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Zillion Challenges- #AtoZChallenge

Zillion Challenges- #AtoZChallenge

zZillion Challenges in our daily lives! We all face them. But how many of them do we give our complete best?

When I decided to take up the A to Z Challenge, little did I know that it wasn’t just about blogging every single day of the month. My initial thoughts were..OK… here is a challenge that wants me to blog everyday for a letter of the alphabet. Now that isn’t all that difficult! As I got on with the challenge, I slowly began to realize how wrong I was. Writing everyday for an alphabet was just a small portion of it. There was much more to the challenge.

I have always believed blogging is a community activity. The A to Z Challenge is no exception to this. Apart from just writing everyday, it is important to read, exchange notes and interact with other bloggers. Soak in a bit of them, ’cause it is the best way to grow and learn as a blogger.

The first week of the challenge went by pretty smooth. Of course I had my blogs scheduled. But then began the issues. With a toddler, a school going kid, two elderly parents and a husband constantly travelling, juggling my home chores, my other editing work and the posts for the challenge became quite a herculean task. I was tired by the end of the day without even having an idea of what I was going to post the next day. There were many a times I thought I should quit the challenge ’cause I felt I wasn’t really doing much justice to it. But I trudged on.

By the third week I once again became a little comfortable with my posts and schedules. But here was a new problem. I was way behind in reading some of the wonderful posts floating around. Nor was I able to respond to the comments on my posts.The only way I could handle this was read a few blogs in the time I got, bookmarking the others for a later read.

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.”- Paulo Coelho

I am glad I pushed myself to do the challenge. There were a zillion things to tackle. The challenge ends today. But for me it is just a little pause, a sort of breather space. For the next month, I have the second bit of the challenge-to read as many of the lovely posts as possible, ones that were part of this brilliant challenge.

 

(E)Xpress Delivery Online! #AtoZChallenge

(E)Xpress Delivery Online! #AtoZChallenge

x(E)xpress delivery of practically anything online is possible these days. Seriously, what was almost unthinkable a few years back seems to have become a norm these days. We could get goods and services from the world of the web, with a click or swipe on our handheld gadgets.

Mrs Dixit, our Customer Support in charge in office, recently invited us for her husband’s 50th b’day celebrations. She wanted it to be a surprise party for him. Hence all her planning, from the guest list, the food, the present et all… were done in secrecy during office hours. At 40 something years, Mrs. Dixit has never really been the gadget kinds. Nor did she really use the internet, except for the compulsory browsing and checking of emails that work required her to do. She often commented on how we youngsters spend the whole day on the internet, wasting away precious hours. And shopping on the internet? OMG! It meant compromising on quality.

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Anyways coming back to the surprise party she was throwing for her husband. It all had to be kept hush-hush. And it wasn’t possible to do it after office hours, as her husband would be around. So Mrs. Dixit, on our stenographer Sarah’s advice, took to the online mode of planning. The gift, an iPad for her husband was brought from Flipkart, delivered to the office address. The cake for the party, was ordered from a popular baker in Vasant Kunj. The dinner was booked using another popular caterer’s website, from Nehru Place.

Mrs. Dixit was surprised at the ease with which she actually planned the whole event. All online and her husband hardly had any idea about it. Anyways the party was a big success. Her husband loved the surprise. The person beaming more was Mrs. Dixit, who proudly announced that anything could be done online.

At that moment another gentleman at the gathering announced that he had been taking piano lessons online. He had a piano at home, he signed up online, learnt at his pace and convenience and ended up saving a lot of money. Wondering if this was thinkable even 3-4 year back.

 Ah!!! The way the world has changed…. Is there anything else that’s going to be online? I am thinking…

 

Wedding Bells in India #AtoZChallenge

Wedding Bells in India #AtoZChallenge

wWeddings in India are a multi-day affair, loaded with rituals and celebrations. No matter which part of the country you belong to, or the religion you follow, you just cannot escape the grandeur it holds. Indian weddings are typically divided into pre-wedding, the main ceremony and post-wedding. So if you do get to attend one, be prepared to soak in a lot of excitement, fun and good food.

But what’s most surprising is the fact that, even though there may be a whole lot of similarities in rituals across the country, when you look deep within, every region has certain unique wedding practices that are distinct in their own way.

I recently attended a Bengali wedding and was intrigued by it all. By Indian standards, it sure was a simpler affair. But a few things stood out in the wedding. For example the wearing of the “TOPOR” by the groom.  A Topor is a type of conical headgear worn at the time of the wedding. The bride is carried on a “PIRI” which is a wooden seat, while covering her face with betel leaves. Oh, another most unique thing – the mother of the groom is not allowed to see the wedding!!!!

In Tamil Brahmin weddings, the bride is seated on the lap of her father, when the groom ties the “Mangalsutra” around her neck. This is done to the sound of the “Nadaswaram (a long wind instrument typically played in south India).

Here’s something I liked in Marathi weddings. They use a silk shawl called Antrapat separate the bride and the groom. It is removed when the sacred mantras are recited after which the bride and groom can see each other.

With each region having its own set of unique practices, all I can say is Indian weddings are a one of a kind affair.

Have you been intrigued by any Indian wedding practice? Do share it here.

Survival- Get Your Mix of Positivity & Hope #AtoZChallenge

Survival- Get Your Mix of Positivity & Hope #AtoZChallenge

sSurviving cancer should have a mix of optimism and positivity. It is found all around us; however we often fail to notice them. Just like my friend “S”. I had done an earlier blog post of her battle with cancer. So filled with optimism is her story that I had to blog about her once again.

S was 34 when she noticed that first lump in her breast. A series of tests and a biopsy later, her doctor declared it to be cancerous. S was devastated. She had a beautiful family comprising of two young girls and a loving husband. She felt there was no hope of her surviving and was worried how her family would manage if anything were to happen to her. S was scheduled to be operated in a week’s time. The day before the surgery she sat in the hospital bed with a glum face. By her side was another young patient, admitted with lymphoblastic leukemia. He was all of 8 years old.

In S’s words, “That kid literally shook me up. He was playing a game of chess with his mother. Despite the dry skin and loss of hair resulting out of his treatment, you should have seen the glow on his face. He had all his moves right. Not that his mother was making the game easy for him. She challenged him in every possible way. But I could see that he was enjoying his game, and every move made. I chatted up with the duo. He was scheduled for a surgery in two days time. Despite the anxiety strewn across the mothers face, the child had none. He loved games he said- Monopoly, and Pictionary being his favorite. He plays to win and that made him happy. At that moment it hit me hard.”

S added, “Now that’s what you call being positive and being optimistic, with no fear of the future.  Giving every move in life your best without really looking far ahead. Life is sure full of uncertainties. Whether it is for a cancer patient or for that matter any one of us. Why not enjoy the moment and just be optimistic about the future? Why worry about things which really aren’t in your control? I prepared myself mentally for the surgery as the docs prepared me physically.”

Before I was to be sedated, I called my husband and said, “I don’t know what’s the outcome of the surgery or my treatment, but I am going in smiling. And I will come out smiling, so go get me the best wig in town!!!” He had a hearty laugh.

“I did come out of the surgery smiling. The months to follow were scheduled with radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. They kept me in bed for days. I puked like hell. But somewhere deep down I stopped worrying about the outcome of my ailment. Instead I played Pictionary and Scotland Yard with my daughters. Their smiles during the games made me feel better. It is nine months since my last treatment. Mentally I am prepared to face anything now. I have come a long way, since my diagnosis. That little boy taught me to enjoy every move of mine. I call this survival without having a fear of the future.”

Quite a Lot of Technology #AtoZChallenge

Quite a Lot of Technology #AtoZChallenge

qQuite a lot of technology all around us… It has crept into our lives in millions and millions of modes. And even if we want to, we cant shrug it off us, now. My dear friend, philosopher, guide and colleague who shares a cubicle in office with me, “Richard”, was in a big dilemma some days back. Hear his story out.

With the financial year end round the corner, the entire office had been on tenterhooks. Boss “A“ had been hyper-ventilating since Jan, pushing us to perform and achieve targets well before the deadline of 31st March. So practically everyone, (including Benjamin our office chai-wala and, Poovanna our security guard) had been staying back in office well past working hours for over a month now. Where this was becoming stressful to almost all of us, Richard was having other issues. His wife Sara was getting tired of his long working hours.

Of course Sara is a smart, understanding and efficient wife. But managing a naughty boy like Danny, coupled with husband’s continuous absence, could psych any person. The unscheduled weekend projects, was taking a toll on Richard and somewhere on their relationship too. Sara felt Richard was neglecting them. And Richard was just caught between his family and “Boss A’s” eccentricities.

With our once a week meetings having become once a day, we all were hard pressed for time. It was during one such meetings, Sara called to have a word with her husband regarding some plumbing work in their home. The call went unanswered, as Boss A would seldom approve it in a meeting. Richard felt another vibration from his mobile. This time Sara had texted on WhatsApp. Richard clicked on the message to read, the phone concealed under the table. Just as he was about to read it, Boss “A” raised a couple of client issues for Richard to look into on an urgent basis. And that was it. Richard could’nt complete reading the message,until lunch time. By then it was too late. Sara was fuming. She was upset that Richard read the message, and didn’t bother to respond to it. Richard tried to explain what happned, but in vain.

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WhatsApp users get a single tick when messages have been sent. A message delivered would give a double grey tick, and once it’s read, those tick marks turn blue. Richard had technically not read the message he received. But by virtue of the fact that he clicked on it, Sara got a double blue click, communicating the message had been read. Sara didn’t believe Richard’s story and Richard could not justify his stand more. Technology had won.

He did make up for it that evening by going home early. But here is a question that he posed to all of us the next morning? “Did his wife Sara trust technology more than him?”

What do you think? Do you also have a similar story to share where you lost to technology?

Patriotism On Republic Day #AtoZChallenge

Patriotism On Republic Day #AtoZChallenge

pPatriotism is not just the proud feeling for your country. Patriotism is not just supporting your country in cricket. Patriotism is not just about, a day. It is all this and much more. When the feeling of patriotism encompasses you, you realize it is also all about doing your bit in your day to day living for the land you belong to, for the country that gave you your identity. That’s my take.

Lucky was I last year, to witness the 66th Republic Day parade. “A” managed to get some passes for the parade. My initial reaction was, “Do I really need to attend?” I mean, of course it’s a lovely affair and there would be a VVIP chief guest too. But I could still watch it from the comforts of my home feeling all warm and sipping coffee. But “A” convinced me saying not always do you get VIP passes. You shouldn’t really give this a miss. So braving the cold windy weather, I was all up and ready on 26th morning to witness the parade.

My first reaction when I reached Rajpath on 26th was- “Oh My God”. Is this the same Rajpath, we have driven by umpteen number of times? A beautiful sight indeed welcomed me. Ah… so it looks like I am going to like this. I soon realized there was more in store for me that day. The parade was lovely, and words aren’t really enough to describe the color and splendor. It was wonderful to see this “live”. Definitely the television fails to capture all the beauty around. The marching contingents, dances and tableaus sure left me spell bound. Aircrafts MIG29s, Sukhois, whizzed over my head.

Being there and seeing it all on 26th Jan, I actually felt the fragrance of patriotism. It was all around me. And I felt good and refreshed. I am now glad I attended the event, instead of being lazy in front of the television.

 

Organic Food- To Go or Not #AtoZChallenge

Organic Food- To Go or Not #AtoZChallenge

oOrganic food has seeped into our lives. In a big city such as Delhi, I often spot many a high end stores, selling organically grown vegetables, fruits, pulses, cereals and much more. The tag go-organic seems to be the new mantra.

But is this just a fad, or are there some really good health benefits attached to it? This weekend I spent my time in a nearby hi-end grocery store that stocked up a range of organic products. When I stood there thinking whether organic food should be the order of my day, I was lucky to chat up with the owner of the store, who helped me understand what exactly is organic food, and the degree of benefit it actually provides to the consumer.

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What exactly is Organic Food?

To put it in the simplest of words, organic food refers to crops that are grown without the use of harmful pesticides, fertilizers, and other synthetic materials.  Even the animals under organic farming are fed with organic supply without the use of any synthetic growth hormones or antibiotics.

What you get out of it?

  • Zero chemicals in the food you eat. They are safe from poisonous pesticides that have the potential to cause serious health issues.
  • Eco friendly stuff is what you get. The methodology of farming does good to the soil and environment. It does not go by the principle of increasing crop size, thus protecting the soil. It conserves water too! So yes, by consuming organic food, in a way you are doing your bit to preserve our environment.
  • Get your power punch in nutrition. Vital minerals from the soil are passed on to the produce. And what more they are ready and intact in the stuff you consume.
  • Taste- I personally did find the vegetables to taste much better. And the apples were sweeter too!
  • Let’s get to the fat. I came to know that organic products have zero hydrogenate fat. So that’s a step towards protecting your heart.

What is Not Good?

  • Gosh the price! I ended up paying 2-3 times more!! This is due to the overhead costs involved in organic farming. Going totally organic would cost you quite a bomb!
  • Food rots at a faster rate. Most products come with a low shelf life. So you got to consume them pretty soon.
  • Not easily available. Except for a few products most of the produce is restricted to “up-ish” hi-end stores and retailers. So for me it is a big pain to get to these specific stores to buy my weekly requirement, plus the disadvantage of the shelf life.
  • E-Coli are in organic too. E- Coli are the bacteria found in intestinal tract of animals are a threat to human health. It is said that even the organic food is not safe from the contamination caused by it.

So what do you think? Is it worth going all organic or stay put with the tried and tested food available with the local vendors?

 

New Clothes Through The Year?? #AtoZChallenge

New Clothes Through The Year?? #AtoZChallenge

nNew clothes are always such a joy to wear. How I love the crispness and smell when they are fresh out of the store. And I am sure it is not just me. Practically every single soul gets that streak of joy on a day when new clothing is worn!

On a recent trip to the mall, I was unable to resist some of the attractive deals flaunted by apparel stores to lure potential buyers. I ended up returning home with heavy bags and a lighter pocket. As I stuffed the newly acquired pieces of apparel into my wardrobe, I glanced at the pile of other clothes. Some used a time or two, some hardly worn. And here I was adding more to the collection. I promised myself I would not buy any more apparel, until I was done wearing most of them… Hmmm I do hope I keep up the promise I made to myself.

But pondering over this, I realized how things have changed for us Indians over the years. With the opening of the country’s economy and the mother of all revolutions, the internet revolution, there is a paradigm shift in our spending patterns. Shopping has now moved from being a means to cater to our necessity, to a leisure activity. And this is true for not only the urban upper middle class or the middle class, but also among the lower income group.

This was really not the way it used to be way back in the eighties. New clothes used to be restricted to festivals and very important occasions such as a wedding in the family. As a child I distinctly remember waiting for Diwali (the festival of lights). It used to be the one festival where the entire family would shop for new clothes. In fact, it used to be the only time in the year, probably we used to shop and make use of those glorious sales put up by stores. Way back then, there were just three destinations in Bangalore to do the best of festive shopping- MG road, Brigade Road or Commercial Street. There weren’t any malls and residential colonies seldom had apparel stores (unlike now where most residential areas have become pseudo-commercial hubs).

Dad would plan this extravagant shopping session a week or two before Diwali. And the entire family would shop till we drop….cause the next occasion to do so would turn up only after a year. At the beginning of every New Year, when the calendar used to arrive at home, my first job would be to circle Diwali.

I still look forward to this festival. I still mark the calendar. I still buy new clothes for the family on this day. But what has significantly changed is the fact that I also buy clothes at random occasions all through the year.

And the result of all this, an overflowing wardrobe, and diminishing excitement that lies in the ritual of shopping before Diwali!!

Katha- Comic Books From Childhood #AtoZChallenge

Katha- Comic Books From Childhood #AtoZChallenge

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Katha- in Hindi this means story. In a country as ancient as India, stories and folklore are abundant.  From mythology, to the great epics, to simple moral stories, these stories have generally been passed down from generation to generation by mouth. Grandparents almost always have a tale up their sleeve that would brighten up the eyes of the curious child. And then came along Amar Chitra Katha. Amar Chitra Katha is one of India’s largest selling comic book series was founded in 1967. It brought out stories of great Indian epics, mythology, history, folklore, and fables in a comic book format.

amar-chitra-katha

I grew up in a time when smart phones were not heard of. Television too was limited to a channel or two. The only source of entertainment was to read comics. Many a childhood days was spent reading comics stretched out on my favorite couch at home. I still remember my father getting me these comics every time he used to be back from a long business trip. Over the years I had accumulated a considerable number of titles. And to make it easy to organize and sort them, mom had them bound into thicker volumes.

I still pick them up for my children. Of course the prices have increased from a humble Rs. 7 during my childhood to Rs. 50, but I still read them and enjoy it. The Valmiki Ramayana being my favorite title.  Despite the years having slipped away, Amar Chitra Katha takes me back to the ageless time of my childhood years.

This is a part of my journey exploring 26 lesser known shades of a country called India, with the #AtoZChallenge 2016!!!

Jakamma & Your Fortunes! #AToZChallenge

Jakamma & Your Fortunes! #AToZChallenge

jJosiyam paakkareengala (want your fortune told?)”, she asked me. As I sat with my legs stretched out in the cool sand of Marina Beach in Chennai, I was approached by a 40-something lady. She was clad in a simple cotton sari, a wire basket in one hand and a black staff in another. Her hair was well-oiled, confined in a bun.

I have never really been inclined to any sort of astrology or fortune reading in my life. Never really found any logic in them and always stayed away from them. But that evening on Marina beach, seeing the plight of the poor women, I agreed to listen to her. Extremely persistent she was and, for a sum of Rs. 50, she volunteered to read my fortune (or is it misfortune), my family’s and my children’s future family. Whoa! Now that was some sort of a deal.

“Extend your palm and tell me your name,” she said. She placed a photo of a Goddess in front and on a plastic mat dropped 12 cowrie shells.  Stroking my palm with her black wand and with closed eyes she said, “Jakamma nalla vaaku sollu.” (Jakamma tell the right things. She spoke Tamil). “Who is Jakkamma?” I asked her.  Jakamma is our Goddess in the temple in Ettayapuram (a village in Tirunelveli District). We astrologers believe that our powers to predict are all by her grace. So before we make any predictions we must always begin with her name.

“You are a smart and clever woman…” she began, “…and have a very kind heart”. Hmm now this sounded nice. Who wouldn’t like hearing a bit of good stuff about oneself? She continued, “Though a very generous person, you are a spendthrift too. Money would flow out of your hand like water…” Ah!! So she was getting at some not so nice things too. I did a quick introspection in my mind. Was I a spendthrift? Well maybe, I just blew up Rs. 50 getting my fortune read, in which I absolutely had no faith.

For the next 20 minutes she rambled some predictions in a singsong manner, which I could make no sense of. Anyways, I sat amused. Despite my lack of faith in her predictions, I noticed the sincerity and conviction with which she rendered them. I liked the faith she held in “Jakkamma” and the belief that it is her power that helps her guide others. I paid her the promised amount and waving her magic wand she went in search of her next customer.

Visit any beach in Chennai and on the shores you could spot astrologers of sorts. Palm readers, Kuri Josiyum (the one I encountered with cowrie shells)) and Killi Josiyum (parrot astrology in Tamil) all promising to predict your future. Most astrologers belong to a community called “Kambalathu Naicker”. They worship the Goddess Jakkamma, and are inducted to the profession of fortune reading at a young age. It’s a custom that has been followed by the community for years. And despite their lack of education, these astrologers have in-depth knowledge on knowledge on stars, constellations and planetary positions.

As dusk falls over the sea in Chennai, it’s time to call it a day. The wand and cowrie shells go back into their wired baskets until the next day.

Have you ever encountered fortune reading? What was your experience?

This is a part of my journey exploring 26 lesser known shades of a country called India, with the #AtoZChallenge 2016!!!

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