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Monday, 9 November 2015

Nosy Parkers_Gulf News 2007

Just thought of sharing this one from my once upon a time humour slot in Gulf News' Off the Cuff (Published in August 2, 2007). The lesson we learn from a nosy parker is how not to become one... when we meet and greet people/strangers on festivals/occasions! And that is the victory of light over darkness ;)

Happy Diwali! :)

... starts....

Hi!" and then... "How are you?" Why do we greet and then immediately ask a question? When we meet someone, can't we just wish a "hope you are fine" and push off?
I was thinking about the various questions one has to deal in a lifetime. They are just too many to mention. Too many to think, ponder or respond... and most of all funny if you can see the lighter side of the frustrating ones.
One of my friends is having a tough time battling questions from one and all on when she is planning to have a baby, ever since she tied the knot four years ago. It is like everyone's right to ask the question. So? It is high time she had a baby? Why doesn't she consult a doctor? Unbelievably so common and true. Questions flow from all over. Even from strangers who meet her for the first time. So, you are married? Any kids? Are you planning? Why do people want to know so many things? Are they planning to sponsor the unborn kids of the world? Who gives them the licence to ask private and much-confidential things a couple chooses to keep?
Dreadful questions
If it were not those dreadful questions one has to answer, we would not have been what we are. A lot of us would not have even got married. I am reminded of this other friend who was seeing someone and everyone was keen on knowing when she is tying the knot. Is it some sort of a quiz?
Taking about quiz, most of the quiz masters are gossip mongers.
The questionnaire takes you by surprise, even when you are prepared with a not so great answers. They are direct and unwarranted. Most of the time the quizmaster knows the answer or at least the many options one can pick from. But then he still chooses to ask. He loves to exercise his right, as he is your friend, relative, family or just a passer-by.
Is running away a solution? But who says answering is any solution? If you do answer, you let them pop another one. If you keep mum, which is difficult most of the time, it works. Silence is hard to break. The big question is that actually do we need to answer anyone and everyone we know, love and care about? I don't think so. But it still, depends, I must confess.
Once, while attending a family get-together, my baby brother whispered to my mother: "Mummy I want to ask something". She looked at him sternly and and placed her index finger on her pursed mouth.
Mother wanted to prevent him from any gibberish nonsense, that would potentially embarrass all. But the poor fellow only wanted to go to the washroom. Had she let him ask, she could have averted the disaster that followed soon after he kept quiet.
Asking questions to oneself is a good idea. It helps you check yourself before someone else gets a chance to point that out to you. Helps to introspect.
It is a mind bogglingly refreshing hobby. Try it. It is highly recommended.
Harmless question
Sometimes simple and seemingly harmless questions find deeper answers and expose things that one would rather keep than tell.
It is but questions that help the doctor find his way through appropriate cure. Questions that solve a case. Questions that enlighten our need to know more. Questions that keep life rolling. Questions that tell us what holds beneath. Questions, that define a deed. Questions, that yell out the truth of life.
Questions are sometimes the answers to what most of us seek. The wise one says, that if we ask the right question we might even find nirvana.
Life is all about newer questions and answers. Is that so?


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Get Your Chai On!

Society Insider Magazine's November 1, 2015 edition
Have you ever wondered why Facebook does weird and magical things to people? Some suddenly become the persona far removed from their actual selves. It exaggerates and alters behaviour. Smart people write silly things. Airy people write heady stuff. Quiet people abuse awkwardly. Of course, hot red, raving people still rave. Sometimes it is weird how generous people are with appreciation. Have you stumbled upon some praises that are absolutely cringeworthy? It's a doting crowd out there. Why do we turn to our phones every now and then? Why do we scroll or look for people or follow what they do? Why has social validation become a trend?

While we think about that let us take short break. Let us make some chai! I invite you to blukitchen - my own kitchen cum play area of experiments and dreamy escapades. ‬For the first time Gujarati-staple and my personal favourite ‪snack ‎dhokla‬ fluffed up while the morning ‪‎tea‬ was made to stretch and fall into the cup like a waterfall in ‪‎Kerala‬. Have you tasted the elastic tea? This one is popular by that name. I am not very skilled in this act of jugglery that involves hot tea being thrown from the pan to the cups. This almost-martial-arts-sort of-act of stretching arms, aiming and throwing the hot tea from a cup and catching it with the other was a spectacle for me the first time I saw this at a roadside tea stall in Kerala. Recently an experienced elder demonstrated this to me in my own kitchen! And am learning this new skill that calls for aim and efficiency. The net result is an aerated tea. Refreshingly different from the usual flat one it has a soft and fluffy froth floating peeping above the rim of the cup. One has to softly blow through this mountain of foam to get the tea to the lips. If lucky you get a tea-moustache too! Simply fantastic!

There is no one right way to make a tea. By the way 'chai tea' is an oxymoron. I have no idea why they call it so in menu cards. I like the Delhi-style masala chai much stretched and dropped from high above to fall into my mug like Kerala's elastic tea. There are so many delightful options to make a break mindful that all you need is get a little nostalgic or think about how best you like your cuppa and get from there. Just like there is no certain 'right way' to make a tea there is no one solution for that which distracts you. We are free humans. Your life is nobody else's business. First of all it is not a business! Like a delightful chai can be a priceless experience. 

The day offers many chores between chais. Some chores you don't like usually are the ones that will drive in boredom. That boredom can be broken by scrolling the screen of your touch phone. This activity has the potential to open cringe gates so wide open that a certain thought creeps in and stays with you and feeds on your positivity like a parasite... for days, or months together. Make the simple chai break mindfully so. Chai has the potential to be a spectacular drink and give you a phenomenal experience. 

Sharing my chai recipe here. The aromatic chai's masala mix is not just a heady mix of spices that has an awesome aroma, they are full of well being. Do try making the masala at home, t is aroma therapy in itself. Dry roast few pods of cardamom (mood enhancer), cloves (antioxidant), fennel seeds (digestive), peppercorns (anti-inflamatory) and pound them in a mortar along with some grated dry ginger (antiseptic). Add a teaspoon of this mix to boiling tea leaves. Strain to add little milk and sugar... do the elastic-tea gig. Savour the exotic whiff and take a sip while enjoying the taste of a revitalised drink, the warmth of the cup that you hold and the beautiful day light that dances in as shadows into the room. Aah! More sips! Aha! This exercise transports me to the mountains that grow this magical brew. I can almost hear a bagpiper in the backdrop and instantly feel I am floating amongst the clouds that stoop down to kiss the tender tea leaves. I can keep the chai time on for as long as the brew lasts. Every sip is a ticket free trip to some exotic dreamscape! Why not?

Once the chai time is over, reality strikes back. As far as possible I keep away from opportunities to cringe and away from social networks not because am an introvert. I do this only so that I can behave my best without any network inflicted baggage when I meet a new face or an old friend. There are so many interactions in a day that demand more attention than those virtual ones. We are a net result of all people and activities we choose to keep in our day. 

So why is this a trend - looking for validation online? Is it lack of creativity and thus resultant boredom? I have observed that it is not that people are not creative. Most are perhaps not creating anything of actual value. However, everyone needs some sort of self assurance of their social value and hence they seek it through virtual social opinion. This most often results in increased stress, anxiety and nothing remotely phenomenal. But there is a solution.

Einstein believed in something called Combinatory Play. The idea is simple. By expressing creativity in one realm, you could get inspiration for another. So whenever he was blocked, he would spend some time playing his violin. This activity opened up some channels in his mind, and he could go back and solve that tough mathematical equation easier this time. Whatever it takes to get the inspiration flowing, get it flowing. Get on it right now! For starters, switch off that damn phone and simply get your chai on! Make that chai with some profound TLC. And sit down to enjoy the best cuppa made exclusively for you. Make the moment count.

Thank you for being the change! Happy Chai!