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!