THE 10 PM CONSTRAINT

Some of the best days with my cousins Kuljeet and Prabhjot were spent in a beautiful colony of IIP, Dehradun. As their father (my uncle) was working in IIP, one of the CSIR labs, in Dehradun, he stayed with his family in the residential complex, within the campus, which is one of a kind. Spread over hundreds of acres of land, the colony was full of trees and tea gardens. With the flora, the fauna also flourished and animals like monkeys and jackals were easily spottable, and even leopards too (which was rare though), the area being adjacent to forest range. Due to this proximity, the residents avoided stepping outside their homes late in the night. 

I used to visit my cousins often, especially during vacations. Before my elder cousin, Kuljeet got married, I stayed there for a couple of months. Her friends, Dolly and Archana, became my friends too and we used to have lots of fun. Our houses were very close and hence frequent hopping from one house to the other was common. 

Since we used to laugh out loud every now and then, my uncle, who used to get up early in the morning, had put this 10 pm constraint, stating that most of the people in the society sleep by 10 pm and since our voices could travel far away, we were not supposed to talk or laugh out loud. Though we were not restricted to go to each other’s houses, we were careful enough not to make noises of any sort.  We followed a ritual of late-night tea and each one of us was assigned days. So, when it was another friend’s turn, we would cautiously go out, have tea at her house, chit-chat, roam around a bit, and then come back. On days when it was our turn, our friends used to come over our place. Our laughter was out of force of habit, so to avoid our loud volumes, we would bite our fingers and laugh. Crazy we were and crazy were our talks. We could go on laughing endlessly and over any trifling thing.

Another important aspect was the midnight birthday celebrations. Careful planning and execution were done to do the needful. The birthday songs were sung in a hush tune and the birthday bumps were given silently. 

Our late-night conversations and celebrations still make us nostalgic. Though our volumes were restricted, our friendship bloomed and those were the wonderful days of our lives.

FROM BEING RESTRICTED TO RESTRICTING MYSELF…

As every other girl child who grew up in an Indian house hold, I had to adhere to quite a lot of restrictions. Starting from what to wear, to whom to talk, to what to talk, to when not to talk, how many friends I could have so on and so forth. When I was a teenager, all these restrictions definitely made me very uncomfortable. I wondered many times, if these many restrictions are really necessary. Why can’t people just be self disciplined? I understand, it is easier said than done.

After I moved to a new city for job, I had very less time apart from work. One thing, that I was new to software world, and second thing was that if I decide to take up something I tend to give my 100% to make that work. I had very long work hours including weekends. No one has asked me to do so much work or take up challenges. It is just who I am. I hardly used to get time to spend with family or friends and I justified this saying, “I have so much of work”. We actually weave a new story around it leaving aside what the real problem is.

An year or so ago, I asked myself why do I actually work this crazy? The returns are not going to increase financially. If the effort I put into work, I could channelize on to some other interest, it would not only serve as a stress reliever but also results in new learning and maybe new beginnings. I have self imposed a restriction that I won’t give more than 10 hours a day to work. There would definitely be days when I might have to spend more time at work, and that is acceptable as long as it does not interfere with life otherwise. Trust me, doing this was hard. I literally had alarms to getup from my seat to head home. Even mornings, I restricted myself from opening my laptop until a certain time. I slowly started realizing I have more time in fact.

I strictly don’t consume sugary foods, ice-creams or soda any more. There was a time when I used to drink close to 40 ounces of soda a day. Now I restrict myself to only consume water even when I go out for lunch. I have completely cut down on consuming white rice to one small portion a day. All of these small changes made life so much easier.

There are some self imposed restrictions that can work wonders like avoiding procrastination by sticking to a schedule, avoiding carbs and fatty foods if we weigh more than what we should be, taking stairs instead of lift, ensuring 8 -9 hours of sleep etc. It takes dedication and discipline. Somehow it is easier to follow the restrictions/limits we have set for ourselves, than imposed by others. The internal dilemma of why the restriction exists in the first place is no more there. The restriction came into existence for a reason we strongly believe in. Some of these restrictions shape us into better version of ourselves. It could be rewarding to cross the bridge knowing we aren’t on an easy path. So, one should try to impose meaningful and justified restrictions 

The counter side of it are those self imposed limits which restrict us from evolving, to not realize our full potential. We should be careful to not fall into such traps. Only one word of caution, don’t be too hard on yourself. 

“In a world of infinite choices, choosing one thing is the revolutionary act. Imposing that restriction is actually liberating.”
― Priya Parker 

RESTRICT YOUR FANCY UNAFFORDABLE WANTS

*A group of college going girls involved in flesh trade to support / sport a lavish lifestyle.

  • A techie commits suicide as he was unable to cope up with the pressure of credit card bills.

*Gang involved in card frauds, ATM thefts busted, revealed it was an attempt to make a quick buck.

These examples may not be some recent news  but definitely something we come across quite often nowadays. A bitter and harsh reality, strong enough to make us experience Depression and question “WHY?”

Reason is simple :  Our inability to find satiation and curb our “UN”wanted desires. Our incompetence in restricting our fingers from swiping left and right and to be finally get hit at the centre.  We are getting carried away by fancy statements from our films “life is now; eat, drink, spend and enjoy!” – so we take “spend” quite seriously😁. We are unable to restrict our minds from falling to the rosy advertisements promising easy EMIs and hands on easy plastic money.  Compulsive buyers we have become, repulsive to the thoughtfulness and impulsive in making descions.

A small question:  We feel so proud of our generation for we think that “we think and question”. We go deep into any subject matter before accepting it as a gospel truth.  But despite that our so called knowledgeable generation is not happy. What could be the reason?  Our direction less blind run behind maintenance of LIFESTYLE.  We want brands in our kitty which we could flaunt to others. From the slippers we wear to the school our kids shall go; from furniture at our home to accessories we adorn – brands matter!  To what extent? To an extent that we started feeling that if we lag behind someone in brand knowledge or sporting a particular lifestyle we won’t be respected. And to garner that dubious respect we not only spend but spend unmindfully even if it means borrowing/ begging or stealing (it’s a general expression, don’t get me wrong 😊).  A simple scenario we must understand: Would we be respected by the society we live in if they know that all the glitter they saw is actually hollow from inside? Would the people we want to flaunt our lifestyle in front of come to our rescue if the creditors knock at our doors with insults? Then what’s the use of all this frivolous vanity? On contrary our precedors were in quite a happy space, don’t believe me? Look at our parents, grandparents – satiation was the thumb rule.

An algorithm we shall follow to restrict our headless thoughts (read wants) before they turn us either victims or nefarious:

  • Do I need this?
  • Can I postpone this want?
  • Can I afford this?
  • To what extent my savings are getting affected?

This is very much required and very much in conformity to our “logical” thought process (sadly we are refraining from this).  Our generation must remember that

  • Life is more precious than Lifestyle.
  • Price tags won’t determine our value, had it been so even the scamsters would be regarded as greats for the brands they flaunt.ĺ
  • We have to depict a right path for our successors for they are closely watching us. Therefore use brains before using your fingers to swipe 😁.
  • Save a portion of income before spending, this is our responsibility towards our future for its unfathomable.

A contradictory argument:  Many might say if a man doesn’t desire higher than he wouldn’t have witnessed so much progress, he wouldn’t work hard. True indeed! But the problem lies in the direction of the hard work. On one hand we have great businessmen who desired higher and worked hard for not only their emancipation but provided a source of income for many and on the other hand we have scamsters who in order to make quick money are working really hard to invent new ways to cheat people and rob them of their hard earned money. And the world definitely hosts the second category in higher proportion, am I wrong? So restriction and direction both are mandatory.

 

THE LIFE OF ‘NO’

The first word that we teach a child, unintentionally, of course, is NO. 

No baby, don’t cry.

No, don’t put your finger in your mouth.

No, don’t touch that!

So basically, restrictions are born with the birth of a child, even before, as the mommy-to-be follows many restrictions for the safety of the baby and her own good.

As the child grows up, the restrictions also increase and hence the number of Nos.

Can you get me that toy? No

Can I watch TV? No

Can I eat chocolates? No

I guess parents insist more on imposing restrictions on their children, rather than telling the logic behind our ‘NO’s. Obviously, the restrictions are for their safety, but we forgo to explain the reason behind them. It happens with me too. The moment my child demands anything, instead of telling him the reason, I simply say ‘No’. The result is instant- cries and screams are all for your ears! The reason is simple- your logic or reason behind the restriction is not comprehensible for them, so it’s always better to take the short-cut and simply say a No. We don’t even try to explain our point of view to them until they grow up to their rebellion age when they demand an explanation from every answer of yours. And slowly, the restrictions as parents mellow down.

I feel, eventually, restrictions take a U-turn and come back to the parents, which most of us must be experiencing, especially in this pandemic. 

Don’t go out without a mask.

Don’t watch the news on TV, it’s all negative.

Don’t go to buy the groceries, will order instead.

But all we hear is that same old story, “Outdoor walk is essential. You panic so much. We have also seen epidemics. In our times, nothing like of this sort used to happen”, etc, etc.

Restrictions act as prevention, they are difficult, yet they are imposed out of love and care. Few restrictions can be over-ruled, but when it comes to the safety of one’s life, these restrictions act as a boon.

Restrict when required

Restrict yourself from restricting

When you can avoid.

“…DON’T DO THAT”

I’ve heard people say that ‘Restrictions are to become a part of daily life now’ but if we look closely haven’t we always been under some sort of restriction or the other? …parents, teachers and society in general?

We’ve only given it a different name.. we call it a sacrifice, more like self-imposed rather than others imposing it on us. Sacrifice is still in many ways a restriction

Let’s have a look at some examples:

  • A man sacrifices on frivolous daily spending to buy a bike he has been eyeing for a long time – self-imposed restriction
  • A woman sacrifices her needs over that of her husband’s or children – self-imposed restriction
  • Parents sacrifice the number of outings/vacations for their future child’s education – self-imposed restriction
  • A teacher sacrifices her sleep to prepare a good lesson plan for her students for the next day/week. – self-imposed restriction
  • Youngsters keeping their electronic gadgets aside to spend time with their grandparents – self-imposed restriction
  • A boyfriend saves up his money to buy his girlfriend the perfect birthday gift and treat her to a wonderful day, thus sacrificing his pleasures for months – self-imposed restriction

While sacrifice may be a good thing to do for the sake of someone else, it also helps one understand as an individual, that ‘certain restrictions’ are needed because, at the end of the day, we really do not need everything.

Restrictions have always been part of our life, just that we never paid enough attention to it. Today, the world demands that we restrict ourselves from the things we love to do – being social, going out partying/clubbing, traveling, etc, which in the long run will only help us live a more lengthy life, not necessarily a comfortable one.. but still a sustainable one.

We need to start practicing what I call the “emotional-detachment-syndrome” to various things and people. The more we are attached to things, the more difficult it will get to live without them.

Speaking for my fellow brown people, we are way too emotional about most things around us and it hits us hard when something bad happens (deaths/rapes/injustice, etc.. to name a few) ..that said movies get us people emotional too, this lockdown has had people come down to tears.

The more emotional we get as a community, the more will we get frustrated, coz how does one counter an emotional person with another one sitting next to you?
…and that’s where people like me are invaluable to the society – [Head over Heart – the logical thinker] (a dying breed/population)

The more we stop paying attention to everything that happens around us and go about doing our own business, this world will be a better place to live in, trust me on that. Let us take the Japanese people, for example, robots as they may seem to be when you see them walk on the road… but the logic is simple, they go about doing their thing, everyone looks after themselves and the government looks after the country’s affairs – no major fights, not many protests, etc.

If we have to learn, why not learn from the best?

“Wise people see trouble coming and get out of its way. But foolish people go straight to the trouble and suffer because of it.” Proverbs 22:3.

Let go of the things that don’t matter. I’m sure most of us have learned that lesson the hard way during the various phases of the imposed lockdown.. that way we work well within ourselves, we need not restrict ourselves from anything in particular – people, place or situation.

Restrictions only put full stops to our life, which otherwise should be full of commas, colon, semicolons, and exclamation marks. Questions however will always be there…

We all come pre-equipped with certain physical and psychological programming to get a feel for how a thing may turn out, what might happen – using correct judgment in such a scenario, will only help lend quality to an otherwise, very frivolous life that we have been leading thus far.

The lessons from the current lockdown might have been many, but the most important one is:

While the country heads might tell us not to do this and not to do that, it is still up to us to do the right thing – and by ‘right’ we mean.. or at least hope to mean is: setting ourselves free of the restrictions from negative thoughts and spiteful behavior to one another.

At the end of this post, it is about asking yourself, what are the restrictions that you have bound yourself with? Are they helping you grow as an individual or stunting the growth of being a better person, a better citizen, and a better future leader of this country?

What is it for you? Physically, Emotionally or Mentally restricted?

RESTRICTIONS – BENEFICIAL OR DETRIMENTAL?

Early one morning a few days back, I got frantic messages on my phone from the mother of a ten-year-old girl. The issue in hand was that the little one who suffers from Celiac disease had gobbled up a whole big packet of wheat biscuits and two packets of cake the night before!

Those of you who do not know what Celiac disease is may just laugh out loud on the gluttony of the little girl. However, binge-eating is not the issue here. People with Celiac are gluten allergic. So they need to refrain from consuming those foodstuffs containing gluten, wheat being the chief gluten consisting ingredient. Consequently, the range of food items is much-restricted for them.

After painstakingly preparing all delicacies with gluten-free ingredients every day over and above the family’s normal menu and ensuring that her daughter doesn’t miss out on anything, the mother was understandably aghast at her daughter’s doing. And, what did the little one have to say about it all?

Mummy, I was so frustrated being tied down to dietary constraints for the last ten years, that I just thought to flout them and see what it is like to be able to eat normal food which everyone else eats!!

The explanation was, of course, no consolation to the mother who was desperately praying that allergic reactions should not surface!

Ask diabetics how easily they adhere to sweet and carbs restrictions, and there’ll be endless stories for you to savour!

Restrictions limit us from doing what we so feel to do, but should not/are not allowed to do for certain purposes.

I categorise restrictions into the following types –

The first category of restrictions that come to mind is the restrictions put in place by the Divine Lawmaker. The moral laws of the Divine Lawmaker are universal and absolute – with no space for relativism and slackness whatsoever. That is why making light of such restrictions is called nothing else, but sin.

You shall not steal.

You shall not covet others belongings.

You shall not kill.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not look at a woman/ man with a heart of lust.

You shall not dishonour or take the name of God in vain.

These are few of the many restrictions put in place for us humans by the Divine Lawmaker. Let me present the above-mentioned restrictions in reverse order. It would read somewhat like this –

You are free to steal.

You are free to covet and usurp other’s belongings.

You are free to kill.

You are free to be in an adulterous relationship.

You are free to lust after a woman/ man.

You are free to dishonour and take the name of God as frivolously as you feel to.

How do these sound?

Imagine a world with freedoms as the above!

The restrictions which God has put in place for mankind do not serve the purpose of portraying Him as an authoritarian theocrat but are wise prescriptions for peace and order among human beings on earth. The chaos we see all around in the world today is the result of careless disobedience, lack of adherence and deliberate non-cognizance of the divine restrictions.

The second broad category of restrictions is societal restrictions by the country/ society/ family. In the year 1999, Odisha (an east Indian state) was struck with a devastating super cyclone, the after-effects of which echo in some parts of the state even to this day. The casualties were very high, not to mention the loss of property. However, the state did not fail to learn its lesson from this heavy blow. Many cyclones have struck the state ever since, but with negligible human casualties, the reason being, the stringent imposition of restrictions by the administration – fishermen being debarred from venturing into the seas, timely evacuation of the inhabitants in low-lying areas, and many such well-thought-of restrictive measures.

Nevertheless, there are always a few people who resist these restrictions not wanting to leave their houses and livelihood for the sake of saving their lives. Imagine what would be the reality if these people were permitted to do as they wished without adhering to the restrictions!

Medical restrictions for people suffering from certain ailments, mobile phone usage restrictions during thunderstorms and lightning, lockdown movement restrictions, certain travel advisories comprise those in this category.

Ever been penalised for jumping red lights? A price to pay for making light of well-intended traffic restrictions!

The third category of restrictions that I can think of is self-imposed restrictions. These restrictions may or may not be aversive to the well-being of the individual and that of others. In his book My Experiments with Truth, Mahatma Gandhi writes of his self-imposed restriction arising from a firm conviction to abstain from consuming milk. Such a restrictive dietary regimen worked well for him to the end he wanted to achieve.

People switch to vegan or vegetarian diets, give up going to the theatre/ cinema, restrict themselves to wearing certain types of clothes only or restrict themselves from socialising with certain types of people. Such self-imposed restrictions are specific to specific people based on the life principles they wish to live by. Flouting these restrictions would result more in one’s own emotional and personal discomfort, rather than cause major repercussions for mankind at large.

The final category of restrictions is what I consider as forced restrictions. These are restrictions that are forced down the throats of people by significant others, with threats of dire consequences if flouted. One example that I can think of in the Indian context is caste restrictions. Though inter-caste mingling has seen a sea change over the years with many of the restrictions having been done away with (largely in urban areas), restrictions on inter-caste marriages persist invariably. These forced restrictions lead to loss of lives every other day in the name of honour killing – just because some young couple chose not to adhere to these restrictions that were forced on them by elders.

Certain families restrict women from holding jobs outside the house after marriage. In certain countries, women are restricted from venturing outdoors without a male accompanying them. In a certain country, women are prohibited from wearing make-up leading to a thriving smuggling industry for make-up products.

Forced restrictions, though not necessarily sinful are definitely detrimental for the mental health of individuals and pose threats to the development of a healthy society.

Whatever be the category of restrictions, if they are well-embraced by people they do not cause many inconveniences. However, if they give rise to rebellion, there remain consequences to bear.

What happened in the case of the little girl mentioned in the beginning of this article, was a slow build-up of a pressure cooker situation. When the pressure was too much for her reasoning and rebelling mind, the lid simply blew off making her do the unwanted irrespective of the consequences that lied ahead of her.

All we need is a prudent mind to discern which restrictions to adhere to and which restrictions to speak up/ go against hoping to bring out well-meaning progressive changes in the society and the in the world at large.

SPONGY AND SOFT COTTON LIKE BALLS – THE YUMMY ROSHOGOLLAS

From when I was a teenage girl, I had a keen interest in roshogollas. I am not a Bengali or had Bengali friends, then how do I know about roshogollas? The sweet shops in our hometown had a special section for Bengali sweets. Not all the sweet shops but the famous ones did. I believe most of the Bengali sweets are made from milk. Amongst those sweets, there was a large white ball floating in sugar syrup. It is interesting and intriguing at the same time. I have seen something similar, but a brown ball, yeah,, the Gulab Jamun. I inquired the shopkeeper for the price one day, and I realized I cannot afford to buy one. In our home we don’t buy or order sweets from outside, so I cannot ask my parents to buy it for me. That was a deadlock. I wonder how many times I would have stopped by the sweet shop only to see those roshogollas.

I love the spongy Bengali Rosogolla, though Oriya people also have their own version of it. There is quite a bit of technique and science involved in making those airy sponge balls that swell up in sugar syrup like balls of cotton. There is a certain amount of joy to squeeze some of the sugar syrup out, holding with two fingers and simultaneously checking out the sponginess of each Rosogolla before popping them into the mouth! These days, foodies have come up with hundreds of different flavors of Rosogolla made of fruit and vegetable flavors, and I learned that some of the flavors are mind-blowing. They also lose their quintessential white color when mixed with other flavors. However, nothing can beat the classic Rosogolla. For Bengalis, it is pure happiness.

As I grew up and started working, I could have lunch at the office. Typical south or north Indian thali it was for me until one day I saw roshogolla being served as sweet in one of those thalis. My mouth was salivating at the glance of that bowl of sweet in the display, and I couldn’t wait to keep it in my mouth. Ah, my first roshogolla tasting. It was yummy!!! I had roshogollas many times only in the office. Another time I saw a roshogolla that was too big, of almost 10 cms in diameter during pujo, and I wondered how they would have made it. I came home and started browsing for videos of roshogolla making. You see, that is called craving. I wanted to try making roshogollas. Made them, fed some others with my experiments. The process is a little tricky is what I thought at first, but I am a reasonably good cook with few failures. All you need are only three ingredients to make roshogollas and one flavoring agent. Traditionally cardamom is used as a flavoring, but you may choose to use any other artificial flavoring. I don’t use any flavoring, as I love the flavor of milk itself. 

Ingredients:

Milk – 2L (Cow or buffalo milk. I tried using both, and they were fine)

Vinegar – 2-3 tsp as needed 

Sugar – 4 cups

There are two essential parts of making roshogollas. Making the chenna balls and boiling them in sugar syrup.

Making the chenna balls:

  1. To make the chenna, boil the milk. Once the milk comes to a boil, simmer the flame and add vinegar little by little (Note: you can use lemon juice or citric acid as well) Keep stirring with ladle slowly. The milk starts to curdle. After 5 mins, you can remove the vessel off the flame and strain the liquid using a muslin cloth. 
  2. Add cold water to the milk solids. These milk solids are called chenna. Wash the chenna 3 -4 times under running tap water, tie the muslin cloth, and hang the chenna for 3 hours. After three hours, you would notice that the water in the chenna is drained, but it would still be moist.
  3. Take the chenna in a smooth plate to start kneading. Use the palm of your hand for kneading. Do not mix it like a dough. Remember, you should do this step at least for 10 mins. By the end of 10 mins, the chenna would become smooth to form a like a dough.  (Tip: Some people also add 2 -3 spoons of maida(refined flour) while kneading the chenna, this helps the roshogollas to maintain their shape. This makes life easy if you are doubtful of roshogollas holding their shape. I never used maida, but mine turned out just fine)
  4. Make small rounds of this dough. The balls are going to enlarge more than double their size once you cook them in sugar syrup. So, considering this keep the size appropriate. 

Boiling in sugar syrup:

I normally use a 1:6 ratio of sugar and water. I am not a sweet tooth person, but if you love sweets, you can go up to 1:3. 

  1. Add the sugar and water to a container. Ensure the container has enough space for the balls to swell and move around easily. Bring the sugar and water mixture to a boil and reduce the flame to medium. 
  2. Remove the scum, if any, from the surface of the syrup. (If you are using flavoring, add it now to the syrup)
  3. Gently add the chenna balls to the sugary syrup. Keep it on a high flame for the first 15 min. Then lower the flame to medium for the next 25 min.
  4. Cover with a lid (preferably a glass one so you could see). Note: Lid must be on all the time except for when adding water as in the next step
  5. Once in awhile sprinkle some water and roll the roshogollas with a ladle. Remember to be quick but gentle not to break the balls. Roshogollas don’t like change in temperature, so if you keep the lid off a long time, there is a higher chance for them not to have proper texture. Do this 3 -4 times in the whole course.
  6. After  40 mins on a medium flame, you would notice that the roshogollas double in their size.

The roshogollas are ready!!! After they cool down, you can enjoy them. I bet you cannot stop at one 😀 

I have made them 4-5 times till now and always in 2-liter batches, which produce around 40 roshogollas. You can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. A couple of Bengalis tasted my roshogollas and found them to be similar to the ones they make back home. I recently tasted the authentic roshogolla made in Bengal, the last December I think, and yes, mine are really very close. I hope you also enjoy making these delicious spongy balls at home. 

 

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