Its been little over a week since I turned the big 2 4 and I thought that I should probably talk about my birthday and the thoughts that were swirling in my head as I went though that day. I moved back home in the second week of May 2017 and by the third week of the same month I had my first job. Well, it wasn’t a full time gig, rather a part time freelance project where I worked to create content for my college counsellor’s website. It was actually the first place I started writing. It was a great job. I wrote a bunch of content, read a lot about higher education which came naturally, since I had just come back.
Within that week, we had a dinner with the whole team of both full time and part time employees. It was a sizeable bunch, with a majority of people helping out in their free time. One such colleague was this Harvard grad who was an American-born Indian who moved to Delhi to start his own weather mapping company. He was a couple of years older and in general a very confident person. I was in awe of the work he had done, how adult he was being just a little bit older than me, and most importantly how much it felt like he was at home. So, while others asked about how his company was going, I was more interested in understanding how long does it take to really move back (move to, in his case) to Delhi. I say Delhi, because its actually a very different city than most others. Even though it is the largest metropolitan in the country, Delhi is also huge and most people live in homes with large families. It used to be a space for a lot of migrants from surrounding towns but now with a burgeoning IT sector and Banagalore and literally every 5th Indian millennial an engineer, most have flocked down south.
Getting back to the topic at hand, among the many great nuggets of advice this colleague gave me he also said that it takes two years to make a good group of friends. This baffled me because at the time, two years felt like a lot of work. I judged him a little and also took it as something that might be a timeline for someone who had just moved to a new city but two years in, I think he was right. People are busy with their own things and if you don’t invest time and effort, no one else will reciprocate. This does mean doing things that you not like (like listening to this other person’s relationship problems while you haven’t had a relationship since junior year in college), or things that may have never done before (like sitting on the rooftop of a university housing rooftop at 4 in the morning with a new fairly new friend you have made in a strangers house that you have met that day and never since thereafter). But its doing those things that make friendships deeper and enable you to have people there for you when you need them.
It took two birthdays to realise that it took me two years to have a group of friends and more than that— things to do that allow me to feel as though I have spent my day well. Its very easy to fall into the “I’m lonely, everyone is doing better things than me” wormhole, but if you just keep an open mind and most importantly the ability to experiment, its very hard to hate Delhi or really any new place to try to call home.
My birthday was great! It started with midnight calls from Shreya and Nandita, both of whom have always been the only ones that have ever called me at midnight which I think is super endearing and something I would never do if they hadn’t started . Shreya and I had a quick chat, while Nandita had some feelings to talk about which I love because she has a way to speak about her feelings that I love. The use of words, the depth, and the ability to answer questions make her feelings so well thought out. She is by far the most introspective and deep person I have met and I think she pushes me to be a lot more vulnerable because in front of her, I really share nothing.
At work, I was greeted with a big coffee cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting (carbs won) that was designed by Aakanksha who has been a work friend that has transcended the boundaries of companies and what it means to have a work friend. We have spent a lot of time in various settings and what I find the most fascinating about her is her ability to understand every situation without having to explain it. She feels the pain of people around her which is genuinely one of her greatest abilities and also something I wish I could learn.
In the evening, I went to a BYOB restaurant with Aaknkasha and met up with Shirin who has become one of my closest friends, which says something since when I started working with her, I was convinced that we would never be friends. She loves to invest time and that is truly a gift. Being older than most of my friends but not old enough to be redundant, she adds the value of foresight in my thinking that I really appreciate. Plus she has good tastes and feeds me lots of food when I go over to her house. Ankita is an old friend that had also came over. Even though I know her for a while, things with feel new and I am excited to have her back in the city. Vikrant and Nandi also joined the party and really just made it whole. Vikrant and I are really close. He is the one person that would drop if I needed him (only if he isn’t asleep, and he has read the messages). But truthfully, he is a gem and the only person I knew in the city when I moved. He has been a constant and I don’t appreciate that enough.
As I looked around the table, I realised people from so many different walks of my life had converged on one table and each one as valuable as the other. From 19 years down to 2: the length of time I have known these people and it finally felt like home.
There is nothing more homey than soup (yes, I think I might be a recent soup convert. Refer to this rant for context). Especially a soup, that has lots of fat. Fat in soup can come from many ways, blended nuts, milk, cream, but none (other than coconut) really adds flavour. Enter Parmesan. An aged milk cheese with each wheel made of 500 litres of milk, making each gram cheese made of 100 ml of densely packed milk solids. This made with grated cheese, rather the rind of a used wedge of cheese. I know some of you might think it’s fancy, but trust me — you gotta invest in that wedge. The rind is like the thing exterior of the tree, nothing like the inside but still full of knowledge and experiences. It take about an hour to make this and a couple of weeks to get over. So stop reading, and start saving up to invest in some great cheese.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 red onion, sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
6 large ripe tomatoes
1 Parmesan rind
Salt and black pepper
On a gas flame, place tomatoes until the skins go dark. Clean out the skin, chop, and deseed.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Once it starts bubbling, stir in the onions and sauté until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, pine nuts, red-pepper flakes, and generous pinches of salt and pepper, and sauté until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, 2 cups water and the Parmesan rind, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down and the mixture has thickened, about 30 minutes. (If you find during your stirring that the Parmesan rind is stuck to the bottom or sides of the pot, pry it off with a wooden spoon.)
Remove the rind from the soup, and let cool slightly
Ladle the soup into a blender, and blend until smooth. For a super-smooth soup, run it through a fine-mesh sieve.) Season to taste with salt, pepper and grated Parmesan.