I’ve been studying these books to learn how to write my own children’s picture books. I have a journal sitting near the books to write down story ideas as they eccentrically grace my head.
My dresser is loaded with books I bought from the Santa Clara City Library a few weeks ago. A bag full of books, only six dollars. Tis the season to be shopping, saving, and indulging. Along with my sister’s James Patterson addiction, I found books that I had been eyeing for a while now: The House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar, Tamarind Woman by Anita Rau Badami, and Vine of Desire by idolized Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. These are my season to-read books.
It’s November, National Novel Writing Month. I’ve made the mistake of starting two books in one month. My word count so far can be rounded up to 4,000 words. I think I’ll have to re-schedule NaNoWriMo for the summer. I cook about twice a week, when there is very little actual food to put on the dinner table. During the holidays though, I begin to experiment as a cook. It’s the worse time of the year for kitchen games, with the windows closed against the cold, a kitchen right next to the living room; the smell of deep fried food and Indian spices and flours doesn’t leave the house until winter is over.
Inspired on Black Friday, I boiled six potatoes, shredding them for texture, mashing them and then kneading in cumin seed powder, black pepper, salt, pomegranate seeds, and corn flour. The smell of the potatoes frying in olive oil on my new griddle filled the room, letting my parents and sister know that I was up to my antics again. Did anyone teach me how to make Aloo Tikkis? Yes, the self-proclaimed Youtube cooks. I ask my mom for ideas on what else to add into the Tikkis. “Navdeep, just stop. You’re going to make the whole house smell like oil again.”
That’s when I know that I am free to alter the recipe as I please. The Tikkis got a little over-fried. They were still nice and crunchy though from the outside—almost like one-inch thick potato chips with soft filling on the inside. Next time, I’ll cut them with cookie cutters, on the counter, to make sure they will cook evenly. Laying out the steaming twelve Tikkis on a papered plate, I fill a small plate with three Tikkis—golden except for where they’ve burned.
“Baltej,” I call my sister. “Come wash the dishes.”
This is when our family fights begin. My parents will ask me if this experiment was really that important. Cravings shouldn’t be ignored. Baltej will argue that she always has to do the dishes. I have to write. I’m working on multiple novels, children’s book manuscripts, and assignments; I really shouldn’t be burdened with such chores. My family hates me as a writer during the holidays.