Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Mashoor Punjabi Store

It was the beginning of summer and the heat was already on and the mercury was reading 39degrees. I observed a Woman of 25+ glamorously dressed with a bright red lipstick making her purchase of provisions and gently moving her trolley basket with a 3 year old inside the basket at the City’s best departmental store. When the section for chocolates came the kid inside the basket asked for some and the mother curtly told the kid “NO”, the kid was crying loudly and making a fuss. The young mother said quietly “now Pinky we just have half the store to complete don’t be upset we will soon be out”.

Soon they came to the racks where the stocks of biscuit were stacked and the girl began to shout for biscuits. Again the mother refused and the child began to whine. I almost pulled out a pack to handover to the kid, but then was apprehensive looking at the woman’s tough appearance. The mother said there........there we are approaching the counter Pinky and we will soon be out.

She quickly made her buys and they got to the billing counter and the girl at the counter took out all that the woman bought for billing. The kid inside the basket now looked at the bubble gum on the counter and tried to pull some, but the woman pulled the trolley with the kid backwards and alas the kid made a terrible tantrum on the mother refusing. The mother patiently said “Pinky we will leave in 5 minutes, we can be home and have a nice nap- cheer up”.

She soon stepped out and I followed her to the parking and stopped to compliment her “how patient you were with LITTLE PINKY …….” I hadn’t completed, she cut me short with a sharp look to tell me................ “I’m Pinky and my daughters name is RUCHI”.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Any human born in this world is sure to come across this phenomenon known as PROBLEM. This is to be a passing phase, never is it a constant. Every individual will have to face it and it only varies in proportion from each one. It never comes looking at caste, creed or status. Never be pushed by your problems, look at the problem in its eye and tell yourself that “I am stronger than the Problem”.

When you feel the problem is bigger it hides the solution and you sit back with a worry how to overcome it. If C.B Sullenberger Pilot of U.S.Airways flight 1549 had considered the bird hit on his Aircraft a problem he could never have landed the plane on HUDSON and saved all the 155passengers & crew. There is a genius in every human that should never allow you to runaway from the problem. One needs to understand the problem, bring out the strength with determination and put in the hard work needed to counter it. Problems mostly are never solved it can only be well managed. A child cries out of hunger and when fed with milk you manage it but it is sure to prop up again. A person growing old will feel fatigue, pain in his body and the same can never be ended, it can only be managed. Similarly when you focus too much on a problem or give too much of attention the problem gains momentum, your anxiety adds negative energy to it. When one is ill attaching too much of importance to it, it tends to increase in proportion. When you want to forget something, by trying HARD to forget, you tend to get reminded more.

Over a period of time one needs to learn how to live with problems. Any person born with any kind of deformity learns over a period of time to overcome it and never gives in to it and goes on with life in its stream. So the process of learning this technique in facing problems is important to every individual.

We are blessed with intelligence better than any living being on earth, so we need to use the same to the best possible limits. We need the ability to deal with problems better and not to sulk in it. The important thing about a problem is not its solution, but the strength we gain in finding the solution. You also need to have HOPE; this flame of hope should never go out of your life.

“He who does not hope to win has already lost” -- Jose Joaquin Olmedo

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Experiments with Cooking

For each person its their mother who is the best cook from day one in this world, with a few exceptions. I surely was lucky to have a great cook as my mom. She would make a variety of dishes and we at home were used to the north Indian varieties too. There was no need for us at home to go beyond the dining table as my mother was the BOSS in the kitchen. So I never had an idea of cooking and it was just beyond my thoughts to light up the gas stove or make my own coffee. It was all ready at the table till I left home.

At Jaipur which was by now my second home I had to depend on the tea shop and dhaba for all my gastronomical needs. Though I had a kitchen in the small accommodation that I had but never could think of using it for my needs as I had no idea of cooking. On days when I would return from travel late at night and by when the hotels and dhabas would have closed I would go to bed on an empty stomach or I would sometimes be given hot rotis with some dal and subji from my landlord’s house, incase they are having a late night dinner (I Pray they are blessed with the best of everything from the bottom of my heart for all the care they have given me to make me feel at home).

So as days went by, the landlord’s mother suggested that I learn to cook and make my own food instead of the hotel and dhaba which would do more harm in the long run. But I did not know where to start from. So I got my kitchen ready by buying myself a stove and the gas cylinder was provided by them. I bought for my kitchen some basic vessels and got ready for the acid test.

My land lady who was elder to me by 3years was my teacher who was to impart the skills of cooking she had. She was my Sanjeev Kapoor, who started the khana khazana for ME.
I remember she made the Dal fry and explained it to me and the dough for the rotis and also the rotis to have my first meal at my new home. It tasted YUMMY more because of the satisfaction that it was at my own place. I repeated the same preparation and perfected on the dal & rotis. Further I was taught many more dishes and I skillfully mastered it over a period of time. So food now was at home and it was a pleasure making it on my own.
I had a lot of friends who did compliment me on my newly acquired skill and gave me immense satisfaction. The best compliment I got was when the kids of my landlord had a plate of the Rajma chawal I made and told their mom that my preparation was better than hers, I knew I was a good student. My landlady smiled with satisfaction that her efforts had succeeded.

By now the fortnightly magazine “Woman’s Era” which would contain many simple dishes in its cookery section became was very helpful to my New hobby – COOKING.( I own 3 bound books of this cookery collection which I had collected over a period of time).I had furnished my kitchen with a fridge, vessels, boxes for all the provisions and all the crockery to be a Perfect HOST.

Being a connoisseur of good food myself I now started experimenting on my own and I had a group visiting me on weekends to taste the stuff I made and would give me immense satisfaction. I thank my land lady for this WONDERFUL skill that she imparted to me.

Friday, March 13, 2009


The place, surroundings, people, colors, neighbors, and office everything was new but I settled to make this my new home (JAIPUR). My landlord was a man who ran his own automobile shop and would leave for work at 10+am. I would be ready by 8am and would browse the newspaper. I would hear a voice of my landlady singing a bakthi song from their kitchen-- the tune would be off beat, with me imagining the plight of the Gods and the aroma of Parathas stuffed with potatoes. Being winter they would put a folding cot in the SUN to have warmth and to have breakfast. I would leave for office and would go past them and would be invited forcibly for breakfast. On joining them and exchanging pleasantries, my plate with Parathas fried in ghee, topped with 25gms of butter a bowl of thick curd with salt and pepper would arrive to go along with. I would feel a bit delicate at their hospitality and my landlord would add in HINDI “Dhaaney Dhaaney pe likhaa hai Khaaney wale ka naam” (On every grain would be written the name of the person who eats it). Very true were his words, but it took time for me to understand its TRUE MEANING in LIFE.

If it were a Sunday and if I weren’t at home my friends would be guests of my old landlady who would have served biscuits, savories and sweets and a steaming cup of tea to all and my friends and all my friends would always prefer my absence till this Hospitality was over.

Over a period of time I observed that this Hospitality was just not at the place I stayed, it was a ritual at all places. If I entered someone’s house or shop in winter it would be tea that would be served without asking for it and if it were summer it would be water served in a copper pot after which a glass of lime juice or lassi for sure. Such were the people and it was only the utensil that varied to indicate the wealth of the person who served tea or lassi but the gesture was common from the heart and we surely need to learn this.

If you were at a Dhabha, restaurant, hotel, motel, a trolley service, to have lunch or dinner the warmth there would be so nice that you would eat a couple of rotis more with relish. The waiter would treat you as if you were the only guest for the day and he would do it with all reverence.

The importance attached for food was not only for humans but you could find the camels/mongrels/stray dogs/ cattle/ monkeys/pigeons would all be healthy as people would offer food to them too from every household as if it were their responsibility.

The market for clothes, footwear, bangles, paintings, handicrafts made of animal bones and all wares in the city were always flamboyant and bright which when moving through would be so colorful and will brighten up your day and pep up ones mood. The eateries would be ready with a variety of short eats, fruit chats, salads, sweets, lassis and kulfis of a variety. The aroma will wake up the sensors in the brain and would make you hungry even after a full meal. The food was always rich and high in calories and surely suited the weather conditions at the desert state.

The people were friendly and pious and were GOD fearing. The temples were well maintained and the business class would contribute to their upkeep in every neighborhood. The Lakshminarayan mandir maintained by the BIRLAS made of white marble was a beautiful landmark and a favorite haunt of mine at this wonderful city. The parks, palaces, gardens everything had an aura of joy and happiness which surely is a pointer that people were of good nature to make everything memorable.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

HINDI........Our National Language

The hotel I checked into at JAIPUR was comfortable and could stay for a week at the company’s expense till I would get my own accommodation. From the time I spoke to the room boys at my Hotel, at the tea shop, restaurant, the Bank, the shops, the city bus, petrol pump,Post office... everywhere the problem was common --- I did not know HINDI. I could only speak in SIGN LANGUAGE, as none were willing to speak in ENGLISH.

I went to my new office and found all the 3staffs there were hostile in attitude towards me. But I wasn’t worried of it. My worry now was HINDI- the language was new to me and English to them was alien. My Mother was a M.A. in Hindi and she did advise me to learn the language but never in my wildest dream did I think that there will be a need in my LIFE.

So initially I was on a mode to know everything at work and was very friendly and never did I exhibit any bossy tendency. I remember going to meet a customer as I was into marketing and I could not understand a word he spoke and had to stop him mid-way, and asked him to speak in ENGLISH. He looked at me from head to toe and with a look of bitterness in his face told me “Kai ke liye idhar aye ho, vapas chale jao, thum kaam ke liye nalayak ho bina HINDI ke.” (Why have you come here, just get back, you are useless here without knowing HINDI).

That shook me like I was slapped on my face. I went back to my office and felt I was like fish out of water.
I made up my mind that I would learn the language at the earliest. On my way back I got myself a transistor to listen to the local news, advertisements and all the programmes to learn HINDI. I ensured that I also got a dictionary which was from English to Hindi and to speak only in HINDI even if I were wrong. Then started my pun/fun and a comedy of errors, but I wasn’t to give up.

I did get myself an accommodation in a Punjabi infested locality despite being a bachelor. My landlord was a Hindu Punjabi and his family was friendly. His mother was an old lady of 65 years who looked at me like her own son. His two kids and his wife were also friendly. But I looked like a comedian in their midst. It was like virtually I could converse only in actions as if I were dumb, because they weren’t familiar with English and me not in HINDI.

The land lady, who was just 3years elder to me, would go into peals of laughter if I would speak a word. But I wasn’t to give up. I wasn’t ashamed and did tell her that she can have some good entertainment at my cost and the price she would pay is to teach me the correct dialects to improve my linguistic skill in HINDI. That was a deal.

I would go to my office half an hour earlier and would prepare for the day with my dictionary of all that I would have to speak to my colleagues there. I would use the words learnt often to perfect myself.

I remember the day I called my office peon and handed him a letter and said “yeh chitti daak ghar le jao aur isko panjikrith karkey bej deh na”( I asked him to take the letter to the Post office and post the same by registered post) he was shell shocked that I spoke to him in HINDI with clarity within 2months of my arrival.

I could speak to all and that gave me more confidence to meet the customer who had slapped me with a negative remark-- to get back without knowledge of HINDI. He could not believe it and welcomed me with a cup of masala chai which comes from his house to his shop. That was satisfaction of TRIUMPH which made me warm inside despite the temperature being COLD outside.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Away from Home

Life is a long journey it moves, turns, curves, transpires, teaches, surprises, awakes………………….. and takes you to a destination called goal. It will delight you on reaching; it will give you immense satisfaction and make you feel complete.
I remember so clearly one such turn which made me embark on a journey to move away from home.
I was just 23 years when I was told by the company I was working that I will have to move to Jaipur in Rajasthan. I never knew Hindi then. Low and behold my imagination was gone far to see myself riding a camel in the midst of stormy sand dunes and oasis’s.

I thought it was like any other move. Little did I realize till the day I was to leave, that it will be very different from home. All those years in Madras at home in the shadow of my parents and soaked in comfort it never dawned in me till I missed the shade that life taught me, life is never a bed of roses.

I had packed all the stuff I wanted and since it was winter (never seen or felt what WINTER was like till then) was loaded with all the woolen outfits needed for the weather there. Also I never forgot the last gift I got from a well wisher of mine which said “what lies before us and what lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”.

There were a whole lot of goodies which was packed by my mother. My father had got me a watch as a gift and my brother was by my side to take all instructions of taking care of my parents and home in my absence. Though I may have been of little help in taking care of things at home, the feeling that during my absence how will they manage was rising in me. May be that’s what is affection propping in one without realizing what it is.

I could sense my mother feeling a bit low and my father wasn’t in his usual humorous self. The clock ticked and the car to the station arrived and I bowed to my favorite god with the elephant face and paid my obeisances to my parents and with something choking at my throat, put up a broad smile to camouflage what I really felt inside and I waved off to them with just my brother to the station.

The train arrived and we loaded all the baggages of mine and I wished him the best in his studies and to be a dutiful son to care in my absence. The train whistled and gently moved and gained momentum to leave my favorite city. I was drowned in thoughts of leaving behind my folks, brother, friends, relatives with thoughts of how life would be away from home and all what I enjoyed would no more be the same and will have to live on my OWN.

Surely I had a flair for meeting people, to see new places, taste a variety of food and the zeal in me to succeed in whatever I do. By the time I had a journey down memory lane of all till this journey, I arrived in Delhi and changed train for my onward journey to Jaipur.

It was 5am and the train arrived at the Pink City, I alighted and could feel my teeth chattering without any control and hurried to wear my jacket to warm myself. That was me in the land of the MAHARAJAS for the first time.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Soul Mate

At first she was just another face in the crowd ... just another nobody passing aimlessly by, until that day when my eyes laid upon her beautiful face , I was captured.

It was not the way she introduced herself or the way she was dressed, but the look in her eyes that captured my heart and am sure it did the same to HER. I felt it with every beat of my heart. Little did I know how right I was. Liked her so much for her thoughts, her anger, her taste of colours, her eye talk to express her inner liking for me, would wait for hours to have a glimpse of her.

To sit with her and feel her from close and the smell of her that filled the air near me, used to make me so delighted and beyond words to express.It was like someone I knew for AGES.That was a wonderful relationship.

But always there is a villain who is in between such relationships and surely that did have a subconscious effect on HER to look away from me. We had to come to a point called QUITS.

I think it was just for the outer world but surely it remained fixed DEEP INSIDE though we were living far apart. As time went on and knew she will not be there for ME I learnt it the hard way without her after a lot of turmoil to understand, physically I had to go on with LIFE. But mentally still held on to her very BEING with me. Nature had its own element of magic to this PARADOX.

Though I did try talking to her many times in between, she did shut me out and I never knew why despite my attempts many times. Surely wanted her to know what was in me before I depart forever and also know her true feelings which were subdued then. The time never came but I was determined. It was destined to happen but 20years later.

Now I am sure she knows all my thoughts that were present in me but not wholly known then, and all what I knew of her were her thoughts rooted deep inside and all what I did want in her then have surely shown up and the essence remains intact. Like things which I love to do – be it talk, sing, cook, dance, laugh, walk in the rain, box, fight, tease, to pet, to pamper, even the force of our passion, the being in her all are of the same receptive force of what I love and they synchronize so well with ME and my soul. She did fill cracks in my soul and I was convinced that she really was something special.

I surely knew then & know now too, that she wasn’t destined this time, but still love her so much. Will want a Life with her. She Means a World to Me. Wish a time comes I would love being lost in her and she in me. I Mean it. Will treasure her forever.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Upanayanam-Sacred Thread ceremony of a brahmin boy

In the Hindu custom, Upanayanam is a rebirth to a man, when he is invested into spiritual life. On the 21st february 1982 I was intiated into to the stage of studenthood'or Brahmacharya ashram as a Brahmin. "Birth and learning does not make one a Brahmana,Good conduct alone does".

Prior to the ceremony, child of any caste is considered 'once-born' With the performance of the Upanayanam, he becomes 'twice-born'. Or dvija. This initiation rite marks his second, spiritual birth after his first physical one.

Uthakashanthi: The Purification of the Mind & Body and the protection of the child is done by Invoking all the Gods & Deities into the sacred water by the chanting of the MANTHRAS and this water is poured over the child, during Uthakashanthi.
Nandhimukha Ceremony:A ceremony performed to obtain the blessings of the ancestors of the family before the festive occasion of Upanayanam.
Kumarabhojanam: The boy is fed alongwith a bramachari after the Yagnopaveethadhaarana.
Aajyabhaagaantha Homam: By praying to the god of fire, AGNI, the child is blessed with long life, intellect, courage etc.
Yagnopaveethadhaaranam : The father places the sacred thread across the child’s left shoulder under the advice of the Guru.The sacred thread consists of three strands signifying Brahma, Vishnu & Siva. This represents Janana, Karma & Bakthi. Next a Girdle made out of Munja grass is tied around the waist of the child. This is to protect his purity and to keep evils away.
Brahmopadesham: The Gayathri Manthra is a Supreme manthra and protects those who recite it. The boys father becomes his GURU and whispers into his ears this powerful “Gayathri Manthra”.
The Twig in the Right Hand: The Twig( Usually from the Pipal tree) in the right hand signifies his entry into Bramacharya. Brahma, Vishnu & Rudra all three Devatas reside in the Pipal tree. Hence by holding the branch from the Pipal tree, he receives Divine Grace from Brahma, Vishnu & Siva and also from Saraswati, Lakshmi & Parvathi their respective consorts.
Bikshakaranam: The boy symbolically asks for alms of Rice from his mother and other women. This is done to make one humble and free of Ego. It enables the young Bramachari to control the senses, which is absolutely essential to receiving Vedic knowledge.
Abivathanam : After Upanayanam the boy seeks the blessing of all the elders present by saluting on their feet with Sashtanga Namaskaram. After his Namaskaras, the child introduces himself by his Rishi, Parampara, Gothram, Suthram and name step by step. The first person chosen for Abivathanam
is ones own mother. One who has introduced him into this WORLD.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Growing Years

The best years of anyone is at School, where you have fun and frolic all through and the basic values of life are inculcated in any individual. The teachers were friendlier and never have felt scared of my teachers. School was always the best years of my life. It was fun, seven or eight classes a day, the same friends we have grown up with, the fun of playing pranks in class, hogging on Tiffin boxes of one and all with the appetite of a wolf by being in the back benches, after school activities like scouts, athletics and the school annual day activities was never ending.
Back home used to be playtime with friends and with tons of homework and not the least worry in mind to finish them with the bed inviting for a warm cozy sleep with droopy eyes after a quick dinner was to call it a day.
I remember the teacher who looked so worried in my 8th STD, when I turned my face to escape a slap and hit the wall, which left me with a deep cut at my right temple bleeding. The headmaster made a brief inquiry to know how it happened and I was honest to tell him it was my fault and not the teacher’s.
Though being an average student was in limelight for participating in most of the activities both the GOOD & BAD.
The years went at a fast pace before we could realize it came to an end. Bidding farewell was so difficult with emotions expressed even with the hostile friends by when we had started realizing the meaning of friendship. So came an end of a beautiful dream called SCHOOL.
Then came College where we were half men with big talks and groups and introductions of our schools and settled with our own like minded friends. Here too there was no dearth for humor to play pranks with the Professors and to mime them was a regular feature of any youngster.
The cultural shows, the dramatic clubs, the National Cadet Core (NCC) and the canteen became the meaning of attending college than academics. So went the next three years and got us prepared to look at a JOURNEY called LIFE.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Childhood Memories...........

I remember the times when I would hold on to my mother’s hands and go walking to the school wearing suspenders. The times I‘ve been treated for pastries by my dad at McRennet when waiting for my mom to finish school (She was a teacher). It would be fun fighting with my brother for a chocolate despite having had a lion’s share. I have always loved the theatre for the evening outings for the Dramas and see my dad portray his role with perfection. The weekends would be spent with my parents taking my brother and me out for dinner to the best of restaurants in Madras.
I have never relished the arguments that my parents have had, and as a child and have always been paranoid of it. Though in my inner self can hear me saying why such things occur, which would leave any kid disturbed and never would realize when I dozed off with bitter thoughts.
I used to love the vacations spent at my grand mom’s house with her pampering me with goodies and feed me food with her hands with stories of Hindu mythology.
I guess the happiness came from knowing that this was my special time with someone that I adored and who adored me.
I can never forget the day I was slapped by my dad for having used money from my piggy bank without my parent’s permission to buy candies for my friends and self. He taught me lessons on honesty which is still close to my heart.
The long walks on the shores of Marina are fresh in my memories with boiled ground nuts to munch along. It was fun to make kites with my dad and fly them on our terrace to compete with our neighbors. The visits to the temple with my mother and her moral teachings to me are still afresh. The aroma of my mothers cooking is one of the best, as a connoisseur of good food I can remember.
As a child I was an average student and was never under pressure to study like kids of today. But was surely taught the basic essential traits needed for LIFE. That is what I would call Good Parenting is all about. Would love to thank my parents and God for instilling the confidence in me, for that “Never Say Die” attitude in making me what I am today.