Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Clean House and Shop !

Catharsis is a Greek word meaning "purification", "purging", "cleansing" or "detoxification"...
I absolutely adore the "Whole Body Cleanse" System and indulge in a semi-annual detox with khichadi, lemon juice and honey and the whole body cleanse for a week...I feel refreshed, renewed and pun unintended "whole" again.
The organized me loves even better when I "spring clean"...throwing away things I didn't need that were not usable, donating or selling other stuff and generally cleaning house...I love the feeling of emptiness, organization and space that activity gives me
The one thing I haven't been able to do is mentally cleanse my mind of attachments. Over years, one of the banes of being a dedicated/committed product manager is to treat your products/services as your offsprings...it is very difficult to mentally dissect and detach onself from one's hard work, execution and creation...for me that is true Catharsis...cleaning shop...learning to move on. This new year brings for me an opportunity to engage in an exercise of complete catharsis and I am accepting it with open arms...it won't be easy or comfortable but I am definitely welcoming this new change and hope I can adapt, rejuvenate, renew and excel...after all one wise person said - the one thing that is constant in lfe is Change...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Hope Floats...

I was watching some mindless talkshow on the TV yesterday to keep my mind off things and Deepak Chopra was on the show saying - you hope when you are beyond the point of despair...I changed the channel and started watching Food Network...I just don't buy that...life is about a few things - Family, Happiness and a hope that when things go wrong, there is still hope and the chance that Life will rebalance and set things right...

The past 5 weeks have been a roller coaster ride - a constantly sick child prone to colds, coughs and most recently a tummy virus, a loved one having a major health setback and surgery, the constant uncertainity of external parameters...just when I thought things were settling down, fate threw me another curve ball with K2 falling sick and my mom and me catching the same virus...(yeah!merry christmas to you too...)...yet amongst all this there was hope still that things would get better.

And yes things did get better...after 2 days of feeling run-down...I slowly got my Qi back and life slowly seemed to seem straightened out again. We (Bapa, Ma, K1& K2) went out for a long walk on a chilly day today and really enjoyed the feeling of togetherness. We watched " 3 Idiots" yesterday and it was wonderful watching this "feel good" movie together. What struck me in the movie was something Aamir Khan said - We humans are scaredy cats...and eventually in the rat race really become afraid of everything...the heart really fears and expects the worst...take a deep breath...put your hand on your heart and say Aal izz Well !!! and you can cheat your heart into becoming more brave and really believing all is well...Life is slowly getting back on track...slowly and I keep my hand to my heart and say - Arrey Bhaiya! Aal izz Well.
P.S: Here is a picture from 15 days back from our drive from SFO to Irvine

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What Dilbert taught me about Management?

Eight years back, I was sitting in my office all depressed about a business meeting where I was trying to stop our SVP from investing in packaging a feature as a product and failing miserably...I saw this wonderful Dilbert clip that made me smile and get out of the funk...

Aesop reports to the Pointy-haired Boss that the company's strategy is driven by a typo:
Aesop: I discovered a typo in the market forecast that is driving our company strategy.
Aesop: Where it says, "Everyone would want one," it should have said, "Avery Wong would want one.
Aesop: Worse yet, I called Mr. Wong and he said he was joking.
Pointy-haired Boss: What if we gave him free delivery
  1. I learnt my first lesson in Management 101 from the above clip - Sometimes even when you know it is the wrong call...let go !!!

  2. Tell me what you need, and I will tell you how to get along without it -- Life in Product Management has been about resource, budget and time constraints and I did realize that once you learnt how to do without, you figured out how to deliver a quality service/product under cost, ahead of time and on scant resources.

  3. Humility - Dilbert put it succintly - Accept that somedays you are the pigeon and on others the statue...dust off the crap and remember tomorrow is a new day...

  4. The more crap you put up with, the more crap you are going to get - So one of the key lessons I have learnt as a part of my career learning is not to put up with crap.

  5. Be realistic about your skills and ambitions, it is so true that...A pat on the back is only a few centimeters from a kick in the ass.
Its true that I have grown with Dilbert...he has taken me through rough times in business and helped me find humor in every situation. I have learnt to laugh at my mistakes, grow and learn from them...What I have learnt from Dilbert is to be a -- Good Human Being with strong principles , humility and a whacky sense of humor!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Revisiting Life...

A dark stormy night,

Rain pouring, the stormy waters riled,

The winds incensed, the clouds seething

Nature setting up a jangling chord of dissonance.

Seeking for answers,

Finding a milion riddling questions,

I am drowning in uncertainity

Lost and not finding...

It seemed like the world was making peace,

A gentle breeze, the sea calm,

Like a Phoenix, igniting,healing and self-creating,

I revisit Life....

The past few weeks have been puzzling, introspective and extremely uncomfortable. Have I totally recovered...I don't think so. My voice for one is a "Lost Cause"...fighting a battle with Laryngitis and losing it...there were other decision making points...I think I have tried to approach every problem with a brave front and dignity...I guess the key to remember is I am not alone.
I have been attracted to the story of the Phoenix...Simurg (for Persians) and Garuda (for Hindus, Lord Vishnu's vehicle of choice)....a beautiful mythical bird with miraculous healing powers... a colorful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet. Towards the end of its life journey, it sings a beautiful song, ignites and burns to ashes and from those very same ashes it is reborn...thus immortalizing it's existence...the concept is comforting.
Thanksgiving has been a quiet week...How has life been treating you?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Dab of mustard Oil and a clove of Garlic

Have I ever told you how facinated I have been with alternative herbal health remedies - for the past two months given my little guy's bouts of illness from Viral fevers to colds to coughs to ear infections and allergies...I have seen a varied spectrum of germs....the pediatricians here mostly prescribe antibiotics of which I am very "anti"...so the researcher in me has been researching home remedies both Indian and American of doing 2 things this winter - (A) Build up immunity (B) Fight the flu
Let me start with the immunity builders first -
(A) Get your Omega 3 and Omega 6 -- I rely on my son's gummy bears (Flintstone)
(B) Rhinos Gummy Bear (Vitamin C, Zinc and Echnicea) --- you get these at Whole Foods
(C) Shatavari Kalp - A ayurvedic herb, that I mix into a cup of warm fatfree milk and drink on the mornings I am feeling run down
(D) A spoon of honey (whenever I feel like popping a candy into my mouth)
(E) Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (I buy raw pumpkin seeds from Whole Foods and dry roast them in the microwave)
(F) I just get into bed an hour early the nights I feel run down...curled up with my favorite cook book or listening to some soothing music
(G) A cup of herb tea (I love peppermint tea or chamomile tea with honey)

Some of my home remedies for the Flu -
(A) I drink hot cups of green tea with a splash of lemon and honey every 3-4 hours
(B) Plain clear chicken soup with fresh black pepper (the recipe is in one of my older blogs)
(C) I take Mustard oil - 1 table spoon, Crush one large pot of garlic and add black jeera (ajwain or Caraway Seeds) -- I boil for about a minute. I massage my son for 15 minutes with the warm oil. Let him soak it for another 15 minutes and give him a quick shower in Vicks Soothing Vaporub (Johnson Bath).
(D) I process 1 knob of fresh ginger with holy basil leaves (Fresh) and strain the juice. I add it to honey and take the syrup about 4-5 times a day
(E) My go-to-remedy - A strong cup of Indian Chai laced with lots of fresh ginger

One of my go-to-meals when I am ready for some home comfort is -- Khichadi ( I do vary the recipe -- I use Basmati Rice or sometimes Bhutanese Red Rice or Nutty Brown Rice, I roast the Moong Dal and I sometimes add in Carrots and Beans to give it the vegetables it needs to round it off as a complete meal)...
Here's to a healthful, restful and happy Winter for Y'All !!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hitting Ground Zero...

Yesterday, I was making my way to pick up K2 from his pre-school to get his H1N1 Vaccine, there was a slight dampness in the air from a drizzle, the skies were grey…yet, the ground had this wonderful freshly washed earthy scent (if I could bottle it I would!)…my mind was whirring by me…and I seemed to be moving on automatic. It hit me right there and then how close to Ground Zero I was. I think a lot of us spend most of our time keeping our lives compartmentalized, organized and functioning without realizing that it took very little to make it a bubbling seething cauldron of confusion, chaos and gratuitous emotions. A call from India 3 weeks back about a loved one’s health, a prolonged flu attack coupled with my son’s flu and ear infection, a whirlwind trip to the Far East that warped up my time clock and of course the incessant errands and constant mental chatter professionally plus my intense need to maintain some semblance of normalcy, all mingled together making my organized living, a living chaos. I went spinning in this roller coaster ride an unwilling party who didn’t really take back control and this week I said to myself – Enough Already! There shall be order from chaos (really I didn’t invent that term, the ancient Hebrews and Darwin had thought of it already). I am kicking back and trying to regroup on my way forward and honestly speaking the road ahead is as clear as mud.

Diwali came by in gloomy October, just as the sun lost a veritable battle of wills to the moon and we started having shorter days and longer nights…some days were spectacularly warm and we were able to take walks in the nearby trails…other days were so cold, we were stuck inside the house with a warm cup of herbal tea spiked with Orange Honey.K1 traveled to Europe for a week and when he got back I left for Asia for 4 days. I love being in Asia – the vibrancy, the constant movement, the heat, the people, the food and of course the shopping (And the bargaining) just make me feel in my element. I did take a small detour to the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddha’s, which was serene and picturesque, I prayed hard...ate wonderful dim sum and Cantonese renderings of the Chinese cuisine…work wise the trip was a success. I came back to non-stop action – from getting planning work done for work to getting my son ready for Halloween. K2 was a trooper – flawlessly executing on his master plan of getting the maximum candy loot – in a sing song voice saying – Hawwow Uncle/Aunty – TrickRTreat! I was amazed at the amount of candy he amassed.

I spent the weekend cooking up a storm from the pickings from the Farmer’s Market – Chinese Broccoli, fresh baby Pak Choi, Crisp Green Beans and Cucumbers, Arugula, Fiery Scotch Bonnet and Thai Red Chili Peppers. I also picked up Organic Brown Eggs (K2 loves EggnCheese now!!!), Asian Pears, Pomegranates, and Organic Apples. We ate this entire week at home which is very unusual but it felt good to be able to put healthy food on the table with minimal effort – A quick sauté of greens, a warm celery soup (with Carrots and Leek) and a grilled cheese, onion and tomato sandwich...20 minutes from Kitchen to plate (psst….the celery soup was a labor of weekend love which took 2 hrs to sauté, simmer and make…and then frozen but who is counting…). The next 2 weeks are crucial for me but I am sure I will emerge a stronger person emotionally and mentally…and if not – Hey! I lived and learnt!

How is your weekend treating you so far…?
P.S - The picture above is one of a street dimsum vendor in Mongkok who was shooing me away, telling me no pictures :-)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Of Paper Boats and Chocolate Cakes...

Have you had a week where all you wanted to do was crawl under the comforter and just sleep the week away...try this week for me...Monday saw K1 leaving for a trip to Europe, K2 was running a temperature and throwing up...a visit to the doctor and a prescription of antibiotics later, I decided to keep him home vs. send him in to pre-school...the rest of the day was spent entertaining the little one and keeping him hydrated...need I say the rest of the week was busy -- meetings, I lost my voice talking too much with a sore throat...Thursday saw me craving a respite and I wanted to bake a cake...I am not much of a baker but trying to bake a cake from scratch is therapeutic. My mother is old school, she really believes you need to bake a cake to perfect measurement and timing while I am a lazy baker...I throw things together and 90% of the time the end product is absolutely delicious...the other 10% of the time - talk to my dog!

I had half a bar of dark belgian chocolate ( this is 1/2 bar of a 1lb bar, so about 200 grams of pure 72% dark chocolate). I melted this first in a hot bath. I added in a pat of butter to the melted chocolate and whipped in about half a cup of all-purpose flour, then I added in some evaporated sugar (3 tbspoon), vanilla essence, Baking Powder, 3 Organic Brown Eggs and , 1 tspoon instant coffee, baking powder. Meanwhile I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees F...Grease the cake pan and pour the mix in. I pretty much bake the cake till my nose tells me its done...no exact timing....the cake was dense and rich...not too sweet but delicious. I call this my "No-Recipe Chocolate Cake Recipe"...vs. a "No-Fail" Recipe...because honestly I don't know if I can recreate the recipe, everything was so spontaneous, random and unmeasured...

Tonight I made a paper boat for K2...my first one in 22 years. I actually had to look up the web to find a DIY instruction to make the boat, I had forgotten...he is excited and has finally fallen asleep with the paper boat in hand...it took me about 15 minutes to make the boat (yeah! don't call me artistic) but to see that smile on K2's face...PRICELESS

For the weekend I want to leave you with this poem by Emily Dickinson filled with pathos and yet a weird sense of hope
Adrift! A little boat adrift!
(I)Adrift! A little boat adrift!
And night is coming down!
Will no one guide the little boat
Unto the nearest town?
So Sailors say -- on yesterday --
Just as the dusk was brown
One little boat gave up its strife
And gurgled down and down.
So angels say -- on yesterday --
Just as the dawn was red
One little boat -- o'erspent with gales
Retrimmed its masts -- redecked its sails --
And shot -- exultant on!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Meeting Mania and Making Do...

Today was rough...try 7 meetings from 11.00 AM through 4.00 PM (on about 3 hours of sleep the night before)...my mind kept wandering to places I didn't want it to go to...anxious, cooking up scenarios that product managers are so famous for...yet like clockwork, I was able to get done with all the tasks at hand...For a student of sociology I am really famous (or is it infamous) for shunning meetings...Enough said on meetings.

For the past couple days introspection has been my middle name...if I had to find someone I related to on TV try "Monk" or "Monica" from Friends...life neatly organized, things compartmentalized...yet recent events have me convinced that the last thing any of us have is "Control"...I was watching the cartoon movie "Kungfu Panda" (yeah! yeah! smirk away...but it did keep my 3 year old entertained) and the old master -- the tortoise said something profound - Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is unknown yet you have today...that is why it is called the Present...it's a gift...unwrap it...Life sometimes becomes so robotic, we try to dissect our past and plan for our future, that today just becomes a meaningless jumble of activities...we forget to stop and take a deep breath of the clean air around us, look back at the beauty of achievements and the offerings of the present instead focusing on the unachievable...I don't want to just "make do"...I want to start living...and I hope so do you...don't get lost in the jungle of mindless activity...instead focus on making every minute beautiful and meaningful. Hug your loved ones...cherish the goodnight kisses from your little son or daughter, read them their nursery rhymes, listen to your favorite song (I did today)...don't postpone it to tomorrow...

Last Weekend was Diwali...on Friday...we hung out at home and chilled. On Saturday, we went over to S&K's place for a Diwali party. We had a wonderful time meeting friends old and new, gorging on dosas and idlis and also playing "Mafia"...Sunday was another light-hearted day spent with L&V...L is my friend from school. The week has been hectic -- mostly because K2 is sick again ( I blame pre-school) and K1 is travelling, so it has been tough juggling work and a sick child.

Has your week been meeting free...or are you having bouts of meeting mania....?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Glass Half Full...

It's Friday evening already and yet it still feels like Tuesday in my mind...when your schedule is full, you barely know where the time whizzes by. Monday was R's B'day and we marched down to R's house where M had made lovely khichadi and carrot cake...K2 was happy to see them and it felt good celebrating together. Tuesday, we took K2 to Toys R Us and he got a collection of glow in the dark dinosaurs and a v-tech story reader for his B'day. I got home late on Wednesday which was K2's 3rd B'day so we took K2 for dinner at Chilis -- he enjoyed himself especially making a mess and singing all the nursery rhymes he knew, saying Hi Uncle, Hi Aunty to all the strangers....Thursday both K1 and I got home late and the fridge had no Milk...oops! so a trip to TJ's turned into a little treasure hunt - Celery Hearts, Shelled Edamame, Multi-Grained French Toast, Mini Cinnamon Buns (frozen), Gyozas, Almond Cookies, Rice Pudding, Ghoulie Gummies with liquid tummies...Friday was a whir of activities...get up real early, get K2 ready for school with lunch packed, get self ready and try to meet a work deadline...evening saw us picking up K2 and I coerced K1 into taking me to Whole Food Markets for some unneccessary neccessary buys (pate, turkey meatloaf, thai chicken wings, greek yogurt, pumpkin cider...you get the drift)...K2 is fed and in bed watching Mickey Mouse and K1 is fed and watching some finance show downstairs and I am waiting for K2 to fall asleep to call family in India....
In India, it is Diwali already...I visualize the smoke from fire crackers, the tantalizing smells from the kitchen of Ma making Mithai, the jingle of the bells in the puja room, the whizzing of the rockets...followed by the whining of a frightened dog and the tinkling laughters of little children...I miss it and more than that I miss passing along that sense of excitement and anticipation to K2...I am sure going to try...I know he will get Santa but along with Santa I want him to get my favorite god "Ganesha"...I want him to get "Diwali" and I want him to feel a connection to his "roots"...I feel a pang but with it I know that the Glass is Half Full...yet I am content...Hope your weekend is fun filled and joyous...Have a Happy & Prosperous Diwali!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Yesterday's Child...

Not long back, I was walking along the bay behind our house with K1 and K2 when we ran into this gaggle of geese, a mommy, a daddy and 14 geeselings...very cute family with the babies trying to balance themselves carefully on the slippery slope. They bought a smile to everyone's face with their antics. The next day while I was driving to work, I saw (much to my horror) that one of the adult goose had been run down by a car... and the other adult was waiting on the side with the babies...I spent time stewing on the fact that people were not considerate around where I live ( which oh! by the way has been classified protected for endangered wild species) to drive slowly and protect these beautiful birds and animals...

Reminded me a poem I had written when I was thirteen for this beautiful flower which lay in the college corridor, no one stopped to pick it up and a lot of people just walked right over it -

Yesterday's Child

Gone are the fragrances which once adorned her,
She lay wilted and shuddering...
A cast-off reminder of happy yesterday,
The breeze soon scatters her petals.
The unhappy stalk is crushed underneath hurrying feet;
As I passed her by, I saw her lying broken and torn.
I gently picked her up and wondered -
Why such a fate for so pretty a thing?
I placed her in my notebook and gave a sigh,
Because I knew she was a faded Yesterday's Child....

Past week has been rough,with K1 fighting a flu and a ear infection and I was bogged down with the same flu...we are much better now. Next week will be eventful with K2's 3rd B'day and Diwali...we went down to a Diwali Mela this weekend and K2 had tonnes of fun playing with other kids. I picked up 6 Tintin DVDs for him, I think I am probably more excited about watching them than he is...we stuffed ourselves with Indian Style Pizza, Choley Baturas and Chaat...thanks R&M for inviting us...How was your week and weekend?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Of Dings, Dents, Life’s Unpredictability and a bowl of Harira…

The last two weeks have been incessant action work wise…cranking out powerpoints, forecasts, meetings and firedrills. K2 is settling into his 2-day preschool routine and weekends are really a good time to unwind and kickback…last weekend was a little tense…don’t ask me how, why or when but my beautiful one year old Prius got a big dent in the front…all is well now, the dent is removed but it showed me how that little event had the ability to cast a shadow on my sunshine…

K2 had a very bad cold (yes! again) and very obligingly passed it on to me and K1. He refuses to eat and I spend hours trying to get him to eat something…I don’t blame him, I don’t feel like eating much of anything myself. Anyway, I had promised myself I will participate in the AWED: Morocco and time was ticking by with the last date for submission being tomorrow…I made a dish in celebration of getting rid of this cold - the hot and the spicy and comforting – Harira.

What is AWED you ask me, A Worldly Epicurean’s Delight and today’s trip is to Morocco. Want more information on AWED – Read here and the event for September is being hosted by Cook’s Hideout

1 Chopped Red Onion
1 Cup Chopped Celery
2 Cups – Fresh Chopped Carrots, Green Beans and Corn
1 can – Fresh Roasted Tomatoes
I can of Garbanzo Beans
1 cup of Red Lentils
Turmeric (1/2 teaspoon)
Cinnamon (1/2 Teaspoon)
Roasted Cumin Powder (1/2 teaspoon)
Ghee – 1 tbspoon
Ginger, Parsley, Cilantro and Lemon Juice
Organic Vegetable Broth
Salt to taste
(I left out the ground meat, vermecilli and Eggs)

In my trusty 4 Liter Prestige Pressure Cooker – I sweat the onion, celery, ginger ( umm…I admit, I cheated and added 5 cloves of garlic too) in the ghee (clarified …I had read somewhere that garlic is good for a cold and who sticks to the recipe to the “T” anyway. Once the onions are nutty brown I added in the canned tomatoes and the vegetables and let that sweat out a little bit too…then add the turmeric, cinnamon, cumin powders and let the flavors marry and create sweet music…now add in the red lentils to the mix. Saute for about 1-2 minutes – follow your nose…umm in my case I just winged it (cold does that to you)…
I washed the canned Garbanzo beans twice to remove any chemicals/preservatives and added to the pressure cooker. I added the entire box of broth (I think it was 16 Oz)…finally added in the lemon juice and let the pressure cooker go 3 whistles. Let the pressure cooker stand a while and then slowly open. Add Salt to taste and then add in the Cinlantro and Parsley…Dish up in a bowl, Add freshly ground pepper and eat with a slice of Garlic bread…I feel like my cold is getting better already….

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Boring Picture...

Is it almost midnight...this past week seemed like a marathon run both work wise and otherwise...K1 seems to be hitting up East Coast a lot more leaving this lone warrior to manage (just barely) on both the home and office front....
I have mentally checked off my list of Things to Do in the evenings, all the critical work items - done (yeah!), K2 all fed and in bed by 10.00 PM ( this is a good day...his normal bedtime is 11.00 PM)...I just bugged a hapless someone across the pond about schedules and am ready to call it a night...yet the past couple days, I have had this picture flash in my mind....the picture that my Psychology 101 teacher had started her first lecture with titled...the Boring Picture...well it was anything but....and truth be told it was called the boring picture because of the two psychologists who gave it so much visibility and credibility - Boring & Leeper. The picture also defined "Perceptual Ambiguity"...you either see a young woman or an old woman...look a little bit closer ...give your senses some time to adjust and you see both...or maybe you just don't want to and just prefer the picture to be one-dimensional...
Perception is the process of becoming aware...gaining understanding...and then basing a judgement on that understanding...perception is driven by the senses say most psychologists. I agree with them BUT I also believe that at the most basic level we are animals (albeit advanced ones) and we very much start off operating at the "gut level" or with instincts...and slowly condition ourselves (like Pavlovian Dogs) to stop listening to our gut. I think a lot of us undervalue instincts and try and go with logical,rationale, fact-based way of reaching conclusions, making decisions...what has been accumulated on past experiences, cultural influences and socialization....yet going back to my point from before -- at the most basic level we are animals with the "survival instinct" (Fight or Flight) and sometimes its very valuable to trust your gut on deals, decisions and people...back it up with logic later....but if your gut is sending out "a red flag" listen to it...irrational- yes! ; no logical or sequential thinking - yes!; not backed by facts - yes! BUT I have found that in most cases those gut reactions point you in the right direction...
I will give you a simple example -- Charles Shobraj, a serial killer in India was a self effacing, pleasing to look at...wonderfully articulate person...he came across as very well educated...we had poured over his TV interviews in the course of our Psychology courses, with a focus on understanding how his mind worked...and by listening to him and looking at him I know 50% of our class was getting sympathetic towards him...what's my point here...it is the perceptual ambiguity...your senses are telling you he is alright...yet you know he is a serial killer.
Anyway I digress...in life what I have realized is it is so easy to cloak our "instinct" in the heavy veils of Cultural Propriety, Socialization and past experiences (which in some cases are not even relavent)...we allow ourselves to see things differently from the way they actually are...layering in our arrogance ( for eg. - you know I am so good, everyone just goes with what I have to say); our complexes ( for eg. - no one is listening to me because I have a soft voice and am a woman); our perception of self (for eg. - I am too good to be boxed)...and we treat life like a chess game...waiting for someone to play the next move...the reality is there might not be another player and we are getting played by our own "Perceptual Ambiguity"...
So tell me what you see in the boring picture....feel any sense of ambiguity yet...really...are you sure? Want to Check Again?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Good Eats...Part 1

This post is for my baby sister who treads softly in a new world...the strange lands called Ohio State University .She is an Oriya born and brought up in West Bengal...so does she like food...Hell Yeah! Is she picky about her food...umm you could definitely say that...Can she cook? I am not holding my breath and I suggest you don't either...

Blundering in the forests of Kroeger, trying to find her way around what tastes good and what's not...here is a phone conversation with her...like I added a lot of Oil and then Jeera and the frozen vegetables...umm and then lots of ketchup...it tasted ok (yeah!yeah! Liar Liar...Pants on Fire...)...so here are my tips for my brilliant sister on meandering her way to "Good Eats". I can't blow up all my words of wisdom in one shot...so I will try and update my blog in parts to update her (if you like my updates do add my blog to your follow list...makes me feel important ;-) )
The first rule of thumb is find a grocery store that works for you -- over the last dozen years with Trial and lotsa error I found the two grocery stores that work for me - Trader Joes (3888 Townsfair Way, Columbus, Ohio ) and the generic Indian Store. Let me start with some of my favorite foods from Trader Joes -

  1. Raw Almond Butter with British Style Cinnamon Crumpets -The slight sweetness of the crumpets slathered with the Almond Butter drizzled with some Clover Honey...is heaven. The only thing that could make it more perfect is a hot cuppa tea. I sometimes add a thinly sliced apple from the farmer's market in it to make it a balanced breakfast.

  2. Blueberry Waffles with Maple Syrup blended with Agave Nectar - There are 8 waffles and they have a wonderful blueberry taste - toast them in your oven and have them slightly warm drizzled with the Maple Syrup. Drink the Organic Mango Acai Juice from Trader Joes to give you the boost to kickstart you day

  3. I am not a Cereal person but the Quakers Oats Natural Granola with Oats & Honey & Raisins is a favorite with me that I either top off with cold fat-free milk and eat...or I just eat it straight from the bag....you can't find this at TJ's but should be in your regular grocery store

  4. Luna Bars are inexpensive at TJ's at 99 cents a pop and good to keep a couple of these handy...my favorite flavors are Chocolate Peppermint Stick, Toasted Nuts and Cranberries, Chai Tea

  5. My absolute favorite breakfast of all time is a home made Egg McMuffin - Fat-Free English Muffin ($1.69 for 6 muffins a steal) ; Organic Eggs ($2.49 for 6 brown organic eggs); Havarati Cheese ($3.49 for the packet of 10 Slices). I lightly fork cut the muffin and toast in the oven (I break the slice of cheese into two parts and put one on each side of the muffin while it's toasting...this makes the cheese go melty and yummy). I fry the egg in a non stick pan with Olive Oil spray ( Over Hard is my preference). I put the fried egg, a dash of salt and pepper in the muffin and it is portable comfort on the go for me...
That's all in this edition of the blog kiddo...more in the next one. May you find Comfort & Good Eats in TJ's.
Pssst....sneak peek at a partial grocery list while K1 & K2 were busy playing in the park ( Organic Milk, Organic Carrot, Organic Arugula Salad Blend, Blackberry & Orange Blossom Honey, Reeds Ginger Brew, Organic Greek Yogurt (Honey Flavored) )
Pssssst...K2 is happily munching a very healthy Energy Bar and calling it candy...both he and I are happy Campers...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My most unforgettable meal

It was a hot summer in 2004...I had a whirlwind "court the customer" tour in Copenhagen and then Bonn and after an unfruitful visit to a nameless operator customer in Navi Bombay and fighting the remnants of a bad laryngitis attack, I made a lightening decision to postpone my trip back to the US by a couple days and take a detour to Bhubaneshwar and rest awhile with my parents. I am a native of Orissa (yeah! I know most people don't know the state)...so when I am asked what my ultimate comfort food is...I say "Dalma"...a hot bowl of Dalma with a steaming hot bowl of rice liberally adding some home-made Ghee...my idea of heaven (no I am not counting calories here). Dalma is a dish made with lentils, mixed vegetables (pumpkin, green banana, potatoes, brinjal) and paanch phutan...and yes I do believe my mother makes the best "Dalma" I have ever had. However, on this 2 day trip to Bhubaneshwar, I did not want my mother slaving in the kitchen...Oriya food is a labor of love....to prepare a home style meal takes half a day...

My research showed me that there was a home-style restaurant "Dalma" serving "tasteful Orissan cuisine" (their words not mine) and I was sold. I told my parents, no cooking at home...let's go down to Dalma and have Dalma...I made a detour to my old B-School, dredged up some old memories and a good appetite and at 2.00 PM we made our way to Dalma. My dad and I had the non-veggie thali while Ma had the vegetarian thali. Here are the dishes on my thali with descriptions -
(A) Hot White Rice with ghee (aka clarified butter)
(B) Dalma
(C) Aloo Bhorta - Smashed potato fry seasoned with green chillies and mustard oil
(D) Santula - A medley of vegetables (papaya, pumpkin, Brinjal, Ridgegourd) cooked in very little mustard oil and seasoned with paanch phuton
(E) Raita - made from banana stem
(F) A mutton curry
We had also ordered Badi Chura (fritters crushed and seasoned with garlic and chillies)...AMAZING...Pumpkin Flower Pakoras (fritters made tempura style with Pumpkin Flowers)...and Mangsho Kasha (a dry goat curry preparation)
Why was this meal unforgettable...it reminded me of my mother's cooking minus the hard work...every dish was perfectly executed....a symphony truly at the same level of brilliance and genius as the maestros of music. It has been five years since I ate that meal and yet remember it with a great deal of fondness. When we were young...Ma made sure we were exposed to a variety of cuisines - south indian, north indian, indian chinese, fast food but took us back to our roots with typical Oriya food...I am unsure I will be able to do that for K2...I can't really cook many Oriya dishes...my mantra with food is quick and fast on the table...
I chilled out Saturday, went to Whole Foods and got 3 different kinds of rice (Forbidden/Black Rice, Bhutanese Red Rice and Jade Pearl Rice). I am looking forward to cooking with these three rices with different flavor profiles. K1 and I went out for a movie "Kaminey" and lunch at PF Changs. Plans are to take K2 to the Aquarium tomorrow. ....How was your weekend?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Good Leader...

I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people...
Gandhi (yes our very own Bapu) was on to something when he quipped -
This point is brought home time and again in the work place, where we have to get people to believe in us, trust us, respect us...I guess my job would be a whole lot more difficult if I had to convince Engineering of every feature decision I made without them questioning my every decisions and trusting that I am making the right decision based on business and market indicators...or Sales questioned every licensing/pricing model that I put forth...my point being that to be effective - You need to be a team player...but beyond that you need to be a person who has some or most of the qualities discussed below-
(A) Passion - Whatever we undertake, we need to feel passion for that cause...be that a product, a service...we need to believe to make an impact
(B) Be Principled - I think values are built on the fundamental principle - that you respect your team's ability and grow it as you grow...the whole is greater than the sum of the parts...and yes...life is black or white...we have a built in ethical system which will guide us through this sense of right or wrong...be true to your conscience and you are probably ok
(C) Vision and yet the understanding that there is more to learn - In this ever evolving world of constant change what was true today won't hold water tomorrow...what is key is going beyond the fads and understanding what the market really wants (it might be something stupid simple...but sometime the simplest solutions are the killer ones)
(D) Confidence and Decision Making - It's not all about planning, its about planning, strategizing and executing...and it is about having confidence in your decisions and seeing them through
(E) Humility tinged with Humor - Laugh at yourself...sometimes admitting that you are not always right and being humble and open to criticisms and ideas makes you a better leader...Arrogance usually leads to over confidence which leads us back to the "Peter Principle" of getting obnoxious, people not wanting to work with us and incompetence (a vicious cycle)
(F) Communication - It's not about how great a communicator you are...think of Mahatma Gandhi...it wasn't how he communicated but the message that resonated...if you can get your team to believe, stand behind and support your cause...whether a product or a service or a start up idea...you are a great communicator...
I absolutely love what Peter Drucker said in an HBR (what makes an effective executive) that I had read eons back, but which stayed with me - The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done
Do share your views on - What being a good leader means?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dumb Ducks etc...

We woke up late on Saturday...K1 dutifully went down to the gym, with K2 snoring softly (still asleep) ...I toasted a slice of Cinnamon Bread and made myself a cup of ginger tea...morning went by in blissful procastination and K1 and I decided last minute to drive down to Gilroy for shopping...did we shop much...not really...but it was wonderful driving down to nowhere land for a couple hours away from it all...did I mention the temperatures were at 108 degrees...Sizzling Hot!

On Sunday, I was driving down to the Farmer's Market for my weekly shopping...you know me, I was driving at 22 mph in a 35 mph zone...I knew our area is notorious for its gaggles of geese and a paddling of ducks who thought they owned the roads...suddenly out of nowhere this goose flies out of the sidewalk with no warning and slams into the front of my car...I stop the car on the side of the road, turn my flashers on...can't really stop shaking and am very close to tears because I think I have killed a living thing...I get out of the car and the damn thing is standing right in the center of the road with a dazed look on its face, otherwise quite fine...suddenly I look up, there are 3-4 cars coming down the road...with curious onlookers watching, I physically shoo the hissing goose to the side of the road...I wait for 2-3 minutes to make doubly sure it is alright...it calmly gets to pecking and eating stuff off the ground in a minute...hmm, why was I still shaking like a leaf then...I slowly make my way to the Farmer's market cursing - dumb ducks, geese and there were mutters of Foie gras from me...hey, I am human !!!

I have 2 books on my reading list currently that I picked up from the public library -

(A) How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
(B) Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent by Jeffrey Alford

I will definitely post a review on both the books once I am done reading them...I did watch the movie District 9 and my word of advise, don't waste your 10 bucks unless you want to see a movie like the Blair Witch Project...enuff said. I have been definitely keeping an eye on my grocery spending habits, I had mentioned on one of my older blogs that the Recession has had a very positive effect on our wasteful spending (which was not really that much anyway)...the Frugal Product Manager has been cooking up some whiz bang food on a reasonable budget. Some ground rules -
(A) Very Little Meat
(B) Lots of Lentils, Whole Grains and Fresh Produce
I have focused on buying in season fruits and vegetables.I am not ashamed to take shortcuts and buy some pre-cooked meals for those super busy days. Sunday Dinner was a thin crispy Tuscan Chicken Pizza from Digiorno paired with some roasted red potatoes and fruit salad ( ~ as Whole Foods Value Guru put it about $3/ a person). Monday dinner was a Garlic Naan (Indian Flatbread) with a spicy chicken seekh kabab (from the frozen section in the Indian store) and a quick green salad with Red Onions, Cherry Tomatoes, Crisp Cucumber, a lovely carrot, Mixed Greens (Lettuce, Arugula, Raddichios), one spicy jalapeno, a bunch of fresh Parsley, Fresh Lemon juice.... and how can I forget a Reed's Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic) to wash it all down....(again about $3-$4/a person and the best part on the table in less than 25 minutes...
I have for some months now followed key ground rules that I had learnt on MSNBC -
(A) Don't go shopping on an empty stomach...you will buy more than you need
(B) Shop the perimeters of the shop...especially works for Whole Foods...Produce, Bulk Grains, Dairy...
(C) It's ok to watch Sales and buy stuff on Sale
I am happy with my decision to live simple, waste little and not covet more...its difficult to live by this principle sometimes...but most days I know its the right decision...
How was your weekend...did you run into any Dumb Ducks...ahem sorry Geese?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Looking Glass Self

K2 is wilful. stubborn and very forceful. He doesn't like sharing, he is rude and not very gentle in his interactions with people...and to be fair he is not quite 3 years old. I have an "opinion" of how he should behave and he doesn't play by my playbook...it bothered me a lot before but in this gradual journey of motherhood, I have learnt to give up some control...yet deep down I am a sociologist and I believe that at some level my son is watching and learning from me...I can't be at my best behavior everyday...somedays I am worse than others...but most days I try to be an example my son can emulate.

In the early 1900's Cooley used the phrase looking glass self to emphasize that the self is the product of our social interactions. The process of developing a self identity or self concept has three phases.
(A) We imagine how we present  ourselves to others
(B) We imagine how others evaluate us
(C) We develop some sort of feeling about ourselves
A critical aspect of Cooley’s looking glass self is that “the self” result from individual’s imagination of how others view him or her. As a result we can develop self identities based on incorrect perception of how others see us. I believe that to be absolutely true. As a teenager I had weight issues and had a sense that people were judging me by my weight...and I overcompensated with a forceful personality...eventually I realized that my perception of other people's view of me was actually my own view of me.

It is key that your perception of "Self" is a positive reinforcement which grows rather than hinders...as Cooley wisely said it - ""The thing that moves us to pride or shame is not the mere mechanical reflection of ourselves, but an imputed sentiment, the imagined effect of this reflection upon another's mind."

Raising my glass to raising a child with a proud and vibrant looking glass self...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Comfort in Food...

Worries go down better with soup. ~Jewish Proverb
For the past couple days, I have had a scratchy throat...K2 very obligingly passed along his enthusiastic germs to me. Trying to get better, I craved something non-complicated and hot...like Chicken Soup. It is no wonder the term "Chicken Soup for the Soul" is used so frequently...some say Chicken Soup has medicinal qualities...in fact a team of Doctors in Nebraska led by Dr. Stephen Rennard conducted a study which proved that Chicken Soup has anti-inflammatory properties that could explain why it soothes sore throats and eases the misery of colds and flus.
So after a brief sojourn to Whole Foods where I picked up -
(A) Organic Free Range Chicken Legs (2Lbs)
(B) Organic Carrots (3 medium)
(C) Shitake Mushrooms ( 1 Carton)
(D) Eucalyptus Essential Oil (not for the soup but for putting in the humidifier :-) )
(E) GreenLee's Cinnamon Bread (it is the best cinnamon bread in the world)
(F) Pirates Booty for the little guy
I busied myself in the kitchen, cutting and chopping 2 Red Onions, Half a small Garlic Bulb (yes you need that much), the Carrots and the Mushrooms. After some chopping therapy, where I let out all the tension and cleaning the chicken (I am still squeamish about that part)...I got my big pressure cooker ready for some action.

I sauteed the Red Onions and the Garlic in very little olive oil. When the onions were light brown I added in the Carrots and the mushrooms...after sauteing for about 3 minutes I added in the Chicken. Cooked the chicken till it was cooked half way and then added in a dash of Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins), Some Dark Soy Sauce (a generic Japanese brand) and some mirin...Coarse Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste....I added 5 cups of water. When the water came to boil, I put the lid of the pressure cooker on. I let the whistle go about 8 times (yes that seems like too many but just trust me!) and then brought the heat all the way down to Low and let the soup simmer for about 2o minutes...

I let the soup sit on the gas about 1/2 hr... I am super cautious around my pressure cooker...I give it enough time to seethe and splutter...when I removed the lid of my pressure cooker...the smell of the soup/stock was pure magic....the taste was pure, unadulterated comfort. I savored my soup with an extra dash of black pepper while I watched a re-run of Iron Chef on TV. And for that half hour it felt like the world was my stage....and I could put forth an Oscar Worthy Performance...
Chicken Soup is a wonderfully forgiving recipe...so I don't think you can go wrong with this recipe...Try it at home, try my version or get inventive and add your favorite ingredients

I have read the book "Chicken Soup for the Soul" and there was a beautiful quote in it that I cherish -
Family means sharing inadequacies, imperfections and feelings with each other and still loving each other. But even when you set out to love, you may not always be a likable person. And when you're not perfect, forgiveness for yourself and others becomes important. Then you get up the next day and start again. It is a process, like the opening of a bud. It is a flowering, a blooming, and blossoming.
Here's looking forward to the weekend...R&M, we look forward to seeing you and S over the weekend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Fearless Warrior...

It was Tuesday evening, and I was using every excuse I plausibly could to stay longer in the office...ignoring the righteous voice in my head reasonably saying - You promised to do Yoga...get healthy! At 5.05 PM, I had everything wrapped up and just had no excuses to hang my hat on and so left work. I told myself 101 would be jam packed with traffic, there was no way I could make it to the Gym in 25 minutes...Fate once again conspired against me and I saw myself whizzing through 17 miles in less than 20 minutes...I got a parking right at the entrance of the Gym and was in the class "almost" on time. I slunk to the back of the class just while the breathing exercises were happening (not a huge fan of breathing out of my mouth with my tongue hanging out)...so I pretended to be warming up for the next 2 minutes...
The teacher said - Set the intent for your practice
! My intent was very selfish...I wanted that righteous voice in my head to go away...make peace with my conscience and take a teensy weensy step towards health. So to a heavily accented incantation of some of my favorite Sanskrit Shlokas, the gruelling practice began...
We had to maintain the integrity of a "V" shape in the downward dog...I swear I could hear my bones creaking for the first few dogs...no I am not quite pushing in years...gimme a break...By the time we got to the "Balancing Poses", I had broken into a healthy sweat...for some reason balancing has never been my forte...so after hopping around like a scatterbrained chicken instead of standing still like a tree (Vriksha Asana)...I smiled at the humor of the situation...here I was the reluctant Yogi with a dubious intent...the first half hour actually revived and renewed me...made me focus on my actual intent - Get Healthy!
We next got to the Warrior Poses and I tried to push myself beyond my comfort zone...trying complicated wraps and the half moon...sometimes my body just screamed "enough" but at others it loosened and lengthened and let me experiment a little more with the pose. By the time we got to the "Pigeon Pose" my absolute favorite of all poses I was thinking less about the intent and enjoying my practice...by the time we got to "Corpse Pose" (about 85 minutes into the practice) I was glad, I had listened to that little voice in my head instead of ignoring it...
As I rolled up the Yoga Mat and hopped up to quickly beat a retreat and hang out with the two K's....I had this stranger walk up to me and say " You do good Yoga for a Flat Footer"...HUH! from Nirvana & Relaxation and a clear intent back to the land of constant Judgement and criticism...
My back is stiff today and I swear I can still hear my bones creak...but this fearless warrior will strengthen her will, deepen the pose and sink into it with the right intent - Health, Humility and Humor....Life is too short for judging and getting judged....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In for the marathon, not the sprint...

Does anyone else feel like they are running a sprint with juggling a career and motherhood with active kid(s)...most days I do. Usually it is a balancing act where I end most days glad that I got most of my tasks completed...and put K2 to sleep, and get a cuppa hot herbal tea (Mighty Leaf : African Nectar with a dash of Honey if you are curious).
Most days are a battle of will with a two-almost-three year old, where his favorite word is No...

Product Manager Mama : K2, do you want to eat?
K2: No
Product Manager Mama : K2, can you put away your toys?
K2:No, Mama YOU clean up
Product Manager Mama: K2, want to watch Mickey Mouse?
K2: No, want to watch Abba (translated:Mickey Mouse)...
I am stumped !!! I can manage flawless executions of product strategy, juggle multiple products and release schedules, manage aggressive deadlines and present to a crowd...yet this not quite three year old has me throwing up my hands in despair....but he is wonderful...especially when he realizes he has upset me and cuddles up to me and says - Hug! Mama...what's a girl to do!
Last week had been especially interesting...work was as usual (but not quite as intense as the week before) and on Thursday K1 was gone on a business trip and I came home to a toddler with a 101 degrees temperature...not fun. Friday was a daze and Saturday and Sunday have been equally quiet. We tried to keep it low key for K2...I don't even remember what we did on Saturday...Sunday -Farmer Market's Bounty - Heirloom Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Habaneros, Asian Pears, Peaches, Apples (Gala and Sommerfield) and some Plums. I tried my hand at making some Parathas (see what a paratha is here) for Krish's lunch box for school on Monday . My parathas had a twist - I used Sweet Potato Puree instead of water, some ghee or clarified butter to hold together and jaggery to sweeten...took me an hour to make on a Sunday evening...
My son's Monday morning lunch box was a work of art - (A) 3 tiny Sweet Potato Parathas (B) 2 Dino Chicken Nuggets (C) Cut Strawberries sweetened with Agave Nectar (D) Cantaloupe. Everything came back home uneaten today...such is life.
As I drink my herbal tea and ponder over life's complexity --I realize that raising a child is not about instant gratification. It is hard work...sometimes you feel like you are failing...sometimes you really ARE failing...but it's alright...I am going with my gut. I am doing what I believe is right for K2...I will probably have a number of emotional ups and downs in the coming years but I am in this for the long haul...Hope your weekend was more relaxed than mine.
P.S: I reached my dream weight today and I didn't feel a twinge of joy...I have not been to Yoga in more than a month...I haven't been eating healthy for a long time now. So my resolution is drop another 10 Lbs without dieting and with exercising...BACK TO YOGA with a vengenance

P.P.S: We just got Ice Age 1 and Ice Age 2 from our public library. I think I am more hooked to Ice Age than K2...I googled Mammoths and read up on them for quite sometime today

Monday, August 17, 2009

Land Before Time...

I was watching this animated movie about an orphaned baby dinosaur and his search for the elusive "Great Valley" and one thing that stuck was that in some way we are all searching for our Great Valley -- for some it is companionship, for some it is wealth, other's health...wisdom, adventures...laughter, contentment...the list goes on. As I sit watching K2 enjoy the small joys in life, I feel I have found my Great Valley...

This week has been a quiet one...mostly for running errands, closing out on some deliverables at work and how can I forget - K2's first week at preschool...he was a champ, not a tear...I think I sat in the parking lot for half a hour cloudy eyed, waiting for the call that K2 was in tears and asking for me. I made some wonderful south indian food that warmed my soul and reminded me of home and my mother - Hot Comforting Sambhar with Radish, Spicy but reviving tomato rasam, Potato Fry and an Egg Plant/Yogurt Relish...

I spoke to S my cousin sister who is FOB from Calcutta, she is sick and home sick...her travails remind me so much of mine the first week I landed in the US. My geeky brother left for work in the morning, and he forgot that there wasn't really any food in the fridge. I got up fuzzy after 35 hours of travel...found a carton of moldy chinese takeout...which I was smart enough not to eat...what was left was Milk, some instant coffee and a half packet of Pringles....so guess what my breakfast and lunch was --- yup! Coffee and Pringles...of course I didn't know how to operate the TV remote, so the TV was stuck on Jerry Springer, so you can imagine the mental scarring :-)

I soon discovered Chinese Take-out, Taco Bell and the hot dog stand by school and soon life was good...here's wishing she settles down and starts to enjoy life here in the US.

K1 is travelling today and back tomorrow. We have plans to take K2 to the Aquarium of the Bay on Saturday...

I am posting a picture of K2 when he was 18 months and Jinx our cockerspaniel was so totally protective of him...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Jai Ho...

I walk in quite randomly to pick up a puzzle book for K2 at the bookstore and lo! behold the Animal Puzzle book I wanted to pick up for him was 50% off...magical! An issue at work magically resolves itself...a presentation runs smoothly...the lamp I was eyeing at Pier 1 imports is now suddenly half off...and other magical things happen with my service that I would rather not talk about. You might think these are small things...But after weeks of frenzied work, a worried mind due to a sick baby...things seem to be falling into place. Among all of this, every time something positive happens,I can't seem to stop Cliff Richard's from crooning in my head the song "Lucky Lips" -

Dah dup dap dap dup dah dup dah dah
Dup dah dup dah dah dup oh_

When I was just a little baby
I didnt have many toys
But my momma used to say son, you got
More than other boys
Now you may not be good looking and you may not
Be too rich
But youll never ever be alone
cos youve got lucky lips...

K2, the baby genius completed his 28 piece puzzle in less than 20 minutes...did I tell you he starts preschool this Monday - I am terrified and excited all at the same time. I did get a chance to hang out with my good friend E and the team at Cascal...we shared some light moments over Caprianas and Tapas on Thursday. Friday,K1 and I took K2 to ToysRus and got him Baylene the Brachiosaurus from the Walt Disney Movie...Dinosaur. My general knowledge on Dinosaurs in improving leaps and bounds. We are in active search of a Iguanodon which is what Alador the lead dinosaur in the movie is...

PF Changs and Buddha Delight was my lunch of choice today...we are planning to spend the evening with R&M for some R&R and we will watch the fireworks in Great America. If you are wondering what "Jai Ho" means apart from the much publicized AR Rahman Oscar winning Song from "Slumdog Millionare"...it means may victory be yours. India celebrates her 62nd Independance Day today. A dichotomous country that instills in you the utmost love and yet at times frustration...filled with peace and war, the pinnacles of riches and the chasms of poverty...democratic in parts and autocratic in others...but Jai Ho...Here's to growth...good times and prosperity of this beautiful nation...
The picture above is a random one taken while walking down the streets in Finland...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Lazy Sunday...

What else would you call a Sunday where all you want to do is lay in bed, pull the comforter over your head and let the whole world pass by uncaring...yet soon a small voice bright and chirpy goes - "Mornin Mama"...and I think to myself, if this little sick tyke was exhibiting so much cheerfulness, I better get a backbone...with a loud rendition of Gloria Gaynor's song " I will survive" going on inside my head which was already throbbing to a sinus headache...I drag myself out of bed and go through the morning with K2 - brush teeth-check, change diaper and clothes and massage - check, make breakfast and feed - check , I still have to drag myself to the Farmer's Market for some fresh vegetables and fruits for next week for K2. The key when things don't seem going your way is - create a plan and stick to it (and yes have a back up plan)...yes works perfectly both at work and home.

This week has been very busy at work...and the predictions are that the next week will be even busier. I took K2 to the pediatrician on Friday and the verdict was he had a sinus infection and needed Antibiotics. Friday was incidentally K1's b'day and me and the in-laws took him for lunch to a nice Turkish restaurant, after which we went and watched "Julie & Julia"...my MIL went teary eyed when Julie made a toast with the words - "you are the bread to my butter, the breath to my life"...I got K1 a chocolate raspberry cake and we still have some of it lying in the fridge, if you see it in the breakroom Monday -- you know who it is from....

We dropped the in-laws off at the Airport on Saturday and went to N's Baby shower...she looked great. There was a Mehndi Lady who made some beautiful intricate designs for the ladies and (Ahem!) the men...what is Mehndi you ask me -- here is what about.com has to say -

The art of mehndi (or mehandi) has been a long-standing tradition stemming from many ancient cultures dating back as far as about 5,000 years, but is most known today for its history in India. Today, it is still used in religious and ritualistic ceremonies in India, but has also gained appreciation in other countries as a beautiful art to be appreciated at any time. So, what exactly is mehndi?
Mehndi is a temporary art done on the body with henna. Henna powder is derived from a plant (actually a bush),
Lawsonia inermis, commonly found in the Middle East and other areas where the climate is hot and dry. The bush is harvested, dried, and then crushed to make henna powder.

We chilled at home on saturday evening and Sunday is almost half done and it sure feels like a lazy one...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Intangible threads...

Love -- you know you feel it,

A feeling which brings with it pain-pleasure-emotions.

It expands your heart...grows your mind...

Makes you sing and more importantly makes you human...

Love was what I first felt when I saw you I am sure...I guess you were probably the second or third person I ran into when I was born (Ma, Dad and you)...Ma tells me that I really was mean to you...troubled you, fought with you, stole your toys and tattled about you to Pa and apparently you patiently patted my head and said - my baby sister...I don't know when the picture changed but I remember growing up with you, having the same friends and then you grew away...developing a hip crowd that the "bookwormish" sister was never a part of...yet we remained close. I don't know where time flew away but soon we were saying -- Bye to you and you moved to the great promising lands across the sea...when I moved to the US you were there for me --- guiding me along the way, always there an invisible support that made me reach out for larger things -- K1 and you were close, always discussing the market and the industry and supporting me through life's journey...

You have been away the past 5 years, creating a new world for yourself, new friends and a wonderful family -- yet there is this intangible thread holding us together. I have never been big on the showy stuff -- the hugs, the words of affection, cards and what nots -- you have hardly ever got a Rakhi from me --- yet today is special -- Happy Raksha Bandhan! I know in India the sisters tie a rakhi asking the brother to promise eternal protection --- If there is a role reversal here's one -- I am wishing the "world for you on Raksha Bandhan" and promising to be there for you if you ever need me --- these intangible threads bind you so tight and hold you in a forever bond....

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What I learnt from the Next Food Network Star?

Have I ever told you...that in my frequent flights of fantasies...I don a crisp white apron and looking like a stunning domestic godess I deliver fluffy pancakes, crisp dosas, delicious pastas...and divine curries...all without breaking a sweat...and of course looking the part of a "stunning domestic godess...fast forward to ground breaking reality...we manage one-pot meals, sometimes the soups are inedible...as are some of the adventerous concoctions...and I still adore my day job...ok I am digressing...

For the past 10 weeks I have religiously been following "The Next Food Network Star" vocally rooting for Melissa...the mother of 4 with her transparent style, her frazzled persona which slowly developed into a confident insightful person who definitely appealed to me...with her ready tips, practicality and above all humanity...she showed that a confidence in yourself and your abilities and sheer hardwork can really make you stand out in a crowd and shine...YAY ! Melissa I did do a little victory dance when you won...

This week has been busy on the home front, a sick child...finding the right pre-school for my ray of sunshine, while getting ready to say Bye to the in-laws who are leaving next weekend...K1 and I did take a mini break and go out for dessert to "The Melting Pot"...it was an interesting experience...I am watching a movie called "Videsh" by Deepa Mehta right now...

How was your weekend?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Letting go...

When I was young and I heard the saying - If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was - I thought it was a cliche. There was *my* family, *my*friends...yet one day I left it all behind...wiped the slate clean with 2 bags and not too much money in hand, I made a trip across the Atlantic to a new land where I had to begin again...was I scared, of course I was. I had left the two things that mattered to me the most - Ma and Pa behind and wasn't even sure it was the right decision. Yet, as time went by I settled into a life and routine in this new world, met new interesting people, charted new plans for myself and went about achieving it in a very focused way...Life as I knew it before didn't exist anymore...but the new life was interesting and brought with it new excitement. Most importantly, I had that tangible thread with my parents, they had released their fears and "let go"...they believed in me and the love they had for me...and had faith...setting free didn't really release, it only brought me closer to them...the truth about letting go slowly sunk in...

Yet, when I finally became a mother -- the fierce gnaw of possessiveness really took strong roots...here was something I had created...seeing promising similarities and discounting the fact that K2 was his own individual...I dictated what he ate, when he napped, when he played and of course with so much control came constant paranoia around his weight, his development, his socialization, his health...omigod! stop it already...
This weekend I started looking at pre-schools for my son...the panic is intense. I know that I will have to trust my son's well being with people beyond my "trusted circle"...I don't know if I am ready for it yet...but a wise person once said - There are things that we never want to let go of, people we never want to leave behind...but keep in mind that letting go isn't the end of the world, it is the beginning of a new life"
Here's to my son taking his first independant steps towards pre-school, independence and potty training....and here's to a product manager mom learning to let go of her babies -- both real and products...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Life is like a bunch of Habanero Peppers...

The past two weeks have been at the same time hectic and slow...with a new project winding up and with the sense of anticipation that life as I knew it before May, will exist again...unsure of my reaction to it...we will see.
K1 took his parents to Las Vegas last week and I was the sole trooper on the home front, managing with K2...we had a blast. Farmer's market has been a firm fixture in my life the past two weeks - throwing my way a varied bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables - from juicy peaches to crisp Asian Pears to pretty blueberries --- and not to forget the perky tomatoes, plump opo squashes, complex sinquas, fresh chinese brocollis, the mystery lemon cucumbers and the oh-so-spicy Habanero chilli peppers...I had the person buying Okras next to me (well meaning person...) say you know those are Habaneros ...right...really really hot...
The Habaneros were a sight to behold - some green, some orange and others bright red....beautiful specimens...I used a red habanero in a pasta dish I was making and it was not killing hot, the next one I used in a Huevos Rancheros and it had me running to open the windows while the rest of the family was sneezing and coughing when the spice from the cooking hit them....the Huevos turned out deliciously spicy...umm no one else wanted to try it ...Reminds me of Forrest Gump's saying - Life is like a box of chocolates...in this case a bunch of Habaneros and you don't know how spicy they will be...I sure has fun trying to make spicy hot dishes with this new kitchen companion...next on the list is a peach salsa with habanero...
K2 has been not keeping well, what with a throat infection and fever the past couple days. We are feeding him hot soups and keeping him inside the house. I worry about him but I think falling sick is a part of growing up, so I am trying not to play the part of the paranoid mom. I am currently curled up next to a book called "Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper" by Fuchsia Dunlop...Don't Judge me please...I love spicy chinese food. I am vegetating today as I know I have a long work week to look forward to...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Social Networks...

A question plagues my mind constantly - How social am I as an individual? Having an undergraduate degree in Sociology and a masters in Organizational Behavior really gets the mental juices flowing from time to time...the constant knock!knock! in the mind gets tiring and no ready answers are available.
How do you describe social?
(A) The Amount of time you spend with people
(B) The number of friends you have on Facebook/the number of comments you get on Facebook
(C) The number of personal emails you receive in a day (no! junk email doesn't count)
(D) The number of evenings where you have plans and outings
(E) Social Events/Parties....
The list goes on...I find the idealogy behind the Six Degrees of Separation pretty creepy and at the same time profound...maybe the human web does exist. If it doesn't what is this attraction (correction!) addiction to being Linked in, Being Connected on Face Book....and if that is not enough creating more traffic with tweets...is it my desire to be popular, my desire to exhibit my superior intellectual compentence (BS), my desire to be social, be heard...WHAT?
Anyway, at the end of the day, these social networks are a boon and a bane...they expose the sheer irrelavence of some of my activities (which I strive to tell myself are critical to my existence)....I am sure there are a number of you that agree with my viewpoint (and the fact that I care shows that I am far from the anti-social person, I would love to paint myself to be).
For now all I can say is that these Social Networks are making my evenings a little more exciting, I look forward to "Notifications" on Facebook or "Accepted" on Linked In...makes me feel a little bit more of a part of something a lot larger than me and makes me feel relavent and needed and wanted in the big picture..comprende?...if not go ahead update your status on Facebook, post some more pictures on Facebook...add some more connections on Linked In and you are on the path to Social Nirvana, that I still seem to be exploring...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The inquisitive mind

The Brutally Honest Personality Test ...

I just found out I was a "Borefest" --

One word. Boring. Sums you up to a tee. You're responsible, trustworthy, serious and down to earth. Boring. Boring. Boring.
You play by the rules. You follow tradition. You encourage structure.
You insist that EVERYBODY do EVERYTHING by the book. Seriously, is there even an ounce of imagination in that little brain of yours? I mean, what's the point of imagination, right? It has no practical value...
As far as you're concerned, abstract theories can go screw themselves. You just want the facts, all the facts and nothing but the facts.
Oh. And you're a perfectionist. About everything. You know that the previous sentence was gramattically incorrect and that "gramattically" was spelt wrong. Your financial records are correct to 25 decimal places and your bedroom is in pristine condition. In fact, you even don't sleep on your bed anymore for fear that you might crease the sheets....

This personality test did give me a lot of food for thought :)

How was your long weekend? I spent Saturday at the Oakland Zoo with my son, Sunday I had a late brunch with family and then a hindi movie "New York". Sunday as usual was a trip to the Farmer's Market for fruits and vegetables -- Carrots, Zucchini, Sinqua, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Peaches and Plums are on the menu for this week....

Hope you all had a wonderful and relaxed weekend!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Seventh Daughter...

I am not feeling 100% today...maybe its the heat...or maybe it just is but I had very little sleep last night and lay tossing and turning till 1.00 AM in the bed. I walked into my closet (which is almost the size of a little bedroom and 50% empty :))...and started reading this book -- The Seventh Daughter.

I have absolutely adored most chinese food - from the comforting noodle soups to the spicy hot pots to the energizing fresh vegetable stirfries to the uplifting pot stickers (yes food can change my mood...)

I did not stare at recipes or the beautiful pictures...I was reading Cecilia's story. Her wonderful story about her siblings, her fairy tale childhood, her relationship with her Um-ma (mother)...her sisters Qin and Sophie and her sheer grit and will power to start something from nothing and make it work (The Mandarin on the Ghiradelli Square)...I have never been to the Mandarin but after reading Cecilia's story, this is a place I want to visit...I want to try her famous dumplings and the Beggar's Chicken. I want to try the tea smoked duck even though I am not overly fond of meat and the reason is the sheer beauty of this woman's culinary journey from Beijing to Yunnan to Shanghai to Tokyo to San Francisco...the visuals in my mind were of tradition, obedience, sheer love, warmth and family....not the steaming pots of food. She makes me want to go down to the expensive Mandarin Restaurant in the city and try a slice of her story and life...
Some time later I chanced to glance up and the time was 3.30 AM and I was getting sleepy...saying Good Night to Cecilia I went to bed to dream of Dimsums and comforting soups...Thank You Madame Chiang!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Seven Habits of highly effective People...

I was but 20 years old when I was handed my first copy of Covey. A who had given me the book had written - "The whole point about reading such a book is, if it doesn't come naturally, leave it".Initially the book was heavy reading but over time, I fell hook, line and sinker for Covey's principles... I have been able to go back to this book time and again and learn something new every time...

What do the 7 Habits mean to me -

1)Being Proactive - Personal choice drives a lot of your decision making -- so instead of blaming circumstances take control and responsibility for your actions and decisions
2)Visualization - Always visualize a roadmap to how your life should be and more likely than not you will try and stick to that roadmap (set personal goals and try to acheive them)
3) Integrity and Execution - It's ok to take help and delegate but integrity is key in every transaction.
4) Mutual Benefit - An attitude whereby mutually beneficial solutions are sought that satisfy the needs of oneself as well as others...it is ok to be a little selfish, but it is good to be a little selfless
5) Mutual Understanding - giving out advice before having empathetically understood a person and their situation will likely result in that advice being rejected. Thoroughly listening to another person's concerns instead of reading out your own autobiography is purported to increase the chance of establishing a working communication...people have busy lives, they don't want to hear about you...they want to talk about themselves
6) Creative Cooperation - when synergy is pursued as a habit, the result of the teamwork will exceed the sum of what each of the members could have achieved on their own. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is not about what I can acheive but rather about what the team can acheive...
7) Balanced Self-Renewal - engaging in carefully selected recreational activities. For me its Yoga, Cooking (eating) and spending time with K2.

It has been all but 2 decades of trying to internalize some of these principles into my day to day life...highly effective I am not...but I would like to think that I am on my path to getting there some day....Thanks Covey !!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nostalgia and a hot plate of pasta

Smells, Tastes and sometimes even textures give you the "warm & fuzzies" or the "shivers down the spine". I remember our trip to Kodaikanal every time I smell Eucalyptus...the foggy, drizzling weather and the warm, cheesy Pizza Margherita (Desi Ishtyle). Every time I see the cloth painting of the Old Man on my bedroom wall I remember the wonderful trip I took to Kalimpong with Ma and Pa. I have carried that painting with me for 14 years...there is something very gentle and wise about the old man...we had brought that painting from a ruddy faced Nepali woman. I still remember her sitting inside her tent, sipping a steaming, thick glass of chai. On rare occasions I fry Chilly Pakoras ,I remember our trip to Simla -- Dad eating chai, hot pakoras and jelabis from local hawkers...Nostalgia is such a wonderful thing..it makes me get all happy, remembering back on old memories vividly - smelling the smells, remembering the conversations, remembering the people...

The past couple days have been full of the good, bads and Uglies. Let me start with the Ugly first - my excruciating visit to the dentist. The bads - the pain that followed....the goods - hanging out with Meenakshi, Shreya & Rajesh over the weekend, the hot meal (did I say it was free!) at the temple on Sunday afternoon, the fresh greens and fruits from the Farmers Market (Chinese Brocolli, Chinese Spinach, Zucchini, Cherries, Heirloom Tomatoes, Cauliflower, Peaches and Plums) and of course the Hot and Satisfying bowl of Capellini I made (sauce was made with the Heirloom Tomatoes from the Farmers Market) with a side of simply sauteed garlic greens ( Mmmm...good!)

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Slow Burn...

Some wise woman named Susan wrote a poem Slow Burn -

I wanted to be Cinderella – the Belle of the Ball at the end of the tale,
All I got was a broom and a dirty hearth,
It seems like the tale has no end…
Sweeping away the cobwebs in my mind,
Pollyanna, I am not…there is not a positive spin to my tale…
Prince Charming has been late to the party,
Fairy Godmother is missing in action…
Stuck at a dead-end junction, I wonder if there is a cross road ahead…
Yet, all this inaction seems to be burning the spirit inside…
Slow Burn…Slow Burn

Slow Burn for me has a different meaning this week...I went to my first Vinyasa Yoga class in 6 months...I held my warrior's proudly and did my backbends flexibly but for the next 3 days my muscles have been burning slowly...work wise life's been busy, personal life wise -- things have been interesting. We have my MIL visiting for 10 weeks, and she will be joined by my FIL in 2 weeks...

K1 and K2 spied a baby seal in the bay over the weekend...here's a picture we took of the baby seal on our Nokia Phone...mailed to self over Ovi Mail (shameless promotion you say...execution on 4 P's I say ;-) )...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A dinner and three movies...

Sunday has almost gone - K2 is in bed watching Winnie the Pooh (A very Merry Christmas) and I thought what better time to update my blog. I left last Sunday for Helsinki...the flight was long and via Munich...the food was blah! but I watched some interesting movies - The Mall Cop, He is not that into you and Bed Time Stories. We got into the Hotel at midnight and decided to take a walk to the Hotel Torni (an older hotel) with beautiful views and a bar. We had a midnight tipple (diluted Mohito was my drink of choice)...took in the views and walked back to our hotel to call it a night. The next 2 days felt like a dream, some parts of it downright nervewracking, others a blur but mostly it was all good. We went out for dinner with a couple colleagues on Tuesday to a place called the Fish Market and I had some excellent Cat Fish and a very crisp Reisling but what I most remember about that dinner was the feeling of a "team" that I felt.

The flight back was even longer and I watched "The Reader" on my way back. I was so glad to get a hug from my little boy. I went down to the Farmer's Market today -- crisp green beans, chinese spinach, Opo Squash, Carrots, ripe peach and cherries will feature on our menu soon. I did go for a Yoga class in the evening today, I am sure I will hear my muscles creak tomorrow...How was your week?

P.S: This unclear picture was taken at 1.00 AM at the Torni with my E71 and mailed to myself via Ovi Mail