Tuesday, May 16, 2017

After Rainy Days

Put on your headphones, turn the volume really high, try to find a quiet place, and listen to the sounds in this video very carefully. They are very subtle, but if you really pay attention, you'll hear them in the background. (Okay just ignore the cellphone and chopping board. Sometimes one can cook and blog at the same time.)


Three days of rain, muck, and gloomy weather after which comes this: 

Quiet and stillness. And the ability to listen what truly needs to be heard. 

Sparrows and robins talking to each other, maybe about the cool, gentle breeze that blows every now and then. About the warm sun uncle that finally decided to peek out from behind white clouds. Or maybe exchanging notes over which is the best place to find food, now that they can finally step outside their shelter. 

The breeze makes wind chimes tinkle ever so softly, adding to the sweet harmony of sounds. 

Amidst all this chattering, ticks along a steadfast clock. It doesn't care what the sparrows and robins are talking about, whether they get food or not, or what the heck the chimes are clattering for. It just keeps ticking along, lost in its own world, marching to the beat of its own drum. It knows that no matter what, it has to and will always keep moving along. And the world will fall in line sooner or later.

Take a moment out of your crazy life to stop and sit still to listen to the beautiful sounds around you. Once we learn to get connected to these sounds, we learn to listen to ourselves. To the sounds inside of us. 

If we pay attention to the sounds inside us, and if we are doing this for the first time, then we might hear NOISE.


All anxiety, anger, fear, translated into noise inside that tiny little head of ours. 

The first time we access it, it might feel daunting, to suddenly come face to face with what are possibly our fears and insecurities. The cacophony might want one to shut out and run away from it and never want to open what appears as the "nothing box" from outside. What we think is our nothing box is actually the attic of our mind where our dark, unwanted, but hard-to-let-go-of stuff is conveniently stashed away, so that our mind can keep coming back to it over and over again. 

Why? Because those hard to let go thoughts, fears, insecurities are a habit, and thus, what the mind considers a safe space. Something that the mind is used to and finds its comfort zone in. The harder part is to sit with those unsettling thoughts - and sit peacefully with them. Face them, look them in the eye. Wonder why we held on to them for so long, and what would happen if we would let go of those negative thoughts that we know we don't need? 

It will take time. But if we take one day at a time, and keep trying a little every day, one fine day, we will be able to gather the courage to finally throw away that huge noisy box. Behind that noisy box will be our real nothing box. Where there is truly nothing, but everything. The sanctuary of peace and quiet. 

Once that real nothing box is opened, life will never be the same again.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Burdens Of Life: A Story

So there I was, wallowing in sorrow about something that was beyond control. But work needs to be done, people need their daily bread, terrorists need to be stopped - you gotta do what you gotta do, and so you keep going at whatever it is you are after.

Sitting in one corner of the pantry trying to shut shop early on a cold Friday afternoon. And she calls out surprised in barely understandable English, "This is expired... This should go into trash!"

I looked up. Redhead. Barely 5 feet tall. Pretty face, surprised like a little child that someone would actually waste food.

Cute, petite, and quite attractive for a mother of three kids - a 16 year old boy, a 10 year old daughter, and another 6 year old girl. Smiling face, clear skin, and lovely eyes.

Lovely eyes that were dressed in kohl that had a depth to them. One extra second of peering into those depths, and you'd see pain. A strength fueled by that pain, and a few layers underneath, a heart with something worth dying for.

I can't recall now how we got to talking to each other, but I presume she heard me thank somebody for always keeping a blushy-smiley face. She comes over and starts chatting using some Spanish-laden English and some Google Translate, about how her 10 year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer back home in South America and her husband left her and the children to fend for themselves after that. How she wanted to give her sick child a chance to fight back and how it brought her to America a few years ago. She then showed me pictures of her girl, hip length dark hair, all grown back after the chemotherapy. Smiling as if nothing ever happened. Lisa said her daughter wants to be a doctor when she grows up. A beautiful picture of her teenager son hugging her tight who has promised her that he will never leave her like his daddy did. 

I tell her, teary eyed, happy and grateful, "Lisa, you are a great mother and you have a very beautiful smile." 

I swear she does have a very sweet smile. She practically half blushes each time she smiles.

She is a janitor and doesn't make as much as most of us corporate professionals do. She has a bigger heart and a stronger will than most of us do. She has seen more than many of us, yet has not forgotten how to smile and blush. She has still not lost her innocence and child-like curiosity.

And we think we have problems.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Zalim Zindagi

Itni mohabbat bhar di is chhote se dil me,
Aur kismat ne saath chhodne par majboor kar diya.
Bachpan se saath chudaya, bachpana chudaya
Bharosa tod diya, bharosemandon se mooh mudwaya
Apno se door kiya, unse rishta tudwaya

Zalim zindagi!

Chhote se dil me mohabbat itni bhar di tune
Haath me zeher bhi de deti thoda
Thoda hum peete, thoda zeher unke hoth choom lete -
Jinko ek doosre ka ehsaas to dila diya
Phir umeed ka paudha jad se ukhad diya
Aur kismat, harkat, duniyadari ke daldal me dhakel diya

Haye zalim zindagi!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Recipe: Dinkache Laadoo

Dinkache laadoo (edible gum laddoos) are a Maharashtrian delicacy and is specially made for pregnant and nursing mothers in that part of the world. They are also a great supplement to have for those preparing for and recovering from illnesses and surgeries, and a good supplement for anemics. Unlike most other laddoos, very easy to prepare, and one of my favorites 😃

Here's the recipe, the way mother makes it. There are several other ingredients people like to add such as wheat, dry fruits, and cardamom; this one is probably the most basic, and except the Dink itself, uses ingredients that one would easily find in an Indian kitchen.

Ingredients (makes ~30-35 medium sized laddoos):
Dried coconut (Kopra) - 150 gm, grated or coarsely ground (the ones sold in the market usually have much higher quantity of kopra because it's inexpensive)
Dry dates (Kharik in Marathi) - 200 gm. Break them open using a hammer or something and remove the seeds
Almonds - 100 gm, broken into pieces
Edible gum (Dink) - 100 gm
Clarified butter (ghee) - as needed, for frying. Homemade ghee is the best if you have the luxury of time and energy to prepare it!
Jaggery - 150 gm, this is an approximate. Just use a little less than the total quantity of the rest of the ingredients combined. Tip: Do NOT use chikki jaggery. It's meant for chikkis and til laddoos only.

In a frying pan and on medium flame, heat ghee and roast the kharik, kopra, almonds separately, not together. A pan made of iron such as a cast iron skillet would be the best, since anything cooked in iron cookware absorbs the metal and enhances its ferric value of the food being prepared.

Roast the dried dates till they turn light red in color. I accidentally almost burned a few of them, that's why they look a bit darker than they should.

Same for the almonds and kopra.

There's a huge difference in the color of the coconut once it is roasted -

For the Dink, once the ghee is hot, reduce the heat to low and take it off the pan once it puffs up - it shouldn't change color.

Allow all of these to cool a bit and grind the roasted almonds and dried dates to a chunky coarse texture. Mix all the ingredients together. So the only thing that isn't ground or beaten or broken up is the Dink. That's because it becomes crunchy once roasted and so feels good to have that bite-y feeling.

Finally, get to the jaggery. Break the lump into small pieces and melt it, keeping the heat to medium-low. High heat will burn it!

Mix the dry ingredients with the molten jaggery and take it off the heat. Allow this hot mixture to cool just to the point where you can hold it with bare hands. Too cool and the jaggery will have solidified too much - if this happens, heat up the mixture and melt the jaggery once again.

Once the mixture is cool enough, make medium size balls. 

TIP 1: If the jaggery is too less, the mixture won't bind together. If there is too much jaggery, the laddoos will become too sticky.

TIP 2: Let's say you run out of jaggery to add in and your mixture just won't bind. That's okay - you can eat the mixture like a nutrition powder 😎 I just like to use the laddoos as a measure of how much one should eat every day.

Final product - voila! 
These will taste better over time as the ghee is absorbed better, and in cold weather, they will last for upto 2 months outside the fridge.

Health benefits:
Kharik contains Vitamins A, B, E, K, and minerals such as calcium, potassium, selenuim (which is not easily found in vegetarian/vegan diets), magnesium, phosphorous, dietary fiber, and also work as great laxatives.

Jaggery is of course iron.

Ghee (not dalda) iron again,and calcium too.

Kopra contains HDL (good cholesterol), vitamin E, manganese, and there's a ginormous list of the health benefits of coconut in general which everyone knows and I'm too lazy to type here anyway.

Almonds - Vitamin E being the most important one

Dink - strengthens the backbone which is needed for pregnancy, accelerates convalescence, and for nursing mothers

Overall, Dinkache laddoos are great to improve immunity and build energy in the body. They are also an excellent stomach filling healthy snack. Hope you have fun making and eating them too!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Time Changes Everything

Time changes everything.
Patience is a virtue.
What belongs to you shall come to you.
That some wounds can never heal.
Some chapters will never close.

And some chapters, once closed, will make you realize
that it was a lot easier than you thought.

That you may be ready
But sometimes the answers will come to you when the answers are ready.
That some answers will never come to you.
And very often the answers are within you.

 That there is a time and place for everything; smart work has its merits but working hard like a donkey is also at times inevitable.

That people can, and will, stab you in your back
even if you have been nothing but nice to them.
That there are some broken souls who will never be able to turn a new leaf.

That people will be brave enough to fight with others to protect you
but will be too cowardly to match your loyalty.
That human beings are just a medium and He sends us His angels through them.
That His angels will not be in the form of the same people each time.

That a man will have
women standing behind him like a rock.
That a woman will also have men watching her back.
That being born with a uterus is a privilege.
And because that head wears the crown, it is always uneasy.

That if you truly wish for something and trust your faith
mountains will move and miracles will happen.
That expectation is the root of all heartache.
That silence can heal, and silence can also kill.

That you will have to wait for 10 years to fulfill a dream.
That fulfilling a 10 year old dream does not necessarily mean
your 20 year long dream will also get fulfilled.

That we have to forgive to be able to live peacefully
at the expense of our inner demons calling us an imbecile and a weakling.
That sensitivity is NEVER a weakness, but a huge strength.
That no quality is good or bad. It is how you use it
that makes it your positive trait or flaw.
That having tears in your eyes upon experiencing pain, or seeing another's pain
is NOT a sign of immaturity, but a sign of a big heart.

That scruples and principles are never a long winding list. The list is always evolving and never
permanent, and that it does not make you a bad person.
That justice is a relative term.
That being kind does not equate to being a doormat, and that thinking about
yourself does not equate to being selfish.

That you are and will continue to be addressed behind your back with choice expletives
only because they cannot be who you are.
That they want to be like you but never willing to be brave enough to face themselves.
That they will judge you, hate you, think that you have
everything and that you are perfect, but never bother to even imagine
what your journey is all about.
What sacrifices you have made that they won't make.
That they enjoy the small things in life that you don't get to enjoy.

That eventually, you will get to a point when you will realize what things truly matter to you,
for which you are willing to let go of other things you thought you cared about.
And that realization will surprise and even shock you.

That it is important to take a leap of faith every now and then.
That one fine day you will find yourself SO BRAVE
that you will ask the Heavens to do whatever it is that it wants to do to you.
That even after that, every once in a while, your courage will be tested to the limit.
That if your faith is sufficiently unwavering,
He WILL talk to you.
That when He is silent, he is creating something so beautiful for you that
your entire being won't be enough to embrace it.

That one day you are going through the worst phase of your life.
And the next day you find yourself in the midst of a serenity one can experience only in the afterlife.
That one moment you will wail in pain, and another moment you will wonder
how to live without that pain.
That you will not need anyone to remind you
that a habit is not a need.
You will be able to let go of what no longer serves you
a lot sooner than you thought you would.

That if all doors you saw got closed,
He will show you a secret way which no one else knows.

That achieving a vision does not mean you have reached the end
it means that you have come to a new starting place.

That you can never be perfect.
That you are flawed in some way or the other.
That you have to see your ugly self in the mirror again and again
Or He will send someone else to show you.

That growth is not a goal, but an endless process.
That it does not matter if you cannot see the path,
or how long it will take.
That the only thing that matters is the faith
that you are going somewhere beautiful.

That dreams do come true.