Friday, September 30, 2011

Nine things I wish I had learned at school




They say you learn, most of what you learn, about life, in the first 15 years. If you are not like me, you would have spent most of the time in a classroom. My place usually was just outside. 

Re-reading the first line of my last post brought back memories of my school days. Since then, I have been thinking of things that I wish I had learned at school. Some of these things are never taught, but should be and there are others that I should have learned, but didn’t pay much attention.


1.      Get to know my own self
2.      Importance of being myself
3.      How to choose friends
4.      Finding my passion
5.      Chasing my dreams
6.      Take some risks, kick some ass
7.      Making decisions
8.      How to laugh at myself
9.      Financial Literacy
10.  Mathematics*


* I have to say me and my teachers tried really hard at this one. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Remember to forget




I remember numerous occasions in a familiar setting – me sitting in an examination hall. Scratching my head, how I wish I could retain more of what I read the previous night. Try as hard as I would do, the answers just wouldn’t come to me. And I would come back home with a report card which read “Can do better, must try harder!”

My childhood memories were triggered by a recent bout of ‘I can’t remember moments’. Be it time spent searching for keys or arguments lost searching for words; there is lot to be gained from remembering things. Surely, it would be better for us all if we could remember everything we see, hear, read and experience. 

Would it really be a good thing to remember everything from your past? Heartbreaks and headaches, bruises and betrayal, failures, flare-ups and fall-outs – There are things that I would rather forget.

While we often complain about not remembering things, I think we often overlook our power to forget things. It helps us start afresh, on a clean slate. I also believe forgetting plays a big part in forgiving – yourself and others.

Let’s take the time spent searching for the house keys, getting upset over missed birthdays, and everything I wanted to write after this but forgot as a small price to pay for this amazing gift. 

Image courtesy: Corbis.com

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Himalayan Perspective




Himalayan mountains are the world’s highest. It consists of a series of gigantic peaks including the Everest and K2. It is no wonder then the word Himalayan is often used as an adjective to signify something really huge. Like as in Himalayan blunder.

So when I saw on the TV about the Himalayan earthquake. I assumed it to be massive, just like the mountains. At 6.9-magnitude, it is definitely a strong quake but a seismologist would not classify this as a massive one.

Compare this with the 9.0 magnitude Japan quake that triggered tsunami earlier during the year. Intensity of which was over a thousand times stronger than the recent Himalayan quake. Reason for such a big jump in the intensity between seemingly small numbers? Ok, this is going to get really technical - the Richter scale readings are on logarithmic scale (courtesy Mr. Walking Wikipedia in my life). I am digressing now.

So, is Himalayan quake really Himalayan in the sense of the word? I think it depends who you ask. To a sit-at-home Mom watching the news in Dubai, it may seem relatively small. A seismologist may classify this as a ‘strong’ quake and for you the reader, it may be something else. It is unlikely to be massive or Himalayan for most of us.

But think about the families of the 100 people who lost their lives, thousands of people who have lost their livelihood or residents of one of the 100,000 homes that were damaged in the quake. For all of them this has been massive, a Himalayan quake, both literally and figuratively.

So next time when you read about a minor accident, small terror incident or a 6.9 earthquake – spare a thought for people whom it may be major, big or a 9.0. 


Better still, spare some change for those people who are trying to rebuild their lives. The link below has details on how you can help


http://sikkimnow.blogspot.com/2011/09/chief-ministers-relief-fund.html 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I feel half-Canadian this evening!



We are just back from dinner at newly opened Tom Hortons in Dubai.  The spread included an over-indulgent dose of Cheese Bagel, Tuscan Chicken Panini (must try!), Timbits and Coffee (AED 7, can you believe!).

We have lived all these years listening to our Canadian friends raving about Tim Hortons. The queues that extend around the block, freshly ground fair-priced coffee and Timbits (miniature balls of doughnut dough) are stuff of Canadian legend.

After reading the newspaper story about the Dubai store mobbed by Canadian expats, we set out to try it out this evening. We planned a dinner stop at Sheikh Zayed Road on our way back from Karama . Being the culinary hub of Indian food, I do not normally come back hungry from Karama, today was an exception.

We pulled into the service lane at Sheikh Zayed Road after Fairmont hotel, went past Crown Plaza and over-bridge to the Financial Centre  Metro station to find the store. If you are looking for landmark, this is just opposite Rolex Tower and next to the Starbucks Coffee!

We quickly queued up (thankfully not as long as I had feared), placed the order and enjoyed the sandwich, bagel, timbits and washed it down with some great coffee.

Hmm.. there is something about this place that works – here is my verdict

  1. Love the price of the coffee (Did I say it is AED7?)
  2. Super selection of comfort foods
  3. Soups and fresh fruit smoothies for the healthy lot
  4. Enthusiastic and helpful crew
  5. You’ll never be late with a store timing of 6am to 3am

I hate to admit but I need to say to all my Canadian friends that I sort of now understand their love for Tim Hortons. I feel half-Canadian this evening! 


Contact no: 04-3861193

Top Ten Tricks from a Pre-Toddler’s Handbook



My little one has just turned 10 months. And she is turning out to be really naughty.  I tell this to everyone that I speak to these days.  But what I don’t tell is that – it’s her naughtiness that keeps our lives exciting.

From zipping her mouth to wrinkling her nose showing displeasure, there are a variety of tricks she has in her bag. Here is a list of tricks she would pass on to the kiddie community if she could write

  1. Zip your mouth shut to say you don’t like the food
  2. Spit it out if your Mama persists
  3. Bite her finger if 1 & 2 fails
  4. Look away disinterested when Mama scolds (very important not to make eye contact)
  5. A smile gets you most of the things
  6. A frown gets you the rest
  7. Screaming aloud usually works (especially at shopping malls)
  8. Lights out at 8 does not mean that you cannot play
  9. Keep pushing when it comes to No Go Zones (trust me parents will get used to it!)
  10. Don’t get fooled by toy phones, do not settle for anything less than a Blackberry

Monday, September 19, 2011

Turn-back or Turning your back – That’s the question





Imagine an accident scene. 2 cars involved in accident on a round-about. The car at the front has its door open with a leg jutting out. A group of people are looking at the accident but a standing back thinking god knows what.

Another car approaches the accident scene, goes past the round-about just like many other cars. The driver of the car notices something unusual and checks with the fellow passenger. What would you do?

“There has been an accident at the round about in front of Al Thuraya Tower 1 at Media City. Both the cars are parked on the round about. Driver of a car is lying unconscious” said the couple in the car as they called the cops.

“Do you think this is enough dosage of ‘Good Samaritan behaviour’ for the day? Hey! Not everyday I get the chance to pick up my husband at half past 2 from the office. We called the police and they are on their way. That makes us better than the group of people who were just looking” thought the driver as she sped away.

Do you think this is good enough? What would you have done? Would you turn back or just turn your back?

It turns out, the couple didn’t go too far before they made a u-turn. Thanks to the moral compass, good sense prevailed. The scene hadn’t changed much – 2 cars, a roundabout, an unconscious driver, onlookers and passerby.

Help arrived after another phone call and sometime in the sun trying to wake up the unconscious driver.

“That felt good” I told myself, driving back home

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Upset over a setback – Time to Step-Up



I have had another setback for me in the quest to get a full-time maid. Last week our part-time help told us that she wouldn’t be able to join us full in Jan. There we go again I thought - I had pinned my hopes on her to help me with Smera and the house. This leaves me with no other option but to start all over again.

It all feels like a set-up, as if someone upstairs is having a good laugh making me run around. After my initial anger over things such as why me, what next and pondering over whether it was a set-up or a set-back, I have decided to sit back and start over.

As of Friday, I have started on my search again, I need to call recruitment agencies, make frantic calls to my friends and family. And I started to think about the qualities that I would like to have in an ideal help

1.      Baby-friendly
2.      Honest
3.      Reliable
4.      Organised
5.      Self-sufficient

See, I didn't have to think too much list them down. These would be few of the adjectives I would use to describe our current help, Athiya. If only it was as easy to find someone like her…

Friday, September 16, 2011

Games People Play


My earlier post on seven habits of annoying people went on become one of the most popular. So today, I have sharpened my pencils again in my quest to list down competitive sport equivalents of the games people play (or get played).

There is something about games people play. They could be silly, political, evil, awful and many other things. But if you watch some of them closely, they can be incredibly comical.  Here is my first four

SHADOW BOXING: You must remember these from any of the boxing themed movies – practicing blows and footwork against an imaginary opponent. In the real world, these are the type of people runs an evil empire - plotting and scheming against unsuspecting victims behind their back.

RAT-RACE: Are doing a job that you hate, to buy things that you do not need to impress people that you do not like?  This is exactly the rats in laboratory experiments do – they runaround on an endless loop of pointless maze.

FIGURE-SKATING: Have you come across people whose lives spin around all things money? They are masters of weaving a tale or other of their six or seven figure salaries, expensive penthouse, exotic vacations and luxury cars in every conversation.

FENCE-SITTERS: Fencing maybe a combative sport, but fence-sitters would not appear remotely combative in the first instance. However they are masters of placing themselves right in the middle of an argument. Though they have hard time making up their mind when it matters, they typically align themselves to the winning side once the outcome is certain.

So, next time when someone tried these dirty tricks on you or tempts you to get dragged in. tell them no thanks. And ask them to try the real thing.

P.S. – The players and games listed in here are purely figment of my imagination. Any resemblance to real people is strictly part of your imagination. 

30 Day Walking Challenge - Update

I have been making good progress on my challenge. Here is an update: 



Day
Date
Steps
Kms
Time
5
9th Sept, 2011
No activity
6
10th Sept, 2011
4826
3.6
40mins
7
11th Sept, 2011
5226
4.0
48 mins
8
12th Sept, 2011
3799
2.9
25 mins
9
13th Sept, 2011
4381
3.3
35 mins
10
14th Sept, 2011
5411
4.1
1 hr
11
15th Sept, 2011
3629
2.8
25 mins
12
16th Sept, 2011
Mall walking
2.5 hrs

Sunday, September 11, 2011

An Onam to rembember


Onam Sadya

Yesterday was special. Festive, friends, food, friday, fun, fantastic – I can go on and on.  It was certainly a big day for me. Challenge of making 12 dishes completely from scratch, pressure of friends coming over and to top it all it was my daughters first Onam. I had to make it special.

Preparations started a few days back with our big shopping – we had kept some stuff for last minute though. Top of the last minute shopping list was the banana leaf on which the lunch is traditionally served. After a long wait and braving the company of impatient last minute shoppers at Lulu, my Mr. Reliable managed to secure the goods, the previous night.

While Saju was out shopping, I was in the kitchen chopping. Yam, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Potato, Drum-stick, Okra, Cabbage, Carrot, Coconut, Beetroot you name it – they went under the knife. By midnight, every ingredient was ready to cook. They spent rest of the night in our refrigerator - waiting their turn to transform into mouth-watering dishes the following morning.

0400am – Smera woke up earlier than usual this morning which meant a shortened wait for the vegetables. I arranged the kitchen –neatly laid out the veggies, spice jars, pots and pans and got to work. 

1030am – Most of the dishes, Paripu, Sambar, Pacha moru, Avial, Toran, Pachadi, Stew, Errisary, Injipuli, Kalan were ready. Payasam and papadam were next.

1200pm – Three of us got ready in the traditional malayali gear to receive our guests and our friends arrived soon after that.

1330pm – It was lunch time. We got everyone to sit down. Then the banana leaves were laid. Dishes arrived one by one in their order (there is a hierarchy!). Saju gave a running commentary on history and ingredients of each of the delicacies.

Back home in olden days, food was eaten on the banana leaf, sitting down on the floor. Even today, it is customary to uphold this tradition during Onam. Many of us had some adjusting to do before we could master the technique.

Round one was rice with paripu (dal) and butter, then came sambar, after that butter milk (pacha moru), each of the courses were accompanied by a selection of side-dishes.

1430pm - Several servings later, the lunch was concluded with a generous helping of palada payasam (sweet dish made of milk and rice pasta)

During our post lunch analysis, someone asked the origins of this big a spread for Onam. No one knows the exact answer why, but it is quite possible that it is meant to signify life.


It’s got a bit of everything - sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter, hot, cold, crispy!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Onam – the fable, feast and my daughter’s first


Onam is here and I am feeling nostalgic. It's Smera's first and has triggered many a childhood memories for me. Growing up, Onam was the biggest celebration of the year, much like Eid here or Christmas in the west. The foodie that I am, most of my childhood Onam memories are around the sumptuous ‘sadya’ (feast) on the Onam day.

Many of you know the story of Onam, but those who don't and for those who need a refresher, here is a summary.

My home state of Kerala used to be ruled by a demon named Mahabali. Yeah you read it right, demon - they are supposed to be bad people but Mahabali was an exception. Kerala was prosperous, peaceful and harmonious under his rule. His regime was so good that even Gods, felt threatened by the growing popularity of this ruler from the dark side. So much so, they devised a cunning plan to overthrow him.

They send the master of disguise, Vishnu dressed up as a sage. Being the generous person Mahabali was, he played straight into their hands. The story goes, Mahabali agreed to a request of 3 feet of land for the ‘sage’ to meditate.  Soon sage turned to a mega-monster and covered sea and land in 2 steps and had nowhere to take the third step.

Mahabali wasn’t one to go back on his word. He asked the sage to take the next step on his head and in no time he was pushed underground, forever. Gods though, showed some mercy on him and granted permission to return to his homeland once every year to check on his people. And that day is Onam when the whole place gets decked up to welcome him.

And this Onam, I will be putting my culinary skills to test. We have invited a bunch of our friends for lunch and to celebrate Onam with us. I have been busy preparing for the task and will let you know how it goes. Here is the planned menu

Paripu
Sambar
Pacha moru
Avial
Toran
Pachadi
Stew
Errisary
Injipuli
Kalan
Payasam,
Rice
Pickle
Papad
Banana Chips
Sharkaravarty
Fried molagu


PS: My 30 Day walking challenge had been progressing well; here are the stats for the last 3 days

Day
Date
Steps
Kms
Time
2
6th Sept, 2011
7616
5.8
1.5 hrs
3
7th Sept, 2011
4826
3.6
30 mins
4
8th Sept, 2011
5226
4.0
40 mins


Picture courtesy: www.commons.wikimedia.org 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dream run or sleep walking ?


Day 1 of 30 (walking challenge)
My legs are tired; I am dripping in sweat after an hour of brisk walk. Even after such a strenuous workout, I was sporting a big smile. I have every reason to smile, I told myself – I always knew I could do this.

“Sangy !”, I heard a familiar voice calling my name and tapping my shoulder. I woke up with a jolt and a headache. I am clearly not feeling good, but the bigger disappointment was to realize that all my tiring work-out was just a dream…    

I tried my best to convince my husband how terrible I was feeling. It was too much of a coincidence for him to take – how else would you explain a splitting headache, twisting pain in the stomach and feeling awful, all the same morning I decided to start on my 30 day walking challenge.

I can hear you going “Yeah Right!”. But before you write me off as a drama queen, allow me to complete my story.  I felt reasonably good by afternoon. I was ready to start by challenge by evening. I am happy to report my stats for day one
  • 4776 steps
  • 3.18km
  • 30 minutes
My legs are tired; I am dripping in sweat after half hour of brisk walk. Even after such a strenuous workout, I was sporting a big smile.

Here is the proof! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

One small step for any human being, one giant leap for me



I feel well rested after the holidays. The feeling is not just mental, it is physical as well. And that's the trouble, you feel great when that's just the mental state but pretty rusted when the same thing is applied to your physical state.

I think it is time for another 30 day challenge. This time I intend to start my morning walks. I had my excuses until now - weather was depressing, Smera is sleeping and the like. Now however, with the weather starting to turn and Smera out for walks with her dad every morning, I am running out of excuses.

To be honest, I've been feeling lethargic for sometime. I think it is because of my near-sedentary lifestyle, even though my daughter tries her best to keep me on my toes. Anyway, I am hoping to get a bit of rhythm of routine back into my life and I think I will be walking my way into it.   

So here is my cunning plan 

1.        Sleep early (not later than 1030pm) 
2.        Get Smera a smaller pram that is easy to manoeuvre 
3.        Dust off my pedometer so that i can track my progress 
4.        Blog about it daily (at least publish the number of steps clocked) 
5.        Make friends with fellow walkers (get me peer-pressured to keep on it)

As they say, one small step for any human being, one giant leap for Sangeeta ….

Photo courtesy: NASA

Saturday, September 3, 2011

How can a book on Swedish tongue-twisters be a worldwide best-seller?


The IKEA 2012 catalogue is out. It was freshly delivered to our door step over the weekend. It is as if people at IKEA know all about our love for the store. I am yet to meet a person who’s been to IKEA coming out empty-handed – they certainly have mastered the art of making people buy something. I am sure IKEA catalogue features prominently in the scheme of things for them when it comes to making people buy.

First thing I did after landing my copy is to go to the lobby to grab a few more copies – 5 precisely. No, they do not come with discount coupons – they are for my fellow IKEA enthusiasts back in India. India is yet to have its first IKEA store (due to restrictions on foreign ownership I am told by mr-know-it-all, my hubby), but if my friend circles are any indication, they would not have any trouble finding fans when they open their first store.

Coming back to the plot – With a print order of 175 million, IKEA Catalogue apparently is the most published book in the world. What that means is that, if they were to be featured in any of the best-seller lists, it would pretty much be on #1 position, all year round.  

The catalogue look and feel is just the same as last year. With information of over 8,400 products packed into 374 pages it definitely feels like another IKEA marvel.  It is functional, well-organised and full of Swedish tongue-twisters.  

So to all my friends, for whom I’ll be sending copies, please note we are currently taking orders for November delivery. For all others here is the link to the online catalogue.


http://onlinecatalogue.ikea.com/AE/en/2012/IKEA_Catalogue/ 


Oh yeah, the answer to the question why this is a best-seller may lie in the previous all-time best-seller, the Bible. God only knows. 


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