25 April 2009

Mango mania

It is that time of the year when every self-respecting home or restaurant in India boasts of mango dishes or drinks. Yes, the mango season is almost here. An advertisement on TV brought a smile to my face the other day- a man is crazy about mangoes. He has planted a mango tree in his yard and keeps nagging it to give him mangoes. He sports a printed shirt with huge mangoes on it and is heard to mutter 'Aam' all the time. And then his son brings him 'Mazaa', a mango drink, to end this mango mania. I bet many Indians identify with this mango-lust. They love mango-pulp (aamras) with lunch or dinner, they love to slice and eat mangoes, or just suck them, eat with icecream or have mango-flavored milk-shakes or sundaes.

Call me quirky(after all we all have ours)but since childhood, mango has never agreed with my system, so I've stayed away from them. Infact, I'm immune to its so-called lure and fail to appreciate this all-consuming thirst for mangoes the moment the mercury starts rising in March every year. I remember that when I told him this, my husband had looked at me as if I had grown a horn on my head right there! When we used to live in the States, my husband missed the mangoes there.(US was not importing mangoes from India then) Seeing how much he craved the fruit, I once bought ones imported from Mexico. It was only after seeing the disgust on his face on tasting them that I learned that Indian mangoes, especially of the Alphonso(or Haafus) variety, are something to die for. For those in the US currently, there is good news. US decided to import Indian mangoes in 2008. Since the US prefers irradiation to get rid of an insect pest mango seed weevils and fruit fly from the fruits; paving the way for safe mango exports this year, the irradiation facility of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre(BARC) at Lasalgaon in Maharastra's Nasik district has begun its operations this April.

However, when my brother visited the UK a couple of years ago, he had an entirely contrasting experience. He is another mango maniac and I had actually toyed with the idea of sending him a crate of mangoes last summer. However, he informed me that he was enjoying the best of mangoes in the UK - infact he had bought a basket for 7 pounds and it was the best money he ever spent! Looks like UK has no qualms importing the succulent alphonsos from India.

Cutting back to the motherland, a friend of mine always makes it a point to drive to Devgadh(7-8 hours drive) in the sweltering heat of April every year to get the best rate on Alphoso mangoes. For the uninitiated, Devgadh alphonso is the king of mangoes and eating it is regarded as a status symbol among many. It is also the most expensive and hence the sojourn to get them cheaper at the origin. Last to last year, he got no less than 30 dozen mangoes, of which he sold about 5 dozen to friends and consumed the rest with his family!

OH the fragrance, the color, the firmness, the TASTE of the Alphonso! The mango season being delayed on account of untimely rains in March, some people have actually stooped to eating other varieties(poor cousins of the Alphonso) such as Badaam and Langda this year. How the mighty have fallen! But soon, the king will arrive in all majesty and then all the kings will not hesitate to become 'aam aadmi' :)

On doing nothing

When I was in school, I remember having a lesson in my English textbook titled - 'On doing nothing'. I also clearly remember thinking that the author (I fail to recall who) was a lazy bum who had made a virtue of his natural sloth. Please don't misunderstand me - I've been brought up by two hard-working parents, for whom idleness was the biggest vice in the world. My mother was the epitome of busyness; she got up early to cook our breakfast and lunch. She then got us ready for school and left for work herself. In the evening, after a relaxing cuppa, she slogged in the kitchen to put our dinner on the table. Evenings she spent watching her favorite soaps on TV - but even then, she used to cut, or clean, vegetables to be cooked for lunch the next day! Indeed, I remember my mother ordering me to dust the house, help with the cooking and drive her to buy groceries etc. whenever she thought I had no other work to do(esp. during school vacations). So much so, that when I see today's youngsters get away without having to dirty their glossy fingernails in the kitchen until they get married and move to the States, I am filled with a blend of distaste and pity.

Strangely, in my case, I learned the joys of doing nothing only after my marriage! My husband is the past master of 'doing nothing'. Don't get me wrong; he is a gold-medalist and therefore must have worked hard to achieve it. Its just that since achieving it, being idle is his next ideal. On our days off from work, while I'm busy catching up on accumulated housework - dusting, vaccumming, washing and ironing laundry, he loves to relax with the newspaper or in front of the TV. In the early days of our marriage we had a tough time adjusting to each others' level of er..idleness. Over the years we have worked a comfortable distribution of tasks. Which means that I have now learned to relax doing nothing. I recently took a short break from work. Everyone, including myself, thought I'd be bored silly. Strangely enough, I never once felt bored. I loved puttering about the house, tending to plants, cleaning closets, cooking dishes that I never thought I'd have the time and energy to cook. And of course, reading and writing, my favorite pastime. I did not have to stoop to watching soaps on TV, or gossiping with the neighbours, or taking long afternoon siestas. I used to sit on the sofa reading the newspapers or browsing through magazines, filing and polishing my nails or just burying into the soft, deep cushions contemplating the climax of the latest novel read by me.

I must say that I should thank both my mother and husband for helping me achieve this mix of keeping busy and doing nothing. My mother made me self-sufficient and taught me to love doing things for myself and my family. My hubby taught me that it is not necessary for one's self-esteem to keep doing something all the time. He taught me to be comfortable with my weakness of giving in to laziness sometimes, to empty my mind of all thought and just be comfortable in my skin.

Today, I look forward to spending time on my own, doing nothing. I have friends who dread going home as they have nothing to do. They will not venture home if their spouse, roommate or some other family member, is not at home. Or even if they are, there is no 'work' such as cooking, shopping etc. to be done as its all taken care of by others. Many of them have called me to go for dinner or a movie at such times. And it always makes me wonder why they don't feel comfortable to be alone and doing nothing in their own homes.

Today, I have tremendous respect for the author who wrote 'On doing nothing'. It is indeed an elusive art that most do not learn till it is very late.

19 April 2009

The power of thoughts

I have been reading a lot lately. I finished 2 books recently - 'You can heal your life' by Louise Hay and 'The Secret' by Rhonda Byrne. Both books talk of more or less the same thing - the power of thought. The former says our thoughts affect our health and happiness, and the latter emphasizes that in order to get what we want in life, we need to focus our thoughts in that direction.

Lets talk about the former first. The first book has the following philosophy -

1) We create every so-called illness in our body.
2) Resentment, criticism and guilt are the most damaging patterns.
3) Releasing resentment will dissolve even cancer.
4) We must release the past and forgive everyone, including ourselves.
5) When we really love ourselves, everything in life works.

The above is evidenced through a chart that lists all illnesses, ranging from common cold to cancer, the probable cause for that and the new thought pattern that can cure it. For example, people with knee problems have stubborn ego and pride. They are not willing to bend or give in. The thought pattern to overcome them is forgiveness, compassion and understanding. 'I bend and flow with ease and all is well.' When I tried to relate this to people who suffer from knee problems in my immediate circle, it seemed very true!

Now consider 'motion sickness'. It is caused due to a fear of losing control. I myself suffer from this. I have realized that I love to be in control all the time and whenever a situation arises where I don't have control, I feel most uncomfortable. The way to circumvent this is to keep repeating - 'I am always in control of my thoughts. I am safe. I love and approve of myself.'

Overweight - Need from protection. Running away from feelings. Insecurity, self-rejection. Seeking fulfillment. New thought pattern - 'I am at peace with my own feelings. I am safe where I am. I create my own security. I love and approve of myself.' Sound familiar?

The second book talks about the Law of Attraction. Not the one between opposite sexes! But it says that our thoughts are like a magnet that attract all those things in our life about which we think constantly. So basically, we are each responsible for all our life experiences. There is a saying which was heard in the Hindi film 'Om Shanti Om' recently - When we want something badly enough, the entire universe conspires to give it to us.' That is the philosophy of this book. When we want something really badly, we should never entertain any doubts or misgivings about getting it.

Ask - Know what you want and ask the universe for it. This is where you need to get clear on what it is you want to create and visualize what you want as being as 'real' as possible.

Believe - Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way. Focus your thoughts and your language on what it is you want to attract. You want to feel the feeling of really 'knowing' that what you desire is on its way to you, even if you have to trick yourself into believing it – do it.

Receive - Be open to receiving it. Pay attention to your intuitive messages, synchronicities, signs from the Universe to help you along the way as assurance you are on the 'right' path. As you align yourself with the Universe and open yourself up to receiving, the very thing you are wanting to manifest will show up.

Some people are 'lucky' enough to get what they want in life. This is the secret of their 'luck'. We can all be lucky if we only apply the secret. Yoga, meditation, Reiki - they all talk about controlling your thoughts and thereby focusing your energy on what we want. It is a simple enough philosophy, but awfully tough to practise!. Perhaps that's why so many sadhus and gurus are raking money out of it.

If I were not a software engineer

I was a topper at school. Though I was not bad at math and science, I was a whiz with languages. I was obsessed with books of all kinds ...