Eh, what are you going to do?

Dear Readers,

While taking a trip down memory lane today, I stumbled upon an amusing yet jarring memory. Amusing for others. Jarring for me. This incident took place when I was quite small. I really tried to jog my memory to get a ballpark figure of my age but all that my brain could cough up was “Quite small”. Eh, what are you going to do? My parents and I were on a holiday in Goa. My recollection starts off pleasant enough. Strolling down an over-crowded beach with my hands and mouth preoccupied with devouring a cob of corn with the sun setting in the background. Okay, to be honest, the taste of the corn is my only vivid recollection.. the probability of being on a beach( I mean it’s Goa!) with the sun present somewhere in the sky is fairly high.

Maybe my small size made me extra vulnerable. Maybe the sight of me attacking the corn with such fervor was really off-putting but either way I found myself being chased by a cow. That’s right, a COW! Now Readers, there are moments in life that strong arm you into prioritising. And any person in their right mind would choose safety over a corn cob. Not me. Nuh uh. The corn cob and I were one entity. So me, my misguided zeal, and my recently added appendage ran like a maniac fuelled by their nonsensical priorities.

Had this incident taken place outside of India, any neutral party would have declared the cow guilty, and me, just plain crazy. However, in this country, most people’s assessment of the situation would have been clouded by the deep emotional bonds that they have with cows. I understand that they are harmless – not in my experience – but to others, perhaps. Even though I am a little weary of them, I will be gracious enough to admit that their innocent, gigantic eyes do have an endearing effect, and their contribution to providing me with tasty dairy products is much appreciated.

Through the journey of telling you this story, two thoughts struck me. The first one – Why were we holidaying on a beach? We hailed from Mumbai – a place with abundant beaches. Strange. Secondly, why was the cow holidaying on the beach? Come to think of it, their taste in real estate is quite lousy. Why would they spend all their time on our roads amidst us? I mean, let’s admit it, even on our best days, we are tolerable company at best.

Wait a second, have we compelled these creatures to endure our company and compete for our corn cobs? Could the haphazard planning of our country and complete disregard for other creatures have something to do with the accidental sharing of holiday destinations? *Sigh* When did my unreasonable rant turn into sympathy for the nemesis.

Maybe this reality is one that I’ll just have to live with – a cow squatting in the middle of the road, chewing on a blade of grass and the rest of the city whizzing past it… accepting diversity – taken to a whole new level. Eh, what are you going to do?

Yours – in need of a better nemesis,

Panya

Humanity – The Sum of Two Parts??

Dear Readers,

After much thought and grave contemplation, I have come to a premature albeit insightful conclusion – the world can essentially be divided into two distinct groups of people. And no, I am not referring to Trump vs. the rest of humanity. That is a discussion for another time. Readers, I can assure you that I made my observations in a state of complete mental vigilance. The fact that it is a lazy Saturday afternoon and I am feeling a little drowsy after a meagre meal of chapati, lemon rice, daal, sabji, curd and kalakand sweet has compromised my research capabilities by a maximum of 30% , the rest 80% of me is committed to the cause of providing you with perfectly standard and mediocre content. I have crafted this article with state of the art tools at my disposal – a comfy bed, a blank wall to stare at and my laptop (so that I can intermittently watch cute animal videos). Some of you may wonder- what makes me a subject expert on human behaviour. Rest assured, I am qualified enough. I have been a fully functioning human for the past 23 years, haven’t I? Geez. Tough audience.

So who are these distinct types of people? And which one are you?

Well, I think the first group of people can be labeled as “The Elon Musks“. Extremely committed. Excruciatingly hard working. The ones that spend their days leading and scaling their flourishing businesses and their nights saving the world from the impending dooms of climate change, poverty and diseases. This lot comes with inbuilt clocks in their systems that ensures that they make the most of every second. Am fairly sure that the terms “multi-tasking” and “maximum efficiency”  were coined by them. It makes me wonder – what were to happen to this bunch if they were forcefully made to cease all activity? To quote Ebenezer Scrooge, they’d probably feel like an “undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.” Hey, his charming words, not mine. However, jokes aside, I believe that it is rare to find people fuelled by such a potent and innate sense of purpose. Legends and torch-bearers are made of such tenacious fibre. If you are still pondering over whether you belong to this productive subset of humanity, ask yourself this – do you feel that there could be a million other things that you could be doing instead of reading this compelling and brilliant :p article? If yes, then you’re it!

Right, onto the second group of people that I like to call “Europe minus Germany“. This lot is all about appreciating the finer things in life. They can spend an eternity enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee or ambling through art galleries contemplating brush strokes and colour palettes. Planning a holiday or holidaying – that’s just the way it goes. Some of their core values include “siesta”, ” work-life balance” and “Que sera sera”. There is a beautiful saying in French – “Joie de vivre” or the joy of living. These people truly celebrate the exuberance of life in all its’ flavours. Let’s face it, their engagement and indulgence in life is probably what the journey is all about.

After seizing up the rest of humanity, I ruminated about my own inclinations. Damn it, so much for my extensive research! I clearly fall under the dubious third category – I too will make my mark in this world… right after I catch a nap and enjoy a steaming cup of filter kaapi.

Are there any more categories that I should add to the thesis? Comment below and let me know. 🙂

Yours in moments of dedication and somnolence,

Panya.

Con-Fusion Cuisine?

As someone who tries out different restaurants and watches MasterChef with great zeal, I consider myself to be quite the food maestro. Alas, like any fantasy, this too crumbles under closer inspection. My extensive culinary skills range from being able to turn on the gas to preparing instant packaged noodles. Ok, so maybe a superficial inspection was enough.

Like most Indians, I was made acutely aware of my rather limited palate on a holiday abroad. I was greatly amused when my parents packed a huge quantity of theplas before we left for Europe. On arriving there, I realised that my taste buds were simply inept at handling food that wasn’t submerged in masalas. Guarded my share of the theplas with a ferocity after that.

People in other parts of the world may well appreciate fresh ingredients and respect the produce but for us Indians, guessing which protein/vegetable is smothered in our alchemy of spices is quite exciting. Here is a list of foreign cuisines that are quite popular with us and how they have been improvised for our palates –

Chinese

This one’s a favourite! In fact, most of us know what we are going to order even before we set foot in an eatery.. Hot and Sour soup, fried rice with Manchurian gravy and the infamous Hakka noodles. I highly doubt that our version of these dishes bears any semblance to authentic Chinese food. We have a rather vague definition for Chinese cuisine. If at any point during the preparation of food, one or more ingredients came into contact with Soya sauce, either by accident or intentionally, the food is Chinese enough ( Need to copyright this definition :p ). This definition gives us a lot of room to add Indian influence. I think Manchurian deserves a special mention. It is basically an ingredient (chicken/ fish/ cottage cheese/ baby corn/ cauliflower) prepared in a brown gravy made with soya sauce, ketchup, vinegar, corn starch and seasoning. It can be found anywhere from small food carts catering to broke students outside schools and colleges to high end restaurants satiating the deep-pockets. Versatile food for versatile budgets!

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 Manchurian. Brought to you by – the Indian imagination.

Italian

Until recently, knowledge of Italian food was limited to pizzas and pastas in a wide array of sauces.. red and white to be precise. Now, our awareness has increased significantly when it comes to this cuisine. There are the added varieties of pesto sauce and pink sauce. However, I am pretty sure that the invention of pink sauce (a creative 1:1 blend of red and white sauce) finds its origin in India itself. How can I forget about dessert.. Tiramisu! Sponge cake topped with cream and instant coffee powder. It’s pretty evident that we do not like to stray from the original recipes!

Pan-Asian

Or in other words Thai curry with Jasmine rice. Let’s not faff around when we know that as Indians, those are the first and perhaps only things that come to mind. Thai curry is traditionally a light coconut broth. However, since subtle flavours go undetected by our palate, here in India, it really packs a punch! Yeah, we can make lemongrass pretty boisterous too.

 Middle-Eastern

Shawarma rolls.

enough-said

 

American and Mexican

Actually, these are cuisines where we have not strayed too far from the sidewalk. Exhausted all our imagination with the other ones I guess. The sanctity of the traditional burger has been honoured .. no funky spices have found their way in the slices.. yet! And Mexican food is a quite popular.. rice with beans, potatoes and sour cream. They had us at rice! There are a lot of parallels between American and Indian food.. pancakes to dosas, doughnuts to wadas, ice-creams to kulfis.. maybe going forth, diplomatic relations between the two countries can be built on the strong edifice of food.

I know we have the propensity to take other cuisines and deck them up in local flavours. Any attempts to trace back foreign dishes to their respective nations will be a largely futile attempt. But we promise you that Indianized food will leave your palate wanting more and your common sense telling you no!

 

Crippled Independence

Note to self – nostalgia and existential queries come in abundance when you clean out your wardrobe. In this case, it was while watching my brother clean out his.. but that’s beside the point. While he gingerly removed the chunky parts of a once-popular game called ‘Battleship’, it got me to reminisce about a time when technology was not our right hand. Growing up as a 90’s kid, I can describe myself as someone who is weary and appreciative of technology at the same time. Even now, when it comes to writing the first draft for any article, my instinct takes me to pen and paper but I sure as hell know and acknowledge the value of spell-check (more than I would like to admit).

However, we have had to pay a heavy price for befriending this sophisticated, know-it-all and ambitious friend that has an uncanny ability to keep upgrading itself. And that is – the inability to disconnect. Recently, Apple has faced flak for creating products that are “too addictive”. Am i misguided in thinking that when it comes to decisions regarding how we use our time, the ball is in our court? But for all those who need assistance disconnecting from technology – don’t despair – the cry for help has been heard, processed and appropriate technologies are coming soon.. in gadgets near you. There is a start-up that is building a smartphone that is only capable of sending and receiving calls. Right, dumb down the technology… brownie points for a viable solution. Or another start-up that’s taking the high road to use addictive technology in health and education applications. I am not sure how I feel about our vulnerabilities being exploited.

The advent in technology has woven anxiety into the human fabric. With the frantic pace we need to keep up right from the time we get up – getting the latest news on our phone, to booking an Uber for work, tracking the Uber while at the same time completing our latest purchase on Amazon, posting an image of an absolutely delectable butter toast on Instagram, clocking in ten minutes on on our meditation app..gotta make it to the intermediate level!

The only solution to the mayhem is to go back to the basics. Start relying on our instincts a little more. Listen to our bodies on how much water we need to drink and how many hours of sleep we need to catch instead of using apps? We are the product of millions of years of evolution, let’s give ourselves some credit!

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why Cats Would Make Awesome Brand Ambassadors

“You can teach a cat anything… anything that it wants to do.”

I think the above statement sums up perfectly as to why people hate as well as fawn over cats. Their aloof and distant nature has created a catFans scale – our perception ranging from extremely hostile all the way to adorable enigmas. Having been a canine lover for most part of my life, it is only recently that I find myself quite fascinated with the feline.On observing them closely, it struck me that cats would make great brand ambassadors and here are the reasons why –

They are Brand Conscious

Of their own brand that is. Every time that I go to feed the cat in my apartment complex, he circles me and marks his scent while showing clear disapproval of my taste in skin-care products.. as if to say “Geez. How many times do I have to dowse you in my one of a kind meow-nificent scent. My unique blend of mud, mice and everything nice.” They market their scent to the point of giving free samples to pretty much everything and everywhere in their vicinity.

Paw-ise

If there is any creature that embodies poise and grace, it is the cat. Cats would find themselves at ease at a high-tea event or an upscale fund raiser. With a steady gaze, stoic expression and a tail that is wrapped around their front paws in an exact and calculated manner, they are the epitome of good deportment. I find it ironic that as a human – the pinnacle of evolution, walking a mere 100 meters with my limbs in coordinated motion is a big ask!

They are always well groomed

Cats spend a significant portion of their lives preening themselves. And the other significant portion catching up on their beauty sleep. I would imagine that they would be any photographers’ dream photoshoot – with their fastidious attention to appearance and fur that is always slick and gelled.

Cat-titude

Cats could probably pull off any brand seamlessly. Courtesy of their mood swings. From being playful to downright lazy, loving to outright hostile, keen and aware to sluggish, dominating to fearful – it is so bewildering that such a small package of fur can be so dynamic (bordering on some personality disorders?).

Loyalty

Cats display loyalty in every facet of their life .. except to their owners of course. Being highly territorial creatures, they like to stick to their comfort zones – quite literally. PR agents would get sound sleep if they represented these creatures of habit. No impulsive outbreaks and messy scandals to clean up after. What a relief that must be!

Write up a contract for your neighbourhood kitty? Yes paw-lease!

 

 

 

The Organic Fetish

To varying degrees, most urban dwellers living in the 21st century are familiar with some form of “organic branding” doing the rounds. Well, when the air you breathe is toxic, we’ll buy any promise of a healthier lifestyle.. even if the price is hard to digest! We all know those classic signs of organic packaging.. made with paper and concealed in hues of earthy greens and browns. Long before you dare to flip the packet, you know you would be paying a premium- six times over its inorganic equivalent.

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Let’s question the what, why, how, when etc. etc. of organic food. It is essentially about eliminating synthetic chemicals.. right from offensive-sounding pesticides used to grow fruits and vegetables to the hormones and antibiotics that are force fed to poultry and livestock. Consuming organic food is about damage control.. restoring something natural in our otherwise unnatural lifestyle – fast food, fast cars, substance abuse, fast-paced careers – it won’t come as a surprise to me if we turn out to be genetically modified organisms ourselves!

So now that we have established that in order to maintain some balance in the chemical soup that we humans are, we need to consume produce that does not amplify the toxins within us. With this as the premise, let us explore further, because, with an increase in awareness, comes an exponential increase in confusion. Earlier, you were considered health conscious if you avoided saturated fats. Now, sulphurless sugar, fish that has just the right amount of omega-3 acids and organic milk are just some of the basic considerations one needs to keep in mind. Oh man, how far have we come from the days when corfe_2oca-cola was advertised as a brain tonic!

I can’t tell whether the organic mania is here to stick or not but like any trend it’s quite clear that the population will always be divided into three portions – the ones that give a damn, ones that create an opportunity from those that do give a damn and the ones that watch on with great amusement at every passing trend.

 

 

The Simplest Conundrum :/

Ask any Indian about what their understanding of education is and they’ll tell you that it is about finding the right balance – of their parents’ approval, societies’ approval and keeping the bank account flushed with a number decent enough to appease the relatives! Phew. Exhausting, right? Don’t get me wrong. There are the exceptions with enough gumption to pursue an education that has a five percent intersection with their interests.

Here I am, in my mid-20’s crisis(hopefully facing this one can get me a pass on the mid-life crisis) standing adamantly at the crossroads of confusion. The path that I took to get here was fairly straight forward. The first milestone was selecting the science stream after 10th standard. Made it past that one with fairly less resistance. The second milestone was completing engineering. A little more resistance followed. But yeah, I made it! Now all I needed was an MBA and I was well on my way to gaining a pat on my back and a lifetime membership at the not-so-exclusive ‘Walking with Blinders On’ society. I was soooo close to getting there. Having dropped out from the course a week into it, now the road (with all the clear signposts) that i had been lugging on seemed to have vanished and become a freaking pool of quicksand.

So this brought me into a deep state of inquiry (as-if :P).. have I been the only accidental rebel to question the well charted education path laid out by the millions before me? I highly doubt it. Over some brutally honest conversations with my friends ( yeah.. Vodka can have that effect), I realised that we are all packed like a bunch of sardines in a boat that is too rigidly designed in its possibilities. Maybe, just maybe, there are other career options out there? God forbid I let my mind wander and end up pursuing literature. 😀 ( That’ll get me permanently disbarred from the Blinders society). I guess my point is that that the reason I am finding it difficult to cope with this simple conundrum is because I have swallowed and thoroughly digested some beliefs about the course life needs to take. It’s time to take a laxative and let go. 😛