Sunday, 19 February 2017

When time and priorities come between passion and love

Many a time in our lives, we find something that we absolutely love doing and engage in the new-found love most arduously. It keeps us going for a while but after a point, the love is sustained but the efforts aren't. This post is about one such blogger who loved what he was doing but abandoned his love as other life dependent loves kept him 'busy.' The blogger is Sankar Narayanan, who works as a consultant. In his own words, "I started off as a food blogger, but stopped that due to health reasons. SO I am diversifying to generic topics." Isn't it strange and worthwhile to wonder about something that was (still is) loved by us, is now being neglected by us. It happens all the time - in relationships, with books, with writing and sometimes we tend to neglect our own selves and in turn start flings with less interesting but other time-consuming affairs. Take my blog for example - There was a time when I used to check my blog notifications for comments and posts from other like-minded bloggers. I cannot say that my time is filled with less interesting affairs. I teach and it is my profession which takes up my time, energy and attention. Perhaps, even Mr. Narayanan has fallen into the same pressure trap - the trap of the overpowering of the routine and career.

We both (Narayanan and I) strive to work towards writing more regularly and meaningfully. He is thinking of diversifying his posts instead of niche food blogging, which he has been doing thus far and that too quite well. You could view his blog here: <www.greengastronomyst.com>. I find myself in awe of food bloggers. Ask me why? They get the opportunity to visit different eateries, sample the food and write about the same in the warmth of their rooms. I don't know how one becomes a food reviewer because I tend to believe that those who write about food should have some background experience on the authenticity and taste of food. If one is reviewing a dish from Kerala, I suppose that the food blogger should have had a prior experience of either living in Kerala, tasting their dishes made locally or should have done a course in food history. Well, I guess that is stretching the whole business of a food blogger too far. Let me stop my pedantic rigmarole and turn towards the existing scenario of showing my blog some love and also cajoling Mr. Narayanan's blog to be showed some love by him.

As years role by, we take everything for granted - relationships, health and even our blogs. In the initial years of courtship/marriage and blogging, we try our best to charm the significant other/blogger by spending time and energy but as the years go by, we are good at giving paltry excuses - Oh! we have been married for so long, Ah! My old posts are there without realising that some gas has already escaped and the whole affair is falling miserably due to neglect. I think that there is no better time to revive anything we have taken for granted by showing some care and promising that in the future we will try nurturing what we once found fascinating and engaging.

Cheers to care! Cheers to love!

P. S.: This post is an initiative of The Chennai Bloggers Club (CBC), a group that I once nurtured and still hold on to for the love of blogging and writing.

Monday, 6 February 2017

When the elections in Goa rattled a peaceful/peace-loving citizen







Securing a government job is a dream come true for many. The reasons cited are often 'job security,' 'pension,' and 'easy life.' I aspired for a teaching job, not a government job. It so happened that I landed in a quasi-government job. Well, sometimes what happens accidentally, often leads to many unwilling accidents as well, as it recently happened. What happened, you may wonder - Unwittingly I was chosen to be a Presiding officer (on account of being an Assistant Professor in a quasi-government set-up) in the recently concluded Goa Legislative Assembly Elections 2017. Well, for many it was a cushy position - masquerading as an important person known as Presiding Officer. Well, when the order came, I was absolutely clueless as to what the position entailed and as always I sought the assistance of Google. I did get a fairly sketchy picture of what I was supposed to be doing. This sketchy knowledge was supplemented by three training sessions. As the trainings were completed, I was being jolted beyond my comfort zone but nothing was more rattling than what was going on within me as the day was fast approaching. The intensity of the entire profile hit home like a panic-attack on the 3rd when I went to the collection centre to procure the materials required for the actual poll on the 4th. But imagine my chagrin when I realised that I was kept in reserve. Well, I was relieved that now that I am a reserve staff, I do not have to bear the load of responsibility. But then we had to wait in the collection centre because we never know when we will be called to replace some one. But I didn't have to wait for long because I was assigned a Pink Booth - a polling station "manned" by only women. And lo behold, when the women saw me, they were rattled - Why? All of us were first timers and their levels of blood pressure shot up and eyebrows creased. The first jolt - I was an intruder into the team that had already been there from the first training. I think team cooperation and familiarity is IMPORTANT when it comes to doing something of this sort. When the vibes from the team are hostile, it does hit hard and is an impediment to the completion of formalities.

On the 3rd, I along with the polling peon and a lady police slept with the machines - The Control Unit, The Ballot Unit and the VVPAT machine. On one side it is rather fascinating to be a part of this side of the elections after being on the other side as a voter. Well, I prefer being a voter! One should see the number of forms and envelops - these are enough to upset the food digested and question your calm sanity levels, that is if you have managed thus far. And then, I also had to manage with the 'team' that was never mine. They were quite efficient you see - They did everything that was expected of them except for making me feel welcome and part of 'their' team. No problem. The Poll has to go on nevertheless.

The Presiding Officer is reduced to the level of a form-filling agent who has to fill mundane columns about the weather, no of voters and don't ask me more or else I will collapse with the thought of the stress levels of the polling day, which I am yet to get out of. I was in a deep existential crisis about an assortment of things which will haunt me for many days now till the results are announced. I had thought that it was only I who had these thoughts and experience but my better half had a similar experience. He tells me that his constituency had a woman staff who was nearly full term pregnant while it is clearly stated in the rules that pregnant women are exempt from Election duty. I think the EC has to consider humanitarian grounds and select people with care.

Now, comes the best part - Individuals are chosen for the post of a Presiding Officer based on their scale of pay and position, which means that there might be seniors in terms of age and experience who are placed as subordinates. Whoa! The Election Commission does not think of 'ego-clashes.' Well, why should it, anyway. But I being an Assistant Professor does not mean that I am adept at filling forms - I detest forms of any kind, leave along filling them but EC takes the cake in providing so many forms that the forms are enough to make you pee and shit in your pants for about the period till the results are announced. Why - if there are any errors or mistakes then you get called. Argh! It's an honour to be chosen for this "responsible" position and yes, be virtue of being an Assistant Professor in a quasi-government set-up, I am an expert in filling up forms of varied colours, white being the most common and putting these forms into colourfully annoying envelops of blue, yellow and green (further relegated as 'sealed' and 'unsealed'). I wonder why the EC cannot provide laptops for each Presiding Officers with the forms pre-loaded in the device and also having the digital signature of the Presiding Officer. Some forms which require to have the Polling agents' signature, could be given while other forms could be done away with.

The returning of the materials after the polls are another saga of woe and angst. One has to wait eternally till the local officials arrive at your table to collect the forms which are then verified by he Returning Officer and the Observer! Jeez. Now this activity goes on till the wee hours of the night and no provision is made for either food or water. There were many Diabetics, who were in dire need of something to eat - not just tea and batata wada which was provided. And some women, in my husband's constituency were waiting till about 01. 00 am without having any means to return home. When Election officials are having food while the menial Presiding officers and their teams are hungry and fatigued, it is quite sad on the part of EC. 

I had to down several cocktails, lot of comfort beef food and a movie to forget the dreary and depressing task of 'being a responsible' Presiding Officer. But still I'm not done with the haunting thoughts because my back and backside is sore with the all day sitting and I had to take leave today (Monday) to nurse the aching back which is a grim reminder of the aching task of filling up of forms and remembering a whole lot of clauses which have to be dug out of the deep crevices of the mind at the appropriate time.


Points to be considered by the Election Commission
It is high time the EC becomes reduces paper-work by collaborating with efficient institutions to develop a software for enabling filling of forms. It should also try and see that the staff are well fed with working meals to ensure good work and pleasant spirits. It would also be wonderful if teams could be decided in advance to ensure familiarity, good team work and efficiency. Furthermore, there should be sufficient time between sending the orders and conducting the training programmes. The training sessions right from the first should be given a mock poll conduction right from the scratch which will enable first-timers to gain confidence and expertise and the sense of responsibility should be owned by the entire team and NOT only the Presiding Officer.

Let peace prevail within and outside of me. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Towards a cleaner, healthier and organic 2017

For quite some time, my family and I have embarked on the journey towards eliminating chemicals from our everyday life. Slowly yet steadily we are trying, exploring - one product at a time. Most of my time is spent checking out various sites which deal with selling chemical-free and natural products. I have come to realise that a drastic change as this requires a lot of groundwork and research. In spite of our interest and research, there are many products which I cannot rid of - lipsticks, perfumes and other such. I did find cosmetics which claim to be 'natural' but I am not quite satisfied with the results. Someone suggested that I stop wearing lipsticks and I have also been contemplating on this but still to arrive at a decision - So far, I'm happy to let my lips soak the chemicals.

In my early stages of research the website Mindbodygreen was helpful to me in many ways to simplify things, eat mindfully and practice some lovely affirmations. Though these days, I only visit MBG occasionally, I remember the wonderful lessons I had learnt from there. I guess I had taken all that I have needed and moved on.

One big step which we as a family decided to take was in the section of food - trying to consume foodstuff that were local and nutritious. I must admit that Broccoli, Strawberries and the like are also consumed by us and they are definitely not local but healthy. Another product which I have added to my daily cooking is using Virgin coconut oil. Earlier I was under the impression that using coconut oil for cooking would increase the cholesterol levels but discussing with nutritionists and reading literature on this topic helped me abate my doubts. But I had to look hard to procure pure coconut oil. It was then that my blogger pal, Vishnu Vardhan started his venture named Indian Super Heroes, based in Coimbatore, committed to providing authentic Indian organic stuff to people in search of the same. The concept of ISH is something that is simple and revolutionary - working with local people to source, grow and provide organic products to people, markets and society. Small scale ventures have always caught my interest and attention because they deal directly with the farmers without the interference of middle-men and commissions. And, the products are made with utmost care and love unlike the large-scale machines which are quite impersonal and stiff. And another reason for us to go organic is trying to support local and native products.

My first purchase with ISH 500 ml of coconut oil and a peppermint soap and I am excited now as I write this because many more products have been introduced by Vishnu Vardhan and his efficient women team. The soap does not dry the skin like the other famous soaps like Lux, Dove, Santoor and so on. It has a mild fragrance and a soothing effect on the skin. I have also previously used only handmade soaps procured from different sources and glad to now find it in ISH.

I am also looking to procure traditional and local items like millets, organic turmeric, wild honey and a wide range of products. There was a time I used to order items from ten different places and await their arrival but now after ISH, I guess I could order items from the same place. The website is still in its nascent stage but Vishnu tells me that it will soon be fortified.

If interested, you could procure products from Indian Super Heroes here:

Website: http://indiansuperheroes.com/ & http://indianorganic.store/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SuperHeroesIndia/?fref=ts

The Focus Areas of ISH


I would like to know if you have been going organic and chemical-free too. If yes, what are some simple changes that you have made in your home and life-style?


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, indeed, it is the most wonderful time of the year. It seems like a saccharine sweet cliche but I must admit that the mood is generally upbeat at this time (if I choose to forget painful deadlines which call for attention and the details that drive me to a state of anxiety) of the year. This year marks the first time where we have done up our living room with lights and hollies and bells and all that jazz. Well, doing up the Christmas tree was fun this year -- a child-like joy filled us as we were selecting spots for the assortment of knick-knacks. My usual cynical self has somehow turned pleasant and jolly. Perhaps I am growing saner and wiser with the years.

So, how has it been for you this merry season?

Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful season of love, joy and cheer.

Joy and love always



Monday, 19 December 2016

The dog with the bell

Today while I was in our car, my thoughts, without any whim or fancy flew to the days I used to know a guy and his dog with the bell. The dog's name was Bobby and it had a bell on its neck. As the dog walked, the bell chimed and it was like a signal - Bobby and X have arrived! Ah! that there was a special connection between the dog's owner and the writer is immaterial here. Aw! Did I just say that! Ah! well, I just did. I would be having dinner, when the rhythmic sound of Bobby's bell would announce their arrival. I would then squirm, try and hurry my dinner, and jump into the road to join the walkers. Our post-dinner rendezvous punctuated by Bobby's bell. Bobby was a smart dog - he knew the places of affection and love and was a silent spectator to the laughs and undercurrents.

He would walk, sometimes run after spotting a nocturnal creature or find his favourite tree and pee. I knew he looked forward to those walks like us. He was the excuse for our walks and we were the reason for his walks - it was a mutual understanding.

I wonder where Bobby is. I suspect he has passed away and would have found many similar companions to walk with while tinkling his wee bell. I also wonder what happened to that bell. Perhaps it was buried with Bobby or it was just discarded now that there is no much use for the same. As for the owner of Bobby, I guess he is out there doing his own thing and probably owning another paw to take care but I guess he won't need the bell because he is now married with children and he does not have the need to alert someone of his presence. Maybe he might be wearing that bell as a talisman or as a signal to alert his family of his arrival from work, gym, church or just the corner shop.

Memories, very funny, aren't they?

Hope you are revelling in the season of fun and joy.

What are your childhood memories of Christmas?

  

Monday, 12 December 2016

The year of deaths and reminders of mortality

Every year is another beautiful opportunity given to us in terms of improving ourselves and actively chasing our desired goals and dreams. But along with that is also the realisation that our life is slowly heading towards death. The feeling is humbling as well as scary for it drives hard the fact that we do not have time at our behest. The passing away of diverse personalities this year has insinuated many thoughts of mortality and life within me. As I hear news of people who names have been part of my growing up years and adult life pushes me to think of my own life and its fragility. The hardest blow was when the news of our honourable Chief Minister, J. Jayalalalitha's passing away flashed across the many internet websites. The knowledge that someone who was a formidable presence, inspite of the autocracy, drove hard the nail of mortality. The feeling, for quite some time, has been in the air, when Cohen, Bowie, Balamurali Krishna and others left this earth. Well, as one grows older than the previous year, thoughts as these prevail like the dark clouds which cast a spell for a while either passing away or bringing rainfall.

Growing older means that loved ones are becoming fragile and losing the former agility and taut. The body also plays truant especially while getting up in the morning or that stubborn fat which refuses to budge from a you-know-where spot. Enough! I am not here to whine or complain about facts that are irrevocable but thoughts as these cannot be dismissed without the thought running its entire course.

I know many whose lives started by mid-50s or early 60s. I love the energy they display. Yesterday, I was at the venue of the Goa River Marathon. My oh my! The energy in that place was all-consuming - people of varied age groups feeling smug after completing the 21 kms. I wonder how it might seem to them while running and after completing the long run. The myriad emotions visible on their face was radiant, to say the least. Perhaps, this is one way to push fears of mortality and delay the same. Perhaps, it is a way of cheating death. Perhaps, it is the knowledge that death might come any way so let us try adventure and push our limits, raising the adrenaline meanwhile. Whatever it was, the vibes of the place was so invigorating that I felt stimulated to run at least 5 kms next year. In fact, running a marathon has always been a wish/dream/desire but then as always, I was pushing the dream behind everything else instead of pushing myself to run. Ah! I should read Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and of course there's is Milind Soman who is successfully pushing away Lord Death from approaching him in any direction!

Let me close with a loved and oft read sonnet by John Donne:

Death, be not proud

Related Poem Content Details

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. 
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, 
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, 
And soonest our best men with thee do go, 
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. 
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, 
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, 
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? 
One short sleep past, we wake eternally 
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die. 

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