Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The year that was - A walk through 2016


We had some unpredictable endings this year. With the massive demonetization the whole socio economic and political scenario shuffled to a point where the common people were pushed to the wall. People but had to be a part of this eruption and were extremely devastated and disillusioned in the process. Amidst this, the two things that came into major prominence are cashless and ATM. If this is a part of "achhe din" I do not know, I do not want to know either. All I know at this point in time is that all changes are opposed, confronted, criticised till they are actually accepted and we are going through the initial phase now.

I, myself, was extremely excited about the move so much so that I went on to voice my adherence on several platforms. Little did I know then that this would turn out to be really bizarre. Once again we were shamed by the blatant corruption issues. A group of ingrate opportunists played it really low. My heart broke several times after that and I tried not to hit the social media - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc anymore. I am a strong person and my sense of ethics, sense of judgment and values are ingrained in me quite early in life. The offshoots of demonetization hit me badly and I felt very small. All those angry social vents seemed preachy and inane and I really needed the sun. And as I was struggling to come in terms with the most revolutionizing endeavor of the government I realized that it's almost new year.

2016 had some bad things in store for us, my family. When we were planning a fantastic trip to Benaras little did I know that a friend for lifetime was awaiting my return. I was diagnosed with uveitis. This was a shock of a lifetime! Before I could decipher the language of uveitis aka iritis I started having flares of idiopathic uveitis. This continued for the next six months and I had to be on dreadful dose of steroid drops. It felt like grains of sand inside my eyes all the time. The eyes and everything in and around pained and my vision got blurry. Those were the most terrible period of my life when I was made to believe that I would not go blind after all.

Nonetheless I agreed on a trip to the US and as it turned out, I got the US visa (of which I have written in my previous article - The US visa experience). As I was coming in terms with my health condition, the trip to the US was seen materializing. The next few days just swept past, and soon I sat myself to a long flight to the US. I stayed there for nearly a month and shared some wonderful memories with my sister, niece and brother-in-law. We went on drives, experienced the feel of summer workshop (courtesy my niece), explored the plethora of world cuisine, I whetted my culinary skills etc. etc. etc. I was also religiously administering the steroid drops hoping that it would be the last flare of my life. Meanwhile my family in Dubai was settling some life changing decisions. It is hard to let go of two decades of assimilation and decide to ask the children to reclaim the culture and living of which they were never a part of.

All said and done, I am a very positive person and I see silver lining in even bizarre things. I am realistic too. I  believe that all endings flower a new beginning and all the not-so-good things in life pass. "This too shall pass" and soon. Have faith. I wish you all a blessed new year ahead. Inspire and be inspired. Love and lots of love.

Photo credit: theodysseyonline

Monday, December 5, 2016

The US VISA experience: You need a little bit of luck as well!




The US VISA experience: Yes you need a little bit of luck as well!

Three months have passed since I am back from the US trip and very often I get flashes from the beautiful stay that was in the US. It was a trip that would be hard to forget for several reasons. These I am going to pen down gradually here. The first part of the US Visit starts with "The ultimate VISA experience". The US VISA - as much as it sounds fascinating the actual process may not be so. But if you are one of the luckier few like me you may crack it just like that.

The ultimate US VISA experience

I did my homework. Yes, quite a bit of researching on the internet and what I realized was that you may manage to get a brownie point if:

You are rooted to your country as in job, property, family. All of these would make you want to return to your country no matter what. 

Apparently I scored a zero and my prospect of the US visit seemed a faraway dream. I am single. I don’t own any property. I am not a professional. All are outright down points towards getting the visa.

I presume, I was snapping at everyone who was already congratulating me on the soon-to-be US visit. I told them that I was not getting the visa. I myself was pretty much convinced of it.

The US Visa procedure has two parts. The Biometrics and the Interview. After filling the form online, I chose the two dates. It’s a simple form and you do not need to know rocket science to do it. I remained honest. Every bit of info I provided was true to the tee. This was what my boss had told me do. By disclosing the truth and the truth only you will most likely to get away with the untoward questioning session during the interviewing process.


I was called in right on time after an initial screening of my passport and the confirmation of the online application. I had to enter without anything but the passport. They put me through a manual security check, scrutinized nails and palms and sent me to the final counter for the photo click. The lady had great deal of trouble getting my snap. She was finding it difficult to adjust the camera to my height. She finally she could capture my photo. She also recorded my fingers prints and I was done with the Biometrics.


There had been a gap of 20 days before I could get to the interview date. I was much before time and it was a real long wait at the entrance. And then my time arrived. I had to go through an exhaustive security check where I had to leave all my stuffs. Yes all my stuffs! I was frisked really bad. It gave me a feeling of being a convict.

In the second phase my passport and the supporting docs were screened after which I was made to wait in the waiting room along with few others. It must have been more than thirty minutes that I was called in for the third phase. There were 4 counters attended by Indian officials. I was guided to one of the four counters. The lady went through the docs. I was carrying a NOC from my boss, sponsorship letter from my father, bank statements, the salary slip etc. The ladies put the rest of the documents (bank statements, my father’s asset details etc.) aside since those, she felt, were not relevant and asked me to wait for the 4th and the final phase.

After a wait of half an hour I was called for the interview. It was a similar counter with no apparent difference from the previous one. One American lady on the other side of the glass barrier greeter me. Then she had frowns on her face. I assumed that she was eyeing through the application form on the monitor infront of her. I was tense. Then she looked at me and asked me:

What is your salary?

Rs…

What do you do?

I work as the secretary to the director of cardiology at….

Which are the places you have visited?

The UAE

Why UAE?

My sisters live there.

You mentioned that your parents are old. Are you the only caregiver?

Yes

Since you will be away who will look after them?

My aunt will come over from village and it is just as matter of 22 days, I guess...

Do you have children?

No

Then she asked me to place my thumb on the screener in front to me probably to match it with the Biometrics. And then, she looked at me, smiled and uttered the golden words. "Your VISA to the US has been approved. You will be informed about the date of your passport collection soon."

That was all!

Still in disbelief, I thanked her, managed to come out and called my mother. She was overwhelmed and so were the others. I went around with a halo the rest of the day. It was an amazing feeling! The day after I received a text from the US embassy to collect my passport. On proper identity screening, I received the passport. My Visa to the US was imprinted there in golden letters. I was granted the US visa for 10 multiple years. What more could I have asked for!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Tolerance Intolerance Debate - I choose silence


Nothing hurts me more than a bunch of non stop talkers, being sat on the television channels, talking big on some inane topic. The primary focus of these 'lit-adults' are to hop from channels to channels chirping on the same 'asinine' topics every single day. It may not have been implausible if the political vendetta behind their voices was not so glaring. That's another debate though. My point today is the amount of verbosity that goes around every day is not only wastage of space and time but also a horrific cue to the destined digital garbage from this man made assault of words.

The most of this wordiness is shallow and invites bitter retaliation spontaneously. There is no harm in being vocal, in channelizing our thoughts smartly and sharply. But the unwanted gushing of viral verbosity that goes around in the internet - twitter, facebook, blogs, etc. - is highly arguable. Having said that, in most cases, I choose not to reiterate. For the simple reason of not being wanting to be associated with anything not right, anything not plausible or anything not felicitous - I choose silence. I would not want to be associated with anything that I may find 'not OK' and want to disown or that the children would not be proud of later.

So, what if we use our words more intelligently? How difficult it would be to be less wordy? Is it too hard to be sane and peaceful?

The intense profanity in the choice of words is not always deliberate and there are of course wise talkers. But certainly there are less in numbers. I believe in doing things rather than forming social media solidarity. This adds onto digital clutter. So, at a time when even the liberals are fighting over the tolerant-intolerant thing, when people are going overboard with misplaced words, at a time when your voice is accentuated with criticisms - I choose not to talk.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Of Janmashtami, Malpuas, family tradition and more




Janmashtami (Janmashtomi) is one festival that we look forward to ever since the childhood days. It was the time we would have our house wrapped in some undefined joy of festivity. Janmashtami is celebrated all over India in the month of August/September and on the eighth day of the Hindu calendar. The birthday of lord Krishna is a very special occasion for the Hindus. They consider Him as their savior, philosopher, friend, lover and everything that is human, everything that is Godly.

The festival has transcended beautifully over the years and today I see it with much love since that is the time we are fondly reminded of our Dida (grandmother). She was a lady of strong integrity and was revered by one and all. She never forced the ritualistic regime. That probably is the reason that we have learned to imbibe the true fervor of the festivals in their entirety. It was never forced, it was never too much of something that we would have detested later in lives. We never detested it nor did we regret later. It was probably because of the values that were instilled upon us very subtly.  

We have grown up seeing the grandeur of family tradition while celebrating Janmashtami. At the wake of dawn, my grandma would immerse the idols of lord Krishna and Radha (his muse) a lavish milk and ghee bath, deck them with new clothes and ornaments and start the puja (religious rituals). The food offerings included assortments of seasonal fruits, our own home made sweets made for this occasion alone, Bhog – a special rice and pulses mixed food, rice polao, luchis (puris), kheer (condensed milk with rice), 8 different types of fries made from 8 different vegetables, other special vegetables side dishes, sweet and sour chutnis/ pickles and whole savory of sweets. Having said that, Janmashtami is never complete without Taler Bora and Malpua for these are supposedly lord Krishna's favorite sweets.

Our role was not more than just hopping around eating all the goodies. I particularly liked the occasion since I was not told to study that day, something that happened very very seldom. Things have changed since. We have grown up, my sisters have relocated to different countries, and my grandma is no more. But some things never change, I still live in the same old house and we still have the more than a century old Krishna and Radha idols along with the legacy that my grandma has left behind. Today i see my mother doing everything that she has grown up seeing her mother do, and I on my part still enjoy the Bhog, Malpua, Sweets etc. 


Coming to the special Janmashtami Bengali sweet savory, Malpua needs special mention. It is one savory that every other household celebrating the festival will prepare and needless to say every household has its own Malpua recipe. My mother has hers and I have mine. I have streamlined on the ingredients and made the recipe much easier and faster to cater to my taste and time.


What is Malpua

Malpua is an Indian delectable dessert much similar to sweet round pancake dipped in sugar syrup. It’s a gourmet’s delight. To prepare them you will need easily available kitchen ingredients. The ingredients will be available in almost every store round the corner.



Ingredients

Milk (8 cups)
Condensed milk (2 cups)
Water (2 cups)
Sugar (3 cups)
Fennel seeds (1 tablespoon)
Refined flour (3 cups)
Rose essence (1 teaspoon) - my addition
Clarified butter/ Ghee/ white oil (1 cups)
½ teaspoon of cardamom powder (optional)
Few strands of saffron strands (optional)
Silvered almonds and pistachios to garnish (optional)


Preparing the sugar syrup

Prepare a sugar syrup of single thread consistency. Add 1 tsp of rose essence and a few strand of saffron. Set aside to cool.


Preparing the batter for the Malpua

Bring the milk to boil and keep boiling till it reduces to half. Set aside and wait till it cools down.
Sieve the refined flour and add it slowly to the reduced milk. Keep stirring to avoid the lump formation. Stir well and stir continuously.

Add sweetened condensed milk. Stir to attain a smooth consistency of pancake.
Add fennel seeds and cardamom powder to the batter.


Process

Heat the ghee (clarified butter) on thick bottomed frying pan and pour the batter in a blob in the center to form small pancakes. Wait till the sides turn golden brown. Turn over and wait for the side to cook till it gets golden brown.

Dip the Malpuas in the rose sugar syrup and let it sip the juice.

Serving

Remove the Malpuas before serving and drain on a wire rack to drip the excess syrup. Dish them out delicately on a flat platter, garnish with chopped dry fruits.

And that's Malpua for you!

Note to yourself: 

With all those goodies, Malpua is, no doubt, a guilt food. Nonetheless you can indulge in it once in a while since it's irresistible. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Natoker Moto (Like A Play) - More than a biopic a soulful tribute to the group theatres of the 60s


Natoker Moto (Like a play) is a film that certainly will make you think. The film is essentially the journey of Kheya - the maverick, beyond the time, theatre artist, whose untimely death raises questions on the various issues of the 1960s. The socio-cultural scenario, the emancipation of the womanhood, the hypocrisy of the male dominance, the changing face of bengali theatre and of course the indomitable passion for group theatre that had driven the likes of Ajitesh Bandopadhyay, Rudraprasad Sendupta, Keya Chakraborty, Shambhu Mitra to compromise the world against their unfaltering adherence to the cause of drama - a cause they believed in, they lived for.



The movie starts with the Calcutta Port investigation officer investigating the death of a famous theatre personality Kheya who died untimely while shooting for a bengali cinema. She was apparently sank. Suicide or murder - that was the talk of the town and the officer while going through the pages of her diary and while interrogating discovers the changing equation of the various relationships in the life of the actress. As the truth unfolds the officer confronts the changing roles of various people whose lives are tangled with that of Kheya's. The mentor and the group leader finds himself a minority while the chauvinistic husband captures the leadership with a majority. The changing roles bring about a change that may be considered as a game changer of bengali theatre. The changing face of idealism makes the mentor walks off and the husband takes over the group theatre. He takes immense pride in acquiring a falsehood while the idealist mentor finds emancipation in walking out.





The other pivotal characters whose lives were tied with Kheya's appear as the officer unfolds some beautiful relationships with that of the professor, writer-poet, childhood friend. But the most important of all was certainly with that of her mother. A mother with all cliques fights, yields and stands with Kheya in all her  nonconformist decisions, right from her decision to marry the college beau to joining the group theatre, to leaving her job as a professor to walking out of the marriage to deciding to giving off her gold jewellery or to act in movies in an endeavor to raise fund to the dying theatre group.






Debesh Chattopadhyay, the director, takes us through the interludes of reality and stage stretching over two decades (1950 - 1970). Subtle yet precise the delineation of the character of Kheya from a next door household girl to a strong free spirit whose indomitable courage to fight for her cause was beautifully portrayed. Paoli Dam as Kheya is a delight to watch. It's mind boggling to watch the Hate Story girl transform into Kheya with so much conviction.












Paoli Dam immortalizes Kheya. She leaves a mark in all the scenes. In the stage scenes, while enacting Antigone, Noti Binodini, Proposal, she was brilliant. She even gives her voice o the song Ami jokhon meye thaki, a fresh composition by Debajyoti Mishra, very naturally. It would be unfair not to mention the rest of the actors who effortlessly did their role playing with equal finesse. Having said that the ensemble cast with the likes of Rajatava Dutta as the Calcutta Port investigator, Sujan Mukhopadhyay as the professor, Ushashi Banerjee as the poet, Rupa Ganguly as the mother, Saswata Chatterjee as the husband and Bratya Basu as the mentor, can never go wrong.

















The last scene is epic. The camera pans on Kheya's face which after much pain and sorrow is now poised on the river. This is followed by a long shot of Kheya's mortal remains wrapped in a 'Murshidabadi silk' floating downstream as Mousumi Bhowmik's Ami shunechhi sedin tumi plays in the backdrop. Amid this the pertinent questions like, "Dol-er jonyo theatre na, theatre-er jonyo dol" or every suicide is a murder put us to serious thinking.





Natoker Moto even though not really a biopic has strange resemblances with the artistic journey of the theatre artist Keya Chakraborty who had met a similar untimely death shrouded in mystery in March 1977 at the age of 34. She was shooting for Swadesh Sarkar's Jeevan Jey Rokom.

I came to know about this much later when everyone was talking about the biopic thing. The film was believable even without any preconceived notion. That for me was the success of the debutante director. The last scene, the portrayal of the theatre personalities along with the uncanny similarity in their names leave us wondering if Kheya and keya are actually the same person. Having said this, more than a biopic, Natoker Moto is a soulful tribute to the group theatres of the 60s by a passionate theatre artist of the current era, Debesh Chattopadhyay.



Natoker Moto is a must watch and you would want to watch it second time round. The last scene is a poignant rendition by Mousumi Bhomick's of Ami shunechhi sedin tumi. This for me was an insatiable climax that sipped into my being leaving me choked. I came out of the hall with a promise to relive the multi dimensional journey of the free willed artist who continues to live on embracing the living art form yet another time.





Cast and Crew 

Photo credit and source: Natoker Moto, Timesofindia, Wikipedia

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

And my pimple saga continues


You are not going to be Monroe anyway - so happy living with pimples.
 Just when I started to think that I am over the pimple saga that I am assailed with yet another bout of eruption. As my friends you must have known by now that pimple have never really abandoned me. They have been there since forever.

It started all in my pre teen days and as every other girl in the block I got the first spell amidst much ado. I was started on homemade remedies on weekends for that was the only time I could afford to apply the fruit mashes, besan and egg mixes, yogurt, chandan (sandalwood) paste - you just name it! Every other day I uncovered new breakouts and by the time I went to college I got over the oh-no-not-again thing. I was used to the vicious circle and was used to living with the deadly aftermath.

Meanwhile, I saw skin specialists and used several tubes of ointments, several face packs and virtually tried every other suggestions that people came up with. People, however, agreed on one thing that I have an extreme oily skin and that I am bound to have it until a certain age.  They talked over length on the hormonal imbalance, excessive oil secretion, ineffective and inadequate cleansing, diet imbalances, physiological changes, commercial dupes - blah blah blah. All said and done the pimples never deserted me.


That 'age' when I was supposed NOT to get pimples never came. My face today has similar kind of scars from newer pimples which are verging on acne. Now, I have advanced and medicinal cosmetic tubes on my vanity. I have almost all the new launches that promise acne free flawless skin. I have sadly looked on the gorgeous packs of night creams, anti aging treatment, sun screens while shopping, have even bought many of them but could never really apply them like people do. They do not work for me. I am aware of the fact that the hyped commercial aspect on  the acne issue never going to go away except that I can get wiser and choose my product wisely. Right now I am just on aloe vera gel that should be able to do the daily moisturizing, not promising the repairing work though.

The years of unfaltering association with the pimples have taught me that the you can only control the outbursts if not totally get rid of them and that hot towel therapy or face spa help in opening up the clogged pores but flawless skin is a myth for people with oily skin. So, no matter how hard you try you can't stop them from coming.

I know its pointless trying to look beautiful with that big burst on your face but then you are not going to be Monroe anyway. So after several sunrises and coffee cups later my pimple saga continues.
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