Covid has been disconnecting people, yet connecting them too – but virtually. The pandemic and lockdown continues to create anxiety, tensions and non- social boredom or fatigue. We all pray for each other, our loved ones may be staying far away,and even if they stay in the same city, it’s tough to visit them. So stay safe, stay alert! Pray for the community.
Few friends from far, far away in New Zealand have recently sent me messages, emails, some lovely picturesque photos too via social media. It brought back wonderful memories of our stay and unique experiences in the country.
Culturally is was different from India but the pleasant mannerisms and helpful attitude of citizens was welcoming. We enjoyed winter soup and sandwiches, in return spicy dal and crisp Roti was exchanged with the local families. We indulged in sparkling wine and variety of cheese, and not to mention the assorted breads both sweet and savoury were a treat! Adjusting to our first winter, witnessing snow and donning warm jackets and shoes to enjoy the brrr….cold was surely unique and bit tough. I remember a friend dropping by and suggesting ” Eat lots of nuts and chocolate this winter, you ‘ll survive better” she chuckled. One winter, I even raked some snow and made snowman at Hagley partk in Christchurch! On the language front, learning Maori language and songs was totally heart warming, connecting me to my own mother tongue in many ways.
Titiro mae na iwi, tataou tatoau e……was one such popular Maori song.
Till I write up my next blog about New Zealand’s countryside, gardens and old churches with some history. . . I leave you with some older posts.
My most favourite part of Christchurch city was of course the Hagley Park and nearby Art’s Centre. The Edwardian architecture in stone and spires, brought home memories of my childhood city Mumbai and its colonnial architecture. The Art’s Centre came alive each weekend with a buzzing market.
Do you have a hobby? How do you re-juvenate yourself away from the challenges and meanderings of the daily life? Recently, we celebrated World Story Telling Day on 20th March, 2021 and the theme was ‘New Beginnings.’ The pandemic and lockdown has had its postive effects too – people are indulging in new hobbies, re learnings enrolling into new online courses, or taking up cooking with earnest at home, baking bread and cakes. In creative arts be it music, dance, poetry writing or telling stories there has been a surge of interest to use the ‘at home’ time effectively.
New beginnings happen every day, don’t they? It’s how we reflect for a moment and change our course, our thoughts, our actions. I kept aside my crochet yarn and needle and delved into storytelling and writing personal narratives. Telling on zoom sessions was an opportunity to connect with other storytellers.
That’s how I met K, an amazing storyteller, with plenty of fresh ideas and technological expertise.
Here is one of her recent water colour paintings – and her mind raced to Australian bushfires last year, thinking how the animals may have been affected.
Once K began painting with water colours, creatively using her lockdown moments, she showed her work on Facebook. ‘Why don’t you write a guest post for me?’ I pressed, loving the delicate, pastel shades “I often find in THAT stillness and quietude, is the seed for my creativity, that’s how a hobby is a blessing” I told her, citing examples of churning out my blog narratives, when my mind is most calm.
Even if things don’t unfold the way you expected, don’t be disheartened or give up. One who continues to advance will win in the end.” ― Daisaku Ikeda
Thanks K, for accepting to pen a post. You are a storyteller, techno geek, a budding artist and now. . .you are emerging as a butterfly in writing! Readers, do connect with K on her YouTube channel ‘Storytime with Kajal.’
‘If wishes could grow on trees, I would pluck them and fulfil all my wishes.
As a child or as an adult, I wished I could do this and that. Singing, Crocheting, Gardening has never been my forte, just like art or drawing or painting, yet I am very persistent in trying all of them.
I clearly remember as if it was yesterday, the very 1st month into my first year of college the Zoology sir called me over and asked – “Kajal, are you sure you wish to continue in Microbiology as you would have to draw a lot.” Drawing was one reason I jumped ships from Biology to Mathematics.
Coming to the present, randomly I ended up creating a master piece of my own in painting, but that was rarest of the rare occasions! I always wished I had the flair of a painter, over the years I tried to wake up that painter within me, alas without much success.
They say a chance encounter can change it all, my encounter was a video on YouTube by CEECEECREATIONS. Her easy ways of doing water colouring were inspiring. Water Colouring was something I hadn’t heard much about, aptly so, as its one costly hobby if you wish to go beyond the chalky grade student watercolour.
My tyrant with watercolour started with her videos, the flow of colour on the wet paper and amalgamation of various colours was so soulful, I was hooked! Lock, stock and barrel. And there has been no looking back, I can finally say – Rise! Painter within me, Rise.
Still in infancy stage of learning the art, I can rightfully say that watercolouring has not only helped me calm down but has constantly worked as a medium of going in to ‘mindfulness.’ It’s like being in meditative or Zen like state whenever I watercolour. Pictures that were inspired from artists who posted in Youtube or Pinterest has helped a novice like me to achieve one of my wishes with multiple benefits. I find it has successfully helped me calm my mind and helped me sort between the ideas that rage through my mind.‘
So, what have YOU to say about this budding artist? Or do you have a hobby that brings about mindfullness in you, why?
Some of my hobbies include crochet, quilting and gardening. You will find them here and here. With my latest passion of storytelling, even blogging might take a back seat. But see the journey here. It all began few years ago. Do keep me motivated by being my audience.
There is nothing better than a story from the kitchen garden! You are in for a sensory experience.
From the wet, brown soil after watering to the expanse of the green creeper, growing almost wild and taking up every inch of space with its long tendrils, the visual and nasal appeal in the kitchen garden is sensorial rich. Stand under the canopy created and gaze at the little purplish white flowers, some maturing to little pods, other pods stout and ready for harvest. Wonder how the plants grow, spring forth leaves and flowers, and why only certain have this colour? Nature even sends forth the correct bird or bee to match the flower! On the pomegranate’s ruby red flower tweets the tiny indigo coloured Sunbird, its long beak stuck inside the flower to extract the sweetness. On the bean creeper comes the large indigo Bumble bee. It hovers aound the flowers pollinating them in the process ‘zeee zeee, hmmm…’ as if to say “don’t disturb the harmony and let nature do its work.”
Next comes the joy of harvesting! pluck, pluck, snap. . . Tuck the pods into the container, bring the bounty to the kitchen counter. Take a deep breath, run your fingers through the shiny bean pods. Look at their colour and tender skin. There is NO fragrance to the bean or flower, but ever wondered how the bee or bird got attracted to the flower?
Back in the kitchen, continue the sensory titilation and mindful cooking.
Sit down to string the beans from both ends. open the pods to release the young seeds. As they are home grown they may not have insects inside (but ones form the market, be careful to discard pods with caterpillars crawling inside). Wash and dry the opened pods well, keep aside. Prepare other ingredients. Google check the different names these beans have (Chikudkaya, ghevda, papdi , Fava beans …).
They are extremely nutritious with loads of iron, potassium and fibre. These legumes generally grow in mild winters and the ‘seed to crop’ time is about 3 months. Being a legume variety, they enrich the soil, rather than taking away nutrients…so cut back the roots and leaves after harvesting and dig them back into the soil to fertilize it. They are hardy, and dont need much manure, but need plenty of winter sun. The creeper grows fast and wild, be prepared to make a canopy in advance, place a net over it, to allow the tendrils to hold on. The tri foliate leaves are slightly rough, tending to hide the pods under them.
Ingredients for the stir fry vegetable
500 gms. flat beans /pods opened/seeds retained
1 or 2 brinjals or carrot
1 medium size onion
1 cup coconut grated fresh or dry powder
100 gms roasted peanuts or bengal gram (optional, only for nutrition and texture)
3-4 sprigs of curry leaves (or coriander, optional)
masala of choice (roasted and powdered cumin, coriander, sesame seeds is my choice)
4-5 dry red chillies or adjust
salt to taste
1/2 spoon jaggery or sugar ( to cut out any bitterness)
Tempering – with 1 ladle of cooking oil + small spoon mustard seeds, cumin seeds, 1 spoon turmeric powder)
Par boil the stringed beans with the seeds in 2 cups salted water for 5 mins, drain and keep aside.
Prepare the tempering in a heavy iron wok preferably (to add minerals to our food) or use traditional pan or kadhai. Heat the oil and add the tempering, to splutter. Add the chopped brinjal or carrot, salt, curry leaves, peanuts, dry chillies and stir fry for 2-6 minutes. Add the par boiled beans, adjust salt, jaggery and add few spoons of water if required. Beans contain fibre and iron, take a while to cook. Do not cover, the green colour may diminish.
Keep stirring and cook till edible or tender. Switch off gas, remove. Add grated coconut and mix. This adds to texture, flavour and nutrition. Serve hot with warm rice or as side dish with Roti.
‘Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, soil and sky as canvas‘
What’s growing in your garden or terrace pots? How do you cook these legumes? Do you like gardening, why? Let’s hear and share some photos.
A trip to colourful, majestic Rajasthan is a ‘must visit ‘ on any traveller’s bucket list, be it an Indian local or visitor from across borders. This western state of India has just so much to offer in terms of its forts, palaces, artificial lakes built to collect water in this arid land, as well as culture, stories of brave Rajputs and their queens, oral story telling with puppets and music, that a flitting butterfly visit will do no justice! Wait a minute, I have not mentioned the history and geography of the food as yet! Each region distinctly has their own flavours, masalas, ingredients that are seasonal and their availibility in the region. So get packing your bags, look up homestays or plush hotels if you wish and come aboard – travel to Rajasthan! (Sorry! its virtually, this year, due to the pandemic)
Our young guest blogger Miss R. shares a brief glimpse of the vacation she could sneak out to (before the expiry of her air ticket, purchased prior to the pandemic). An architect by profession, living in Mumbai, she embodies virtues of patience, love and compassion to the brim! An avid reader, dabbles in writing for a magazine and relaxes with either a paint brush or a kitchen ladle in hand. R has a natural eye for architectural designs and loves everything that involves creativity. “Why not explore the wide spectrum of the traditonal Art and pintings of EACH state of India? she says. “There is just SO much to explore and understand!“
Thanks R. for your guest writing, keep sending us your travel updates.
The city of Udaipur is known for its luxurious palaces and scenic lakes. The name itself brings visuals of grand monuments, opulence, history and royalty. However, during my recent visit, I realised that there is more to the city , especially its by lanes, than its shopping outlets and Dal Baati (a popular local Rajasthani dish).
Udaipur is also home to Miniature Art Paintings – a detailed art form depicting scenes from history. There are several talented artists in Udaipur whose miniature art is sure to astound you! They are usually traditional artists – the third or fourth generation in their family who proudly carry forward the legacy. Miniature paintings are painted on silk using natural stone colours. As told by one of the artists, the stone colours available naturally are merely 4 or 5 in number. However, mixing these five colours enables them to create up to 100 shades which are visible in all the paintings. The colour gold is used profusely and is predominant in all the designs. Most of the paintings depict the Royal events in history or life in the Mewar region (olden day Rajasthan). Finely painted animals and birds are also popular along with paintings of Gods – especially Shreenathji and Radha Krishna. What remains a favourite amongst the tourists is the highlight of the several Rajasthani cities which makes a great souvenir.
The noteworthy aspect of my interaction with the artists was that they proudly conveyed that they operate only as freelancers. The Government has provided them with a studio space entirely free of cost which enables them to paint and sell on their own terms. Moreover, this studio is along the road to Sajjangarh Monsoon Palace – a popular tourist destination. It was heartening to see this kind of support to the artists which is crucial to encourage traditional art and create an environment where artists are appreciated and get their due.
The next time you visit Udaipur do pay a visit to one of these artists and you shall surely be mesmerised with their skills.
Thanks R. it brought back memories of our (sneaked out) trip to Jodhpur recently. A getaway from the lockdown at home. The local artist and musicians playing their simple stringed instruments and dholak were surely attracting the few visitors to the Meherangarh fort. Due to the pandemic, their livelihood and earnings have taken a deep hit, but some do perform at nearby lakes, visit homes and teach the next generation. We attended an evening performance here and were amazed at the hidden talent of these simpletons!
And here is a piece of architecture in the by lanes…the famous Jharokha windows with floral embellishment, a trusted way to keep the heat and desert dust away from the women folk at home, yet permitting them to get a view of the street outside. Many by lanes are now havens for small shops, trinkets, artists ware etc.
Hoping you have all enjoyed a virtual visit to popular destination Rajasthan to admire the beauty and read up history. If you wish to submit a guest blog do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is so much to share and explore from each other.
Today I got a call from a woman who heads an NGO to do an experimental story telling for 6 weeks for a rural school, as part of my volunteer work. She is loaded with so much work and is always energetic to do some more. I wonder how? But the more interesting part of the talk was about how she, her husband and their long distance family members have made Tambola cards using apps and weekly they ‘discharge the negativities and stress collected during the week’ with Tambola and singing via Zoom, especially during the early days of the pandemic. Thanks to technology!
Then about my disciplined daughter, who works long hours and has enough work stress that she cares not to become any high profile – high earning- high stressed CEO of any company. ” I need to de stress and enjoy life a bit, have my weekends to do some Nature walks and swim and go paddling” she retorts. In between, meditation and cooking with friends helps balance the game of life.
‘Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.’ Epicurus (wise sayings)
Or take another friend working part time, recuperating part time, healing back from cancer. “My work drives me crazy and its boring” but painting and walk around the tree lined colony garden roots me down, gives me fresh breathing space and I return with a calm mind” she nods.
Thanks Vivek Vaidya for sharing with us YOUR thoughts on work /life balance.
Vivek: I am a partner in a global advisory firm working in Singapore. Work is very hectic and I am happy it is that way but nurturing my hobbies is equally important if not more. I am an outdoor enthusiast. I organize weekly hikes in Singapore. I started with blogging but landed up publishing a book named ‘Why do Indians?” (available on amazon). I am in the process of publishing a mini-novel. Recently I wrote a marathi play which was launched on YouTube as a living room drama.
Don’t wait too long for work-life balance We are living in strange times. Everyone around be a corporate worker or homemaker is overworked. What is most surprising is due to the current pandemic situation we are happier that we have a job to cling on to. What we are forgetting is this is coming at a cost to us. We are slowly burning ourselves out slowly, but surely. There are a few friends around who have earned enough to see themselves through but most of us haven’t, so quitting a job to strike work-life balance isn’t an option at all. Then what do we do? In my own limited way, I have found a solution. I don’t wait endlessly to strike a work-life balance. I try to strike it every year, every quarter, every month, every week, everyday. I nurture my hobbies that take me away from work and help me recharge. I live in a modern metropolis like Singapore. In one look it looks like a concrete jungle but when you look carefully there are many opportunities to go closer to nature. I have explored them on a weekly basis. I have formed a group of like minded people who accompany me. Initially, I was the motivator and the group followed. Now after three years of weekly outings the group is the motivator and I follow! This weekly ‘switching off from work’ has unintended consequences. Going closer to nature has made the creative juices flow. I started getting ideas to write. Initially, I wrote some blogs that became popular. So I converted some of them into a book “Why do Indians?” This book consists of five humorous stories of Indians living abroad who are often confronted with existential questions such as ‘Why Indians don’t eat beef?” or “Why Indians get arranged married?” The first edition is sold out. That motivated me to write my second book which should be out very shortly. I also tried my hand in Marathi play writing successfully. My first play recently premiered on YouTube. My job is stressful but this habit of pursuing my hobbies regularly recharges me. There are some hobbies I have to pursue on an annual basis. I go for treks with unknown groups on an annual basis. So far I have done The Everest Base Camp, Mt. Fuji, Tour De Mont Blanc, Mt. Kota Kinabalu etc. My message to the world is: don’t wait to strike balance between your work and life that you always wanted to live. Find a way to strike balance on a periodic basis.
Look forward to reading a copy of your book and adding some humour to my day, Vivek.
Readers, how do you create that ME space for yourself? What hobbies do you pursue to take the workload off your head and shoulders? Do share with us and with Vivek.
Tomatoes are in season this winter, growing plentiful in our kitchen garden, in bunches of 4 to 6. When the sun shines on them, the raw green tomatoes ripen into fruit within 2-5 days. Tomato is a botannically classified as a fruit- as it grows from a flower and has seeds in it, just like bell peppers and chillies. Vegetables are stems, root tubers or leaves of the plant that are edible and useful. The abundance of vitamin C, Vitamin K1, Folate, Potassium, BetaCarotene (which gives it the orange -red colour) and Lycopene in tomatoes makes tomatoes highly nutritional.
They are so versatile in their use – sauces, chutneys, pickles, soups, gravies, salad they can be made into anything, that’s why culinary chefs use them in a variety of recipes. My mother-in-law taught me a few tomato recipes, an Andhra delight. This one is my husband’s favourite! Retirement has given him time and patience for gardening and the fruit is from our garden which makes the pacchadi or chutney very wholesome! The plants are easy to grow, need minimal care and need a trellis or support as the stems are weak, and bend low with the weight of fruit.
Tomato Pacchadi or Chutney (Andhra Style)
½ kg ripe red tomatoes
For the tempering
½ cup cooking oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
1 tsp tamarind paste (adjust to the taste)
1 tsp jaggery or sugar (adjust)
Few curry leaves
6-7 garlic cloves(optional)
6-8 dry red chillies (adjust)
Asafoetida (to taste/optional)
Salt to taste
Wash and clean tomatoes and cut into pieces. Set aside.
Prepare oil for tempering in wok. Add mustard, asafoetida, turmeric powder, urad dal, chillies, curry leaves and stir. Grind to a paste and keep aside. In the remaining oil in the wok, add the tomatoes and cook. Add the salt, jaggery and tamarind pulp. Stir and cook till tender. If you wish, remove skin when cool.
Mix the masala paste in this. Stir well adjust the chilli and salt as per taste. Garnish with coriander leaves or curry leaves. This pacchadi can be eaten with warm rice or with dosa /lentil pancake.
Call it Indian salsa if you wish, but it’s a typical Andhra south Indian recipe. The tangy, chilli and salt taste make it very appetising. Store it in regrigerator for few days…that’s if it lasts!:)
Do post a comment here if you like or tried this recipe. Do you make it different in your part of the world? How?
My friends and family are responding with interest to my call for Story Bites, a reader’s contribution project to connect. I await some posts from the wordpress readers too! So do leave me a note in the comment box or check Story Bites.
My dear friend Geetha who lives in Chennai is like a walkie talkie Wikipedia! Many years ago, when I too lived near her home, we often met as young mothers, with babies in arms or prams, walking around the tree lined colony. I remember a few moments of badminton play too, that eased our ‘motherhood roles’ as we ran around the court, laughed and steadied our shots. Geetha, is still an avid reader, has a great sense of humour touched lightly with dose of advice or peppermint on how and why of things. Born into a Tamil Brahmin family, she rightly conjures up to the image of early moring rising, filter kapi and idli /chutney/sambar for breakfast. In fact, few years ago when I visited her, I was served a delicious, healthy upma. Wait I’m not talking of recipes and food here. Let’s get back to her pattu silk Kanjeevaram sarees, or just the distinct borders and pallav of the Chettinad or Salem sarees she casually wears. Where is she hiding her mother’s heirloom treasure? Maybe another blogpost on the saree stories?
Look what growing in Geetha’s garden! And the strong smell of THAT fruit is wafting all the way to my home in Hyderabad. Infact, it reminds me of the fruit’s cousin – the Durian! Have’nt you heard people say ‘Dont judge a book by its cover, or what’s inside may be sweeter than what you see on the outside’. In the case of both jackfruit and durian, it’s true!
Here is what Geetha writes:
Living in Chennai with its insistent hot weather,water scarcity and proximity to the sea made me a less than average Gardener.As a result my house could only boast of a lack luster unplanned garden ……until my helper planted a healthy jack fruit seed in my back yard. Presto! one day, we had a magnificent jack fruit tree occupying as much space as she could in the place offered.It was almost like Jack s bean stalk because I don’t even remember how it sprouted and grew .From the very word “go “she was ready to yield and what yield it was .
My front garden along driveway with neatly trimmed Hibiscus plants, thatlove the summer heat!
Look who’s made its appearance on the tree…finally!
Here I need to mention how one senior helper of mine tied a slipper to the tree in the dead of the night and whispered a rather curt message ordering her to bloom and bear fruit.And she did in no uncertain terms ….BIG, sumptuous ,beautifully textured honey sweet fruits . The fruit was cleanly structured and it was a delight to open it up and take out the fruits .Even inexperienced me could handle it with deftness and the precision of a surgeon .As the produce was plenty about 40 to 45 fruits per season , each containing around 200 melt in the mouth segments ,there was plenty to go around and be shared . My staff got to take home whole fruits and as it’s fame spread to the satellite staff ..the milk maid the dhobi and the newspaper boy came ahead and booked their “copies”.I now had a definite fan following in the friend s and relative circle and come March the enquiries and requests poured in .As always there were some who simply hated the strong smelling fruit and put off visits to my house .But the lovers were delighted and happy and received their share with awe and respect! ”Never have I tasted a divine fruit as this”was an oft repeated remark .
They came in to view my tree and thank her and gave her a loving pat on her back.March is round the corner and we are gearing up for the season of Tree of bounty “May you bloom andgrow, bloom and grow for ever.. “(Reminds us of a familiar song?“)
Thanks Geetha. Yes, Nature is so giving! We need to learn that aspect, and share her bounty. For ‘what you give, is your ONLY investment’. Anyone wants to share their thoughts on Nature, fruit trees or your garden?
For past few months of mild winter here, my garden has been blossoming with tomato plants. They need such little care and manure and grow up almost like weeds, till you see the small yellow flowers blooming on them. Then we put on the trellis or make- shift bamboo sticks for their long, long thin branches to find support. Once the small yellow flowers turn into raw green bunches of tomatoes, the weight bends down the branch. At times we let it trail the ground, naturally.
Neighbours children scream from their verandahs -“Auntie…I can see green tomato, water it, water it.” So at times…I call few children over, show them the plant botany, even provide some paper and pencil for a drawing and then if listening carefully…they are rewarded with few tomatoes raw green or ripe red! Can you hear the peals of laughter and delight?
That’s it …till next month, a new guest post. What will it be?
My cousin H. lives on the other side of the world, in USA. We in India, love to see photos of snow covered lanes and trees that she sends during winter. That’s when I told her to write up a few lines for us. Thanks dear H. Stay safe and happy in the snowpocalypse as you mentioned.
Falling snow and the white blanket it makes on Earth, look just so magical, mystical and mesmerizing! There IS something that brings on awe about Nature, whether it is the opening of a tightly curled bud, or the first shoot on a bare branch or the snow dropping lightly from the heavens above. (Those living in the colder climates may not find this poetic or inspiring and may tend to look at the snowfall as hampering daily commute or bringing on additional workload to rake it all up to the side. I do remember one such mystical morning when I was living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Sitting indoors at the window, the entire night, I heard plop..plop..fainter plop..yes it was the snowfall. It hid all the green and brown under its fluffy flakes, telling Earth to rest a while, rejuvenate. Nature brings on seasons and reminds us of the variety in life!
Spring, summer, autumn, winter
Who are’t thou? How we await to see you?
You come and go, just like the sun, bringing change into Life on Earth
Life, That has so many wonders that we forget
But whence you visit, you bring joy and awe,
For Who are WE? we forget. And rest in your lap
Spring, summer, autumn, winter…We connect.
Here is what H. writes:
January 10, 2020 – the day that we moved into our new house! After tagging and packing our belongings, we left; We had said goodbye to all of our cherished memories of that house.
The next morning, while we were in the grocery store, the sun had suddenly disappeared. As soon as that happened, snow had started to fall from the sky, covering everything in white. Because of that, we had decided to pay for what we already had in our cart and leave for home as quickly as we could get there. Over the next four days, over a foot of snow had accumulated. We were trapped, and had no way to leave our new home.
At times that we were able to do so however, the nature around us had looked the best it had in a while. It was this beauty that reminded us to enjoy life. The snow wouldn’t be here forever, so we had to relax and enjoy our surroundings. It wasn’t as if we would be stuck in our homes forever, after all.
Not long after, we were stuck in our homes again. After a month or so of being able to leave our home freely, the novel coronavirus pandemic had struck. School, work, entertainment, everything had to be done at home. This caused me great anxiety; Everything felt so radically different. For a while, things seemed bleak and black. But eventually, spring rolled around, and for a while I felt reassured that everything would return to normal.
Our front driveway was turning shades of pink and green. It brought in newness and fresh spirit.
Starting with charismatic and big Magnolias, Tulips, daffodils, and fragrant lilies, they soon bordered our yard giving way to next bloom of fragrant peonies, columbines, jasmines and so many more. The blooming vegetable garden, flowers, blue berries, and wild animals (deer, cayotes, owls, foxes, bobcats) promised us new friendships in the year of lack of human interaction ( COVID 2021).Once again, gorgeous, colourful fall came back filling air with aromatic food – apples, squash and pumpkins. The colours of spring, gave way to summer and bounty. Soon the colours fade away as autumn sets in. And here we are midway in winter, yet again in 2021.
Going back to the cycle of nature again, we lead up to the spring 2021, it’s telling us to have confidence that spring will come again, enjoy the beauty now.
Thank you dear H. for sharing beautiful thoughts on Nature and your feelings during the Covid quiet, locked in home moments. I end on the change of season, leaving you with a photo from my collection, in India. We recently celebrated Vasant Panchami, arrival of spring, that reminds us of new beginnings, fresh, green and re birth of Nature. The festival of colours will soon be here as Nature lays out her colourful blanket of yellow marigolds, pink and white Oleander, white fragrant jasmine, coral coloured Aboli, pink lilies and lots of new green shoots.
If you wish to write a guest blog, do contact me on seethepalliv@gmail .com and browse my October Story Bites blog
Do leave your comments and encourage H. for her post. Thanks.
When is Sankranti? Why is it celebrated? What flavour can it add in our contemporary lifestyle? And so a blog post is born!
Makar Sankranti is the first festival of the year and is celebrated all over India, albeit in various ways and different names. In the north (Punjab, Delhi, Haryana) it is called Lohri, in Gujarat and Maharashtra it known as Makar Sankranti, in Rajasthan it is Uttarayan, in the south it is known as Pongal and in Odia and Bengal it is popular as Bihu. Most of the legends revolve around the movement of the sun, the passage from the southern hemisphere towards the northern hemisphere. It is heralded as spring time in India and much festivities are tied around the first Rabi harvest of the year. A good harvest equals to good prosperity, abundance of nutrition and health. The warmer sunrays provide essential Vitamin D. India being mostly an agrarian country, farmers and cattle owners worship the sun to seek blessings on this auspicious day.
Aren’t our traditions scientific, eco friendly, revering Mother Nature and the celestial bodies?
The reference arises in Bhagwad Gita and the epic Mahabharat dating back to 3102 BC. It is believed that the great warrior of the Mahabharata, Grandsire or Pitamaha Bhishma, fell injured by the arrows of his beloved grandson prince Arjuna, during the battle in Kurukshetra. Bhishma had been granted a boon by his father to choose the time of his death according to his free will. After lying on the bed of arrows for almost a month, he chose the day of Makar Sankranti to leave his mortal self. That is why there is a belief that those who die during this period will have no rebirth.
Another folklore suggests that any boy or girl who takes a dip at the Triveni Sangam (confluence of sacred rivers) will get a beautiful partner graced by Lord Vishnu himself, as he had come down to take a dip on this day.
If Makar Sankranti means flying colourful kites to the Gujrati community, for the farming community of Andhra, Telengana and Tamil Nadu it means rest time and decorating their cattle, feeding them nutritious grains. To north Indians, revelry in lighting a bonfire and casting away symbolically old and negative thoughts (old cloth) and Maharashtrian women wear black saree with dotted white stars or prints, representing the night sky, and spread cheer and health by exchanging Til Gul. See recipe here
Doorsteps are decorated with tall sugarcane stalks, marigold garlands, auspicious mango leaf decors and colourful Muggulu or Kolam floor designs, drawn symmetrically around dots. Fresh rice paste or ground rice powder is used from the harvested paddy. Kheer or pongal is made, traditionally using a mud pot over fire using dry cow dung pieces. I remember my grandmother chanting Pongal O Pongal, as she uttered each family members name and dropped rice grains into the pot of boiling milk atop cow dung used for fire. Yes…..eeks…but well imagine a village farmer family outside their homes, in the midst of green acres and brown earth, birds flying in the sky and mooo…moooo goes the cow, decorated with bells, tassels and cotton spreads to keep warm.
Can we keep the art and cooking forms alive in this modern day lifestyle? Can we spend a weekend outdoors flying kites and away from TV and social media?
Lucky to meet this young villager and the old bullock in the city streets, each year as they come to collect charity and donations.
A festival adds colour and meaning to our lives. Most festivals are a way of showing gratitude to Mother Nature for her bounty. Let’s cherish these traditions in our own ways!
Every festival has some characteristic food, that is has meaning and is seasonal. As the winter months demand higher calories and nutrition the small, husky white sesame or Til (teel) seed, peanuts and jaggery (made after boiling sugarcane juice) are the seasonal remedies. Indians are mostly vegetarians and get their nutrition from seasonal crops, an Ayurvedic practice.
Once every year, I make a fresh batch of Til Gul (sesame seed combined with warm jaggery, dry coconut and ghee). In Hindu mythology sesame seeds are regarded as symbols of immortality, divinely blessed by Lord Yama(Lord of death). If you observe the power packed into them, one will realize its wonderfood! Incorporate it into your everyday diet, feel blessed by Nature, that such a small seed can contain a big gift for you! Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, zinc, fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6 and folate, and proteins!
Tell me, which part of the festivities and food is not a complement to our living? What can we continue to absorb? Happy Makar Sankranti and healthy abundant life to all my readers. I do value your comments, so do leave a note.
It’s a joy every morning to spend few minutes in our garden and learn something from Nature. I noticed how easily some insects crawled from one leaf to another, one blade of grass to another, without any sound. Similarly I thought, let me practice mindfulness. Moving from one year to another, leaving behind unwanted mind clutter and sad sounds, let me take in new freshness to move into 2021.
And what better way to begin a blogging year than by starting a fresh new series! Each month a guest post will be featured, adding new freshness to the blog. If you wish to send your story here.
Before I introduce my guest, let’s begin with a little visual meditation. Close your eyes, imagine yourself trekking up a small hill or an expansive snow peaked mountain. Feel the cold air touching your face, your body is layered with warm clothing. Feel the faint scent of some wild flowers or just the crispness in the air. Is your breath slow or is it pacing? What are your thoughts of attaining a climb? Is it an internal climb to achieve your daily (yearly) goals? Or are you seeking blessings at the feet of the mountain? Come back!
Here is our first guest of 2021. Thank you, Ulhas Deshpande.
Ulhas Deshpande, age 61 has a good regimen of fitness and personal pursuits. He is a former corporate executive and entrepreneur and lives in Mumbai. Since 2014, he has chosen to be out of work and focused on pursuing varied interests. He has climbed many a mountain and travelled to see snow, volcanoes, snow leopards atop a range, and uses his camera. At family meets he entertains subtly with stories and presentations of his adventures and experiences. His other hobbies include a succulent garden, music, working for NGO and leisure travelling.
Meditation in Trekking
Over the last 12 years I have been fortunate to be able to do 24 treks and adventures of different kinds and degree of difficulty. Besides mountain trekking I have explored the Sahara Desert and chased some live volcanoes in Indonesia and trekked the rainforests there and in Arunachal Pradesh, in India. Initially it was all about adventure, endurance, fitness and achievement. Later on the more subtle aspects of trekking started to impact me immensely. The opportunities to introspect and be with yourself in the serenity and solitude of mountains started to work on me. In a mountain trek there are long hours of solo walking, peace, tranquility and unexpected challenges getting thrown at you at times. That provides a very different perspective and prism through which we think about ourselves, our lives and what we want out of ourselves and our lives.
I believe these explorations have made me a more all rounded and holistic individual and I have started becoming more open to new and different experiences in all aspects of life. I Have got out of my comfort zones and become more accustomed with lack of routine, being alone and taking uncertainty unexpected events in my stride. Off beat adventures have taught me the value of patience and persistence and being resilient. I have also learnt the benefit of being slow some times as against speed and action. Mountains have taught me to expect less and do more with less. As you climb up, there are so many false summits and the final one almost never comes till you are the end of your patience and physical capacity. It has taught me to accept failures more easily after having togive up two summit attempts in the last leg. I have also come to realize that life is more a mental game and that is what decides whether you will enjoy being on thisplanet.
Then there is the opportunity to meet different kinds of people and see their lifestyles. It is amazing how they go about their lives despite adversity and scarcity of resources with a big smile and faith in themselves and power of God and fate. Most people in Mountains live frugally and make the most out of whatever they get and become very creative and resourceful in not just surviving but thriving in that environment. They expect less, have limited needs and make the most out of what comes their way.
There is so much to experience and see and explore WITHIN you. Hope the journey continues for many more years. Trekking is not just a physical adventure and adrenaline boost, but a kind of meditation in itself. The more you do, the more self revelations and insights you keep experiencing.
Thank you once again Ulhas Deshpande.
And now I leave you with one of my favourite songs from “Sound of Music”. Wish you happiness in year 2021.
What a year was 2020! The Covid virus caught the world in a pandemic early on, stayed and disrupted life, work and health. It’s far reaching impact was felt on many fronts -social, economical, mental and physical. The sudden displacement of migrant workers, a rise in key workers like medics and therapists, governments globally engaged in fighting the virus, and anxiety of job losses created tense moments. It was remarked that this generation had not experienced a World War 2 type recession or calamity, thus unequipped! It dawned that we lived in a materialistic, consumerist, millennial society. Climate change, communal disharmony, Brexit, US Elections became other news, COVID news was far bigger! Oxford dictionary admitted it had ”too many words of the year” to choose from: Coronavirus, lockdown, social distancing, BLM (Black Lives Matter), facemasks, keyworkers, unmute…the list is long. How did the year and the virus change your life?
From news desk blogging: It’s my 5th year with over 160 posts in different categories. Market narratives, recipes and crochet and quilting kept my creative juices flowing. Each year-end, I adopt a different writing theme. Year 2020 is in diary format. For other themes See here for 2019, see here for 2018 and here for 2015.
Writing a diary during my school days was like having a dependable friend! It provided a way to pour teenage feelings onto paper, to converse with oneself, without any intruders. My diary often had colourful sketches, a dry leaf or flower collected from a Nature walk stuck in with rudimentary poem making. Later, as a primary teacher, I often set aside first 10 minutes of Monday class for diary writing. Initially some children used to just stare at the wall or paper, not knowing where to begin, but eventually they began to scribble random thoughts, that got better with practiced reflection.
Virginia Woolf, a prolific writer talks that ”It is the habit of writing for my own eye which is a good practice, it loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses and stumbles.” Author R. K. Narayanan meticulously wrote his diary on a visit to Rockfeller, that later became a famous book. Gandhiji’s grand niece Manu (Mridula) was taught how to maintain anecdotes, till Manu got comfortable about writing a diary at the Seva Ashram. And haven’t we read the diaries of Anne Frank and Kafka?
The slight chill of winter lingered and we treated ourselves to warmth of woolen shawls and cups of ginger chai and peanut ladoos or sweet treats. We watched the white fragrant flowers on our guava tree that finally gave its first fruit. As the first month unfolded, there was excitement and anticipation about a baby’s arrival. We would grandparents soon, yet again, and we made our travel plans.
Filtered news of a Chinese virus that had travelled to the USA soon became world news coverage. First European country to succumb was Italy, who lost many an aged life, and the grim situation soon led to closures of business and public places. In India, schools, offices and domestic travel were still functional.
A week long yoga retreat in Uttarakhand was indeed a treat to savour sattvic cuisine and do meditation and discourses along the banks of flowing Ganga river. A visit to the local market to buy wool and jaggery turned out to be perfect blog food. see here.
The COVID virus is HERE!! Lockdown in India and other countries. Our travel plans were cancelled, airports closed, safety measures at hospitals and public places created some disruptions. Early warnings of health announcements created anxiety among people. Economy crippled, Indian cities saw a huge problem of labour migrants stuck in cities, away from hometown and without jobs and food. Rich or poor, COVID did not spare any country, any people! Solidarity events like lighting candles and torches from balconies, and another day of music with bells, gongs, conches, plates helped awareness and hope all over the world, creating a new global harmony. War not among humans, but against a virus!
Transformation, change and adaptation were key to survive. The demand for internet connectivity surged. Virtual meets, WFH, online classes, Webinars using ZOOM, personal videos flooded social media and work. Paid for classes became Free courses…as the world looked within yourself. Healing, keeping hope alive, communicating virtually became the need of the hour. Spiritual discourses, story telling, music lessons, Mandala workshops, Art as therapy bloomed online. In Balinese Nyepi is time to ponder, meditate and take time to see the little flower bud blossom, or a child smiling. Social media and newspapers screamed beautiful photos of sunsets and birds on trees, as Nature was happier with man locked inside!
My Nyepi time was indeed rewarding at home, blessed to have a garden and cook daily meals. For recipes of banana flower see here and of pumpkin curry see here
Marigold flower – Orange
Pumpkin curry with roasted seeds
Summer in India is celebrated in its own way… arrival of juicy mangoes, making lemon and ginger pickles and downing plenty of yoghurt to keep the body cool. This year mango business slumped due to lockdown. Push cart peddlers, mini vans and Amazon delivery flourished. Lockdown brought the markets closer to home. Arrival of a baby in the family brought us joy, though virtually. Instead we prayed not only for our family bonds but for the medical personnel, health workers, and for those in less happier moments. Gratitude for what we have in hand, mattered most! Locked in gave me plenty of time for spiritual readings as well as reading up my older posts. Mango recipe blog here.
Here comes the seasonal monsoon. Time for a Haiku or sketching whilst raindrops made melodies on the trees and puddles on the street. The call of mating birds, a garden bursting with worms and caterpillars offered a alternate respite. The virtual world became the ‘new normal’ work from home (WFH) had some initial exciting moods that later brought it own woes of house space restrictions, orderliness and maybe longer hours string at the screen. Webinars and events on Zoom spurred creativity and innovative use of technology. In such locked in moments the importance of a hobby can be a great stress buster.
Ahhh…everyone is tired of the same talk …Corona Virus! Preparation for the oncoming festive season Navratri, Dussera and Deepavali raised hope and interest. I too felt the urge to get out of home, visit an open air outdoor market. Never before were face masks and sanitizers seen in public places, other than hospitals. Read here for my market visit Rythu or Farmer’s Market at Alwal, Hyderabad
Onset of the festive season, heralds a big shopping spree in India. This year was different! Malls and shops hardly saw customers. Instead online shopping even by the elderly was in demand. Rural weavers and wooden toy makers were caught is a spiral of technology learning and selling their products online to customers. It brought a tremendous change in perspective, handling and adapting to the technology. Interestingly, many a youth at home encouraged and helped bringing about socio-economic change.
Participated in lots of story telling events online on FB and ZOOM platforms, telling stories of Akbar and Birbal, Nature and growth, festival stories and honing skills to tell in mother tongue. I also told stories to rural children with the NGO http://www.food4thought.org (read my volunteer experiences on their blogsite http://food4thoughtfoundation.org/2020/10/19/integration-of-curriculum-in-story-telling-virtual-joy-of-reading/). Telling and listening to monthly story swops at HYSTA ( Hyderabad tellers) is a good way to hone my skills and meet other tellers. I organized my first online fundraiser storytelling event, with volunteer tellers and raised a good amount for http://www.Chandramauli.org. Located in Kashi (Varanasi) the organization takes in children from less economic backgrounds to teach them Vedic chants, yoga and Sanskrit. A wonderful Children’s day with Gurukul children interacting with children and adults in the audience, exchange of stories, asanas and mudras.
That’s all and an early goodbye from me to you wonderful readers. I have new plans for my blogging journey in 2021. Do write to me your personal stories at email@example.com and check here for details.
” Lifelong learning helps us to stay sharp and healthy as we age, and is also good for the society we live in“
Hoping to welcome a new golden dawn 2021, filled with cheer and good health for us all.
From the garden to the kitchen table! Space and time are such a treat in a busy city life.
Having planted radish seeds about a month ago, we have been watching the growth, leaf by leaf. The fresh young leaves were crunchy and tart, and I munched them off, sometimes, early morning garden therapy. I know the leaves are a storehouse of minerals and reward you literally cleaning up the stomach as they secrete acidic beneficial juices during digestion.
Radish are a North Indian winter crop. Acres of farms along the fertile Yamuna river bank are a picturesque green in rich hues. Radish, carrot, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, beets and spinach all the leaves have a different green colour and texture. Can an artist match his palette to Nature? Experiments at home to grow carrot and radish looked quite promising as fresh leaves sprung from seeds. Soon bulbous white radish peeked from the ground beneath, our eyes popped gleefully too!
Then came a mild cyclone Nivar. Rain filled the Earth. Aahh! Nature wins!
Operation Chop Up! Garden to kitchen counter. Gas stove to blog!
I tweaked my mother’s recipe. She used spring onions and their leaves to make a dry vegetable with chick pea flour, adding an extra dash of oil for tempering. I substituted with fresh radish leaves, added some crunchy roasted peanuts for nutrition and served with hot roti or parathas.
A bunch of radish leaves ( about 200-250 gms)
1 cup chickpea flour
1 big ladle cooking oil ( add extra if reqd.)
mustard seeds, ajwain, red chillies, hing or asoetifida (optional), turmeric, salt as necessary, handful of roasted peanuts (optional if allergic!)
Check underside, clean, wash and pat dry leaves with young stalks. Chop finely. Roast peanuts and keep aside. Prepare ingredients for tempering.
In a pan or wok, heat oil, add ajwain, mustard seeds, turmeric, asatoefida, and crushed dry red chilles. Stir fry, add peanuts, stir. Add the chopped greens and salt. Stir.
Quickly add the chickpea /besan flour spoon by spoon, keep stirring, remove lumps if any. Add a dash of oil. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flour tends to go dry, so sprinkle few drops of water or add oil, cook well.
Place in a bowl and serve warm with hot rotis or parathas….or just nibble away this nutritious, crunchy vegetable, by itself! Any left over leaves can be chopped and added to wheat flour to make parathas…on another day.
It’s almost year end. What’s cooking in your kitchen or growing in your garden? Share your pictures if you do cook this recipe or tweak it to your taste.