FOODICTED

Out of all the pleasures in the universe, there is a pleasure that stirs up my senses, refreshes my insides and satiates the hunger bubbling in me literally. The pleasure that is derived from the joy of cooking and primarily the love for food found its way into my heart a very long time ago when I was just stepping into the shoes of my teenage self. That I was a big-time foodie was known to me much longer than ever but I became a food addict when I discovered that the path to food heaven lay in learning the tricks of the trade of cooking. Initially I was of this thought that I would cook only to fill my belly but gradually I just couldn’t figure how this guilty pleasure became a passion. I would call this definitely a hidden talent as not many people are aware of it except a few of those who have got a taste of my handiwork.

Years ago my first cooking stint began in my kitchen where I was preparing for my final Home Science practical examinations, the final accomplishment of which I am still proud of. I passed with flying colours and praises alike thus giving me a boost to explore the possibilities in the world of food if at least at home. I started with collecting recipes for all kinds of cuisines and dishes and there were times when my dear mother brought out my talent in front of people visiting our house by entrusting me with responsibility of the kitchen along with my sister. There were innumerable things that I didn’t know about and which were impossible to learn just by looking up recipes. I learnt a great deal from my sister including the cooking time, standing time, and which ingredient goes with what, and the art of making the perfect round chapatis and a lot more. The basic knowledge is always an igniting factor which stays inherent even if you experiment with your cooking.

The art of cooking is not easy to master. One needs to be aware of the texture, the palate and the technique of cooking to be a forerunner. Lately I have shifted my focus towards baking which is again a higher form of art. I feel mesmerized by the smell of baked goods and therefore the venturing into this field. Again it involves science, perfect measurement of ingredients and time. Well, there can never be a perfect baking or cooking if there is no love involved. To me, cooking is an expression of love. The cook brings soul to the recipe and that is how it transforms into a piece of art. Learning about different styles of cooking, different cuisines and ingredients has really helped to create praiseworthy dishes. I get high just by seeing the food in my pan change its colour and exhibiting the fascinating aroma. The joy that I see in people when they bite into the dish that has been made gives me a delight that has no bounds.

However I have not been able to channelize my energy in this direction because of professional pursuits and there is a dire urge in me to go forward with what I love more than what is ideal. I nourish this dream to serve happiness, love and peace in bowls and platters but I still need to prepare and learn a lot to make that happen.

I believe in this statement that no one is born a great cook but is made by doing. You may burn yourself, cut yourself … yes that has happened to me several times but it is by failing miserably that you learn to rise up. Cooking to me is more than ingredients, recipes and cooking it is more about harnessing imagination, empowerment and above all creativity. Well I would like to thank my forefathers for discovering fire which is indeed one of the best things ever discovered. It has made my life worth enjoying! But besides playing with fire I am learning the freezing technique as well. A time arrives when all you want to do is what you are mostly interested in. Finding out what you are passionate about and tremendously staying interested in it is what makes you a go-getter. You truly need some TLC for yourself if you need to contribute the same amount to the masses. Let not your talents stay put in your closets and as far as budding chefs and cooks like me are concerned I would leave you with this dialogue from the movie RATATOUILLE, “Anybody can cook, but only the fearless can be great”. Bring it on!

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SLENDER LORIS – TINY YOGIS OF THE RAINFORESTS

Inhabiting the tropical monsoon forests of Sri Lanka and the inter-monsoon forests of the Western Ghats and Tamil Nadu are the demure creatures, the Slender Loris. As prim and proper as they may be, they are well known for their bizarre habits and at the same time are known to be one the most threatened beings of the animal kingdom. Having a height of about 7 to 10 inches and weighing just about 350 grams this creature beguiles the spectator (read animal lover) with its out-of-the-world flexible manners and social behaviour skills. One cannot but wonder how these beautifully designed creatures thrive so close to yet are on the verge of extinction.

They are primarily arboreal using branches of trees to journey through the forest as they seldom leap or jump which are made possible with the kind of toes they are born with, helping them to grip on branches easily. Being nocturnal creatures they hunt during the night, alone in search of insects or birds’ eggs, and are known to consume every part of their prey for that added boost of protein that make them so dexterous. However, their only social activity includes sleeping during the daylight in groups on branch tangles, at times curled up in a ball with their head between their legs. It wouldn’t be harmful to christen them as “tiny yogis of the rainforests”. The more you come to know these forest babies as they are nicknamed by the natives, the more intriguing they become. Their clan has dominating females and promiscuous males who engage in mutual grooming and wrestling for sport, while both the sexes tend to the infants of the clan. The females do not interact much with the other females except for the ones within the family thus giving them an exclusive status quo.

Their skilful hunting and consuming of the prey concludes with a quirky habit of using their own urine to wash off their face and hands that reek of the sting of the insects. They also use the scent of their urine to communicate and advertise their reproductive status to others. This animal is a gifted defender and is gutsy enough to stare at its attacker with its large glowing-in-the-dark eyes, emitting an obnoxious odour from its armpits thus confirming the existence devilish charm that hovers around it.  

Overwhelmed are you? I was too. Mind-boggled was I when I comprehended the reason of their extinction. Devastatingly a hundred of them are left in the wild. And why is that so?  It is solely because of Man’s barbaric nature. Man’s submission to the chains of slavery to the ever-compressing system of civilization. The continuing cycle of hate and vengeance has cost many a lives of the Slender Loris by sacrificing them in black magic rituals. During the rites it is believed that whatever is inflicted upon the creatures, will in turn happen to the enemy. Ironically, the animal is crushed brutally and all of its body parts are eaten and used to make traditional Asian medicine and tonics (to the natives of course) to cure leprosy, gain strength after childbirth. Its tears, used in love potions and teeth removed to avoid toxic bites to quench the thirst for illegal pet trade (for the so-called civilized masses).

Rousseau’s words echoes through my ears, “man is born free and everywhere he is in chains”. It sets me to thinking if civilization has brought out Barbarism in us or if we were more civilized when we were barbaric. I guess we were created on the same plane wrapped up in innocence, living in harmony with the animal kingdom till we rose to our Fall from righteousness and freely indulged selfish exploits. How can we let innocence die for our immoral lifestyles? If this is what civilization is would it be right to say that we were better off living uncivilized? There are no compunctions for what we continue to do as we just do them just to stay slaves to our system. We deplete our ecosystem, making the lovely creatures existing in it bear the brunt of our iniquities.  Our earth is a family. We are the caretakers of the lesser mortals constituting the animal kingdom. It is peak time we behave the same.

HOW YOU HANDLE AFTER YOU’RE BROKEN!!!

It was in the July of 2014 that I was fortunate enough to visit Darjeeling, the land of the thunderbolt. Mirik followed suit. A lover of scenic beauty that I am was enthralled at thought of capturing spectacular scenes of nature. When we arrived at this lake in Mirik I was completely bewitched by the surroundings that it had to offer. Amongst many other elements of nature that I came across at that destination I came upon this scene that stood out to in the midst of all the greenery.

Capturing our undivided attention here is the image of an almost fallen tree. A tree that has succumbed to the pressures of the change in the phenomenon and which looks like it has given up its life to fall to its death into the lake. It is this lone component in the entire forest-like backdrop that has fallen to its glory, an unprecedented survivor who seemed to have gone through a lot before submitting itself to the dominance of the stronger powers. The other trees around it are standing straight resembling each other in appearance and posture, showing no signs of uniqueness in them. It is this fallen tree that I assume tried to show its different nature and thus as a result has been stubbed to its end.

If we look closely we may find out that though the tree seems to have fallen, it has not stopped to thrive. Its leaves are as green as its straight colleagues. It still has life left. It still has a long way to go and survive. The very fact of its brokenness has made it stand out amongst others and has charmed viewers to praise its scenic beauty. The tree seems to be showing strength of character.

So relatable to most of us, isn’t it? Often we find ourselves in circumstances similar to that of this tree. We get eroded by numerous storms that are raging outside and try to burn us in the inside but we buckle ourselves up. Even though we feel broken we try to put up a fight like a warrior. We have to encounter numerous forms of discrimination while living in this present society. Racism, stereotyping, gender discrimination, and exclusion regarding disability, impairment, economic injustice, religious discrimination and what not we confront on a regular basis. I am sure you will be able to name quite a few other than this. Issues like this manipulate and manoeuvre us into thinking that we are its slaves. The prevalent systems of patriarchy and matriarchy (in some other places) make our lives all the more strenuous. Privately we wish for a change to sweep up our country and make life different for us. We view ourselves broken while fighting and battling against the torturous society and its filthy mentality. We feel defeated.

They say one who has the strength of character can withstand the fiercest of storms and thrive just like this tree along the Mirik Lake. It’s not about how you can handle before you break but about how you handle after you’re broken. Our brokenness should not be as such that kills us from within. But make sure the ones watching you see the light that is within through the cracks that have been formed. Imagine the life of this tree and how it is still thriving in spite of its brokenness. It is because the seedlings that are going to come from it may find a stronger ground to dwell upon. The seedlings that would thrive from the tree in future would use the moisture from the lake itself to strengthen themselves.

In the similar fashion when your situations make you fall to the ground use the very ground as a leverage to fly and soar high as an eagle. Keeping your head up in the present society is very necessary. The hardest battles are fought by the strongest soldiers.

QUIETENING POWER OF MY QUIET TIME

Man has evolved throughout the ages.  We have been governed by our emotion and instincts. While emotion can be defined as a complex set of feelings resulting in physical and psychological changes that influence our thoughts and action, instincts are results of an environmental trigger occurring in order to satisfy internal drives. It was instinct which caused man to discover fire and it was emotion that made him create and protect a family. True that his needs were what he was aiming to satisfy. Though we have learnt and unlearnt ways to combat our instincts and deal with our emotions there is a fine line where we tend to confuse between the two. We use our emotions to react to situations as though they are our instincts and continue doing so for a prolonged period till they become a way of life. This is how we acquire an identity for ourselves and get to be known by it.

I was very infamous amongst my family and friends regarding my vicious anger. Most people haven’t seen me in this manner but my close ones have already borne the brunt of it. Such was my all-consuming anger that it was unable for a person to be around me when I was in that frame of mine. I would become spiteful and would end up hurting people with the most savage words. I had frequent fights with family and friends and after which I had a tendency to build up a wall around me, cutting people off and refusing to communicate. If you have known me as a person you would feel how different it is from the person who I am. Yes these bouts of anger happened almost twice a year but throughout I used to react offensively to situations. I reacted and overreacted, overthought about how I reacted and felt terrible, down and disgusting. It was these people who loved me to the core and would never think of abandoning me and I hurt them.

While I was in this frame of mind I thought whatever I was doing this was the only way of asserting me. There was no way I could make people understand my point of view. I was breaking under stressful conditions in the professional arena and hell broke loose in my personal sphere of friends as well. It was only because of the fact that I had begun to idolize myself. Therefore how other behaved in front of me used to be of first priority. I sought to be impressed by others around me. I thought if this particular person offended me it has to be the end of him/her in my life. I wasn’t responding, just reacting.

But the end of my foul behaviour had to come. I had the ugliest of fights at home at the end of 2016 on a petty issue where I thought I have been disappointed in my own family. Terrible thought, isn’t it? I too lost a couple of friends. It dawned that I had been going on offending people, depressing them, hurting them. I was crest-fallen. A throbbing pain shot through as I realized my position. I cried nights in repentance. I had a sort of epiphany back then where I realized the real source of the troubles. It was the absence of quiet-time in my life. I was so engaged with other things even spending my leisure time watching television and surfing the net that I had completely lost the time of meditating and introspection. I wasn’t reflecting on who I am becoming and thus the change of course.

This quiet-time that I am talking about is an evangelical term which we use in our community to introspect about the kind of person I am and how do I strive to be better with people around us. This is an individual session where we meditate, reflect and pray about our shortcomings and positives. The quiet-time proved to be really beneficial to me as it was informative. It made me learn about the various ways in which I can view myself and others around me. It encouraged me when I was crestfallen and strengthened me to face difficult situations with vigour and zeal. I learnt to attach less importance to my being and tried to consider others equal to me. There are still moments of misgivings but you know, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.

My quiet-time really helped me a lot and gradually I am learning not to react in situations rather being resilient is what I would like to focus on. There are a lot of dynamics involved though as understanding and accepting the perspectives of people while maintaining your own without asserting yourself is not a cakewalk. Therefore in moments like these I remind myself of the quote I once read: “Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future”.

ASPIRE TO INSPIRE

What happens when you lose a friend whom you trusted and he/she trusted you back? What if you had a friend with whom you could share your ups and downs and vice versa and a series of misunderstandings created a rift between you both and thus made you keep a grudge against your friend? It feels terrible right? In a world where true friendship is a myth, losing a good and just friend comes at a heavy price. Often we experience similar scenarios with our family members as well. As a result of these mishaps, you get emotionally drained out and start losing yourself. Your confidence goes away and you find yourself getting stone-cold to people.

When the word inspiration popped up in my mind, I was redirected to thinking how well an inspiration had I been to people around me? What were my choices that led others to find a better version of them? It is a fact that you are being watched. You will never fathom how a single statement or an action of yours can degrade or inspire a person. We admire celebrities, don’t we? We love the fact when they do something good for the society and talk about when they fail miserably, isn’t it? You will say they are celebrities. As they have put their life on an exhibition, they are bound to pay for the criticisms and appraisals we make about them. They are not ordinary like us. They enjoy the criticisms as they publicize them. But, my friend the truth is quite the opposite. No one enjoys criticisms. It makes you squirm and you feel a knot in your belly. It becomes horrendous when you are the one criticising yourself, realising that you have fallen notches below the person you are.

We all are little celebs in our own small worlds, constantly being appraised and criticised for our gestures, words, choices and actions. We accept it or not but these do impact us in certain ways.

I had put myself in a similar situation where I prioritized myself in such a manner that I had stopped responding to others’ feelings. Yes, I had become someone who I was not. My friends, family and cousins were unable to recognize who I had become. Gradually I had started to lose interest in my work and my passions. The facts that attracted people towards me began to wear away and I was left with my miseries and my ill treatment of people. It was breaking me to the core but I had the remotest idea of it.

It was then that Someone’s voice in my heart made me realize that I was busy acquiring material and temporary resources and instead I should be cultivating the spiritual fruits. This voice was none other than the voice of The Wonderful Counsellor, the one above us and above all. It happened that while studying for teaching a lesson in class I heard the voice clearly “Aspire before you Inspire”. The story that I was studying explained the life of an old, poor but generous couple who helped their neighbours even though they could hardly make their ends meet. In the end they were rewarded abundantly by god-sent messengers who blessed them saying that they would never run about their resources. The story taught me that even though we have limited material resources we use them unlimitedly because of the grace of the Almighty. But the spiritual gifts that are abundant are kept locked inside and not put to use. The spiritual gifts of LOVE, JOY, PEACE, KINDNESS, PATIENCE, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL is what He wanted me to cultivate. Since then I have been on a battle with my inner self. The process is tough and prolonged but not impossible.

At this juncture, my dear friends I would only inspire you to hoard the spiritual gifts as much as possible and use it to the fullest. The rewards are long-lasting. I haven’t arrived at my destiny of becoming the better person as yet but I know there is a beautiful future where I will arrive to as The Wonderful Counsellor has promised. Some things would still hurt and the pain will be felt but that is what will make you strong. Therefore today if you find yourself in my place, pledge to never give up on yourself.

ARE WE CONTENTED WITH OUR LIVES?

From the perspective of a foodie I have often patronized the fact that I LOVE BIRYANI. Not just any Biryani but the famous Kolkata biryani that comes with the humble potato. The love that I have for this item cannot be compared with the fondness that I have for other eatables. I have such humongous affection for biryani that I can devour it for all the meals of the day (Trust me I’ve done that as well).

But, consuming something for ages that is lardy and heavy comes with a price. I have to watch my weight as I am going on its higher side. It gives rise to gastric ulcers resulting in chest pain and fatigue. Numerous breakouts like acne on the skin are noticeable. Having experienced the results of some sorts I pledged to reduce the intake of such items at the start of the year. Yes, I took a resolution (I doubt its sustenance though).

You must be wondering why I suddenly related to gastronomy and my resolution at the beginning of this article as the topic for the week is “Quest of Life”. However trivial may it sound, this does help me relate to a pertinent question that I have been pondering upon lately. To what extent must a people go on living their regular lives till they realize they need a change? Do we really find contentment in the things we do?

We all take decisions regarding various aspects in our life which are far more important than having biryani. Do we really find satisfaction in leading our lives the way we want to? How far should we go to satiate ourselves till we become self-sufficient? We run after our desires and do not rest until we achieve our targets. As soon as we accomplish we set new goals and prepare our quest for them. Our interests keep changing. We have forgotten to be consistent. We change with the shift in trends. A new trend sees a new you. Somewhere in this changing process we tend to lose ourselves to the temporary changes. Change for consistency and sustenance is what we don’t aim for. I am not saying that change is bad as in some cases it is necessary and changing for the good has its own rewards. Now let us address the question of self-sufficiency. Can we ever become self-sufficient? The answer is NO. The mortal human cannot achieve self-sufficiency. How much we try to acquire knowledge, skill etc. we will never be enough for ourselves.

If this is the case then why do we resist ourselves from showing love and being kind? Why do we prioritize ourselves and feed our selfish desires? We spend our time worrying and planning for an unseen future. Discontentment and dissatisfaction encompasses us giving rise to displeasure. We are annoyed with our human nature. But the truth is there is no need for such annoyance as we cannot change the fact that we are dust and to dust we will return. Where do we find the solution to end up this displeasure? The joy will be found when we know who our Provider is. The previous week we were illuminated with the various facets of God’s nature. Self-sufficiency is one of them. Your Creator knows you best. Trust me when I say He will give you what you NEED and not what you WANT. Running after something that you want will only add up to the dissatisfaction that is already present. Therefore, submission to someone like this is what we need to do.  This is the key to be contented and peaceful amidst all chaos and imperfection.

We do realize the times when we want to change for the better, isn’t it? Still, we feel like lingering on to irrelevant and unnecessary things. At times these unnecessary things can be toxic enough to destroy us. Though we want to let go we don’t take a step further in it. That is when we see ourselves engulfed in worries and discontentment. As we keep on prioritizing ourselves losing out becomes a red mark and we tend to have false hopes. Let me tell you, there is a unique joy in losing out to the righteous. But you will only feel it once you step out of that zone and embrace the right path. Innumerable times we ignore the call to joy and continue to break ourselves till we become soulless. Stop right there and answer to the call. Stop trying to do everything by yourself. You certainly cannot turn every stone. The reason for that I have mentioned in the previous paragraphs.

The birds never reap, sow or store as they are aware of their Provider, The Heavenly Father. Hence, they do not worry. We humans are more valuable than them yet we are in constant vexation. So if you too are struggling with the thought of changing for good, transforming into the ideal human, identify your needs before your wants and submit to the will of the Creator. If this makes you a weak person delight in it as you will realize that your strength relies in nothing but God who has promised never to forsake us come what may.

Even if we know this very well…yet why are we so discontent and dissatisfied?

OUR BOYS NEED HELP

Twelve years ago Anu Mukherjee, a bar dancer in Delhi had acid poured on her leaving her blinded with extensive injuries on her face, arm and thighs. Sources say that this attack was an account of acute jealousy in workplace. Her co-worker’s brother was held in offence.  

(The Indian Express, 6th June, 2016)

“Shaboo faced an acid attack when she was just one month old resting on her mother’s lap… The mother was killed in the attack and her father sentenced to jail.” The reason of the attack is still unknown. The incident left her orphaned and scarred for life.

(The Citizen, thecitizen.in, 11th December, 2016)

“Pragya Prasun was on her way from the city of Varanasi to New Delhi after her wedding, when a distant male relative poured acid on her.”

(dw.com, 8th June, 2016)

Laxmi Agarwal, a well-known figure and a social activist, fighting in favour of the acid attack victims is herself a survivor of the same. She had refused to marry the man who stalked and pursued her.  Her disfigured face and body parts screams out loud of her horrific experience.

The plight of the women in our country is beyond explanation. A few of our South Asian and African countries have reported the likes of this heinous crime in the recent past. With special mention to our Nation, which is leaping forward every second towards the so-called development and prosperity, a pertinent question rises in my frustrating mind. Why is there a rise on the amount of acid attacks and eve-teasing in India? Where does our country stand today?

As we try to fill up the empty seats in educational institutions, donate our share of money in buying products that add up to the expense of one child, clean our houses of dirt and old currency notes, join hands to end corruption in India, light up candles, conduct protest marches and debate the expansion of our rights, a woman dies metaphorically and at times literally, curled up in disfiguration. The woman of today has realized her rights, has the support of her parents and rightfully makes choices. She is not denied education and to a certain extent has gained independence. She goes out to transform the society and contribute and work hand in hand with the menfolk.

Now that she has stepped out of the thresholds of her confinements, the newly acquired confidence has started to threatened and in these cases has injured the inflated ego of certain menfolk. No matter how much we support our women, postulate a code of conduct and discipline them to become modest and repressing there are a section of people who will find a fault in their way of living and I don’t know why have also taken the responsibility of moral policing. This is moral policing only to demean the opposite sex. Then there are people who refuse to take no for an answer. Whether it is a refusal for marriage, an upward shift in the social ladder or simply the existence in case of the girl child these people with their swollen ego aim to disfigure the victim and condemn them to a life of suffering. If they could just cripple these women who crippled their self-pride!

Humans seem to have been petting bitterness in their hearts. The act that is done out of jealousy consumes the doer and the victim in its own fire. Vengeance never tastes sweet and satisfying. After all we are humans made of the good and the evil. At a point guilt will creep and destroy the very soul.

The very root of this heinous crime finds its way in the regular teasing of women carried out by self-proclaimed and narcissistic cynosures who are devoid of basic discipline. Their actions are as loud as their words and thus they stink of nasty upbringing. This in totality is termed as ‘Eve teasing’. Cat calls, stalking of every manner, molestation, manhandling, sexual harassment, ogling are the very elements of Eve Teasing and is carried out mostly in South Asia. This is what our Indian Penal Code terms as outraging the modesty of a woman and righteously condemns it.

 Despite of the innumerable strict laws present in our country these continue to flourish. This is because we women have become immune to the various mistreatments meted to us. We are OKAY with what is going on. We are OKAY with people brushing against us, making us feel uncomfortable in public places. We are OKAY with the ogling, stalking and cat calls. If not raise your voice make it known that it is uncomfortable. Make it known it is not liked by you. Sometimes raising your hand or raising your voice feeds these scumbags and they get entertained by it. They have an adrenaline rush and God forbid if you injure their ego they decide to maim you mentally and emotionally.

This issue will go on and on scarring generations after generations. Speaking of scars, one cannot possibly imagine the predicament of the acid attack victims. The countless surgeries, reconstruction of melted body and facial parts, the huge amount of debts, the failed promises of the government and the excruciating pain is good enough to mar a human life forever. Just as stated above, this will continue if we do not bring about a change in the manner of our upbringing. Gender discrimination needs no introduction and explanation. It is better to teach our boys than to impose codes upon our girls. I used to teach a group of small boys in church. I was teaching the concept of trust and respect through activities and storytelling. They were eager to know what trust meant. I simplified and expressed in terms of a close relationship they had with their family especially with their mother or sister. I used this thought to assert that trust should never be broken and every girl needs to be respected. Amazingly they came up with examples of how that could be done.

It is definitely possible that these mistreatments be stopped and we don our roles of a sister, mother, friend, girlfriend, wife, aunt, grandma and so on and so forth and help our boys as they are the ones who need it the most.