Do You Eat Curd the Right Way?

Author: Sneha Manohar

 

Curd is an integral part of any Indian’s diet; and rightly so as it has many benefits. Sadly, most of us (over 95%) eat it the wrong way. Eating this super food the wrong way inhibits people from gaining its miraculous benefits and also brings in more problems like aggravating the skin, acidity, hair fall, cough, sinus and much more. Curd is the fermented form of milk and has living bacteria in it. Both of these facts are very well known to everyone, and even then, not many think twice about how and when we should be consuming it.

Let’s answer the where, when, how and also the when not to and how not to eat this wonder food.

To all those who mix either salt or sugar with their curd during any meal of the day to add in flavour, both table salt and sugar (as in the sugar we usually mix with food) are all chemically refined and they end up hindering the probiotics and the nutritional benefits of curd and is good for nothing. Now, the question arises, ‘Can we not savour curd by making it salty or sweet?’.

Of course we can. If you like your curd salty, replace your regular salt with black salt or rock salt and if you are more of the sweet type you can use jaggery or mishri powder. These ingredients help keep the benefits of curd intact while giving you the flavour you want. Heading on to the next question, ‘Which form is better? Sweet or salty? ‘ That depends on your need. If you are facing heat related issues like acidity, bleeding, and hair fall sweetened curd is the thing for you. If you are facing problems like body pains and indigestion go for curd which is salted.

Some people like curd so much that they eat it almost after every meal. Especially after dinner. When the sun goes down the body’s temperature decreases which in turn increases the mucus secretion which can cause slight blockages in the breathing pipe that may lead to cold, cough and sinus. So after sunset it’s better to drink buttermilk instead of eating curd. Yes, it is basically curd but fundamentally speaking, it is made from curd and its properties are very different from that of normal curd. You can add in some flavour with black pepper and rock salt.

Eating curd in the wrong combination is also very common and leads to accumulation of toxins in the body . Two of the most common wrong combinations are cucumber raita (Cucumber and curd) and Boondi raita. In terms of good nutritional properties, cucumber and curd are polar opposites and combining the two in any way during a meal will only damage your digestive system from within. Even though it may not sound that great, a plausible alternative is bottle gourd along with curd. Boondi is deep fried in either oil or ghee which doesn’t make it compatible with curd and also can become a factor of unnecessary fat gain. A few other combinations to avoid are curd and fish, curd and brinjal, curd and bananas, curd and eggs and curd and sour fruits.

If you have any sort of skin problem, like frequent acne breakouts or if your skin is prone to itching, you should be extra cautious with how you consume curd. Avoid it if possible, as ninety percent of the skin problems are a result of increased body heat which, surprisingly, is caused by eating chunks of curd (like from the packaged curd in plastic containers) and sour curd worsens any skin condition. If you cannot avoid curd then make sure you eat freshly prepared curd and if you are buying it then eat it only after blending it properly with a spoon. This helps decrease the potency of curd.People suffering from arthritis should consume curd only after adding a pinch of dry ginger to their curd.

You can now eat curd the right way and take all of the benefits it has to offer.

Dear Jessie

Author: Aarushi Maity

They heard but pretended not to. “They have finally mastered the act of ignorance”, I wondered. After all, they need something to defend themselves from my ever-growing dark humour, they say. I drifted away from the ongoing conversation and focused on the raindrops making unbeknownst patterns on the glass windows. It was a pretty sight. The sun had set, the streetlights alight, making the droplets mirror different hues. The surprise visit of the rain after a cloudless, sunny afternoon had left the commuters in a disarray. Penny opened the window to let the air in and I sighed at the view. The
streets were alive with activity, people moving,cars leaving behind trails on the wet tar road. Yes, moving-the one thing my life doesn’t seem to be doing nowadays.
When my friends finally had enough of my negativity, I bid them goodbye and
started the short walk home. The streets were quiet no and the rain had slowed down to a drizzle. I looked at the city line framed by the skyscrapers. I dreamt of working in one of these when I was young. I am living in it now, the dream,I mean but I wonder sometimes whether my father discouraging me from pursuing Business was actually valid. I remember all the times I failed and cried but then got up hoping I would overcome these hard times some day.That day never came. I am still struggling to  fit in. And as I look at these high structures a sense of guilt eats at me from inside. My father had a habit of reminding me that I was not made for his world, even when I actually made it in. He had never appreciated me in his life and I have no precious memories to unfold now that he was gone. Its been two weeks. He went for a business conference and had a heart attack in the middle of the night. He was the mastermind behind all there structure plans that went down through the years making Bernard’s, one of the top international conglomerates at present. In spite of this, he never gave into my continuous attempts to learn the tricks of the trade. I guess he never trusted me with them in the first place. I remember always having a hard time figuring him out, to know what kind of a person he was under the facade of a strict disciplinarian. I know it was a facade for a fact that I had seen a different side of him slip by once in a while. And now he was gone for good without me knowing whether it existed at all.

I reached my alleyway and a feeling of uneasiness settled in the pit of my stomach. I got ready for bed all the while being conscious of leaving something unattended. The brown
box I received from the attorney still sat heavy on my desk. “I can’t stall it forever”, I remind myself. After years of yearning for my father’s attention, nowhere I am still the
same. Still running away, afraid of what I might find through the belongings he left me with. Once I got past the string that held the cover in place, there was no turning back. I rummaged through the contents and found all that I ever wanted from my father and
more,definitely more. His journals containing travelogues of all the places he had gone to in his same old, round, slanted hand, stared back at me.His blue notebook had his notes on business affairs with a scattering of quotes of famous writers here and there. I
let my tears fall freely. The happiness I felt to finally find a piece of him to hold onto overpowered the growing sense of loss and I found myself at peace finally. At the
bottom of the box lay a white envelope. A tear fell on the writing. The bold slanted letters read ‘Dear Jessie’.

A Chance in Disguise

Author: Nikita Suryawanshi

 

All throughout our lifetimes, we undergo numerous experiences which shape and define us. These different episodes in our lives are what make us distinct from others. They are what prove that our struggles and our stories are unique. However, there stands one experience that is common to all. All of us, irrespective of our backgrounds and our fights, face this incident, or more of a feeling. The feeling of déjà vu.
The term déjà vu is French and means, literally, “already seen.” Those who have experienced the feeling describe it as an overwhelming sense of familiarity with something that shouldn’t be familiar at all. You feel as if you have been through the same situation before, even though in reality, it has never happened in the past. This sense of familiarity can be so strong and disorienting sometimes that you may want to overlook the facts and believe this feeling.
A few years back, while scrolling through the internet, I came across an article in which the author was stating his belief regarding déjà vu. He believed that déjà vu is nothing but a flashback from our past life. Now you may have a doubt that if it is a moment in our past life, why do we experience it again in our present lives? To this, the writer said that he thinks that every birth in this universe has a higher goal. He believes that unless we achieve this goal, we are reborn over and over again. That is why experience this feeling of déjà vu.
This got me pondering that even though the thought of being stuck in an infinite loop is scary; maybe it is not so bad at all. How many times do we wish that we could go back in time and change something; how many times do we wish to change our decisions to make things better; how many times do we regret an action and pray for time to take it back. Maybe this is the universe’s way of giving us that chance to fix our mistakes.
The hope of getting an opportunity to live this life again, to start all over again and to make a difference for good is very gratifying. Perhaps it is a superstition, but the possibility of beginning afresh and amending all my mistakes makes me want to believe in the writer, in the theory that universe does shower us with hidden gifts.

A RANT ABOUT RANT RECEIVERS

Author: Saumyaa Sinha

What is UP with people and their freakin’ annoying, excruciatingly irritating responses to everything ever. Like. Stop. Please, just cease to exist if you do not have the basic human sense to differentiate between the tone of somebody’s voice and realise when to actually open your mouth for words of (not so helpful but still laudable for the attempt) comfort and when to just shut the fuck up and let the aggrieved talk. They have probably come to you with a (stupid, a very stupid) rough idea of you willing to listen to them, because one, you probably have in the past, two you have a magical bond (no) and three they look like they’ve been kissing death, so your usual vain, sugar-coated caked self would have the decency and ‘human’ ability to have some pity on them, perhaps do what most humans are capable of doing: LISTEN.

It’s really not that hard. Okay look, try it now. Just SHUT your mouth, don’t hum, don’t smack you lips and make engine noises like a 5 year old, and don’t even think about clicking your tongue to the inside of your mouth to resemble the ticking of the clock. I believe in you. Shh. It’s okay. Just try, TRY to keep your beautiful, plush, oh so ardent pair of lips in ONE PLACE, meaning don’t move them, meaning JUST SHUT UP. Next, this is the tricky part. OPEN your daft ear to the sufferings of the world *patriotic theme song*. Do you hear it, do you hear it now? Even your conscience is whispering about you being a treacherous listener. Shame. Feel it. Let it burn your soul. The final part, the hardest, if you do this wrong you shall rot in the pit fire of hell. Direct your eyes/head/ATTENTION, to the person TALKING. Not to the pile of unfinished homework/projects/things you know you’re never actually going to do, not to your phone, and DEFINITELY not to any device which tells you the time.

The last bit has some issues. Don’t stare into the soul of the speaker as though you’re pulling an Elsa. Don’t keep scanning their faces, looking for the shame you’ve just lost a paragraph ago. Don’t be on the edge of your seat, salivating eagerly for more info into their sob story, nobody likes a scandalmonger. Just casually cross your arms, or keep them by your sides, even one on your chin for more of an ‘I’m genuinly interested, please keep talking’ look. DO NOT touch them for consolation if they’re not the type to take hugs easily and it has taken a lot of stuff for them to finally open up to a fellow homo sapien. Occasional ‘hmms’ and ‘that must be hard’, or a ‘that’s understandable’ would be a huge YES. However, don’t and I mean this one, please please PLEASE for the love of cheese and barbecue fries, DO NOT jump into your own story about how you’ve had it 574.8890 times harder. Be a devoted listener please. *sighs*.

If you’re on the PHONE and a person decides to rant to you, follow the listening and speaking part to the tea, as for the looking part, you are excused, however please try to stay attentive lest face humiliation, confusion, guilt when they ask ‘what would you have done in this situation?’. They are talking to you, with a cellular device, wholly dependent on the transmission of radio waves from their phone to yours, travelling through the ionosphere, where it could be lost in a million other such rant signals, in the hope that in this galaxy, they are somehow able to connect to you. Don’t screw it up please.

On TEXT, hold your emotions. Don’t send emojis to express your undying care for them, send them heart warming words. Trust me. It is much more effective and changes the mental state of the ranter big time. If you see them sending their rants line by line, DO NOT type something in between, let them complete. If it bugs you to infinity and beyond, tell them to take their time and just type up everything together so you can read it and respond accordingly. Meanwhile, do whatever you need to do to have a meaningful existence. Or watch PewDiePie, it honestly doesn’t matter. After they have completed, and you’re on the type of chat where they have the option of seeing if you’ve read the message or not, then PLEASE don’t just read the message and NOT RESPOND. If you’re suddenly busy, say you’ll respond in a few minutes. But understand, this person has poured out their heart to you, with the flicker of hope that you’ll somehow magically clear their foggy, misted paths of life. At least pretend you have such abilities. You don’t have to be right, you just have to BE there for them.

That’s the guide for you then.

On a more serious note though, and I hate to make it serious, but most of the times I’m not only writing to be funny or for entertainment, but also because I have chosen to address a purposeful topic, really think about the person who has chosen to speak to you about their problems. From personal experience of being a ranter and a receiver, I can positively tell you, if somebody is in a fix, having a really bad day, has been having a grotesque phase of life, whose gravity may seem minute to you, trust me, what will come out of your mouth will mean a lot to them. When I say rants, I mean anything which emotionally charges up a person. While in an emotional high, if somebody possibly with feelings of intense hatred/sadness/hopelessness regarding the stimuli in question, decides they need to speak to you, please don’t ridicule their story. Don’t say it’s in their head. Don’t say they need to get over it, they ONE HUNDRED PERCENT know, for sure, they need to get over it. THIS IS THEM TRYING TO GET OVER IT. If they are TALKING to you about it, they are obviously are failing. Don’t stab their wounds the second time by being insensitive. I’ll tell you why:

They’re emotionally charged up, they decide you’d understand/listen/empathise/’be there for them’, they speak, pour out their heart, talk about the damage. Then you, being the little snubbing King/Queen you are, treat them like a peasant and are extremely insensitive and over do the ‘hmms’ without any actual response, or worse, say ‘lol’ (how do you even have the audacity to use that dammed three letter abbreviation), ‘lol, you need to jam the hype and stop being so dramatic’. No. No. No, no, no, no, no, nonononono. NO. Does your inexplicably, tiny, incapable, mockery of a brain have ANY DAMN CLUE, what kind of impact that can have on a person? You do that, and you’ve done it. You’ve done it honey. You have pushed them so deep into disconnect that they’ll probably stop abruptly, scoop up their feelings and completely forget that they’re still holding it. And this is the UNHEALTHY way of forgetting. You’ve shut them down, tired and drained them out. There will be about 5 seconds of shock, 30 seconds of sadness and then? No feelings at all. They’ll be so worn out (because they’ve given their 100% trying to explain), that they’re probably not going to share their story with anybody else right away, with the fear of similar rejection or because they’re simply incapable of being expressive anymore. Don’t be one of those people please.

All humans ever do is experience, share, experience and repeat. You, as a part of the human race, can make the sharing bit of the whole cycle, either shitty or spiffing. Do the latter. It’s easier being nice, trust me. I can understand if you genuinely don’t care. Be polite, use that thing in the inside of your skull to say ‘hey, I appreciate what you’ve been through, it’ll all be okay’. This gives out the message that you think their problem isn’t shitty. They’ll get the message to leave you alone and probably say something like ‘hmm, hope it works out’. If you genuinely care, ask them questions, get them to repeat the not so painful parts (hey, all this is coming from two years of psych and well, LOGIC, I’m sure you can do it too), let them know you care. If they’re the frivolous kind who will peel down their 9 layers of sadness in front of you and wake up tomorrow with sparkles and fairy dust, then ignore this bullshit of an article thingy, and just RUN as fast as your feet shall allow. They don’t deserve your time if they’re going to fake 3 hours of heart break. The other kind though. The kind who look tough on the outside, but you see them break down, and you know it’s killing them to be so vulnerable, respect them, commend their bravery for accepting their feelings and ACTUALLY letting another living soul in on them. Be the ideal listener for them. I assure you, a considerable, serious amount of mayhem is making them do this.

Out For A Walk

The breeze is cold, with no identifiable smells, it’s pleasuring. The city looks beautiful, calm and the major intersections are the only places with lights. These huge flood-lights look like mere toothpicks from where I stand. The city looks like a collection of a kid’s building blocks, organized as on a circuit board of some complex electronic device. I have seen this view multiple times, probably in every lighting condition that the eyes can perceive, yet, it looks especially mesmerizing right now. I stand on the visibly largest bridge crossing the Ganga river, marking the start of this holy city. The oldest bridge was replaced by the latest one. The double-decker bridge is barely visible which identified the city in films like Raanjhna. A train chugs through the bottom and some two-three people walk by on the top every few minutes. Dawn will break soon.

 

I stand here, after hours of trying to sleep. The breeze keeps pushing me back, tailwinds of trucks passing on the highway behind me keep thrusting me forward, and I keep swinging like a disoriented pendulum. I came here to see the end. Option 1: Fall on the bottom of the pillar, crack your skull, instant, and certain death.  Option 2: Fall in the water, I’m high enough for the surface tension to shatter my bones, I writhe in pain and eventually drown. Another possibility is I enter the water safe and sound, the cold water and strong current give me a long, slow and agonizing death, my body is found somewhere downstream. 

This is it, my dream of twelve years is finally becoming a reality. I climb and sit on the edge, anytime now.

“Hey, why are you here? What are you planning to do now?”

“I have seen it all, I have reached the tipping point of my life, it cannot get any better. I will jump and end it all.”
“Yes, that’s the best you can do, I mean, you being here or just disappearing, wouldn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Your existence is known to a maximum of a thousand people. About 500 remember that they met you. About a hundred remember you regularly. Some fifteen-twenty people care about your existence, only to eventually benefit from you. NO ONE ADORES YOU. It would be for the best for you and everyone around you if you died.”

“Wait. You have so much to live for, didn’t you want to go Bungee Jumping? You could do it if you didn’t jump now.”

“This isn’t much different though.”

All three of us laughed as a tear rolled down my face.

“Yeah, that’s true but you wanted to buy a car, raise a kid, live a happy life?”

“But isn’t that inviting more trouble down the line? Every change brings discomfort.”
“Exactly, right from choosing the pursuit of engineering. No, from choosing science. No, wait, from the first time I ever spoke, I have only invited trouble to myself and the people around me. My words, my actions, never solved anything, but definitely sprouted seeds for trouble.”

“Yeah, and you were also responsible for 9/11, don’t listen to him. You’re doing good. You’ve got a healthy lifestyle, a stable job. You are who many aspire to be. You can do anything you want to.”

“Haha, as if you’ve ever had anything in control.”

“That’s true, I have never had anything in my control. Isn’t that the truth of the world? No matter what decision I make, it always has consequences beyond my control. What am I doing, where am I headed? I will never have the life I wanted. It is all pointless. I will never know what’s next and uncertainty is never good. I can count the major events left in my life on the fingers of just one of my hands and most of them aren’t happy ones.”

“You can’t end here. People look up to you. They tell their kids your story. Wouldn’t you want that story to get better every time you meet them? Or do you want it to become a foreshadowing?”

“That is a part of the problem. I very much hate the life I have lived till now, I do not want anyone to follow my footsteps of all people.”

“The underachiever, the meta of our generation. You are spitting on the greats by calling yourself one. You idiot, people your age are running corporations, changing the world and whatnot. You are the worst example to follow. You yourself don’t want to be you. You are everything that’s wrong with you.”

“True, nothing I ever did has made a difference. My whole life has been a compromise. I have never had what I wanted. I was and never will be satisfied with what I have, and will live my entire life hustling for something better trying to unsuccessfully satiate myself. I do not want this. This is the worst part: I will never know what I truly want. What will make me full? A woman? A big home? Many big homes? Kids? Grandkids? Supercars? I guess I dreamed too big, haha. You get the gist.” 

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Not opening the box could be the biggest mistake you make. Walk back, and you can set a better example than the one you would if you jumped.”

“Haha, a box of chocolates can’t have ice creams or potato chips. I know where my life is headed, the last time I got a surprise gift was in sixth grade when my parents got me a digital camera for my birthday. There haven’t been any welcomed surprises after that. My life is not a movie, if I jump down and swim to the next town, they wouldn’t cover me in papers. They would put me in an asylum.”

“That reminds me, your birthday is coming up. Let’s postpone this ordeal until that day, the sun is up too. You do not deserve a release so soon, you should suffer more. Wouldn’t it be poetic to do it that day?”

“Yeah, not knowing what to do when they sing happy birthday would be the best torture. How bothersome, I loathe that day. I have to pick my own gift, sometimes I pick it months before or after, depending on when I need something. I have to plan a party for a bunch of ungrateful nobodies, who would dissolve in the crowd as soon as the party’s over. Leaving a debt to be fulfilled only on their birthdays.”

“Hey, you came here to celebrate that. A birthday with your parents after 4, maybe 5 years.”

“Yeah, let’s call today a trial run for what we will do on that day. Everyone will be tired from the party, it would be easier to escape.”

“Yeah, let’s head back.”

 

The sun shines from way above the horizon. People have started their days. Cattle owners, taking their herds of buffaloes to pasture. Milkmen cycling with huge tin containers on either side of the bicycle, headed to deliver or sell it at the “Satti”. Dust flows as school buses and vans rush on the roads to force start the dozy kids’ day. “You coward.” 

I put my head down. My cheeks keep getting wet, my breath keeps pacing and I blame it all on the dust. No one turns their head, ever. “They all have their problems to deal with, not everyone is as weak or has the time to lament over such issues.” The same sound keeps screaming at me on my way back. “You coward, you’ll never have the courage to do what you want. You can’t even JUST DIE. People work very hard to live and your puny, pathetic self can’t even do that. You can never be happy for you will NEVER BE SATISFIED.”

I reach home, wipe the mix of dew, dust, sweat, and tears off my face. Maa sips her daily tea while watching the headlines. Advertisements start, and she changes to some religious channel as I walk in. 

“Where were you?” She asks.

I don’t have an answer, I stay silent for a moment, it always makes me look like an intellectual who knows what he is going to say. I answer, “I was just…”

UNBURDENING

Author: Nikita Suryawanshi

“If you use your mind as a memory bank, the past will repeat itself in cycles. If your mind becomes pure attention, you will know everything that is worth knowing.”- Sadhguru.

Our body is said to be the temple of our mind. And I believe that our mind is the abode of our souls. Not only that, but it is the power house from which we draw energy to nourish ourselves. It is our mind that gives us the strength we need, the faith which we put in ourselves and others, the emotions we experience, the courage to take risks and move forward. Yet, have we ever stopped and thought about how much we inflict on our minds? Once in a while, our mind should be allowed to think about itself.

Sometimes, I think our mind is the equivalent of a time capsule. We bury so many things in it and leave it there. Many memories, emotions we were too scared to express, the anger or the hate that we felt towards someone, points we could have said in an argument but couldn’t think of at that time, imaginary scenarios and conversations that we have, all of these are stuffed in this cabinet, thinking that they will stay there and eventually get lost. But we all know that that never happens. Like and actual, physical closet, there is only so much that our minds can take. It will reach its saturation point sometime and then it explodes. And when it does, its outlet is our own lips. We need to understand that what we impose on our minds will come back to us; to shape us, to define us.

In this constant battle between the mind and the brain, we let the brain win. Why? Because the brain is a practical machine and the mind is a sentimental fool. The brain will analyze and the mind will feel. The brain will take us forward but the mind will only make us open to emotional damage. But maybe it won’t. Let the mind win. Let it win more often than you’d like. We will realise that there were so many other gates in the dark that the eye of the mind could see but not our brains because it rationally concluded that there is nothing in the shadows. We will let in a little happiness, a little love and yes, a little hurt. But I guess it is okay. It will be a lesson worth remembering.

When it comes to nourishment, the first thing most of us think is nurturing our body. Nourishing the body without nourishing the mind is a fruitless endeavor. We can very well feel what’s going on within our mind and others can feel it too through our energy. Nurturing our minds will bring us closer to ourselves and give us a sense of peace. Why not start with unburdening? Find outlets for our frustration, don’t stress bout petty things, maybe try living without over thinking things, give meditation a shot, stop self-sabotage, express the emotions we feel and mostly feed our minds with positivity. A positive mind will let in unfiltered joy in and give us the hope that in the end, everything will be okay.

Well-being encompasses all of our parts, not just the physical body. It is important to create balance by actively nurturing your whole person, consistently and lovingly. Your mind is one of the most powerful tools you have available to you to create the greatest version of your life and the highest level of health. Choose to drop the struggle. Learn to love yourself. Be an expression of joy. All of the support and guidance that you need to manifest this and so much more, will always be within you.

Cooking And Compilations

“Maa! Tell me this. Why is it that I can put in the right amount of salt almost every time? I have never cooked, never been taught about it, then how can I be so accurate with it?” I asked as I sprinkled salt over the pan to caramelize the onions. I must have been cooking some paneer dish, since I cannot cook non-vegetarian food at home. I made dinner that night and everyone felt fulfilled. It was the first time that the biggest food critique, my dad, passed my cooking. I had only cooked Maggi before this, which according to him, is not worth calling food.

“Shivam, you’ve been called to the staff room.” I had been at my best behavior, so I was pretty sure it was not about something I had done. I walked to the staff room and saw a bunch of other kids surrounding Nivedita Ma’am. She was my class teacher in sixth class and she taught English. She called me close and said, “You have a decent pronunciation. If I give you something, will you be able to read it on stage for the morning assembly?” I was excited; it was going to be my first time on stage if you ignore the Bangla play I did in the third standard where the teachers had to feed me my lines by the end. I had to recite the English translation of our national anthem, my first gig.

I was in the fifth standard. Until now, my computer lab was only about presentations but today was going to change my life. “Today we are going to learn about QBASIC: Quick Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. It is a programming language; you can make calculations and even draw with this. It is a lot like LOGO, but it can do a lot more.” I learned the most fundamental program that day. The “Hello World” program. I learned a lot of QBASIC that year, all of which I have now forgotten.

“Before performing in front of everyone, I would want you to take part in the debate. I have written something you can use.” She handed me a two-page long speech. It was perfect. Never have I been able to recreate a speech of that caliber, even though it has been ten years since then. It started and ended with a quote, it even had a poem in between. It was perhaps too good for me. On the day of the competition, I choked. Nevertheless, my assembly presentation went nicely.

“I have always noticed that people with sharper minds have very accurate assumptions when it comes to cooking. They add the right amount of salt, spices, tomatoes, etc.” my mother replied. The conversation ended, but I will be honest, it was not the first time I was cooking. I had made Maggi many times before this. Sometimes I would add a lot of vinegar or soy sauce. However, I had never had difficulty adding ingredients I had tasted. I would add anything I found in the kitchen: Pickles, Garam Masala, raw spices, Chat Masala, absolutely anything! Except for the aforementioned mistakes, I was always proud of my creations. It tasted different every time and Maa would always look forward to my new experiments. 

I cannot continue this without mentioning Dhananjay sir. He hammered down the basics of programming into his students, especially the interested ones. It was the only class I looked forward to, in my last two years of school.  Eventually, I realized, anything that a human can do, can be programmed. Some decisions and repetition of certain steps, a permutation of these could describe anything our human mind can comprehend. He would never tell us the shortcuts until we mastered the basics. We would print patterns, sort numbers. Arranging numbers in ascending order can be done in one line. Nevertheless, he made us develop our own way to do it, after which he told us about the existence of the shortcut.

 

These three hobbies influenced me greatly. It was not until recently that I realized how similar they are.

 

A good dish needs a good recipe. There are hundreds of ways to cook but it all starts with choosing the right ingredients. They must be fresh, their taste and textures should complement each other and the spices. The way they are prepared can make a huge difference. Dicing, fine chopping, grating, Julienne cutting, blending, etc. can give a wide spectrum of flavors and taste to the same ingredients. Roasting, shallow frying, deep-frying, steam cooking, etc. are all possible ways and each of them can highlight a different aspect of the same ingredient. The taste should make the person hungrier with every bite while eating half the time and make them feel fuller with every next bite for the next half.

A good speech is always less than 5 minutes long. A good lecture should not have more than 15 minutes of explanation. You need roughly 5 minutes to change the opinion of a person or to implant an idea in the crowd’s mind. A rhetorical question or a statement, preferably a joke, with a deeper meaning is always good to start with. The type of language you use, how formal you are and how you present controversial statements could make or break your speech. You should divide it into sections with interconnected topics. The most crucial step is to connect with the hearts of the crowd. I have never won any prizes for my public speaking, but I have always received a better response from my crowd than my competitors have.

A good program must have comments. After some experience, one can always tell a good code apart from a bad one. When reading a good code, you can visualize what is happening in each step. There are varieties of ways to solve a problem and optimization is the key. Choosing the right language for the right problems is a lot like choosing the right weapon to hunt. You cannot hunt birds with spears. For a problem with strings you would choose Python or JavaScript, for a numerical problem C and for a problem where you need copies of similar items, you would want to use Java.

My best code would be the menu-driven attendance management system I made, using a 2-Dimensional linked list. It was an absolute beauty. All the functions well connected, no bugs, extremely fluid and highly interactive. My masterpiece. I have come all the way from QBASIC and I still have miles to go.

From choking up in my first speech, I gave a monologue for my school farewell. It was filled with witty remarks and anecdotes from my final couple of years at school. Everyone found it relatable and had a great time. I had left my final mark, spoken my final words at school. Another good speech I gave was the one where I prepared to go for a competition but it turned out to be just an exhibition performance. I spoke crystal clear, everything went perfect and the audience was left spellbound. Once, when I had to deliver a poem written by our school’s late great director, my mic malfunctioned and every “sh” came out as an “s” and it came out as a detestable rustic accent. I now write my own scripts, they are nowhere near the first script I got, but the audience always loves it. My dream is to pull off something like Mark Antony from Julius Caesar. I can never speak well during my practice presentations, but I absolutely nail it when it matters.

I am still improving my cooking. I can follow recettes but I cannot combine non-powdered spices to create the real magic of food yet. My best dish would be the Shahi Paneer I made before coming back from my summer vacation. I can also not forget how I once messed up Anchari Paneer by using twice the amount of spices than necessary. If the first were a swim in a lake on a sunny summer day, the latter felt like walking bare feet in the desert and licking sand out of thirst.

Once you light the stove, introduce yourself on the podium or submit the code for checking test cases, there is no turning back. You have to prepare and keep all the ingredients handy; you cannot chop onions while frying your spices. They need care, five extra seconds of frying and you have vaporized their flavors. You have to ensure you are speaking in a flow, every expression, direct or indirect is visible on stage. You might think you covered it up, but a long enough pause, a slight fumble that you correct by repeating the words, it’s all noticed and you lose all the recognition from your audience. Every time you build and compile your code, the entire CPU, all of the hardware engages to comprehend what you have instructed the computer to do. Even if you asked it to do a never-ending job, it will do it until stopped. This could crash the system; damage the hardware, this small bug is enough to destroy the entire motherboard. One lazy person created the Y2K problem, which could have ended up with us losing all our digital data as we entered the new century.

All three of them, are the same. It is all about living in the moment, enjoying what you are doing and not thinking about anything else in the world. Every time I put on the frying pan, step on a stage or compile my code, time stops. My mind clears out, and all I can think of is what I am doing. My senses become sharper than a doe in an unknown part of the forest. A slight change of smell and my dish might be ruined, a short hum and my speech is gone, and a missing semicolon is like a murder amidst a crowd. I cannot afford to make a mistake, if I make one; I have to live with it. Every hobby is an escape from the daily life, where you live the moment with no pain from the past or worry about the future. “A hobby might not define who you are, but it definitely affects some aspects of your personality.” I leave you with this statement to ponder upon and the fact that Adolf Hitler made great paintings (like the one above), to support the above statement.

Up in smoke

The first lesson environmental sciences gives us is the fact that the earth is lent to us by the future generations. An alternate angle could be the fact that the earth we leave for them is our ultimate gift to them, and it certainly does not look good. The world we live in is so filled with stress that it has become a suffering to live a long life.

Stress leads to a plethora of mental and physical disorders, which eventually leads to shortened life-spans, loss of happiness, a decrease in productivity and many more problems. It only increases as people grow older. To rid themselves of this stress, people use a variety of methods which include but are not limited to alcohol, nicotine, and psycho-stimulants like sleeping pills, cocaine etc. All these ostensibly help reduce stress but in fact, give rise to an addiction. People end up using these as an excuse for not trying to find happiness in their lives. There are a variety of ways people use to blow off steam, but doing it literally is more common these days.

 

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Very common addiction to nicotine comes from cigarettes. It has been a part of our society since ancient history, with various forms of opioids and other psychoactive materials, being converted to vapors and smoked. From hookah in the middle east and India to the pipes used by aboriginals in the west, smoking up has evolved with the society.

There exist multiple types of normal cigarettes for example menthol, which people generally use to start smoking, light, advanced, for loosening up the mind, and light, for chain-smokers who do not really need it but can not deal with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.We now have e-cigarettes as well which make vapors out of anything using combustible substances and electricity. It is not yet a common sight in our country, but hookah sure is. People, young and old alike, can be seen swarming the hookah bars where they are served smoke through a water-pipe along with  food and sometimes drinks. They have become a great spot for socializing.

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However, unlike the common understanding, hookahs and e-cigarettes are equally harmful. An hour of hookah can fill your lungs with more tar than a complete pack of cigarettes.Nicotine is a great way to reduce pressure in your head, but the withdrawals leave your body craving for more. This is the logic of marketing of cigarettes, but not a good logic to follow up on.

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Another trend that is hitting the world by a storm is the recreational use of cannabis/marijuana, commonly referred to as ‘weed’. It does have significant medical benefits, which are still under research. It helps patients suffering from glaucoma, reduces nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, improves appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and treats chronic pain and muscle spasms. It is also under preliminary research for their potential to affect stroke or children’s epilepsy. Smoking it up is still not good for health.

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It can still be consumed orally through muffins, biscuits etc. If the governments globally legalize marijuana, it would definitely make the world a happier place. Imagine a pizza delivered at your doorstep with chilli flakes, oregano and marijuana sachets. Making chapatis with weed in it. Restaurants serving ‘Chhole’ and ‘Weed Bhature’. Although strict policies like that with liquor will be needed to keep it in check, however, people will have less harmful methods to de-stress themselves.

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The best stress-busting mechanism, for me, is looking at and playing with pets, be it dogs, cats or even cows. Playing a sport is equally helpful. If for some reason though, you are hooked on to nicotine, a suggestion would be to use safer alternatives like nicotine gums or patches to slowly help yourself rid of the addiction. Dogs still remain my prime suggestion for all stress related problems.

 

Don’t let this article ruin your mood, pulling a cigarette once or twice a month won’t kill you unless you have Bronchitis, like a certain friend of mine. Always try finding healthier ways to kill stress and increase productivity. Smoke is bad for you, in any form. As the reggae king, Bob Marley used to say, “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief, and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”.

Check Your Emotions Before They Checkmate.

It is that time of the year again when almost everyone under 20 is free. Free to walk under the sun, swim in the ocean, sleep under a roof, under a tree, work for some more pocket-money, explore hobbies and interests, to make the most of all the time they have. It is the time to meet your parents, your family, go to your grandparents’ home and enjoy with your cousins, for this is among the last few opportunities to do so. Everyone is going to grow and leave the nest someday.

For me, it is the time just as any other that I spend thinking of a better world. I keep wondering what the human mind can accomplish, given its creative capabilities and destructive tendencies.

Humans are social creatures. We have evolved to create communities. An urge to be in the good books of people around us is instinctive. Such behaviour is a result of the idea that weaklings can be victors as well, using the strength of unity. Unfortunately, this urge has taken away the angelic side from most of the people. We lie, cheat, and betray to be on the side preferred by the stronger person. This led me to think, what if we lost all our emotions altogether. This mental experiment can take many forms. There are plethora of films and other forms of art that have experimented with the concept.

PK, the Bollywood film, where we see a humanoid alien coming from a similar type of planet. He is naïve, always misunderstood, and pays a hefty price learning our twisted methods of living. We can also think of “The Purge” concept, where humans live peacefully except one night a year, when they murder and rape each other. The “Saw” series takes its audience through a journey that teaches how life can be lived with our moral values intact but with big stakes.

There are many ways to tell a story, and not all of them have to imply to the lesson directly. In “A town without me”, popularly known as “Erased”, we learn directly that fighting alone might not solve your problems. However, if you muster up enough courage, it resonates with others. Another lesson I saw in it, is speaking up can solve problems right in their roots. “Your Lie in April” and “Anohana” explore these concepts as well, where just speaking or accepting the truth, when and where it mattered, could have solved everything. Obviously, truth is the bitter pill to swallow most of the times but is always better than living diseased with a pretentious personality, separately for each individual you encounter in your life.

In a world where humans are always honest, we would still encounter the seven sins. In that world, even petty criminals would need severe punishments to keep the latent criminals in check. This somehow paints a picture of a communist dictatorship, where everyone is equal, and crime is crime. Honesty is honesty and not hate speech.

A robotic society, where there is no leader, no religion and people follow their will based on logic alone for instance, a society where you pull the lever and let one die to save five. Heaven in its true senses. There is no bond or relationship and we go by our lives in an orderly fashion, doing what we must do to survive. When trivial situations, mishaps and accidents happen, only logic solves them finding optimal solution for the future. This would deny human rights and would be highly apathetic. On the contrary, it compels me all the way more to make and live in a world like that.

Our world is plagued with problems; women do not get equal treatment. It will be different in my world; a human would be a human. Pay grades would exist; however, there would be no discrimination based on gender, race, cast or other reasons. There will be no poor because job requirements will control population, using brutal ways if need be. Road rage in that world would be consigned to oblivion; people will follow rules, understanding the gravity of the consequences of breaking them and not in their fear.

A world of that type would take away the humane part of us. It only seems fair to run it as an experiment and apply partial results to our real lives. This makes us realise that honesty and a life of high morale comes with a cost. You have to like others less to have a favourite. Equality is a tool mostly used by people for their own comfort just like concepts of feminism and right to live. Hope is just a boost of adrenaline that makes us jump into fire.  Nevertheless, these parts of us make us human. Life finds its meaning in between survival and ensuring longevity of its species, but is definitely not constricted merely by these concepts. We are the masters of our own life. Masquerading as the good guy would definitely be tough, consequently, you will get angry, feel hurt, and get envious. However, you must bear it alone and be the stronger person. Fight for all you deserve but not get greedy or proud of it. You define your life. Will you make it a good one?

Not Being A Prodigy

Being in the presence of a prodigy is amazing. They leave people around them often spellbound, mesmerised and awestruck with their works. Their light works as the torch that brightens the paths of many after them. Every field of human interest or disinterest as well, has those names that become metaphors for novitiates in their fields. Prodigies occur once in generations and they redefine the field they enter.  They make things seem so effortless that everyone around wants to imitate them. They set new standards, new bars to cross for people around them.  They shatter old records, styles, make new ones and repeat this all over again. It takes great effort to come to top and it takes even more to stay there. And a prodigy is one who keeps bettering himself before someone else does.

Sergey Bubka, a legend in the sport of Pole Vaulting, broke the record not once or twice but 35 times. Kenny Schrub, better known as KennyS, redefined how the AWP sniper rifle was used in the game of Counter Strike. Unconventionally, he played aggressively with it,  instead of hiding in corners and waiting for players. The list of names is limitless, but my ability to remember is. When we are capable of fully admiring a prodigy, we get unknowingly attracted to their fields.

There are two ways to become a prodigy. Imagine the making of the best wooden chest. To do so, you can either use the best wood or you can use an ordinary type of wood but craft and polish the chest in a way that it becomes unparalleled. We will talk about the first method later. To use an ordinary wood to craft the best chest, the maker needs to put in the extra effort in polishing the wood, multiple times. The wood too needs to be able to withstand that kind of polishing and stay in its shape. It goes the same for becoming a prodigy. The person needs to work themselves out, exerting, enduring harder than normal to take the top spot. One can easily tell a legend in the making when they see them pushing beyond limits.

The other way to make that chest would be selecting the best wood. This wood could’ve been lost in the forest forever, but it discovered its best use in the chest. This wood would need much less effort and would outweigh the best of the contenders and set a new standard once it is finished. This is probably the best way to make a prodigy, to be born one. To be natural at your talent will help you master the basics quicker and in a much better way. Then you can do what the best people do easily and become better than them in no time.

That might seem complete, but there is a third way to make a better chest than the two above. This can be done by using the best wood and polishing it extensively, to make it the best of the best. This chest would make the best of items put in it look inferior. This method makes a prodigy, unparalleled.  The ones above this are remembered for long. But prodigies who got up there by this way become legends. They become the origins to folklores and are cited way beyond their time. This gives us the epitome of perfection, the Sirius of a sky full of stars.

On close evaluation, we observe that all the methods discussed above are flawed. Not all of us are born with a special skill. The world is a cruel place and getting noticed itself is tough, let alone becoming the best. Not everyone is able to make the cut and thus they become a part of the general crowd. You must beat the one at top to get to the top, which leaves the veteran lost in history books. There are so many trying to get up there that it takes impenetrable will power to get there which not everyone is capable of. Every spot has numerous contenders, and there is but one winner which leaves the rest lost in the crowd. And the third method thus gets out of calculations, lost in the rare probability of finding the talented and making it the best.

Is living worthless then?

If you are not special, then why are you alive? This question that ignites the fire of existential dread among many, can be very easily answered. The first argument is, you might have still not found your talent yet so keep trying until you find what you were made for. It is never too late. The second and most pointless argument would be, you need the dark to see the stars i.e. you need ordinary people to admire the extraordinary. The third argument is what I live for:

Freedom.

When you are not a prodigy, you are not bound to something specific. You can be a guitarist for a year and an athlete in the next. You can try out everything while not being the best at any. And that is what makes your life worth living. You are not bound by the limits of perfection, but only by boredom. If one thing gets you bored, try the next because the complete saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none, though often times better than master of one”. So, keep doing what you were and keep admiring the prodigies, for they need it and deserve it. Remember this in your heart that you are only bound by your motivation to do something. You might not be the best but hey, you never planned to come this far either.