Monday, August 22, 2016

Aam katha

I recently took a story narration session in a school. I had always wanted to do something like that so as soon as the opportunity came in, I quickly grabbed it. While I did not take a moment to accept this, it took me a long long time to select which story I should be narrating. As I browsed through so many of them, I realised that the stories for toddlers are pretty lame. They are terribly unreal! Please don't mistake me as a sadist realist, who does not want to tell fairy tales to kids. But then every story I picked up had something fundamentally wrong with it.

Let's take a few examples.

The story of Cinderella and her atrocious step-mother. While I am all in for the dreamy world where a common girl gets a fairy god mother, the best dress ever, and a carriage made from her cute little animal friends, I am too apprehensive to tell my daughter that Cinderella's mother had died and her father married another woman who was too bad to her; so bad that she made little Cinderella wash, mop, clean, cook, and do every other chore in the house; while wearing torn clothes all the time. Kids love gross details; as much as she was interested in fairy god mother and how she transformed mouses into horses, she was all wide eyed for how her mother was treating her. With great difficulty I explained her the concept of step-mother and she became instantly sad about the fact that her real mother had died, while Cinderella was still young. She even asked me if I could die too, while she is little!

Same applied to Snow White and seven dwarfs. Again a bad step-mom who would leave no stone unturned to wipe off her sweet, little, beautiful step-daughter from the face of the earth.

Hensel and Gretel - the horrible of several stories put together. First a step-mother, who leaves the children in the forest with nothing but some bread. Then an old bad witch who catches them. Putting the brother into a cage and making the sister serve her as a maid. And what did the children do... one day, when the old witch was checking over the fire, little Gretel pushes her into the fire and runs away with her brother. Wow! Too much good entertainment for kids.

Jack and magic beans was no good either. While there was no step-mother involved, the little dude gave a wrong lesson himself. As he climbed through the beans and reached the castle built on clouds, he saw several gold coins lying all over, with a monster watchman. He decides to 'steal' some of them. As he was stealing, he became a little too greedy and stole quite a lot of them, so many that they starting falling out of his pocket and woke up the monster. So, dear Jack ran for his life, and as the monster came down to follow him using the same magic beans, dear Jack cuts the stem and the monster falls onto the earth from the sky and dies. Again, wow!

The sleeping beauty is still fine... but then there is nothing much to tell there.  A beautiful princess, a wicked witch, a curse out of no where, the girl goes into an eternal sleep; and, the prince and his true love kiss.

Puss the boots!! Let's not even get into the smartness (or crookedness?) of this cat.

I think you get an idea of how crappy these popular fairy tales are. And as necessity is the mother of all inventions, it led me to browse more, more, and more, till I discovered some hardly known but wonderful tales for kids. As they are not very 'fascinating', my daughter is having a hard time understanding why momma is so hell bent on the routine of a rabit or a hungry caterpillar and not the fairies and the princesses. But I am surely making progress.

As for the story narration session, I just concocted a story for myself. Well, it wasn't self-created really, but can be called so in the large scheme of things ;)

And yes, the title of the story was, How Mango Became the King of Fruits :)

Saturday, August 06, 2016

:)

You know what does it take to be a mother? And then a working mother? And then a single working mother?

Lets just say.. in short.. "a lot"!

My heart feels overwhelmed and tears pour out when I see the lives of some women around me. And I do not feel like this on why their lives are difficult, I feel this for the strength that they display despite of it.

It could be their choices or destiny that landed them where they are. One could judge, advice, or criticise them.. but one can never match the sheer courage they show in every single moment of their lives; as they bear double the burden of parenting while also relentlessly trying to hide that from the child, who incidentally, is the very reason for that.

Single parenting is difficult for anybody. I do not believe in anything that stereotypes us basis our genders. So, let's just say it is equally difficult for everyone. Raising a child well is indeed one of the most painstaking things one will ever do. It burns you out. And even if you are doing everything that you could, it still leaves you with the guilt that you could have done better. And the worst thing is that the result of your most precious investment is very vague and fragile. You only wish and hope that all that you are doing today will someday transform your little brat into a good person - a kind, sensitive human who will have enough within to earn himself a respectable and happy life.

We do not live in the times where our kids are surrounded by loads of family - growing up in the shadow of elders at home. We raise our kids in isolation, where the only people they interact regularly are mommy and daddy. And in such a scenario, when you are a single parent, you inadvertently become the single source of all that that will constitute your child's childhood. Take a breath and think, what a great responsibility that is!

You do not have people to share your irritations; you cannot bank on someone else for anything. There is never an alternative for anything. Either you do a task or it does not get done. You cannot reason a child for the lack of your involvement in their activities because you have a job. You cannot make them understand why their friends' mothers come to pick them up every single day while you have to go to the office. They don't understand your job is their lifeline too. They don't understand anything. They just see what you do with them, to them, and will remember that always as faint memories of their childhood - some unidentified feelings. And hence, it is important for you to ensure that they end up 'feeling' well, even if there have been momentary bouts of discomfort or discontent.

Every single parent needs to show double the love of what they would do otherwise. Thankfully, love is a resource that is inexhaustible. In fact, it is that one thing, which if you allow it to do, will surround your entire being with itself and transform your sufferings from pain to contentment. May be that is the source of courage that lets these seemingly ordinary human beings do such extra-ordinary and daunting things. They just love. They love themselves, their lives, their challenges, their decisions, their pains, their shortcomings, and most of all - their little wonder.

Love that they had lost in someone,
once upon a time, finally manifests itself in their hearts for a cause, much greater, much courageous, and much more worthy.

Monday, July 25, 2016

When life becomes a sailing boat



There comes a time in everyone’s life, when life feels empty and directionless. Everything that we have been doing so far stops containing meaning. The mundane seems unbearable and the new is out of sight. These are the times when the soul, otherwise lying buried as our mind and heart fight, shouts at its peak. We, who do not remember its voice anymore, could hear it vaguely; but we do not know what it is saying. The sound appears to be feeble in front of all the noises in our head. All the three tools of our existence – mind, body and soul – seem to be creating their own set of chaos; and we, in totality, become the walking temple of everything that should not be.

At these times, our desires or controls over our lives vanish. Or more apt to say, become dysfunctional, not for their own reasons but because we do not know what to do with them anymore.
These are the times of transformations; greater the chaos, bigger the transformation. 

It is like the process when larva turns into a butterfly; only that in our case we can never be sure of becoming a butterfly. Our transformation can also happen in the opposite direction, not biologically, but in the level of our consciousness. The reason for all the struggle, pain and uncertainty in life is to increase our levels of awareness. Like a video game, these circumstances are our hurdles, which we have to pass in order to reach to another success. These successes are less about external achievements as much as they are about our internal ones. And whether we proceed higher or go lower in our conscience is largely about our choice. 

We can choose to be graceful and accepting in our times of struggle; or we can choose to be annoying and deny our miseries. Whatever that has to happen will anyway happen, our demure will only change our response to it. We, human beings, consider ourselves the powerful organism, capable of thrusting control over nature, society and each other. We are indeed powerful, but our biggest control is not towards external world, and much less towards nature. It is inwards – towards us. The only thing we can control, and which in its all might no less than the world itself, is our inner self. We can control how we are going to respond towards the external circumstance – when the cocoon breaks, whether we want to fly letting go of everything or slime in ourselves holding grudges – and this choice changes everything. 

When we are drowning it is only natural to look for something to float on. When the storm of adversities is trying to sweep us off our feet, we need something to hold on, to stop from being pulled into that storm. The sense of roots is as essential to human beings as food and water. Stronger our roots, greater is our capacity to deal with the storm. It is only when our roots are weak or we feel root-less that the strength of storm takes over us.

So how do we find our roots?

This might sound interesting - we are born with all the roots our existence needs. We only had to nourish them through love, patience, faith, and acceptance. With time and thousand years of our selfish upbringing, we have forgotten about these things. We have been tied to worldly matters so much that we have forgotten about our existence as individuals. Our successes, failures, joys and sorrows are all external. Probably the one person we have the most will be us only. We hate ourselves for trivial matters - being fat, inconsistent, not able to cook well, not having any hobby, and so on. We look into the mirror and wonder who we are – how the world is going to perceive us – whether we will create that winning impression – whether we will look beautiful, young and supple today - whether we have it that makes us lovable? 

What we hardly do is to look into our own eyes – and sometimes kiss our own lips – and wonder about who we are - that one exclusive creation in the Universe. We do not ask ourselves that question – why in the Universe, billions of years old and bigger than my biggest imagination – was I created? In terms of mass and size, we are nothing but a miniscule amount of energy on a planet earth.  Then why might we have been even created. Was it to fill our social responsibilities? Be a good parent, children, spouse, friend, employee or employer? Balance out our karmic debts? Or, is there anything more to it?

The thought that my existence might have more meaning than what I perceive sends me a chill….

…more to follow…

Monday, February 08, 2016

About breads, buns, and yeast

Last year I decided that every quarter I am gonna learn something new. I had been obsessing over baking breads as long as I can remember. So, quickly I decided, it is high-time I should buy an Oven.

And I bought one. After which began an incessant period of trial and error, in which I consumed humongous amounts of all-purpose flour, olive oil, and yeast from three different continents!

Yes, yeast is what makes or breaks your bread. Being a vegetarian, I do not use eggs and hence the entire fluffiness of my bread was dependent on yeast only.

So, I read about yeasts. A lot. Different varieties, how to activate them, how to test them, supporting reagents to be used, popular brands, etc. I cajoled my friends traveling to Europe and US to get me sachets of popular Yeasts from there. A friend from Germany brought me enough Yeast to suffice for a year, provided I can store it well.

While the long-distant stuff was still in transition, I decided to experiment with the local varieties. From the three brands that were available, one performed quite good. I made pizza twice with that and the base-bread came out really really well and fluffy. So I tried my hands on egg-less garlic rolls - my long cherished recipe - that I could not try because I did not have an OTG. The rolls came out great. Every bit of effort was rewarding. Sadly, I did not take pictures. I was so consumed in admiring the real thing ;)


After these roles, I tried my hands on stuffed buns, which were so great that I cannot even describe how much I liked them. Then came Ladi Pav buns, which were not that great but good enough to bid adieu to market buns. I prepared Burger buns from the left over dough of Ladi pav, needless to say, readymade Burger buns are out of my kitchen too ;)

Then arrived my distant Yeast varieties. Sadly, not all of them preformed as expected, especially, while baking buns. Pizza bases and flat breads were still fine. May be they did not go very well with the Indian ingredients. Two brands did pretty nice so I am gonna order more of them next time someone goes abroad. The Honey-oats-banana-bread that I made came out very well. For remaining projects, I am gonna stick with my locally available and cheaper Yeast satchet.

It's been two quarters since I have got this OTG and I could not seem enough to get of it. Taken from quick cake recipes to quickers snacks, I am totally in love with it. Baking has come natural to me, in fact, cooking itself came natural to me. One could say this happens to a lot of Indian girls after they get married. The feeling of having a kitchen of your own and the possibility of being totally creative in it really pull you into cooking; and once pulled in, you can never really come out of it.

My daughter, just 4 right now, shares my excitement of baking. She is always suggesting me if we can make cakes out of random things. I am still learning basics right now, so a bit cautious in trying out something outrageous, but I know it won't be long when this mother-baby combo would be going guns over cakes, pastries, and muffins. It would be a loving day with sweet aroma and sweeter love inebriating our house. I can imagine that.

P.S.:  Baking happened to me in the third quarter of 2015, and the last quarter was spent Crocheting. An update about it will come soon.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Morning thoughts

When you are loved, it shows on your face. It beams and shines with the delight of being wanted, of being admired and longed for.

It shows in the swing of your waist, when you are free. The careless stomping, devoid of baggage of past and burden of future, so demanding as if you own the world. It shows in the way you put your foot forward when you have nowhere to go and everywhere to reach.

It shows in the spirit of your laughter, when you are happy from inside The mirth that springs through mouth and twinkles through eyes.

It matters when you know you matter.. that you are loved by the one you love. The glow, the waist, the swing, the spirit, the laughter, the heart  .. all become a part of one - the Universe.

When you meet a one like that .. know him or her as the manifestation of God.. since, God lies no where but deeply in a heart full of love.

After all, love is vast and elusive. Much like the Universe or the God. How else can you explain the greatness of human intellect and its incapacity to yet explain it.