Staying Afloat or Learning to Thrive not merely survive

Nina, 42, worked as a HR manager in a globalised corporate entity for over 14 years steadily climbing the ladder from being a fresh minion in the HR department to managing the human resources need for the company’s Asia-Pacific rim. She was touted for a promotion and a rewarding bonus in the next review cycle. 

Ravi, 35, worked in the sales team for the newly-opened foods division within a software to sanitary pad conglomerate. He had already made several trips overseas, was his boss’ blue-eyed boy and much-sought after in social events. His boss had given him a challenging target for the first quarter and he was confident of surpassing the numbers. 

Both Nina and Ravi found themselves scouring wanted ads in the next review cycle. While Nina was passed over for promotion over a younger colleague and quit her job feeling slighted, Ravi was rendered unemployed due to ‘a structured downsizing.’

Six months later, Nina had reinvented herself as a life skills coach and opened a training academy that helped companies strategise and implement better HR policies, provide soft skills and life skills training to employees and make the workplace ‘a place to live’.  She had three steady clients and several prospective leads. 

Ravi had switched two jobs and was busy figuring out where his next pay check would come from? Though he wanted to continue working for another corporate he was unsure of facing the bleak prospect of a lay off. 

How do you think this should play out?

In the real world, unless Nina had good, paying clients, minimal commitments and a nifty nest egg set aside she would have  had to fold up and look for another job. Ravi would have had to take whatever came his way till he found his feet. 

Nina, indeed, held on to her new-found entrepreneurial zeal and today has several happy clients in her kitty. She is a much-sought after speaker in management colleges, conducts training programmes for aspiring HR professionals, mentors youngsters in communication skills and helps senior managers enhance their life skills and perform better at the workplace. 

Ravi decided against working for yet another corporate. He banded with four of his friends to set up a business consultancy that offers virtual sales leads and business support services. He has a handful of clients and is busy developing a mobile app that will help companies schedule meetings in different time zones and geographies. 

So what differentiates people like Nina and Ravi who learn to thrive in crippling circumstances and the rest who go into survival mode?

For starters, both Nina and Ravi were consummate networkers. Chance meeting in the corridors were not reserved for gossip but used as a chance to cultivate relationships. Social networking platforms and office events were fertile ground to nurture relationships based on commonalities, collaboration and bonding.

Upgrading Skills. Nina and Ravi were always willing to expand their sphere of influence meaning they helped on projects and functions where their expertise besides the functional one furthered the need of the organisation. Nina, for instance, had a knack for project management and ended up volunteering on projects that were not related to her core area of expertise – HR. She was not shy of speaking about her accomplishments or taking on additional work. Nina had also enrolled herself in weekend classes on project management to get certified.

Ravi  represented his organisation at industry -level meetings and trade lobbies. Though an introvert by nature he was starting to enjoy participating in these events, networking and even speaking at smaller, focus groups. He was slowly shaping himself into an influencer who always stayed abreast of industry trends and standards. He wrote articles and papers on his areas of expertise – food processing and agro sector.

Life did not begin and end at the workplace for either Ravi or Nina. Ravi was an adventure junkie and had initiated a Adventurers Unlimited club in his organization. The club had grown in popularity by the time he moved out of his organisation. He ran a language club and also volunteered for social causes run by the CSR department including teaching slum children maths and english. He had met several interesting people through these volunteer projects. Nina had initiated a Buddy Programme as part of the new employee orientation. She made it a point to meet up with group heads and mid-level managers to understand issues and concerns. She held random lunch table meetings with new employees. On weekends she was a lecturer at a management institute mentoring management graduates.

Big Picture for these two was not a seat on the directors’ board but living a more meaningful life. For Nina this meant having time to spend with her family, her garden and two dogs while continuing to volunteer at the old age home and lecture. Through her business venture, she roped in experienced veterans to teach life skills at her sessions for corporate clients and academic institutions. Ravi enhanced the scope of his work at the NGO that provided learning to children living in slums. He used his contacts to get stationary, books and used computers for these children increasing their confidence. He was able to build a proper school and enroll more volunteers for the programme.

Both these people are thriving in the environment they have created. Though both are stressed at finding clients and managing their full calendars, they are enjoying every single minute. They have learnt to be the Boss of their life by managing themselves, their network and their team more effectively.

 

Be the Boss:

Always look at the Big Picture. Your life does not end and begin with the Organisation

Have Life Skills. Volunteer. Enjoy Activities that are only for your (inner) growth

Build Your Credibility. Communicate.

Network. Professionally and Personally.

Mentor.

 

 

 

The Job’s Garden of Eden by Rachel Chitra

I stumbled across this refreshingly delightful work of writing on a friend’s wall. Turns out the author is a mad hatter with dog(s) and kid in tow living a charmed life while she moonlights as a journalist.

The post evoked great childhood memories for my mum as I read this out loud. Of indulgent parents and living in the lap of nature unspoilt and uncompromised by the baggage of modern living.

While I’m still trying to entice the author to be a guest blogger on The Glass Ceiling for now here’s her post. I can’t think of a better way to wish you all A HAPPY FRIDAY and a Fantastic Weekend Ahead.

Hope you enjoy Rachel Chitra’s The Job’s Garden of Eden with incredible photographs by Nathan.J.Novak as much as I did.

 

THE JOB’S GARDEN OF EDEN

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In our family’s private circle of church friends and relatives, my grandfather Dr E.J.C.Job’s sprawling plot of land in Mandaveli was always referred to as the “Garden of Eden.” And indeed it was an overwhelmingly lush and green spot. My grandfather was such an enthusiastic, scientific gardener that if one were to call him a horticulturist it wouldn’t be far of the mark.

Another irony is that despite my grandfather’s deep love for the soil and all kinds of flora and fauna, he spent the majority of his life on the high seas as an Indian Naval doctor. It was only after his retirement as Surgeon Commander I.N.S that he was able to revel in his life-long passion by converting his house into a veritable paradise.

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If I remember right, we had 5 coconut trees, 2 jackfruit trees, 1 really top-of-the world alphonsa hybrid mango tree, a neem tree, two drumstick trees, stalks of banana in the backyard, papaya, Ram Sita (sugar apple), pumpkins and custard apple. We also had our own lime tree and I still love the fragrance of crushed lime leaves; even today while rambling through Russell’s market I can buy a whole cartload of lemons if I spot them with their leaves intact. We also had a sapota tree and one lovely amla tree, which was nearly 2 stories high. My grandfather unfortunately cut it down later when he felt he couldn’t deal with the hordes of school boys descending on us and almost breaking their limbs in their quest for amlas.

My grandfather used to garden everyday – meticulously pruning, shaping, fertilizing and generally coaxing his wards into good health. He would also casually mention the scientific names of animals and plants as I followed him around the garden like Mary’s little lamb. For me if I can remember off-hand names like clitoria ternatea, Annona squamosa, Phyllanthus emblica (mixed up in my child’s mind as umbilical cord), Panthera leo, panthera tigris, Canis lupus, Felis catus – it can only be because like Enid Blyton I had in my grandfather a deep connoisseur of nature.

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My grandfather was also a strong believer in letting children learn for themselves. So when my 8 year old father got stuck climbing a mangosteen tree, my grandfather just casually told him to come down the same way he went up and walked off; even as my worried-sick grandmother hovered around shouting frantic instructions. My father finally plucked up enough courage to make the attempt and descended in safety. It was the same with me – when my grandfather told me not to climb the drumstick tree I didn’t heed his advice. Later when I had huge welts on my skin from coming into contact with the stem-boring caterpillars, which had made the drumstick tree their domain, he never told me “I told you so.” But there was a twinkle in his eye as he ministered to the swelling, which sealed our own private pact of discovery and growing up.

We also had a lot of flowering shrubs – white, magenta & violet december flowers, gundu malli, jaddi malli (jasmine), kangambaram (red & orange firecracker flower), fiery red roses, balsam, spreading vines of pink button roses, Idli poo (jungle geranium) and abundant bushes of Vadamalli. The Vadamalli was a plant that my grandfather had never fancied much, but then nature finds its own way; and this abundant crop had grown from the discarded garland of one of our dear departed relatives.

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Come March and we had the Easter lilies! The Easter lilies adorned the edge of the lawn facing our house and my grandmother used to faithfully cut them every Easter to occupy pride of place in our drawing room. And these Easter lilies were huge ones that were almost a hand span in diameter. Now I wonder if they were that huge as a result of my grandfather’s experiments as I’ve never come across any to rival them in terms of sheer size. 

 Another lovely thing about the garden was that it was the pleasantest place to be in if my grandmother set me down to finish my embroidery or knitting exercise for the day. It used to be so pleasant to sit under the cool shade of the neem tree, with the wind tousling my hair and listening to the low hum of local gossip as our street watchmen gathered under it like me on the other side of the fence to take their afternoon siesta. Many of them used to also pluck the neem stems to use as toothbrush & toothpaste – such a healthy habit, which I never picked up because of the intense bitterness of neem.

Despite being a gardener, my grandfather never once resented the predatory and destructive activities of my cats and dogs. He always tolerated their mischief in the manner of Issac Newton and his dog; “O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done.”

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During the jasmine flowering season, the garden smelled heavenly with the smell of ripening mangoes, the jasmine and the sweet pink button roses (traditionally used to prepare attar).We used to string together the abundance of our garden flowers to adorn the heads of our care-cell members and my own unruly, tight oily plaits. I used to love this job and one of the few things I’m good  at it – is stringing flowers together with the speed and professional ease of the road-side flower girls!

My grandfather also loved his ferns, edible tubers (maravelli kizhangu, sakkaravalli kizhangu) & kitchen herbs (coriander, pudina). We also had plenty of medicinal plants too – like aloe vera, Kuppaimeni, Kathalai, Ceylon Spinach (that I really wished my grandmother didn’t include in her menu) and Manathakalli – it must be more than 10 years since I last had those wonderful berries, but I can still distinctly remember their taste.

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One of our maids Dhanam hailed from Vaniyambadi and was a farmer herself. She used to be thatha’s assistant in harvesting our sundakka shrubs (turkey berry), grafting the rose bushes, taking a burning torch to the caterpillars on the drumstick tree, etc. But she really came to life only with our coconut tree, she would painstakingly split the leaf stalkes down with her pocket knife and hem and haw at them till they produced nice, thick broom sticks, she would fashion kitchen scrubbers from the coconut matting and little monkey faces for me from the coconut husks.   

I think for my grandparents it was a marriage made in heaven. They perfectly complimented each other in every way. Apart from their deep, abiding love for each other they were also very supportive of each other’s hobbies and interests. I can still remember how my grandfather even at the age of 70 would go clambering up a ladder with a long stick & wired net to pluck mangoes for my grandmother’s jams and pickles. My grandmother was an amazing cook, who used to produce the most dazzling array of pickles, chutneys, squashes, jams, relishes and alwa from the flood of fruits that used to descend on us with each passing season. There used to be rows and rows of salted limes or mangoes laid out on clean white sheets on the terrace, on the balcony, on the window ledges, on the garage roof to be dried in the sun and later turned into bottled goodness.  

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Before the family’s finances permitted my grandfather to pursue his medicine, for nearly a year he studied at the local agricultural college. He was passionate about horticulture and was open-handed and generous with the efforts of his labour. Every visitor to our house – would leave with gunny bags brimming with coconuts, mangoes, jackfruit or whichever fruit was in season. For some of our friends – who were not country-born – there would be this big jackfruit-cutting session with oiled knives, newspapers and cordoning off of kids and dogs with grubby paws.

I think my grandfather’s garden was a testimony of his overflowing love for plants, animals, his family and his friends and it is with the fondest memories that I view these pictures of the halcyon days.

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Hard Times

When the going gets tough get going. Nope, it’s not that oft-repeated saying but this classic Billy Joel number from the 80′s.

I was reminded of it when I watched my grandpa make a sprint to our patio to check out the peacocks. No, I ain’t kidding. We actually have peacocks frolicking in our backyard (and front too) with all the bee eaters, shrikes, racket-tailed drongos, puppies and strays, magpie robins, kites, shikaras, mongooses and even lapwings on a rainy day! And yes, my grandpa still sprints!!!

Getting Younger and Wiser

He’s 95 years young, no, not the peacock… my grandpa. He’s lived in India through pre-independence, post-independence, license raj and post-liberalisation.

To put that in context, he was a babe in the woods when the British ruled India during the 1920s. His world was a privileged one. He had a proper fiefdom with hectares of land and people at his beck and call. He ran away from home to study in Chennai since he didn’t want to be an illiterate gentleman of the farm. After all, he was just being true to himself.

Just as an aside, we made a trip down memory lane to visit his Chennai roots. You can read more about it here….

There was no saffronisation though people were rigid in their religious beliefs. My grandpa was a staunch believer in the Congress party and the ideals it stood for. So he participated in the Salt Satyagraha, albeit on the sea shores of Chennai. He spent a brief spell in jail as a freedom fighter. There is a photo of Gandhi and Nehru together addressing one of the freedom struggle movements here.  Now, he reads the magazines and papers, and watches the news on TV but he abhors politics. He has seen and lived with people of a better breed, who stood by what they believed!

As I go through old albums I come across a ticket stub for a cruise ship bound to Australia. There is a post card datemarked circa 1940s with an address bearing the same street that my brother resided in 70 years later (Though both these glories actually are that of his brother).

He recollects how people would bow before him because he was a zamindar (landlord). Society did not believe in dignity of labour and people still lived in the varna system, he says. Yet, he worked along side his ryots (farmer).  There is a weathered press clipping where my grandpa is extolled for using the latest technology (irrigation at that point in time) on his farm. There are certificates bestowed on him by various agricultural institutions including for skills he mastered in silk worm rearing.

Perspective aplenty

There were no malls when he was a teen or a sprightly man living through his 30s, 40s and 50s that charged Rs 120 for a plate of idli/vada or a Sukhsagar by the sea in Jumeirah in Dubai. Instead what he had was an anna to buy himself a hearty breakfast of puri/bhaaji, dosas for lunch and a ride back home with some change left over. Wow, 1 anna got so much more than what Rs 100 gets me today. Again, to put this in context one anna is probably worth 6 paise today. LOL, we don’t even have ten paise and 100 paises make one rupee. And even the 1 rupee has become obsolete.

My old gentleman was and is a tough nut.

He married for love, not an arranged nuptial which was all the rage then. His wife was a socialite (so he says) and she was always impeccably groomed. She was a baker and she inspired women to come into their own through baking, agriculture, sewing and other handicrafts. So what??! Remarkable, I say, considering this was the 1930s when women were not expected to do more than bear children and slog over wood stoves from four in the morning to twelve at night. Society was patriarchal, not matriarchal.

When the going gets tough, he got going.

He lost his land in the land acquisition act. From being a gentleman farmer in his fiefdom he came to the big, bad city where he reinvented himself to become a manager in the transport & logistics sector. He travelled from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. He got his children the very best he could offer from imported biscuits to Sharbati wheat, even then called grains of gold.

From a man who held on to his conservative beliefs, whether religion or women’s rights, today, he is the more progressive individual I have met. Unfortunately, his kids never enjoyed that mindset but we grandchildren do. There is nothing we can do or no one we can beat, so thinks our grandfather.

As I stare at hard times progressing steadily into my 30s I falter and fall. Losing a job, battling health issues, struggling to meet financial commitments, getting a start-up off ground and still staying focused on the positives becomes tough.

But heh, one look at this diamond in the rough and I know I have what it takes to meet life head on. After all I’m of his stock.

 

 

 

The Age of Intolerance

Last night I watched an absolutely thought provoking movie starring Denzel Washington. The movie tells the story of a group of black students studying in Wiley College who are egged on by their teacher to fight back racism through debating and claim what is rightfully theirs, human dignity. The narrative also dwells on the lives of the black community in Texas (and the intolerance that whites show to blacks, racism and conflict could have been anywhere in the South during the 1930s when racism was still rampant, The Klan was the leitmotif of white America in the south and lynching a common occurrence).

Based on a true life story the Great Debaters is directed by Denzel Washington and he stars in the lead role. Not surprisingly Oprah’s Harpo Production produced the movie. While Denzel gives a power-packed performance (as is usual) it is Forest Whitaker and Denzel Whitaker as James Farmer Sr and James Farmer Jr who draw you in. While Dead Poets Society is a coming-of-age movie and urges you to live life, The Great Debaters provokes you to look beyond your immediate self and fight for humanity.

“An unjust law is no law at at all”. This line is a refrain through the movie.

And does it hold good now or what as we hurtle forward in Intolerance: between races, religions, ethnic groups, rich and poor.

We precariously live in an Age of Intolerance, where students get suspended for cheering a sporting team from an ‘enemy’ country and even booked under sedition; where (girl) students are arrested in the middle of the night for expressing their opinion on social media; where journalists come under the scanner for being unbiased and objective; where stones are thrown and lives in peril for going against the body politic; where women are maimed and brutalised for daring to be ‘modern’; where publishers withdraw books because an unheard-of group complains it hurts religious sentiments;  where going against populist agendas and ‘popular’ politicians can have dire consequences; where oppression is key to enforcing global capitalist policies and people are easy pawns to do with as governments deem fit.

Instead of freedom and economic prosperity what the 21st century will witness are more Arab Springs as citizens fight to throw off self-serving governments and oppressive forces.

 

Uprisings

Graphic Courtesy: map report

Good news: The educated class and our youth are not apathetic after all. We care.

India crosses the moral line of no return if Narendra Modi becomes prime minister

mpreeti:

Development vs Humanity, you decide?!

Originally posted on Quartz:

In October 2012, I spoke to a crowd of mostly Indians in the Detroit area about the need for innovation in Indian media. After my talk, I was stopped by an Indian woman who looked to be in her forties, was elegantly dressed, well-spoken, and struck me as someone who I could have easily run into at a gallery opening in Mumbai or high tea at a five-star hotel. She complimented me on my speech, I thanked her, and we began talking about the far-off 2014 Indian election. What she said to me that day festers in my memory:

“Even if Narendra Modi was involved in the Gujarat riots, I don’t care. His economic work wins out. I will vote for him.”

Since then, I have not been able to shake a deep-seated disturbance at her disregard for essential humanity. This disregard, I fear, is shared by many in India. Before…

View original 1,086 more words

Writing Techniques

I love to write and read. They are manna to my existence besides pet dogs, family, gardening, travelling, watching movies, a good Riesling and cooking of course. So I invariably, unconsciously end up doing a lot of both. Now I’m no expert while it comes to writing but I seem to communicate better in the written word than the spoken. So oftentimes I have people with great ideas who would love to write but are inhibited by themselves asking me: “How can I write more, how can I write Better?”

Well I don’t claim to know much of both, but, for starters, here is what I have learnt over the years as a journalist and a communications professional.

1. The first trick I was taught was to consider writing like a work of art. If you are given a canvas to paint what would you do first. Sketch an outline and then fill in the colors, right? (Correct me if I’m wrong here or if there are better techniques I’m always wanting to learn). Well writing is the same. So whether it is an essay, a term paper, an email, a case study, a marketing brochure, an article, an interview or a short story ALWAYS have an outline.

This outline could be a story idea where you know how it ends and begins so connect the dots. The plot is your canvass to paint as you please. Same with an essay or a term paper or  a case study and here you are luckier since you already have a theme.

2. Always write your thoughts down on paper before you start tap-tapping on your keyboard. This will help you Structure your thoughts better. Help see if there is a logical flow.

3. Write what you believe in else it ends up a farce. Now this could be difficult with writing a piece of marketing collateral, say a brochure for an underwear company that wants you to claim they make undies that give you the power of superman/woman ;0. Hehe, get creative.

4. Writing is all about letting your creativity flow. Don’t let others judge your creativity or tell you how bad or good you are. If you are willing to read what you have written once, twice and several times more than my friend there is someone/people out there willing to read you. Of course this doesn’t mean you malign another’s character or spew vitriol brandishing your pen. Writing gives you artistic license but it also means being responsible for what you write.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously as a writer, that is where you falter. Writing is about having fun. Whether you write about yourself, some one else, a product or a theme but always inject humor (if possible).

6. Write and write and then write some more. The more you write the better you get at it. This dated NYT article is worth a read  if nothing but to understand the world’s most prolific writer Mr James Patterson. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most number of NYT Best Sellers. Of course, he uses co-authors now to write novels published in his name but this also gives him more time to concentrate on books he wants to focus on, so he says. But the point is the prolific nature of his writing. So write now, today, this instance.

7. KISS still holds true. Sigh, and this was one of the most difficult things I learnt since early in my career as a writer I was given a subtle message that more is beautiful and only much later did I realise ’tis not. . You don’t need to write long-winded sentences or obfuscated text. Simplicity is key to all things good, and this is especially true in writing. Writing is after all a means of communication and if you keep it simple it is easier to get your message to your reader.  

For those who don’t know (huh anyone there?!), KISS = Keep It Simple Silly/Stupid :D

8. PROOF READ. It has become a fashionable trend these days to write in sms lingo, use atrocious grammar, unintended bloopers because a busy writer forgot to do a basic spell check or even write without periods and other punctuation. STOP! If you plan to become the next blockbuster author pay heed to what you write.

9. At some point in time all of us deal with the Writer’s Block. Simple way out. Get back to basics. Writing is an exercise and that is why our grade school teachers pushed us to fill up reams of paper with our thoughts, ideas and purpose. Some times the best way to beat the Writer’s Block is to write, even if its is nonsensical!

10. Develop your own unique style. While injecting humor is a good idea, it is easier said than done. All of us have our own unique style of writing. Some of us are staid and old fashioned, while some dashing, some irreverent, some humorous, some wield a poison pen but coat with irresistible doses of sugar, some are bitter, some are sweet, sometimes cloyingly so. So what’s yours?!

 

Of Donne Biriyani and becoming a life long foodie…..

After being banned from the kitchen it was a lark being able to step in with strict instructions from the dear old ‘mater’ not to exceed 30 minutes. So feeling like Jamie Oliver in his 15-minute meals I was trying to figure out what to whip up for a quick but good Sunday meal. With a kilo of fresh chicken sitting atop the kitchen counter along with mint leaves and lemon, donne biriyani seemed the obvious choice. Deciding to chance it further I opted to prepare Nagarjuna style Chilli Chicken. Well suffice to say both the dishes turned out so good that the family requested an encore and that’s what we had a few days later, but this time it was Mutton Donne Biriyani. I seem to have got the technique right as they requested an encore again.

Having had enough of biriyanis and Indian food I have been egging dear family to eat out a bit, and here is what it resulted in.

Food Reviews :D

Meanwhile for those curious about the Donne Biriyani. Here you go. Most readers may be familiar with Andhra style Hyderabadi Biriyani and the Mughlai Dum Biriyani. In fact most of the takeaway joints specialise in one or both of these styles. Both these Biriyanis are made using Basamati Rice or long grained, fragrant rice. Donne Biriyani, however, is a Maratha style Biriyani made with jeera sambha rice and there in lies one of its secret and extremely popular in Bangalore.

I discovered Donne Biriyani when my brother trotted home one fine Sunday morning with a stack of white boxes and delicious mouth watering fragrance in his trail. The boxes contained Chickpet Donne Biriyani. Spicy, hot and flavorsome we became addictive to the Donne Biriyani. There are quite a few popular eateries such as Naidu’s Donne Biriyani, Huliappa’s Donne Biriyani and of course what I prepare at home now :-P

Donne means a leaf bowl made from the Arecanut Palm Leaf. The Biriyani is usually served in these bowls giving it that special aroma. The biriyani is spicier than the Hyderabadi Biriyani and not as rich. I checked the net not too hopeful of finding the recipe coz my brother assured me the Donne Biriyani was a closely guarded secret but luckily the Internet is the guardian of secrets so I came upon Vidya’s  and Muktha‘s blogs which gave an elaborate recipe for the Donne Biriyani. After lots of trials and experiments here’s my version. Quick and easy this will take less than 30 minutes and enough for a family of four. Bon Appetit!

DONNE BIRIYANI

Ingredients:

Chicken: 1/2 kilo

Jeera Rice: 2 cups

Steamed Rice (Sona Masoori): 1 cup

Bay leaves: a few

For the green paste:

Onions: 1 big or 3 small cut into chunks

Garlic: 10 pods

Green Chillis – 8

Cloves, Cinnamon, Cardamom: 5/1 stick/4

Javitri (Mace)- 1 flower

Mint leaves-  from 4 sprigs

Coriander leaves – from 3 sprigs

In a pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and roast ingredients above. Grind to fine paste.

Additional Ingredients: Juice from half a lime, spoon of Kasuri Methi (dry methi leaves)

Method: In cooker, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add bay leaves and roast for 30 sec.  Pour ground paste and roast till you get the fragrance of spices. Add chicken pieces and marinate over low flame. Add 1/4 tsp garam masala, 2 pinch of turmeric, 1/4 tsp of Dhaniya powder. Add rice. Pour water till the rice and chicken are covered. (Rice to water proportion: 3 tall glasses of water to 3 cups of rice. Remember jeera rice doesn’t require too much of water else it will take lumpy). Add juice from half a lime and a spoonful of kasuri methi leaves. Add salt to taste. Stir once. Close cooker and cook for 5-6 whistles.

Serve hot with boiled eggs, sliced onions and lemon wedges.

P.S: The above was the easy version. For those with time and patience, the mutton biriyani follows the same recipe. Only difference: half cook mutton before hand and use the mutton broth instead of plain water while cooking the biriyani. The half-cooked mutton is added in the same stage as the biriyani and instead of using plain water the mutton broth can be used which adds more flavour and richness to the biriyani.

Interpreter of Maladies

I’m not into reviewing books much as I enjoy reading them probably because the analysis spoils the joy of reading. It is probably because we were forced to review books and movies as literature students in college and now, the very thought of writing a book review seems sheer drudgery. Perhaps it is also because I suck at writing book reviews.

But there are times when a book is so compelling not only because of the sheer strength of its narration, characters and contexts but also the use of language which is straight from the heart. Such a book tugs at the reader’s heart while provoking the reader to think and place themselves in a situation similar or far beyond their scope of vision. Such a book changes perspective and at times steers the reader to look within.

Such a book just stays on far after the final chapter is over and the back of the book cover closed. Pulitzer prize winning Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies is one such. 

Essentially a collection of short stories, the book explores the struggles that people displaced from self or familiarity or their homeland grapple with as they try to find meaning to their existence. Though the book is about Indians and Indian Americans living in conflict between the culture they were brought up in and a new (alien) culture, the beauty of the narrative is that the sense of bewilderment is something that a reader of any nationality or culture would have experienced, albeit in different circumstances, when being uprooted.  The characters and their emotions that anyone can relate to, and not necessarily unique to a Bengali. It is this sense of loss that ultimately becomes the thread that weaves the nine stories together.

Whether it is the old sweeper, the demented child woman, the Interpreter or the student among the myriad central characters that play in the book each of them has been deftly etched, their personality defined, the narrative powerful, simple and never meandering but always taking the reader to a new level of understanding human nature. Being able to create such well-defined characters in short story format is nothing short of brilliant.

Beyond that, read the book for its elegance in prose, its great story telling that very succinctly captures nuances unique to Indians,  that at times is poignant and other times downright irritating. Some of the depictions border on stereotypes but again it does not take away from the story and in fact adds to the story. The endings leave you guessing but again gives you scope to imagine a new beginning or a good end to a miserable, deformed relationship.

And for that alone this is one book that is Highly Recommended.

 

To Be a Man: An all-inclusive, interactive conversation among men.

mpreeti:

Reblogging this from The Public Blogger. Thought provoking especially in the times we live in.

Originally posted on Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger:

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You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom.
All you have to do is to be an intell
igent human being
- Malcolm X

Men

Men At Work by Marcie Adams Eastmans Studio Photography

What does it take to be a lion? An episode of National Geographic or Animal Planet on life in the Serengeti will answer that question in graphic, violent, well filmed documentaries.  Male lions are born into privilege. Their  majestic appearance is a hindrance to the ambush style of the hunt.  Their beautiful manes make being inconspicuous nearly impossible and their hulking physique make them much to slow to catch most prey. They spend nearly 18 hours a day in slumber and after the females return with the spoils, the male lions are always the first to eat. Known to take on a pack of hyenas – solo – their most ferocious competitor…

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Quick fixes

It is easy to get rattled when your beliefs are constantly ridiculed by your ‘supposed’ support system. It is also easy to let your ego get in the way of your goodness and good sense. Easy way out, step back before stepping in. Take a deep breath and take it easy. Here are my quick fixes, banal though some may be but they always perk me up.

A Hug, a kiss, a snuggle: 

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Am blessed to have a grandfather who still cares and understands. His wisdom and grace humble me and make me look beyond my small universe to the vastness of endless possibilities.

Walk in the Park or Jog around the neighbourhood: 

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There is nothing like the breeze gently blowing your face, the earthy smell of leaves on wet  ground and the sight of tall, majestic trees that have probably been around much before I did. Nature clears the mind, cleans the heart and soothes the soul. Breathe in.LIVE.

And you would surprised by the hidden treasures your by now familiar neighbourhood still has. I was for sure. I found quaint temples, a tea shop that sells cheaper eggs and a couple of adorable beagles ;-)

Watch a movie

Now I don’t know about you but when I’m lost I don’t want to watch a maudlin tear jerker or a preachy ‘all will be well’ sorta movie. What I would like is a movie that takes me away to Smiley land and give me a fresh perspective to boot. Here are a few of my all time favorites

Arsenic and Old Lace: One of Cary Grant’s hidden gems where a gaggle of cooky aunts, a wicked step brother and his own eccentricities keep you in splits all through the movie.

Golmaal : Stellar casting of Amol Palekar, Utpal Dutt, Bindiya Goswami and Deena Pathak transport you to age of innocence where a moustache can determine your identity as opposed to the biometrics these days ;)

Chupke Chupke: Again this was a casting coup if ever there was one. Imagine having Amitabh Bachan, Dharmendra, Asrani, Jaya Bahaduri, Sharmila Tagore, Kestu Mukerjee and the sweetest Om Prakash together in a frame. This divine comedy is sure to tickle your laugh tracks and make you look around for doppelgangers ‘coz all of us have that annoying know-it-all brother-in-law or that sweet Bhabhi or that handsome prof.

Khatta Meeta: Ashok Kumar and Pearl Padamsee rock this movie and the rest of the crew provide a good canvass for these two central figures to shine as they unite to bring together warring sons and daughters together. While Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal 3 tried bringing this theme back, it is no patch on the original.

Padosan: Ek Chatur Naar badiya hoshiyaar sings a bucktooth, pony tailed Sunil Dutt while Kishore Kumar goes Ae gaare, arre jaare to poor Mehmood. If there is that one defining moment in Hindi comedy this is it.

Chasme Baddooor: Ms. Chamko. Yes, indeedy nobody can rival this classic Sai Paranjpe comedy with my all time favorites Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval with the rest of the gang (Rakesh Bedi, Ravi Baswani, Saed Jaffrey). Now if only life were this simple!

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Give me some feel good moments from the Middle East says the consummate PR played by Kirsten Scott Thomas and what her team gives her are images of bombings and more bombings. This is Brit Humor at its best.

The World’s Fastest Indian: Watch Sir Anthony Hopkins in one of his best performances as he shows humor, determination and indomitable courage to make you smile and get inspired to be better

The Sting: A stellar cast has you applauding as they try to outwit the mob.

Marley and Me: Marley, Marley, Marley

To Be or Not to Be: Mel Brooks has given a plethora of outstanding comedies including The Thirteen Chairs, Blazing Saddles, The Silent Movie, History of the World and so many others but for me To be or Not To Be captures his brilliant satire, quirkiness, slapstick comedy and wit! This is the quintessential Mel Brooks.

Seems Like Old Times: Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Charles Grodin take you to a place where everything falls apart but gets better all at once. Good old fashioned romance meets goofball comedy. 

See No Evil, Hear No Evil: Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor have you in splits from the opening credits itself. This is a movie that will take you out of the most downcasting moody blues you may have. Just be sure to have a wad of tissue since this epic comedy will have you clutching the sides of your stomach and crying out in howls of laughter.

The Carry On series: If you want the best of British Humor, this one’s for you. The Carry on franchisee with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey and the rest of the gang will have you rolling up your eyes and slapping your thighs as you laugh along with the parodies, and digest their satirical wit and bawdy humor. My personal favorites: Carry on Up the Khyber, Carry on Doctor, Carry on Cruising and Carry on Nurse.

Doctor in the House: This was my introduction to Dirk Bogarde as Dr. Simon Sparrow and the irrepressible James Robertson Justice as Dr. Lancelot Spratt. Perhaps I would have been more serious as a student scholar had I seen the Doctor series much earlier, just so I could work at St. Swithin’s ;-)