Category Archives: 2 Minute Thoughts

Not just a pressure cooker

shining in silver hue

a rounded belly full of stories

holding secrets of ages aplenty

she sings to my lady

and she rushes to her service.(Not well cooked? oh, yeah, needs two more whistles, I guess!)

The versatile and supremely talented pressure cooker is indeed the star of the Indian kitchen. From ‘biriyani’ to the humble ‘dal’ to ‘kheer’ anything and everything in the kitchen has to be touched by the holy belly of the ‘PC’.

I was so impressed by the fried rice that my pressure cooker cooked the other day, that I sat down to relish it with salad and pickle even as it was piping hot.(I believe in self-help first!) But then I got to think with reverence of ‘her’ without whom we are helpless vassals in the kitchen,our most trusted commander, our lady-in-charge, the Pressure Cooker.

I was not surprised therefore,  when I came across quite a few short films on the same theme on youtube. A Kannada short film -Pressure Cooker by Vinayaka Kodsara is a grim reminder of how ambitions can kill families and relationships.

A Tamil short film of the same name is about the pressure a school student faces before his board exams and how his father sits down to explain and make him realize the importance of not giving in to the tension that builds up in day to day life.

I must mention another beautifully done film starring the erstwhile tele star ‘Pallavi Joshi’ of the ‘Mrignayanee’ fame. The story is about a middle aged housewife who is looking for change, some attention and a more meaningful life even if it is by changing the pressure cooker at home.

The Pressure cooker is a much abused metaphor in the day to day conversation in the Indian domestic context with a range as wide and meandering- starting from academics to spirituality to the grind of modern living- nothing captures that feeling of build up of pressure as does the ‘PC’.

So as long as the ‘PC’ rules my kitchen, my life is sorted. So should yours be! Just don’t forget to let go off the steam sometimes!

 

Of a smiling survivor

The young mother who always radiant and eager to learn, sparkling with humor and the heaviest dose of naughtiness stunned me into silence with her announcement. ‘I have breast cancer. I found it out myself and without waiting for my husband had a check up. When the doctor confirmed, I felt sad’.

She said it in the most calm composed manner as I struggled to take in the truth, her small lithe frame clad in a causal skirt and top,her curly black hair grazing her shoulder and her eyes bright as ever. It was just 2 weekends back when we were all talking nonsense and laughing our heads out at her jokes. I was so taken aback that I quietly stood up to leave still unable to digest what I just heard. Almost a week later I visit her, next week the chemo will start she said. I am just worried about how my son will take it.

At the chemo the doctor is  surprised by her chirpiness. An elderly couple weighed down by the same, look at her almost annoyed. ‘I can’t help being happy, chechi’, she said innocently. ‘I hate sad endings’!

As the Chemo progresses she steadily starts to lose hair. Together the husband and wife decide to buy her a smart wig. ‘It was important to sport the wig, my boy was touching my balding head with a sad look in his eyes. Why should I trouble the little one’?

She was almost unrecognizable when I saw her a few weeks later. ‘See this wig’, she laughed merrily. Her husband stood by smiling indulgently. The straight hair seemed to suit her better. She looked like a model on a ramp walk. A little weak may be but mostly happy. When you meet her it is not her disease that hits you, it is the overwhelming joy in living that she spreads.

You take home that lingering fragrance of joy and smile to yourself.  Some people are like that.

A year past the disease now, she has fully recovered and is bright and smiling even more ‘I am going back to the classes to learn to help my child live his life fully and the school has been kind, they are willing to absorb me as a teacher!’

Why would the school not take her, wonderful as she is? What a positive difference the girl will continue to make to the lives of others?

This year has been about resilience, about survival, about finding hope and dreams where there were none, of finding love for self, for living. My young friend is a brilliant example of the finest human spirit. Many cheers to her long life!

Heroes are real and they are all around us, look out for them! Stay heroic!

Not sorry in sari

I love wearing the sari. Half the time I spend on the internet is spent looking up varieties and shades and styles of this grand-new-old apparel. The other day, my greedy eyes caught the sight of these beautiful fluffy and light leheriya saris on www.indubindu.com. I can’t seem to get enough of feasting my eyes on those beauties.

My eyes lurk, linger and stare uninhibitedly almost luridly at those pieces of fabric which look tender,exotic and traditional all together.Saris make me go green with envy, weak at my knees and frail in my bones, just one look at of these vibrant colorful fabric dancing in the breeze, the tassles, the designs, I am hooked!

I treasure with pride the Kosa silk saris, I would buy from https://mrignayani.com/ , those quaint little outlets tucked in the streets of Indore. It helped that the schools I worked in Indore be it http://www.apsindore.com/ or the www.dalycollege.org/    always gave us the poor hard working teachers an occasion or two to flaunt our sari collection. It was never a disappointment of course, with teachers  digging out the best and the most unique of their beloved sari collection to don on a special day or two. I am always in awe of the ladies dressed to kill in their exquisite saris on every excuse of an occasion, at the school that you just can’t help standing by to admire.

As always I am a little too biased to the good times I spent in Indore, so the famed Maheswari sarees, vibrant in colors and light in texture is always a favorite with me.

https://mrignayani.com/product-category/maheshwari-sarees/

But how can I forget what my good friend, Mrs. Aditi Ghatak would bring for me, all the way from Kolkata, the simple yet elegant Bengal cotton saris. The fact that ‘roll press'(a process in which the cotton saris are starched and pressed neatly) in those times was quite cheap and  I always had my cotton saris crisp and smart, even to my own surprise, as good as new. I still have them, most of them intact yes, as good as new! Aditi did bring for me a few of the traditional ‘jamdani’  cotton saris which are still as rapturous as ever.

While as a South Indian am inclined to love Kancheepuram saris, I prefer to keep them for weddings back home in Kerala, when mom insists that I put on a few pieces of jewelry so that the general public does not come to the conclusion that I am all broke and desperate!

I love to watch my elegant mom,aunts, friends and nieces draped in Kanjeevaram saris more than I having to do it myself. Yet, I do have some beautiful Kanjeevaram saris which give my middle class wardrobe a rather elite touch.

More than the Kanjeevarams my heart calls out to the simple Kerala Kasavu saris with a golden border and those ‘chungdi’ saris so popular in Palakkad.

The Kota cotton saris,the beautiful bandhej and leheriyas from Rajasthan are light and breezy bringing in sunshine straight into your heart. My heart yearns for the authentic mysore silk saris, the pochampallis, the very expensive, understated and elegant silk saris from Orissa.

I can probably go on about my craze for saris but I must mention the beautiful teacher I admired a lot when I was in fifth standard at Vignana Vihara in Vijayawada who was a serious inspiration to wear saris. It’s also true that my first job at BITS TACT INFOTECH PVT LTD n Calicut that required me to wear saris every day to work while riding the Kinetic Honda, made me incredibly confident about my sari draping and sari carrying skills.

My favorite teacher of all times, Dakshayani mam with her incredible knowledge of Malayalam literature and her ever friendly and loving way of dealing with us, her students was always rather simple in her dress, the sari casually draped, her ‘lakshmi vala’ the bangle with different forms of goddess lakshmi being her only style statement and her watch sometimes not working, conveyed to my young impressionable mind the importance of modesty and simplicity in dressing.

Every time I go to Calicut, I open my mom’s almirah and stand there secretly admiring her collection of saris, thinking of ways to make it even more drool worthy and come back having spent on saris for her and and for me, of course. And amma’s saris are for me to pick and choose any day. The other day amma insisted that we both buy chikankari saris of different shades and we both thought that it was a great idea.

I never feel sorry for having donned a sari as I am more than happy to flaunt it. To all those sari loving ladies out there, much love!

Sariyistically yours

adhyapika 🙂

 

Guard your confidence yourself, don’t give away the keys to others

I was a vivacious little girl and was on stage a lot for events, activities and enjoyed every bit the attention I got. Then I joined a convent school where there were too many of us and suddenly I was this girl who was just ‘cute’, not smart, not studious, not the bubbly girl, active athlete I was before nor the dancer or the actor participating in a variety of school events. Was I trying to fit in and be popular and be liked? Was it because I was aware of the difficulties with which my parents sent me to the boarding school? Was it my own growing consciousness of my body as a teenager? I do not know.But some things changed so drastically that I withdrew into a shell and stayed there for a long time, until motherhood and teaching liberated me. So many golden years wasted in lack of self-esteem, confidence and so much more. This did have a very adverse impact on the way my life shaped up. I  know today where it all started and how it continued but that I leave for another day.

This extremely conscious and shy and unsure sort of person that I was did give importance to everything, everything ever said about me. There were not many good things or I thought so, and I did struggle a lot within myself.

When I look back, I wish to whisper into that little girl’s ears the secret I found many years later to putting people and what they say where they should belong and moving on. As a teacher and trainer, my constant effort is to remind the young of the power they hold within themselves, let no one dare dampen their innate enthusiasm and energy for great possibilities in life.

I was perhaps practicing it to some extent but when I read about the two circles- the circle of influence and the circle of concern in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it became so crystal clear to me and made my life so much more easier.

Well, it is simple, you see, all you have to do when you hear a not so great comment or opinion about you or what you do is think of the two circles -of influence and of concern-and decide where would this particular comment/opinion/situation go- if it comes under your circle of influence -meaning if it is something you can still work on and improve -take it positively and work on it- you will see the difference.

If on the other hand, it is something that falls under your circle of concern- like your aunt’s dislike for you- clearly there is nothing you can do about it- so leave it at that. Forget it, bury it and move on. You will see the difference.

After all you get to decide who matters in your life.  Never lose that power of discretion.

A slight against you, a smirk, a jeer, a taunt is all welcome, now that you know where to put it. Again ask yourself does this person, this event, this comment hold any relevance for 5 years from now? If it doesn’t, walk ahead, forget and move on.

What a waste of our life is it to fizzle it out in response to an idiot’s remark-the idiot could be your boss, your spouse, your neighbor, parent or any body who does not see worth in you.

Kishore Kumar sang in the film,Amar Prem, a Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore starrer-

” Kuch to log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna, chodo bekar ki batein mein, kahi beet na jaye rahna” meaning it is for the people to speak something or the other about you, it’s not worth wasting your life over it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVwEqLdYjeM

Remember when you have proven your worth to yourself, the world will sit up and notice and if it doesn’t it is they who lose, not you!

Go on then guard your confidence yourself, don’t give away the keys to others!

 

What you do does not ask who you are

The thought that the car I drive does not care if I am a woman, or if I am over 40 or if I am a Hindu/Muslim/Christian/Sikh struck me the other day and gave me enough courage to hit the road after a rather embarrassing episode the previous day.

The post you hold whether you are heading a classroom, school, a nation or a company again does not ask you who you are, except that you do justice to the role that has been allotted to you.

Where you come from, what language you speak, what food you eat , what you wear or who you sleep with does not have anything to do with the kind of friend you make, the brother or sister you become or the citizen that you are.

The best in art, dance and craft or literature or music or films can be produced by any one irrespective of where you come from, what your parents do, whether you belong to a nuclear family or a joint family or whether your father is working or has stopped caring for you.

I hear my students apologetically taking the name of the small town or village they belong to and say in a rather mild, dull voice, “I come from a very small village in such and such a state.”

And I always ask them where did Dr.Abdul Kalam come from? Where did MS Dhoni come from?

Did that make any difference to what they became?

If it didn’t, it should not make any difference to you too, nor to the infinite possibilities that you hold.

It does not matter whether you are dark, fair as a fairy or tall or short or fat or thin as long as long as you trust yourself and your abilities and put in the effort that you need to, to reach your goal.

What you do does not ask who you are.

What you did should instead raise questions about who you are. Let that be your game plan.

Let those who do not know you ask about you on the basis of the work you have done.

And don’t we have enough examples of how we have often wanted to know about a person on the basis of his/her work? Yes, we do.

Let’s just remember them and focus on what we can do and move mountains small or big!

 

Beauties in 40’s

Come, sit down, she said, her beautifully eloquent eyes kohled neatly. She looked short and young in her dress, with her hair open. I had called up this 40 something woman,a bubbling enthusiastic friend of mine, out of the blue, while passing by her home. She insisted that I drop by and I did.

As we talked I saw my friend who is ambitious and driven enough to do her bachelors and then masters in psychology in her late 30’s expressed her fears about her children’s future. She also attends swimming classes and works regularly on her vocabulary and public speaking while continuously trying to maintain the inner equilibrium with rigorous yoga and meditation.Will my children make it? The world around is difficult, highly competitive,are my kids too laid back to make the cut?

I couldn’t answer that, instead we focused on her new venture of story telling. As an animated and expressive person, she is indeed best suited for story telling. I am sure her sessions like her own self are lively and interesting.

What is it about these 40+ women,( including myself), that is making them restless, is it a sense of time lost, is it a fear of not making it, is it the desire for self-fulfillment, is it about self-worth or the need for validation?

One common cribbing we share is ‘hello, I was busy taking care of the child/children and lo! the time just flew by and I am 40 and useless now!’

As if to make good for the lost time, we, each one of us have our own bucket list. A friend of mine, though momentarily down and feeling low due to dengue, we call each other ‘dengis!’, an imaginary sisterhood of all women affected by dengue, is aspiring to go to Harvard.

A good lady friend of mine with her children graduating is aiming to do her doctoral studies.

Another friend of mine is inspired by her dream of the grand world tour and a trip to Seychelles where she will sashay in bikini, I am told!

Some body wants to just quit work and play with the doggie at home.

Yet another friend of mine is dreaming of a companion of her kind.

The ladies in 40’s now are the sandwiched generation, you see, they saw their moms toeing the papa’s line as if it was the supreme command, sacrificing self for the sake of the family. Then they see their younger siblings living all the care to the world, having more fun while growing up and their kids who give two pennies worth to their ‘so-called wisdom.’

I guess then it is this feeling of ‘wish I had known this, I would have done it differently’, I am talking of living! sort of thing that makes us, women in 40s a restless lot.

You will often find us, the women in forties, talking yearningly about missed opportunities due to self-inflicted wisdom or the lack of it, compounded by the ‘I told you so’ of the older generation.

So it goes, the vagaries of human, read, womanly fantasies, dreams or desires. But it is so true and so beautiful. With new awareness about ageism and sexism, it does not look difficult to achieve what you want even in your 40s.

I am reminded of how in an earlier time 40+ was the beginning of ‘vanvas’ and clearly it is not so now. Thank the universe for that!

Did some one say, 40 is the new 20. Perhaps it is! What say!

Old not grown up, not yet!

‘My father had told me not to do this’,  said the old woman in a rather harsh tone to her young daughter-in-law, ‘that I should never lift my grand children. So, sorry I can’t hold that child while you are cooking for us!’

The young girl looked at the old woman in rising disgust. Was this an excuse or is this being cooked up fresh? There is no way for her to know.

Every time the young girl sought help to hold something, to get something, to pay for something, the other woman made it categorically clear that she was not supposed to do it as her long dead father who was a former collector had clearly advised her not to do.

While the older woman had no restrictions what so ever on receiving any thing, she was very clear on what not to do for others, be it her own daughters-in-law or her sons or her grand children.

In fact, the old lady would never ever call up her children on her own. ‘It is their duty to call and inquire after me, why should I call them,spending my money?’

What added to the girl’s discomfort was that her so-called husband was also a chip of the old block. Could you drop me at the office?,she asked one day. No, I cannot, he said clear with no room for ambiguity. Could you get the medicine for the child?, no I cannot, you please go and get it.

This was how their married life started and it continued. But things it a rough patch when the gentleman decided to quit work and stay at home and when the mother and son expected the ‘bahu’ to run the house, earn the income, pay the fees, pay the rent, buy the monthly ration, deal with the irritating maid, fetch the vegetables and what not!

The sense of complete entitlement was such that the woman, the ‘bahu’ would run helter skelter trying to meet the ends, appease the lords at home and maintain the equilibrium of ‘I come from a happy family’ to the onlookers, the relatives, the parents and everybody else.

Not one used to such machinations, such manipulations, she took time to figure out what was happening to her, coz she was doing her ‘duties’ in good will, ‘all for the family’ and then it froze her heart when she realized that she was being used as the maid, the breadwinner and the comforter and the care-taker all rolled into one!

Imagine the shock that she was in!

This hurt will perhaps never heal, she told herself, but life is not just these stupid, selfish manipulators, the world is a kind place and there are greater beauties in life,so she turned to them, in her effort to remain sane and happy, so she did find joy and content outside home at work, among friends and most importantly in herself.

The journey was worth it. Some lessons are learnt the hard way.

 

 

 

Go regional,overcome language barriers

A student from Telegana sought permission to sing a popular Kannada movie song during the introductory session with the class. What followed was a raputurous applause from the Kannadigas in the class. When asked, they explained, ‘mam, his mother tongue is Telugu,still he learnt a Kannada song and sang it in front of the class. We really appreciate this’.

In his address on the Hindi Diwas celebrations, President Ram Kovind encouraged Indians to learn each other’s mother tongue. An India where there are more common languages than just Hindi or English will any day be a better place to live in. More over, learning a new language is said to be one of the best ways to keep one’s memory power intact.

In a muti-lingual, multi-cultural city like Bangalore, the locals speak and interact with any one and everyone in which ever language they speak but to truly be a good citizen of the place you have chosen to live in, you should try to adapt and acclimatize to the local ways of living of which speaking the local language is of foremost importance. While the auto rickshaw drivers in Bangalore comprehend every other language, they truly feel at ease when spoken to in Kannada, even in broken Kannada.

What stops the outsiders who have come to Bangalore and made it their home, like myself, from learning Kannada is the ease with which one can carry out daily chores with a little help from hindi-english-tamil-malayalam-or a mix of everything else here. The locals are helpful and manage to know more than a language or two.

It was when I saw the true love the youngsters have for their mother tongue that I decided to put my heart and soul into learning Kannada. It is not easy but it is not impossible either. Many of my students speak Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada as well as Hindi and English.

The other day Sulagna who hails from West Bengal shared her story of how she used to be mocked for her way of pronouncing words in Kannada. Not one to give in to such taunts, in 2 years time, Sulagna mastered the 4 South Indian languages along with Hindi, Bengali and English.

If you are a movie buff, then,you have all the more reason to put in some more effort to learn new languages. The quality of regional movies is on a steady rise.

Among the many movies I watch on the recommendation of my students or my daughter was one that I happened to watch today, the Kannada movie -U -Turn. Apart from a compelling story line and convincing characterization the movie is a must-see for its very relevant social message.

I remember how I had watched Rangitaranga, another highly watchable Kannada movie and was under its spell for quite some time.

Well, there are enough and more reasons to test your brain and try your hand at mastering a local language today, so go on, go regional!

 

 

 

Kappa & Kerala

What’s for evening, amma? The girls asked the mother who sat on the verandha, leaning on to the wall,caressing her silver locks. The teeth missing,the bright red bindi shining on her forehead,she reminded the girls of  her once famed beauty. But she said, go pluck tapioca..

So they went on to the fields armed suitably, heckling, cutting and pulling the tubers out. Muddy waters ran as a basket full of kappa was scrubbed clean.

With the expertise only experience can bring, the eldest of the girls, peeled and cut them into large chunks before throwing the pieces into boiling water.

A pinch of turmeric and some rock salt later, the tapioca was cooked and drained. It was time for seasoning. Into the cheenachatti  went 2 tsp of coconut oil, mustard seeds, sliced green chilly, small onions and some curry leaves.

The aroma brought the men of the house rushing to the kitchen for tea. The boys back from school and college lined up for a plateful of yummy kappa with spicy red chilly paste.

The youngest of the 11 siblings caught hold of a large piece of tapioca,rushed to the crackling wood fire and pushed it in. His fingers burnt a little,but he was ecstatic.

A little later the tapioca looked at him invitingly, revealing a white powdery stuff that made ships sail in his mouth, literally!

What happens to a true blue keralite at the sight of Kappa is indescribable .

A rush of memories, a host of aroma of the taste of spicy chutney and finely cooked kappa leaves him terribly homesick.

And the next thing you see is that he is on board travelling to  where Kappa Kalls!