Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Rice, Water ....and Facepalm !!

 To put it simply, I'm in an illicit relationship with food: It is simply based on lust ! I devour good food, but I hate cooking. I despise going to the kitchen, and I'm oblivious about how to make even the simplest of dishes.
      It's therefore deducible that I have ended up with major face palm moments , whenever I have been forced to give up my indignation at cooking , and prepare something for myself . Speaking from prior experience, I can state that being armed with zero-expertise , you can land in major food fixes , at the most ridiculous of situations. 
      So , with a thoroughly crimson face as I get reminded of this incident, I take you back to December 2002 , when I was in an adventure camp in the rocky hills of Purulia in western fringes of Bengal . I was part of a group of 8 advanced campers, who, under supervision of two instructors, had to spend a couple of days away from the campsite-proper . We had to build our own makeshift shelters , learn to gather  firewood and cook our own food , after trekking up a rocky hill trail . 
       On reaching a suitable spot after 4 hours of toil, I was terribly hungry , but our ration consisted of rice grains , uncooked eggs and a few pieces of potatoes. With hunger gnawing at my intestines, I gathered dry leaves & chopped dry branches and twigs with a vengeance , to assimilate firewood quickly. After a lot of effort sitting hunched down in front of two stones with the fuel material accumulated between them, and guarding the wind blowing across, I could finally light a fire . Taking a saucepan out of my rucksack and putting the rice and some potatoes in it , I placed it on my self-made stove and sat down with another wood piece , occasionally stoking the fire . Looking around , I found some of my fellow campers were already cooking , while a few others were still huffing & puffing over the dry branches, struggling to light up the firewood. The instructors were moving around, checking the progress , and occasionally lending a helping hand.
         After about 15 minutes, I found no discernible change in my saucepan, but I told myself that I had to be patient . One of the instructors came to check on me , asking me, " How's it going, Titas? Ah.....Nice fire you've done here !" I looked up to say "thanks",  but to my surprise, I found him staring at my saucepan with a queer look on his face 
   " What's this you're preparing, may I know ? " , he enquired.
   " Cooking some rice ,sir ", I replied coyly . 
   " Then where's the ........" , he peered more closely into my saucepan ," where's the water ??" 
      It was my turn to get puzzled. " What water sir ? " , I enquired .
      " Titas , you're cooking rice . Where is the water you have added ?" , the instructor was still incredulous. 
       " Do I need to ADD water to this rice to get it cooked ?" , I was appalled !  
      The instructor simply slumped down on the grass beside me. By this time people around had also taken notice , and gathered around my oven. A few were giggling . I still could not make head or tail of what was wrong. I had to add water to cook rice ?? I didn't have the slightest inkling what they were talking about . 
         The other instructor spoke up, " Titas , haven't you ever seen rice being cooked at home ? It boils , and you have to decant the extra water once it's done .......don't say you haven't seen it ever !" 
        I had indeed seen it , but I spoke what my mind knew , " Yes sir , but I thought , that the water came out of the rice grains when it was being cooked! " 
          There was a roar of laughter at this , and even the two instructors were reduced to tears of laughter . I was embarrassed beyond my wits . My ears burned . Here was I, an expert rock climber of the team , who possessed all trekking skills , but even the slowest and worst climber was now having a hearty laugh . The joke was on me! My loathing of kitchen practices had played a cruel game on my prestige ! 
        I remember one of the instructors sitting down with me to help me fix up a dish of sorts. Even then , the rice and eggs were undercooked, but I was too ashamed to complain ! I finished every last bit of it without a word! 
        It is almost thirteen years now that I had got into this  food fix ,  but my epic silliness coupled with lack of cooking concept , ensured that the scars of the public shaming hasn't quite healed yet!  

Friday, 21 August 2015

Possibilities with 4G

    Not a very long time ago, I had to fight with my phone when it hung while trying to post a Facebook status . In dire situations, where the page hung while the status was being uploaded , I tried various self made tricks on it , like holding it out in awkward angles ( as if the net connectivity depended on it) , talking lovingly to it, coercing it to allow me to simply post the status and then get disconnected! The few times I got through , I patted myself on the back that my cajoling had indeed worked, but majority of the times, it simply fell flat on its face and I had to rethink the entire status update and write it down, all the while cursing under my breath!  So the relationship between my internet connectivity and me was one based on compromises . On days, I even wondered whether the 2G connection that I believed I was being given was a bluff ........as the network seemed more close to 1/2G ( if ever there was one) !    
            Fast forward a few years , and we've already rolled on to the Lightning fast 4G ! Airtel has brought across this treat for all of us netizens who are perpetually harassed by our internet speeds on the go! Since I spend a huge amount of the day on my phone , brushing up new medical notes, or reading the newspapers , I think the agonising days of waiting for a webpage to load is finally over . I can now seamlessly read a news headline and its main report without having to stare for an eternity at the headline only , while the body of the news takes its own sweet time to load . Moreover , I can finally dump that dreaded word called 'buffering' into the recycle bin , as watching videos will now become a smooth experience . A silly circle rotates forever whenever we need to see a video on YouTube , and by the time the first part of the video runs, were already out of patience. There's nothing more frustrating than getting an HD video to start playing in all its glory , and then quickly move into 144p quality! Thankfully , all these will be history now, and we would talk about these internet hardships to the future generations. Downloading large videos will now be a breeze . And one of the endless possibilities of a fast internet is that the attachments in an email would load instantly , removing the grievances that we might have on a busy day when the mail fails to download the attached files! 
                  Thus , Airtel 4G ushers in a new era of super fast internet connectivity on our phones. We get to realise that it's a pioneering deal. 296 cities is a pretty vast number of cities to start with, but the citizens of these 296 places would savour every bit of this new experience. Hope , whole of India is 4G connected soon! 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Within My Sky Room

My room is the only place in the whole world that I can claim to belong solely to me ........inside its four walls is my kingdom , where I'm the supreme sovereign ! Every monarch aspires to portray his land in glorious lights, and so , it's natural for me to have aspirations to make my room akin to a dream land ! 'Heterogeneity' - that's how I would like to describe the state my mind is in, most of the time. And my room being the outwardly extension of the inner mind , would certainly bear the signs that would reflect heterogeneity in its appearance .

                 I'm a doctor by profession , and so, medicine would always be my soulmate. However ,I'm equally adept at handling the scalpel , and wielding telescopes and star charts , because my muse has always been the SKY - the vast expanse of nothingness that spreads like a giant umbrella above us ! It has never failed to intrigue me. As a child, I would sit fascinated under the night sky, staring at the stars, thinking how they were winking at me from high up. The constellations caught my imagination , and the planets moving across the zodiac belt charmed me. On visits to the countryside, I would lie under the open sky, to look up in awe at the illuminated streak across the sky,and wondered if somebody had actually drawn the Milky Way with a lazy stroke of the paint brush across a navy blue canvas. I slept under the sky , comfortably, and felt, the canopy of stars cared for me. The vastness of the sky caught my imagination. The vivid blue sky on a bright and sunny morning mesmerised my eyes. The ever changing colour palettes at dawn and dusk made me fall in love with the sky daily. 

                   It has been my childhood wish to dress up my own corner in my house in shades of the sky. Nothing can simulate the greatness that lies above us, but I have had dreams that my room would be themed on the sky . There would be a crescent of a moon , in some corner ,while the magnificent sprinkling of stars - the Milky Way can make its presence felt. A comet might adorn a part of the wall while a couple of shooting stars , frozen in time , would make the ceiling decor beautiful. 

                  The walls can have a myriad of sky blue shades , to act as the perfect foil to the night sky , that might be the ceiling . A false ceiling , concealing a pleasant blue light would make the appearance really stunning , when the light would reflect off the stars , comet or meteor designed and placed strategically . The room would fulfil my cravings for the beautiful sky, much of which is lost in today's city life due to incessant pollution . In my themed room, when I go to sleep every night, my mind will be at ease , feeling that ,the stars still look down upon me lovingly , just like they did , when I slept out on the roof in the countryside , in my childhood! 

                  I've been ever thankful , to be a part of this humongous universe , and my mind never loses trail of the fact , that we are nothing , compared to this vast space . Sitting in my room after a hard day at work would enable me to wash off any bitterness that I might have , as I would be able to attain salvation under the de-facto sky, in whom , I can confide my feelings. 

                 A place that would know my every secret deserves to be draped in the colours that soothe my mind . I believe, my sky themed room would become the hub, where I thrive peacefully for years to come! 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

WASH project : Coca-Cola seeks a safe tomorrow!

                  Working in public health for the past few years in and around Kolkata has given me an insight into the problem of acute water shortage in the urban slums, as well as lack of basic sanitation facilities. Thousands of families live in these slums, with dubious water sources quenching their thirst. In many cases, segregating water for washing clothes, utensils, and drinking is a luxury, so the whole family simply resorts to a single reservoir of stored water for every activity. Add to this the fact that many of them lack the knowledge that they need to wash hands with soap and water regularly. So, it isn’t surprising that , when an outbreak of enteric diseases like Typhoid and cholera occurs, they spread rapidly throughout these slums, because practising proper hygiene is not a norm here . Carrying out surveillance in many suburbs in the fringes of the city have also enabled me to realise that the text-book references of the minimum distance required between a toilet drain and a drinking water source is farcical. People are worried about getting a tiny dwelling place to squeeze into, so unless a major health hazard happens, nobody in these crowded suburbs would care to look  for violations of the norms for safe drinking water.


   It is a matter of huge significance that under these circumstances, TERI University and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in association with Coca-Cola and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) today launchedthe ‘Strengthening Water and Sanitation in Urban Settings”  initiative inKolkata. The  WASH programme (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) aim to reach 50,000 beneficiaries in low income settlements and over 300 professionals through WASH governance studies. It will also reach out to 2,500 students through 20 municipal schools across India.

          This is a first-of-its-kind venture that identifies a basic problem plaguing the urban low-income group settlers, and it is commendable how the global soft drink giant Coca-Cola looks to alleviate some of it. Once the project is implemented, it will go a long way to empower the workforce present in the slums and help their development.


Sunday, 9 August 2015

Decoding Taazgi Ka Dhamaka : My Max Fresh Move

It's not everyday that I get in front of the camera and shoot myself, doing utterly hilarious dance steps! I have no qualms about admitting that I possess the stiffest pair of left feet that you might come across. So, the very fact that I dared myself to shoot this video, comes across as a vindication of Allu Arvind's call to show our moves to him!  

       Make no mistake, the "Taazgi ka Dhamaka" track for Colgate Max Fresh toothpaste is infectious. It invites you to come out of your shell and savour life, dancing away without a care in life. Anushka Manchanda pours every bit of her sensuous voice to enliven the peppy track. In the video, the effervescent Allu Arvind hops and skips around, waltzing at will through a wedding ceremony, even hijacking the bride for a brief leg-shaking.  Whilst the track played on, my feet swayed on its own, tapping the ground along with the beats. The tempo is high and your spirit starts gyrating to the tune that veers from Bollywood to hip-hop and back! As my feet went on declaring its will to perform its customary "drunken" steps, I gave up to its demands. 

     Most of the time when I indeed do these nonsensical moves, there's nobody to judge, as its always with friends having fun together.  The arms fling around aimlessly, and the pelvic thrusts come out easily.  That's precisely what I managed to replicate here. Trying to emulate Allu Sir is out of question.......however, there's no shame in giving it an honest try! But I should admit, encouraged by Allu and Anushka,  I indeed had one of the most exhilarating experiences of recent times.  "Taazgi ka Dhamaka" gave me the vent to dance away the recent predicaments I'm facing in my preparatory phase for some difficult exams!  So, cheers to Colgate Max Fresh , Allu and Anushka for helping me forget my worries for the time being and helping me enjoy a lot!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Raising a Toast to My Oldest Buddies

 I grew up as a 1990s kid, part of a generation that didn't have smartphones or tablets to start off their lives ---- even those grand old mobile phones with large keys & an ungainly antennae, were a few years away . But, my parents were eons ahead of their times, as they were my buddies, when the concept of 'buddy parenting' perhaps wasn't much in vogue. They didn't force me .......they enticed me into things that they wanted me to do ! That doesn't mean they granted each and every demand of mine. Dad and Mom devised novel plans to help me learn , not by strict imposition of rules , but by inculcating my lessons within things that I loved to do! And in the process, they themselves got an insight into the world ,through my perspective! 
                   I remember having an aversion towards vegetables , and Mom would have a tough time persuading me to eat a bowl of green veggies. But , she took the help of one Mr Popeye, the sailor, who derived inhuman strength after a mouthful of spinach ! Mom would sit with me for watching the cartoon show, and would always emphasise how Popeye managed to defeat the baddies by having spinach . I took to eating the despicable spinach dishes more out of curiosity than love , but even though I never developed rippling biceps even after eating lots of it, the habit stuck and Mom was successful! 
                      My first memory game experience came courtesy a Kellogg's cornflake pack , as nearly 20 years back , an Aladdin puzzle came free with the packs . Dad and mom would often sit with me , and help me in solving the game . It was quite addictive , and I had trouble solving , but Dad and mom too stuck to the task . I racked my brains hard in an effort to solve it, and I was successful after lots of effort, in the process attaining the zeal to never give up ! 
                     My school had computer classes from a very early age , and I must say that at the beginning , I wasn't too fond of the machines! But my parents told me that since they were 'technologically challenged' , they would like their 'smart' son to become their computer tutor and make them 'modern' ! I became more interested in learning the computer as I knew I had the job of teaching my parents . They took keen interest in learning the basics of Word, Excel , PowerPoint and became adept at handling PCs too ! 
                     I was very fond of cricket , so dad used my own ideas to make me sit for Mathematics! I could rattle off players' runs and averages , as I had learnt them by heart from the statistics shown on TV. Dad quoted those figures to compose sums and I took special care to solve them correctly . As Sachin Tendulkar piled on runs and Anil Kumble took loads of wickets , I could recite their figures in a series easily. Those figures became building blocks for Dad's sums and I must say , I learnt solving sums on averages and percentages from these great players' statistics only !! 
                 Dad also had this trait of asking me out for mathematical duels. He would challenge me to solve a set of sums correctly and faster than him ! As we both worked on the sums, I tried my level best to beat him . Although Dad finished earlier than me most of the time, on the days I beat him , I was elated. I now realise his 'defeats' must have been play-acting to retain my interest,lest I give up due to a train of losses , ( he possibly couldn't have lost out to me on skills). It did excite me a lot and encouraged me to practice harder. 
                 Even Mom had a similar trick up her sleeve. She would ask me to memorise a particular poem in fifteen minutes time and start the stopwatch, whilst she said she would finish off a work in the kitchen in that time. As the timer ran down , I read on vociferously, so that I could finish off before mom returned from the kitchen! 
                Mom taught me the art of recycling old items, when I tried to replicate simple science experiments at home . As I explained to her the principles behind pin-hole cameras and periscopes , she gave me the ideas as to how I could always use old shoe-boxes and discarded mirrors to construct the things ! 
                  But the biggest of influences that me and dad exerted on each other was in the field of Astronomy and Sky watching . It was one of the nights of a power cut in sultry Kolkata , some two decades back , when I accompanied Dad to the terrace for some fresh air. In the pitch darkness all around, the stars shone like jewels encrusted in the night sky . As Dad pointed his fingers to the sky and showed me the imaginary figure of the great hunter Orion , the mind of a five year old boy was enthralled. It kick-started my biggest pastime ---- as I got hooked on to astronomy big time. I would read kids' science magazines , getting astonished at the magnanimity of the universe and would excitedly tell Dad what I learnt . Even though Dad himself did not have too much idea about the cosmic world apart from the names of a few stars, he listened to me intently. He gradually developed an interest and procured a telescope . A few years later , he would join me for a year-long evening course on astronomy at our city's Planetarium ! Every Tuesday , my doctor Dad would hop in from hospital and sit for the hour long class. As I took notes, I could see him dozing off on occasions , but he vehemently denied the charges. Even though I became a doctor , my love for Astronomy never wavered. Later on , we would both join the Sky Watchers' Association in Kolkata . Irony lies in the fact that even though I myself am not able to undertake all the sky watching tours nowadays , Dad never misses out on these ,and comes back enriched with new knowledge, which he shares with me ! Talk about buddy parenting !! What started off as a carefree pointing out of celestial objects , so many years back , continues to fuel our common passion : it opened a treasure trove that remains an integral part of our son-dad chemistry ! 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Balanced Diet - with a Honey Twist

       From a very early age,Mom had instilled in me a belief that I had to eat a ' balanced diet'. As a kid,  I knew what diet meant, but could never quite understand how that can be balanced. To me, balance meant something that helped keep things in order,  without falling off!  In school sports, there was this spoon race, where everyone had to keep a marble on their spoons and I knew the ones who won the race had good balance.One could walk in a narrow line if he had good balance. So, I never could connect  'balance' and food. But mom tried to clear the confusion in my yet uncomplicated brain, by making me realise that a balanced diet indeed helped something from falling off - our good health! As we progressed in school, textbooks taught us the proportions of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that are required to make a balanced diet, but in my mind, the explanation given by mom stuck!!
          We grew up in a housing complex,  which had ample space for kids to play, and so, unlike the kids of today, who spend most of their spare time in front of the TV,  we played outdoor sports a lot. Every evening,  my garments were covered in dust and mud,  and my knees and elbows were never free of abrasions.  In spite of being engulfed in dirt,  thankfully, we never suffered from diseases too frequently and this was put down to the generous helpings of nutritious food at home. Mom never encouraged me to eat a lot of food,  she always told me to eat just enough, so that I never fall short of energy.  So,  while fried food and rolls were almost alien items at our household,  grams,  honey,  ground nut,  green vegetables, and fish featured daily in the diet. We learnt to replenish our electrolyte stores from a very early age, as we made our own lemon-salt-water concoction after coming up from the playground!! We had fun calculating our own BMI, and felt happy that it always stayed within the normal limits. There never was the advantage of a customised Honey Diet programme like now ,where you just key in the parameters and get the BMI as well a diet chart , ......we learnt things from Mom and textbooks only!
          But there was another side to the spectrum as well.  As studies increased disproportionately to our age,  and playing time got reduced,  some of my friends got plump day by day.  Before the exams, they would vouch that once the exams ended, they would get back in shape,  but it was immensely difficult. The fast food frenzy before attending tuitions made it all the more difficult.  Crash dieting was a concept I came to learn much later, from girls in school , who tried to attain size zero imitating movie stars. I was incredulous on coming to know that they were nearly starving themselves.  The plan didn't quite work out,  for the loss of weight didn't come easy: it also took away the natural lustre of the skin. From that we got to know,that thriving simply on curds and one or two fruits is not enough to sustain a human being. True to its name , crash dieting indeed does one thing to a human body: it crash lands the whole metabolism processes going on within and confuses the various hormones & enzymes at work!  It will definitely put a strain on the fuel stores,  as our body needs all the different food particles to keep up its functions!
      Even now , when somebody stays of food for prolonged periods, I try to discourage them from doing so. I know that small but frequent meals are the order of the day to help the body digest and absorb food better, while staying hungry for hours, and then gorging on a large quantity of food does nothing to decrease the bulging tummy . On the contrary, the body will attempt to store more fuel , anticipating a subsequent period of starving, and in the process, increase the abdominal girth even more!!
      So, here's wishing that every young Indian like me embraces a balanced diet and abolishes crash dieting forever !!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

An Ode to Mother : My First Expert

       When a National Scholar ,who was a district topper among girls in Board exams, as well as a Masters in Philosophy , chooses her home over a career as a Professor in any leading college , you get to wonder what's the reason for such huge sacrifice . I'll take this opportunity to shed some light on my mother , Mrs Indrani Kar  , my first expert , and bring her to the spotlight from the usual low profile she enjoys being in.
     I've never stopped giving her troubles from the time i've been born, getting hospitalised twice before the age of two. She was there all through , by my side, cramped up in a baby cot, to look after my wellbeing.
          Despite leaving service, Mom has never lost touch with education , making sure that me & my younger brother received the best possible academic training. From taking us to school , to managing our study hours, to checking our homeworks, and asking questions from our class lessons ,she was the ultimate tutor one could ever expect to have. Preparing breakfast, school tiffin , dinner - she was the one factor who made our family of four never worry about anything . It was only at times when she fell ill, that we could realise the mess that we were, without her.
        All other mothers of her age group in our locality used to come down every evening for their fun meetings, but my mother utilised her spare time to haul the two of us to our Music and Art classes . She herself searched for and dug up good story books, pushed us into reading them, and encouraged creative writing . She instilled in us the belief that even we could have our articles published in children's magazines , when we felt that it was difficult to see our writings in print ! The joy of getting my work featured somewhere never waned since my first article came out!!
         The fact that our father is a Doctor , made her job even more difficult , as she had to take care of all the shopping part too . Yet, we never found her grumbling one bit about the hardships that she undertook. On the contrary , my brother and me used to get angry at times about her constant vigil. But I now know, that it's only because of our mother that I'm a Doctor myself today, and my Brother is an Engineer . Besides this, we do excel in extracurricular activities too. I've got prizes in numerous Singing , Art & Quiz competitions, and everytime I get praised , I know that all these laurels are actually deserved by this lady, who had given up her own pleasures and luxuries just to make her children become better human beings.
            Multitasking was a feature of my mother, long before it was a feature of a Smartphone! And if anyone thought that all these policing of our activities made her unsocial, he’s wrong , because even now, she manages to stitch new dresses for newborns, writes poems , does painting on clothes (fabric painting) , and gifts them to family members on occasions. She’s the first person to catch up on an ailing relative in a hospital or enquire about the wellbeings of people all around us.
          Both my brother and me are working nowadays , so mom gets time for herself, which she spends doing social work with her friend who runs an NGO . Often, she stays out whole nights to provide blankets to footpath dwellers of our city in winter, or clothes to destitutes & street children in festive season.
     I sometimes do tease her about being the "Busiest Socialite" in the city, because i don't ever find her sitting idle. It is true that she has never shied away from social responsibilities and for that, she is loved by all. In any crisis situation , my mother is the go-to person for advice, for me ,as well as our neighbours and family members alike....and everyone values her judgement and opinions. She has got a power of handling deals and negotiations. It's this innate ability to stay cool and tackle awkward situations that amaze me at times, and I try to imbibe these qualities.
       Mom has taught me : success has no shortcuts , never to compromise with self respect and to be honest at all points of my life…. I try to follow these virtues which she possesses that make her the person I feel secure with!

With Mom....on the day of my Convocation at my Medical College

Written as part of the My First Expert  contest , by Godrej Expert Rich Creme hair color , in association with Indiblogger. You can find out more about their range of hair colours here.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Breakfast At Guptaji's

                    Who knew good old cornflakes could come in over a hundred different delicacies , and not simply the milk-sugar-cornflake concoction that had been a staple food for me for years ? Indeed , when mom felt the need to prepare a lightning fast breakfast for me, she always fell back on her Man Friday: Kellogg's cornflakes. Even though Mom brought in innovations in them a few times,which tasted quite nice, there never was a scope to imagine that a hundred different dishes could be made from that single item: Cornflakes! Thankfully, I came to know about Guptaji's  and his family's incredible variety of breakfasts that they have come up with . Within the wide world of Facebook and YouTube , his family has now become the emblem of innovation , fixing up gorgeous looking dishes with Kellogg's cornflakes being the main theme ! It doesn't come as a surprise , that I'm now looking forward to visiting them soon , since my eyes have already taken in enough goodies , and my taste buds are inching to savour the delicacies that Guptaji's  wife can offer me! 
             Guptaji's  family  are not only terrific in the kitchen , they do have great skills with words too , as the names " Nakhre walk Nashta" , " First Crush wala Nashta" , "Jagah banana wala Nashta" , " Movie wala Nashta " suggest !! One look at the ingredients and the procedures to make the dish , and you know that this is not something out of the toughest cookbooks. I personally feel that I'm an abysmal cook, with no knowledge of how to mix food items and make a palatable dish for myself . But Guptaji's wife has made me confident that I too can learn these dishes, owing to their simplicity . Once I visit Guptaji's house for breakfast , I'd not only sit and wait for the beautiful dishes to make their way out to me from her kitchen . I would request Guptaji for permission to visit his kitchen , and pick up the tricks of the trade myself . 
                 I'm eagerly looking forward to the " Homework wala Nashta" as I've recently promised myself to start eating cabbage , but was still not sure how I would be able to do it without shutting my eyes and gulping the green veggie down. Now that Guptaji's family has put up the wonderful Photo of the Homework wala Nashta on Facebook , I want to taste it directly from the plate of the Master-chef Mrs Guptaji ! 
       Another item that I want to taste is the " Best Family wala Nashta" , which is loaded with apples. Since it is one of the easiest to make, I'm planning to check it out at Guptaji's home , and then replicate it at my place , where I would volunteer to prepare my family's breakfast for the first time , and give my parents a surprise! 
          Thus , much depends on my visit to Guptaji's place for breakfast , and I'm looking to make it soon enough  . Since many other people have already asked Guptaji for a treat at his place keeping Guptaji's wife busy , I doubt when I shall be able to make it ! 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Getting Together : A Day of Re-Living the Past

                Growing up in a housing complex with a few other guys of my age in Kolkata, I was fortunate enough never to feel lonely at home , like some of my other friends did when the school was closed for vacations . Staying in buildings adjacent to each other , running away from the study table to the playground was a matter of minutes for us, as one of us would take the onus to get down on the ground before the others , and call out our names at the top of their vocal power !! Our ears were fine tuned to pick up these calls from the ground .Even from the farthest corners of home , we would detect the voices from downstairs , and rush to the balcony to reciprocate ! Mom would find it difficult to contain me once others assembled on the ground , and out I went , to indulge in football, cricket , or volleyball. For most of my school and college life , this was a routine , even more steadfast than my study schedule . 
        Joining work simply destroyed this playful chapter in my life, as all my friends had to migrate away from home to earn their livelihood , while I got posted in a hospital in Kolkata only. A few of them left the housing complex and shifted to their new homes in another part of the city. Often , I would feel lonely, when I had a day off, and I would stand at the balcony, staring at the playground below with a heavy heart . Occasionally , we would get together on a conference call, connecting Bengaluru, Chennai , and Kolkata , to reminisce about the good old days. 
          One winter , it happened that all five of us managed a chance to be in Kolkata and we decided that we had to spend a day together. Nothing was planned as to what we would do, but an early morning meeting in the housing inspired all of us to bring out the bats and balls to usher in our version of 'Oldies' Cricket ' ! People in my housing had long forgotten our tradition of ruining their mornings with our shrieks on the playground , and the occasional crashing sound of the ball rebounding off their windows. As they looked out of their windows, to assess what the commotion was all about, we waved at them , greeting them heartily ! We played till our overweight bodies gave in , and then set out by car for a traditional Kolkata breakfast on the streets! Driving around the city , having random food items from roadside eateries, it was unbelievable fun , as we had let go of all our customary etiquettes from the workplace , and simply indulged in heartwarming camaraderie . 
     The day was spent together at my place , watching photos and videos of our past bravado and nuisances . The recordings of our musical performances at our housing's cultural programme brought the memories rushing back, and we all remembered the mistakes that we had made in our stage performances , years ago! We were  members of our housing band, and music struck a special chord in us. So , an afternoon of singing away and playing the guitar , even without practice for many days , didn't feel like we were coming together after a long layoff .  The day ended with us enjoying a sumptuous dinner fixed by mom , amidst promises of another such getting together real soon , when all of us would have their schedules adjusted to meet up in Kolkata . 
       This day acts as the mood lifter during periods when I feel sullen or lethargic . The unabashed enjoyment that we had , reliving our past, brings a smile to the corner of my lips as I prepare to yet again delve into my daily schedule . For many years , what had been a mandatory association for me had transformed itself into a chance meeting now between professionals . Still , it had enough fuel to drive our souls at dreary hours , as we look forward to yet another getting together in a few months' time! 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Starting a New Life : At Hostel

Getting into medical college was in itself a big achievement at the end of my higher secondary examinations . Here was I , all set to embark on a new journey in my life , enroute to becoming a doctor , and I was elated . After the formalities regarding admission was over , and the initial euphoria regarding college was settled a bit , I had to arrange for shifting to hostel .
       Mom argued with me , that I couldn't even make a cup of tea by myself, so I would struggle to cope with hostel life , and would soon come back. At first , life at hostel didn't evoke any thoughts of difficulties , as I only felt how I would become more independent , and lead life on my own terms . Several other guys were also staying in the hostel , so I didn't think it would be a problem at all. 
        The comforts of staying at home struck me within a few hours of my shifting to hostel , after my parents had left , when I started to feel a little hungry , and felt like giving a loud call of , " Maa , I'm hungry . Make some tasty evening snack ! " just like when i was at home . But the futility of the thought instantly dawned on me , and smirking at my folly , I got up to check out the dozens of food packets stuffed in my bag by mom. A few friends came over to welcome me at my new abode , and the evening was spent happily chatting away . But the real rude shock came , when at night , I went down to have dinner . 
       As the standard dinner of roti and sabji was dumped on my plate , I stared at it aghast . No way was I going to swallow the weird looking vegetable pieces swirling around in the greenish broth . The rotis looked like they were the ugliest pieces I had ever laid my eyes on . I looked around , and people were munching away the food without any qualms , while watching the news on the canteen TV. One of my classmates remarked , " eat it ....you'd soon get used to it ! " However , after a few attempts to chew the horrible tasting items , I gave up and went up to my room . 
       The hardships of staying on my own made their presence felt over the whole of the next week . It was a race to get to the toilets every morning , and the basin was always booked while brushing . No one would urge me to drink lots of water every day like at home, but thirst urged me to fill up large water pots from the floor below us , and stock it up in my room . The morning classes meant I either had to skip breakfast , or had to stuff bread in my mouth while running towards college . I missed being cajoled by mom , to drink the large glass of milk , that had been my routine from a very early age. Here , I had to take the trouble of preparing my own glass in the morning , which was too much . The bed sheets were in shambles , and worn clothes piled up in the corner . The utensils in which I tried to make myself some light dishes screamed out for a proper wash.  I began to appreciate  the superlative facilities that I had grown up in , where I didn't have to worry about anything apart from studying . Here , it was a case of managing everyday chores , apart from the vast subjects of human Anatomy, physiology and biochemistry . 
           In the midst of all this , I started to feel the change that took place within me . I realised that whimpering and cursing would take me nowhere , and I had to learn to do things in my own way , as the other guys were doing . So , for the first time in my life , I started washing my clothes , sent some of them for laundry , and made my room habitable by arranging things . The alarm clock on my phone became my 'de-facto' mom for the hostel , as I had been woken up all my life by mom shaking me vigorously . Now , sleeping late meant no breakfast , or bunking first periods . So I had to forget about the snooze button , and wake up early . 
         I had never ever set my feet in the kitchen at home , but here , I bought a small kettle and learnt to make tea. Instant noodles and  soups were the other things that I learnt to prepare . Even the simplest of things like adding sugar or milk in appropriate proportions was a mystery to me , but I developed the skills . My hostel friends all chipped in , teaching me various other dishes , and in a few months time , I had learnt to cook rice and eggs ! My self sufficiency rubbed off on me even at home, where mom and dad got stunned when I fixed them an evening snack when I went home ! 
       Managing expenses was another difficult task which I had to deal with . I learnt to be a master of my own finances as otherwise , cash could be blown off in no time . Initially , there were hiccups as I bought fruits or other items twice over , while having no ration at other times , but things smoothened out soon. 
      The hostel years subsequently turned into some of the best years of my life as I learnt to grow up into a man . I did things which I should have done earlier , but never got a chance to , as I was always too preoccupied with my school , tuitions and exams . The friends at hostel became like family members , with whom I shared a deep bond . In course of time , we all graduated as doctors , and left our colleges . But starting a new life at hostel taught me vital things which otherwise I couldn't have learnt ! 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Dry Nappy: Happy Tales

     Have you ever felt absolutely disgusted on getting your hands on a wet towel after a bath , when all you wanted was a nice warm dry cloth to soak up the water from your skin? Have you tried to fidget with your sweat drenched shirt on a humid day, when it gets stuck to your body all day long and you are left tugging at the moist fabric from time to time, wanting to free yourself of the impediment caused by a wet shirt ?
     In all probability , you have faced these scenarios , and have cursed your luck . We have all been in this dilemma , when faced with wet fabric at the least wanted of situations. Now spare a thought for a toddler , who would be in the same situation as yours , with a wet nappy hugging his body , curtailing his elementary movements. I've seen my young brother get cranky with his wet nappies, and have his perfect mood ruined , when he couldn't communicate that he hated the contact from the moist nappy. Prior to that ,when was dry, he would be in his own sweet world, happily rubbing crayons over a white sheet of paper , creating his versions of modern art . At other times, he would intently admire his beauty on the mirror , staring at it frequently , to make out whether he looked any different from a few seconds back. He would also have his eyes set outside, and gape at the birds flying in and out of their nests in a neighbouring tree. He would often try to rebuke a few sparrows that flitted in and out of the windows , having lots of things to say to the little birds in a language coined by him , but all it managed to do was send the birds scurrying away outside as he half crawled half stumbled his way towards them !
               But the moment he had his customary wetting of the nappy , all his extracurricular activities took a backseat and he would get involved with the white cloth attached steadfastly to his waist. His attention would shift towards how to get rid of his mini suit and he would forget every thing else that kept him occupied. After some unsuccessful attempts to untie the nappy , he would surrender and inevitably follow mom , trying to gain her attention and point to his pesky wet nappy . There would be a queer expression on his face , and his mood verged from irritable to paranoid , till he was taken out of his wet nappy. The smile would return as soon as he was set free of his only garment, and without another worry , our young emperor in his birthday robe , would get back to his world , unconcerned about his unabashed nudity . A new nappy was soon put in place , but he was happy again.
          This change in mood reflects the effects that a wet nappy can have on the baby . It irritates him beyond our imagination , and not being able to communicate that he feels it troublesome adds to his discomfort , not to mention the chances of diaper rashes and fungal infections that are higher on prolonged contact with a wet nappy ! So next time your kid feels angry , do check out whether it's time to change his nappies, because you never know , a sticky wet nappy might just be ruining a perfect day for him! 

Written as part of the Dry Baby Happy Baby campaign by Pampers.  Check out more about their Baby Dry Pants here.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The 'Slower' Giant Leap

 In the late 90's and early 2000s, my housing complex had some extremely talented guys who played an attractive brand of cricket . All of them were high school or college students, and played the game only for fun , but the competition was intense and the skill levels on display were beyond belief ! I was an ardent fan of many of them , and spent hours , sitting at the sidelines, watching them play. We were the junior kids , who begged for our inclusion in their matches, but most of the time, we were not taken in the teams , or even if we got a chance, we were the last persons to come out to bat , and had the mandatory job of fielding the full quota of overs. Naturally, we had the tendency to grab the eyes of the seniors in the field , as that was the only place where we had the chance to show off our qualities, and we dived around on the rough grounds, in an effort to make ourselves more prominent; in the process , often ending up with abrasions. Once or twice, if someone got the chance to bowl, he would be over the moon with joy, but very often , the enthusiasm was short lived, as he would be taken apart in that one over , signalling yet another lengthy wait for another chance to bowl in a match ! 
          However, we , the juniors tried to improve ourselves, and lift our own games. Every evening , after returning from school , we would assemble on the ground and play hard , till the time when the sun had long set , and the housing lights had taken over . We would try to bowl fast , catch high balls , and throw down the stumps . But no matter how hard we tried , it seemed we were always worse off than the seniors , who were able to pull off more difficult things with consummate ease ! 
       I had my sights set on being a fast bowler for my housing team , and I made gradual progress . The day came when I made the transition to the seniors' matches along with a few other juniors friends . We were beginning to be assigned with more important roles than just fetching the ball from outside our complex ( when they were carted for massive sixes that flew out above the buildings onto the road ) . A year went by , with me getting a couple of overs at least, every match that took place on weekends . But my problem was not being able to deliver good balls consistently . There would be the occasional over where I would bowl a few decent balls,and take a wicket , but subsequently , spray the ball around , get hit, and effectively get taken off the attack . In my mind , I would replay my performance the whole of the subsequent week , grimacing at how my wicket taking deliveries were followed up with big sixes . I needed to improve . I needed to do better . I needed that one big performance that would see me getting respect from the seniors .
         Once every few months , our housing team played matches with teams from neighbouring clubs at a ground outside our complex.  It was one of days when a match had been arranged , that marked my first appearance in this outside fixture , as we were short on our regular bowlers . The captain had told me that I had to shoulder extra responsibility, as my team was looking forward to my quota of overs as the fast bowling option . The excitement within me knew no bounds , but at the same time , I was apprehensive as to what might happen if I messed up the plot . Batting first , our team put on quite a big total . At the changeover , the captain told me to loosen up as he would be asking me to bowl quite early . I was the youngest member of our team , and this was the huge opportunity that I had been looking for . I was brought on as a first change bowler , and I managed to keep my nerves , bowling a decent line , and even managing to uproot the middle stump of the opponent opener. 
          But my first overs were not really the problem . The errors crept in mostly in my later spells , when I lost focus and ended up bowling trash. So, I was very nervous by the time I was called upon to bowl again at the death . I felt I was starting to lose the plot in my mind. What if I bowled full tosses ? What if I bowled wayward short deliveries ? My team was looking at me to bowl us to victory , and my fellow death bowler was extremely good . What if I undid all his good work? I was unsure of myself. Did I have the temperament to succeed under pressure ? Did I have it in myself to keep my head cool ? 
        I ran in and bowled a good length ball that fetched one run . The wicket keeper and fielders shouted encouragement, and I felt a little better . The captain came up and said , "get out the Yorker!" I nodded , and ran in yet again but what happened next sucked the life out of me. The ball was sent soaring above square leg and out of the ground for a mammoth six . " Not the short ball you idiot ", the captain was fuming , but I hadn't tried the  short ball at all . In my effort to bowl as a fast as I could , I had bowled a rank bad ball , that just sat up to be thrashed. I ran in yet again , and this time , overcompensating for the previous ball , I had bowled a full toss, that disappeared over mid wicket . 
        In a jiffy, the equation had turned against us . My skipper was dumbfounded , and all of the fielders were stunned. My heart was beating so fast that I felt I would have to sit down to rest . My worst fears were coming true, and I was yet again self destructing . My senior bowling partner ran in and put an arm around me . " Calm down , you're trying too hard . Can you just keep the length right ? That'll do ! " he said . He gave me an extra couple of seconds to get myself together again , and now a plan had sprouted in my brain from nowhere . What if I bowl a slower ball? The rational side of my brain jumped up in protest," don't even think of it, you'll get hit again "! But my mind was working fervently . This was my only hope ......to bowl a slower ball expertly . I had practiced it many times, but it had never quite come off as expected in a match situation . The voice in my brain was saying ," show off your skill man .,......this is it! Do it now , if it doesn't come off , you won't have the regret of not trying ! " I was now determined . I gripped the ball and ran in , more nervous than I ever was . At the delivery stride, I rolled over the fingers , hoping I could at least ,land the off cutter correctly . As I released the ball, a sense of belief arose within me. 
             The batsman, who was expecting yet another fast ball , went for an almighty hoick , but this time, my delivery arrived far later than he had expected , and took the edge ! As the ball lobbed up for a simple catch at point , a spontaneous cry of "CATCH ITTTTTT" escaped my lips . The next moment, as the ball landed safely in the hands of the fielder , I was mobbed by my team mates . Everyone started exclaiming how I had managed to bowl an exceptional delivery under pressure. This was the moment I had been waiting for so long . A moment that filled me with hope , and made me believe that I too belonged to the big league with my seniors . I was now confident . I could now be counted upon to show my own sets of skills! I could deliver under pressure. The fact that the best opposition batsman had been foxed by me gave me immense self belief .  I was elated.
          The renewed vigour in my bowling spelt doom for our opponents. The very next ball to the new batsman was a searing Yorker that took leg stump out . Even though I didn't manage to bag the hattrick , I returned an over later to pick up two more wickets , to seal victory for my team . There was no dearth of adulation for me and suddenly , from being a minnow, I was the centre of attention . One defining moment of excellence had turned the tide in my favour , and scripted a new dawn within me. It was a decision to trust my instinct and back myself to do what I believed I could achieve , and it had helped me change my outlook . I was a proper player now, no longer a bits and pieces player needed to fill up a team . I was ready to take up the responsibility from my seniors ! I was rejuvenated ...........it was my moment of glory! 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

My Life :My wishes

 All of us , at some points of our lives, crave a situation , where we won't have to worry about the problems plaguing our social or family lives, or about the responsibilities we have to shoulder . From the topmost officials of giant MNCs to the peon at the government offices, nobody can claim to be leading lives by their own terms and conditions , as all of them need to look after the welfare of the ones dependant on them . So, even if somebody has a set of wishes to fulfil , more often than not, they get shrouded under a cascade of commitments , that need addressing . The wishes are shoved to the back of the mind , where they turn into figments of imagination , and rarely do they resurface ! 
     But if I really manage to get a life where I am Befikar Umar Bhar , I have a bucket load of wishes to fulfil . One life is too short to savour all of these , but if I am blessed with a life without constraints, I would definitely find out time to squeeze in all of them . 

1) Spend a Winter in an Igloo at Greenland:      right from the time Geography books taught me about the 6 months cycle of day and night , above the Arctic Cycle , I've been fascinated by the lifestyle of Eskimos . To stay in a house made of ice bricks is nothing short of magical , and I would dearly want to spend my winter in the igloo , savouring the Eskimo way of life. The Aurora borealis would be my charmer , every night , and I would gaze at the colourful patterns being drawn on the giant canvas of the sky . Away from the hot tropics, the sledge will be my transport , and I would become an expert in finding fish from below frozen lakes! 

2) Horticulture:      from my very childhood, I've had a few plants in pots in my balcony , where I grew a few flower plants , but never did I have the luxury of maintaining a full fledged garden . My penchant for sowing seeds got me to sow the seeds of all fruits that I ate , in the small amount of soil in those pots, but apart from a few gram or pea plants, I had little success. If I manage to get the time , and the scope, I would devote myself to have beautiful flowers and fruit laden trees adorning my garden . It would be a spectacle for anyone visiting the garden , and I would be the master at work , growing my own vegetables in my backyard ! 

3) Run a Primary School : I've been fortunate enough to be well educated , but I would certainly like to return some of my knowledge to my young country folks, who are not quite privileged to enjoy facilities as good as I got. So I envision a school , where kids with little resources would turn up , and study happily , so that they get basic education . I would be the patron , being there to teach them , and through their eyes, I would revisit my own childhood school days . 

4) Be a Space Traveller :    the very first ambition that I ever had , was to become an astronaut some day . Hearing the tales of Neil Armstrong's exploits gave me the belief that someday , I would be able to travel to the moon too. But somehow, that dream never materialised, and I became a doctor , but my love for space never dwindled. Given a chance, I would volunteer for a ride to space , on a spaceship , and live in zero-gravity with other astronomers in the International Space Station . I would want an opportunity to perform a space walk , and float around in the nothingness around, looking down at the beautiful blue earth ! 

5) attend Every Football World Cup : the ultimate carnival that a sports fan can hope to attend is the FIFA World Cup , and it has been my eternal wish visit one of these events . If I ever get a chance, I would love to travel to every World Cup to soak in the atmosphere ! i would be  sitting with passionate fans at the stadiums, with paint smeared on my face , chanting songs cheering the teams , making friends from all over the globe ! 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Relocating Quikr to Bangalore

                   Relocating to a new city always gives us the headache over what to expect when staying alone , far away from the comforts of home! With a new home, comes new duties, and new responsibilities. There's the added concern about having to save enough , so the need to manage resources well is of utmost importance . Many of my friends have shifted to Bangalore for their jobs, and it is not at all a surprise, considering the economic boom in the city . But what I've heard from them is , it is really costly for anyone to stay there , and a newcomer would initially find it very difficult to manage the expenses . This led me to think whether I myself would be able to handle the pressures of managing a new base at Bangalore well enough , if the need arises . But surfing through the pages of Quikr Bangalore made it really easy for me to decide what I would want in my new home in the city , in case I had to make the move there from my current posting in Kolkata .   
        The primary concern for any newbie at a new place is to look for an accommodation . For a person like me who would be staying alone , or with a friend if possible , a 1-BHK flat on rent is good enough , but I need to be sure that the location of my residence is in a proper place , which will not make it inconvenient for me in any way. So , here comes Quikr with the solution : verified numbers make it possible for me to shortlist prospective flats ,at places according to my choice . The rates available around Rs 7500 a month are reasonable enough for me . Sitting far away from home, I'm able to fix up a place to rest , without having to haggle through numerous websites offering real estate choices. I also find, there's the option of selecting Paying Guests too ! Wow ! If a rented flat is not quite convenient for me , a list of PG choices is always there on Quikr to come to my aid! 
            I'm awful with household chores , and washing clothes is a dreaded proposition for me . Thus, a washing machine is something that I would crave to have in my flat . But splurging on a new appliance right after relocating to a new place doesn't appear to be the best option for me . Thanks to Quikr, a host of washing machine choices , under Rs 6000 , is available to me , and I am able to assure myself that at least, I'd be able to wear fresh clothes to work ! 
           Next comes the problem of food storage , and once again I go through Quikr's huge range of refrigerators on sale. Thankfully, yet again , I have the liberty to choose from verified numbers , offering 190 litres refrigerators at around Rs 5000 ! At this price , that's a steal ! 
   The last item that I need is a transport option to make a quick getaway to the outskirts of the city on weekends, or to move around the city on my own to know the surroundings ! Going for a four wheeler would be too costly at the moment , so I opt for a motorbike , and once again I look through Quikr Bangalore's pages. Thankfully , there are bikes at around Rs 45,000  and I'm able to breathe easy ! This will be the best mode of transport for riding around the city!

 Thus , after a thorough raid through Quikr Bangalore , and selecting items of my choice,I'm happy........ I realise , that even in a city as costly as Bangalore, Quikr would help me not go broke with my investments  ! 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The other side of the Bengal football Derby

She stayed just two blocks away from me , but somehow , she was my sworn enemy . 
I didn't provoke her, I didn't cause her any harm......neither did I call her names. 
It was just that I was an East Bengal football club supporter , whilst her family were staunch backers of Mohun Bagan ! 
It was not in my DNA to taunt people just over their allegiance to a sporting club , but somehow , she never failed to insult me in our social gatherings over my fandom. 
There was always that veiled reference to the migration of my forefathers from the eastern side of the Bengal border , and a suggestion that we , as immigrants , had encroached upon their rightful territory . The mockery of me often let me red faced , but I didn't retaliate .
 I couldn't . Deep down , I liked her . But arch rivals never unite , they're meant to quarrel, don't they ?
Then the fateful Derby day on 9th December , 2012 , arrived , when on a winter Sunday afternoon, a missile from the stands injured Mohun Bagan's Rahim Nabi . Soon , the gallery was violent . In the ensuing missile rain, I found someone who got hit by a stone on the back of the head, clutched his head , and fell down on the concrete gallery . It was her elder brother . Another person tripped on him , and fell over his shoulder ! 
     I ran upto him , took out my handkerchief to press onto his wound, and gave him some water . Making sure he was alright, I escorted him out from the violence all around , and took him to a nearby hospital where he was stitched up. 
       Today, there's no more enmity between her and me . 
She no longer makes fun of me; she doesn't even taunt me for my migration history . 
She doesn't believe that being from the red-and-gold camp can actually make a worse human being , while the green-and-maroon supporters are all saints . 
We're in a relationship for sometime now. 

If East Bengal wins now, then I treat her , while she extends the courtesy when Mohan Bagan prevails!

This is a work of fiction , and resemblance to any living person is purely coincidental .