Monday, February 08, 2016

About breads, buns, and yeast

Last year I decided that every quarter I am gonna learn something new. I had been obsessing over baking breads as long as I can remember. So, quickly I decided, it is high-time I should buy an Oven.

And I bought one. After which began an incessant period of trial and error, in which I consumed humongous amounts of all-purpose flour, olive oil, and yeast from three different continents!

Yes, yeast is what makes or breaks your bread. Being a vegetarian, I do not use eggs and hence the entire fluffiness of my bread was dependent on yeast only.

So, I read about yeasts. A lot. Different varieties, how to activate them, how to test them, supporting reagents to be used, popular brands, etc. I cajoled my friends traveling to Europe and US to get me sachets of popular Yeasts from there. A friend from Germany brought me enough Yeast to suffice for a year, provided I can store it well.

While the long-distant stuff was still in transition, I decided to experiment with the local varieties. From the three brands that were available, one performed quite good. I made pizza twice with that and the base-bread came out really really well and fluffy. So I tried my hands on egg-less garlic rolls - my long cherished recipe - that I could not try because I did not have an OTG. The rolls came out great. Every bit of effort was rewarding. Sadly, I did not take pictures. I was so consumed in admiring the real thing ;)

After these roles, I tried my hands on stuffed buns, which were so great that I cannot even describe how much I liked them. Then came Ladi Pav buns, which were not that great but good enough to bid adieu to market buns. I prepared Burger buns from the left over dough of Ladi pav, needless to say, readymade Burger buns are out of my kitchen too ;)

Then arrived my distant Yeast varieties. Sadly, not all of them preformed as expected, especially, while baking buns. Pizza bases and flat breads were still fine. May be they did not go very well with the Indian ingredients. Two brands did pretty nice so I am gonna order more of them next time someone goes abroad. The Honey-oats-banana-bread that I made came out very well. For remaining projects, I am gonna stick with my locally available and cheaper Yeast satchet.

It's been two quarters since I have got this OTG and I could not seem enough to get of it. Taken from quick cake recipes to quickers snacks, I am totally in love with it. Baking has come natural to me, in fact, cooking itself came natural to me. One could say this happens to a lot of Indian girls after they get married. The feeling of having a kitchen of your own and the possibility of being totally creative in it really pull you into cooking; and once pulled in, you can never really come out of it.

My daughter, just 4 right now, shares my excitement of baking. She is always suggesting me if we can make cakes out of random things. I am still learning basics right now, so a bit cautious in trying out something outrageous, but I know it won't be long when this mother-baby combo would be going guns over cakes, pastries, and muffins. It would be a loving day with sweet aroma and sweeter love inebriating our house. I can imagine that.

P.S.:  Baking happened to me in the third quarter of 2015, and the last quarter was spent Crocheting. An update about it will come soon.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Morning thoughts

When you are loved, it shows on your face. It beams and shines with the delight of being wanted, of being admired and longed for.

It shows in the swing of your waist, when you are free. The careless stomping, devoid of baggage of past and burden of future, so demanding as if you own the world. It shows in the way you put your foot forward when you have nowhere to go and everywhere to reach.

It shows in the spirit of your laughter, when you are happy from inside The mirth that springs through mouth and twinkles through eyes.

It matters when you know you matter.. that you are loved by the one you love. The glow, the waist, the swing, the spirit, the laughter, the heart  .. all become a part of one - the Universe.

When you meet a one like that .. know him or her as the manifestation of God.. since, God lies no where but deeply in a heart full of love.

After all, love is vast and elusive. Much like the Universe or the God. How else can you explain the greatness of human intellect and its incapacity to yet explain it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The repugnant suicide

There have been times in my life when I have faced disappointments and despair. When my faith in God, humanity, government, system, or even my own self had been put to test. When I also felt that staying is impossible and moving on is agonizing. And yet, I moved on. Yes, hanging myself to death never came as an option.

Some serious contemplation did result in me running away, giving up, and there were metaphorical warnings of killing myself. But actually giving a serious thought to ending my life was not there. I sometimes wonder what kept me going and what keeps millions in this world going at the face of miseries that sometimes make a few falter.

Suicide is illegal and yet people who commit it are celebrated — not with the festivity of course — but with the melancholy of remorse and shame. The reasons are deeply analysed and often the cowardice of the dead is covered by the extremity of externalities that compel the dead to be dead. When killing others is condemned at every instance, why killing self is not scorned equally?

What is it about suicide that earns it sympathy? Are we using our deaths to hide the collective-shame of our failure as a community, generation or nation?

An year back, a rape-accused reportedly hung himself in his prison cell. The world took it as a penitence of a guilty heart. He was vindicated. On one hand, we call suicide an act of cowardice, and on the other, we silently accept them as the greatest moment of truth in a person’s life. The letters that they leave behind and the reasons that they cite become the testimony of our reality. We read them with an occasional skip of heartbeat and some obvious grief on our faces. The words are taken as a doctrine. Nothing is questioned. Nobody ridicules the ‘last notes’. When we empathize with the reasons of suicide, we also agree with the prudence of the person committing it. We silently accept that the world is too bad a place to be, and not everyone can take that pressure.

A report published in 2013 by National Crime Records Bureau claimed that about 15 people in India commit suicide every hour. Here, suicide by farmers makes up only 3 per cent of all suicides. The rest were done by housewives, private and public employees, entrepreneurs, students, etc.

Suicide is purely a matter of psychology and that is how it needs to be dealt with. People who think about killing themselves need more of mental support and clinical help than the social drama. Mixing it with philosophy, ideology, or worst, politics, is dangerous. These elements add grandeur to an act of moral weakness. They take the life out of a suicide and fill it with collective responsibility of external elements that are as much responsible for it, as much as they are not.

Suicides are a matter of shame for a society, family, and human life. Rather than making them a heated news-room debate, we need to ignore, condemn, and admonish them. There should not be anything glorious or righteous about them. From any angle killing oneself should not appear as an option to get oneself noticed, heard, or understood.

Killing the self is worse than killing others. And the living must know that when they slit their wrist or jump off the roof, they do not leave behind just a corpse, but an entire baggage of their own weaknesses which is afterwards carried by the ones who once-upon-a-time loved them the most.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

52-weeks challenge - Updates

I must say I am really happy with my progress in the last week. Writing down things I eat during the day is doing me great help. Earlier, it looked like a time-consuming self-loathing exercise, but the results were too good to be ignored.

More than 50% of my calories intake was coming from mindless munching that I used to do between meals. One biscuit or two tbsp of bhujia are kind of things that easily get unnoticed. But when you start writing them down, you see the accumulated count of these unnoticed intakes.

For everyone who is looking forward to control their diet, I would seriously recommend using a tracker for what you eat during the day. Write down every single thing you put into your mouth, even if it is taking a bite from your friend's lunch. Quickly listing down the benefits:

Helps you identify your body's natural hunger mechanism

Contrary to the popular belief that one should eat little food every two hours, the doctors now have started to re-recommend the old eating regimes with three heavy meals and one light evening snack. That's it. Which way to go ahead with is certainly a matter of debate. However, my personal experience tells me that it is better to have designated time of food intake when you should sit down and hog as much as your appetite allows and then stay shut. My parents do this, they are lean and healthy. Some of my friends also follow this regime and they are lean and healthy too. Besides, they are away from the hassle of eating something every two hours. Slowly the body acclimatizes to schedules and in-between hunger pangs diminish.

Coming back to listing. When you are mindlessly eating, you do not realize when your body is really hungry. But when you write your intake you realize there are certain times of the day, when you eat more than the rest. These could have a span of 30 min to 1 hour. These are your natural hunger times.

Makes you mindful of your munching

When you know you have a list to maintain and look at at the end of the day, you become self-vigilant. Tit bits do not get unnoticed. Also, you automatically become restrained in your intake. Being watchful is the whole goal after all.

You can select out a few unhealthy items

Identify your weaknesses and remove those food items from your reach for a while. Better do not get such stuff into the house, if possible. This is a process which will take many weeks and months before it becoming a discipline. Better to start right away.

P.S.: Week 2-4: Bringing down my food intake to four times a day. Three hearty meals and one light evening snack.

Friday, January 08, 2016

The trap of adjustments in a marriage

My Mom has changed in past few years. She is known in the family as a very level-headed, patient, and calm person. I have never met anyone in the family or friends who have a different opinion. Yet, in past few years she has become very reactive when it comes to my dad. Not that she does not take care of him or gives him any less attention. All that service is intact. But she answers him back, out of compulsion. Even my dad complains that after 35 years of their marriage, Mom has changed.

I once asked Mom why she does that. When she has spent all these years by calmly accepting everything about him what makes her talk back to him now. She helplessly responded, "poori umar beet gai sunate sunate, kitna sune, hume bhi toh bura lagta hain". (The entire life has passed listening to him, how long should I do this; I too feel bad).

This one sentence captures her decades of pain. After all, I have been a silent witness to what she has been through. An aggressive and dominant husband, a caustic mouthed mother-in-law, financially week parents, no financial independence, and limited education.

Isn't our world surrounded by such women? Aren't our mothers more or less have similar characterizations? And haven't our mothers suffered a bit too much.

We feel a sense of pride in saying that my mother is my role-model. She is a very patient, calm human being, who has not harmed anyone and has always been there in living up to every expectation ever kept to her.

But, should she be our role model? Is this behaviour worth emulating? And the people who have been through this ordeal, do they find it worth it? In the name of calmness and patience, aren't we overlooking submission and lack of self-worth?

My parents have lived a very satisfactory married life by all worldly standards. So is the case with my several aunts and mothers of my various friends. But then when I really sit down and listen to their stories, they have unimaginable pains sitting heavily in their hearts, which they never really forget.

They might have forgiven their husbands or in-laws for those pains or have moved on, but the scars still ache when touched. Remarks about parents, taunts for finances, depending on your husband for every penny, critical attitude on in-laws, etc etc. The truth is no woman forgets that. She might not hold grudges, but these incidents definitely reduce a bit of respect for her man in her heart and that respect then hardly ever comes back.

Then why are we selling this flawed formula of successful-marriages to generations after generations. Why are we not raised with clear definitions of our roles, responsibilities, and expectations in a marriage. And why no one makes an attempt to help us understand the hairline difference between adjustments and compromises.

You like home-cooked food and I like eating out every second night. Together, we eat out just twice a month - That's adjustment

Earlier I would spend my entire money on shopping or doing whatever I want. Now, I watch my expenditures  as per our family goals - That's adjustment
Earlier, my parents were everything to me. Now, I enjoy spending holidays with your parents too - That's adjustment

You ridicule or mock my ideas, way of working, thoughts, sentiments and I keep ignoring that - That's not adjustment 

You criticize, judge, question, or scrutinize me, my actions, my family and I keep taking it - That's not adjustment
You show disrespect to me, you ignore me, you take me for granted and I accept it thinking that's how men operate - That's not adjustment 

You question my ability to raise a child, when I put myself through all the pressure and you watch from outside and I agree that raising kids is the Mom's job - That's not adjustment, either.

All these things are not adjustments. They are attacks on our soul and esteem. And if we try to adjust with them, we kill a part of ourselves. The longer we adjust with this negativity, the deeper the wound goes.

It's not entirely wrong to say that if you apply patience with negative people, it helps them improve. As it generally happens, many men realize the importance of their wives after many years of their marriage, mostly at old age, but what is the cost of this realization and who pays it.

By the time Indian husbands wake up to the value of their spouse, the damage has already happened. The wives have already lost their confidence and will to have a mid of their own. They have already become the mental slaves, where the husbands can bully them whenever they want and then appease with a cheap act of love. 

Can the acknowledgement that 'you have been there with me always' in old age compensate for all the hell a young wife and mother goes through for this one gentleman?

I don't know. May be I am turning a feminist. May be I am becoming a bit cynical by questioning the age old wisdom of Indian household. But these are the questions my heart screams out. It wants to know why a man and a woman must live together in the same house when they are happier outside.  When we see a happy couple together, do we see through the scars of a suppressed partner and tears of his or her dying self-esteem?

And who should be blamed for the death of million desires and wishes that get slayed by the infamous male-ego every moment? Is this that secret of strong marriage, which we Indians claim to have nailed down? 

I don't know. Again.