Posted in Daily, Life, Personal Musings, Photography Art

Actions mirror Thoughts

“Mirror mirror on the wall”

This line had first made its appearance in the “Snow White”, a 19th-century German fairy tale first published by The Brothers Grimm published in the first edition of their collection of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. After being translated to English, it has found its’ way into various works of art, entertainment and literature.

While in the story we deal with a magic mirror who gives answers, in reality mirrors reflect what is there. There is no addition or subtraction involved unless if the mirrors are concave or convex where they become distorted or multiple mirrors which cause way too many images. Likewise our actions and feelings mirror our thoughts. It is like a two way street. If we think good, we feel good and do good. Then the question arises of how do we get rid of the bad or unwanted thoughts lurking in our mind. The cluster of bad or depressing feelings we encounter in our interactions with others can’t be easily suppressed by flipping a switch. By sweeping these emotions under the carpet, we gather them as dust which finally will accumulate to a point when it will cause a drastic slip when we least expect it. These are triggers of what will lead to even worse situations down the time frame.

The only way out is to address them. Just as our thoughts and feelings mirror our actions, eventually we will succumb to the former unless we resolve to tackle them. Sometimes to find a solution is difficult, then we reach an acceptance and search for alternatives for a way out so that those emotions are dealt with or faced. While some of us may take the physical form of de-stressing our thoughts, others will turn to creative art or faith to seek answers or simply express. Whatever may it be, find a way out before we get locked in the trap of mirroring our thoughts positive and negative into actions which may later lead to regret. Time and again, the old adage “what goes around, comes around” has been proved, so instead of refuting it with mirrors of our negative emotions, find something to vent the latter and turn the mood to optimism coated with realism.

Posted in Daily, Photography Art, Stories Around the World

Of Weddings, Cakes and Tradition

With the entire family gearing up for the wedding of the youngest, the days have turned into an organizational fiasco. Considering all the hectic preparations underway, the easier option would have been to elope and have a very quiet wedding. But then the entire family would miss out a chance to meet up, have loads of fun and enjoy great photographic moments or memories.

Although the event management team as well as the wedding planner were working on the arrangements, from gowns to venue settings to catering, last minute details were to be ironed out. As a part of my research into various ideas, I had chanced upon some fascinating historical facts and traditions that went along with wedding cakes in particular.

As early as the era of the Roman empire, a loaf of bread or biscuit made of meal (matzo cake), wheat or barley was crumbled over the bride’s head to provide good luck. After the newly married couple would eat a few crumbs together as one of their first unified acts, the leftover crumbs would be scooped by the wedding guests for good luck. With the Romans conquering Britain, the tradition was carried further by throwing the bread at the bride for good luck and fertility. Slowly the bread changed to more flatter cake like versions.

In England during the medieval era, instead of the plain wheat cakes; spiced buns, scones, and cookies were stacked as high as possible and the bride and groom would try to kiss over it. Legend said if they would have good fortune if they smooched successfully without knocking the whole thing down. From this the French tradition of Croquembouche was created. The myth tells of a Pastry chef while visiting Medieval England had witnessed such a wedding where sweet rolls were piled. Back in France, he had piled sweet rolls up into a tower to make the first Croquembouche. The modern croquembouche tower (usually built from profiteroles) is now placed on a bed of cake and make it a top tier, sometimes given a halo of spun sugar.

In some areas, especially mid 17th to 19th century, bride pies were made wherein a ring would. To symbolize the acceptance of the proposal, traditionally the bride would place a ring inside the couple’s portion of the cake. Alternatively a glass ring would be placed in the middle of the dessert and the maiden who found it would be the next to marry. Bride’s pie would evolve into the bride’s cake. As an oven was still a rarity, two pastry crusts would be baked on the hearth with currants between them like a sandwich and sugar sprinkled on top. At this point the dessert was sweeter than earlier versions. Over time, the ingredients progressed to include candied fruits, almonds, spices, raisins and even rum. In the Victorian era, white icing was also a symbol of money and social importance which has since then been carried on.

Interestingly, in the 17th century, two cakes were made, one for the bride and one for the groom as the bride cakes were too feminine for men. The groom’s cake was typically the darker colored, rich fruit cake and generally much smaller than the bride’s cake. Initially the bride’s cake was usually a simple pound cake with white icing with white as a symbol of purity. This is still carried over today at some weddings, although sometimes the groom’s cake is served at the rehearsal dinner.

Towards the late 18th century, tiered cakes had got their start when the apprentice of a London baker fell in love with his boss’s daughter. Inspired by by the tiered spire of St. Bride’s Church, legend has it the apprentice baker recreated the look in pastry form to impress her. Later on the traditional wedding cakes in England and early America were fruit cakes, often topped with marzipan and icing with tiers.

Symbolism and Superstitions. From bread to pies then cakes, the latter was originally intended to be distributed among the guests by only the bride for consuming the cake would ensure fertility. As weddings grew with increase in number of guests and tiered cakes with icing became popular, cutting the cake was a joint venture with the groom assisting the bride. As this tradition began the bride and groom would share a piece of cake before distributing it not only as a symbol of their union but also as their promise to take care of each other forever.

In the traditional American wedding, ribbons would be attached to the bottom layer of the wedding cake of which one would contain a charm or ring. Maidens would be invited to pull ribbons and whoever gets the charm will be the next person to marry. Some places, the wedding cake is broken over the bride’s head to ensure fertility and good fortune. Also bridesmaids would take a piece of cake home and place it under the pillow, or put it in their left stocking and sleep for dreams on their future husband and good luck as well.

Besides being celebratory, initially wedding cakes were a sign of social status. Over the centuries with the advent of wedding cake toppers, fondant, flower-paste, royal icing, glaceing, filling flavours ranging from chocolate, carrot, pistachio to Italian cream, lemon-thyme, passion fruit-lime, Mexican-hot chocolate to name a few; the options are endless as the wedding business grew to new and big proportions. Of recent the single or multiple tiered cake is for family and close friends at the wedding while little cupcakes and pastries have made their way into the reception. It’s little wonder that in all the wedding planning details, the cake takes its fair share faced by a great deal of choices, minor specifics, tastings, trepidation and artwork laced with innumerable amount of rethinking and decisions to be made.

Posted in Family and Society, Photography Art, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Simply Fruit

“Hello. Welcome to the Portokalos family and welcome the-the Miller family. I-I was thinking last night, um, the night before my-my daughter was gonna marry, uh, I-an Miller, that, um, you know, the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller come from the Greek word “milo”, which is mean apple, there you go. As many of you know, our name Portokalos is come from the Greek word “portolakli”, which means orange. So, okay, here tonight we have, uh, apple and orange… we all different, but, in the end, we all fruit,” said Gus Portokalos at his daughter Toula’s wedding reception.

In case if the reader is wondering the context and origin of these lines, they are from the romantic comedy film of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). The movie is centered on Fotoula “Toula” Portokalos, a Greek-American woman who in the middle of early mid-life crisis finally falls in love with Ian, an upper middle class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant American or simply put, a non-Greek American. Born into a an orthodox Greek family, Toula examines her relationship with family, with their cultural heritage and value system. Finally all ends well as the wedding takes with mutual appreciation of each others culture, tradition and customs.

Yet among the variety of funny dialogues, the words of Gus Portokalos resonate in the mind. Even though the speech is simple, the implicit message conveyed boils down to the fact that although we all are different, we eventually end up in the fruit basket. This truth is not confined to Greeks alone but is pertinent across all societies around the world. Similar situations have been encountered in different places not necessarily weddings, even the market places, work or on the daily commute. Fruit in whichever shape or size, chopped or as whole, garnished or plain or by whatever name or colour ultimately belongs to the big family of “fruit”.

Putting this subtle yet profound realization into practice in our day-to-day interactions would bridge the discriminatory attitude towards the people we meet across the different walks of our life. While we may not agree with some of them, absolute disdain and disrespect of others based on physical or traditional characteristics would narrow the rich exposure of the flavours of life.

In fact, unknowingly our words and actions mirror our personality as well as the traditions and culture that we belong to. By pointing one finger at others, we fail to grasp that at least three of the remaining three fingers are directed back towards us. And if anyone directs their hand at others, know that the same hand is attached to our body which throws back a picture about the culture and upbringing of the person. So instead of wasting away precious time and energy over irrelevant and minor details, isn’t it easier to keep matters simple and enjoy the basket of fruit ?

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Photography Art, poetry

Who You Are

As I was watching the preschoolers laugh and joyously enter the gates of their daycare, what passed through my mind was how much will change for them through the years. On a retrospective view, we had started off the years of toddler-hood with all innocence and a joyous outlook. As the years go by, we learn of names, colours, sizes and preferences. When the teenage years come, it becomes to more of a personal struggle to find ourselves. Sometimes we get lucky and find our settings and tuning by youth. Yet there are days when we still lose our bearings and need a little soul searching to get back on track. Whereas, some of us will need more years to wander to get the right track. When we heed to too many directions, we get confused and discover that we have lost ourselves on the way. Instead of running in circles and loops, to break free is the only way out. The truth is deep inside we know who we are, we only need to listen to it more to find and define ourselves back. Else the eternal doubt of “Who are you…” will always linger in mind, heart and soul.

Not by Erin Hanson

You are not your age,
Nor the size of clothes you wear,
You are not a weight,
Or the colour of your hair.
You are not your name,
Or the dimples in your cheeks,
You are all the books you read,
And all the words you speak,
You are your croaky morning voice,
And the smiles you try to hide,
You’re the sweetness in your laughter,
And every tear you’ve cried,
You’re the songs you sing so loudly,
When you know you’re all alone,
You’re the places that you’ve been to,
And the one that you call home,
You’re the things that you believe in,
And the people that you love,
You’re the photos in your bedroom,
And the future you dream of,
You’re made of so much beauty,
But it seems that you forgot,
When you decided that you were defined,
By all the things you’re not.

Posted in Christian, Life, Musique, Photography Art

For the Light Awakens

After a late night shift, one longs for a morning of peace and quiet to sleep in. Though it is quite difficult to sleep during the mornings either because of the chaos and our circadian rhythm which goes haywire, so we end up doing chores and other miscellaneous work till we drop off from exhaustion; or because of the sunlight streaming through the windows which prevents the hours of the day turning into night.

Even though our working hours have stretched the normal boundaries of our sleep patterns, the rays of sunshine brightens the day and fosters a sense of calmness, to renew and recharge with a fresh start at another chance in life. Albeit in due course we do succumb to the tiredness and have to catch up on our sleep in order to stay refreshed, still the brightness of the day offers to make the gloomiest scene pretty and live-able. As John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Nevertheless there are some days where even the light can’t dispel the gloomy blackness. In such cases, what we fail to realize that the inner light in us, through the tiny cracks in the shields of darkness will offer a slit for the rays so that there would be a guiding light to find a way out. Should our inner light fail, the rays of light from other true sources will be able to guide us as long as we cast one’s mind to look for them. Remember the stars, even the Pole Star even in the cloudy skies occasionally they show their light. As the lines from the “Sine nomine” go,
“And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.”

Inner or overhead lights, either way unless we use them we will be standing still in the dark. The drawback is if we stay in perpetual darkness we will lose out on the wonders, songs and the joy of living.

Posted in Daily, Life, Photography Art, Random Thoughts

The Daily Savings Account

On the occasion of today being World Savings Day or the World Thrift Day, my niece had received a piggy bank from her school. The concept of dedicating a day to promote the concept of saving or thrift was initiated in order to gain a higher standard of life and to secure the economy in the long run.

While this initiative was started off by the International Savings Bank Congress in 1924 globally, there is another savings account that we all have. Unfortunately many of us don’t hold ourselves liable to this particular account.

All of us are born with an account which is credited with 86,400 currency of either Rupees, U.S. dollars, Australian dollars, Dir-hams, Euros, Yen, Canadian Dollars, Ringgits, Rand or whichever may be the currency of the country we are residing in at present. Yet this account is credited each morning and carries no balance over to the next day, neither is there any overdraft. What we have is just the present account and there is no drawing against future accounts. This account goes by the name of “Time”.

Although you may have heard of this previously, what we fail to realize is that despite knowing all this, we still do end up wasting our time. However today there are three things I would like to stress on. First time is scarce, so although you may  or may not work in the profession that you love, find time to do something that you really want to everyday like your hobbies or special interests. It can be anything like reading that novel put off for a long time or trying out new recipes, going for a drive to a place that you have earmarked for a long time. Whatever it may be, take some time to do something that makes you happy and is worthwhile too. It is never about getting the time to do things, it’s whether we want to do it or not. Secondly is the art of time management. While many say it is a skill to be perfected by methodical and concise planning, some days our plans derail completely. That is when we adapt our time as per the priority list, so that by nightfall we have invested at least some time to good purpose. Third and most important is that time wasted is gone. It will never come back but regretting time wasted is even more fruitless. For this endeavor of contrition of carried for long, will cause us to lose out on the time tomorrow. What is gone is over and done with, don’t shackle the guilt to the next day. For then we’ll put ourselves in the chains of regret for long-term.

Granted that all this is easier said than done, effort should be made not to lose what is in our hands. For as the adage goes, time and tide waits for no man.

Posted in Family and Society, Personal Musings, Photography Art, Stories Around the World

Being Humane

Empathy not simply sympathy. Insight not being obtuse. Warmth not just words.

I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door. Marla Gibbs

Some of the greatest lessons that we can learn is by observing human interaction. In such a scenario, childhood is where we can be keen witnesses where the innocence, kindness and attitude of children haven’t yet been gate-crashed by the chaos of the world that we as adults have created. Although now in the present world, even their guilelessness has not been spared. Yet there are instances where children have shown us the resilience of the human nature especially when when they meet their own peers who are not to their same level. One real life evidence of this is in “Perfection at the Plate” where “everyone can play” , written by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, a popular lecturer and best-selling author of the ArtScroll Maggid series of short stories. Do read on.


Perfection at the Plate

In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning-disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school careers, while others can be mainstreamed into conventional yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs. There are a few children who attend Chush for most of the week and go to a regular school on Sundays. At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, “Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything that Hashem does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is Hashem’s perfection?” The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father’s anguish and stilled by his piercing query. “I believe,” the father answered, “that when Hashem brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in the way people react to this child.” He then told the following story about his son Shaya.

Shaya attends Chush throughout the week and Yeshivah Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway on Sundays. One Sunday afternoon, Shaya and his father came to Darchei Torah as his classmates were playing baseball. The game was in progress and as Shaya and his father made their way towards the ball field, Shaya said, “Do you think you could get me into the game?”

Shaya’s father knew his son was not at all athletic, and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya’s father understood that if his son was chosen in, it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging. Shaya’s father approached one of the boys in the field and asked, “Do you think my Shaya could get into the game?” The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, “We are losing by six runs and the game is already in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.” Shaya’s father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field, a position that exists only in softball. There were no protests from the opposing team, which would now be hitting with an extra man in the outfield.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya’s team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded and the potential winning runs on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shaya was told to take a bat and try to get a hit. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible, for Shaya didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so that Shaya should at least be able to make contact.

The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya’s teammates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shaya. As the next pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far and wide beyond the first baseman’s reach. Everyone started yelling, “Shaya, run to first! Shaya, run to first!” Never in his life had Shaya run to first.

He scampered down the baseline wide eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher’s intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman’s head, as everyone yelled, “Shaya, run to second! Shaya, run to second.” Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran towards him, turned him towards the direction of third base and shouted “Shaya, run to third!” As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, “Shaya, run home! Shaya, run home!”

Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit the “grand slam” and won the game for his team. “That day,” said the father who now had tears rolling down his face, “those 18 boys reached their level of perfection. They showed that it is not only those who are talented that should be recognized, but also those who have less talent. They too are human beings, they too have feelings and emotions, they too are people, they too want to feel important.”

Origins: The story given above is Perfection at the Plate, a work of Rabbi Paysach Krohn. It appeared in his 1999 book, Echoes of the MaggidEchoes is a collection of  “heartwarming stories and parables of wisdom and inspiration.” It is the fifth such tome in the “Maggid” series. Rabbi Krohn says that the story is true and that he was told it by Shaya’s father, who is a friend of his. (The “Chush” school mentioned in the piece is the Jewish Center for Special Education on Kent Street in Brooklyn, a school that caters to Yiddish-speaking children of Orthodox Hasidic Jews. ) Note: In Judaism, HaShem (lit. “the Name”) is used to refer to God, when avoiding God’s more formal title, Adonai (lit. “My Master”).