Saturday, January 29, 2011

Driving Woes

Driving and me are not synonyms.  How i wish they were. But the truth is we are not.  I can just about drive myself around in Faridabad, after a second attempt at learning driving.  My first attempt was disastrous.  That time we had only one car and my hubby loved his maroon Maruti 800.  While still learning driving, one day i accidently barged into a herd of asses resulting in the ass partly falling on the bumper and denting it.  When hubby realized what i was up to , repeated attempts to convince him failed.  So rather than start a war i gave up the effort of convincing him that i would  make a good driver. .

Few years later  my daughters were grown up and keen on driving .  So we bought a second car.  Now hubby was less possessive about this car , so i decided to take driving lessons once again.  Time as the car was at the disposal of we 3 women and  i  finally  learnt the ropes, got my driving licence and could drive myself around .  Mean while both my daughters too learnt driving.  So  now i had one professional driver and two home  ones.

Once, when i was still new to driving, i met with  a minor accident.  A milkman and my car had a collision.  I was taking a right turn and he was coming from the back.  The next instant the milkman fell down.  The bicycle went down with him and the milk cans opened and the milk spilled on the road. I had already stopped the car.  As i got out to examine whether he was hurt badly, a small group of pedestrians gathered around us.  I tried to reason with him .  Fortunately for me he wasn't hurt.  I thanked my stars he was not a temperamental gujar but someone with a cool temperamnet.   I asked him, " chot to nahi lagi"'

'Nahi memsaab.  Lekin nuksan  ho gaya'

When i asked  him how much i needed to replace the split milk, he simply said,'' aap hi dekh lo"

I handed him Rs 200 and that was the end of the matter.  I got into the car and drove home.  This incident was a lesson to me.  Now, no matter if i am getting late or there is any pressing matter at home , i never ever drive fast.

 Whenever i would go out with hubby and daughters i would always  request them to drive, while i  sat in the passenger seat.  And since they are all better drivers than me they oblige happily.  Then there is the other alternative.  The Driver.  While we have holidayed to distant cities with our  driver , the dependancy factor can be a big let down.  On many occassions  drivers dont turn up for an important event.  And there is the puinctuality factor too.  At times they turn up late due to some issue or the other.  And yet  there is another aspect .Drivers can  be rash at times, leaving you in  a difficult situation.  Once my driver was talking on the mobile and driving through a narrow raod.  A biker came from the opposite side and nearly crashed into our car.  He wasn't  hurt  but that wasnt enough for him.  As both our car  and the biker stopped , the man parked his bike alongside the car and started arguing  with the driver.  And then he  turned to me and said,  'Madam isko manners sikhaiye.  Kisi din pit jayega"!

I pacified him and asked the driver to continue.  The fact that the driver was more cool headed than the bikers , saved the situation.

But at the end of it all, i am happy that driving and me are not strangers. Whenever i feel like moving out anywhere in Faridabad i don't have to ask anyone.  But more than that it is  a good feeling that if ever there is an emergency and a need to take someone to the hospital or some other pressing  situation, i can do the needful. So i  CAN drive, albeit  reluctantly!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Second Knot

It is said that the only thing constant in the Universe is change.  When i compare the life of my daughters with the kind of life my Mum lived as a teenager i find such a deep chasm between the two, buffered  only by my own growing up years  as a teenager in the late 80s.  

When i got married in mid 80s , divorce was still a hush -hush word.  People frowned upon a divorcee, unable to think beyond her status.  And the plight of widows was not much better either.  They were expected to keep a low profile and raise their kids singlehandedly.  This was the time when dowry deaths were at a  peak.  Women who lived in unhappy marriages , in fear of being sent back home, were burnt to death at the hands of greedy in- laws. Lobbying by  NGOs  resulted in formation of new laws  which curbed this social menace. But as a decade or more passed and we entered the new Millennium, changes were evident in society. A big part was played by the opening up of the world into our homes via the  internet.

Today if you see a divorced woman or a widow living life at her own terms, people nod in approval and say, 'Yeah, life has to go on.' And second marriages are no longer frowned upon.

I was witness to a second marriage recently.  My niece Megha  got married at  the age of 49 to Manish who is 58.  Megha had been divorced since the last two decades and lived with her widowed mother.  Her brother lived on the ground floor and the daughter- mother duo lived on the first floor with their own separate kitchen.  Megha took up a job in the local school and life was going on fine.  And then the inevitable happened. Her mother passed away.  On the day of the cremation as all the relatives  huddled around the pyre, the thought crossing in every person's mind was, 'What will happen to Megha?' How will she live alone now?

Six months later my hubby got a call from Megha's brother. "Megha is getting married .  It is a low key affair but you are invited . Please be there to give her your good wishes". As hubby gave me this piece of news , my first reaction was, " That's great! I am so happy she has found her life companion"

As i got ready for the marriage a dozen questions crossed my mind. How did she meet  Manish?  Did Manish have children? How many and how old were they? Were they married? Where would she live after marriage? How would she be dressed as a bride? Would she wear chooda? Probably not.Etc

On reaching their home i straight away went to the first floor  where Megha lived.  She was already ready.  She wore a mustard and maroon colored silk saree and had just come from the parlor.  Mehndi on her hands, maroon and gold bangles, a gold set and make up for the occasion. She looked the perfect bride, all set the take the saat pheras.

So how did you meet Manish?

We met on Jeevansaathi. com

How long have you known him?

Its been six months now.

So you had a proper courtship,  I smiled

Yes.  We visited Mathura, Vrindavan  together once 

Did you have a ceremony prior to this?

No, but we exchanged gifts.  He gave me a pair of jhumkis.

I couldnt help smiling at that.  You must have met his children?

Yes. They came for dinner a few  days back

And just then  a little girl came up and said,'' Panditji aa gaye hain.  neeche bula rahe hain"

We descended to the ground floor .  Megha went up to the bedroom and settled there, adjusting the maroon and gold dupatta on her head  I walked towards the living room which had been cleared of the central table and was the venue of the wedding.

The panditji  started making preparations fore the marriage.  He decorated the base of the havan kund with atta and  haldi, and covered  them with marigold flowers.  He placed the nariyal on the kalash and placed Ashoka leaves and mariogold flowers around it.  Out came kapoor, mauli, desi ghee, paan leaves , supari samagri for the havan and dhoop.  He had brought his assistant and together they made all  the arrangements

 Megha's brother left no stone unturned to make this a happy occasion for his sister.  Soon enough he got a call from Manish that they had arrived.  Megha's cousin took the  welcome thali and  welcomed Manish by putting a tilak and showering rose and marigold petals.

Manish wore a suit complete  with a  matching tie.  As he sipped his cold drink , i sensed a little  nervousness on his part.  But as the ceremony progressed he was  totally at ease.

 It was time to begin the havan.  Megha and Manish seated themselves in front of the havan kund. Megha had the maroon and gold dupatta over  her head and Manish wore a pagri.  The Pandit recited the  mantras and a little  while later it was time for Jai Mala. Everyone clapped and then Megha's cousin came and tied the knot of Megha's duppata with Manish's stole. The couple took one phera and  instead of the saat pheras Megha took seven small steps along with Manish.  Megha's Uncle performed the Kanyadan. Her brother did the pholiyan ceremony and hubby and i too took part in the ceremony too.  It was  now time to exchange the rings and finally  Manish put sindhoor on Megha's forehead.  The sound of claps reverberated throughout  the room and Meghan and Manish  were now Man and wife.

Due to the smoke from  the havan kund the living room had become stuffy, so we walked towards the pandal which had been erected just in front of the house.  Hubby told me that there was some paper work going on inside and a little  while later the couple came to the pandal.  As they sat down a table was placed in front of them and Megha's cousin brought a common plate laden with food for the newly weds.  One by one the relatives came and posed with the couple. The entire ceremony was covered in video by Megha's cousin.

Dinner over, we wished the couple a happy life and proceeded home.  It had been a great  experience watching Megha get married.   The sindhoor looked good on her and both Megha and Manish had been totally at ease while taking dinner. I later came to know that they went to Kulu Manali fore their honeymoon.  It has been six months now and  Megha is very happy in her second  marriage. A noteworthy case of a matrimony portal bringing two lives together.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Trip to Sultanpur Lake

Located in Gurgaon district in Haryana, Sultanpur is located 40 km from Dhaula Kuan in Delhi, 15 km from Gurgaon on Gurgaon- Farukh Nagar Road.

250 species of birds can be found here.  some of them are resident while others come fom distant regions like  Siberia, Europe and Afghanistan.

It took us an hour and a quarter to reach sultanpur  Lake.   On the way we crossed mustard fields on both

sides of the road in a riot of yellow colour as it was the peak of winter season.

As we walked in towards the lake we found an interesting quote by Martin Luther King:

The pathway bifurcated in two.  we chose to walk towards the right and passed by a Watch Tower

that stood tall.

The lake was  calm and serene and  we spotted a variety of birds  swimming in the lake.

As i was not equipped with a focus high performance camera, but  a cyber shot one by Cannon i could not do full justice to the  birds photograph.

The Lake surroundings are full of dense green forests providing a perfect haven for the birds.

 I saw one lone bird perched up in the tree by the side of the lake.

Ducks swimming in the lake

A lone white bird

Big birds perched up on the trees.

As we returned there was another reminder on the importance of conserving our  Nature :

We were hard pressed for time so couldn't explore the left side of the sanctuary and i made a promise to myself to return next year with a more powerful camera. All in all it was a great experience far away from the maddening city , amid calm surroundings  so close to the beautiful birds at peace in the sanctuary.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Strawberry Time

Mahabaleshwar, a hill station near Mumbai is the strawberry capital of India.  It served as the summer capital of Bombay province during the British Raj.  The Britishers introduced strawberry farming in Mahabaleshwar as the red soil/ mud in Mahabaleshwar is suitable for the fruit.  

The Britishers brought these strawberry plantations from Australia and planted in Mahabalseshwar  and today they are exported to various countries.  

Over 1500 acres of strawberry farming is present in Mahabaleshwar.  The farms look their spectacular best  during May -June.

Strawberry facts:

Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds outside.

Strawberries are member of the rose family.

there is a museum in Belgium just for strawberries.

Strawberries are low fat, low calorie, high in Vitamin C, fiber, Folic acid and Potassium.

Strawberries if eaten regularly in diet, help to reduce the risk of cancer and heart attacks.

Eating strawberries which are rich in Nitrates can increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscle by 7%.   This  prevents muscle fatigue, making exercise easier.

Since strawberries are rich in fiber they help the body in absorbing nutrients.

Strawberries are food for diabetics, as they help stabilize the electrolytes in the body, in turn lowering the risk of stroke.

Strawberries are now available easily everywhere...........

They have found their way into the Fruit Market in Faridabad as well. Though  primarily a summer fruit they can be found in Winter too near my home.  

So go ahead and make strawberries an essential part of you diet for a  tasty and healthy experience.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

AKSHAYA PATRA : Goodbye Hunger

 One piece of bread a day

Was all I had

Sometimes, I would break it in half

Sometimes, I could make it toast

My children's bellies full

My stomach churning

I drank water

To calm the burning

I had more than most

Reminding myself of those

Who have a handful of rice

Once a week

They know fear

They know pain

They know hunger

Far better than I ever could
                 --Alisha Rose
Hungry Kya?  This phrase surely rings a bell in your head.  For haven't we all seen these advertisements of Domino's Pizza splashed all over the billboards in NCR and on TV too.  The enticing advertisement never fails to start hunger pangs and the next thing yo do is dial up for Home delivery.  Within 30 minutes the freshly baked Pizza is delivered right at your doorstep, complete with olives and cheese imported from Italy and an assortment of exotic veggies and herbs or a non veg extravaganza,  depending on your palate  preferences. 
But what is a gourmet's delight for us,  is a far fetched reality for many. Especially for the underprivileged  children.  A shocking reality is  that  millions of school going children don't get two square meals a day and hence go without  education.  School is never a priority for them. Instead they take up menial jobs to fill their empty stomachs.  We have all seen urchins dressed in rags furiously wiping your windscreen in the vain hope that you'll give them a coin or two. 
Keeping this in mind a NGO, AKSHAYA PATRA has been doing praiseworthy work  since  a decade by providing mid day meal for millions of  children across India..

Akshaya Patra means an inexhaustible vessel.  It was a wonderful vessel given to Yudhistara by Lord Surya, which held a never failing supply of food to the Pandavas everyday.

  The Akshaya Patra Foundation,  TAPF, started in 2000 in Bangalore by providing mid day meal to 1500 children in 5 schools .  And today it reaches out to 1.2 million children everyday.
TAPF is a unique organization for children, supported by the Government, Corporates, Businessmen and Philanthropists.
Its vision, " No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger".
It is patronized by well known celebrities  from His Excellency Dr Abdul Kalam, Narayan Murthy,  Smt Pratibha Patil, Azim Premji, Abhishek Bachhan and many more.
It has earned its place in the Limca Book  of records  for being the largest Non Profit organization in the world to implement the Mid day Meal programme .  Today it has expanded to 18 location across 8 states.   Its path braking records have been recognized by President Barack Obama and Harvard School of Business.

So what  is the secret of Akshya Patra's success in just a decade?

A few pointers:

The Akshaya Patra program uses centralized automated kitchens  for cooking food which is distributed to schools through special purpose vehicles.

Akshaya Patra's kitchens can cook around 100,000 meals in less than five hours with least human intervention and sustained quality.

A three item menu is served to children , as per recommendations of qualified nutritionists.

Due to extensive mechanization of kitchen, the program is able to offer children standardized, hygienic, high  quality meals.

Akshaya Patra is a secular not- for - profit programme implemented only in  government schools where there is no discrimination whatsoever.

The Program is independently governed by a Board of Trustees..

Statistics prove that Akhsya Patra has resulted in increased enrollment and attendance in schools, improved nutritional status of these children , enhancing their learning abilities and reducing drop out rates.

All contributions to Akshaya Patra are eligible for 100% Tax deductions.

With its vision to ensure that no child in India is deprived of education because of Hunger, TAPF is aiming  to create a human resources pool that will propel India into a developed nation.

This post is an entry for the Akshaya Patra contest , but even without the contest, the incentive for me is that my post will feed 50 children. And i am happy to give my contribution to Akshaya Patra.  I am doing my bit and now its your turn to do the same.  So, in the new year join hands with this one-of -a kind NGO and donate for the future generations of our country.

You can donate online by clicking on DONATE.

 You can also read more about the foundation and watch videos by visiting the website.

Here is wishing Akshay Patra  achieves  its target of reaching out to 5 million children by 2020,  and our children can say Good Bye Hunger and Hello Zindagi.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year : 2011

May Lord Ganpati Bless you and your family with all good things and may he remove all obstacles from your life and fill your year with love, joy, peace and happiness, laughter  and good health.