Kuch Khattee, Kuch Mithee

Huh… done with today’s purposeful outing at a mall !

A little over a decade ago, malls were so exciting; particularly, when our generation became salaried 🙂 . It was then when the ‘mall culture’ began across Indian cities and big towns. Almost every weekend or at least the alternate ones used to typically start at some fashionable mall, pace through a royal lunch, then had us fly high in car or bike rides or hooked up at a hi-fi cinema hall, and finally rolled into discotheques or pubs or late-night chit-chats on the open terraces. For some ‘poor guys’, the daytime meant office-over-the-weekend and at nightfall, they would join rest of their folks- again at some mall or pub. Only a few among us earnestly managed their weekend time and energy to learn an art or render services at charitable institutions.

 

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Well, the plus points with well-designed and well-located malls still are “relative” degrees of safety, dust-free environment, clean washrooms, one-stop junction for varieties of food, etc., saving of horizontal space (including parking facilities), streamlining distribution and management of infrastructural resources, increasing levels of employment, ground of opportunities for the ‘modern people’ to practice and teach mannerisms to their kids 🙂 and… good malls may sometimes, plainly map all its sparkle onto empty souls !! The last point acquires great significance when the youth venturing into career options, whether studying or working, in far-flung cities stay away from their families and confront various types of struggle or face loneliness during such trying phases of life; then they are usually prompted to visit a dazzling mall (alone or with friends) and ‘just chill’. That’s definitely a wiser thing to do than idling away in gloominess !

Moreover, malls are also excellent ‘match-fixing’ (matrimonial match-making) spots 🙂 … In many cases, not only the prospective couple but both the prospective families also meet without any hassle or raising their envious neighbour’s eyebrows. The same convenience is explored even for ordinary get-togethers among friends and their families because then the host just has to co-ordinate and make the payments only; he /she does not have to bother about the nitty-gritty in this minutes-starved world. This has therefore become quite an acceptable lifestyle in India.

 

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Hence even if one doesn’t wish to really shop, malls are somewhat good spots to catch friends up all on the quick gossip or catch rays of hope…

But over the last few years, I find malls and cinema halls terribly suffocating. This, even when I need to make serious business. In fact, nowadays I don’t visit malls alone because often I sweat profusely and feel dizzy at times… I don’t know if its the ever-increasing crowd or the insatiable cravings of many people over sales /discounts /offers on various items (branded or not) or their superfluous definitions of modernity or the crazy video-games counters or the jam-packed food-courts or the concrete roof or the artificial lights or the over-lapping loud noise or the pungent perfumes or vague constraints of space and time or an almost total absence of interpersonal warmth, or… a mix up of everything !!! And of course, it deeply concerns us to see many children and youth left unguided for taking appreciable interest in story books, classical music or other forms of art, physical activities or integrated development programmes; rather they too, knowingly or unknowingly, seem to be caught in perturbing rat-races and gibberish talks !!

Neither I enjoy the various online shopping options, particularly clothes because we cannot feel the texture, let alone checking proper fittings. And one usually finds all those famous wholesale or factory outlets stretched along ‘old city’ areas; reaching those spots means manoeuvring huge tasks through the motionless or erratic traffic, dust, noise and stench from nalas (drains) or chemical and leather processing units !

Wish we could still retain the old-fashioned simple layout of shops in lanes and by-lanes of approved market areas in a few places; primarily, to facilitate bad shoppers like me 🙂 and secondly, may be to cherish memories of by-gone days… In any case, at least employment and business would be guaranteed.

I so much miss my hometown shops: the open vertical space around the by-lanes which let us breathe well even in a crowd, see the starry or blue sky and experience the drizzles.. the bindaas thele-waleys (carefree vendors of portable stalls) making hot, mouth-watering snacks and serving tea in little earthen pots.. the fruit-sellers and the florists from the beautiful countryside selling fresh produces.. the fragrance of the incense sticks and neatly stacked items in shops were always so attractive.. the greetings of the shop-owner and his staff (mostly well-acquainted faces) were so warm.. and the music- whether a bhajan (devotional song) sung by a beggar or the flute played by him or a pop number reverberating from a tape-recorder, always stirred up the dullest of spirits. In general, life’s vivid hues graced the senses wherever they turned to. And often, they taught us something wonderful.

I am sure every Indian city or big town has its own charmful notes in this context. Shopping, for any occasion… for any number of friends or relatives or for oneself, was so enjoyable then………..

Desi Thelewale Bhaiyya, Zindabaad !

Today morning, I came across an article detailing certain analysis of Indian food by a well-known Australian culinary historian, Charmaine O’Brien. While reading it, I was prompted within to reflect on my own thoughts related to it.

Last week, we had fresh hot thelewale Samosas (an Indian snack from portable stalls) presented to us by our Help.

I was a bit hesitant since I have just recovered from Viral fever. But ultimately I couldn’t resist the utter temptation – toh “Jay Jagannath” bolke khaa liya (so I had it trusting Almighty) 🙂 … It was indeed so mouth-watering !

Then I remembered my hometown’s 50 paisa /1 rupee variety Chops (stuffed Pakoras) that were incredibly tasty, and just slightly bigger than old one rupee coins. Those from the thelewale used to be a perfect treat with Moodhee (puffed rice) and Masala Chaaye (herbal tea) on rainy evenings ! They are still there but with increasing awareness on hygiene and new options of snacks, now the portable stalls are mostly seen in properly monitored exhibitions and traditional melas (fairs).

samosa_kachori

hmmmmn… Kitna bhi badda restaurant ho le ya aap kaise bhi banalo (howsoever big may be a restaurant or one prepares it with all care), when it comes to Pakoras, Chaats, Jhaal Muri, Ghoogni, Pani Poori, Dahi Vada and these kinda stuff, you can’t beat that of our very own desi thelewale Bhaiyya (India’s street Hawkers) !

For a while, forget the hygiene: zindegi ki woh ‘zing thing’ kahaan se laogey (from whence would you attain that unique pungent flavour of life) 🙂 !!!

And the charchaa (gabfest) around fresh street food and the Hawkers’ portable stalls, under the thundering clouds and in the cool zephyr… usmein baat hii kuch khaas hai, hai na (there’s a special air about it, isn’t it)… ?

muddheemasla

 

Messengers of the Fourth Estate

During my teens, wish I for once at least, did the job of newspapers “supply-boy” (whom I respectfully address here as ‘messengers of the fourth estate’)… It must be so thrilling and reposeful too !!!

Whether spring or winter, summer or rains, I have always remembered their faces as jolly and spirits as active.

Being the first to know among civilians, what happened somewhere at night or at the break of dawn; keeping a tab on people who move in or out of the town (and perhaps why); gathering information on all the progress in the town; breathing the fresh air; experiencing the refreshing May-showers; cycling along green alleys to cheer a good health; sipping a free cuppa-tea through the departing mist; beholding the beauty of blooming gardens and early birds; learning the untold stories of the elderly and aggrieved folks; hearing the first temple bells amidst hypnotic chants; observing the innocent smiles and pranks of school-kids in the queues;…………

Know what- such a small stint even would make a truly whole good book of the times ! 🙂  … And I am sure, some of the messengers must have sailed beyond this part-time job (meaning, a temporary one and not that it is any low in terms of dignity of labour) with grit and patience, and excelled in other spheres as their lives gradually unfolded before them.

Coming back to the topic… Well, nowadays we are used to reading online news and watching streaming digital information on television sets. Today’s youth and children may not realize the charm of the print version of the newspapers or the services of these messengers. But the habitual readers of yesteryears still remember, reflect and therefore, continue to look for both- the very important thing every morning, along with or just after collecting milk.

While chatting over this with an old friend of mine, he pointed at some hardships and disadvantages in this service and remarked that all that looks so fantastic from afar is actually not easy and rewarding. His reasons- these messengers have to wake up early during chill mornings when the rest of the world is all cuddled beneath warm blankets, drench in heavy rains, some newspapers may not sell due to discontinued business, other uncertainties, etc.

To that, I stood with immediate defence- “then you must agree that it is also not easy to speak about the all-restful or all-classy or all-bright looking IT folks, home-makers, early morning joggers, farmers, sadhus, musicians on early morning rewaaz (practice), doctors and nurses on-duty for days together, soldiers, etc. !!” 🙂 … My friend of course agreed to the fact that despite problems, life has to be sought and cherished in its all beautiful shades. Therein lies our thorough engagement with the drama scripted by the Lord.

I do not know if these dutiful messengers have been ever honoured anywhere as an important part of the fourth estate. But I believe they truly deserve a certain recognition. I wish, as an aware and caring society, we appreciate their services and good cheer at least in our own individual capacities, like enabling them in their struggle for education or facilitating their pursuit of finding better jobs later. It may not mean a financial assistance always; the recognition can be rendered in various manners to bring out the best out of life for these wonderful messengers of the fourth estate.

Aamjunta– what do you say?

9s

Should we Approve this Space Redefinition ?

Like many of my folks, I would love to live in a villa or mansion with most modern amenities, a sprawling garden, a customized swimming pool and good parking space.

Money matters but it is not the real determinant !

For after the routine confrontation with SPACE and POLLUTION around, I am not in favour of even owning a four-wheeler (in fact, I am still avoiding it !). The Apartment concept is a wiser choice in many aspects and as a family even, we are also comfortable and happy travelling in autos, Volvos and taxicabs.

We are happy because we spare space and prevent pollution – all very little but that is what we still manage to contribute. That gives us some sort of joy within. And of course, we do not have the headache of maintenance, licence renewals or manoeuvring in traffic when we actually look forward to solely enjoying the time.

Three years ago, we planned to get bicycles but there is still no appreciable bicycle lanes across the city. And the metro rail tracks too do not utilize the underground space… Anyway, if ever we much need to own one vehicle, then we shall restrict it to minimum usage to release space-on-roads and prevent air-pollution at least.

Of late, the ‘villa culture’ is the latest style-and-status statement in the city. Millionaire home buyers, particularly in Bangalore are even seeking out helipads and four-car parking areas !!! (This entire article is a must read; every bit of information contained in it sounds so alarming to me that I could not figure out what to highlight and what to ignore !)

Moreover, irrespective of the number and quality of roads, there are huge ads and flashy show-rooms everywhere to promote sale of varieties of fashionable cars and SUVs.

So this is how it goes – we observe Earth Hour, Save Trees, Prevent Pollution, Stop Industrialization, Environment Day, etc. But we go crazy with these $million /$billion investments, mostly to satisfy our ego – why ? Surely we can jolly good afford but are we being honest with ourselves ? Why can’t we start practising some sort of contentment, despite few odds at the beginning ? …It can be done in various ways – big or small, right ?

It troubles my heart more to see how some of my folks who have well-flourished in their career abroad are now heading home not really to bring in brilliant ideas to rebuild or serve their country but to mindlessly secure a high-flown niche in a city that holds promises of multifarious entrepreneurship and where mercury levels are relatively less drastic !

I therefore strongly believe that some of such detrimental features both of the Real Estate and the Motor Vehicles industries should be “absolutely unacceptable” to a society ALREADY DEPRIVED OF CHILDREN’S PLAY AREAS EVEN IN SCHOOLS – everyone is kind of getting choked at the rate things have already deteriorated !!

Otherwise, I am afraid there may come a situation in the near future, when we would not be able to spot space on Earth to even mark our own foot-prints, literally so !!!!

Aamjunta – what do you say ?

Hues of Life

A fellow aamjunta‘s brief but introspective account on a social-networking site of a swift and sweet weekend moment…

My hubby has taken Leave today to make it a big weekend.

Reason: to finish our long-pending personal work and gather some rest.

But he made it an usual morning by waking up at 6 A.M. and working on his office laptop for almost 3 hours.

As we were about to windup at breakfast (and I was contemplating to watch a movie, together), he very politely asked me to switch-on the TV: “TV ta tikiye lagei deba“…(note the word ‘tikiye‘ that implies an utterly humble, little demand).

Reason: well, again that little desire: “tikiye jhagdda dekhiba SC au BCCI ra (want to watch the ongoing arguments between SC and BCCI)” !!

Forget the movie ! My thoughts instantly drifted on to a completely different plane…

Its so much like a child pleading with his/her mother ‘maine home-work kar liya hai, thodda TV lagao na, Mumma (I have finished my home-work, now please switch-on the TV, Mumma) !’… Its rightly observed- irrespective of age, even men sometimes are still very much a teen at heart.

As for me, I think the left-over Vanilla ice-cream in my freezer shall be okay to keep me cool and happily brooding for now… 🙂

I re-affirm that observation for all the sexes that could be defined. At the same time, it is vital that others concerned are sensible and responsive to such emotions and desires which a simple, carefree heart radiates. Simplicity, cheerfulness, contentment and care are combinable as an antidote to ageing spirits and emptiness within. This particularly, speaking of young couples and nuclear families dwelling in the hustle and bustle of city life. Otherwise, it shall lead to unnecessary conflicts within the very basic roots of a society.

Let us celebrate life in its vivid hues, in big or small way.

Aamjunta, what do you say?

 

A Home-made Recipe of Cereals and Nuts

Since ages, we know that many cereals-and-nuts based food items are prepared in Indian villages and towns, and some are carried in containers for months together by native pilgrims.

Here’s one such recipe slightly modified (I would rather say upgraded) by my diligent mother-in-law, especially with the aim to control sugar-levels and check obesity. During her stays in the village, it also grants her good space and time from preparing a routine breakfast when she has to rather hurry for a special occasion of Pooja during the morning hours. 🙂

This recipe is designed to be easily stored and carried even during long-distance journeys. Having learnt the art from her, I now definitely prepare this food-pack for my husband on his tours abroad because it makes life easy for a hard-core vegetarian like him ! And of course, sometimes I manage to find a bearer to send these packs for both our families who prefer to reside at our respective native places, near the realm of Nature.

Here now, I bring to you this blissful recipe…

Ingredients:

For sake of convenience, I have referred the measure of cups. You can scale up the required quantity in the same proportion of these ingredients or adjust as you like it.

1.  Oats (replacing rice grains or puffed-rice or flattened-rice) – 2 cups
2.  Broken Wheat – 1 cup
3.  Soya Granules – 1 cup
4.  Cornflakes (normal variety) – as preferred
5.  Almonds – as preferred
6.  Raisins – as preferred
7.  Aniseed – as preferred
8.  Cardamom – as preferred
9.  Cloves – as preferred
10. Black Pepper – as preferred
11. Salt – a pinch

Method:

1. Take a deep non-stick pan; it should allow you enough room to stir properly. Dry-roast the Oats, Broken Wheat, Soya Granules and Almonds separately in the pan over low-heat. It must be adequately roasted (brownish) and emit the ‘dry-roasting’ flavour. Stir each ingredient continuously during this step so that all the grains or Almonds get a uniform heat and are not charred.

2. Allow the three dry-roasted cereals and Almonds to cool.

3. This step is attached only with the Wheat. Take small amounts of the roasted quantity and grind it to a slightly powdery texture such that it blends well when it is served with hot Milk or Water. This part of processing will require some further efforts –  each time you will need to extract the desired form from the grinder by using a hand-sieve, put back the coarse part in the grinder, add some more fresh Broken Wheat and then repeat the process. You need to do this till you obtain a consistent texture for all of this dry-roasted Wheat. At the end, you shall get the 1-2 tbsp coarse Wheat grains left; you may store it for making Wheat Porridge later on.

4. Mix this hand-sieved slightly powdery Wheat part with all the remaining ingredients. Aniseed (slightly fried or raw), Cardamom, Cloves and Black Pepper may be mixed as is or coarsely crushed. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture.

Its done.

Store it in an air-tight container. You can roughly estimate the expiry date of the whole mixture as the expiry date of its constituent ingredient that expires the earliest ! (So you should choose the ingredients such that they all have nearly the same expiry date.) Once you get it, do label the date on the container.

Serving:

Whenever you desire to eat, take hot Water or Milk in a bowl and mix the required amount of the mixture in it. Depending on your health conditions, you may have it simply that way or further season it with Fruits, dried-Dates, Sugar, Honey, Syrup, Jaggery, Sugar-free tablets, Ragi or Oats sugar-free biscuits, etc.

My father likes it as a snack with typical Indian Tea; so he sprinkles some crunchy salt items (like Haldiram‘s) in the mixture. 🙂

Aamjunta, do try this healthy recipe and let us know your feedback.

The Chaste of Liberty

Last week, it was reported that the Maulanas in Aligarh (India) are opposing burqas that are trendy with laces, studs, gems, etc. Reason – they fear it will ‘attract the attention’ and ’embolden’ the evil-eyed people !

Many ordinary persons, social or religious organisations and celebrities have also held similar views in the recent past.

Well, I think statements as these are not baseless in view of certain present circumstances as long as they mean to protect women in unknown zones (physical or social) or when they go out alone in places lacking proper gender awareness.

Many may not agree with my opinion but I would still request them to take a look at my reasons, even briefly.

In this regard, I would first of all like to make a small but very appreciative note on my recent observations of some foreign tourists (mostly westerners) visiting south-India. I found everyone of them to abide by certain directions, probably issued from their respective Embassies, in their attire. They all wore traditional Indian dresses and cast a very lasting impression on the native folks by respecting their values.

The gruesome Nirbhaya incident in December-2012 led to some modifications in India’s rape law. Even then, numerous such cases of either rape or molestation or eve-teasing or brutal murder after a sexual assault or acid-attacks have been reported. Sometimes it appears as if these occurrences have rather increased exponentially, like a severely infectious or viral disease ! To add salt to the diabolic wounds, age of the victim or the offender seems to be no more restricted to the country’s present definition of an adult, that is, a biological age.

With regard to rising rape cases, a year back, the Supreme Court of India had asked the Delhi Police to find out the root-cause of such brutal incidents happening every day even in the capital of India. Many psychiatrists like Dr. Nimish G. Desai are of the opinion that rapists are not mentally ill but attribute sexual perversions or psychopathic behaviour to them due to rapidly changing and non-monitored social mechanisms. They recommend institutionalization of gender studies wherein such people of inherent or acquired violent behaviour and/or having feelings of disengagement from society (work or family) can be identified and reared towards a positive direction before they commit such an offence.

In this context, let us delve into a bit more analysis. We all know that nudity is a form of both ancient and modern art expressed as any gender type, and it continues to be unblemished in some regions or societies. It is unblemished with regard to gender studies and characteristics of art itself. There it is accepted and appreciated as a normal, genteel perception. Now here is the sharp contrast. In other regions, a fearsome trend persists or has emerged of late – women (yes, mostly women and young girls) in attire like tight-fitted outfits, jeans, flashy tops, kurtis or even salwar-suits, are being watched with lustful glare. It happens anywhere, at any time and at any age in a society that is not well-versed with gender-related chapters. Formal education, high social status or financial riches are not always a dissuasion to check grossly misconstrued sexual desires. Rather some people’s disengagement from society combined with their lack of awareness of gender studies can turn out to be extremely distressful for others, as rightly cautioned by psychiatrists.

Now consider juveniles and how susceptible they are to committing crimes, the degree of which is comparable to that done by adults. In this post-modern age, juveniles, almost everywhere find quickly streaming information and easily accessible hi-end gadgets. These gadgets are often provided to the young generation either by unsuspecting parents to make them merely happy or by irresponsible parents to promote through the gifted devices a sign of their proud possession or affordability in the neighbourhood. With swiftly changing times, today children are more intelligent and smart enough to use these gadgets, irrespective of whether the usage is right or wrong. If both the parents are working, then there is hardly any one at home to guard against its misuses; and this may further worsen matters. Sometimes, family woes stir the mud in already troubled waters. Unless duly checked, it is possible that the unwanted or violent behavioural trends of juveniles would continue to get perpetrated across their peers or younger groups.

Perhaps, the same logic would apply for potential eve-teasers, molesters, acid-attackers and other type of abusers or violence instigators, abettors or perpetrators.

And obviously, with rising crimes the already feeble police:public and the judge:public ratios will also further deteriorate, thus delaying justice !

Now let’s explore two of our crucial roles in a society that is not only waiting to get adequate lessons in gender studies but having to already confront frequent crimes ridden with sexual components.

First and foremost of all, we must sensibly regulate or restrain certain type of entertainment and media channels, both print and electronic. Films and documentaries should be more censored, very strictly categorized according to various age groups and then distributed with immense precautionary measures. Particularly, women, young girls and eunuchs depicted on reels or magazines must always be shown in a respectable manner; it should not bear the slightest hint of any vulgarity or obscenity just for maximizing commercial profits. Here I want to highlight a very important point – where gender studies profusely lag, mindless projection of any sensual element for promoting modernity or liberalism, or for gaining commercial goals, further exposes the ‘aam aurat’ (ordinary women) and the eunuchs to sexual glares, pounces and pats !! Instances in an elite society may be rare but the ‘aam aurat’ generally bears the bigger brunt. Surely, there are other factors to be reasoned out but the one of mindless projections is definitely very crucial. Such projections can have an immediate negative impact on the minds of both the adult men and young boys; more severely, if they are disengaged from their family, friends or work-place and/or are already associated with anti-social elements or unhealthy environments like taking banned drugs. When every day we get to hear numerous crimes against women, then as responsible citizens, should we not check certain filming or broadcastings ? By preventing thus, we can help a meek society to muster fortitude, act and practically care for preserving the dignity of its weaker sexes.

Secondly, comes our role as parents or guardians or teachers of the current generation of children. It is a gradual effort. Right from an early age, we must educate them on various aspects of gender, and teach them to dress, converse and behave as suited to our culture and society, that is, where we live. Wearing full-length attire (whether oriental or occidental) should not make us a judge in our own minds even; we are not supposed to be labelled traditional or modern merely by our clothes or appearances. The terms are antonyms but it is wise to interpret them such that adhering to one outweighs the other according to relevant occasions. We should thus adequately put bridle on what we wear and appreciate. We should not fall into any sort of crazy rat-race. Our matured thoughts must do the smart talk and walk. Young boys and girls must be taught to equally respect each other and accommodate their issues. Gone are the outdated ways of gender-based barriers and patriarchal dominance ensnared by attitudinal issues!

Similarly, social or official guidelines must be adhered to by all groups of gender in corporates and other social gatherings. These are awfully necessary safeguards in our very own interests.

Well, now consider the provisions and protection sought under law. If enforced properly, it can take a tougher stand against mere violators of law and criminals. But it should not be just to punish them or deter potential offenders. It should also be because children witnessing depictions in any form of media or offences in society, that has sexual components or differential roles of man and woman, imbibe an awful sense of gender inequality at a tender age, and it would in all probability remain with them life-long or worse still, may find their yet scurrilous or violent vent in some form of anonymity at a later stage !! Moreover, changing rules should be in accordance with the definition of gender, the attributed social patterns of which are changeable over time. Hence, it needs thorough discussions and debates and cannot be simply listed over-night.

Nevertheless, law is definitely one of the greatest tools of social transformation. But legal reforms must be supported by an efficient administration, institutionalization of gender studies, holistic understanding of other socio-economic issues by the people of the land, their active participation in large numbers in associated programmes and awareness generation by a responsible media. Without all of us realizing these various aspects and acting in a co-ordinated manner, it would be quite impossible to root out the causes of such diabolical crimes and prevent these in some present societies.

As a well-known Indian columnist has aptly remarked yesterday in a leading newspaper- ‘Empowerment doesn’t work without maturity‘ !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

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