March 25, 2015

Food Mad, Singapore


George Bernard Shaw said that there is no love sincerer than the love of food and I agree. In my house, food has always been an elaborate affair. In fact, while I was growing up, not a day went by without there being at least 2 to 3 dishes each for lunch and dinner; sometimes even more. And it had to be something really good; not just good but really good. I think it had a lot to do with my mom being a fussy eater. Of-course, now I’m too lazy to cook more than one dish a day but the love for food remains.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates

Dad introduced us to different cuisines during our growing up years. And this fascination to try something different stuck on. Going out to our favorite restaurant for dinner was a much loved family tradition. Being sculpted in a food loving home, I too developed an affinity to try different cuisines, to eat basically, though how much I really eat is a different matter altogether. My mother often says that most days my eyes eat more than my mouth does. Well, whatever the case, I really do love my food. There’s not a sliver of doubt about that.

Every time I visit a new city or country, trying out the local cuisine is a must on my list. In fact, I discovered some of my favorite dishes during my travels. Travel without food, in my view, is no travel at all.

Do you know though that the food capital of the world is actually in our neck of the woods, so close? I didn't and sad part is I’ve only been there on transit. Looks like that has to be rectified soon. But, yes, the food capital of the world, do you know where it is? No? Well, don't fret, I'll tell you. 

The food capital of the world, wait for it, is the city state of Singapore. Yes, and it’s not really surprising either what with it being the melting pot of ethnicity and traditions. And would you believe me that during one of my sojourns, to Australia actually, I discovered Singaporean cuisine for the very first time? Yes and it all began with the Laksa.

Source: memegenerator.net/Takeaway

Being the amalgamation of several cultures, Singapore, naturally has a diverse and rich palate. Moreover, it being a place where food is much more than, well, just food, leaves no doubt in your mind, or rather stomach, either.

Singapore is in many ways Asia's New Culinary Capital as well. Hence, you cannot plan a visit there and not be taken in by the intensity with which Singaporeans make, sell or eat their food. From upscale restaurants to hawker fares, it has them all. Influenced by the native Malay, Indonesian, Peranakan, Chinese, Indian, English and Portuguese traditions Singaporean food is multicultural, very diverse. And Singaporeans really love their food. And I, well, love Singaporean food as well. It is believed that people there can go to any lengths for their favorite food. Just my kind of people I should say.

"Laksa...Prawns, dried shrimp, chicken or fishcakes added to flavored coconut milk and soup stock with the noodles cut into shorter pieces, for me make food heaven."

If you ask me which my favorite Singaporean food is, I would truly end up in a pickle. There are so many dishes that I love that it is but a herculean task to pick one. Bak hor Mee Sua (minced meat noodles), cereal prawns, chicken rice or chilli crab? I love all and more. But the laksa does occupy a special place in my heart. Maybe because it introduced me to Singaporean food as such.

Source: Pixabay.com by melvinchia

If you want the perfect combination or rather balance of coconut milk and spice, laksa is the dish for you. It works for me precisely for the very reason. I especially like the Katong laksa. Why? Well, I think it’s the ingredients mostly. Prawns, dried shrimp, chicken or fishcakes added to flavored coconut milk and soup stock with the noodles cut into shorter pieces, for me make food heaven. From the first time I ever had it in Sydney to sampling it in the Singapore airport and even around the world, not one time have I found it to not be delectable. So Singaporean food for me begins with laksa especially the Katong laksa. A food fact for you, Katong is actually an area where you’ll find some of the most popular laksa stores of the world.

Source: Pixabay.com by melvinchia

If you are food mad then Singapore is the destination for you. And remember in Singapore first you eat and then do everything else. For a connoisseur of food, Singapore is truly a paradise with laksa being its royalty.

Before you go though , tell me, what’s your favorite Singaporean dish? Go on!

***


March 24, 2015

#ChooseToStart: An Extraordinary Blogging Journey With Moto E


The firsts in life are always special. Whether the first time you fall off a bicycle while riding without training wheels or the first time you stop your car in the middle of the road while still learning to drive. What, too many negative firsts? Okay, let's think of the 'positive' firsts then. The first date or the first time you traveled alone, sounds good now? Well, the fact is there are stories associated with every first, stories that have no prequels which makes them new, precious and unforgettable. And who remembers the 22nd time you did something anyways? See what I mean?

I remember the first time I used Motorola. It was my sister's phone, the Moto Razr. And that was actually the phone using which I exchanged messages with S just before our proposal and acceptance took place. Of-course, I had to bribe my sister to lend me her phone and that wasn't so easy. Too many memories associated with that phone actually. Every time I think back to that time, to when our story began, certain things like the Lucknow train station, a radio broadcasting tower in Shillong, a hospital and the Moto Razr come to my mind. Yes, well, it was the first time I was seriously considering entering a long term relationship, a first and thus memorable.

Source: http://www.startwithmotoe.com/
Now, I hear the Moto E has a lot of features and at an affordable price too. In this era of smartphones where buying one can be, well, a little too extravagant for my taste, I think this is a welcome change. Some of it's features include 4G LTE with Quad-core processor, front and rear cameras, latest Android and all-day battery. Not bad at all I say.

If you ask me what I would #ChooseToStart with the all new Moto E, well, that would be so many things actually. Being a blogger and a free lance writer, I need to be online almost all the time. But I can't carry my laptop everywhere, can I? The smartphone which I'm currently using is almost 4 years old, which is eons in the smartphone world. It is almost the great, great grandmother of smartphones. Not at all ideal for blogging, trust me!

'A smartphone is to a blogger what a stethoscope is to a doctor, makes sense?'

There are so many things a blogger needs to do using her phone. And hence I intend to do those very things with the Moto E

I wish to venture out on an extraordinary blogging experience by staying connected, available, at all times using the new Moto E.


#ChooseToStart: Taking photographs on the go

I need to use photos in my posts and therefore need to keep increasing my picture repository. But you see my phone has become so old, worn out almost, and did I mention slow too, that by the time the camera opens the moment to be captured almost always passes by. So, the Moto E would first and foremost be my camera on the go, to capture some quality pictures for my blog. Now S would say I first need to learn how to take quality photographs but still a good smartphone would surely help me with that. And yes of-course, I would take a few selfies too after all I'm also a Millennial! 

Source: freedigitalphotos.net by stockimages


#ChooseToStart: Online on Twitter

One of the most important aspects of blogging is to promote posts, whether your own or a fellow blogger's. Twitter today is a platform that almost everyone, anyone uses. It is one of the top most places to widen your wings in terms of reach and I can't tell you how important is reach for a blogger. The Moto E would keep me tweeting if I may say so. You see, my latest phone, on account of it's age, takes a lifetime to load the app which in turn makes me want to not use it at all. But I can't afford to do that, can I?

Source: freedigitalphotos.net by Stuart Miles

#ChooseToStart : Blog! Blog and Blog some more on the go!

Now the company I work in has very strange policies with respect to internet access. Well, let's just say it's the same story for all Indian IT Companies. They have this phobia that unrestricted internet access, if given, would result in no work. Yes, like we have no sense of responsibility! Spending at-least 9 hours every day, 5 days a week, in office, without unrestricted internet access, is not really conducive to blogging and blogging related events. But you see because of this primitive approach of the company this often becomes a reality. Hence, I need to have a phone where my internet works, well, all the time. Needless to say I would use Moto E to stay connected in office because sometimes I need to post for certain campaigns during the day which is not possible using the office desktop.

Source: freedigitalphotos.net by Stuart Miles

There is a lot more I want to do using a Moto E and maybe I will, if I manage to get my hands on it that is. A smartphone is to a blogger what a stethoscope is to a doctor, makes sense? So, you see how a great new phone like the Moto E could come to my aid. I wish to venture out on an extraordinary blogging experience by staying connected, available, at all times using the new Moto E. Don't you think that would be great?

Tell me, what would you do if you happen to get a Moto E? What would you #ChooseToStart?

Source: http://www.startwithmotoe.com/


#KelloggsWaleGuptaji I Dislike Cooking..So, Why Not?


It’s no secret that I absolutely abhor cooking. I mean it, I really don’t fancy chopping, and frying, and sautéing, baking, or anything else related to food preparation. You just name it and there I’ll be running away from it.  In fact, give me a choice between cooking or eating out, I’ll always chose the latter, yes almost always. Unless of course, you are ready to cook for me. So, are you?

Cooking is something that I do out of pure necessity. My husband, S, does offer to cook but the overzealous and obsessive compulsive cleanliness freak in me skips a beat every time he enters the kitchen. And it’s not like he makes the kitchen messy or anything. It’s just the paranoid, dusting and moping freak in me who simply refuses to let the guard down. Yes, simply refuses to budge but I’m working on that aspect.

Anyways, I cook because there is no home delivery in my area. Yes, I have taken my flat in the wilderness, far away from civilization that gets food home-delivered. Also, I have tried to hire a cook several times but the moment they open their mouths, asking for ridiculous amounts of money, all I want to do is feed them my burnt dishes. So, these are the reasons why I find myself in the kitchen, day after day, every day. But then I have my ways around cooking too. If I have to spend time in a room I dislike (read kitchen), I make sure it’s just the bare minimum.

I only cook once a day on weekdays, just dinner; and for lunch there is always the office canteen. On weekends, I prepare so much for lunch that it is comes in handy for dinner as well. Then there’s always the option to dine out. So, as far as possible I try to ensure that I just have to cook once a day.

But I spoke only about lunch and dinner. What about breakfast? What about the most important meal of the day? You would think that at least this is something that I take seriously. Well, think again because S and I mostly skip it, except on weekends. I know, I know that’s sacrilegious to proper nutrition and health. But then don’t blame me, I already told you that I dislike cooking!

Who wants to wake up and prepare something to eat early in the morning? Not me! The fact that I make tea is enough in itself. Trust me! I should be given some sort of award for that I feel. Anyways, if S and I get hungry at breakfast time, there’s always the office canteen. So, problem solved.

After reading so much about my affinity, or the lack of it therefore, for anything related to cooking, you’ll understand why I’ll run with my eyes closed to anyone and everyone who is willing to feed me? And if that household is anything like Guptaji’s, then is there even a sliver of doubt that I’ll jump at the first opportunity? So, going to their house for breakfast, by all means I say.

I was just watching the #kelloggs videos here and their Youtube channel, reading the recipes on the website and was surprised, and pleasantly too I must add, at the variety of dishes that can be prepared using #Kelloggs cornflakes. Cornflakes and Cocunut ladoos, cornflakes khatta moong, peach cornflakes, cornflakes fruity yogurt cup, cornflakes chana chaat, cornflakes jelly shake or cheesy cornflakes. I really can’t believe that so much, in fact more, can be made by just using #kelloggs cornflakes and all of it nutritious. Easy and healthy, low fat and very good to boost energy in the morning. Hence, can you blame me if I end up at Guptaji and his family’s doorstep for some, especially when they prepare all these awesome dishes for breakfast? Not at all, right? After all this kitchen abhorring, cooking phobic and lazy friend of yours (yes me!) does need to have breakfast, doesn't she?


March 23, 2015

The Whole Shebang Called Life


I celebrated getting a year older this Saturday. Another year went by, so fast. Whether I got wiser or not, what with another candle being added to my cake, well, I don’t really know. Or, actually maybe I do know. Let’s just say there has been no change in the ‘getting wise’ department for quite some time now. Yes, well not everything gets better with age you see. So, I cut two cakes, went for a movie, did some bowling and then dined at a place called ‘The Black Rabbit’. Interesting name right? All in all, a day well spent. Of-course, I did some other things as well, like annoying S and my sis while they were decorating the house for my birthday. Well, you see I didn't want them to use sellotapes on the walls! But apparently that was not acceptable but I did manage to get them to use extremely tiny bits to minimize the damage. I know, I’m MONICA!

© Random Thoughts Naba

Oh did you know that I absolutely suck at bowling! Well, at least till I’m angry at someone. Makes sense? No? Well, let me help you with that. I can only knock down pins when I replace them with the head of a person I’m irritated with, in my imagination of-course. And that only works when the person is somewhere nearby. This time too only after being frustrated by one of the attendants did I manage to knock down a few pins. Yes, I was picturing his head all the time in place of the 10 pins. It really works!

Well, enough of that. Let’s talk about A to Z Challenge now. Yes, this will be my 2nd year.  I’m not very confident about it this time thought because of the work load at office. Last year being on leave during this period had made it relatively easier. But then I can always hope, right?

It is the A to Z Theme Reveal Blogfest today and honestly till this very moment I haven’t actually thought about what my theme would be. Yes, well who knew 23rd March would be upon us so soon! I certainly didn't. Last year I had done a tales buffet, so I won’t bore you with more fiction this year too. Moreover, I'm going to chose something easy this year, easy for me to write and for you to read.

Source: www.a-to-zchallenge.com

So, without further ado, here it is, my theme for A to Z Challenge 2015 – A Mini Series on everything that is Life! Yes, a series of short posts on the whole shebang called life. I think I’ll leave it open ended this year. Try and make an attempt to understand the nuances better, through writing of course. An attempt to comprehend the various shades of life by laying my doubts and observations out in the open. No, I won’t preach, I’ll just share.


So, what do you say? What’s you theme?


March 22, 2015

Uncomplicated Happiness


It may sound cliched but the most important thing in life is to be happy in anything and everything you do. It is desired by all; by you, I and even that annoyingly strict uncle next door. Think about it, your choices or your decisions, everything comes down to whether or not they make you happy.

Did you know that 20th March is celebrated as International Day of Happiness? Well, I had no idea about it until yesterday actually. It's a wonderful initiative I feel. A day dedicated to celebrating the need to to be happy, to really be happy. 


Source: pixabay.com by jill111


“Happiness is not a goal...it's a by-product of a life well lived.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt


Being happy is no rocket science. If anything it is, perhaps, the easiest of the countless pursuits in life. All you need to do is close your eyes and look deep within. And then just go for it, easy or hard doesn't really matter, more so because happiness also, very much, lies in the process. 

Ask yourself what is it that really makes you happy. You'll probably be surprised at the answers you get. Though happiness mostly resides in the simplest of things, there are also those extremely difficult goals, beyond mind boggling obstacles, that hold the key to it. But being happy can also be about picking up breadcrumbs along your journey. And hence not something that you can only achieve after an extensive wait.

Yes, there are no guarantees that life will always be one huge wave of happiness. There'll be slumps in between, some deeper than the other, but even in those moments you'll be pulled ashore by the thoughts of those which bring joy to your life.

Now, I'm often confused about what makes me happy. Some days I feel it's indeed very easy for me to smile, to be joyful, to find the elusive happiness. On other days though I feel that I first need to cross several hurdles to reach a point where I can truly be happy. For most things the key to my happiness rests solely with me while I must admit that a huge part of it also lies with my near and dear ones. It's inevitable really, we are after all the creatures of the heart. But the onus on whom, or what, I entrust my happiness with depends entirely on me.

So, where was I? Yes, what really makes me happy? Well, why don't I make a list? It has anyways been a long time since I jotted down something like that. Yes? Well, here I go then. 

Like you and everyone else in the world my happiness lies in my family. Hence, I'm happy when, 

...S is healthy, happy and not troubled by anything.

...My sister is safe, sound and happy.

...My parents are healthy and happy.

Obstacles or hurdles, as necessary in life, I prefer if can always be overcome or perhaps even avoided if possible. Hence, I'm also more or less happy when, 

...There are no complications at work.

...There is ample time for me to blog, write and read.

...Things are under my control, more or less,

I am a bit weird in many ways. Ask S and my sister and they'll tell you it's true. Let's just say I'm a mix of Monica of FRIENDS fame and Sheldon of 'The Big Bang Theory'. So don't be surprised when I say that I also feel relaxed when one of such things happen.

...When no one walks into my house wearing a muddy shoe.

...When shoes are placed in the shoe cabinet and not displayed as some artwork.


...When the fridge is only defrosted when I want to. I know I'm crazy!

...When my kitchen is in a spick and span condition


...When on Saturdays I can do my weekly dusting.


...When nobody spills anything on my rug. I know I'm a control freak!

...When I get cakes on my birthdays but nobody rubs the cream on my face.


...When I'm able to do everything for everyone, make everyone I care for happy. Don't tell me, I know it's an impossible task but that somehow doesn't seem to stop me.


...When I'm able to solve a problem for all those I love.


...When my tonsils are not troubling me. This one is very fresh on my mind actually.



I could go on and on. Oh there are so many things and the list perhaps doesn't cover even half of those. And I'm sure it's the same for you too. Maybe I'll come up with a sequel to the things that make me happy but for now why don't you share your list with me? 

Tell me my dear friend what makes you happy?

***

March 19, 2015

#1000Speak: When They Bullied The New Girl


Last month over 1000 bloggers from all around the world spoke on Compassion, #1000Speak, to make a difference, however small. They spoke to affect positive change and to instill hope. To get the message out that the world still cares. Is it surprising then that it was a great success? So we are back again this month to speak about compassion with the spotlight being on Building from Bullying.



One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered ― Michael J. Fox.

I'll share a story with you today about a little girl who was shifted to a new school in the year 2000. She was only in middle school then and there she was one day in an unknown classroom, in an unknown school being stared at by a host of unknown faces. Let's call her new girl. Note here that she was the youngest in the family, always loved and cared for. She wasn't really aware of the cruel and mean world at that point. 


Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.Net by Stuart Miles

During her first month there it so happened that a teacher was absent, there was no substitute and hence the girls (it was an all girls' school) decided to play a particular game and include the new girl in it as well. A good gesture, right? Well, hold on to that thought for a moment. Now let me tell you something about the game. It was called 'F.L.A.M.E', a game girls played often in school during those days; a game about puppy love percentages and crushes. You get the idea right? Well, in short, a harmless game really.

But what happens when a class full of students is left without a teacher? Well, they make noise, a lot of noise. And that's what happened on that day as well. Compelled by the commotion a teacher from the next class walked in, all angry and agitated, ready to dish out punishments. But of-course the classic thing to do was ask what was going on there and so she did. It was then that all the girls unanimously pointed towards the new girl as if to say that she, and not them, was responsible for it all. And strangely the teacher believed it to be so as well.

The teacher then walked up to the new girl and found the paper where LOVE and CRUSH percentages had been calculated by every girl in the class. What happened next? Well, for reasons beyond comprehension, the teacher scolded the new girl for teaching her girls a 'bad game'. In fact, she went so far as making the new girl sit alone, separated from the rest of the class every day from that day onward. This was to be her punishment. For what you ask? As hard as it is to believe, it was for agreeing to play a harmless game with girls she thought would become her friends one day. And apparently also for a ruckus she hadn't created in the first place.

It was too much for the new girl to take. She was new there and didn't have any friends yet. On top of that, it was as if she was being penalized for being the unknown face in school. This affected her in a big way. She couldn't sleep at nights and had suddenly become quieter than usual. Then one night her elder sister found out all about it. She found out that this new school was targeting her little princess for no valid reason at all. Of-course, the elder sister would have liked to give the teacher a piece of her mind but she was also just a high school student then. So, she did the next best thing. 

The elder sister told the new girl to divert all her energy towards studies. She told her it was okay to be alone but it was important to never feel lonely. She reminded the new girl that she had her family by her side. She told her to turn this to her advantage; in such a way that the students and teachers in the new school are forced to alter their behavior. It wasn't easy but both the sisters worked at this every night, night after night. And after almost 8 months when the term results were out the new girl, the girl they had ostracized, scored the highest leaving everyone behind. And slowly yet certainly they all changed their attitude towards the new girl, not that she needed them anymore because her sister had taught her to be happy otherwise too.

Now, I shared this because I felt the students and the teachers were unfair here. Punishment is alright provided it is justified and within limits. Targeting a new student is nothing sort of bullying. It's not acceptable at all. Imagine the trauma the little girl must have gone through? At-least she could share with her sister and had a shoulder to lean on. There are people who are affected by bullying and have to deal with it all alone without anyone to rely on. Or, sometimes they can't find it in them to share. Thus what happens is that they sometimes lose the battle leaving behind unanswered questions, distraught loved ones.

So I ask everyone today why can't we not resort to bullying? Is it so hard? What is there to gain by being mean to anyone and that too on purpose?

To those affected by bullying , I wish to say that don't let anyone make you feel miserable. Your happiness is in your hands. If people laugh at you, let them. If they taunt you, let them. I think the best way to deal with bullies is to ignore them and not let them win. Channelize the energy to something positive. Build yourself and remember only your opinion of yourself matters, no body else's. Keep fighting!


“Things will get easier, people's minds will change, and you should be alive to see it.” ― Ellen DeGeneres

Oh and that new girl, she's my sister. And I'm happy to say that after that incident she has fought every bully in her life and I'm sure she'll continue to do so in the future too. She has built herself beautifully in spite of being bullied. I'm just so proud of her and I'll also always be with her.

Well, before I end, tell me do you want to share a story about bullying too? And if you do, please also join us for #1000Speak on the blog or the Facebook page.


March 17, 2015

Driving Diaries of A Silly, Silly Girl


Do you know how to drive? A two or a four wheeler or just a bicycle too? Do you? Well, let me tell you today about a silly girl and her exploits with driving lessons. Hailing from the small hill station town of Shillong, she never quite felt the need to learn the intricacies of driving what with her school being within walking distance of her home. Added to that the presence of a driver, whenever she needed one, kept her far away from literally taking the driver's seat. It was as though she was kept in an ivory tower oblivious to the needs of driving while the entire world mastered the steering wheel.


It was many years later, once she moved to the city of Bangalore, that she first decided to take up driving lessons. The ordeals of going from one corner of the city to the other, changing buses and haggling with auto drivers, warmed her up to the idea of owning and of-course driving her own car. But, well, what did she know what was in store? Lack of time on weekdays limited her classes to weekends. You would think that those would have been enough but no! Sleep, her Achilles hill heel, and the excitement of dates with her boyfriend reduced those lessons to mere formality. Thus without any change in her expertise with the clutch, brake or accelerator, stopped her first tryst with the four wheeled beast from the driver's seat. 


http://www.nabanitadhar.in/

That was in the year 2009. Her next rendezvous came in December of 2011. She attended the classes regularly but this time around the fear of hitting someone took over her senses. The reckless driving of bikers, cab drivers and then those erratic ones on foot started giving her nightmares. Of-course, the fact that she now had her husband around to drive her everywhere and the luxury of booking cabs if needed didn't help the cause either. So, as you see her second attempt too went by without really moving her from the passenger's seat. Driving her own car, that dream, was again banished to the rear end of her wishlist.

The third endeavor came sooner than later, in January 2012 and this time her father was entrusted with the duty of teaching her the nuances of driving a car. But of-course she was still the same paranoid person when it came to controlling the beast. So, that didn't do any good either. Every day for two whole weeks she went out early in the morning with her daddy dearest. While he tried his best to not let panic take over him as his little girl made turns, she tried desperately to fight off sleep to still appear interested in this thing called driving. But as you must have guessed by now, this attempt resulted in her miserable failure as well. It was as though driving was a subject she was destined to fail in.

And now after almost 3 years since her last attempt she has again decided to take the driving bull by the horns. This time though with the aid of her husband. She has had two classes so far and seems very much eager to not fail this time around. Of-course, the car battery dying merely two days after she sat in the driver's seat, even if for a few minutes, could be the universe telling her to stop dreaming. But this time around she seems quite adamant and even ready to defy higher powers if need be. So, will the fourth attempt be her last?

Well, only time will tell what happens to this girl and her adventures with driving. Till then if you happen to be in Bangalore for the next few years or so and you happen to see a woman on a driver's seat, staring ahead as if at the start of a duel in a western, give her some space, will you? And while at that maybe even wish her luck from far? Oh, by the way, she did manage to get her driving license 3 years back but that's a story for another day.

Ciao,
Drive Safe!