Friday, May 24, 2013

Boy or Girl?

Boy or Girl?
This is the first question asked as soon as a baby is born.
 The mother wants to know.
 The family waiting outside with bated breath and fingers crossed wants to know.
 The neighbors, relatives, and even strangers who see you walking with a baby in your arms want to know.

 How does it matter what the gender of the baby is?
It is a spanking new human being who has just arrived on this earth to reiterate the fact that "God has not lost faith in humanity."

The arrival should be a celebration of life, of basic perpetuation of human race, for which nature tolerates us on this earth despite our extremely provocative and obnoxious behavior while we are here.

I know of many people who ask/have asked this question even before the baby has been born.
With the technology available and people who would do anything for money available, it is easy to find out the gender of the baby even before she is born.
I purposely said 'she' because she is the one who needs to fear this line of thought. She who is likely to be murdered in the womb before she even becomes a reality.
And don't be fooled by the law and the rules that make it illegal to determine the sex of the fetus.
 Despite those laws and rules this trade flourishes and makes the practitioners rich.
It is blood money. Plain and simple.
Do they care? Of course not.
And why would they when people want to remove the RISK of having a  girl instead of a boy?
All is well! All is well!
Hunh? No. It is not.

I understand the whole cultural background of girls not being the preferred sex as babies for parents, families and even entire societies. This is such an abstract topic that one can read and hear about it dispassionately and keep calm.
What I cannot handle is parents who have the heart to get rid of their baby, their own flesh and blood just because she is a girl.
It appears monstrous to me.
Do they feel like murderers?
Are they treated like murderers?
Do they go to jail like the criminals that they are?
Because till they suffer the consequences of this murder, they will not stop.
Violence against the female will continue unabated.
We need to give her the chance to be born please.
I plead with all of you who are in this situation or who have others in their families and social circles in this situation.

Ring the bell. Bell bajao.
We will stop anyone we know from having the sex determination test before the baby is born.
If there is no test, there will be no murder of the fetus because it is female.

I am the mother of two beautiful girls who are our pride and joy. When my second baby was to be born, I was asked by many 'well wishers' to get the sex determination test done to rule out a second girl.
I did not budge. I am so thankful and proud.
 Actually this is the right way. Nature's mysterious way. To not know beforehand if it is a boy or girl. Find out only after the baby is born.
Is it a boy or girl?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Home style chocolate cake that tastes like a Slice of Italy

Yes I know this is not a food blog. But can anyone survive without food?
Specially when the food in question is a Chocolate cake?
I baked one the other day and it turned out so well that I was asked to share the recipe.

So here goes:
Ingredients for the Chocolate Cake: 
1  tea cup plain flour ( Maida)
1 cup cream or milk top (malai)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
Two heaped table spoons coco powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (meetha soda)
1 pinch salt.
Sieve together all the dry ingredients and keep aside.
Put cream/malai and sugar in a big bowl. Mix in one direction with a wooden spoon.
Add one egg at a time. keep beating.
When it is nice and smooth and all sugar has dissolved. Begin adding the dry ingredients slowly and keep beating slowly.
Meanwhile the oven should have been switched on and heated at 180-200 degrees C (at least 15 minutes in advance).
Line a cake tin with foil. Pour/scrape the cake mix into the tin. Put it into the hot oven. Bake for 45 minutes or so till done.
I have a round oven with glass top, so I look in to see what is going on. You can use your way to check this.
Switch off the oven when you think the cake has been baked but DON'T OPEN the oven. Let it cool naturally.

Make chocolate sauce.

2 tbsp butter or 1 tbsp clarified butter (desi ghee)
5 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp coco powder
1 tbsp corn flour or plain flour
1/4 cup water
Add 2 table spoons butter in a fry pan. Warm it on very slow fire. Add the coco powder and mix. Add the sugar. Continue to mix. 
Dissolve a spoon of plain flour/corn flour in 1/4 cup of water. Sieve it in to the coco powder mix in the fry pan. Keep mixing slowly on very low fire till it is thick and glossy. In about 1 minutes the chocolate sauce will be ready. Cool the sauce.
Assembling the cake:
Slice the cake into two layers horizontally. Spread chocolate sauce on the lower half. Put the top layer of cake on it. Spread more chocolate sauce on the top layer. Shave milk chocolate or any other chocolate from a chocolate bar onto the cake. Shave a few almonds too onto the cake. 
And it is all done. 

Admire your handiwork. And it is all done. 


N.B: Clean the plate better than I did before photographing your lovely chocolate cake. Send the pictures to me. :)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Family Get Together

We have all heard that a family that eats together stays together. The bigger the family, the more the fun for all and more the work for the lady or ladies of the house.
 No offence meant to the men of the house. Its just that whenever it comes to organizing something for the entire family, the major responsibility is shouldered by the female of the species, at least in my experience.

I am planning to have a party for our extended family in the city. This is to celebrate many achievements, landmark events, and general blessing of God to keep us all well and happy wherever we may be.

There is a major constraint though. How to get everyone together at one place and one time to share a meal.
The obvious choice is to go to an eating place that is equidistant from where everyone lives and to order food.
Nah! Where is the fun in that?
Too easy and too predictable. It is just money.
Half of them are likely to ditch at the last minute citing one reason (read excuse) or another.
Meeting the family is no mean task at the best of times. One tries to stay away as far as possible. So what to do to bring all these stalwarts together?
We will need to pique their interest and arouse a sense of involvement and ownership to coax them out of their cocoons.
The food has to be awesome but not intimidating, and the place has to be comfortable.
I am planning to have this party in my own home to ensure that timings are not a problem. People can come and go as they please and have one less excuse to stay away.
Food will be a mix of old favorites and new tastes.
These are the dishes I am planning:

Dal Bukhara
Chicken Methi
Bharwan karela
Masala Bhindi
Dahi Bhalla
Mix Fruit chat
Brown rice pulao
Missi roti
Moong Dal halwa

I know this sounds like a lot but I am sure I can still manage this menu.
Ok, I love to cook but am neither a glutton for punishment nor a superwoman. I can't cook so many things and still enjoy having this party.
At best I will cook the unfamiliar dishes indifferently and feel bad when they don't turn out as well as they should.
Also if I have to make all of these from scratch, I will probably chicken out of hosting this party till some other day (code for never).
I have decided to use the Kitchens of India ready to eat packets of Chicken Methi, Dal Bukhara and Moong Dal Halwa.
I am sure these will be tasty, hygienic and value for money. This will take the hassle out of these difficult to make dishes.
My confidence stems from the fact that I have used Ashirwad atta for God knows how many years and enjoyed the tasty 'rotis' that result from it.

I would devote the time and energy thus saved to interact with the family and to make it fun for all.
Everyone can pitch in and help by laying the table, heating the food (some of it out of the packets) and serving in nice bowls.
I am sure when the younger ladies see that I have no qualms about serving these ready to eat dishes they will feel less intimidated.
 They will understand that togetherness and love are more important than other things.
Who knows they may decide to hold some parties of their own where they will invite us and serve the food of their choice. And if they are smart they will choose some ready to eat versions too, thus saving themselves and us from some deadly food disasters.

Win Win situation for all.

Now, all I need to do is to Whatsapp, SMS or call these elusive dudes and dudettes and get the party going.

Wish me luck!

This is my entry for Kitchens of India contest. Here is the link  Kitchens of India.

Inherent Danger in Ignoring Warning Signs

Manisha felt tired.
 Come to think of it she had been feeling tired for as long as she could remember.
She slept fitfully and woke up feeling groggy.
She had a full time job, children, husband and house to look after. She was constantly juggling to keep her head above water.
The pressures of her life were such that she did not have any time to think of herself.
She mentioned it to her mother in passing during their daily phone conversation.
Her mother asked her to go and see a doctor to find out what was wrong.
Manisha was irritated at this as she knew that this was the right thing to do. She still did not want to do this due to the fear.
What if the doctor said she had a serious disease?
 What if she had to be admitted to hospital leaving her children at others' mercy?
No, No. She could not do this. She was sure she will be fine soon.
The very next day Manisha fainted in the bathroom. Her little daughter found her flat on the floor.
There was much panic and running around.
 Manisha regained consciousness in a little while but now there was no getting around it. She needed to go to the hospital.
She was a human being first of all and needed to take care of herself if she wanted to live a full life.
A medical check up revealed that her red blood cell count was below normal. Way below normal. This was the cause of her feeling constantly tired and irritated.
The entire family was relieved at having had a lucky escape  from a more serious potential problem.
Manisha was put on a suitable diet cum medication plan. The doctor suggested certain life style changes to ensure that she had more time for herself and relaxed.
She decided never to ignore any warning signs in future and to take necessary action well in time.

This is an entry for the Colgate contest. My healthy speak blog at

Friday, May 10, 2013

How Does Modern Healthcare Touch Lives?

Cancer, the big C, the killer crab is no longer as scary as it was even thirty years ago.
Modern healthcare has made what seemed like a certain death sentence just like any other every day health issue that can be treated, cured, or at least managed to ensure an excellent quality of life.

As the survivors are wont to say,"Hey, every one has to die one day. No one is staying here forever. How does it matter if you die of cancer or while crossing a road, or of old age?"

If Anand had been a modern day movie, no body would have believed that Anand had no way to go but down. Babu Moshai could have done lots more to ensure that Anand had a longer life and wrote the book, or at least attended the book launch party.

Similarly, in the movie Safar also Rajesh Khanna would not have been considered a gone case from the word go. Who knows how the story would have moved then.

Jokes apart, Cancer has met its match in modern healthcare system.
The other day I was in a mid morning ladies meet of nine people in a small room and three of them, including your truly, were breast cancer survivors.
Where is the scare, the fear, the dread, the certain horrible death scene that prevailed earlier?
The old adage that if cancer arrives, it does not leave without taking at least one limb or organ with it is also no longer true.
The treatment is expensive, painful and long drawn but one does have a fair fighting chance to come out of it and live disease free for many years. Over time, one even forgets that one ever went through the traumatic treatment.
It has been made possible by the modern healthcare system. It touches lives of individuals, families and the entire society by making life easier.
Whatever health problem one may have can be made better or more tolerable now provided one has the means to avail modern healthcare treatment.
 It does seem like a sweeping statement because one just has to visit a hospital to see human suffering due to medical issues.
But when one also sees the tools that are now available: CT scan, PET scan, radiation delivery machines that look like space crafts, MRI, robots that perform surgery, one goes Wow!
A very senior surgeon once told me,"Surgery is so easy nowadays. The MRI shows you exactly what to expect inside the body. In our day we discovered what we were up against only after we had opened the patient up on the operation table and then we had no choice but to do whatever we could under the circumstances."

Pace makers regulate the heart beat and make sure one lives a full life despite a sluggish pumping machine in the chest.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery ensures that a person afflicted with the debilitating Parkinson's disease can live a near normal life and so can his care givers. Imagine not having to ask someone to help you each time you want to get up or go to the bathroom! That is what DBS does. It makes one independent again.

One hears of another modern marvel, the robotic legs that help one to walk even if one has been confined to a bed and wheel chair for several years. Yes, they do cost nine crores or more but if one had the money, one could walk again.
 Modern healthcare is a miracle! Really that is what it is! Just a wonderful real life miracle!

This is my entry for Apollo hospitals' contest "How Does Modern Healthcare Touch Lives?"

An UnforgettableTrip: Pokhra to Kathmandu

It is strange how everything that goes well and as per plan is quickly forgotten and everything that goes wrong or threatens our very lives is remembered forever.
This is the stuff memories are made of.
I traveled from Kathmandu to Pokhra in a bus. The journey was as expected...cramped seats in the bus, beautiful scenery outside the window and roads that made your head spin if you looked down.
I had a very ordinary day in Pokhra walking around the touristy place with its little shops selling touristy stuff, crossing the small pond (lake) in a boat and visiting the temple.
The Himalayan skyline was the only thing that went beyond the promise of the place and made it worth it.
I started back for Kathmandu the next morning by bus. There were quite a few foreigners in this bus.
We trundled along for about four hours on the mountain roads and then suddenly stopped.
The bus driver and conductor asked us to get down from the bus as it was not possible to enter the city and all roads had been blocked by students protesting against some statement made by an Indian actor.
It was beside the point that the said actor had immediately denied it.
Nepali people were angry and wanted to show it in whatever way they could.
One method they adopted was to block all roads leading into Kathmandu. I think we were still about 10 kms out of the city. There were people of all ages and color in the bus. Some passengers had heavy luggage as they were on their way out of the country at the end of their vacation/stay etc. I had a small backpack as I had taken this as a side trip and was still checked into a hotel in Kathmandu.
Some passengers from our bus protested to the bus driver and conductor and asked them how we were expected  to reach the city from where they were dropping us, in the middle of nowhere. The driver shrugged and said that he could not risk the bus being set on fire by the protesters. We felt helpless and at our wits end.
After dithering for a while and seeing no other way, most of the passengers started walking toward the city.
Gradually people got into groups as per their speeds and inclination.
I fell in with an American family from Portland, Maine (USA).
They had come to Nepal for a vacation and also to take their daughter back home after a project that she had been working on in a village in Nepal.
We started talking and exchanged our family histories and situations in life as people are wont to do when they have time on their hands and nothing much to do.
We were carrying our bags and walking as fast as we could.
The general talk was that the protesters were specially against Indians and foreigners were safe. I was advised to remove the bindi that I wore on my forehead, so as to blend in with the family that I was walking with.
I obliged even if it was just to keep up appearances and would not have made a difference if some one decided to single out an obviously Indian looking person.
After a couple of kms we could see tyres burning on the road to stop any vehicles from crossing.
There was no police around.
The protesters looked fierce and ready for violence. We hesitated a little but then decided to brazen it out and take our chances.
We approached the road block and then walked past it at the same steady pace as before without looking any protesters in the eye.
We were just an American family walking past and meant no harm. We had no connection with any Indians, actors or not.
We could feel eyes boring into us but no one made a move to stop us or to single me out.
We heaved a sigh of relief and continued walking.
After about two hours of walking, we reached the outskirts of the city and were feeling quite confident of having escaped the worst. Now it was just a matter of keeping on walking and reaching our respective hotels.
The American family was saying at a hotel quite close to where I was staying in the main tourist quarter.
They dropped me off at my hotel and went their way but not before we had exchanged email addresses.

Other members of my team were relaxing in the hotel and had no clue as to what an adventure I had had.
There were many others like me who had similar stories to tell.
I thanked God that we had got away lightly.
The good part is that this chance encounter led to a friendship that is still going on despite the oceans and miles that separate us.
We share stories and experiences from our parts of the world and sometimes think of this day when we were one family.
What a road trip!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Our First Road Trip

This photo takes me back to our first road trip. It was the summer of 1988. We had a brand new Omni van, our first car, and were raring to go have an adventure on the big bad road.
We loaded the van with sleeping bags, a kerosene stove, a sauce pan to make tea, instant noodles, some dry ration, and a few other things that we thought we would need. We planned to drive from Ambala in Haryana to Rampur in Himachal Pradesh via Shimla, and Narkanda, stopping as the day grew dark and beginning again the next morning.
It was a loose program and we had no reservations anywhere.
As we left the plains behind, the terrain changed to green hills and then to cold mountains.
The roads were narrow, had numerous bends, and were scary to drive on for plains people like us.
We traveled along the beautiful, crystal clear Satluj river beyond Shimla.

This photo has my husband and daughter posing at a view point. All the distances and place names are clearly marked on the road sign.
This is a travelers' pride kind of photo. It says, "Hey, we are here."
My daughter looks tired and appears to be wondering why we were bouncing around in the van when we could be home. She has that fountain hairstyle which no self- respecting little girl wants to be seen dead in. Well, I knew only one hair style and inflicted it on her every day till she outgrew my styling.
My husband is studiously presenting his best profile.
So over all a beautiful picture of a moment in time captured perfectly.
It makes me think of those carefree days when we could just up and go.

Note: I took the original photo with our Hot-Shot camera where you slide the button to move to the next frame. This is a photo of the original photo using my Nokia Asha 305 phone.