Sunday, June 5, 2022

 INTRODUCING “WALNUT RAITA”

My creative senses sometimes spill over to culinary passion.

The new creation offers an evolution in the popular Indian yogurt-based cool, refreshing and stomach-friendly item called ‘Raita.’

Replacing the traditional boiled potatoes, grated cucumber or ‘basin boondi,’ the new recommendation is walnut as the principal ingredient.

Chopped walnuts get introduced to the stirred yogurt along with salt, black pepper, powdered cumin seeds (jeera), and crushed fresh mint (Pudina) leaves. Otherwise, dried Pudina is ok too. I avoid using hot chilli powder. Instead, my choice is some raisins to give the Raita a tinge of sweetness.

As it is popularly said, in Indian food recipes, exact measurements are not required; a pinch of this and a pinch of that is all one needs depending on the taste.

In the Walnut Raita, the same rule gets applied. But if any of the ingredients overpower others, more yogurt needs to be added to balance everything.

Try the Walnut Raita; you may love the new entrant in the fine art of Indian cuisine.     

-Promod Puri

Saturday, May 28, 2022

 HOME FRIDGE: MORE THAN A SMALL COOL FOOD WAREHOUSE:

 He (or she) belongs to the family of goods and gadgets that furnish and fills our homes' interior essentials. It is an item, almost indispensable in contemporary living, that we turn to the max when hungry or just yearning for something to devour.

The standalone entity is called the refrigerator, in short, the fridge.

The vital cool little warehouse helps manage the kitchen activities by providing a safe space to prevent the cooked or uncooked foods from being spoiled, besides a storage facility for all the leftovers.

While its inside presents a loaded and crowded account of our food preferences, the outer surface of the fridge door is the display centre of family pictures. It is an open mini-album of the latest snaps, particularly kids and grandkids and their crayon artworks. Or just for our favourite quotes, jokes or greetings.

Since the fridge door is generally booked for display only, its sides are handy to stick reminder notes for appointments with doctors, dentists, plumbers, handypersons, etc.

The fridge top is another space to put things out of reach for kids, a fruit tray, a banana hanger, etc.

With its tall rectangular personality overlooking the kitchen domain, the fridge, over the years, has not gone through many avatars in its basic functioning. However, fridges have changed colours; from turquoise and pink, which were popular in the '50s and early '60s, to harvest gold, avocado green and almond in the '70s, and then the rerun of white and black as the popular colours.

Fridges seldom break down, but buying a new one is always cool when they persistently refuse to offer their cool performance.   

My first encounter with a fridge happened back in the early '60s in  India during my teen years. Before, no gadget like this had ever been heard or seen by me. There was hardly anything unconsumed or over purchased in our big family of parents, brothers and sisters, and some drop-in relatives or friends in those early days.

But when the fridge got introduced, it was love at first sight. Together our Kelvinator, coca-cola(the Original), and I comprised a relishing and refreshing company.

The tall, elegant and pride of the kitchen is indeed a boon on occasions when a sudden craving awakens us for midnight snacking, notably laddu, burfi, chocolate or anything sweet while everybody is asleep. That night-time break-in is heavenly.

But the heavenly feeling and the luxury necessity of having a refrigerator are denied to the overwhelming world's poor struggling for one meal at a time, with no money or space in their confined living place.

-Promod Puri

 

 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

COMPLAINTS, PROTESTS AND 'SHIKWA'

Poet Sahir Ludhianvi says, "Aasman pe hai khuda aur zameen pe hum, the God is up there in the sky, and we are down here on earth." "Aaj kal iss tarf dekhta hai kum, nowadays, He sees less down this way."

Not only in recent times, He seems have not glanced for long, decades or even more, for what is happening all over the globe.

In his comments, Sahir asserts, "Aajkal kisi ko woh tokta nahin, these days, He does not restrain anybody, chai kuch bhi kijeya rokta nahin, do whatever one wants to do, he stops nobody." Ho rahe lootmaar, fatt  rahe hain bombs, looting, violence, killings and bomb explosions are ongoing."

Besides wars and armed conflicts, there is much direr and distress that humankind endures. For that reason, why God created the universe and life after all.

"Duniya bananye wale kaya tere mann main samai kahe ko duniya banai, oh the world's creator, what struck your mind that you created this world," poet Shailendra seeks some explanation.   

As one of the critical issues in poetry is protest, Shailendra's probe represents a genuine voice of protest before God when we look at the present grim scenes in nations after nations where humanity suffers.

 The world presents a chilling and pessimistic look from poverty, hunger, diseases and pandemics to human rights, wars, armed conflicts, gun violence, escalating refugee problems, degenerating environments, etc.

Philosopher-poet Muhammad Iqbal exposes these underlining bearings and makes a humble submission of griefs and grievances to God.

He calls this outcry before Him "Shikwa."

Hai Baja Shewa-e-Tasleem Mein Mashoor Hain Hum 

Qissa-e-Dard Sunate Hain Ke Majboor Hain Hum

 

It is true to say we are famous for our habit of submission,

We are helpless now in narrating our tales of pain,

 

Saaz-e-Khamosh Hain, Faryad Se Maamoor Hain Hum

Nala Ata Hai Agar Lab Pe To Maazoor Hain Hum

 

We are silent lutes, filled with anguished cries,

If our passionate cries come to our lips, then excuse us, for we are helpless,

 

Ai khuda shikwa-e-arbab-e-wafa bhi sun le,

Khugar-e-hamd se thora sa gila bhi sun le.

 

Hear, O Lord, from the faithful ones this sad lament,

From those used to hymn praise, a word of discontent.

 

With reverent calling, Iqbal pleads, "thora sa gilla bhi sun le, listen to a little complaint also," oh God.

Lamenting or complaining about His created 'Leela,' Shailendra makes a direct and bold satirical address to God. "Chupp chupp tamasha dekhe wah re teri khudai, covertly enjoying the show, salvo (in caustic tone) to your godliness."

The theology of resentment and protest does not mean complaining about God. It involves complaining to the Almighty, especially those stuck in poverty and suffering. After all, as Shailendra points out, "garibon ka asrae Khuda hai, God remains the hope for the poor."

In this sentiment, a pertinent query instinctively emerges about why He creates situations where humanity goes through voluminous suffering and devastation. Why does the good God allow or permit both manufactured and natural calamities and catastrophes and evils?

Are the evils and harms in this world part of God's manifestations in His ambiguous and apathetic scheme of things?

In personal situations like failures, losses, setbacks, defeats and downfalls, the Divine Being gets vindicated through the law of karma, "as you sow, so shall you reap." The blame goes to the individual, not Him.

But when large-scale tragedies occur by the actions of the few, as in wars, or by nature itself, like in pandemics, furious cyclones, devastating floods, etc., both causing collateral damage, the situations seek incriminating God through genuine complaints and protests.

Does God listen to these collateral outbursts and outcries?

As far as personal tragedies are concerned, all the religions and sermons encourage us to express that it is perfectly alright to complain and even express anger toward God. The readings from the holy books and the teachings from the priests and pundits assure us that God does not get upset. He listens to both the expressions of thanks and legitimate complaints.

However, does God attend to when large-scale disasters and the destruction and devastation of living and non-living environments occur?

If not, an absence of God rages in these situations.

His absence produced sombre feelings as places of religious conduct had their doors locked when people believed in some divine intervention while expecting a cure from science for the Covid-19.

The big question prevailed, where was God in the holy cities from Varanasi to the Vatican? The divinity of God was on the spot with the near shutdown of houses of gods.

Again, where is God, the Savior, during the current period of severe crisis with an adamant global viral pandemic facing humanity and the human tragedies from Ukraine to Afghanistan, Africa, and South America.

His absence beyond the ritualistic and conceptual physical presence gets rightfully felt when we complain and protest about the dire state of affairs that wraps the entire humanity and its environment.

Scriptures are silent about that or blame the deeds of humankind where the innocent and the poor suffer the most.

Promod Puri

Sunday, May 15, 2022

BOYCOTTS AND SANCTIONS:

Yes, the boycott is working. Since February, it has deprived Russians of their choice of burgers at MacDonald; they miss Pepsi too. The absence of Burger King, Starbucks, Kit Kat, Snickers, Mars, and M&M poses a challenging time that downsizes their snacking freedom. So are Carlsberg and Heineken. Dove, the soap, got its last wash. Canada Goose refuses to provide extreme weather protection. T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, H&M, Crocks, and Adidas have stripped the Russians from fashion wear and gear. The exit of Visa, Mastercard, and American Express poses aches and uneasiness with Ruble-loaded bulky valets and purses. Hyatt and Hilton are frightening to Russian kids as haunted houses.

Sanctions are working, too, not only in Russia but spread their impacts all over the globe. Pains and pinches, hardships and hunger strike the poor of the world, especially in African countries. The Ruble may be up, but the Russian economy is down and will hit bottom soon. Putin gets punished, along with most Russians, including the super-rich, Oligarchs. Their luxury yachts seized and mansions abroad will be shelter homes for the homeless. Russia’s bank assets in millions or billions, frozen like a solid block of ice, but the funds are liquid for the West and multinationals. Gas prices are smashing the records here, there and everywhere. Thanks to the sanctions, the Sheikhs are smiling, and so is the war industry, with skyrocketing profits. Keep the sanctions on that will work to bankrupt Russia someday this year, next year or beyond.

-Promod Puri

 

  

Monday, May 2, 2022

 HOW WE SPEND TIME:

How do we use time from the morning when we get up till bedtime?

The question is simple in its response by tallying all the activities from daily routine to daily grind with occasional or regular breaks of recreation and entertainment. Work, study, walk and exercise, eat and sleep, and the everyday chores, etc., make a sequence that confirms the logistic of the schedule.

Laundering, washing, cleaning, surfing the internet or the waves, travelling, trekking, etc., are all time-consuming hustles.


These constitute physical activities linked to our health, families, friends, society's needs, interests, obligations, and imperatives.

Time is a valuable but limited resource, only 24 hours. Out of it, we reserve a big chunk, 33 percent, on sleep during our lifespans.

Time-use in the real sense is a commitment toward social, economic, and other issues and affairs.

But "doing nothing," an expression we often hear, also gets a cut from time.

Perhaps, some bliss in this leisure non-act. "There is never enough time to do all the nothings" carries some ideology as time, if one enjoys wasting, is not a wasted time.  

Time for "doing nothing" differs from "killing time."

The latter is a tool to slay time by doing an aimless or dull activity like waiting at the airport when the flight gets delayed. Here, the time does not fly but seems quite stretched out.

 Still, time flows with activity.

When there is no physical activity, time grabs something from the thoughts generated in our mental faculties. It gets itself wrapped in all kinds of thinking originating from the realm of our cognitive senses. Mental productivity presents logical or illogical ideas or opinions, taking our time or wasting our time.

The topics of thought are varied, from old memories to relations with family, friends and foes, concerns or worries, bliss and joys, or just the simple pleasure of gossiping. Talking about other people's lives, behaviour, and temperament, good and evil (in their absence) offers the social indulgence that people find the time to get pleasure from it.

Also, in the time-consuming non-physical exercise are engagements and discussions on serious and trendy topics that are political, economic, social, or religious.

Altogether, time moves in the company of both physical and mental doings. To be precise, time gets divided between the two.  

The physical body can take a break when shifting from one activity to another. But the brain does not, being busy all the time. It invariably works. If it rests, it is dead. Close to 100 billion neuron cells are active in receiving and delivering messages, communicating with each other, creating and dispensing thoughts that the cerebral part of the body is a nonstop multi-tasking workshop triggering actions in the time module.

The brainwork goes while "doing nothing" or in the physical sense of dictating to do something in the environmental world.

Physical activities get considered obligatory as per our demands and urgencies. The mental deliveries of thoughts, ideas, opinions, reflections, or reasonings get channelized as how we use time or waste time in useful or wasteful thinking.

Meditation also takes time. But here, it does not bind itself with thought. The meditator tries to empty the brain without thought, retain a mantra or just an object of focus. The exercise seeks routes to halt thought production. Or it simply ignores the traffic of thinking to let it flow in and out smoothly.

Thought, task and time go together.

Thought itself is a task to devote or spend meaningful time in the personal company of self. After all, studying self or knowing the psychology of 'I' is worth spending some time.

by Promod Puri

Monday, April 4, 2022

 “WHO IN THE WORLD Am I?”

That is a big puzzle that confronts us once in a while.

The question does not relate to our standing or relevance in society.

Nor does it search for an identity amid people. Or in the company of living and non-living environments, the universe, and the celestial world.

It is just establishing and developing the authenticity of Self.

It is an earnest attempt to find life under the true Self, personal values rather than assigned by external demands of society.

The exercise involves discarding the false Self that reflects our behaviour as perceived by others. In this exploration, we may see that the self-image created was false or fake to please others.

The authenticity concept arises from the insight that human beings generally live or exist in an inauthentic way.

Social relationships, cultural values, and norms construct an inauthentic Self. The recovery of the authentic Self requires a radical reexamination of cultural contexts, habitual lifestyles, and ways of thinking. It also involves a positive progression of authenticity across time.

Authenticity is a feeling that develops with its persuasive use; being true to Self and seeking what is morally good help create sincere and natural authenticity of Self.

-by Promod Puri

Thursday, March 31, 2022

 INTRODUCTION OF GITA STUDY IN SCHOOLS WILL LEAD TO CRAM LEARNING FOR  KIDS:

Hindu holy book Bhagavad Gita has become part of school studies in Gujarat starting this year.

Other states in India ruled by the Bhartiya Janta Party are likely to follow the Gujarat lead in instituting Hindu religious beliefs among the students in their early years.

The introduction of 'moral education' through studies in Gita in the educational system as part of the school curriculum affirms the impression that such teachings would make students proud of India's traditions and glorious past.

Hindu nationalism indeed cheers such selective educational entries while overlooking India's secular fundamentals.

However, an equally concerning factor relates to the cognitional levels of kids from grade 6 to 12 as to how they will learn and discern the text in Gita.

Besides its ritualistic practices, Hinduism, where Gita occupies a central stage, needs mature handling in its study, interpretation, and insight.

Hinduism is also a democracy of conflicting, contradicting, and controversial thoughts and theories offered by its various schools of theological orders. Gita is not an exception but a part of such voluminous ideologies and disciplines.

Gita's most known message and compelling theme are Karma, which involves faithfully and sincerely performing our duties and obligations without attachment to results.

"You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction. (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, Verse 47)

In short, the Gita doctrine affirms only He governs the result or harvest of action or 'karma,' supposedly based on the merits and demerits of the Karm or activity.

Gita belongs to the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism.

In contrast to Gita's message, the Mimamsa school favours an unconditional release of an activity and its outcome from divinity. It rejects the involvement of the Supreme in creating action and its result.

Known for its philosophies based on hermeneutics, meaning critical interpretation, the Mimamsa is a pioneer of Hindu thought of realism and is a forerunner to Vedanta. 

Mimamsa argues that causation, the cause of action, is natural. And it is sufficient to induce the ultimate result. Accordingly, it is a futile exercise to engage divinity to initiate the cause and determine its outcome.

The old Mimamsa school finds common ground and relevancy in contemporary Hindu thought on the concept or the law of Karma. Moreover, it identifies its logical relationship with science. 

Newton's law of motion: Every action leads to a reaction and applies to Karma's law.

When we bring Newton's law or the law of Karma as propagated by the Mimamsa School into the classroom, it generates a conflict with what Gita proclaims. Students study with passion and some positive aims, but Gita poses a gospel uncertainty that arrests their aspirations.

Another critical point regarding the Gita reading by young students relates to the caste system.

While the contemporary Indian society struggles for the "annihilation of caste," Lord Krishna proclaims, "I created the four categories of occupations according to people's qualities and activities. Although I am the Creator of this system, know Me to be the Non-doer and Eternal." (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, Verse 13)

We agree that the classification does not base itself on birth. Instead of people's qualities and activities, Gita's dogma gets easily perceived with Manu's birth-based caste divisions. The discriminatory lecturing damages the casteless social order envisioned through the moral education we expect the young students to receive.

Besides, as we move to the rest of the Gita chapters, we find them engaged in profound philosophies covering spiritual subjects, creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe; the flight into the celestial worlds of His multi-facet universal form; life after death, etc.

These chapters constitute many esoteric values that are hard to comprehend for school kids who lack critical enquiries and even for teachers trying to impart studies in Gita.

What will eventually happen with the aim of politically-motivated exploration of India's pride and glorious past through the Gita teaching program is that the students would do the rote learning or memorize the text as they do in most fundamental religious schools.

-Promod Puri