Monday, July 25, 2016

When life becomes a sailing boat

There comes a time in everyone’s life, when life feels empty and directionless. Everything that we have been doing so far stops containing meaning. The mundane seems unbearable and the new is out of sight. These are the times when the soul, otherwise lying buried as our mind and heart fight, shouts at its peak. We, who do not remember its voice anymore, could hear it vaguely; but we do not know what it is saying. The sound appears to be feeble in front of all the noises in our head. All the three tools of our existence – mind, body and soul – seem to be creating their own set of chaos; and we, in totality, become the walking temple of everything that should not be.

At these times, our desires or controls over our lives vanish. Or more apt to say, become dysfunctional, not for their own reasons but because we do not know what to do with them anymore.
These are the times of transformations; greater the chaos, bigger the transformation. 

It is like the process when larva turns into a butterfly; only that in our case we can never be sure of becoming a butterfly. Our transformation can also happen in the opposite direction, not biologically, but in the level of our consciousness. The reason for all the struggle, pain and uncertainty in life is to increase our levels of awareness. Like a video game, these circumstances are our hurdles, which we have to pass in order to reach to another success. These successes are less about external achievements as much as they are about our internal ones. And whether we proceed higher or go lower in our conscience is largely about our choice. 

We can choose to be graceful and accepting in our times of struggle; or we can choose to be annoying and deny our miseries. Whatever that has to happen will anyway happen, our demure will only change our response to it. We, human beings, consider ourselves the powerful organism, capable of thrusting control over nature, society and each other. We are indeed powerful, but our biggest control is not towards external world, and much less towards nature. It is inwards – towards us. The only thing we can control, and which in its all might no less than the world itself, is our inner self. We can control how we are going to respond towards the external circumstance – when the cocoon breaks, whether we want to fly letting go of everything or slime in ourselves holding grudges – and this choice changes everything. 

When we are drowning it is only natural to look for something to float on. When the storm of adversities is trying to sweep us off our feet, we need something to hold on, to stop from being pulled into that storm. The sense of roots is as essential to human beings as food and water. Stronger our roots, greater is our capacity to deal with the storm. It is only when our roots are weak or we feel root-less that the strength of storm takes over us.

So how do we find our roots?

This might sound interesting - we are born with all the roots our existence needs. We only had to nourish them through love, patience, faith, and acceptance. With time and thousand years of our selfish upbringing, we have forgotten about these things. We have been tied to worldly matters so much that we have forgotten about our existence as individuals. Our successes, failures, joys and sorrows are all external. Probably the one person we have the most will be us only. We hate ourselves for trivial matters - being fat, inconsistent, not able to cook well, not having any hobby, and so on. We look into the mirror and wonder who we are – how the world is going to perceive us – whether we will create that winning impression – whether we will look beautiful, young and supple today - whether we have it that makes us lovable? 

What we hardly do is to look into our own eyes – and sometimes kiss our own lips – and wonder about who we are - that one exclusive creation in the Universe. We do not ask ourselves that question – why in the Universe, billions of years old and bigger than my biggest imagination – was I created? In terms of mass and size, we are nothing but a miniscule amount of energy on a planet earth.  Then why might we have been even created. Was it to fill our social responsibilities? Be a good parent, children, spouse, friend, employee or employer? Balance out our karmic debts? Or, is there anything more to it?

The thought that my existence might have more meaning than what I perceive sends me a chill….

…more to follow…

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.