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February 18, 2015

My million dollar recipe

What can go possibly go wrong with good old Maggi instant noodles, eh?


This popular instant snack has been saving too-lazy-to-cook Indians world over from going to bed on an empty stomach. It has been my savior during the bleakest of hostel days. It has soothed my anxious nerves before the weakest of exam hours. It has stood up for me every single time. Hence, no matter what jealous Maggi competitors have to say, I, Priyanka Naik, will always be an undying fan and grateful loyalist to this easy and tasty snack.
So, coming back to the point. What can possibly go wrong with this two-minute preparation? After almost two decades of making instant noodles, and declaring myself a 'Maggi Chef' in my own kitchen, I was hell sure that no one and I mean NO ONE, (leave alone the great Masterchef, me) can ever go wrong in making it. This little yellow packet is not just indispensable but also a 100% success formula for hungry stomachs and tired minds. All you need to do is, empty the contents in boiling water, add the taste maker and wait for it to cook.Voila! Delicious noodles ready, right?
NO! Wrong!
Not every time...especially not with yours truly.
After all, yours truly has always been Mr Murphy's favorite muse, hasn't she?

So let me tell you how it all happened. *rubs palms and gets into story telling mode*
Well, last night, I decided to fix myself an instant dinner. Now the first thing that comes to my mind when I think instant is Maggi. Good old faithful Maggi. So, in I popped into the kitchen and out came the cooking pan, pair of scissors and the traditional knight in yellow armour. Little did I know that this  one single area of expertise (yes, cooking Maggi I mean) that I gloated would never betray me, would stab me in the back. Mr Murphy often visits me when my common sense is out for a walk...the good-for-nothing wimp that he is.
But like every bad experience, there was a lesson I gleaned from this disastrous accident too---I learned how not to make Maggi noodles. *grins proudly*

On the bright(er) side, I now know a fantastic recipe for a preparation that could be put in use when I am old and grey, when my reflexes are weak and my teeth have fallen out. Well, I am sure I'd be just as lazy then, maybe even lazier. If I manage to stick around to such a ridiculously wise and senile sensitive age, I am pretty sure I'd be well equipped with Maggi packets as well.How silly it would seem if I gagged on a noodle. What would happen to my cool image et al? Now that I have this secret recipe, I don't need to stress over that anymore. YO!
Hey, but let's not be all selfish. It's not all about me, you know. I am sure the recipe I have discovered (all great inventions were discovered by accident, you know) could also qualify for a very convenient and easy to make formula food for babies. Hey, all you young mommies out there, I hope you are reading.

So here goes. Below is the above mentioned recipe in ten easy steps. (Sharing it on the blog only because I love you all soooo much)
  1. Heat water in a pan (as suggested on the back of the pack).
  2. Empty the contents of the pack
  3.  Go to answer the door bell.
  4.  Realizing that the guest who has entered will take a while to leave and not wanting to cook when he/she is around, slowly sneak into the kitchen and turn off the stove. Cover the pan containing the soaked noodles and leave the kitchen with the intention to resume what you have left half done, once the guest leaves.
  5. After  a good 30-45 mins (unexpected guests generally takes that long to leave. but in case he leaves early, you can get distracted by a TV soap or something),  re-enter the kitchen only to find the thin noodle strands miraculously bloated. The water in the pan would have disappeared by then, and remember, you haven't even added the taste maker yet.
  6. Add more water. (Obviously!) How else is the taste maker going to dissolve? It's not chaat powder that you can sprinkle on, remember?  Yes, so add more water, about the same quantity you added in the first place.
  7. Now add the taste maker.
  8. Stir vigorously, more out of panic from perceiving that the noodles have attained a pale, bland looking appearance instead of the predicted dark yellow color. This step can be accompanied by wondering whether to add turmeric powder to enhance the look. (Desperate times call for desperate measures.) But don't give in to that thought. Why? Err...I dunno. I didn't, so you don't!
  9. Cook on alternate high and low flame until all the water evaporates.
  10. Garma Garam Mushy Maggi tayyar!!! 
Be proud and dig up in a hole to bury the messy concoction!

For all those who want to know what followed the above such episode last night, well...nothing much. I normally do not like sharing my Maggi with anyone, especially with my nasty older sibling. But the Maggi I'd so lovingly cooked yesterday simply could not be eaten alone. I had to share the love with her. Sadly, she never believes me when I'm in such a generous mood, and so did not appreciate the sentiment. Her reaction after the first bite reminded me of the famous shower  scene in 'Psycho'. Lucky for me, I was not trapped like the heroine in the cubicle and could run away if necessary.

Nevertheless, between emotional threats of children going hungry in Somalia and  sentimental dialogues of 'Anyone can make mistakes', I managed to force feed the family into gulping the bolus (that looked nowhere like Maggi by the time it was done) without choking. Half the concoction went into the thrash can. But like I said earlier, we see the bright side of every situation.
I now have a success formula that I am planning to sell to the company for a million bucks.

 'New Maggi Noodle Mush--for the toothless & the constipated...'

Don't be shocked if you see the 'Noodle Mush' recipe being promoted anytime soon. And once that happens, don't forget to feel special...you got to read it here first! *blows kisses to everyone*

Keep experimenting.
Cheers!!

January 30, 2015

Garnier Pure Active Neem Wash---Your Zit Kit!

Around a fortnight ago, I received a call from the 'Best Friend'. She was hysterical.
"Out of all the days in all the months in all the years, it has to happen now," she wailed.

"Relax Dimpy, Take a deep breath. Now exhale," I said.

There was silence at the other side.

"You can tell me now," I giggled, familiar with similar episodes in the past. The last time Dimpy had been so upset was when her favorite lipstick shade had sold out.

"No Pri. This time, the problem is really serious," she breathed. "Pushky's folks are coming to see me."

"Wow!!! But isn't that a great thing?" I was confused. My friend Dimple was in a long term relationship with the man of her dreams, Pushkar Solanki, and it was about time things moved to the next level. Dimpy would often tell me that Pushkar and she would even have heated arguments regarding the same issue. Coming from an orthodox family, Pushkar did not know how to spill the beans to his folks.
However, it seemed Pushkar had now not only told his folks about his long term relationship, but also managed to convince them to come and meet the girl. I was happy for my friend. It seemed to me like it would be a 'Jhat Mangni Pat Byah' scenario. But I still couldn't understand the reason for panic.

"It would be. But unfortunately, the timing is all wrong. It's 'Spotty' time," she cried.

Now for those of you who'd think Dimple might have been overreacting again, trust me, she was not!
'Spotty' is an old nick name which we had fondly coined for her back in our school days, Like all major events, Dimple had responded to it first with anger, then denial, then resistance and finally acceptance. The name had stuck on just like the breakout of pimples that would unfailingly appear few days before her periods that were as regular as clockwork. The spots on her face caused more concern than a positive pregnancy test, and we would often kid by calling it the unsafe period of social activity.

It was during these few days every month that Dimple would not make any kind of outdoor appearance. She would try and stay indoors as much as possible. She would shirk away from gatherings and functions, develop camera phobia, run away from meeting new people, and try all sorts of liniments and homemade concoctions on the crop of red pimples...all in vain. Hormonal assays had shown there was nothing wrong with her hormones. The irregular eruptions proved that the zits had a mind of their own, leading to Dimpy stressing and hiding whenever they made their appearance. Had we not known her that well, we would have labelled it as another case of 'menstrual exclusion'.

"Damn! When are they coming to meet you?" I asked, now feeling sorry for her.

"Right on time. I just can't believe my luck. Pushky says that have already booked their tickets. When I told him about it, he laughed and said it was okay. But you know it's not, Pri. It's so not. It is going to be my first impression with my to-be in-laws."

I understood what she was saying. This was an occasion she had been waiting for since ages. All these years, Dimple would have died for just one meeting to impress her in-laws with. I knew they would approve of her once they met her. All their anger would melt when they realized what a sweet person their only son had chosen to be their daughter-in-law. Dimple could charm her way into any one's heart. But right now, she lacked confidence. With so many years of bad experience with oily skin, there was no way my consolation would be effective, even if it meant I tried every single day for the next two weeks. Pushkar's angry parents would be here in a fortnight, around the same time as the mad break out..

"Chill Dimpy. We will come up with something," I tried in vain. I myself was unconvinced. Having been witness to Dimpy's breakout's in the past, I had been a partner to her woes of egg-white, honey, curd, lemon, apricots and all other sorts of face packs, that did nothing else but leave her smelling like a rotting fruit basket in a garbage can. She had even tried taking blood purifiers, but had given up because she could not stand their terrible taste.

That very evening we met up with a skin consultant friend who suggested different treatments for acne. While it was a good revision of my medical knowledge, I realized that a busy life and daily stresses had caused even me to neglect my skin. The only reason that I did not have these regular eruptions that Dimpy  experienced was because she had an excessively oily skin type to begin with. I did have whiteheads though, which were a type of acne, just not as obvious as the papular and pustular variant (thankfully).
'Dr Skin' (yes, we have nick names for every one) told us that it was quite common to experience a break out during menstrual cycles. She also told Dimpy that excessive stress causes worsening of acne (which Dimpy readily agreed with from past experience. I thought it was more cause for worry since the anticipation of meeting Pushkar's parents was only adding to her stress.) When asked about cosmetics, I also realized that Dimpy used an oil based foundation which isn't suitable for acne prone skin.
We discussed chemical peels, laser, Dermaroller for scars, and other therapies which normally cost the moon, and Dimpy was afraid she would have no money left for her wedding trousseau. Besides nothing was guaranteed. So we decided to give that a skip and stick to the basic and least harrowing.

On returning back, we stopped at my regular beauty store to pick up my usual Garnier skin natural sun control moisturizer and Fructis fortifying shampoo. That is when I noticed another product from my favorite range of beauty products...a face wash---Garnier PureActive Neem. Tube in hand, I searched for  Dimple and finally found her sulking at her reflection in the display mirror.

I took her aside and showed her the product I had in hand. It was a conveniently packaged flip-top tube from Garnier. On knowing it was an anti-acne face wash, I had immediately googled to see wonderful reviews.
Dimple was overjoyed on reading it contained real Neem Leaf and Tree Tea Oil extracts:

"Just what I need," she said pointing out to the mechanism of action at the back of the tube.

1) Fights germs: washes away problem causing bacteria to help prevent pimples.
2) Fights Pollution: deep cleans pores to remove impurities caused by pollution.
3) Removes excess Oil: it washes away excess oil which attracts dirt, germs and bacteria.

Having used Garnier products since a long time now, I trusted it enough to believe its effectiveness. Besides, we did not have anything to lose. Dimpy had tried all the home remedies and care routines in the past. But there had been no significant effect. Here was a face wash that promised to help us deal with the harmful stresses that pollution and a busy life have on our skin.  Reducing the excess oil would prevent the accumulation under the skin follicles, thus reducing eruptions. Also, our age old sciences vouch for the purifying effect of Neem. I recalled my Grandma boiling Neem leaves in my bath water every vacation spent at our ancestral house.
Besides using the face wash, I suggested that Dimple go on a detox diet. Dr Skin had adviced her to stay off oily food, as eating healthy was very important for skin care. Plenty of water was to be consumed.
"Oh yes, I am ready to starve as long as it works," she promised, her dramatic self again.

Dr Skin had warned us of the side effects the topical antibiotics and retinoids could have on the skin. Besides the cost factor of the laser and Dermaroller therapy, the topical skin products could leave redness,  skin rash, and some other serious side effects as well when used long term.
Dimpy had left the skin clinic, a little dejected. But on finding this Neem Face Wash, her chances to a clearer skin looked promising. Accompanying Dimpy to the skin clinic had also made me aware of the effects of environmental pollution had on my skin. So I billed an additional tube of the face wash for myself.

Since then Dimple has been following a cleansing and purifying routine. She has been following a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables. She has switched over to makeup products that are not oil-based, even this she uses she uses occasionally, taking care to wash and dry the make-up sponge and brush clean after every application. She drinks around three to four litres of water every day and practices yoga to relieve stress. End result, the eruptions have been very few and far in between. Her skin has been showing significant changes.

I met her just a couple of days back, and she no longer seems nervous anymore. Pushkar's parents are going to arrive in a week's time, but I noticed that she is no more jittery about it. When asked about it, she told me she is going shopping for their visit. It was nice to see her glowing.

"Pri, I feel beautiful," she said. "I don't know if Pushkar's parents are going to approve of me or not. I don't even know if my face is ever going to be completely zit-free. But what I know for sure is that I feel great about myself...just like I felt when I first met Pushky." She let out a mischievous giggle.
Then taking out the face wash from her hand bag, she gushed,"This has become a must-carry now. I don't leave home without it."

"Yes, I can see the improvement," I grinned and hugged her good luck. I knew she would be busy the next few days now. Mr and Mrs Solanki were about to be floored by their soon-to-be daughter-in-law.

On returning home, I was smiling to myself thinking about Dimple. It was nice to see Dimpy being so stress free and confident again. I had hardly seen her like this before, except when around Pushkar. Somewhere I felt that we owed it to her, the return of her confidence. The jabs during school days, all in good humor, suddenly begun to seem crude. 'Dimple and her pimple' , 'Spotty' etc were plain inhuman even coming from friends.
'Beauty is only skin deep,' I could hear my grandma saying. But then why did she make me bathe in neem leaves every morning? Probably because she knew that the world does not see it that way. .
Perhaps because she was aware that even though beauty was only skin deep, a hurtful word could slash you deep within your heart and mar your self esteem forever.

I took out the Garnier PureActive Neem Wash from the cabinet. Standing in front of the washroom mirror, I flipped open its cover and squeezed a little on my palm, and inhaled it long and deep.

"So, this is what confidence smells like," I smiled and proceeded to gently massage it on my damp face, avoiding the eye contour area.

'Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder,' an inner voice reminded, making me smile again. As I rinsed thoroughly, I felt a strange tiredness slip away.

 I felt fresh...from within!


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The post has been submitted as an entry for the 'Garnier Pure Active Neem' contest on Indiblogger 
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January 24, 2015

The Dreamcatcher

"It's a surprise. Don't cheat," Jason said to Sarah, as he blind folded her.
With that, he revved up the engine and set the car in motion.
Jason and Sarah were childhood friends. Today, seated in his shiny black Sedan, she wondered what the surprise could be. She smiled to herself as glimpses of their friendship flashed before her blind folded eyes.

It was Sarah's 11th birthday. She had stopped celebrating it ever since her parents had died in that awful plane crash. She had been living with her grandmother ever since. The last birthday she had celebrated was when she was five, the year the accident had occurred.
Sitting in a quiet corner of her room, eleven year old Sarah had imagined herself in a pretty little pink dress covered with lace and sequins, distributing sweets to all her friends at school. In reality, no one had remembered to wish her except her grandmother and pimple-faced Jason. Jason had made her a shoe box and her grand ma had got her some messily packed candy. Sarah couldn't complain. That was all they could afford. Her friends would receive fancy gifts and clothes on their birthdays. Sarah had cried herself to sleep that night. In her dream, she saw fairy lights. A string of dainty little lights in brilliant colors....in shades she had never ever seen before.
The next morning saw her wake up smiling. She couldn't recall the exact dream. All she remembered was that she was happy...and of course the magical fairy lights, she would never forget those.

When she was fourteen, she had participated in a ballet concert at her school. She had really pinned up all her hopes on the prize--a small battery operated digital television set. Sarah wondered how it would be to have a TV. She knew her grandma could never afford one. But she was ashamed to reveal this wish to anyone at school. She had put her heart and soul in the practice. She was so sure she'd win. But as bad luck would have it, she tripped over a wire in the middle of the performance. Red with embarrassment, she had run off the stage. She had locked herself in her room and would not open the door for anyone. Amidst angry sobs, she had told Jason that she would never dance again.

In high school, she had wished good old 'heart throb' Nick would ask her to prom night. Her grandmother had fished out her mother's gown from an old trunk that was locked away in the attic. A little alteration had been needed....a nip here, a tuck there, and it had fit Sarah perfectly. That night she went to sleep thinking of Nick. As she entered a deep sleep, she felt something inside her  changing. It was if Nick was being extricated from her thoughts. She had woken up feeling unusually  happy, but could not recall anything of the mysterious dream. On reaching high school, she discovered that Nick had already asked Katy to the prom. Heart broken, she confided in Jason again. That evening Jason stayed back with her watching reruns of her favorite soap. He said it made him feel 'gay', and that made her laugh all the more.

Sarah's chain of thoughts was interrupted by a sudden screech. The car had stopped. It was time to step out.
The front door was opened, and Jason gently held her hand and let her out of the car.
"No looking," he reminded her again.
"Where are we?" she asked, her curiosity heightened.
"Hang on a minute," he said, a smile in his voice.

It was time to open the blindfold. Jason carefully removed the cuff from her eyes.In front of Sarah, was a cozy looking cottage with a wooden door. She looked at Jason, giving him a questioning look.
He smiled at her and inserted a key in the lock. The door fell open. The inside was furbished with trendy upholstery. There were spotless lace curtains adorning huge french windows. The mauve walls were adorned with breathtakingly beautiful paintings and modern artifacts. There was a small TV set in one corner, just like the one she had wanted to win years ago. On one wall, was a cuckoo clock, similar to the one she had once dreamed of. She wondered if the cuckoo would fly out chirping her name, just like it did in her dream. There was a table laden with neatly wrapped gifts. Sarah counted. There were eighteen in all, one for each birthday she did not celebrate. A full sized shiny looking glass adorned one corner of the room. Sarah blushed as she recalled complaining once to Jason about a cracked hand mirror. As she gazed at her reflection in it, Jason sneaked behind her and gently slid a gold chain around her neck.
Around it was the most beautiful 'ballerina' locket she had ever seen.

All of a sudden, there was a flash of color. Sarah looked up to see an iridescent spray of the most amazing hues in the universe. She followed her glance towards the source which led to strings of fairy lights just like the ones she had dreamed about on her eleventh birthday.
But how on earth did Jason get to know about all this, she wondered. She closed her eyes again and tried to recall the dreams she had dreamed as a child. In a far corner of her mind, hadn't Jason always been a part of them?
The day she failed at the dancing contest, the day Nick ditched her, the exam she had flunked, the gold bracelet she couldn't afford, Jason had been with her all along. She had just not taken notice of him then. He had stayed in the background, collecting bits of her dreams, to  present them back to her as a lovely collage some day. He had made her dreams come true.

She had heard of the 'Dreamcatchers'...the celestial characters her grandmother would talk about. They were a group of magical creatures who possessed the superpower to catch dreams from humans. They could change into any form they wanted. They were masters of their choice, and creatures of habit.
Were these fictional characters from her bed time stories real, Sarah now wondered. Could Jason be one of them?
She turned to look at Jason who was standing right behind her, like he had always been. For the first time today, she gazed into his eyes. She could see her dreams reflected in them.
As she continued to gaze longingly into his eyes, she felt a strange pull towards him. For the first time in her life, someone had made her feel important...someone had made her feel special...feel loved. She felt happy. It was the same happiness she had experienced in her dreams.
"I have never known love," Jason whispered to Sarah. "But if there is something called 'love', it must surely feel like this."
Sarah blushed. The fairy lights twinkled on, their spectral hues sending magical ripples around the room.
"I have never been happier," Sarah smiled, and they both hugged each other. It had started raining outside. The air inside smelled of lemon and lavender. Everything around them felt magical. So did their love.

Sarah felt her eyelids turn heavier. She was feeling sleepy. She lay on the four poster bed that she had always wished she had. It was exactly like the one she had read about in fairy tales. The pillows were like clouds under her head. That night, she had a dreamless sleep.
The dream catcher sat beside her all night long, guarding the smile that played on her lips. He did not even realize when he had dozed off.

When he woke up next morning, she was gone. He was in his own nondescript home. He peeped  outside his bedroom window to see the bright summer sun. His rusty old cycle stood in the messy shed, waiting to be mounted.
Jason pinched himself. He rubbed his eyes. Where had it all vanished? Where was Sarah?
Had he just returned from a dream or entered into one, Jason wondered.  Had the Dreamcatcher not yet learned to catch his own dreams?

Just then, his cell phone beeped. It was a text from Sarah,
You won't believe what I dreamt up yesterday, it said!

Jason smiled. Someone up there was playing tricks on him, reminding him that there was no greater Dreamcatcher than love!

January 19, 2015

While you weren't looking...

What do you do when a box full of gulab jamuns from your sweet meat shop slips from your hand and falls on the road?
Curse yourself for what happened and scurry away to pack a fresh replace for the delivery?
Go get a broom from your shop nearby and sweep it into the thrash? ('Swacch Bharat' and you wouldn't want stray animals calling a gathering in front of your sweet shop for a feast?)
Or Traumatized by the incident, stop delivery of gulab jamun's forever?




Zoom in the picture above, and you will witness one of the rare occurences in history when an innocuous little citizen (aka 'Me') beautifully captured one such 'Wrong number' from the safe confines of her car parked nearby. Let me fill you in with the details *rubs her hands in glee*
So it happened like this.
After having a relaxed Sunday lunch, the family decided to go out for ice cream. Too stuffed to even step out to make a choice, I decided to stay back in the parked car.
"Get me anything except dark chocolate," I instructed the family.
"What if there is nothing except that?" they asked. Well living in Goa, we have learned to expect the most outrageous circumstances.
"In that case, get me DARK CHOCOLATE," I smirked.
The family rolled their eyes and were on their way, muttering something under their breath about lazy me and how I could do with a bit of exercise, which I chose to ignore.

I got back to texting 'Looney Tunes', my friend group on Whatsapp.
My attention had hardly wavered from my cell phone until I heard a soft thud followed by a collective groan from nearby. Immediately I looked from my car window and noticed a man on a scooter looking down at his feet and frowning. I recognized him to be the delivery boy from the nearby sweet shop. My gaze instantly shifted to where he was looking, and what I saw made me wince.. Scattered below at his feet was a boxful of perfectly golden sugar soaked  gulab jamuns. Even in that sorry plight, they looked so lovely and inviting.

Slightly vexed at the clumsiness of the delivery boy in handling the delectable sweets, I continued to observe. This initial reaction was instantly followed by an empathic one. Mistakes can happen with anyone, I thought.
"Poor guy. He is surely in for a dressing down from the owner," I thought to myself. "Maybe I will go and buy a box of fresh gulab jamuns from the shop just to make up for his slip."
I was about to open the car door and step out to do the needful, when I saw another man come out from inside the shop. He whispered something in the ear of the fore mentioned guy and handed him an aluminium tray (that I recognized as one used to display the sweets in the shop).
This was my cue to stay on and watch what happened next. So without a sound, I sat back looking closely at the drama that was unfolding at a distance.
The two men glanced left and right to see if anyone was watching. When they realized that the coast was clear (they did not notice the pair of eyes watching them from a safe distance).
Much to my disgust, they then bent over and started picking up the gulab jamuns one by one, choosing the ones that were intact from the ones distorted, and placing them carefully on the tray that was promptly produced from the store.. I watched with horror as a third man stepped out to inspect the job. This was when my cell phone came in handy.

When the family returned with the ice cream, I proudly proudly pointed out my discovery. They were aghast at the sight. We had a healthy discussion on the way home. While someone said that he might be picking the Gulab Jamun's out for disposal, the other pointed that this didn't seem true as the tray that was being used  looked exactly like the trays that were  displayed in the shop window. I, on the other hand, wanted to know which disposal method involved carefully picking only the best fallen  Gulab Jamun's by hand?

The pics were transferred to 'Looney Tunes' and we all swore to steer clear from the shop. Here was a place that was well known for its sweets and savories. This was clearly not done.

I am normally a peace loving person. I always abide by an imaginary fourth monkey (the one with eyes shut, ears plugged and hands over the mouth---the sum total of Gandhiji's famous three). But in situations like these, the cute little fourth chimp gets transformed into a mad orangutan
Honestly, I strongly believe there should be no compromise when it comes to public safety. If this can happen in a small place like Goa, it is possible almost anywhere. Basic education teaches us not to eat anything off the floor, even at home. But what about situations like these we aren't aware of?
In a country like ours, where almost every common road and street is strewn with filth, right from human piss, chewed up paan, spit, cow dung etc, do you think we have achieved that degree of a 'Swacch India' where spilled food is suitable for consumption?

On reaching home, I was thinking about the incident. Maybe I should have stepped out of the car and reprimanded them instead. Why didn't I stand up against it?
"Why would you ask for trouble? You were alone and they were so many. Nothing would come out of it anyway," my inner voice counter questioned.
 But a part of me was ashamed of myself. Maybe I could have stopped them from delivering those soiled gulab jamuns. If I could prevent even one person from consuming them and falling ill, it would have been worth the effort.  Isn't being a silent witness to a shameful act as much of a crime as committing the act?

There was a huge mental debate before posting this write up. One voice within me thought I should stay away from conflict. What has happened has happened anyway. But there was another voice within me that said  'Go right ahead. Post it so that it does not happen again. Post it so that people are aware. Post it so that when someone like you is witness to a shameful act like this, they raise a voice for public safety.'
I decided to heed to the second voice with the promise that I will take better and more prompt action next time.
 

January 14, 2015

Clandestine

Have you ever heard the sound of silence?

People who know me know how mentally stimulating I find conversation. I like to stay amidst talking people, in noisy places, amidst friendly chatter. It makes me feel alive. Being a part of the crowd offers a strange kind of security, a solace that everyone is moving along with you. The only time I appreciate some quiet is either when I am having a splitting headache or when I am reading a book.

However, last weekend I experienced something unique. I was talking to a group of friends, and all of a sudden, I felt this need to separate myself from the incessant banter. I wanted to focus on something far away. It was not that the conversation wasn't interesting. Our conversations are always fun.  But there was a part of my mind that was trying to focus on something else...a clock ticking on a wall at the far end corner of the cafe, the sound of the blades of the whirring fan above us, the swish swooshing made by opening and closing movements of the door. What felt absurd was that these were sounds that I hardly paid any attention to in the past...noises that are drowned out in the din at a common place setting.
However yesterday I was straining to notice them. It was as if I had enough of the obvious and now wanted to explore the ignored...as if my ears were craving to hear the sounds of silence.

Perhaps my friends noticed my distracted behavior and we called it wraps earlier than usual. On the way home, I was ruminating over this unnatural reaction of mine, but still couldn't place any reason to it. Maybe I'm just turning old and senile, I humored myself. But there was another part of me that was still trying to detach myself from thinking too hard.
It was around 9 pm by the time I got home. I headed straight to my room. A half read novel was lying on the bed. As habit would have it, I was tempted to pick it up. But I refrained. I switched off my cell phone, turned off the TV, opened the windows to my room and waited, eyes closed. How long since I had last done that? How long since I had tried to drive away all the clutter that occupied my mind?
How long since I had stopped to appreciate the sound of silence?
I flinched with the realization. Could it be that my mind was trying to tell me something? Did a mental freeze mean that my brain, my body was asking me to slow down?

Are we not acquainted so much to the superficiality that we forget to notice the deeper essentials? If we peel back the superficial layers of  our life---the frenzy, the confusion----a calm stillness awaits.
A cold breeze brushed against my face. I tried to distract myself from the occasional sound of traffic on the street in front of my house. It took me some time to adjust myself.
As I stood there, chafing the pristine silence from the chaos, I heard the rustling of leaves, the faint mewing of our neighbour's cat (I wasn't even aware they had a cat until then), a faint familiar tune playing on a radio station in some parked car somewhere in the distance----soft signs of satisfaction that the mind searches for every once in a while. It was breath taking, this experience. 
I wanted to explore the beauty of that stillness.
I wanted to be one with this magic of silence!

The moment felt so fragile that I wanted to preserve it for eternity. But letting it go was necessary...for me to experience it all over again.
And so let go I did, with the promise of a visit soon...very soon.


For words are a powerful addiction,
and silence a complicated affair...
Each in company and in solitude,
 a magic one dare not share...

So discover your learning moment,
a time freeze or wrap...
But don't you dare stay too long there,
It could be a terrible love trap...

For it's not my duty to warn you,
But it's indeed yours to learn...
Celebrate, revel and flirt with these,
Or fester, perish and burn...

It's a powerful thing, this magic,
to know how far to go...
To either from a safe distance watch,
or keep coming back for more...

So pick carefully and wisely,
your words and silence too...
Used right, your days it can fill with bliss,
when wrong, your hearts with rue...

January 12, 2015

Your love---a double edged sword

It keeps me safe. I can feel it surround me like a sheath at times. The memory of our last time together. So many things that needed to be said, yet refused to roll out on my tongue.
You had your suitcase packet. You were ready to leave. And I...
 I can still see myself leaning against that light green wall, wondering how time could have been so cruel to fly away so easily. You were leaving for your city, that had ironically become my city now. That was the only link we would have between us in the years to come...that, and a painful sense of nostalgia we would associate each other with.

" I will miss you," I said. I had wanted to say something else.

"How do you know that? I'm not even gone yet," you smiled.

I smiled back trying to ignore the tears that were forming in my eyes. In my mind, you had left already. In my heart, we had parted. You knew that too, but perhaps wanted to make light of the moment. Or perhaps you thought it wouldn't be the last time we were meeting. But all I noticed then was that you hadn't said you would miss me as well. I waited...
Once again, you had nothing to say.
I had a million things to tell you. I thought I'd see you off. But as luck had it, I couldn't. I did not have any right to. That day a lot of things stayed pending.

I longed to hug you and say goodbye. But I did not. How could a hug matter when you know you are never going to see the person again? Ironically, I guess I kept wishing it wouldn't be the end.
In the years that followed, I went through this version of our last meeting several times over.  Sometimes it made me laugh. The juvenile parting card, the silly gift, the way I behaved around you might have all seemed like unwanted drama. But there are very few precious moments I have of us...and no matter how immature they may seem in hindsight, it still hurts to let them go.

You set the bar high...so high that lowering it seems impossible now. Is it possible to make up a sacrosanct memory from bits and pieces of our imagination? Could it be that I have plastered the chips and deficits of your flawed image with fragments of an imagined perfection, thereby placing you on some sort of pedestal? Sometimes I wonder if I have imagined it all. Do you really exist or was it all a dream? Then I recall that moment buried in time.

That day, you had nothing to say.
Someday, I hope to find the right words.

Until then your love will continue to be this double edged sword, and my love will gladly bleed...

January 08, 2015

Ours is not to reason why...

If we thought we had put the terror and gruesome crimes behind us in 2014, and stepped into a fresh year--a harbinger of mutual love and world peace, then we got to think again.
The past, as they say, can never leave us alone. Come 2015, we have fresh headlines reiterating haunting catastrophies of the past gift wrapped in new bloody paper. Terrorism has raised its ugly head on a global scale. For those of you who haven't got it, I'm talking about the heinous Charlie Hebdo attack that ocurred yesterday morning. A terrorist attack of exceptional barbarity, this is believed to be the deadliest attack in France since 1961,
The attack took place at the magazine's daily morning editorial meeting where three gunmen entered and opened fire shouting "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad" and "God is Great" in Arabic.Twelve people including the editor and cartoonists, and security were killed on the spot, while many were injured. The gun men have then said to have escaped in a car that was abandoned at a distance.
I heard this news yesterday evening. While TV headlines screamed out the ghastliness of the attack, the video footage of a cop being shot point blank were going viral, the entire world was expressing their condolences and solidarity towards the bereaved families of those killed.
Today morning came with the news that the youngest of the perpetrators had surrendered. Mint India has expressed support by republishing cartoons that were published in Charlie Hebdo. While Barrack Obama expressed his sympathies, every single person in the world seemed to be tweeting or facebook(ing) about what had happened.

But how long before this is forgotten? Weren't we clucking our tongues and expressing disgust about the Peshavar firing, about the Nirbhaya rape case, about the suicide bombings in Yemen, about the uncountable acid attacks, about the ever growing list of horrendous crimes in the world? Do you still remember the gory details of each? Hasn't the rage for yesterday's monstrosity simmered down with newer and more shocking crimes replacing them instead?

I remember the untimely death of Sunanda Pushkar (a well known socialite and wife of MP and minister of state and human resources development, Shashi Tharoor) a year back. How the whole world had been fretting and screaming foul. I was one of the countless people who thought there was more to it than an overdose of sleeping pills. But what can one say when the forensic reports and police investigations dismiss the matter as an open-and-shut-case? The public outcry faded. The Tv reporters hushed down. Her soul was said to be resting in peace. Who dares unruffle the calm of the dead?
Cut to present day. The case has been reopened. News headlines claim that there is evidence of foul play. The viscera has been sent for further investigation. I recall this post I had written back then. Today, I have lots more to say. But I choose not to. Why? Because I am no longer sure if it matters anymore. Justice delayed is justice denied.
I feel amused at the headlines which even now are being very careful with their words. It's evident that power-play reigns supreme. Then why has the case been reopened? To give us a hope to believe  Only time will tell.
 So many lives, the team at Charlie Hebdo , Sunanda Pushkar, the innocent children and their teachers at the Peshavar school, Bhavani-the woman who lost her life in Bangalore's bomb blast, and countless others who have been once mentioned and forgotten who is to account for them all?

On the flip side, there is Sakshi Maharaj asking people to procreate more. Makes me want to believe he has lost his mind, the poor guy.
Ironically, in today's world, where more is (made) less in a matter of seconds, wouldn't it be ideal to stop propagating the human race instead of destroying it?

"Ours is not to reason why,
ours is but to do and die..."
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

January 02, 2015

Lets get started

And yes, we are in 2015!

Another year has come and gone. We bid goodbye to 2014. We came to terms with the fact that the year (along with its share of good, bad and ugly) is never coming back, and we gracefully entered the new year by clinking our glasses and googling 'New Year' quotes to tweet.
So now that the excitement has faded and the first day novelty has simmered down, we are back to routine again. Does anyone recall where they kept their resolution list? Mine must be there somewhere, under some pillow or table top. (I swear I haven't lost it...the list I mean. It must be there somewhere.)
Anyhoo, what do we want for ourselves this New Year? Do we really know or do we need a 'Mirror of Erised' to tell us? I really liked the idea of 'Secret Santa' this Christmas. I was secretly wishing my secret Santa to be my publisher and so I had asked for a higher royalty on my recently released novel 'Twists Of Fate'. But there was nothing like that. Maybe I was misinformed about it being just a silent prayer technique, or perhaps the 'Secret Santa' thing really worked and they actually contacted my  publisher who blatantly refused to agree to my small little wish. I would never know...Sigh!   ("Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die" )

 Sheesh! Digression takes up most of my time. Let's come back to what I want this 2015---
  1. I want to read more. I want to find time for lots of books. Reading can never be enough. But I have a goal of at least a hundred books this year. I hope I can exceed that. Cheers to this reading challenge.
  2. I want to blog and blog hop more regularly. You, who have apparently lost interest in reading 'Nostalgic Moments'---I miss you and I want you back! I am guilty of being out of the loop but I'm here now and you will see me writing home at least thrice every week (if not more.)
  3. I want to eat healthy. Hold it, this doesn't mean I am going to swallow a can of spinach every day or skip my meals for a skinny salad. (Let's be realistic.) It just means no snacking in between.  (and that my friends, is a BIG deal for yours truly).
  4.  I want to complete the manuscript for my second novel. It's in my mind right now. I hope to get it out on paper soon. Knowing what an elaborate and tiresome journey it is to get a book published, would I do it all over again? Most definitely yes! *blush*
  5. I want to get fit not fat. Err...the less said about this the better!
  6. I want to learn a new language this year. A real language mindya.
  7. I want to keep my mind and heart open to new things and people. I want to spend more time with people I love and those who love me. I want to chuck out emotionally draining and negative influences from my life and surround myself with positive energy.
  8. I want my baby 'Twists Of Fate' to reach out to a lot of people. This is something I can only hope will happen...because it needs cooperation from a lot of links in between. There is my publisher, the distributor, the book store owner, the online book carts, and most importantly, YOU, the reader! I hope you will give it a read, and if you like it, please do spread the word.     Amazon.in http://bit.ly/priyankanaik
    Flipkart: http://bit.ly/1yT8L
  9. I want to laugh more, worry less and live better. I haven't yet found the perfect key to this. But I intend to keep searching. I would only be happy if you'd want to join.
  10. and last but not the least, I want to stick to this 'To-Do' list. 
I know how tough it is to abide by resolutions. Heck, we all know that. In fact, my resolution list included a hundred odd few more things. But I just can't seem to find where I place it. I guess the universe is conspiring to help preserve only the resolutions that are most important.

So throw aside that list (for those who haven't lost it already), close your eyes, clear your mind of the clutter, and realize which New Year goals come back to you.(Share them in your comment while you are at it.)
Then gear up, buckle your seat belts and get on this 2015 ride with me.
Cliched but true, here's another chance for us to get it right... 

Love, Smiles and New Year Cheer!!!