Posted in Family and Society, Life, Quotes, Reflections

A Child of Today

To me there is no picture so beautiful as smiling, bright-eyed, happy children; no music so sweet as their clear and ringing laughter. P. T. Barnum

On the occasion of India celebrating every 14th of November as Children’s Day (celebrated on the day of birth of the first Prime Minister of Independent India and one of the great leaders who dearly loved children, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru ); it would be meaningful if we reflect how our children are faring in the world of today. With the advent of technology, nuclear families, both parents working and the rise of the internet; one often wonders what has happened to the playgrounds, parks and neighbourhood lots where once we used to play in our childhood. Of course, this must be a moot point to ponder with the rise of “modernization, development and smart technology kids”. Though, it leaves room for thought on whether we have lost the genes of physical play (not just the hands or feet) and creative thinking with strategy as well as group interaction. Pretty difficult to decide on it, when all the modern gadgets claim the development of the very same genes.

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

These days, I often dread to read the entire newspaper in the mornings. With the rising rate of crime and delinquency against the children as well as by the children, it brings to shameful light of the neglect and selfishness that we as adults are engaged in. Besides not caring for the young, sometimes we ourselves indulge in acts causing danger to them. To quote the author Pam Leo,”Children are mirrors, they reflect back to us all we say and do.” Have you ever heard of a lioness killing its’ healthy young in their pride or healthy eaglets being killed by their own ? Are we better than the animals or worse ?

6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Mathew 18:6 and 10, New International Version) One thing for sure, we have lost the sound of a child’s laugh as they are too caught up in the web of modernized theoretical learning, violence, fear and technology. If we become too late to change this, we are facing with the coming of the dark ages of carbon clones, monotonous, violence with production lines of robotic and mechanical output boxes instead of bright, creative or artistic minds with gentle hearts.

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots; the other, wings. Hodding Carter”

Practical learning starts in the family and community where children learn the basics of humaneness, love, respect, harmony and kindness. As they venture into the portals of education they learn the principles and mechanics of nature, science, art as well as history. While these aspects are important all the same, care should be taken that character is built with love, respect and mutual acceptance as well understanding of humanity. In the process of gaining an education, the ethos of life should not be lost or buried under purely selfish interests. Remember the era of the dinosaurs versus the mammals.

The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith. Billy Graham

So while we watch the next generation growing up, whether we be foster or birth parents, guardians, educators, aunts, uncles, singles or couples; make the difference through families, neighbourhoods as well as communities. No matter how small the attention and care may be for us, for the child it is a big matter. For trees never become big, tall, provide shade or bear fruit unless we understand what they need and take due care of them. For the children learn from us, just by watching us, leave alone words and lectures. For, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. Charles R. Swindoll” With that, lets hope we as adults change so that our children grow to leave a beautiful legacy for the distant years, though only time shall know.

Posted in Daily, Food, Quotes

Art on modified Focaccia

The solution to some weekday nights when the day is too busy followed by a high tea on crashing after the working hours, is pizza especially when the ready-made base is available and all you need are the toppings. For the record, although the flat bread pizza is credited to Naples of Italy around the 16th century, flavoured topping added to bread have been there since the development of farming of the primitive man.

Everybody likes pizza! It’s a quick and easy clean-up meal. Buddy Valastro

While the Ancient Greeks had their plakous (flat bread flavoured with toppings of herbs, onions, cheese and garlic), the ancient Persians baked flat-breads with cheese and dates while the Aeneid (a Latin epic poem by Virgil) tells of meals of round cakes (like pita bread) topped with cooked vegetables. Among the various suggestions made to the origins of modern pizza, pizzarelle (Kosher for passover cookies eaten by Roman Jews) and other Italian paschal breads are in the list. Yet the most widely accepted precursor of pizza was the focaccia, a flat bread known to the Romans as panis focacius, to which toppings were added. Other varieties of flat-breads across the globe include the Chinese bing (a wheat flour-based food with a flattened shape), the Indian parantha, naan and roti (where toppings and mix varies) and Finnish rieska. Add on cheese, meat, vegetables and seasonings to make the French quiche or German zwiebelkuchen.

Pizza is a great segue into unfamiliar flavors – plus, you can pile on the veggies. Maneet Chauhan

In 16th-century Naples, the pizza was a galette flatbread sold in the streets and known as a dish for the poor people. Later it was replaced by oil, tomatoes and diverse toppings with cheese or mozzarella twining it. Modern pizza developed in Naples, when tomato was added to the focaccia in the late 18th century. Initially pizza was mainly eaten in Italy and by emigrants from there. After World War II, as the Allied troops stationed in Italy came to enjoy pizza along with other Italian foods, it was brought out to the rest of the world.

Kids want to saute, to cut the pizza, to see how the ingredients come together. If you let them do the fun stuff, they’ll develop skills and interests that will stay with them forever. Guy

Today with a surplus of options and wide diversity of toppings available, it is no wonder that a whole month (October) has been dedicated to pizza. As they say, one things running through all the toppings is cheese that sticks together.

Ideas are like pizza dough, made to be tossed around. Anna Quindlen





Posted in Life, Reflections, Stories Around the World

When the Water Boils

Everyone has their own batch of problems popping all over the place. Some we solve whereas we sleep on others. While some of us emerge from it stronger, others succumb to it and few get buried under them. The challenge to living is trying to get past the neon signs which flash “trouble ahead”. Armed with a cavalier attitude and fortitude, most glitches can be fought down to reach the temporary goal posts we have set up.By maintaining our perspectives and perseverance, eventually all adversities can be overcome. For life in a flat plane would hold no discoveries or memories. It’s how we react to the boiling water that makes all the difference.

Although I don’t know the source of the story, read on to find which one we would be.

The carrot, the egg and the coffee bean

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that, as one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word. In about twenty minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the young woman replied. The mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity – boiling water – but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened! The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. “Which are you?” the mother asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?” Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong but, with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit but, after a death, a breakup, or a financial hardship, does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavour. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

Posted in Christian, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World

Reaching the Crossbar

Grace is one of the concepts of Christianity which is quite hard to comprehend in real life. In Western Christian theology, grace has often been defined, not as a substance of any kind which is created, but as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it”. In other words Grace is described as favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. It is understood to be a spontaneous gift from God to people “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved” that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life. In Eastern Christianity, the working of God completely, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity is what Grace is all about.

Although across the different denominations of Christianity, the definition varies the essential concept that it is not created but bestowed on. On reading the Bible we realize that although man has sinned, it is by His Love and His Mercy that we have been given a second chance. More importantly it is by His Grace that despite our lapses and our adherence to the shortcuts of living the right way, we are given another try.

While teaching the concepts of Christian principles to younger children, it is quite difficult to say in terms of definitions. So here is a story that I had seen through my social pages, (though it is translated into English) that gives us an idea about the concept of His Grace.

“Once after the second liturgy, I was drinking tea with a bun. Suddenly, a father came up to the table with a son of about five years old. The boy’s face didn’t seem bright to me. It seemed to be one of those children who are interested only in MARS and SNICKERS and how to get them from their parents. But suddenly the boy looked anxiously at his parent and asked: “Dad, tell me what grace is.”
Hearing this with surprise, I almost choked on tea, urgently stopped chewing and froze, so as not to miss a word. Let me explain why. First, I myself was not clear what grace is. Second, I was wondering how to explain this to another. And third, it was completely incomprehensible to me how to explain this to a five-year-old child. That’s why I froze waiting for to see what reply the dad will say. He twisted his eyes in a funny manner and said to his son: “I better not tell you, but I will show you what grace is.” And they went to our sports ground. And I followed them. “Jump to the high crossbar,” said the dad. It became clear to me that the boy would not jump to reach it in any way. And for sure as he jumped and he was convinced of this. “And now you jump, and I will add grace,” said the parent. The boy jumped, his father’s hands caught him and in a moment he … WAS STANDING on the crossbar. The boy squealed with delight and told the father that he did not agree to live without grace anymore. And me too. Thank God! – Yuri Klyagin”

Posted in Daily, Quotes, Random Thoughts

Unmasked Surprise

Everything that a person does when they are taken by surprise is the best proof of what he really is. That which breaks away from the tongue, before it is time to suppress its impulse, betrays the true essence. If there are rats in the basement, then you are most likely to see them if you enter unexpectedly. But no surprise breeds rats; it only prevents them from hiding in time. Nor does the surprise of the excuse or the excuse make me quick-tempered; she only discovers my hot temper. 

– Clive Staples Lewis, “Just Christianity”

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.