Saturday, December 27, 2014

How much ego is too much?

This just happened. At PF Chang, Fort Myers, FL. 

The food was good here. The usual Chinese food, one cannot go wrong with Chinese food anyway. Our server was also fine; however, and I mean a big HOWEVER - there was a server by the name Brian taking care of the table next to ours. The outdoor seating area of this place is not designed well enough and I feel sorry for the servers as they have to squeeze and wade between tables. But obviously, this does not mean that the customers should suffer and be asked to move their chairs so that they can walk over to another customer. Mr Brian does exactly that, which is okay, but where is the sorry for making the customer get up and where is the thank you for moving over into a different chair and getting out of his way? Clearly this guy needs to go back to his etiquette school.

But the ordeal does not end there. I mention this to my server and make it known that I'm still waiting for the thank you. She apologizes and goes to the back to tell him. This guy now - no he doesn't come over to out table - but he walks by, makes a noise and walks back (so cool name? No. That smells of ego.). Ten minutes later, the manager walks over asking how's everything (haha, but we know it is not a coincidence), so I explain the situation. He apologizes as well and tells he will talk to the guy. Guy forms a group with his buddies and starts making noises. Not sure if the mistreatment was because we were not "well dressed" enough for this upmarket place (we were in shorts and tees and back from the beach) or worse, because of the color of our skin!

Sorry Brian, and sorry P F Chang, one needs to learn humility before becoming great. The industry one works in does not matter but humility is important. The service industry in particular thrives on its customer satisfaction. Lack of humility, egotistical behavior does not get anyone anywhere in life. I was waiting till the end for that guy to come out, swallow his pride, and clarify himself (but he didn't, which makes it feel as if what he did was purposeful), or for the manager to do much more than a mere formality of an apology. Well, may be next time you'll have a better teacher to explain what happened tonight.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lost in the warm embrace of .......... Butternut Squash soup!

This is a confession - of the ravenous times with my beloved Butternut Squash soup!


Squash is like that classy, somewhat snooty man who walks around with an air of mystery around him. A hard nut to crack and hard to get hold of, but is all yours once you have him. Likewise, a very delightful vegetable once you get to know it. It takes a while to understand how it blends with other flavors and spices, but once you get there, it can be very generous in wrapping you up in its warmth. Squash is of various types - my favorite being butternut. (Spaghetti squash comes a close second, but that's probably only because I get to eat all the "spaghetti" I want without ingesting refined flour.)

But for today, we shall stick to butternut boy! ;-) 
So, what is it that you have to do get that Butternut going on to you?! Follow the directions below!

Ingredients:
- Butternut squash, 1 meduim sized
- Onion, 1 small sized (finely chopped)
- Salted butter, 2-3 tsp or more; be generous & do not substitute with regular oil.
You have not eaten butter until you've eaten this, by the way. The best butter in the world with the best advertising lines you would've ever seen.
Spice it up:
- Salt
- Pepper
- Italian seasoning (optional)
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped/grated (optional; gives a good kick & mellows the "stay in the mouth" feeling of the squash)
- If you like it Thai style/don't want the heat from the ginger/want to dilute the sweetness but keep the creaminess, you can also put 1-2 tsps of freshly grated unsweetened coconut (scrape it at home or buy frozen from an Indian store). 
Note that too much ginger/coconut may be overpowering and may cause the soup to lose its unique buttery creamy flavor, so add little at a time. Taste, test, and decide how much is too much for you.

Method:
- Cut the squash into halves and cover it with some oil. Preheat the oven to 400 F and let it bake for roughly 40 minutes. Will take longer to cook a bigger squash. It's better not to overcook it because after a point, the sugars in it will start to melt out of it, leaving you with a flavorless orange lump - and you don't want that happeing!
- Once done, scoop out the flesh & separate the seeds. Some people like to cut out the portion of the flesh containing the seeds while it is raw; I like the extra sweet flesh that covers the seeds so I prefer doing it this way.
- In a medium sized cooking pot, melt th butter and fry in the chopped onion till it easily disintegrates. Add all the seasoning (except coconut if using). let it cook for another minute or two.
- Finally, add the flesh. Mix everything up nicely while turning the heat to medium. The squash is already cooked, so it doesn't need to be cooked again & only the flavors have to blend in together at this point.
- Add the shredded coconut if desired & mix it in.
- Use an immersion blender to liquefy, pouring water little by little to get the desired consistency. Or simply use a regular blender if you don't have one - the only drawback of using a regular blender is that this is a naturally thick soup and hard to clean up around the blades later.
- For garnishing, sprinkle some pumpkin seeds. Or a few coconut shreds. Or maybe leave behind a few teenie tiny bits of squash into the pot and let them burn slightly, and mix them up into the blended soup.

Finally, pour into your favorite soup bowl, go sit on your favorite couch/bed, snuggle under the blankets, and let the soup embrace you with its buttery, sweet, warm, comforting love..... 




The Reality of that Mirage called Freedom!


I want to quit my job.

No, I don't want to quit my job because I hate my job, my boss, or because it gets too stressful or because I feel stranded between some nincompoops every day.

I love what I do, I love the people I work with (especially that extremely cute guy with the cute smile that I DARE not hit on because that would mean tresspassing on someone's property!), and I love even the need to turn into a quadruple Type A personality that comes along with my line of work. It pays well enough to have a decent life yet is less enough to want more, and gives the rush of adrenaline with the safety that a lot of other careers don't give.

But there are times...

When I just want to grab my basics and backpack across Machu Picchu or hike off to Chile. Or medidate in the wilderness of a Costa Rican rainforest. Maybe have a partner to get lost doing all this with, without the need for a distrust-filled legality called marriage.

Throw away my phone into the Atlantic so that I am never found again.

Buid a shack on top of a hill and grow a farm around it. 

Not have to thread my eyebrows or wax my arms all the time. Be able to carry my "just out of bed" hairdo everywhere and on every day of the week.

To be able to get up early mornings to savor every sip of my warm ginger chai. To be able to go through the day without a cellphone and Facebook and Internet. To go to bed every night with a bubble bath and warm fragrant oils to caress my body.

To sit on the porch looking far into the tall trees below reaching for the blue skies above. Or lie down in a meadow, picturing animal, bird, and person shapes out of white clouds hurrying across to nowhereland. 


To be able to watch the first golden rays of the sun glisten on bare skin after spending the night on the roof huddled under a cosy woollen blanket. Ponder over the meaning of life as the sun disappears into the red sky, off to brighten another world. 























Hike across the Amazon to Cape Horn and risk life sailing in a yacht. 

Or just let the mind and heart turn silent and wonder about the silence, patience, perseverance, and strength of the endless ocean. 

Dive to the unmapped floor of the southern Indian ocean.


Kiss a beautiful stranger under an Aurora Borealis in Norway.




So, basically, turn into a freeloading hippie? No.


There comes a point in life when we all start questioning the meaning of our life as we know it, and how we are so deeply attached to the small, false little world we create for ourselves. How our identity is linked to our workplace position, how our sense of pride comes from a preferment, how our social status is dictated by our paycheck, the color of our skin and the clothes we wear, how we box ourselves within the walls of our nationality or creed...

...How it starts to bother us when, all we have to tell the world is nothing beyond all of these and associate these things with our name. There comes a day when the I, me, mine start to feel meaningless and you wonder how and when and why you stopped exploring yourself beyond those four walls and stopped connecting with the real you through the world that is still unseen with our human eyes.

The day we start to wonder will be the day when we end the pursuit of happiness and being the quest for contentment. And this quest does not have to begin by cutting off ties with the ruthless world but by being a part of it and yet not identifying ourselves with it. This, is what is called as Karma.


Until then, wake up on a frosty Monday morning and rush to work to mint all the greens. Maybe just to book that ticket to Norway...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Growing old.. neh, growing "wise."

Double neh, this is a confession about how it feels to turn 30, single/non-committed, and what it feels to look back from this age milestone. So, barring the moments when you get hit by a car and do something like this: 


Betty Rubble with Bambam's club

Or monkeying around like this:



..And acknowledging your demented self before the world, things apparently turn out just fine.

Before you get there, you wonder what 30 feels like. Friends and elders who've been there almost convince you that "age is just a number" while a few others use that opportunity to market their marriage bureau. Then for a while 30 seems to be just a number and you resolve to treat it like the new twenty (boy, who're we kidding!) 

Once you hit it, suddenly you start noticing the crow feet (which you can't figure if they were always there or came up recently - and if it's the sleepless nights of madness that caused them). Thanks to all the hooplah surrounding the "hitting 30s," a lot of your sentences start with "when I was younger," "many years ago," and so on. Something that happened a decade or even half a decade back seems like centuries ago, yet every ongoing year seems to run by a lot faster. Every vacation seems to become shorter. You look at the clock on a Sunday evening wondering how you're like that Garfield who hates Mondays. But come Monday and the workaholic in you takes over. Before you realise, it's happy hump day. Then comes S H I T (So Happy It's Thursday). Finally you hit Friday - which often ocassionally ends up transforming into a "Fry Day." You probably ponder over how your Fridays are turning into Fry Days because some sad person who has nothing to do in his sad life decided to suck innocent little you into his sea of sorrows. You unwittingly sign up for a truckload of urgent tasks on a Friday afternoon when half the office is on holiday and end up with 100 emails in your inbox, each having an action item for you. Finally, instead of clubbing with the girls (or that ocassional random guy), you sink into a bubble bath with effervescing salts enlightening you of new realms of pleasure.

Money matters a lot more, though in a much different way. Yet you don't think twice before performing a gregarious act of overspending on a fancy gadget when you get a "much needed" $20 pay raise. There is scant regard for ethics while sinking your teeth into that delumptious, sugary 2000 calories of the sin that is pumpkin cream brulee.

The laughter tends to become more genuine yet less frequent but effects more lasting. The flaws become a lot more easier to digest. There is an increased assertiveness (or as some judgemental people like calling it stubbornness) but also an increased ability to let go of trivialities. Barring the increasingly infrequent outburst, it is less of an effort to put up with nonsense and care less about what appears to be the stupidity of others. Patience comes a lot easily, and you wonder which zen master's soul walked into your body. You no longer wonder why common sense is called common sense and why it is not called rare sense (and chuckle over the pun). It feels a lot simpler to take off to an unknown place without giving it a second thought (of course after checking three times that the gas tank is full, the cellphone is on full charge, checking work email one last time, then stopping by the store to pick that coffee you'd need to not doze off behind the wheel past 10 pm). The "between the sheets" gets better too - although the voices in your head are still making (and comparing) notes!

The realization suddenly dawns that it has become increasingly tougher to find/make new friends. There is a desire to find more meaningful relationships minus the drama and mind games. There is a newly discovered difference between sacrifice and compromise. Self respect, trust, and transparency become top priorities and there's less of a desire to go out on a date or make a new friend at the cost of pride. Dating becomes akin to fishing in a barrel. Some start to find the true meaning of life through human relationships, by reaching out to stigmatized, or by making best friends with Mr. Sam Adams and Ms. Zinfandel.

Growing up is fun, crazy, intimidating even. It is in many ways similar yet completely different from turning 21. But the catch phrase stays the same: Life has and will forever remain a learning experience. No matter how much we think we have learned and we know, there will constantly be room to learn and know more. Embrace the grays and show off the crow feet. (Just cover those dang tires for now; the forties are yet to come!)

Friday, October 31, 2014

What's in a name? Apparently, a LOT.

Yes, this world is full of fools, especially those d**kheads who think it is funny/sweet to forget someone's name even after meeting them for like the tenth time and assume it is acceptable. Cannot believe what I did when I met with such a person today - just walked off with a smile.

Truly grateful to have not said or done anything that would have given this character a dose of his own medicine, or worse.

Sometimes it is an illness, a disease. Total or selective amnesia probably. But this truly doesn't seem to be that way. I'm so not sorry that I have a beautiful name given by two of the most wonderful people I know. And it is not too hard either to remember. Want to know how to remember it? I can suggest funny, even dumb ways to enable recollection. Better still, tell the meaning of my name!

Not sure if this is another ploy to seek attention, a failed attempt at being charming, chauvinism, or plain arrogance.

Grateful to be able to act like a grown up and be able to not react to people's stupidity, at least on their face. How arrogant, self absorbed, and blissfully disrepectful can they be of other people's existence!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pain And The Art of Being Free.

Usually when we go through trauma - physical or emotional, we close our hearts to the world. This is mostly metaphoric but on some ocassions quite literal.

To a lot of people, this pain has negative consequences and shuts them down, even stops them from wanting to smile at a pretty butterfly because that pain makes them despodent and cynical. On the other hand, for some others, the pain may actually propel them to move forward. If you've encountered a life threatening or life alternating event, or a near death experience, the pain may help you drag yourself out of bed, even if in vengence. It may help you get over your most prominent shortcomings and may drive you to put your 200% into life, and into living ife in general.

The drive caused by that pain will show its fruits quickly and its outcome will be very clearly visible, in most cases in a positive manner. People around will think of you as a very passionate, driven individual, someone who never gives up, someone who gets to the bottom of everything, or in some cases, an overzealous nut. People who know you from before your painful experiences will notice the changes in you and may even acknowledge your newfound "vigor" and "enthusiasm."

But for how long? What will happen when the pain is silenced by medicines, by vengance, by time?

What will happen when the things we wanted to achieve, are achieved, the unfulfilled desires, fulfilled?

Complacency?
Boredom?
Loss of will?
Sloth?
Frustration?
Discontentment, unhappiness?

Or are we going to start searching for a new leash to put ourselves on?

So we go back to where we started and in the same league as the ones who let their pain shut them out!


This behavioral pattern is very commonly found in today's ruthless world because we let ourselves be driven by our pain, our sorrows, our failures, or simply an overcompensation of our shortcomings and complexes. When we let our pain motivate us and create our passions for us, somewhere deep inside, we are unknowingly creating a glass ceiling for ourselves. A ceiling through which we can see what is above us, what is ahead of us, but also what is beyond us and what we may probably not be able to achieve.

What is this pain of any use to us then. And then why should anyone hold on to it!

There may be several days or weeks of unbearable physical and emotional trauma, possibly followed by PTSD or roaming around spaced out telling yourself in disbelief that you are still alive. Followed by the same mistake everyone makes - using that pain to let you push yourself, to the bathroom, to the grocery store, to make that phone call to a friend, to the gym, or maybe even to do other things to try to shield yourself from letting that happen again.

Turns out, one sometimes does need that initial push because it is any day better than "hanging out" in bed doing nothing. But there is a time (almost immediately we drag ourselves on to our feet) when it becomes essential to shed off that pain. To accept that it happened to you and to realize that you are alive for a reason, and that reason is surely not holding on to that negativity.

Instead of holding that pain and its associated emotions in our core and our conscience, it is a lot more rewarding to burn it up in the fire of the will created by realizing the true purpose of our lives.

It is a lot fulfilling to release the toxicity of that pain just as we exhale stale air. To make space for fresh oxygen, to make space for smiles, for hope, for the ability to be able to do at least the minimum that we can do with whatever little we have. That fresh perspective is probably all you need to make that pain release its grip on you.

There may be a long, intense period of healing before you are willing to let your pain release its grip but it is essential to start treading that path, even if it takes forever.

Life is beautiful. Life is a celebration of the fact that destruction is always followed by creation. Whether it is a sunrise, the flowering of a bud, the crowing of a rooster, or birth of a new life, this earth continues to sustain. And it always will.

But you cannot let pain define you, drive you, make you who you are. One day, you will want to be more, bigger than who you are. You have to learn to make peace with your pain, accept it and let it go. And move on. It is hard to let to go, and it takes time, but you will know when you are ready. And when you are ready, you will be able to be free. 


-With last paragraph excerpted from the TV show Castle. It's funny sometimes where one can find inspiration! But more on that in another piece. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I've been assaulted.




Only if some men stop perceiving women as a commodity, as an object, and letting them be who they want to be. It is heartbreaking to see some people who were born out of the womb of a woman who was kind enough to keep them there and yet mistake another woman's kindness as "availability."

It is such presumptions that make these free birds crawl into their nest and not fly out of fear and mistrust, even though they desperately want to.

Shame on men who assault and presume women - just because they have a free spirit does not mean they are inviting you to use them as an object of your gratification. May they be taught their lessons who think that a woman dresses not for herself, but for those predators and act upon urges that are in fact, a consequence of their polluted mind.

A woman's body, clothed or unclothed, is HER OWN property. Even when she marries, it continues to be her own. A marriage or a relationship is not an approval to transfer this ownership or foregoing that property. Never.

As a woman, I always wondered and still wonder whether being born a woman was my curse or boon thanks to these kind of men. But there is surely one thing I can and I will do - and that is to make sure I be the best individual (not man or woman) I can be.

Having said this, please do refrain from responding with remarks or thoughts such as "feminist" - because these thoughts are not feminist. And they are definitely not an outcome of an "attitude problem." A woman speaking her mind is not an attitude problem; rather, it is her exercising her right to freedom of speech. This is a question of legality. 
A violated woman - physically, emotionally or verbally - is also not a question of ethics either. It is an infringement of her existence.


These thoughts are not about equality either. These are the expressions of a wronged wounded soul who finally found a voice. And of those countless souls who are wounded by one rape, or a groping inside a train, a lecherous stare at a store, or any kind of violation of their right to be.

A voice, a soul that dreams. That justice will be delivered. One day... Some day.

Till then, this soul will assimilate and eliminate. But not allow the cruelty to affect itself but stand tall and unaffected and continue to pursue even greater joy and pure bliss. Not because the victim is a wimp or because she can't fight back, but because being unfazed, not retaliation, is the biggest victory of the victim against the oppressor.

Dedicated to all people, women, and even men, who have been assaulted and are still alive.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Which crow are you?



Just like there is a difference between passsion and obsession, a difference between hard work and smart work, and a difference between working 20*7 and doing lot of little productive work versus working 8*5 with less but more productivity. A person who is passionate about what he does may spend 10 hours working and switch off as soon as he is done - on the other hand, an obsessed person will work for 6 hours but will keep his mental lights on for all 24 hours.
It is the same as a cellphone battery dying out sooner because the data connection was kept on all day even though it was not needed. 


Unfortunately, we live in a world where productivity, dedication, and integrity towards our work is measured in the number of hours and days one clocks in. 



People, learn to switch off. 

Find a hobby, a positive outlet. Time is too precious to be spent obsessing over the latest gossip or being overtly insecure. Even if it is something mundane like sleeping, cooking, cleaning or something drastic like a private yacht, look for something in life to live with, to smile about. 

Whether you are a parent to a rebellious teen, a corporate bigshot, or a high end fashion model, it is okay to be young at heart and to grin cheek to cheek and laugh your heart out even at 40. If that's what keeps you going, do it, even if others think you are crazy. Make them laugh with you. The day they do, they will realize the virtue of what they've missed.

Came across this excellent article here:
https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140625132650-4398055-high-performers-vs-workaholics-7-subtle-differences?goback=%2Empd2_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_20140625132650*54398055*5high*5performers*5vs*5workaholics*57*5subtle*5differences&trk=prof-post

In Yoga, we use the breath to guide our movement, to hold ourselves longer in a pose, and to go deeper into a pose. We also use the breath to work in sync with our body's ranges and limitations and to keep us safe. 

Likewise for our lives. It is okay to stop and smell the roses. It is okay to say no and to wait to catch your breath. No one really cares once you're gone anyway - and that the real competition is with no one else but only with the person in the mirror.



Thursday, May 1, 2014

Intelligence or Apathy...?

Saw a baby tortoise/turtle crossing the ramp entering 288-N while driving back from work today evening. From a distance, it looked like a piece of tire or a stone but realized what it actually was when I was barely a foot away from it. Luckily it was in the middle of the lane so my tires didn't run over it.

The poor thing may have been lost and was probably looking to return home.. and the direction was headed, it didn't seem to be doing the right thing - it was crawling in the direction of the highway, and in its world, the other side of the road was 100 miles away. God knows how many cars would pass by at that rush hour and which car would have run over that unfortunate soul. 



I've seen squirrels, rabbits, birds, deer and other animals dead on a highway because of their stupidity or confusion, but this guy would go out of its slowness. Slowness that it didn't choose for itself but "was born with." as a result of its past lives.

It is true that it was its karma, but indeed a sorry life and undeserving and unfortunate end. As intelligent human beings and practising yogis, one may accept the tragedy but as a sympathetic soul, how can I sleep at night knowing I could not stop in the middle of that ramp at 60 mph to save that little guy? I'm now torn between empathy and intelligent action - which I'm now not so sure if it indeed was intelligent - is it fair to run over a mute animal in order to not risk your life and those of fellow human beings? 

Do I need to perform penance, and if so, how? That guy is long gone by now! And what from practical purposes, should I do to "fix" this? Certainly this cannot be accepted as God's will! Or can it?

Am I being realistic by assuming its death? Or too skeptical?

Torn between being a intelligent human and a heartbroken soul that couldn't not do anything to help it. Torn between feeling sorry about its fate and grateful to not have done it myself.

I'm reminded of the story of the hare and the tortoise, that "slow and steady wins the race." Well, maybe sometimes not.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

12 Monkeys




A dark, almost depressing movie. 

But Brad and Bruce (and Bruce's twice-flashed behind) kept making me want to see what happens next. 

Top notch acting by Bruce Willis. One is intially attracted to Brad Pitt's potrayal of a lunatic, of a "mentally divergent" person, but later start to notice Bruce's genius through his subtlely, which gradually turns into almost psychotic, deranged behavior. The scenes in which Bruce Willis expresses his excitement and amazement at the radio, the sunlight, the water, the wind, makes us realize how much we take things for granted when they are conveniently and abundantly available to us, and how we begin to understand their true value only when we lose them or when we don't have them. I've always been a nature lover, but this movie has surely brought in new perspective and admiration for the nature around me. Thanks to the buddy who recommended this gem!






Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Demon called "Process"



Look familiar? Read on!

Processes are meant to save time and effort, not burden the team/individual. Unfortunately, a large number of people in the IT industry are lead to disbelieve this fact and no one ever bothers to dispel their myth.

The main reason why team members shy away from processes is because they do not have clear awareness of the benefits; that the processes are imposed on them without explaining to them how they can empower them when approached with the right attitude and when used correctly. A number of times teams do not realize it is their responsibility to follow a process and due to their lack of knowledge they may end up developing a lack of desire to participate.

Many times the team leader is also responsible for this continued lack of awareness/lack of interest. Processes are expected to be followed like laws without allowing anyone the time or opportunity to question. Only if this curiousity was welcomed (or if the desire to escape was constructively addressed) and teams were given the chance to be heard and a few minutes spent on explaining, I'm sure a lot of teams would be willing to oblige.

Of course, there are several ramblings prevelant which are enforced under the garb of "process." For both teams and leaders, it is their responsibility as well as right to question, introspect, and offer options and alternatives, if they really seem to be a burden than a boon. If they can spare themselves time for a smoke, humor, or grumbling about how much they hate their process, definitely they would have the time and energy to expend on some sincere introspection.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Shani Amavasya & Shanidev: An Astro Standpoint



Shani Amavasya --> Shani = Lord Saturn/Planet Saturn; Amavasya = New Moon day. Understandably, from even a mathematical perspective, Shani Amavasya is not that common since not every new moon day falls on a Saturday, so even in that sense, the day gains some kind of importance. Usually, Shani Amavasya occurs two or three times in a year.

This day is significant for several reasons. Firstly, the importance of Shaneshchari Amavasya lies in the fact that out of the rays of the Sun God "Surya," the main rays are called 'Ama'. It is from the main rays of Sun God called 'Ama' that the Sun God gives brightness to the three worlds. In this 'Ama' day, especially, God Moon stays. Therefore, it is called Shani Amavasya. This Amavasya is known to give good fruits to all religions. In 'Shradhya Karma', this carries a lot of importance. [See http://www.shanidev.com/Shani-amavasya.html]

It is interesting to note that several communities (including many sects of Hinduism) consider Amavasya as an inauspicious day, and given the perennial fear towards Shani (punisher/the cruel one/the ugly one), a Shani Amavasya is assumed to be even more inauspicious. On the contrary, Vedic astrology considers Shani Amavasya to be a very auspicious day in that:

- Amavasya or New Moon day is the first day of the Lunar Waning phase, or on a subtle level, the last day before the night is completely dark and one will start to see light (in the form of the visible moon in the sky). Some beliefs also say that a person born on an Amavasya is a reincarnation - born to finish off some unfinished business, to complete unfullied wishes from the past life (no reason for calling this inauspicious)! Thus this day ought to be considered auspicious.

- Shani means Lord Saturn in astrology.
 *Considered by many, many people around the world to bring bad fortune, feared by countless because of what it does in a person's horoscope, not liked by most because of its ugly appearance, dark complexion (Shani is the son of Surya - the Sun God and Chhaya - shadow), the fact that Shani is said to walk with a limp, and lastly, the dreaded "Sade Sati," "7.5 year cycle of Saturn" attributed to him. It is important to understand clearly what Shani truly signifies before jumping to such atrocious (and for me, heart breaking conclusions) about this wonderful God.

*First things first: The planet Saturn. Look at it. It is so beautiful! No other planet has seventeen rings around it. How can then Shani be ugly?

*Shani in Astrology signifies hard work, discipline, righteousness, patience, and slow pace.

*Shani is called the "judge;" the dispenser of justice. (Given that we are living in Kali Yug and injustice, hate, and all kinds of negativity is rampant, why one would fear justice, is beyond understanding - unless of course you're a bad, bad person.)

*Every thousand years, we are said to be living in some "age," the age being denoted by an astrological sign, its ruling planet, and its generic qualities. Currently we are living in the age of Aquarious or the Kumbha sign, therefore this is the age of communication, advancements in science and technology (think Moon/Mars colonies, artificial intelligence et al), intellect, spirituality, and individualism. And because Aquarius is ruled by Shani (Uranus per modern astrology), the influence of Shani is dominant. So there's no escape any way.

*Shani itself is one of the slowest moving of all planets - it takes 30 years to complete moving through all 12 signs in the horoscope [Astronomy: Think Saturn taking 30 years to revolve around the Sun]. Therefore, whatever it does, reward or reprimand, will be slow (and hence steady, and lasting). Heard of the story of 
the hare and the tortoise? We all know who won!

*A horoscope will always show all planets in it, so practically speaking, there is nothing like "being under the influence of Saturn." Whether we like it is not, we are all under the influence of Saturn to a smaller or greater throughout our lives. (Shani says, "You can run, you can hide but you can't escape my love/wrath!")

*The position of Shani in the horoscope, its degree in that position, whether it is Margi [Direct] or Vakri [Retrograde], aspect of other planets on it, its position in the person's Navamsa, combination/opposition/trine of Shani with the other planets, and finally the "Dasha" or period - all play a role in deciding how Shani will influence the person's life. It is also interesting to note that Dashas can be broken down into sub dashas, sub-sub dashas, and so on until one reaches the duration of one breath. Like it or not, Shani will influence us at least a thousand times every day - and we can't stop breathing, can we?! (Pranayama anyone!)

*Once every 30 years, all people go through what is called Sade Sati in their lives, and Sade Sati happens roughly two or three times in one life span averaging 75 years. (Sade Sati: http://anamikas.hubpages.com/hub/Saturn-in-Horoscope-Remedies-Shani-Mantras) Sade Sati simply means that Shani, or Saturn, is paying close attention to the individual's day to day actions and reactions. On the other hand, some people have Shani more dominant in their horoscope. 

*To put in laymans' terms, when the influence of Shani in a person's life intensifies in whichever way, all that happens is this: If you are a good kid and you study/do your duties sincerely, serve your elders, be kind to the less fortunate, are honest, truthful, and righteous, and not think negative, evil thoughts, Shani will reward you with happiness and success. But if you are a bad kid, exploit the inncoent, laugh at anothers' misfortune, make someone suffer for no fault of theirs, lie, steal, kill, Shani will make you pay for it. So he's a nice guy, really. The degree of justice served (the word punishment is just too negative) depends on the degrees of ill committed. (See http://www.shanidev.com/god-Shani-as-Judge.html)

*Shani is said to ride a crow (just like Ganpati rides a mouse). No one likes the crow. It is black and ugly, feasts on dead flesh and garbage. The way I like to look at this, it looks like Shani is trying to tell that each one born in this world has a purpose and so deserves compassion and importance. And we all studied about dignity of labor in school, and left it there. Time for some revision I guess.

*Again, from another astrological standpoint, Shani is said to be the only planet in the horoscope who gives the individual, fruits based on actions of his current life. No messing around with past life. Some other planets like Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury, tend to dispense fruits based on the individual's past life actions. This is a tough concept to digest for those who are not familiar with or who don't agree with the idea of the soul travelling through diferent bodies/different births/incarnations, but try to just assume this as a fact for a moment, and "why people sometimes suffer for no fault of theirs," "why some seemlingly undeserving people get all the good things in life" shall start to make complete sense.

Now combine the importance of the Amavasya with that of Shani, and this brings light to the fact that Shani Amavasya is an auspicious event.

Some nice to know stuff:
- This is a very good day to start special prayers for those under the good or not-so-good influence of Sade Sati or just for those who have a slightly dominant Shani in their horoscope. Difficulties are known to reduce through increased patience, ability to work harder, and a disciplined focus.

- This day is great to pacify Pitra dosh by remembering ancestors and performing rituals in their memory according to whatever customs one follows (remember the crow and it being the scavenger?).

- An excellent day to perform rituals for Kaal Sarp Dosh for those who believe.

- For those who are still conscious of Shani's bad effects, they have a way out too. Praying to Lord Hanuman provides similar effects as praying to Shani. Mythology statues that this is because Lord Hanuman said to bless his devotees with protection from Shani's so-called "evil eye."

- Astrology again: From 15th May 2012 to 2nd Nov 2014, Shani resides in the sign Libra; the sign in which Shani is said to be exhalted, or have the most positive power. Symbolically, Libra is represented by the scales of justice. Among many other reasons, this is a big reason why (India in particular) so many scams, crimes, are being exposed, people are being subjected to capital punishment, and so many political and social unheavals are going on with extreme intensity. (Mars has been playing a critical role too but then we'll digress.)

Hope this dispels some myths, and there is a fresh outlook on Shani, and everything associated with Shani. The bottom line is that, Shani equates to the ultimate good. Whatever happened, happened for good, whatever is happening, is happening for good, whatever will happen, will happen for good...




Note: I'm an ameteur and not an authority on Astrology, and some times rely heavily on my inner power (Ajna chakra, anyone?). This article looks its title and at astrology from a more subtle and derivative perspective. The views are based purely on this amateur level of study and experiences and observations of self and others. so any conflicting opinions should be taken with a grain of salt and considered for intellectual conversations only.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Truly MOIST banana cake!

Unfortunately I don't have a camera that can take a photo of the cake from inside my stomach so I'll leave the looks to your imagination. But I promise you this is insanely delicious! It is mommy dearest's recipe - she makes it in a pressure cooker (and also manages the same effect without the yeast), whereas I prefer the oven and so have to add some yeast. No difference in looks or taste really.


INGREDIENTS
Flour (wheat or maida either is fine) – 1 & ¼ cup
Bananas – 5, overripe to the point where they're not edible
Baking powder, baking soda – 1 tsp each
Yeast – 1 sachet - this is roughly 3/4 of a tablespoon (sachet has instructions how to use it)
Unsalted butter – ½ cup
Salt 1 tsp
Sugar – ½ to ¾ cup (bananas have enough sweetness so don’t need too much)
Optional - Dry fruits like pecans/walnuts/dates/tooty frooty – small pieces, the ones we get in grocery sections
Optional; I don't use - Eggs - 2-3

METHOD
       Mix flour, baking powder & soda, salt together and keep aside
       If using pecans/walnuts, lightly roast them without oil. This way they don't soften too much during baking.
       Mash the bananas, melt the butter, & blend them. Add sugar and blend again – this smells really bad!(If you have eggs, add these here and blend them in)
       Mix the flour and fluid to a thick batter. This is thicker than idli batter but still not a dough.
       Prepare yeast according to instructions on the packet & mix with the batter
       Keep aside for 5-10 mins to allow the yeast to take effect
       Gently fold the dry fruits into the mixture

COOKING
Pre-heat oven to 330 F.
Put the batter into a baking container; it should be ½ - ¾ full.
Bake for 30-40 mins, keeping a watch and bringing it out till a toothpick comes out clean.
(While cooking in an oven, the yeast will cause the cake to rise to almost 50% more than the original level. This may be a good indicator of whether the batter is getting cooked.)


Once done, allow to cool a bit. And then ... ATTACK!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Weed" job anyone?!

ROFL LMFAO moment of the day:

Friend: 
You know they made selling weed legal in CO from 1st Jan

Me: 
Yeah that's stupidity

Friend: 
it is a painkiller and a sedative

Me: 
Like people will use it only for that

Friend: 
it will have implications
but people do get drunk and do things
same rules will apply here
atleast illegal trade will stop
which will be boob for mexico [OMG... OMFG Wha .. WTF??!!!!!]
boon* [Me: no no it is BOOB]
its a social experiment [Heh? Hah! I'm practically ROFLing now]
only time will tell

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA