Hiatus

It has been a long while since I’ve written on here. Since my last post, I was hired full-time and moved into my own place. The entire process of settling into a new house and new job, in a new field and in a new country, had sapped me of any energy to pursue my interests. I have also decided not to get internet, so as to get away from internet addiction and to try spend more time reading, gardening or just sitting doing nothing.

In the last several months of living alone and with very little distractions, I had come to face a few overwhelming obstacles, for lack of a better word. Some of which I thought I had put behind me and some of which I had predicted will crop up but was not prepared for.

For the first time, I am faced with loneliness at what seems like its rawest. Although I predicted that loneliness would eventually loom like dark storm clouds and not easily shaken off, I was none the less surprised at times, at how overwhelming it can get. I still do not feel at home in my current surroundings and am hoping that this will only spur me on to truly appreciate Advaitic and Buddhist views on the unreality of “my” desires. Perhaps the growing disillusionment will lead to caring less about worldly existence? I would go through frequent phases of consuming a Bukowskian amount of booze (lacking all poetry or insight. Fights are not my style) and doing very little else. The overwhelming ennui and silence oddly did not lead to me reveling in listening to the birds and sounds of the rain while consuming the vast quantities of books I had accumulated over the last decade but it instead lead me desperately looking for distractions.

Despite all that, I do believe I am gradually beginning to enjoy the quiet and hopefully soon I will have more to write. I have just started reading Michael Comans‘s absolutely brilliant book The Method of Early Advaita. It is unmistakable that Comans knows what he is writing about. I have only read the first half of his chapter on Gaudapada and have found his commentaries profoundly revealing.

Laks Indrakaran

Norfolk, VA

Discarding

Q: How can I want the inconceivable?

M: What else is there worth wanting? Granted, the real cannot be wanted, as a thing is wanted. But you can see the unreal as unreal and discard it. It is the discarding the false that opens the way to the true. – I Am That – Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

When I first met, a particularly bookish friend, he told me that he was getting rid of most of his books and have always lived on as little as possible. That inspired me to begin questioning my own careless amassing of objects, even items that were given to me as gifts. I was soon told about the Hojoki, by the same friend. The Hojoki is a poignant Buddhist text with powerful apocalyptic imagery describing the temporal world. Some would use the rather tired and cliched term “impermanence”, which has been so frequently attached to so many so called spiritual texts but I’ve rarely come across anyone who takes it seriously enough.

I was no better either, as I was often in a fitful state acquiring books rapidly, not to mention my penchant for nice clothes. Before I knew it, I had acquired a massive library, enormous enough that, should It topple over, it would have been fatal and yet most of the books remain unread. A pointless maiming.

It was in moving out of the UK and again out of Malaysia that I felt the lightness of not only discarding my belongings but many of the preconceived ideas and identities that “I” clutched on to. Leaving London and Malaysia also meant leaving behind a cultural and psychological narrative that I clung on too with tooth and nail. I do, however, still reminisce about the good old days.

Upon arriving in Virginia Beach, my friend wrote to me mentioning Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye, Things: On Minimalist Living. A book on getting rid of possessions and modern Japanese minimalism.  A very well written book with excellent advice and a lighthearted yet thorough treatment of psychological traits that allow for possessing objects. I did, however, find Sasaki’s repetitive admiration of Steve Jobs very jarring. Steve Jobs is certainly not the hero of minimalism that Sasaki believes. Sasaki also does not fully address data hoarding , in fact he encourages digitizing all information in view of storing them. Aside from that it is a brilliant book. I had come across Nagisa Tatsumi’s The Art of Discarding from Sasaki and read it straight after and it too is a brilliant book, with lots more examples and easy to follow advice. I highly recommend both books for anyone considering living on no more than just the essentials. This includes getting rid of gadgets and reducing if not getting rid of the internet and smartphone. There  are several books that deal with doing away with gadgetry but I believe the most convincing are Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television and Eric Brende’s Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology. I cannot recommend these two titles enough. They have given me a whole new world view on technology and proved to be great stepping stones that lead my private research into the effects of technology on people and the enviroment.

Aside from books on discarding objects, I have been reading my Nisargadatta Maharaj collection some of which for the first time and some I have been coming back to again and again over the past seven years. I have only two small rows of books on my shelves now and of which the majority are recorded dialogues of the three Maharaj’s (Nisargadatta, Ranjit and Siddharameshwar) and Ramana Maharshi. The rest being a few books on Pure Land and Zen Buddhism, six Loeb Classics translations of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus and a few translations of the Yijing.

Reading Maharaj and books on minimalism in tandem felt appropriate as I am no longer only discarding objects but also examining ideas such as the existance of objects, birth, my body, likes and dislikes, hopes and regrets and basically every-“thing“ in the field of consciousness in view of discarding them all.

Laks Indrakaran

Virginia Beach, US.

 

Sothi

Sothi is a typical Sri Lankan curry which my mother thought me last night. This is a simple oil-free vegan yellow coconut curry which resembles the Malay “Masak Lemak” dish. You could cook any vegetables using this recipe. In this we used regular green cabbage. Unfortunately I did not take down the Malay “Masak Lemak” recipes from Kakak Is. She prepared banana blossoms (jantung pisang) and yellow burr head (genjer) which is very delicious. I am guessing the Malay version has lemongrass, pandan and galangal but I can’t say for  sure. Both versions are very similar none the less.

Ingredients

  • 3 red chillies chopped
  • Medium red onion chopped
  • 1 spring of curry leaves
  • ½ teaspoon of fenugreek
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 4 leaves of cabbage chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric
  • 14oz can of coconut milk
  • 2 fresh tomatoes chopped
  • 1 fresh lime sliced in half
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Add chillies, onions, curry leaves, cabbage, fenugreek, garlic, cabbage and turmeric to pot and fill with enough water to cover vegetables. The amount of water depends on how you like it. I like a thick sauce and so I used less water which did not cover all the vegetables.
  2. Bring water to a gentle boil.
  3. Once the cabbage is half or more cooked add coconut milk
  4. Do not boil coconut milk as it will release the oils. Stir gently over a very gentle simmer.
  5. Once all vegetables are cooked add tomatoes, salt and squeeze lime to taste and remove from heat immediately as you do not want to cook the tomatoes nor overcook the vegetables.
  6. If the dish is too tangy, counteract with a bit of brown sugar.

 

Laks Indrakaran

Virginia Beach, US

Kale Varai

Varai is one of several typical Sri Lankan dishes that my mother has mastered during her time in America. I was thought to make a simple Kale Varai but I am guessing one could use any green leafy vegetable in stead of Kale. Kale is one my favourites and this is so far the most delicious way to prepare Kale in my opinion.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 4 green chillies or dried chillies chopped
  • Medium red onion
  • 1 spring of curry leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 12 large leaves of kale stemmed and chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric or less (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut

Instructions

  1. Add a bit of oil (I would just splash a bit of water) on heated pan.
  2. Add mustard seeds once pan is hot.
  3. As soon as mustard seeds pop, add onions, garlic and chillies.
  4. When onions are translucent add Kale.
  5. Splash more water to keep Kale from sticking to pan. Not too much as this is a dry dish.
  6. Cover and cook on medium-low
  7. Once Kale reduces and begins to wilt, add turmeric and desiccated coconut.
  8. Stir gently until Kale is cooked but be careful not to over cook
  9. Remove and serve.

Laks Indrakaran

Virginia Beach, US

Purple Yams

I was reminded of an old favourite that I used to have when I was very young. It is a simple traditional Tamil dish made with purple yams. Puple yams are known as rasa valli kilangu (இராசவள்ளிக்கிழங்கு) in Tamil. They are traditionaly prepared as a congee (கஞ்சி). This dish can be replicated with most beans, grains and tubers. I am not going to state measurements for ingredients as it is made to individual tastes and consistency.  It is traditionally made very sweet hence I used a lot of sugar. I made this dish with regular white sugar even though I prefer it with palm sugar. This an oil-free vegan dish.

Ingredients

  • Purple Yams
  • Coconut milk
  • A pinch of salt
  • Sugar/Palm Sugar
  • Pandan leaves (optional)

Instructions

  1. Peel yams well. It should be fully whitish purple.
  2. Chop yams as small as you can make them. This will not only quicken the boil but also help to better mash them.
  3. Add chopped yams to pot and add water until about an inch above yams. Don’t add too much water. You may add more water later depending on your preference. I prefer it thick.
  4. Add pandan leaves and a pinch of salt.
  5. Boil over medium low heat.
  6. Let it boil for about 15-20 minutes until yams are soft and tender.
  7. Use masher to mash yams until it looks like chunky soup. If you prefer it thinner and smooth. Use hand blender or added it to blender later.
  8. Add as much sugar as you like. I add a lot of sugar as I like it sweet. You may want to add another pinch of salt at this point depending on how you like it.
  9. Add coconut milk. I only add a little as I do not want to obscure the taste of yams.
  10. Keep boiling for another 5-10 minutes.
  11. Leave on hob to cool or refrigerate. I like my yams to be warm hence I do not refrigerate.
  12. Additionally, you may boil the rest of your coconut milk separately and add to your bowl as you like.

Laks Indrakaran

Kajang, Malaysia

Tempoyak Pucuk Ubi

Tempoyak (fermented durian) is another unbelievably simple yet very delicious Malaysian/ Indonnesian dish. The ladies selling kampong vegetables at the market recommended using pucuk ubi (cassava/tapioca leaves) as the main ingredient for a vegan alternative. This is certainly a favourite considering that I have never ever taken a liking to durians and still haven’t.  Raw tempoyak is usually sold in our local markets and so I have not had the need ferment ripe durians. However, for those residing outside of these parts, and want to attempt it, the fermentation is incredibly simple, however, as it can be difficult to come by durian or tempoyak in most places, I may soon post a coconut alternative known as “masak lemak”. You will need mortar and pestle for this recipe and this is an oil-free vegan recipe. This recipe was written down under the tutelage of Kakak Is. I have hyperlinked photos in recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle of cassava leaves (tapioca leaves)
  • 1 cup of raw tempoyak
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 tiny red onions (I accidentally omitted the onions and it worked)
  • 1 tiny knob of ginger
  • 2-3 tiny knobs of fresh turmeric
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass
  • 1 sliver of galangal
  • 4 birds eye chili
  • 1 mug of water
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Boil cassava leaves in a pot for about 15-20 minutes until wilted and well-cooked.
  2. While leaves are boiling, add ginger, fresh turmeric, onions, birds eye chilies and garlic to the mortar and pound until it is a fine paste.
  3. Lightly pound lemongrass and galangal in mortar.
  4. Once leaves are cooked. drain water with sieve and set aside.
  5. Add a mug of water to pot or wok, along with raw tempoyak and all pounded ingredients.
  6. Mix all ingredients well.
  7. Leave ingredients to simmer on a medium-low heat.
  8. Once the sauce has thickened, add cassava leaves and mix well.
  9. Add a pinch of salt or as much as you like.
  10. Leave to simmer on low heat for another 5-10 minutes until sauce is thick and fragrant.
  11. Once thick and all ingredients are mixed well, remove and serve.

Laks Indrakaran

Kajang, Malaysia

Curried Pumpkin

Curried pumpkin is yet another favourite swift and simple dish that Kakak Is prepares for lunch. I have tried my best to convey the recipe from her pithy instructions. These recipes are written as they were taught to me, hence, I have not experimented with omitting cooking oil. I will write more if and when I get the chance. This is a vegan recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 small pumpkin (or a quarter of a big pumpkin). Remove seeds and cut unpeeled into large cubes. (I am tempted to experiment with seeds)
  • 2 medium diced red onions
  • 3 cloves of diced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons of mixed fenugreek
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder (eye measure is best, you don’t want too much as it will obscure the natural sweet flavour of the pumpkin)
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder (eye measure is best, you don’t want too much as it will obscure the natural sweet flavour of the pumpkin)
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder (eye measure is best, you don’t want too much as it will obscure the natural sweet flavour of the pumpkin)
  • Fistful of dried chilies (or as little or much as you can handle)
  • Half a fistful of curry leaves

Instructions

  1. Heat a tiny drop of oil in pan and add cubed pumpkins over medium to low heat.
  2. Splash a bit of water to keep pumpkin from sticking to pan.
  3. Fry until dark bright orange and fragrant and remove from pan. Be sure to check if it is cooked.
  4. In the same heated pan with oil, fry red onions, garlic, curry leaves, mixed fenugreek and dried chilies over medium heat.
  5. Once fragrant and onions have browned thoroughly, add cooked pumpkin with curry powder, chili powder and turmeric.
  6. Mix all ingredients well. Ensure everything is coated well with spices.
  7. After a few minutes, once spices have heated through, remove and serve.

 

Laks Indrakaran

Kajang, Malaysia