Cooking …a therapy

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A person who was bubbling with energy and having the zest for life suddenly one morning felt her heart beat fast, fatigued, low, dull and she felt something was amiss. She could not put a finger on what was really wrong but she just didn’t feel energetic like always. She assumed it was nothing but fatigue, stress due to work pressure that was making her feel that way.

As day’s passed by she became irritable and restless. Managing a daily routine became a chore for her. She would snap at people at a drop of a hat and behave unreasonable with her colleagues and then, she would feel miserable about her behavior and weep.

Things were not getting better and soon she found it difficult to go to work and meeting up with her friends, who she was always happy to be with. Getting up in the morning and getting ready for the day was feeling like a big chore to do. She would lay down in bed longer than her usual time not realizing how wet the pillow would get with her tears. She just couldn’t figure out what was going on within her. Her parents tried to talking to her, but she, would just be quiet and cry.

She thought a break from office, and pursuing a hobby would do her good. She loved cooking, painting and listening to music. She enrolled for a cooking class and went for it, but she felt so restless that she left mid way and came home. Her parents were getting worried with this sudden turn that had happened in their daughters life. They spoke to her friends to figure out if something had gone wrong at work or with her friends, or was she on any drugs, but most of them were themselves clueless of her behavior as she had become very quiet and would prefer to be by herself.

She was very fond of cooking and that was one of the things that gave her immense happiness, but in no time she lost her confidence to enter the kitchen and even boil a cup of water. She soon confined herself to her room and would refuse to even come out for meals, she just didn’t feel like eating and lost oodles of weight. She was finding it difficult to sleep as she would be sitting in bed and trembling all night with anxiety. She had become frail and pale. She refused to meet her friends who would visit her. That’s the time her parents realized it was not a very simple issue she was going through.

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Her parents took her to their physician, who recommended counseling and told them she needs to visit a psychiatrist for it. Her parents were wondering why would their daughter need counseling, and probably it was just a phase and they were sure she would get out of it. They thought so probably because they were not ready to accept that their daughter was having a psychiatric issue and also people are still averse to visiting one due to social pressures. But her situation got worse, and finally they were left with no choice. They decided to seek help from a psychiatrist.

The doctor heard all that she was feeling and going through. Many tests were conducted, some medical and some written and finally after the diagnosis was done the treatment started. The doctor had figured out the issues that were troubling her.

Slowly but steadily the counseling started and the  journey of up’s and down’s, working on stability, consistency, confidence and patience started. Certain medication was given which brought down her restlessness and she could sleep well.

The doctor gave her ideas to help her deal with her situation and to get her confidence back and would reinforce the thought that she needed to start her life afresh, which she struggled at first but religiously followed his advice. The medication also helped her sleep better, but yet she was not feeling confident enough to resume work or getting out of home.

Inspite of all that she was trying to do, it was taking sometime to get on track which was frustrating her at times, bringing back negative thoughts, anger and irritation, and at such times the doctor would tell her to hold on and not give up and also reminded her that Rome was not built in a day. He helped her to build her patience and to stay focused and be consistent and the results would be slowly seen.

During the course of treatment the doctor realized her love for cooking and how the thought of food bought an amazing twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face. She would share some amazing stories with him related to food and travel during her childhood. How she would like to try new recipes and once she would perfect the recipe she would write it down in a book.

He asked her to start cooking again and may be that would make her happy. She  told him she found it difficult to enter the kitchen leave alone cook. So now it was time to deal with her fears he realized. At the end of the session the doctor asked her who was a foodie himself to cook something for him and get at the next session.

When she reached home, a little late in the evening after the session, she smelt her favorite dal being cooked, she stepped into the kitchen and simply sat on the kitchen platform and observed her mother boiling the dal. Her mum was very surprised and happy. Her next few days went in observing what was cooking in the kitchen and seldomly telling how the recipe could be made in another way.

One evening, the father returned home from work a little earlier than usual, not aware his wife was out shopping grocery. He needed a cup of hot tea to beat the fatigue, he asked his daughter with hope in his eyes, if she could oblige him with a cup of hot tea. That evening, she somehow, didn’t have the heart to refuse her father as she saw how tired he looked and slowly she walked up to the hob and after a bit of a struggle she managed made a cup of tea for him. I think Daddy’s girl just wanted to see her Daddy smile. That cup of tea she made, brought a sense of achievement in her and a big smile on her Dad’s face, not just because the tea was nice but it was all about the fact that she had managed to make it. It became a routine for a few days after that, where she would make tea for her father

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Her friend after a long time, came over home to see her after work and was quite famished with hunger and demand something to eat. She made a simple bread, butter and jam sandwich, which progressed to sometimes making corn on toast, or a chutney sandwich later. Some of her friends started frequenting her home again and they were really happy to see her getting a grip on herself and her life.

New year was around the corner and most of the friends were keen on her coming over to  a friends farm house and bring in the new year. She refused the invitation as she was  just was not ready to leave her comfort zone. The thought of doing something different was building in anxiety. Her friends tried talking to her but it didn’t help. Her parents convinced her that it would be all good and a change away from home would help. The doctor too said the same.

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On 31st December morning, she along with her friends left for Karjat. Unsure, slightly uncomfortable as she was out with her friends after a long time. It was very sensitive of her friends to not give her unnecessary attention and make her feel different. In fact they were all having fun and she also became a bit comfortable in sometime. That evening was fun, they sat by the poolside and bar – be – qued and chatting and generally having a great time. She was feeling low at certain moments as she missed home but being with so many friends helped her over come that feeling.

It had become a routine for her to go straight to her room when she would be back from the doctor’s, but this time when she came back home from the trip, she sat with her parents who were keenly waiting for her and to hear all she had to say. While she was narrating all that happened, she realized that it was not so bad after all, in fact she enjoyed it.

Soon enough she felt she needed to snap out of what she was emotionally going through and that, this was no way of leading a life and that she was not a looser. She slowly but steadily started to lead a life like the way she did before. Would wake up and get ready and tried to dress up well. She made it a point to sit in the living room more often and read, go to the market with her mom. Though there were some up’s and down’s in her moods, but along with her psychiatrist and parents she was managing to get a hold on herself.

On one of the appointments with the psychiatrist she surprised him. She gave him a small box of a carrot cake that she would bake well. The doctor was not just surprised but most happy to see the change in his patient, that feeling was more sweeter than the cake itself. The praise she received after he had the first bite, made her think even more strongly that the road ahead was beautiful !

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NOTE: Picture source GOOGLE

 

THE TREE OF LIFE

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A coconut tree is once such tree where each and every part of the tree is useful.

The roots were used to make dyes, tooth brush, mouthwash and it also has medicinal values.

The leaves are used to make thatched roofs. Also used in making containers for storage. We store rice

The coconut water, we all love to drink. The thick, crisp, inner flesh of the mature seed is a regular ingredient in a diet for people in the tropics and subtropics.And from the same flesh of the mature seed oil is extracted, which is used for cooking and frying. Coconut milk is also made from the same, which is used to flavor different curries.

The coir from the fibrous husk is used in making a variety of furnishing products.

The coconut also has a religious and cultural significance in certain societies particularly in India

On this note I want to share some memories of a trip that I took to my village.

The part of India that I hail from Karawar in Karnataka is rich and luscious with coconut trees. Whenever I visit my maternal ancestral home the first thing that is served is fresh coconut water.

I went to Aversa a village  few kilometers away from Karwar where my ancestral home is in the rains. It was a trip that was planned on the spur of the moment. At 8:00 am in the morning I got a call from my uncle Balu kaka, saying I should attend the Nopi festival, which was a day away. So by 9:00 am I packed my bag and headed to the airport. Surprisingly I managed to get a ticket for the next flight and landed in Goa at 1:30 pm.

Found a local taxi that would take me straight to Aversa. It was a beautiful mesmerizing two, hour drive. Driving through the small winding roads and passing through quaint villages was so nostalgic. Finally reached Aversa and on seeing my entire family the fatigued of the travel just vanished.

As always Balu Kaka (uncle) went and plucked a coconut and served me fresh coconut water while the rest of the family was surprised to see me. Balu kaka and I decided to make it a surprise after her had convinced me to come. My parent, cousins, aunts and uncles were really happy that I came.

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The evening was spent well with family, we went for a long walk to our fields nearby and then returned home to see a sumptuous spread that my aunts and mum had made of fried fish, batatya talasni (sauté potatoes), dalitoi (dal made with ginger and chilles and laced with coconut oil) and rice. Nothing to beat a simple home cooked meal.

The next morning was even more fun. We all cousins had left for a town called Ankola at 6:00 am to buy the vegetables, coconuts, fruits and the rest of the ingredients that were going to be needed for the pooja the next day, where after the pooja the entire village is given a feast and so we had to go to the town to procure all the goods. All the ingredients and us cousins were loaded on a small truck back to Aversa, where the truck driver dropped us off to the village temple. The bumpy ride back home was fun but our bones were creaking too at some point.

My uncle who was the chef and in charge sorted the vegetables, fruits, flowers and over 100 coconuts and kept in their respective places. He was going through his lists and checking the stock and scribbling on small chits of papers assigning jobs for the prep.

After a while it was announced that I will be chopping vegetables along with other ladies of the village and then if time permits and my job done, I was also instructed that I would have to assist in making the garlands for the gods. These are anyways a few of my favorite jobs to do.

The menu for the next days lunch was a very elaborate and a traditional one of gajbajya randoi (a vegetable curry using gourds), muga molya randoi (sprouted mung curry), bhendi ghosalya upkari (okra and ridge gourd vegetable), dalitoi, rice, ambaya nonche (hog plum pickle), payasam (Kheera), kesar bhaat (saffron and sugar rice). The number of people eating would be 600, so one can imagine the kilos of vegetables to be chopped and the number of coconuts to be scraped, sounds tough but I was sure it would be fun.

In the afternoon after we returned home, the rest at home were relaxing in the courtyard sipping wine and vodkas and relishing freshly fried crisp mackerel that Balu kaka was frying and having a gala time. We joined in as well and had a wonderful afternoon where lunch went on till 4 pm till we finally one by one crashed in our beds for an afternoon siesta.

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After a cup of hot tea in the evening at around 7:00 pm we all assembled in the temple courtyard where the vegetables were washed and kept. We were 8 women who were on the job of chopping vegetables. As we were about to start one of them started singing hymns and the rest followed. I don’t know how to speak kanada very well so I was a silent observer enjoying it completely. By about 10:00 pm all the veggies were chopped and the coconuts were scraped and everything was neatly kept in a small room and locked.

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The next morning my uncle Gundu who was the chef woke up at 4:00 am and after a cold water bath at the well and headed to the temple kitchen with his team. So for this festival the cooking is done only by the males of the family, while the women get dressed in their fineries and head to the temple for the pooja.

So I along with the rest of the ladies at home, got ready in my fineries and went off to the temple and sat down to make the garlands.

The next few hours were just totally divine and mesmerizing. The melodious sounds of the mantras, the fragrance of the flowers, camphor and the incense sticks and the rain had simply put me in trance.

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By the time the pooja was over it was 1:30 pm and all the villager were queued up with their little offering of flowers, bananas and coconuts. After which they all moved to a hall where the food was going to be served. I too went along with my family, but to serve the lunch that was cooked by my uncle.

It was a long hall with a smooth slurry flooring where the banana leaves were placed in rows. One by one all the villagers sat down and washed their banana leaves with the water that was served for drinking. After that we all started to serve. First the pickles and salt was served followed by the dry vegetables and then the curries. Finally the rice and dal was served. After the priest finished saying some mantras aloud the people started eating. The system of serving was so well organized that I just didn’t imagine we had serve more than 600 people that afternoon. At the end my family and I sat and relished the meal to our hearts content.

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I returned home really tired but totally satisfied. This was indeed one of the best trips ever for me.

Being in the moment

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We hear a lot about mental stress, depression, anxiety, suicide now a days and many of us also keep promoting blogs, videos, small write ups for a better mental health.

I happen to meet a friend a few days back. She suffers from anxiety for many years and I have seen her struggle through it and come out of it gloriously. I have seen how she copes with it and I am totally, impressed by her.

I happen to meet her a few day back as we make it a point to meet up once a week and she seemed really low and a bit unhappy. I usually avoid talking about anything unhappy with her as it can reinforce negative thoughts in a person who is emotionally low.

So as usual I tired talking about different fun things to change her state of mind and she just didn’t seem to be involved in my talks. I realized the graveness of her situation and finally with a heavy heart asked her why was going on with her?

The question just got her eyes moist and I saw she was gathering courage to hold her tears back and speak her heart and mind to me. The first sentence she said was “even if I want to move on in life, my family keeps reminding me of how I was unwell and incapable of looking after them.” And this got me angry but I had to get a grip on my emotions.

Her husband, a busy man was traveling a lot for work and was mostly out of the country. Her children were at an age where they just would not listen to her if she tried correcting them. Even though now she is better and capable of not just taking care of herself but also her home, her children just would say “you haven’t been around when we needed you and now we can manage on our own!” even if it was true the way it was said would hurt her.

If for some reason she shouted at the kids the in- laws would wonder if she is was anxious and depressed again. She was having a tough time at home to make her family understand that she is fine and can deal with every situation.

She was sounding very tired when she said, it was not easy to over come anxiety and depression and when she finally has managed to do that, she has a new battle to fight with her family to make them understand that she is better. And I felt that do we ever stop handling situations and issues ever in our life. All we need is to take each day as it comes and be in the moment.

I held her had and told her that she need not be anxious about it but rather she needs to be patient and let everybody see the change. At the same time I also understand her feeling of coping up with all the time she has lost in looking after her children and her marriage. But all I could tell her was its never too late to set things right. We can’t turn back the clock but we can certainly make a better future.

 

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Grief, sorrow, misery, pain………

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What is grief?

The definition of grief that I found in the dictionary was

“Intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death”

We all go through grief in our lives at some point or the other and many of us on different occasions as well.

I was talking to a very dear friend who is going through grief for sometime caused due to the loss of someone who was very dear to her. While we were chatting about what she was going through a question just came into my mind.

Why is grief only caused by someone’s death?

What do you say about the feelings and the pain you go through when a close friendship or relationship dies? The pain and the suffering one goes through, can that also be called grief? Cause ultimately it is death of something that has been dear to you.

These days most of us seem to have got really busy with building our career or endlessly providing a comfortable life for our loved ones.

I remember, as a child life was so simple not just for me but also for my parents.

Dad worked on a very good post in a reputed company. His timings were 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Even though he had to travel really far he was always home by 7:00pm. Fun weekends were planned either short trips to nearby places, a movie or a simple dinner at a restaurant. We would go to the beach for a swim or just simply make sand castles and feel super proud with the bigness created.

If any of the meals would be boring at home or I didn’t like, I would simple walk into my neighbors home and see what exciting was cooked and ate to my hearts content and come home all satisfied.

Our way of communicating with the rest of the friends would not be on what’s app or on the phone but one would simply stand in the window and make a typical sound from the mouth and in a few seconds all the friends would be peeping out of the window and making plans to meet up in the evening using sign language.

Today technology has become very advanced and we have a mobile phone which we all our using to communicate. If I need to talk to a friend I don’t have to visit her and spend time with her, I simply dial some buttons on my phone and I can hear her. That’s amazing! but somewhere the whole thing of just simply going to your friend’s home and spending fun moments has reduced. Missing a person and taking that effort to meet up has reduced a lot.

Our world, which is so large and amazing has suddenly become very small. It now, just fits into our computers and mobile phones. Most of us are so lost in it that we have forgotten to see things going on around us. For example, while we are traveling we miss seeing so many things that create an impact on our minds and the memory of that is etched forever in our hearts.

A few days back I was driving to the gym and just on the corner of the street that I live I saw a tree that was blossomed with tiny pink flowers and can you imagine I had never seen that before coz probably I was busy messaging on the mobile phone. This thought really made me feel sad as how many of us realize how technology has taken over our lives. Isn’t it some kind of a death with reality of life.

I had many friends who I would make it a point to meet up and have a good time. But today the convenience of just picking up a phone and talking has killed wonderful friendships as we don’t meet up often. This is making most of us lonely in spite of living in a city that is buzzing all the time. Shouldn’t we grief over the death of simpler times.

I am not here to advocate against the usage of technology. But I was simply trying to compare that what kind of a life we are leading of grief without even realizing it

 

Moringa! ……not a film character but a tree!

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Yesterday I went to the local market gadding about looking out for some unique vegetable that I could buy and cook.

After walking for a bit I reached my regular vegetable vendor Ram Prasad who usually sells leafy vegetables and I found a small cane basket full of tiny white flowers tucked away slyly in a corner. The basket was not clearly visible

Curiously I looked deeper in the corner and I realized they were the moringa flowers and suddenly there was a big smile on my face.

I gave Ram Prasad a look which made him feel guilty of hiding those flowers from me and he quickly tried to cover up his blunder saying that the produce was too less to be sold and so he had kept it away.

Well after all the convincing he tried I bought the small basket of the moringa flowers and walked back home like I had won the war.

My staff at home, were very excited to see these flowers and were not sure what I would make of it. I told them a story of my childhood, which I will share with you all as well.

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In my hometown Aversa we have our ancestral home which we would visit every summer vacation. My Grandma would eagerly wait for all of us to come and relish the different varieties of mangoes, guava, chickoo and jackfruit. It would be a feast for us to gorge on the amazingly tasting fruits.

So in the front garden she had planted some mango trees, a guava tree, a chickoo tree, a jackfruit tree and right in the corner of the garden there was this delicate Moringa or drumstick tree.

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The leaves, flowers and the drumsticks of this tree are used in our cuisine. With the leaves Amma (grandma) would make a simple vegetable, which would be sautéed in coconut oil, onions and green chillies and garnished with fresh grated coconut.

The drumstick would be used in sambar and many a times coated with chilli powder and rava and pan fried crisp to perfection.

 

Back then food would be cooked on wood fire. Every morning Amma would offer a small prayer to the Agni deva before she would lit the fire. Then she would scrape fresh coconut for the meal and grind it along with some spices on a stone grinder to make curries. My favorite part would be to grind on the stone, pluck the fresh vegetables for the curry.

 

One morning while we were all seated on the floor for breakfast with banana leaves placed in front of us and garma garam soft idli and sambar served she asked me to help her pluck the morninga flowers after I had finished, but my excitement and impatience took over my hunger and I simple left the breakfast and dragged her to pluck them.

While we were picking the flowers I asked her what was she going to cook with these pretty looking flowers and she smiled and said Vade (cutlets) I was quiet surprised and had a puzzled look on my face. She looked at me and said wait until you taste it. After picking the flowers I trailed behind her to the kitchen. She placed them on platform and asked me to clean them and wash them genteelly.

She put some freshly scraped coconut and spices to grind on the stone and I offered to help and to her surprise I managed to make a paste just the way she wanted and the cutlets with the moringa flowers were made

img_8405The feeling of helping Amma cook a dish even today boosts my morals when I am cooking something difficult

The ‘Sequel’ to unconditional love

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Sequel the 4thmember of our family came to our home on the 2ndof October 2016.

Oh but wait first let me introduce you to Sequel …….and how she came into our life

In 2015, I was very busy with the publication of my cook book Karwar to Kolhapur Via Mumbai and in 2016 April 17ththe book was released. This book took good 3 years to be completed and it was a full time job as thoughts would come anytime in the day and then one thought would link up to the other and I just would not realize how time would fly.

But after the book released and I basked in its glory for sometime I was happy and content and relaxing. In no time I started getting anxious as time just would not pass and as usual the kid and husband both are busy. I thought I’m done writing with the book that I had wanted to and I could not figure out what should be the next step. Good 5 months passed away and then I started getting restless. Sitting idle at home was seeming impossible. I would meet up with friends, have lunches and go out for dinner with them, but how much can you do that.

The day started seeming never ending and restlessness was at its peak.

One evening I was at a very close friend Shilpa’s home along with another dear buddy KD and I was talking to both of them as to how I seem to be feeling lost without work and everyone around at home so busy that I felt “kutra pun nahi ahe vicharalya” (there is no dog around also who can give you attention) basically in Marathi when a person is at his lowest and people don’t care about him / her they usually say “Tyala Kurt pun vicharat nahi” (even a dog does not bother about him) and that’s exactly how I felt. To this thought KD immediately suggested why don’t you get a dog home!

I have always ben petrified of dogs be it small or large and now imagine KD feels getting a dog should do me good! I was not so sure of this suggestion, but the thought was ticking constantly in my head.

Yug has always been a dog lover and for many years had been coaxing me to get one, so I thought “ek teer main do nishane” I started toying with the idea, weighing the pros and cons as getting a dog home is a huge responsibility, just like raising another child who cannot even speak your language. So after a lot of discussions it was decided that we should get a dog home…. But my only condition was that lets get a smaller breed now and once I’m used to it then lets get a bigger breed later.

And that’s how a teeny weeny Shih Tzu puppy came home….. I did feel like a absolute first time mother who is unsure of what to do, also a name had to be thought of… we had a dog many years back called Junior who was a Shih Tzu but for some reason he was not with us for too long and so Sequel came in as a respite to Junior who we missed very dearly and in no time got very attached and also realized it was not all that difficult. In fact it was fun and Yug would be excited with her around to teach her to fetch.

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Trust me, ever since she has come home, the house seems bustling with energy and seeing lil Sequel running all around the house feels amazing and the best part is, when your back home from work or an outing the welcome you get is indescribable.

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