A Quest on Overdrive … :)

An eccentric rambler on life's lessons and mercies, found and lost… :)


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Positively Glowing

… pretty, precious, and permanently upbeat 🙂

That’s our Parukutty!

From the day she’s come into our lives, a few years ago, she has charmed everyone with her unputdownable optimism, and the lucid innocence of her ways 🙂 No matter what the weather, the sun shines out of her face, and her manners! The one thousand wattage of her smile, the peal of laughter at the drop of a hat, the uninhibited manner of her speaking in Malayalam, to all and sundry, without taking offence at our notoriously clannish mallu brigade – she wins hearts as if it is all she does! She does. She truly does.

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There she is with that brilliant smile all aglow in the sure knowledge of herself, and how much we love her 🙂

Today we celebrate, along with her, yet another lovely day – her birthday! Though miles away is she from me, and the rest of her extended family, we hold her close in our hearts, as always, wishing her life’s best; loads of love and happiness; the certain surety of hands that will always be outstretched to help; that she knows how very much we love her!

And yet again, it is celebration too, as she and Arjun herald news that the stork shall visit them, and us 😀 😀 ! The happiness we too share is boundless as theirs is, as we along with them await the little one’s arrival, wishing that Pratibha and Arjun have an easy time 🙂 So, yes, it’s official, here – Arjun and Pratibha are going to have a baby 🙂 🙂

That is to add to the already numerous lovelinessess of my dearest DIL (my heart, yes, literally 🙂 ) – and Arjun’s of course! 😛 Do join me in wishing that they have a safe passage to the little one’s arrival, and that all of them remain healthy and happy, and well beloved!

Love you my dearest Parukutty! I know this is delayed by a few hours 🙂 What to do, the internet speed here is atrocious – in cpl!

God Bless you abundantly, my dear! Hugsy wugsy! And loads of kisses!

Happy Birthday dearest gurl! Have the best of years ahead!

14 October, 2013

 

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Waxing (Poetic?)

On your full moon night:

I marvel at how
You entrance

Blemishless, distant,
I think.
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Yet, I know, fact says different.
I’d rather be poetic-
For nothing else can I be
When you adorn in
Simple gold.
Tonight, I shall enslave
Myself, in you.
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You make me think in clichés
In much-used, oft forgotten similes
All revived, when you finally come
Into your own
Every twenty-eight days
That’s an interesting number
Woman-wise.
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Veiled in references of a vulnerability-
Veiled in- and from.
Beauty that must be hidden;
Smothered.
But can never be held back,
So you tell me
As you climb, in your
Slow orbit.
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Only, today we are in orbit-
Awed by your magnificence.
And so, you out-climb
Out-shine those grey wisps
That would confine.
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For how do they know-
From you, off you, shines
That brightness – which,
No matter how they try-
They never shall steal.
Not tonight.
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And, as brighter yet
You pour your light-
Lighter yet, my heart is…
Pushing aside
Clinging cobwebs
Of an oppressed, submissive me.
Shine on, dear heart-
And so shall I.
This night.
19 September, 2013
When the full moon shone, on 19th Sept, 2013, dispelling those grey grey clouds; and I could not help but wax eloquent 🙂
Photographs credit: Moi! 😆
 Click on pictures to enlarge 🙂 though the effect may be lost 😛


33 Comments

Brothers Who Bake

… are awesome. My younger brother is, anyway, whether he can bake or not 😀 But, the fact that he has, and has motivated me to, is awesomer yet 🙂 🙂 Truly! So, let’s just go back a bit, now that the appreciation has been recorded, and will be acknowledged soon enough – read, when he sees this 😀

Over the weekend, as I was preparing to visit home, for the Onam vacation, having cancelled, rather sadly, a longer trip to meet the elder son and my DIL, Vinu calls and tells me he’s actually baked a loaf of bread. I was amazed, for though my brother is an exemplary household help, in every which way, and makes the best doshas, and has forayed into other dishes, it is usually his wife, Tripti, who is the one who experiments and bakes the most wonderful dishes! And here he was telling me about this accomplishment! I applauded, asked for the recipe, and wondered when the heck I’d get to doing it. Making bread, for me, is a most complex task, one fraught with dangers and fall-flat-on-your-face kind of results. But, as always, Vinu gave hope 😀

He sent me the recipe via email, and I didn’t even check it till yesterday. It has to be the most entertaining of recipes I’ve read to date; a warm, funny, fuzzy woman had written it, for sure; someone who is so empathetic! You’ll understand why, as you read it – I’ll copy paste it, later.

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Vinu’s elegant masterpiece!

Next, yesterday afternoon, he send me the picture he took of his creation. Boy O Boy! Was I impressed!!! Mom too. He called this morning to give me some tips that worked for him; this picture is his third attempt; the first one being, well, forgettable, the second better, and the third, as you can see, almost professional! I scrawled the tips all over the printed sheet, and said I’d do it with Atta, instead of Maida. After a tiny silence he gently prompted, well, would you want to see if it works with Maida, and then go on, towards Atta? Lol. It worked. It always does 😀 So I went ahead, got the ingredients out – just 4-5 of them, and NO EGG. Before I proceed, let me add the recipe here, so that you have that laugh, as I did, while kneading. You wouldn’t understand my wanting to giggle as I kneaded it, otherwise 😛

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The Recipe:

Simple Bread Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups warm water, not hot or you will kill your yeasty friends

2 teaspoons yeast—a packet contains 2.25 teaspoons–close enough.

2 teaspoons salt

5-ish cups flour, all-purpose is fine unless you wish to alter it for health reasons

Instructions

Mix the yeast into the water.

Combine the salt with two or three cups of flour.

Add the flour/salt duo to the water, stirring…or enlisting younger arms to stir for you.

Add more flour and continue to stir until the dough holds together and is not wet.

Dump the dough onto a clean, floured surface and knead. (If you don’t know how to knead bread dough, just fake it. This is very forgiving bread.) Add more flour as needed, but don’t overdo it. A little sticky is fine—too dry is not so fine.

Knead until it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom. If you have no baby’s bottom at hand to compare it to, give it the stretch test. Hold the dough up to the light and stretch a portion of it. If you can see light through it before it breaks, congrats! You’re finished. If not, give it a little more tender lovin’ care. We knead this dough about ten minutes. (Sometimes we cheat and knead less. We’ve yet to be ostracized for our occasional laissez-faire kneading attitude.)

Shape the bread into two or three Italian-shaped loaves or several mini-loaves. Do this by pressing the dough flat and folding it into thirds, or by rolling it up.

Put the ugly seamed side down and tuck under the ends.

Place the loaves on a lightly greased pan. Optionally, shape two shorter loaves and place them in greased loaf pans for “bread-shaped bread.” Grease the top (I like butter), and cover with plastic wrap or a flour sack towel. Set in a warm place to rise—the oven is too warm for rising and will kill your yeast, but the top of the refrigerator is just fine.

Let those babies rise until about doubled in size, or until you get tired of waiting, whichever comes first. We wait anywhere from 30 minutes on a hungry, summer’s day to an hour and a half on an oops-did-we-forget-about-the-bread day. Normally, 45 minutes should do it.

Preheat the oven to 232 degrees C. (My girls bake at 232 degrees, and I bake at 218 because I like the little time cushion for when (not if) I get distracted and wander somewhere that I can’t hear the oven timer. I won’t tell you whose bread my husband likes better.) Preheat for 20 minutes if you have baking stones in your oven.

Slash the top of the loaves several times diagonally for that authentic, fresh-from-a-French-bakery look.

Put the dough in the oven. (If you want to use baking stones, slide the loaves off the pans and onto the stones.) Spritz the interior of the oven with water. (This is optional, but gives the out-of-the-pan loaf a more tender crust. Some people have had trouble with stones and a few oven doors cracking from spritzing a very hot oven with cold water, so you may opt for a heavy duty pan with a couple cups of water set on another rack in the oven. Or skip it. Honestly, I skip it. We’re going for simple here.

Some of my girls spritz the loaf and the sides of the oven.) Set the timer for roughly 12 to 15 minutes, although it may take up to 20 minutes or more, depending on the size of your loaves and whether or not they are in pans.

Because all ovens, pans, doughs, and bakers are different, use this reliable test to see if your bread is done. Traditionally, cooks tap the bread; if it sounds hollow, it’s done. It always sounds hollow to me when I’m hungry and smelling fresh bread. Therefore, I take an instant read thermometer and insert it into the ugliest part of the bread where nobody will notice a hole. If the temp reads 190 to 210, it’s done.

Remove, cool briefly, slice, eat. Personally, I believe bread is a means of transporting butter to the mouth, so I say load on the butter!

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Entertaining, wasn’t it? I’ve deliberately italicized the real fun parts 🙂

I got the water, just right, (** Tips: as he said, dip your finger in it and it should be hot enough, just not to hurt :D) ; did the rest of the things he suggested (which was to halve the ingredients, except the yeast, and then do it, for starters), and then came the kneading! Push out with heel of palm, fold in, push out again… except that it was real sticky, and I was getting mad. Then I kept thinking about the required consistency, the baby’s bottom wala rule 😛 And that got me laughing and giggling and asking mom every now and then if the baby bottom rule had been achieved! It was fun!

The rest of it followed as instructed, and in a very square pan, it went in, like this 😀 And came out quite ok!

Before it went into the oven!

Before it went into the oven!

And ta-da! Tasted good too!

And ta-da! Tasted good too!

 

Wow! For me! And for Vinu! Ta-da! Please do try it! Ambitiously, mom and I plan to try the same thingy with whole wheat, and throw in a bit of garlic and sesame seeds for good effect. Vinu assures me it will work! This, after a loud guffaw!

Thanks Vinu! It really was fun! Now I’ve got to try the Walnut cake recipe you sent. Soon.

**Tips: In the lukewarm water, sprinkle half teaspoon of sugar; then sprinkle yeast – do not stir

Add flour bit by bit; stop if your dough is becoming dryish; sticky is good, not too sticky of course. (Psst mine was real sticky 😛 )

I did not manage to even shape it, as it was SO sticky. Still, it’s okay 😀

I baked at 210 deg. C. Also, I kept the dough in the oven, slightly preheated, switched off, and left to cool a bit. Helped it to rise better I think. My brother’s tips 🙂

And Pssst… I am not sure where the recipe is from, but will find out and add the website here soon. Do excuse till then.

Disclaimer: The Simple Bread Recipe belongs to the wonderful person who wrote it. I just feel so sad that I don’t have a name to go by, to thank!

19 September, 2013

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write tribe

This post comes as a response to the Write Tribe’s Free Write theme for this week. I have been infrequent here, and elsewhere owing to a bad back, and reading that motivating post, on Write Tribe, made me want to do my bit. And the prompt was handed on that platter, along with the loaf of bread, by my brother 🙂 16 minutes is what it took, just typing in; till before the date. The copy-paste, proof-reading and pictures, extra time 🙂


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Live

… don’t give up. Not so easily. Not when, no matter what, there is so much to do; to know; to experience; to do more than just exist. Live.

I suppose, sitting here, and thinking about it, being very grounded in my own upbringing, it is easy for me to say that. No matter what the knocks life has dealt, I’ve cushioned them with much grit, and plain survival instincts. Not all would have that grounding; or that instinct I suppose.

Today, September 10 is World Suicide Prevention day. Last night I received the update from Write Tribe about this, and a request to do a post on it, or simply create awareness (link). This here is my contribution, because this is something that has touched me.

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Just yesterday, in school, during the lunch break, we heard the news of a young girl of Class XII, in one of our sister schools, who committed suicide over the weekend. The details surrounding it are not clear, but what came out, was that her father was rather strict, and had been harsh with her regarding something; probably her studies. (Term Exams are going on right now). The news, the parents being distraught, and the loss, all of it is heart-rending. As also is the fact that it could have been so avoidable.

It also brought to mind my youngest Uncle; a sunnier, more mischievous soul I don’t have among my Uncles; the cheerleader almost in the lot of Uncles I have, took his own life, inexplicably, over a year ago. He had laughingly threatened to do so, and even kept repeating it. He refused any help; refused to tell us where he was; and suddenly, out of the blue the news came.

The tortured thoughts; the absolute nadir of self-belief; the way he/she thinks at that point in time: how can one anticipate it? When one is given signals; or ‘feelings’ or notices the air of introversion, lack of cohesive behaviour, the gloom and the quietude, that should be indication enough. But who, apart from those closest, would even notice? In our busy schedules of daily drama, daily mind numbing routine, and endlessly looping routine, when would we? But we must. We must.

Last year, towards the end of the year, or was it early this year, my elder son was almost witness to a very traumatic incident when a young cadet shot himself; my son, being on Duty that day (a Sunday morning), was the one to reach him first. That self same lad, also on Duty, had, only minutes before been on his phone, had interacted with my son… The trauma reached out to all of us; and almost just as much for my son, as it had to his family, even though he’s in the Services. The utter and senseless loss – there is never a reason we can find for it.

Prevention. From my cosy room here, I could probably hand out tips. Having never had to think about it, even though there may have been occasion, at times, puts me at a disadvantage. What I’d like to share is just my perception, not any empirical statistics or data that I refer too.

Raise children with love. With moral strength. Easier said than done, definitely. And it takes both parents, and the extended family to be consistent.

Know your children. Your partner. Your friends.  Know signs that all may not be well.

Help them to understand the word NO. (Understand it yourself too) Most times we say it too much. Or not at all. And, at the first NO later in life, it becomes too heavy a burden to acknowledge.

Do not put aside niggling doubts; feelings of unworthiness; unreasonable sadness; mood swings. These could be related in some way to the urge, which then takes only one spontaneous single senseless moment of execution.

Talk. Talk. Talk. If you’re depressed. Or if you notice someone’s under-weather.

Empathy. Find it. Show it.

Get help, for yourself, or for someone who you think needs it. There is NO shame in doing it.

There was a time when I thought that a suicide is a coward’s way. I still do, sometimes, but it’s also a path taken by someone who is sick, unwell, as in having a condition.

And, no matter what happens, you have YOU. That’s the best thing you have to work with.

Spread the word. Observe, and be that person who notices, cares. And the one who’s strong enough to know weakness, and ask for help. That is when you’re the strongest, most times.

You MUST read this blog post. Quiet courage there. (link)

The blog post at Write Tribe, which has inspired this write, has several links, for awareness and prevention.

10 September, 2013

The picture is the banner shared on the Write Tribe post.


16 Comments

A Teacher Is

… what her students make of her

… what she inspires, more than what she does

… just another obstacle on the way to growing up 😀 (more so for the teacher herself 😛 )

tchrrs

 

… unforgettable; errrm… eminently forgettable?

… someone who hounds you, but can never get at you the way your parents can!

… a person you can hound, relentlessly too, provided they’re not of species that porcupines are part of, and have blunt quills to let fly 😛

… awe-inspiring on a day she is inspired too; or sometimes on a day she completely loses it, and lets loose a barrage of words you can only admire open-mouthed because you simply cannot comprehend anything other than the fact that she is MAD. 😆

… surprisingly nice, when you’d always thought otherwise; when she drops that mask, and smiles at you 🙂

tchr

… is an all-knowing deity, sometimes, especially when you’re in Class 1 🙂 ; or just another dumb blonde who did not ‘get’ that question you asked, about Stephen Hawking and his query on ….? 😀 

… someone you don’t want your parents to know, too well, anyway 😀 ; the further they keep from each other, the better all around 😀

… a budding-romance-killer 😀

… heck! a terrorist, a kind you simply cannot arrest or even complain about, to the ATS. Sigh.

… criminally more language proficient, or criminally less. Either way, it’s a no-win situation for the recipient of the language skills session 😛

… a lot, a little, more than what is, and sometimes way lesser than what one thought…

But, a teacher is …

… nothing much finally, unless she thinks so 🙂

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These are probably some thoughts that periodically go through the minds of the learner group, and sometimes teachers themselves. It’s funny, but rather real too, some of them; and having been part of the teaching – learning activities from both sides of the proverbial teachers’ table, I can well attest to the sentiment, or lack thereof expressed 😀 A slice of life in school, if you wish 🙂

But, on a serious note, back to that first line. This is something I have always deeply believed in. Many a time (ahem! indeed, it has been so 😀 ), when we’ve had interactions with parents, they speak of how highly the kids speak of us at home; it’s one thing to take it at face value, but another to believe fully. Each time I have been told this, I always say, and mean it too, that if there is something to be appreciated, it has to be because of the kind of learner group, or the learner himself/herself, that made it so. Appreciation is a two-way street; it has to be, for it to work it’s magic! And I can personally testify to that. I’ve learnt, and still am learning each day. Sometimes, it’s the only way to ‘teach’.

Interestingly a quote that I made a cover picture on FB went like this:

“Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be.”

Arthur C. Clark

And so it is. In this day and age of information explosion, the only reason why teachers are needed, is to help the learner group wade through life; and that can come only from a dedicated and committed group. Much is being touted about ‘value-education’, and HOTS (HIgher Order Thinking Skills); why only teachers? Anyone and everyone that the learner group interacts with, at home, in the community, each person is just as responsible for the development of these, don’t you think? Of course, the argument being that the majority of the child’s waking hours being spent in ‘school’, it is then quite unequivocally on the teacher to ensure it, is, I find, a poor excuse to avoid accountability. This argument, I know, will, like that Ravalgon advertisement, of yore, continue … 🙂 And then again, the same ‘teachers’ ‘ value system, is it infallible? Or are they equipped with the skill set to infuse the HOTS, in their learner group?

Just a couple of days ago, a former student, Srikanth, who has just finished his Engineering had come to school, and he expressed a great desire to be part of the teaching process; interestingly he mentioned that it would not be immediately, but only after he had some experience in the field, for only then could he be able to relate the content of what he would teach, to the  environment to which his learner group would exit to, Now that is one teacher whose class I would like to be part of, absolutely 🙂 🙂

There are teachers who give of themselves generously, and those who demand. The Mahabharata exemplifies one such teacher – Dronacharya, who demanded of Ekalavya his thumb. A more un-guru like action could not ever be there, even now. Such teachers still abound, and where the proverbial thumb is not demanded, sheer bias and partiality work their poison. Sad, but true. And fewer still are the Ekalavyas of today – who would rather shrivel up and cease to exist, or maybe take the deviant path of letting all hell break loose. The devotion of the Ekalavya of yore is debatable, in its result; a teacher has no business being partial, even though it is purely human that some form of it does influence her. However, there is still to be maintained a stern and unwavering faith in one’s own ability to do the right, by each and every person who passes through one’s time, whether in the Classroom or out of it.

Finally, this here is a  tribute to all the wonderful teachers I have had, and have had the good fortune to know, and work alongside 🙂 🙂 To some of the most awesome parents too, mine, to start with: Here’s to you all!

tchrss

Google Image search threw up some wonderful quotes and pictures for ‘teacher’; and I’ve used some of them on this blog, for they say so much better than me, what I want to 🙂 All the pictures here belong to the owners of those creations; I’ve merely aired them here too 🙂

Today, I remember, with poignancy, and with a hint of mischief as well, 5 September, last year, when we had a meeting with some members of the Management, and our interaction with the legendary Dr. T. I. Radhakrishnan (link), who is no more with us. Yet another Dr. Radhakrishnan Sivan (fellow teacher at a sister school) and I were the recipients (lol, no award this! 😛 ) of questions, put by Dr. T. I. (I’ve recounted that incident on the blog dedicated to him); and how I googled the answer on my mobile 😀

Happy Birthday Dr. S. Radhakrishnan!

Happy Teachers’ Day, to the fraternity, the sorority, and to mentors, everywhere 🙂

May more such teachers continue to be sources of inspiration for us!

 

 

4 September, 2013, for 5 September, 2013

Related posts 🙂

Teachers’ Day 2012

Teachers’ Day 2011 

Teachers’ Day 2010