Monday, March 23, 2015

Kellogg's waale Guptaji

I love cooking - trying my hands at different type of cuisines and posting pictures on Instagram. I am kinda addicted to it. Last year in November I took a 30 day challenge of cooking different breakfasts daily. I tried a few new recipes, perfected some I already knew and as my family joked, made them fat. I agree, it was not something very healthy. When I saw Kellogg’s Anaaj Ka Nashta’s pictures on Facebook, I found healthier version of many recipes that I cook. I wish Guptaji invites me to his house to taste and learn a few of the sumptuous dishes they savor on a daily basis.

I love chivda and it was one of the dishes I cooked in my 30 day challenge. But in Guptaji’s house, they make a crisper and a healthier version of it - Chapatti Cornflakes Chivda. They add crushed cornflakes to make it crispy and add left-over chapattis to give it whole-grain-nutritious effect. It can be served hot and stored for munching later. Simply mouth watering, I tell you! After looking at this dish, I am dying for an invite. I so want to binge it with a hot cup of tea and bring some back for my husband.

Just after completing my challenge last year I started dieting, for obvious reason of course. I started making salads for dinner, but eating chopped vegetables and fruits is beyond my taste buds. I like my food punjabi style - high on masala and taste. And in Guptaji's house, they make this amazing Cabbage Corn Salad in Basil Curd Dressing. With a perfect mix of herbs, vegetables and fruits,  it looks so yummy. If we get invited on dinner some day, I will ask them to make this super-healthy salad as a starter.

Have I told you I love eating sweets? Since I am on a weight loss routine these days, I am staying away from all high calorie delicacies, but there are some lip smacking and low calorie sweets in Guptaji's house that I want to try - Cornflake Walnut Chocolate Muffin and Cornflake Coconut Ladoos as dessert, Apple Cornflakes Pancake for breakfast and CornFlake Popcorn Clusters for snacks. Even the names of these dishes are heavenly and one just wants to dig in. I hope, Mrs Gupta will share her recipes with me. So, I can get into shape without comprising on my sweet tooth.

There are so many other healthier versions that I want to learn and eat at their place like -

Oats Veggie Nurti Cutlets instead of Potato Cutlets
Apple Cinnamon Soya Shake instead of Normal Milk Shakes
Basil Curd Dip instead of Sauces

I want to go to Guptaji’s house for nashta to munch all these healthy, delicious and new dishes. And to learn a few of the recipes and cook it later. Who wouldn't want an invite at a place where food is served to cater both the taste buds and health? They serve a perfect meal with fancy names, gorgeous presentation of quick-fix low-calorie dishes.

P. S. - Kellogg's waale Guptaji  apne ghar nashte pe zaroor bulana.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Little Pleasures of Life

It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness - Charles Spurgeon

There will always be a bridge between ‘what we have’ and ‘what we want’, but we can’t be sad while we try to bridge that gap. Happiness is not about the destination, it is about the journey, someone once said. It is those small moments which make us laugh, wet our eyes with happy tears and makes our heart sing that make life worth living. There are many small yet meaningful things that bring happiness in my life.

I love listening to old Bollywood songs. I go for a walk whenever weather and time permits. Listening to songs on my iPod during walk brings immense joy to me. I can walk for hours with music on. Walk with music lighten the stress of work and makes my day happy. There is nothing more relieving to me than going on long walks alone. It releases negativity from my body. It is the best therapy for me. I am not very particular about where I go. All I need is a pair of shoes and music and I am all set to charge myself and return completely happy. 

A good fragrance makes me extremely happy. It doesn’t technically fall into small things as I have to spend a lot of money and energy to find a good fragrance, but I love it. A good perfume, talc, deodorant just lifts my spirits. A whiff of Liril talcum powder, Gucci Guilty, Versace Yellow Diamond, Johnsons Baby Powder and Lomani is enough to make my day. I don’t know if there is any scientific explanation to it, but a good fragrance releases many happy hormones in my body. That’s why in my free time I compare notes and main accords of perfumes. It won’t be wrong to say that I am addicted to fragrances. Even researching perfumes on the internet is thrilling to me. It is one of my favorite pass times.

A good stimulating conversation is among the things that bring instant cheer. I don’t mean simple chit-chat. A good conversation that brings solace and has a dash of humor. It’s really difficult to find someone with whom you can start a meaningful conversation. And when you do, you feel very happy. I am one of those who not only derive happiness, but a good conversation has an intoxicating effect on my senses. If I chat with someone and it is good, I save it and read it later. I have a list of chats that I like to read. Humor, sarcasm and for that matter, even healthy flirting has a positive effect, don’t you agree?

Reading a good book never fails to add joy to my day. Be it a soul stirring piece on love or philosophical passage on life, I love reading. It’s like an instant dose of happiness. Instant reminds me of - a cup of coffee. I love a good cup of coffee - little strong with a right amount of sugar. These are few of the things that bring happiness. So, what is it for you - a good meal or an action movie?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

We Are Together

Family is not an important thing. It’s everything - Michael J. Fox

No matter how hard your life is, one day with your family and you feel things can work out. They are your pillar of strength and the ones who help you sail through the rough times. You feel secure, loved and hopeful when they are around. I live very far away from my family. Yes, they are just a phone call away and I call them whenever I feel low. It cheers me up - they give me advice, shower their love and tell me repeatedly not to take stress. But still, I feel a vacuum, as if  something tangible is missing. May be, it’s their physical presence.

Last to last year, I was in Ambala on my birthday. It was a tough time for my family. My father-in-law was bedridden for over 8 months. My father was not keeping well. Nothing we had planned turned out as desired. There was not even a single moment of happiness for many many months. All of us were under a lot of stress, but my family was adamant about celebrating my birthday. Inspite of my repeated requests and constant reminder of my age, they went ahead and planned an intimate event. My parents came from Himachal a day before my birthday. So, everyone except for my brother was there.

It was nothing fancy, we had lunch at my favorite restaurant. I felt sorry that my father-in-law  couldn’t accompany us. But what we missed during lunch was lavishly substituted in the evening during the cake cutting ceremony. It was the most memorable and fun birthday for me. With all the people I love in one room, I couldn’t ask for more. Though we all terribly missed by brother. I was showered with gifts and blessings. We ate our favorite snacks and enjoyed the blissful company.

We all were very happy. I felt, we all needed a break and that small celebration infused dollops of energy in all of us. Now, I feel that we all should celebrate all the birthdays and anniversaries. Life gives very few big moments and to lighten up life, we must indulge in such small and intimate celebrations with our loved ones. My father-in-law got from his bed and joined us in the living room for celebrations and this little change brought a smile on everyone’s face. We felt hopeful of his recovery. My parents, who were missing both their children found comfort in all of us. They were more than happy coming down from Himachal to join us. Most importantly, I had this warm feeling on that day, like - life is beautiful. That day filled me with joy, hope, and optimism. It motivates me to count the good things of life and look up. I get a positive vibe even flipping through the pictures of that day. Here’s one of me and Alok. 

Apart from the invaluable bliss, wishes, hope; I also got valuable gifts - money, cards and diamonds. The day vouched that I am not alone, me and my family are always #together in this journey.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

To a Better Future and a Better Me

If there is no struggle, there is no progress - Frederick Douglass

This quote summarizes what I went through when I wanted to start my life on my own terms 16 years back. I had many dreams and those were not possible to achieve in a small town. Hence, I wanted to move to a bigger city, but all of it came at a price - financial, emotional and physical struggle, coupled with stress from near and dears. Who sends a girl to another city for high school? Why can’t she take up a hostel?... And many such questions were thrown not only at me but also at my parents. I was adamant. I wanted a bigger canvas to paint my future and moving to the next big city seemed so right. So, at 17 I moved to Chandigarh to #startanewlife.

At first it was not easy as a teenager to embrace the changes. It rattled me - new environment, no friends and a very conservative school was very intimidating. I was at a loss for a couple of weeks. Kids were smart, they knew everything about computers, they knew everything that was happening in the world and they were good at studies. All was fast paced and I was struggling to fit in. Yes, fit in initially. Even that was a daunting task. There were many moments when I regretted my decision. My friends were living a comfortable life with their families, in a very protective environment. And as a teenager, I couldn’t even understand all the feeling I had that time. Was I scared or failing, I asked myself many a times. Now I think - both. I was scared and because I was scared, I was failing.

The first good thing happened when I became friends with Anila. She helped me with many things. She is a dear friend till date. Slowly I started understanding the culture. I took computer classes at NIT, which helped me to regain my confidence. I studied extra hard, burnt midnight oil to be among top 5 in my class. I started socialising outside the school and made new friends who taught me finer nuances of big city life. It may sound very small a move to anyone but moving to Chandigarh imbibed strong character values in me. I am independent, confident and cosmopolitan because of it. It turned out to be that moment when I formally took charge of my life - where I wanted and where I landed is a result of one decision of my life.

I discarded all my inhibitions from then on and was surprised to discover a side of me, which I never knew was there. I think even my parents were happy. In retrospection, it looks overwhelming - meeting school principal on my own, buying everything I needed, commuting on Roadways buses, negotiating with rickshaw-wala for five rupees to save for one hotdog. But I am happy I did all that and I hope my parents are proud of me. Oh, did I tell you, my Principal who hardly met anyone, called my parents to meet with him and I won many accolades for my writing in my new school.

Life became better - challenging but more fulfilling. Ending with one of my favorite quotes -

Life begins outside your comfort zone. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Peek-a-boo Moments and More...

As free as wind, 
As pure as a bud.
Tip-toeing into our lives,
Bringing laughter and love.

Kids bring cheer into our lives. They take away all the stress with their enchanting smiles and make everyone happy. No wonder, we call them bundles of joy. But keeping them happy needs some work. You have to be on your toes 24x7 and unleash the kid inside you. And then, you are all set. My mother worked in the technical department of Electricity Board and her working hours were weird. One week it was from seven-to-two during the day and next week from two-to-nine in the evening. So, I was the baby sitter for my 7 years younger brother every alternate week. Some say I practically raised him and the time I spent with him has taught me all the little tricks that keep kids happy.

Look who’s talking
'Baby talk' tops the list when you want to bond with a child. You can’t speak in the usual adult way if you are trying to break ice with a child. Once you gel with them in their language, then let the silly talks flow. I did the same with my brother. There was a popular bollywood track that he sang in his own words, nobody could understand a word of it, but we all sang along, rather mumbled the same broken lyrics. It was super fun! And yes, doing voices of their favorite cartoon characters is superhit thing among the kids. I did a great imitation of Scrooge Mcduck and I can never forget the ring of my brother's laughter after hearing the imitation.

Let’s play
Other thing we indulged in quite regularly was playing hide and seek. When he started walking, it was the first thing I taught him. He was so crazy about it that he wanted to play it all the time. In fact, we lured him to eat, take bath and sleep with a game of ‘hide and seek’. He used to get super excited even on the mere mention of the game. I think most kids love it. When my brother jumped with joy the moment he caught any of us, it made a kodak moment for our family. Also, he looked super adorable when he said peek-a-boo. We simply treasure all his peek-a-boo moments.

No, I am not talking about the alphabet song here. It’s - Any Body Can Dance; and if you have two  left feet when it comes to dancing, you are an entertainer for a child. Dancing makes kids happy. The imperfect swaying of arms and thumping of feet is a rock-on thing in kids world. We had numerous jam sessions in our house which made my kid brother no less than a Michael Jackson in his school later. He enjoyed it out and out.

Kids do love to play, talk and dance, but first we have to make sure that they are comfortable. They are well fed, properly dressed and they are always dry. Diapers play an important role in ensuring that kids stays dry and are enjoying every moment during the day and sleeping properly during the night. Also, it keeps them healthy and lessens the chance of infection. Pampers, a leading brand for diapers is a great choice to make sure that our babies are dry all the times and we spend time in creating happy memories. As they say - a #drybaby is a #happybaby.

Train to Ambala

When you travel alone, half of the time you are observing people. You watch the naughty kids playing and running around, men discussing seemingly important issues and these days, people working on or fiddling with their phones. You see, observing people is the most fascinating aspect of traveling alone, at least for me. I can spend hours looking at people at airports, railways stations and bus stops, and I am never bored of it. There are many stories associated with these journeys, but there is one that is etched in my memory permanently. 

It happened in 2007, I was coming back from Ludhiana on a passenger train. The otherwise overcrowded general compartment was nearly empty that day. Ludhiana is a big industrial town and there is a huge population of laborers who have come there from Bihar and UP to earn their livelihood. And when they head back home for vacation, they take a passenger train to Ambala and then another train back home from there. Ambala is a big junction and many long route trains start from there. It was late in the evening in May but the heat was unbearable. I was working on a legal case and was busy taking notes from a thick file when two kids and their mother came and sat next to me. I didn’t look at them, but I could make out that they were trying to settle down in from the corner of my eye. They made no noise, quite unlike the kids of their age. Even their heavy accented Bihari Hindi was polite, with a few English words here and there. They were speaking in a very low tone, hardly audible. In short, they were very refined and well behaved. Few minutes later their father came with a polybag and a Hindi newspaper. When I saw a newspaper in his hands, I was very amused. I never saw a laborer reading paper during his train journey before. He had two water bottles, a couple of packets of biscuits and chips. He gave the biscuits to his kids, a boy and a girl. They finished it instantly and father took the wrappers and tucked it in the side pocket of their bag. It was a treat to watch them, behaving far better than most educated families who trash public properties.

When we were an hour into our journey, the boy asked for the chips packet. His mother gave it to him and asked him to share it with his sister. Both started eating the chips, but they had some sibling fight and the boy pushed her. It looked pretty normal to me, but to their father, it was not acceptable. He asked the boy to leave the packet with his sister and come to him. He obeyed and then, his father told him why he should never push his sister or any other girl. He told him that Hindus worship girls as goddess and if he will not respect them, there is no point in going to school. He then told the boy to apologize to his sister. It may sound normal to many but I have seen parents protecting their sons, giving them special treatment and overlooking their mistakes. But when I witnessed a Bihari laborer explaining his son that women should be respected, I seriously felt that things were beginning to change in our country. It was a beautiful experience to watch them teaching manners and values to their kids in a country where most forget it as soon as they step out of their houses.

I met only one such father, but I hope there are many more fathers like him who are teaching such valuable lessons to their sons. It is one incident I can never forget and it fills my heart with hope, love and cheer.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pillar of Strength

There have been times when I was on the edge - motivation ebbed and things failed one after another. During those times, it was my family who stood by me. They were my pillar of strength and at the same times, they were the ones who held my back. I’ve learned so many valuable lessons of life from them which have made me what I am today - confident, fearless and independent.

My Mom - She taught me to stand for myself and always believed in my dreams. I remember, I was very disappointed when I couldn’t get through my favorite college and wanted to opt out of CA and CS. It was my mom who told me to accept failures with grace and work up from there. Not only I pursued my degrees but I was an all India rank holder in CS. I learned that growth is a continuous process and one setback could affect your bigger game plan. 

My Dad - He made me self reliant. I wanted to set up my own business after completing my education but I was pretty lost as to what to do. It was my dad who taught me one of the most important lessons to succeed in life, he said - learn, practice and grow. I didn’t use his advice then, but when I had to close my business, I realized the importance of his words. As an entrepreneur, it is very important to know the finer nuances of the trade - learn them if you don’t know, practice to improve and grow from there. Now, whenever I attempt something new, work or personal, I follow his principle. And I am very thankful to him for this invaluable lesson. 

My husband - He has guided me in most difficult times. He always say - never say no! He taught me to dream higher and chase them with burning passion. I am currently working on my dream project and it would never been possible without his undiluted support and words of encouragement. It is because of him I have reached so far in blogging. He believed in me when I was not sure of myself. I come from a commerce background and I was very nervous of writing publicly, he gave me the confidence to write and share my feelings with all my friends out there. For my every single achievement in writing, credit goes to him.

My brother - He is seven years younger to me but he has this adorable quality of telling stories to boost my morale. I call him - Story Baba. He gives me strength with his amazing stories he tells me whenever I am sad. I wonder, where he gets those stories from, or he merely cooks them up, then and there. But whatever it is, his stories give me strength when I need that the most. And I never sccumb to the pressure and become better with every single fall in life.

My family told me to believe in myself and learn from my mistakes. They provided a dose of motivation and reassurance that I could do whatever I set my mind at. They made me into a better person and I am lucky to have them in my life.

Ending with one of my favorite quotes - 

What if, I fail?
Darling, what if you fly!

*This post is written for ‘Apno Ko Apne Dum Pe Jeena Sikhao’ campaign sponsored by HDFC Life on Indiblogger.