Stepping out of the nest

I have had an over-protected childhood. One where I never had to face the hardships of life despite being born in an ordinary middle-class family. I wish to clarify that it by no means implied that I was a ‘spoilt child’ because I did face the struggles every Indian child faces in having things their way.

As a child I loved having everything come to me without having to go out in the hot sun or having to face the harsh world. Living in a comfort zone had become my way of life when came the turning point that changed everything. Me and my perspective of life included. It was the day of the interview following the results the All India Entrance Exams. I hail from a small city in a distant corner of our country. Securing a good rank in an all India level exam had been a moment of great pride for me and my family, but soon the joy evaporated in thin air when realization of having to move out of my home for further studies dawned on me.

To fulfill my dream of becoming ‘someone’ in life I had worked very hard all through school, but when the time came to choose the college I wanted to pursue my studies in, my throat went dry and my mind went blank. It was the day when the golden opportunity to pick one of the premier institutions in the country was knocking on my door but I was scared to step out of my nest and make the most of it. For someone who had never lived outside home longer than a couple of days, shifting to a hostel was outright scary and unacceptable.

While everyone in my family failed to grasp the gravity of my perplexed state, my father succeeded in reading my mind. While we waited for the interview to begin, he took me along to the canteen for a cup of tea. It was in the canteen that he calmly talked me through the understanding of why it was time for me to fly out of the nest. That morning, initially I resisted my father talking me through the idea of studying far away from home. It was when he told me something he’d never said before.

He talked me through the dark patches of his life and career when never having lived an independent life gifted him hardships. Starting from lack of confidence to a much-needed wisdom that came by treading on the rough pastures and falling in the potholes that no book could ever teach us, we talked about every aspect of life as best friends. He opened up his heart to tell me, how no success can be achieved in the comfort zone. How he wished he had chosen to take up the career he longed for instead of the one he had just because he was too afraid to study in a foreign land.

It was his trust in me, my abilities, my dream to be someone in life that gave me the needed push. Charged with renewed wisdom, fresh perspective and the loving assurance that my father knew exactly where I was in the book of life, I made the life-changing decision. In the interview that followed, I confidently chose to study at a premier institute over a thousand miles away from my home. From that moment on, there was no looking back. The wings of aspiration I had opened that day, took me far and wide. While I learnt to respect my freedom and integrity, I learnt to be self-reliant and not fear a journey for education, work or for realizing my dreams.

Many years down the line, when my life called for me to give up my successful career, change course of life yet again, the lessons of that fateful morning proved to be my guiding light, yet again.

The seeds of independence that were sown that day, have kept me fighting all odds in life, sustaining in remotest corners of the world, managing to earn a living and progress at every point in life. I can proudly say, my father gifted me this beautiful life and also taught me how to make it purposeful in my own stride.

“Self-reliance is the only road to true freedom and being one’s own person is the ultimate reward.” ~ Patricia Sampson

Rise of the Sun Prince (Ramayana: The Game of Life #1)

  • Title – Rise of the Sun Prince (Ramayana: The Game of Life #1) 911GwzWIsqL._SL1500_
  • Author – Shubha Vilas
  • Publisher – Jaico Publishing House
  • Genre – Mythology
  • Pages – 211
  • Price – INR 250
  • ISBN – 978-81-8495-530-9

Synopsis - Ramayana:The Game of Life (Book 1), one of the world’s great literary masterpieces, skillfully retold for modern audiences. Epics like the Ramayana have been recounted infinite times. Is there a need for another chronicle in the presence of so many? How is this one different? And is it relevant to our ever-changing modern lives?

Yes, there is a need, yes this is different and yes, it is relevant. This new series of books, each following one khand of the Ramayana, decodes the eternal wisdom of that poetic scripture through gripping narrative and thought-provoking instruction. In the time-honored custom of spreading wisdom through tales, every fascinating story in the epic is retold here and every character unfolded to captivate your heart and open your mind to life’s deepest questions.

The narrative closely follows Valmiki’s Ramayana, gently weaving in folk tales as well as the beautiful analogies of the Kamba Ramayana. The first of this six-volume series, Rise of the Sun Prince, takes you through the divine story of Lord Rama from His birth up to His marriage. Through these pages are revealed the tales of Dasaratha’s leadership, Vishwamitra’s quest for power and the intriguing story of a little-known stone maiden. Ramayana: The Game of Life has all of this and much more – food for contemporary thought drawn from an enduring masterpiece.

Review – This book is the first part of the 7 book series, where Shubha Vilas has recounted the great Indian epic masterpiece, Ramayana. The book has a beautiful cover and the apt titles of each part (titles of the two parts are known to me as of now) giving fair idea about the part of the epic it covers.

The very first time, I read about this series, my initial thoughts were, what new could a book recounting a well-known epic has to offer? But curiosity took better of me and I decided to delve in the book to explore what it had to offer. To begin with, I can assure you, I am glad I decided to read this series.

My grandfather always used to say, “Ramayana isn’t just a story of Lord Rama or an epic, but a way of life.”

The very first thing that struck me was the simplicity of words. Woven in succinct language that not only appeals to the readers of modern era, but also conveys the complexity of thought effectively. Rise of the Sun Prince essentially covers the Bala Khanda of the Ramayana as written by the sage Valmiki, blended well with anecdotes and embellishments from the Kamba Ramayana. It covers the period before the birth of Lord Rama (an avatar of Lord Vishnu), events around his birth, up to his marriage with Sita.

I somehow felt I was forced to read vertically and horizontally simultaneously to grab the deeper insight of the complex rituals and events from the beautifully drafted foot-notes. The charm of the explanatory notes lies in the fact, that they are crafted keeping in mind that the reader might not be well-versed with Sanskrit that bears the origin of the words and phrases used in the epic.

The book has successfully managed to capture the true essence of the epic while imparting deep insight into life. The message of hope and perseverance (focus on Vishwamitra’s attempts at becoming a Brahmarishi) for every person in life. The beacon of hope comes to surface from time to time and it was one of the major reasons I loved reading this masterpiece.

The non-linear narrative of the happenings in Ayodhya, life of King Dashratha and incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Rama keeps the reader yearning for more insight into the nitty-gritty of the well-known happenings of the epic, which the book serves tastefully.

The nuggets of refreshing information about how Lord Brahma with the help Saraswati tongue-twisted Khumbhakaran into deep slumber, how Ravana missed on mentioning the human beings & monkeys in the list of creatures who couldn’t defeat or slay him, why was Ayodhya unconquerable, how rain water harvesting was practiced even in Treta-Yuga and many more interesting particulars.

I was amused to learn that Lord Rama had a gestation period of 12 months being an extraordinary child (an incarnation) as against the ordinary gestation period of 9 months. You must read the book to come across many more such amazing facts.

But this is not the end of the wonderful findings of this book.

My absolute favorite are the slivers of well-thought, sharp one-liners in the treasure trove of footnotes that are sure to etch in the reader’s mind, evoking desire to re-read the book over a number of times. A few of my personal favorites being:

1. The mind is a connoisseur in converting trivial puddles into bottomless oceans.

2. A good teacher is appreciated and a great one is emulated.

3. A good leader knows the art of delegation. He himself carries the most demanding role of being the inspiration.

The lucid, unrushed narration, fresh perspectives and inter-woven tales that hold relevance to modern life made me look forward to reading the part #2 with eagerness.

Even if mythology isn’t your favorite genre (like mine) I’d recommend you to read this series for its detailed, well-researched and insightful presentation of an epic we all have grown up loving, learning and emulating in one form or the other.

About the Author – Shubha Vilas, a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker, holds a degree in engineering and law with a specialization n patent law. His leadership seminars are popular with top-level management in corporate houses.

Close to his heart is his role as a guide and teacher to school children, teaching foundational values through masterful storytelling.

Rating - 4.25/5

The Bedtime Ritual

Long before I became a parent, I had heard, seen and read at numerous places the importance of a bedtime ritual for babies. All of them spoke about how putting the babies to bed at a fixed time, in the same environment, well fed, with a good diaper to keep them dry all night, puts them to sleep within minutes, ensuring a sound sleep all night. I read the same in the many books I had read during pregnancy.

My personal experience as a parent, has been quite different though. Since infancy, Pari resists sleeping as if it were a punishment. It took me sometime to realize her real reason for doing so. She is a fun-loving, mischievous child who loves to wrap in as much play she can manage in her day. When we try to put her to sleep, she gets greedy to push her day a wee bit longer, till she can no longer resist sleeping.

It took me almost nine months to understand her psychology. In the meantime, time-tested rituals like singing lullabies, patting her on my shoulder while taking her around the room/house, reading to her from colorful books and trying to feed her warm milk were tried with many modifications but to no avail. In an attempt to prove that these time-tested rituals can’t fail, we even had my distant aunts visit us with newer remedies, only to end up giving up to Pari’s determination to not sleep till very late in the night.

The final resolution to this major concern came the day, Pari started talking. It was then we started having a dialogue about the happenings of the day, what she learnt, loved, disliked and felt. Among this new-found routine, Pari’s all-time favorite is hearing me tell her stories from my life. Childhood in particular. If I try to tell her stories from Panchtantra or Aesop’s fables, she interrupts me saying she wants to hear the ‘real stories’ where her mother is in the lead role.

Narrating to her the minutest details of my life as a child, my funny assumptions, my crazy actions and more, has helped me bond better with my child. While these stories help put Pari to sleep with a smile, they help me introspect and relive my childhood with the mind of an adult to understand my actions of the past so much better.

I have come to believe that the memories or moments of the past if never repeated or shared over time, slowly fade away from our memories. So, if you want to treasure them, re-visit them. Narrate them to others. It’ll keep them forever young, teaching you a new moral every time.

One more fascinating revelation that this bedtime ritual gifted me was, it helped me connect with my child as a friend. While talking about my own childhood to Pari, I can’t help but feel as if we both exist in the same time-frame and are of the same age. In those moments, I cease to be her mother and play her pal which is quite a fulfilling experience for both of us. The most amazing moments are those when Pari points to me, I shouldn’t have acted in a particular way, like tried to pat a puppy without being more cautious about it’s mother’s proximity.

I somehow feel, our brief bedtime ritual has been doing us immense good. It’s been helping my little darling know her mother better and me reminiscing the fond memories of my childhood, making my little mate part of them while re-living them with her. This bedtime ritual has helped me learn many important lessons as a parent, seeing my parent’s actions (of the time I was a child) in new light.

Today I can proudly say, I am glad my little princess defied the time-tested bedtime rituals for our good. Resisting change is our inherent behavior, but accepting the change is where the treasure of the unseen beauty & new lessons of life lie.

Chaos

In the past few many years I have somehow grown so accustomed to chaos in my life, that the handful of days that actually work for me, I am left baffled if I am driving in the wrong lane. It comes across as extremely silly, but is the unfortunate truth of my view of life. Lately, I have come to doubt normalcy more than I worry about the turmoils in my life.

Even though I have changed dramatically, my habit of worrying way more than advisable, has been one of the major deterrents keeping me off the blog. In the past couple of months, I tried hard to pump in some renewed energy, positivity and confidence in my life. Life has been continuously pushing me to stay on my toes.

This is more about a long sequence of events than a handful of coincidences. It’s amazing, so many of those issues already occur in form of full blown, aptly titled posts in my head waiting for me to be kind enough to scribble them on this blog. Today was another mad day. One, when I am not even sure if I’ll be able to finish or publish this post tonight itself before passing out on the keyboard.

But, right from morning, I wanted to write something. Even if incoherent, to lighten up my on-the-verge-of-bursting mind. With the outbreak of Swine Flu in my part of the world, despite precautions, Pari caught a very nasty cold & cough. A severe case that took over two weeks to go away & involving visits to the hospital which did little good and more harm.

Visiting a hospital at the time of an epidemic puts everyone at the tremendous risk of contracting infection in the hospital premises. The same happened with me. I visited the hospital with a sick child & in matter of minutes, I was sick too. Though starting medication at the right time, did cure my cold and fever in matter of a few days, the cough decided to stay on. You can imagine the severity of my cough with the fact that on two occasions I successfully scared stray dogs by coughing violently in their proximity.

Pari had to miss school for a full week owing to her ill-health and re-infection because of her stubbornness (a full post on that issue is coming up soon) and in matter of less than a week, she is severely sick with a gastrointestinal infection. The past two days have been very rough on all of us. While my family managed to enjoy the India vs Pakistan World Cup match, I was busy cleaning up the home and laundry soiled in vomitus.

These trying times and a mad-making cough leave literally no energy in me to open my heart and mind on this blog. I decided to break the vicious circle of craziness and chaos by scribbling some of the many pent up tensions.

Juggling assignments with the important task of nursing a cranky, very sick baby who needs my time and attention with never-getting-in-control-household-chores and my own bad cough, I feel like I am too inept at handling life at my age. The one issue I have been constantly chasing is juggling my peace of mind and my financial freedom. While I have a dearth of them both, I think, I can handle life optimally with just a handful of them both. I am not striving at an excess. But, who doesn’t love an extra chunk of peace or few extra pennies in the purse?

But life refuses me the privilege to splurge in either of them, pulling the strings way too often. Being a single parent is slowly beginning to burn me down with the double share of responsibilities in the same 24 hours. Though, not having any choice but to face the situation as it comes is life’s way of helping me live through this mammoth responsibility.

*Apologies for publishing this post without proof-reading but I can’t stay awake for any more seconds and neither can I end my day without publishing this post. Thank you for bearing with me.

Baked Vegetables in White Sauce

Winter is the perfect season to stir up colorful, delightful, heartwarming recipes that are not only tasty but nutritious too. Baked vegetables is one such recipe that can be made in many ways. The best part of this preparation is the liberty of technique and ingredients it allows. You can add, subtract or change any of the vegetables to suit your liking. The best bit is, if you wish, you can sauté the vegetables in olive oil instead of butter.

Baked Vegetables in White Sauce:

Baked Vegetables in White Sauce

Baked Vegetables in White Sauce

Servings: 4

Difficulty Level: Easy

Ingredients: 

  • Broccoli (medium) – 1
  • Cauliflower (medium) – 1
  • Potatoes (medium) – 1 or 2
  • Red Capsicum (medium) – quarter
  • Green Capsicum (medium) – quarter
  • Yellow Capsicum (medium) – quarter
  • Mushrooms (button) – 5 to 6
  • Carrot (medium) – half
  • Mozzarella Cheese – 4 tbsp
  • Butter – 4 tbsp
  • All Purpose Flour (Maida) – 1 cup
  • Milk – 2 to 2.5 cup
  • Salt – for seasoning
  • Black pepper – for garnish
  • Oregano (optional) – for garnish
  • Red chili flakes (optional) – for garnish

Method: 

  • Pre-heat oven at 180 degree centigrade. Butter the baking dish (preferably a shallow dish) and set aside.Fresh Vegetables (edited)
  • Wash all vegetables thoroughly and dice them in shape and size to your liking. Diced Vegetables (edited)
  • In a glass bowl half full with water microwave the potato and cauliflower florets for 3 to 5 minutes, till they are half cooked through. You can also boil them in a pressure cooker if you want, but don’t let them cook fully as they have to bake as well.
  • In a thick bottomed pan heat half of the butter and gently sauté the vegetables for 3 to 4 minutes.

    Sauteed veges (edited)

    Sauteed Vegetables

  • Now add salt to taste, oregano and chili flakes ( avoid chili flakes if preparing for kids) and set them aside.
  • Warm milk in a pan. Do not boil it. Set aside.
  • In a medium-sized saucepan with high sides heat the remaining butter. When butter melts and begins frothing, add maida in increments while stirring continuously with a whisk. Cook for around a minute or two. While whisking, slowly pour the warm milk a little at a time to form a smooth mixture.
  • Continue whisking for around 6 to 8 minutes till the mixture begins to bubble and has no lumps.
  • Remove pan from the heat once mixture becomes thick. It should coat the back of your spoon.
  • Strain it through a thick sieve to obtain a thick and smooth white sauce.
  • Gently add the sauteed vegetables to the greased baking dish in increments alternating with evenly poured white sauce.
  • Spread the mozzarella cheese evenly on top and bake till the cheese layer turns golden brown. It usually takes 20 to 25 minutes to bake through.

    Freshly baked vegetables in white sauce

    Freshly baked vegetables in white sauce

  • Serve hot and garnish with freshly cracked black pepper. It is optional and can be avoided when serving kids.

For more recipes from my kitchen, visit my food corner.

What if tomorrow never comes?

“Every second is a chance to turn your life around”

Death is an eternal truth, that all of us dread, are well aware of, but seldom take seriously. Had we taken it seriously, we’d never postpone our dreams, passions and heart-felt wishes for an unseen tomorrow that may never come. Sad but true, we all are culprits of this cardinal sin.

A few years back when I stood face to face with death having suffered a massive cardiac arrest, I had secretly pledged to live each day of my life as if it was last. Though I can proudly say I have managed to stand by my pledge and ticked off a large number of items from my bucket list, there still are three major ones lying pending.

“There’s still lot to be done, let’s not lose sight.”

1. Write a cook book: As a child I always wanted to write a book. This dream slowly took a back seat when my love for cooking took over. The close contention of my love for writing and cooking recently gifted me a new dream of adding the best of both worlds in a cookbook. I am not looking for compiling any fancy recipes, but the ones whose simplicity steals hearts, whose heartwarming taste spins fond memories. Food and stories that stay etched in hearts and not be left in the leaves of a book.

2. Explore and capture the unseen: I want to travel with my family around the world. Exploring the unseen, untouched beauty of the meadows, beaches and mountain peaks, far from the hustle bustle of life. I don’t wish to visit the tourist hot-spots, but the distant, scenic locations where in the beautiful lap of nature, peace prevails. The terrains, gorges, the wildlife, the distant corners of the world where I could capture the untouched serenity of life in my lens. I want to tell a million stories through my photography, but not alone. With my family.

3. Conquer my fear of heights: I want to scale heights like I never have. Beat the fear to rise so high from where I can look at life with a renewed perspective. Climb to a height from where the world in its full glory lies before my eyes and in my heart I can be proud of having defeated the fear that has kept the adventurer in me grounded for so long. I want to feel the rare air make my lungs panic, my heart race like never before and my mind feel the swell of having conquered yet another fear.

I am a person with limited aspirations. I wish to achieve them all today because life isn’t always so gracious to gift us a second chance if we let this one slip by.

The song on my mind: Kal Ho Na Ho (Title track)

This post is a part of the #SecondChance activity at BlogAdda in association with MaxLife Insurance

The future of classifieds – Quikr NXT

Few months back when I was introduced to Quikr, I could not help falling in love with its awesomeness. Since then, before shopping, I always check for deals on Quikr. Though Quikr has made shopping fit in my budget like never before, like all things in life, there’s a flip side to it.

When I’d post an advertisement on Quikr, in no time my phone and inbox were flooded with calls and emails in response. Undoubtedly it made me jubilant but it did get cumbersome at times. Imagine, having to answer multiple phone calls about the product I have advertised, while I am at work or have an important appointment or worst still, while putting my baby to sleep.

Not answering the calls would come across as outright rude and would pass on a negative impression on prospective buyers. This difficulty overwhelmed me when I was a buyer and my phone calls were repeatedly ignored by a handful of sellers. While the advertised deals were irresistible, my inability to contact the seller quickly left me frustrated having missed on some amazing deals.

This issue has been resolved by Quikr and how. That’s when Quikr NXT comes into picture.

Quikr NXT is a step towards smart, secure and simple transactions with the convenience of chatting.

Excited enough?

Hold on, let me share with you it’s mind-blowing features that are sure to make you jump off your seat.

The Quikr NXT where we can chat with prospective sellers & buyers.

The Quikr NXT where we can chat with prospective sellers & buyers.

1. Phone Number Privacy – Quikr NXT assures us complete number privacy. It just takes a simple setting to ensure that I interact with prospective sellers or buyers through chat yet never reveals my phone number. It is a very considerate step to ensure our safety. I wish to applaud Quikr for addition of this commendable feature because it ensures to make our shopping experience a safe and pleasant one.

2. Chat at convenience - With Quikr NXT we now have the freedom to chat with multiple prospects without the hassle of phone calls. Not only has it boosted the convenience, it sure has bagged me a lot of peace of mind. On one hand my phone stays free, letting me carry on with life normally. Secondly, I never miss out on any prospect buyers or deals that I want to bag. A total win-win.

Keeping track of all our past chats can be quite cumbersome and tedious for someone as forgetful as me. With Quikr NXT all my previous chats are at my fingertips and I don’t need to remember a thing. I love the way Quikr has been working at making shopping easier and simpler with such amazing fixes.

3. Photo Sharing – With Quikr NXT, I can now share the minutest details of my products, through instant photo sharing. It’s a great feature to let all prospective buyers and sellers be convinced having found all answers to their queries with photographs in detail and as many they like.

The best part is Quikr chat is accessible across Quikr’s mobile app, mobile site and even its desktop site. It is surely going to change the way India uses classifieds in a safe, convenient and smart way.