LIFE IS A SERIES OF BABY STEPS; AT THE END OF EACH STEP THERE IS AN EXAMINATION

The whole world was surprised when a a non-English movie won the Oscars a a few weeks back. The next morning every major newspaper applauded the movie, It was an epic moment for Koreans to celebrate ‘Parasite’ bagging not just the best film award but the best direction as well. Curiosity arose in me as to what might have been the plot of that movie which impressed the Oscar panel so much. Being a non-English movie it is difficult to create that impact crossing the language barrier. After a little wait, I did watch the movie. It was not my first Korean movie, yet my first of this kind of genre. Parasite depicts that part of life which most of us think is very normal in our day to day life, but the director Bong Joon-ho’s take on it made it a spectacularly woven story. I am not going to spoil the fun for you if you have not watched it yet, but I would certainly love to tell you that the movie is very impactful in many ways. I kept thinking about the movie for a couple more days. 

The best dialogue I loved was, “you know what kind of plan never fails? No plan at all. No plan. You know why? If you make a plan, life never works out that way”. That is very very true. We always think we have planned well, ahead in time and are ready for challenges. At the exact time, life throws an unexpected twist. We might feel helpless and are lacking the strength to fight through it. It is life’s way of telling us, “Get up and keep going”. 

Three years ago, I went through the worst time in terms of health. Something was wrong, I could not see properly, I had balance issues, I couldn’t walk and doctors had no clue what was going on. I was struggling at work because of health. I remember one of the conversations I had with Chiradeep back then, “Dada, I don’t know anything else but to write software. If my eyesight doesn’t recover, I don’t think I can earn for living. My life was all going good a month ago and now I don’t know how my future would be like. The only thing I can think of doing is to continue writing using a speech to text converter, and have you as my editor“. Chiradeep and I had a good laugh over that. A month later, the doctors said my brain pressure is high and they have to do a procedure to check if there was any infection. 

The nightmare my mother doesn’t want to be in. She called up my father and started crying. “How can I take her to the hospital for the procedure alone?”. She was more scared of being alone there than my procedure. I can understand her situation. She never had been alone or handled things alone. The next day before the procedure, I told her, “Amma, listen to me. This is called a credit card, and this is the PIN number. In any emergency situation, don’t panic. You can use this card to pay for the bills. Don’t worry so much; nothing would happen. You just sit outside and wait. I would be back after the procedure”. She came back after the procedure to see me, as the doctor said I cannot walk. There was a sigh on her face. I bet she was worried about the results. My health took a good four months to recover, but during that time I have never given up. It was very slow and steady progress. 

In the above, my father had to take the exam of being a helpless father. I know he would have preferred to be with me, but he could not. My mother was worried about seeing her child suffering. I had no clue if I was even going to survive this. I wondered if I had cancer or even something worse than that. “Who would take care of my parents if something happens to me”, was the constant thought that bothered me. The situation is the same, but all our examinations were different. 

From then on, I did go through a lot of ups and downs both professionally and personally. Sometimes I even wonder I would have committed sins that are following me to torture me, Karma you know. Sometimes I think I am very lucky to have parents who support me in all walks of life. No matter what my decision is, they stand by my side. Without family, I would have been lost a long time ago. When I think of not having a family, I think of those orphans who live their life all alone without the feeling of family. Chiradeep always tells me, “Sona, human beings are social animals. To be alone is not how we are wired, so I can understand you find it very difficult some times” and he is right. A human being always needs at least another human being, who would care for them. As long as you have that one person in your life you would come out with flying colors in all the examinations life throws at you. That person can be anyone but should be the one who you can trust and who sees you as a part of his/her life. 

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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COOKING IS MY LEGACY

I was always a foodie, even now and will be forever.

So food was not something I stayed away from. I loved being in the kitchen, be it for cooking or for eating. I always enjoyed making things, even if it might not be perfect. I enjoyed watching my mom cook. My love for cooking comes from the way my mom cooked and served everyone, I believe.  I have always seen her making everything we all loved eating and even if she never gets a bite to eat, she served everyone, enough to fill their tummies and even their heart.

The ease with which she met our demands, was tremendous, in spite of being a working mom. Even when I was mocked for being fat, my mom was never reluctant to cook and make me eat. Every time any guest came to our house, our dining table was filled with dishes. She was never tired of trying new styles, which is why I and my brother were extreme foodies.

When I was a kid, I used to dream about food always. One of the ads which were my favorite was one of those oil advertisements.

Being foodies is not a crime. 😛

I would say, that was the only reason, I never enjoyed my hostel food as such.

In the first half of my life, I would say I spent eating rather than cooking. The rest a few years went into helping my mom and even making dosa for my brother, who was too small to cook. I remember even making, sandwiches, sausages, etc. for everyone when I was in my 6th or 7nth standard. Whenever my mom was unwell, I tried my best to cook. I always felt it was magical to make all those continuous circles on dosa, making it look so adorable.

Image result for making dosa

The early morning black tea was something, I enjoyed making. The wonderful aroma of it, kick starts my day.

Ever since I got married (when I was 20+), I began all my experiments with cooking. With multiple failures, I enjoyed cooking on my own, serving my guests, my colleagues and even my family who comes to visit us. Their encouraging words were boosting my skills too.

My greatest critic is my husband though. He ensured I was informed well, that I cooked disastrous and when nice, he kept silent, but I could observe it from the way he had food.

Again being mom, changes all your tastes, rather than eating, you prefer feeding everyone. Many even thought that me being a foodie, would never share anything from my plate but little did they realize that now after being mom, I have changed.

I would try cooking, baking, grilling and much more just for my kids. As a mom, I would want to feed them the very healthy food. So I included all kinds of foods on my daily menu. Cutlets, soups, noodles, all kinds of parathas, paneer (being my daughter’s favorite) and much more.

Cooking is much more fun when you just don’t all the ingredients but a pinch of love to it. And I realized you need not be a good cook always, but someone who loves to share a piece of what they have always. The added flavor of my cooking -is love, which made everyone happy and filled.

And I still continue my legacy, that I  carry from my mom. And she is still my mentor who is teaching me much more.

The joy of cooking comes from the joy expressed while serving it with the one who is in need of food. — SoulRecitals

ONE LAST TIME

He puffed a cigarette and exhaled a circle of smoke hoping to see her on the other side with a pinched nose and her hand waving to break this smoky cloud.

He wanted to hear her say one last time, “Sweeto, I am telling you I will really dump you if you don’t quit smoking.”

But it was too late, she had quit him before he could quit smoking. She had quit this world and vanished into the smoke that rose from the dead.

Life may not give you a second chance. Be good and do good.

DO IT NOW.

IN THE AFTERLIFE

No, no, this isn’t a preachy sermon about how you should prepare for life after death. Well actually, this is about that except its not your afterlife I’m asking you to prepare for, but for those you leave behind.

Life has no surety. Death, however, is a certainty. We can get any number of insurances and jeewan bimas but nothing can ever prepare us for the final moment of death, not even when science has quantified the days, months, years of our lives. It’s hard to accept that all this skin, sinew, these memories, these people and their love that we have, all that we cherish, will be lost to us. But its harder for those we leave behind because they face the void created by us. And since we live in a material world, material matters do affect families hard. Enter family feuds, frozen bank accounts with no nominees, property wars, divisions of men over matter. Cheap it may sound, but these realities of life after the death of the dearly departed is what families are left to grapple with over and above their grief.

Why not make life a little easier for them? Why not leave them with a Will that clearly defines ownership and management of your assets?

I can see you shaking your head. You’re saying:

  • I don’t have that much property;
  • My spouse knows all that I have;
  • My bank accounts have nominees;
  • My children are too good to fight over the property after I’m gone;
  • I have a portfolio/asset manager who will know what to do, or worse still,
  • Meh, I’m still young and healthy!

All these are valid statements, even the last one, but a Will does not take care of just your monetary assets, it pronounces your wishes on all your assets, yes, even your collection of books or shoes or your kitchen utensils that your bank/portfolio/asset manager will not concern themselves with.

I have my mother-in-law’s example to assert my point. My father-in-law died at the age of 55, at the height of his career, within three months of being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. Needless to say, since it was sudden, his family couldn’t prepare for his departure, emotionally or otherwise. She was left with two years worth of struggles over bank accounts that had no nominees, some properties under his own name with no rights of joint ownership in the name of my mother-in-law, no mutation instructions about immovable assets, no power of attorney (POA) giving her authority to manage the assets, no knowledge of where or how his mutual funds were invested and a vacation notice from the government to vacate the government lodgings they had, all this while her two sons were still in school… and she herself was unemployed. Every time she approached a bank or a government authority she was asked to produce a valid will, a succession certificate, letter of administration or a POA, neither of which she had. So the general law concerning succession took over and we all know how long that takes! She suffered a lot because he would always tell her – there’s still plenty of time left to plan. I’m sure had he been alive he would have never wished such hardships on her.

A few figures for you to consider –

Not long ago, Daksha, an NGO that analyses the performance of the judiciary, published a report that said that out of all criminal and civil matters pending in courts in India, 66% were property related matters and 10% of them were family feuds over property*.

In my personal experience as a lawyer, land matters typically take anywhere between 5-50 years to resolve, sometimes even longer. A person’s next generation could be born and die within that kind of time-span. One family dispute I was involved in took as long as twenty years and that too only in the lower courts, and the parties were still willing to appeal to a higher court. The amount of time and resources such court cases waste is staggering! Besides, in India, if you die intestate i.e. without a will, the laws of succession (in case of Hindus, Parsis and Jains, it is the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Muslims have personal succession laws and Christians are covered by the Indian Succession Act, 1925) take over and they take a mighty long time to settle property on the rightful heirs.

Executing a will is thus not a futile exercise, especially when your assets are huge. It is a document that centralizes your assets and your wishes regarding the management of those assets in one document while avoiding legal tangles, delays and family feuds. A little planning at your end could ensure that your assets reach those you wished to bequeath them to at the right time.

In India, under the Succession Act, 1925, a will is defined as a legal declaration of the intention of a person with respect to his property, which he desires to take effect after his death.

Anyone of sound mind, not under the influence of intoxicants or under distress, over the age of 21 is capable of executing a will. Even a disabled person. More importantly, in India, it isn’t necessary for the will to be executed on stamp paper or registered even. Sure you can do that, it’s good practice. But even if you write –

“I want all my property to go to my children in equal parts,”

over a piece of paper, signed in your own hand before two or more witnesses, this bit of paper will also be treated as a valid will. But don’t do that. Seriously!

You can change your will as many times as you like in your lifetime, but once you die, your last executed will becomes the final word on your wishes.

A few things to consider before making a will –

Legal Advice: Consult a lawyer if you’re unsure about the legalities of certain types of assets, especially if your assets are many. Drafting (writing) a will is also an important aspect of making a will, one that you may not be well-equipped to do. Hence, consult a lawyer. There are sites online that offer you templates to make wills online and help you with other legalities pertaining to wills.

Avoid Duplication: There can be only one will at any given time. Try to include all your known assets in that single document because eventually only your last Will shall be considered your final will. Having too many copies related to different assets will defeat the purpose of making a Will. You can keep updating your will from time to time but ensure that each time you do so, you clearly mention that the last will stands revoked.

Minority of Beneficiaries: If you wish to bequeath something to minors (below the age of 18), appoint guardians on their behalf for the bequest.

Right Executor: An executor is someone who declares your will to your family and ensures that bequests in the will are properly disposed of. Appoint a person who is considerably younger than you, is capable and trustworthy for the job. Execution (the process of declaration and distribution) of wills is not required to be done before a court of law, but you could request for a Magistrate or a public notary from the authorities**.

Above all declare that you are making the will in sound mind, without duress or coercion, and in full control of your mental capacities.

There are no guarantees that making a Will will necessarily mitigate all legal issues and family problems arising therefrom, but you would have done your part in ensuring that your obligations towards your family have been fulfilled. You wouldn’t want them suffering or fighting amongst each other, I’m sure. Which is why you must invest in some time towards making your will.


** Importance of will and some essential points to be considered while making a will, Jagao Investor, November 14, 2010.

Image Source: RobVanDerMeijden for Pixabay.

 

DEALING WITH PROBLEMS

Problems are inevitable. Everyone has to go through problems in their lifetime. Sometimes the problems are difficult enough to make us feel giving up what we are doing. We feel nothing is going right and therefore ‘I should quit’. But is that really a solution? 

Well, there is only one solution and that is to never lose hope. However one can avoid problems to some extent. Though one or another problem might keep raising its head, one can do a few things to keep problems away or deal with them. 

So what can do? Well, here are the tips:

  • Working rather than building expectations: Humans can never stop building expectations. Even if they don’t work they will have huge expectations. There is actually no problem with this but the problem arises when our expectations aren’t fulfilled. This can put us into stress, anxiety and may give birth to unexpected problems. So if you want to avoid any problems, work for it. That will surely help you.
  • Doing self-analysis: We know what we are capable of. Before getting into any work, make sure you analyze your capacity. The work that you might think is easy can be tougher and therefore you need to be prepared for that. Self-analysis will help you to avoid problems that you may incur while doing any work.
  • Thinking about the consequences: Whatever work you do, you must think of its consequences. As it has been said, ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. Therefore one must think before acting.
  • Seeking help when needed: We need help at different stages of life. So one must not keep things to themselves when in need of help. It is good to ask for help. When you seek help, you will be able to tackle some of the problems.
  • Saying ‘no’ when needed: Saying no can be rude but sometimes it is good to say no. Especially when you are unable to fulfill somebody’s need. For example, if you have important work at home and if your colleagues ask you for dinner, then it is better to say a polite no. As you need to be at your home. If not, you will be inviting problems. 

Well to solve problems one needs to think rationally and working accordingly. But if you think the situation is baffling and you can’t divide your attention then it is better to prefer the one with the highest priority. This is indeed the best ways to deal with problems

HOW NOT TO PROCRASTINATE AND DEAL WITH TIME

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Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on Pexels.com

Strengths – We all are born with one or the other strength- all we need to do is discover it and nurture it for your betterment.

In my childhood, I was the laziest person I could say. People underestimated my own strengths which they neglected. When I started my job, again it was crucial for me to manage my time to handle everything from a job to home. Time swept by and it was time for much more responsibilities. This is when I realized I need to find time for many more things to do. With two kids, I was literally hanging on the minute hand of the clock to manage my time. At times I even wondered if I could grab much more time – but 24hours remained just 24 hours with no more or no less.

It was time – that I wanted to manage and yes I found ways to handle it in a much more effective way.  Here I am sharing with you the tips that have worked out and helping me do my things correctly.

  1. Do not panic: Most of us tend to lose time, panic a lot. Panicking is not the key to managing. Hence it is important not to panic even when we are unable to manage. Usually the times I ended up panicking, I lost track of everything I was doing and had to begin everything from scratch.
  2. Be Prepared: As the famous saying “Time and tide wait for no man ” – It is important to engrain in our thoughts that nothing waits for us. Hence it is important to harness ourselves before the tide arrives. Like if you are planning to cook something in the morning for kids lunch boxes, pre-plan everything like cutting vegetables or grating or keeping things ready that can save your time. Mornings can be quite tricky at times and trust me I have gone through all the worst part before I arrived at the good one.
  3. Let go:  Keep in mind that you cannot control time. Learn to flow with it, which is the best way to handle time. At times we might lose the grip of it, then learn to let it go. One way you won’t repent over the loss of that time and then get back to your tasks or routine.
  4. Plan Plan and Plan: This is the only thing that helps you manage your time. Like usually when it is Sunday, I can always choose to take a rest and chill, but most of the time I choose to plan my things for the week like preparing the batter for the whole week, that will make my breakfast planning instant- otherwise I end up browsing quick recipes. Even all the washing clothes and arranging the week’s uniforms for my kids are also planned ahead. I guess most parents do it.
  5. Be an early person: Nothing keeps you organized than being early, which gives you plenty of options to change your plans. Sometimes, I plan things and at times, I am left with no option to do it but try something else in its place. In such cases to buy time, it is important that we are quite ahead of the time.
  6. Multitasking: This is something that I feel buys me much more time to relax. Whenever I am in the kitchen cooking, I put the clothes to wash in the machine and once I am done with my kitchen work, I will be done with washing too. In this way, I get much more time to spend with my family or find some “Me -time “. It might not be easy to multi-task at times, but yes it’s worth trying. 
  7. Take rest, when exhausted: A break is much more needed for anyone. Do not strain yourself, but ensure you do things correctly. Most of us take up all the things together and then finally end up doing nothing. Hence it is important to find time and take proper breaks at regular intervals.

Tips might not work all the time, but there is always a way to nurture it into your lifestyle. I included these in my lifestyle and customized them according to my needs. All this comes with lots of patience and practice. It might not look easy at first, but gradually we become accustomed to it as a habit.

Try not to procrastinate on your tasks, which will lead you to deal with a bulk of it later.

So these are some tips, o f a busy working mother, of two kids, who have to manage time like a pro. I might not be a pro, but I do my best to be one.

So folks – Never lose hope, just gear on!!!