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Thursday, 6 August 2015

Of Handy Hints and Me

Recently, I picked up a book at the library titled “Femina Handy 
Hints – The A-Z of Household Solutions.” It is indeed a treasure trove of information, thoughtfully collated from the tips sent in by Femina readers over the years. 

Reading this book, you will learn how to prevent spoilt milk from curdling, how to turn an ordinary tawa into a non-stick one, how to use leftovers creatively, how to clean a sticky sandwich maker, how to make your bathroom tiles sparkle using banana skin and so on. There are tips on every possible issue you may face in your house…all you need is the memory to recollect the right remedy at the right time and the patience to follow instructions. I’m sure this is a hugely popular book and that there must be hundreds of women (and maybe some men, too) who diligently follow its prescriptions.

As I read the book, I found myself paying selective attention – the tips that seemed easy to adopt, stuck in my mind quite well. Those with long-drawn procedures that extended beyond two steps – I just skipped. Which should tell you something about my approach towards household work – I’m thorough with the important tasks but have little patience with anything that involves elaborate prepping. With an attitude like this, it’s not difficult to understand why I cannot lay claim to running a perfect, spotless house.

My house and kitchen are clean enough to avoid disease and tidy 
and uncluttered enough to let me perform operations in a streamlined manner. But stepping in, you would not find the floor sparkling or the kitchen counter gleaming or the coffee powder container unblemished or the drawing room furniture immaculate…well, I’m sure you get the drift….

                                                            Guess which of these two is my kitchen?

As a student in the pharmacy college, I remember that I would keep my lab workbench clean, perform the experiments as prescribed, record my observations accurately and repeat procedures if the desired result was not achieved. 
Process validation and analytical method validation were topics that always held a stronger appeal than cleaning validation. I don’t remember ever having beautiful handwriting or the patience to doll up my journal entries using different coloured ink like some of my classmates did. Sometimes, I have a sneaking suspicion that some of their homes today would look like something out of Good Housekeeping or Inside Outside. And just in case you’re wondering how come I know the names of all these magazines if I’m as klutzy as I claim to be – its only because I’m obsessed with reading anything I can lay my hands on….yes, even magazines whose tips I don’t intend following.

I multi-task cooking and cleaning with a full-time job as a lecturer and freelancing as a writer. And reading and thinking (what I believe to be profound thoughts) and working on my self-development. And attending to umpteen simultaneous demands from people around me with the precision and time management skills that I like to think have been born out of years of working in the chemistry lab. 

Armed with experience over the years, maybe someday I will write a book on Handy Hints too – it will be on topics such as “How to help your kid with a complex math problem as you’re cooking dinner” or “How to lend a shoulder to a distraught student on the phone even as you are in the middle of a family function” or “How to find time to read for at least 20 minutes every day.” 
The book I propose to write someday

My only fear is that 
there may not be many takers 
for my proposed book.

It is easy to rub pearl jewellery with olive oil to make them regain their shine. The fact that they will shine after rubbing them, that your friends will notice the shine and ask about it, that you will get a chance to share your expertise on shining pearls are all guaranteed. And this promise of a result is a great motivator.

But my tip on asking your kid to independently try out multiple ways to solve a math problem while you run to the kitchen to stir the sambar for a few seconds is not so fool-proof. Because it assumes that you have a kid who is patient enough to work on his own; because it assumes that you and your family will be satisfied with a functional sambar than some other exotic, nuanced dish for dinner. Besides, delaying the stirring may result in burnt sambar and too much stirring may lead to a frustrated kid and in either situation - an annoyed you. 

Also, there is no guarantee that your efforts with either the kid’s math problems or the sambar will yield fruit in the form of higher marks or appreciation of your cooking. Because those outcomes depend on someone who is human and not a gem and who, in fact, may be – more often than not – highly unpredictable.


  1. Very interesting read... And refreshingly different from those earlier posts...which were interspersed with profound philosophy and religious overtones.... Indeed.. Life's best moments lie in the simplest ones.. And you've done a fantastic job of bringing a smile to my face as I read on.... Way to go... This one's my personal favorite...

    1. Thank you, Raja...your comments never fail to bring a smile to my face, either :-)

  2. Anu, I too would admit that it really did bring in a smile and a freshness to the day realizing a simple fact that there is beauty in all the imperfections within an around us which we can appreciate only if we accept it. With this awareness, the journey thereafter will surely be interesting ..

    1. Thanks, Meena...glad I added some freshness and made a wonderful friend like you smile some more...

  3. Nice read.simpely simple yet profound.after all life gives a choose on where you want to spend time....

    1. Thank you Bhargavi...if this piece has motivated you to comment, it must indeed be profound ;-)


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