Posted in Daily, Family and Society, poetry, Reflections

From One Candle

“Those candle flames were like the lives of men. So fragile. So deadly. Left alone, they lit and warmed. Let run rampant, they would destroy the very things they were meant to illuminate. Embryonic bonfires, each bearing a seed of destruction so potent it could tumble cities and dash kings to their knees.” Brandon Sanderson

With constant power outages in the midst of the heavy rains (the latter being an affirmation of the monsoon season getting into it’s full swing); light and electricity, the essentials for daily living are often more “drained out” than available. Which is why, the alternative measures, ranging from generators to inverters, emergency lanterns and the like are made available to continue the daily life, uninterrupted, hassle free and comfortable, be it home, neighbourhood, office or an institute. Yet when the alternatives too run out after continuous long hours or even days of power outages, the two essentials to fall back on are the “sun-rays” and the “candle”. No matter how technologically advanced one becomes, at the end of the night, it’s the candle that throws some light; especially during power outages.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” Anne Frank

The fascination in watching the flames of the candle flicker never dies out with time. The light as well as the direction of the flame, the shadow and patterns it casts are few of the many reasons why candles are still around. Most is the warmth reflected by a candle. At times, candles remind one of people in general. The spread of warmth and sharing of light makes the most aloof person glow and lights up the inner happiness. At the same time, when misused, lit wrong or without proper safety measures and precautions, candles have the capacity to light ablaze destroying everything in the process. The potential and power of a candle, like people, can never be underestimated. The more one grows optimism and love within; the more light is shared and like candles; warmth, happiness and joy is spread about. Even if one candle is lit, it can make a big difference in the world around it.

“Each time a person passes by you and you say ‘hello’, imagine that person turning into a candle. The more positivity, love and light you reflect, the more light is mirrored your way. Sharing beautiful hellos is the quickest way to earn spiritual brownie points. You should start seeing hellos as small declarations of faith. Every time you say hello to a stranger, your heart acknowledges over and over again that we are all family.” Suzy Kassem

And People Went Out Like Candles

Sometimes, there is a longing in the evening,
But there is no soul near …
So people went out like candles …
They broke like pencils …

And they need just a little –
Support without prickly phrases,
Love is sensitive and trust in God …
And compassion for kind eyes …

Heartbreak was not noticed …
We are in a hurry about our business …
And people went out like candles …
They broke like pencils …

We do not need advice,
When longing is in the soul …
We need a drop of light in our heart,
When there is a hand in our hand …

A meeting with a loved one –
Saving the human soul …
People shone like candles …
They sharpened like pencils …

-Irina Samarin-Labyrinth
(Translated to English. Source: vk.com)

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Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Pickles, Beyond the “Pickled Peppers”

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
-“Peter Piper” Lyrics (Roud Folk Song Index number 1945)

With a preschool child in the family, the tunes of nursery rhymes runs through out most of the time. Consequently the well-known alliteration tongue-twister English rhyme was a challenge for both the child and the parents, especially the latter.

Interestingly although John Harris (1756-1846) had published the earliest version of this tongue twister in Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation (London,1813); this rhyme was apparently known at least a generation earlier. The subject of the rhyme as asserted by few authors was Pierre Poivre, an eighteenth-century French horticulturalist and government administrator of Mauritius, who once investigated the Seychelles’ potential for spice cultivation.

Following the train of words and thoughts, “pickles” was the food-based research over the weekend. The food preparation technique of “pickling” is the process of preserving or extending the lifespan of food by either anaerobic fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar or vinaigrette. Typically changing the texture, taste and flavour, there are a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, meats, fish (and even eggs) which can be pickled and varying methods to chose from. Preserving perishable foods for months, the pH of pickles are maintained at 4.6 or less, which kills most bacteria. Additional antimicrobial herbs and spices like mustard seeds, garlic, cinnamon or cloves, may be added. The flavours of the final product of “pickle” depends mainly on the acidity or salinity of the solution, the temperature of fermentation, and the exclusion of oxygen. Although used in moderation for the fear of acidity and spiciness linked to carcinogenic properties, pickles have been a part of the food culture from the beginning.

As far as origins are traced, “pickles” or similar forms had made their appearance as early as 2400 BC with archaeological evidence from the area of Mohenjo Daro civilization (Tigris Valley) of northwest Indian Subcontinent. From being Cleopatra’s prized beauty secrets or in popular writings, “pickles” were the earliest foods considered as a necessity for long sea voyages, road travels, for soldiers or simply to preserve food for the harsh seasons or periods of time.

Though “pickle” had early roots, from an etymology point, this late Middle English word (c.1400) came probably from the Middle Dutch of pekel or East Frisian päkel or German pökel, all meaning “brine”. Going further beyond, the word is of uncertain origin or original meaning.

Pickles aren’t limited to being salty or spicy alone, they can be sweet, sour, hot or a combination of them. Each area has their own method of pickling, most handed down from one generation to the next, as a family tradition. South Asian pickles (popularly known as achar or achaar in most areas, term of ?Persian origins) are varied in their making, include seasonal vegetables, fruits and meats, generally mixed with salt, spices and vegetable oils; set to mature in a moistureless medium. Moving on to Southeast Asia (Singapore, Indonesian and Malaysian) pickles, or “acar” were typically made of cucumber, carrot, bird’s eye chilies, shallots, papaya and pineapple; seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt. Further east, Koreans have kimchi while the Japanese pickled plums and daikon.

Whereas in the Middle East pickles from peppers, olives to lemons; while in mst of Western Asia pickles (called torshi in Persian, tursu in Turkish and mekhallel in Arabic) are commonly made from turnips, peppers, carrots, green olives, cucumbers, cabbage, green tomatoes, lemons and cauliflower. Eastern Europeans introduced various forms of lacto-fermented cabbage, known as sauerkraut. In Russia, the leftover brine (called rassol in Russian) is used for cooking traditional soups, like shchi, rassolnik and solyanka. When the English and the Europeans had arrived in the Americas; they brought their method for creating sweet pickles with vinegar, sugar and spiced syrup. Pickled cucumbers (most often referred to simply as “pickles”), olives and sauerkraut are most commonly seen in the United States and Canada.

Combining all these methods, “pickling” is indeed an art, with each area, region, country or community having their own special technique of making them. Little wonder that although the National Pickle Day is celebrated by foodimentarians ( primarily in US) on November 14th, the National Pickle Month (July) is indeed to explore and recreate these “global” pickles dishes. With rain on and off, there’s nothing more creative than “recreating historical foods” diverse and variant in their own style.\

Posted in Life, Quotes, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World, Work

Of Criticism and Growth

“The greatest success is by helping others succeed and grow”. Gregory Scott Reid

Daily meetings, brain storming sessions, weekly to monthly audits and assessments are just a few of the many routines that become a part of the working hours. Besides the stress of getting prepared for these meetings is the onslaught of criticism that often comes along with them. Many a time, the harsh words, though said for improvement on the whole, have the potential to ruin not just the mood for the day or the project, but also destroy the cordiality and communication between colleagues.

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” Frank A. Clark

An open two edged sword is criticism; for it has both the power and potential, to create as well as destroy, even if done with the best intentions at heart, albeit a poor deliverance. To grow, one needs to know the better way of doing things as well as new methods. Fresh perspectives are often given when viewed from far, or when heard from a fresh viewpoints. Criticism is needed to grow and flourish; but certain practicalities need to be kept in mind when dealing with them.

“Every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration. Constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought.” Margaret Chase Smith

For the criticizers, learning to objective, non-biased, fair and practical, removing undesirable or malicious personal intentions from the root, while thinking to criticize. There are always different ways to say the same thing. For instance, “Although the planning is good, there are few gray areas that may not help it to work out” sounds better than “this plan is preposterous“. While truth is truth, “practical be practically feasible” and “direct-to-the-point sayees” not sugar-coat their words; there are ways to be gentle, direct, kind as well as truthful, without being hurtful, malicious or derive pleasure from the downfall of others. After all what goes around, comes round and back to the initiator in the long run.

“I criticize by creation, not by finding fault.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

On the receiving end, learning to accept and discard the right words, objectives, advice or plans are equally important in improving the self in the long run. In order to experience growth and progress; one needs to improvise, remove possible errors and initiate changes at the right time. All these and more can be made by accepting fresh perspectives, once in a while. Criticism will always come no matter what. It’s up to oneself to show the right attitude and deal with the words, actions and deeds that one may come across, especially at the work front. As a matter fact, stone are thrown only at trees bearing fruit.

“Stay positive and happy. Work hard and don’t give up hope. Be open to criticism and keep learning. Surround yourself with happy, warm and genuine people.” Tena Desae

Many years ago there were a group of brilliant young men at the University of Wisconsin. The group of men seemed to have an amazing creative literary talent and were extraordinary in their ability to put their literary skills to its best use. These promising young men met regularly to read and critique each other’s literary works. These men were merciless while they criticized one another. They dissected the most minute of the expressions and offered tough and even mean criticism to each others work. Their meeting sessions became arenas of literary criticism and the members of this exclusive club called themselves the “Stranglers.”

Not to be excluded to the opportunity to level up there literary skills, the women of literary interest in the university started a club of their own, one comparable to Stranglers. The members called themselves the “ Wranglers.” The member of the lub too presented their literary pieces in front of each another. But the feedback from the members were much more softer, more positive and more encouraging. Every effort from a member, even the most feeble one, was encouraged by all.

After twenty years, a university alumnus was doing a study of his classmates’ career when he noticed a huge difference in the literary accomplishments of the Stranglers and the Wranglers. Among all the brilliant young men in the strangler, none had made any significant literary achievement. But the Wranglers had several successful writers and some renowned national literary talents. The talent and the education between the two groups were almost the same. There were not much difference. The Stranglers strangled each other while the Wranglers gave each other a lift. The stranglers created atmosphere of contention and self doubt while the Wranglers brought out the best in each other. (Source: vk. com)

“If we had no faults we should not take so much pleasure in noting those of others.” François de La Rochefoucauld

 

Posted in Christian, Daily, Family and Society, Musique, Reflections, Uncategorized

Through Uncertain Times

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom

As I was stacking up the old newspapers for recycling; amidst them was last year’s calendar. With the accompanying monthly pictures being beautiful, I hadn’t discarded it but kept it aside to cut them out. With the pending task being accomplished, I leafed through the months and the tiny notes along the dates. “School reopening”, doctors’ appointment, “sports’ dates”, local functions aref ew of the many red or green inked circles that were scattered through the year.

“For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect.” 2 Samuel 22:33

Looking back, I felt blessed by His Grace and the countless ways He had kept watch over us and the daily happenings. At times, the feeling of wonder strikes as one realizes long after the difficult situations were over, how God had stood over our lives, guiding us with His Hand and by His Word. The relocation to a new place of work, new school year, family weddings and many more; all the big events within the family were felt big and difficult in those days; but went smooth largely due to His Grace and Blessings.

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” Martin Luther

Many a time, some of the changes in life may be forced. An unforeseen work related transfer, opportunity to pursue higher studies, ill health and the like. Though decisions are made, they mayn’t work out. Yet once we place it in His Hands and be prepared to do things as they come; then things start falling into place and happening at the right time. Eventually when the obstacle had been crossed, one realizes the true magnificence of His Grace, His Power and His Love. Man being man mayn’t foresee many things. How much more better it would be ], when we put everything in His Hands, put in our efforts and await His Will to show us the way.

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

“….I am one of those who are determined to go to the end.
I will not slow down the pace, I will not look back, but I will praise Christ.
I will not give up, do not shut up,
Do not weaken and do not burn.
I will not finish praying, with Christ I stand.

I am one of those who firmly decided to go to the end.
I can not stop, do not buy, do not hold.
And when He comes to pick up his own, he will recognize me,
Because I am one of those who have come to the end.

And if the salt loses its power that will replace it?
And lit a candle, do not put it under a vessel.
Here I am before You, use me for Your glory
On earth, Jesus, let Thy will be done

Olga Yatsenko ( few lines of Poetry/lyrics of “Till the End”, translated to English)

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

From Sundae to “Cones”

With the Ice cream month of July, coming to a near end; indulging in the various combinations and food innovations with ice cream being a primary ingredient is a must. Although summer was never an excuse to indulge in the delights of ice cream, the latter is a good enough reason to beat the intermittent summer heat as well as the monsoon blues.

“Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt.” Judith Olney

Going creative to serve and enjoy ice cream was what lead to the origin of the ice cream sundae as well as the ice cream cone. Regarding the legends leading to the creation of the ice cream sundae, the frequent underlining factor was that, it was a variation of the popular ice cream soda. Made towards the 20th century, one factor that played a role in it’s creation was the banning of soda on Sundays in Illionis. Quite soon, it’s popularity took over with ice cream sundae becoming the weekend semi-official confection. As accounted by the Ice Cream Trade Journal (1909) along with plain or French sundae, other exotic varieties were listed like Robin Hood sundae, Cocoa Caramel sundae, Black Hawk sundae, Angel Cake sundae, Cinnamon Peak sundae, Opera sundae, Fleur D’Orange sundae, Tally-Ho Sundae, Bismarck and George Washington sundaes, to list a few.

Besides the ice cream, partially what lures some, is the fascinating cone that comes with it. The soft crunchiness adds to the flavours of the ice cream. The ice cream cone, poke (Ireland and Scotland) or cornet is usually made of a wafer similar in texture to a waffle, as a dry pastry which enables ice cream to be had held in the hand. From wafer (or cake) cones, waffle cones to sugar cones, there are different types of ice cream cone; styled also as pretzel cones, chocolate-coated cones or even double wafer cones. From the regular conical, pointed base to flat shaped base, cones can be shaped as the latter to stay upright by self.

As early as 1825, edible cones were mentioned in the French cookbooks with Archambault’s description of rolling a cone from little waffles. Towards the 19th century, English cook A.B.Marshall’s (1888) recipe for “Cornet with Cream” said that “the cornets were made with almonds and baked in the oven, not pressed between irons”. While edible cones were patented independently by two Italian entrepreneurs(1902-03), the fashion of the ice cream cone had gained momentum at the St. Louis World’s Fair (1904). There Arnold Fornachou, a concessionaire who was running an ice cream booth had ran short on paper cups. Buying waffles from Ernest Hamwi, a waffle vendor nearby; Fornachou rolled the waffles into cones to hold the ice cream.

Although this was the most widely circulated story, much dispute is still laid as to where ice-cream cones became mainstream. Credit for the ice cream cone was also claimed by Abe Doumar and the Doumar family can also claim credit for the ice cream cone. Likewise Doumar had also created rolled up the waffles with a scoop of ice cream on top. He began by selling the cones at the St. Louis Exposition which became an instant success. In fact he had set up the Doumar’s Drive In, Norfolk, Virginia (1907). Even today it operates at the same location established initially, making it a Hampton Roads landmark.

“I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream.” Heywood Broun

To complete the ice cream experience; mixing the different styles of ice cream soda, sundae, toppings, flavours served in waffles or cones would add to the fun as well as palatable experimentation, bringing delight not just to the taste cravings or as comfort food, but also as an artistic rendering to the eye. After all ice cream lifts not just the taste cravings but the mood as a whole experience, which is what a part of life is about.

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Quotes, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Circles, Time and Again…

“I drop kindness pebbles in still water everyday, and I watch the effect they have on other people’s lives. My favorite kindness pebbles are compliments. Drop a compliment and watch the ripple affect that it has in your life.” John A Passaro

Amidst the melee of living the modern life, very often one never stops to think of the far reaching impact of one’s actions, words and thoughts. Little does one realize that when one is really happy, it blooms from within silently triggering the “blooming effect” in those around them. Similarly with kindness. A single kind thought stems the anger or unrest growing within. That stemmed unrest is instead transformed to kind words, starting off a chain reaction that may or mayn’t end with the initiator. Although it mayn’t end in a full circle, the peaceful and mental calm that kindness leaves behind is worth the effort taken to practise a little bit of kindness daily.

“Don’t look to others to give you happiness. Grow it within yourself and share it with the world around you. Bets are, if you give a bit of your happiness to the world, it will begin a ripple effect, and who knows how many other people you can help. It’s never too late to decide that your happiness (or whatever it is that you want) is yours to create and not the other way around.” Leigh Hershkovich

Time and time again, the existence of few laws of life that withstands the test of time has been proven. Among them, is the law of kindness; which like the ripples of a pebble dropped into water has consequences far reaching even after the initial ripple has faded away. The more one practises creating the “good ripples”, the more one experiences life to its’ fullest with the best moments that the latter offers.

“The help we give to others creates the ripple of good feeling we give to ourselves.” Gina Greenlee

Once in a woman’s apartment a cactus bloomed. Prior to this, it was four years old, stuck on the windowsill, like a gloomy and unshaven janitor and suddenly such a surprise. In pleasant thoughts about a blooming cactus, she accidentally stepped on the foot of a gloomy man in the subway. She didn’t scream her remark as usual with an offended look. But smiled:
“Do not be angry with me, please, I had nothing to hold on to; if you like, you can step on my foot and we will be quits.” The grim man swallowed what he was going to voice about her. Then he went to his station and bought a newspaper. Instead of haggling the saleswoman, confused with the calculation of delivery or calling her stupid, he said to her: ” It’s okay, count again, I am not good at math either early in the morning.”
The saleswoman, who did not expect such a response, was deeply moved and gave free of charge two old magazines and a whole pile of old newspapers to an old man, a pensioner who was a regular customer, fond of reading but buying only one cheap newspaper every day.

A contented old man went home with an armful of newspapers and magazines. Having met a neighbor from the upper floor, he didn’t give her a daily talk on the topic: “your child is stomping around the apartment like an elephant and is preventing rest, it is necessary to bring up better”, but he looked and said: “Your daughter has grown. I don’t understand whom she is more like you or her father, but she will definitely be a fine lady.” The neighbor took the child to the garden, went to work at the reception and did not shout at the senseless grandmother who had signed up for an appointment with the doctor for yesterday, but came today. Instead she said,” Come on, don’t be upset, I also sometimes forget my schedule. You can sit for a minute, and I will check with the doctor the visit for now.” Having received an appointment, the grandmother did not demand that she be given a very effective, but inexpensive medicine that can instantly help cure the disease; threatening in case of refusal to write complaints to all public bodies or media but sighed and said: – “I am not completely out of my mind. I understand that old age cannot be cured, but can you forgive me, doctor, for dragging myself to you all the time. ”

And the doctor walking home in the evening, suddenly remembered his grandmother and felt sorry for her. He suddenly thought that life in its usual rush flies by, and, giving in to a sudden impulse, stopped at the nearest supermarket, bought a bouquet of flowers, a cake with cream roses and went the other way. He drove up to a house, climbed to the third floor and knocked on the door. “I’ve been thinking, about time and you. I bought you a cake, but I accidentally put my briefcase on it. I hope this is not a bad thing, because it will not affect the taste. I also bought you flowers, but they also got a little crushed by the same portfolio. Maybe they can be saved ?” “That will be alright,” the woman replied, “we will reanimate them. And I have news. Just imagine, I woke up today, I looked at the window, and my cactus has bloomed. See? ” (Source: vk.com, translated to English)

“Our power lies in our small daily choices, one after another, to create eternal ripples of a life well lived.” Mollie Marti

Posted in Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, poetry, Quotes, Reflections, Work

The “Changed Faces”

If you were deceived by life,
Don’t feel dismal, don’t get mad!
Be at ease and don’t feel sad:
The days of joy will soon arrive!
The heart can’t wait for this to pass;
The present is depressing here:
All is fleeting rather fast;
That which passes will be dear.
-Alexander Pushkin (1825)

Change in life, happens like water; more so when people are involved. The continuous flow of water or the sudden gush with or without a block in the regular course; taking the shape of the vessel it belongs to and tasteless but blending its flavours from the source till the other end; the nature of people runs along similar lines. Especially the latter, which maybe as predictable as the flow and nature of water or even the wind.

“It happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.” Nicholas Sparks

Reviewing across the various phases in life, many of us may have encountered at some point of time or other, people who were once close acquaintances become distant or avoidant; or the ones who were “less friendly” stepping in with a helping hand or forging new bonds in the later years. Such is the nature of man in general. People change, so do perspectives and perceptions. While for some the fault may be ours or on the other side; sometimes the distance may just happen. Bridging the gap maybe too late; at times a non achievable feat, no matter how much one may try.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Victor Frankl

As the “faces” change, one of the hardest part is accepting the “blow”, while at the same time, trying one’s best to not bear deep seated grudges or hatred within. Being human, feeling hate, regret, disappointment among the many emotions is normal and natural. Yet staying in the same rut or frame of mind will prove detrimental in the short as well as the long run. People will change, each of us will be subject to change in our lives. Few times we may be at the receiving end of “changed faces”, while other times we may at the “giving” end. No matter how the “changing faces” maybe; moving on in the right manner is what matters the most. For life with her lessons, gives us memories and moments to cherish, learn from as well as mature for the better tomorrow.

“You collect people to take with you. Some people change, other people don’t… it’s wonderful because I’ve met some incredible friends.” Imogen Poots