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Why use spices?

Spices offer exotic flavours to food, and flavourful food is divine. But spices are not just used to appease our taste.In fact, some spices can be a real boost to the body, and help rid it of toxins. Here are some benefits of spices used in most of my recipes:

1. Turmeric (haldi): Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Arthritis, joint pains, and Alzheimer are some of the known medical problems that turmeric helps in curing. It has been used in India for ages for cosmetic benefits like bringing radiance to skin, curing acne and skin related medical problems.
2. Cloves (laung): Anti-viral, Anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, source of many minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids
3. Cumin seeds (jeera): helps remove toxins, helps with digestion, lactation, common cold, diabetes, insomnia, prevents memory loss.
4. Bay leaf (tez patta): boosts immunity, improves nervous system function, protects oral health, regulates body metabolism and prevents blood-related conditions like anemia.
5. Star Anise (chakraphool): antioxidant, rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, copper, and manganese. Has stomachic, anti-spasmodic, antiseptic, digestive, expectorant, and stimulant properties. Helps to increase the circulation and oxygenation of body parts.
6. Caraway Seeds (ajwain): improve digestion, reduce constipation, lowers blood cholesterol, reduces bloating, belching, gas and gas pains and improves blood pressure. A source for thiamine, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and niacin, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. This is most commonly used as a safe treatment in India for stomach related medical problems for infants and kids.
7. Cardamom (elaichi): Aids in digestion and increased frequency and volume of urination, reduces spasms, lowers blood pressure and increases metabolism. A source of vitamins and minerals like riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, iron, manganese and potassium.
8. Cinnamon (dal chini): Reduces inflammation, eliminates pain and infections, manages diabetes, reduces bloating, belching, gas and gas pains , increases cognitive function, good for bones, prevents cancer and good for the health of eyes and skin.

These are all mild flavoured spices used commonly in an Indian household. All of these are easily available in asian grocery stores all over the world. It is also good to know that they are quite inexpensive.

Spices should be used according to personal preferences/palates and in moderate quantities.

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Back to action again..

Coming back to active social life is feeling a bit weird this time. I seem to have been enjoying my sojourn of just being with myself. This was the 3rd year that I temporarily abstained from social media and I have to admit that it is getting easier and more relaxing to stay away from it with each passing year. I genuinely feel so good to know that I did not miss much and not many people missed me. I guess while being away, there was a warm feeling inside for all that are close in heart. These sojourns are not at all like “out of sight out of mind”. 

If I were to assess what platform I missed the most between my blog www.fourstepsorless.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp. I would say I was too lazy and laid back to write anything on my blog recently, so I really didn’t miss it. Though I plan to get to it very soon.

I feel, of late Facebook has become so commercially driven that it does not seem to absorb my attention anymore, also less and less number of friends and family are using it. On the other hand, following a few interesting people and news channels on Twitter and Instagram without having to react seems more enthralling to me. WhatsApp, however, is a completely different ball game. It is the most conveniently used platform to talk for free but also has its deep prickles when it comes to futile good mornings and numerous forwarded messages on groups with people who you otherwise would enjoy talking to but for this barrage of unsolicited messages. Having said this I have to say I missed Whats app the most. 

Bottom line is I am back, Inshaallah we will be in touch soon.😊

सक्रिय सामाजिक जीवन में वापस आना इस बार थोड़ा अजीब लग रहा है। सच कहूँ तो मैं सिर्फ अपने साथ रहने की अपनी छुट्टी का मैं पिछले कुछ हफ़्तों में बहुत आनंद ले रही थी। यह तीसरा साल है जब मैंने सोशल मीडिया से कुछ दिनों का परहेज किया और मुझे यह स्वीकार करना होगा कि हर गुजरते साल के साथ इससे दूर रहना और आसान और अधिक आरामदायक होता जा रहा है। मुझे वास्तव में यह जानकर बहुत अच्छा लग रहा है कि मैंने बहुत कुछ miss नहीं किया और बहुत से लोगों ने भी मुझे miss नहीं किया। मुझे लगता है कि सम्पर्क में ना रहने के बावजूद भी जो दिल के करीब हैं उन सब के लिए तो दिल में एक गर्मजोशी का अहसास हमेशा रहता ही है। ये कुछ दिनों का break “out of sight, out of mind” होने जैसा बिलकुल नहीं था ।

अगर मैं यह आँकलन करूं कि मेरे blog ( www.fourstepsorless.com), Facebook , Twitter, Instagram और WhatsApp के बीच मैं किस प्लेटफॉर्म को मैंने सबसे ज़्यादा miss किया तो मैं कहूँगी कि इन आलस्य भरे दिनों में blog तक तो मैं पहुँची ही नहीं। कुछ नया नहीं लिखा।

Facebook हाल ही में बहुत commercial हो गया है और कुछ ही मित्र और परिवारगण अब इस पर active हैं। Twitter और Instagram पर कुछ दिलचस्प लोगों और समाचार चैनलों का अनुसरण करना मुझे अधिक आकर्षक लगता है। इन platforms पर प्रतिक्रिया देने की अपेक्षा भी नहीं होती तो सिर्फ़ follow करना और informed रहना आसान रहता है। दूसरी ओर WhatsApp एक पूरी तरह से अलग ball game है। यह मुफ्त में बात करने के लिए सबसे सुविधाजनक रूप से उपयोग किया जाने वाला मंच है, लेकिन जब व्यर्थ Good Mornings, और अनेकों अवांछित messages रोज़ आते हैं तो WhatsApp से कोफ़्त सी होती है। उसी group के हर सदस्य से अन्यथा आप बात करना बहुत पसंद करते हैं, लेकिन यह बेकार के messages एक चुभन जैसे है। WhatsApp जैसी मीठी छुरी के लिए यह सब कहने के बाद भी मेरा कहना है कि मैंने सबसे ज्यादा WhatsApp को ही miss किया। 

जो भी है अब मैं वापस आ गयी हूँ, इंशाह अल्लाह, जल्द ही आपसे सम्पर्क होगा! 😊

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Social Media-I am back

I am back! So how was my second detox trip? Better than the first one for sure. I didn’t feel the urge to reach out for my phone even on day 1 of the detox. It was therapeutic to know that I don’t have to check on who says what. It is inexplicable that though the choice to be present on these platforms is mine, whenever I decide to stay away, it feels like some strings have been let loose. At the end of the day, it is a pleasurable and liberating feeling.

Throughout these 6 weeks I did not feel like I was missing anything big. To be more precise about my latest detox experience, I realized it is Facebook and WhatsApp that consumes me most. While I get to see only a few posts from friends on Facebook, I am subconsciously going through fake news, videos that Facebook wants you to see and I end up investing more time than I thought it would take to quickly browse through. The same goes for WhatsApp. While it is nice to keep in touch with friends and family, it can be irritating to wake up to a barrage of irrelevant forwarded messages, birthday & anniversary wishes and thank yous and sorries. Having said that, I can’t complain about the free voice calls that WhatsApp offers.

I have however found that Skype voice calls conveniently replace WhatsApp calls sans spam messages and fake news.As for other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, I haven’t found them to be too enticing anyway. I don’t have the urge to engage intensely in communicating through them except that I enjoy the short Reels or IGTV news snippets that news channels and comedians like Trevor Noah put up. But then, podcasts replace these in my detox time.

Small things have kept me quite busy these past 6 weeks. Some “something out of nothing projects”, some writing, designing a photo book, gratifying feel of spending time at SPARSH, meeting friends for coffee, simply napping without having to check the phone or receiving any calls, catching up on Netflix documentaries and much more.

My 4 weeks of detox became 6 as I really didn’t feel like getting back on. Life has been quiet and peaceful in the last 6 weeks. Moreover, after watching Social Dilemma on Netflix, a thought crossed my mind of giving up all social media for good, but then I also have to admit that some things have become such an important part of our lives now that privacy concerns are superseded by the ease of communication that we have gotten so used to.

Who knows? Maybe if I do this detox thing one more time, I may not want to come back to social media at all!

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On the road again…

With no plans to travel anymore this year, more so during our favourite quite holiday time each year in Nairobi, or to go on a Safari anytime soon, we still embarked on a trip to Samburu national park. This was our maiden trip to this park that has completely different landscapes than the ones we have been to. There is a lot of wildlife Northeast of Mt Kenya and the most interesting are the special five herbivores found north of the equator: Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, Beisa Oryx and the Somali ostrich with blue neck and blue legs. One of these, the Grevy’s zebra is an endangered species. It has fine stripes and a white underbelly. I however loved the Gerenuk. It is a slender and elegant antelope with a small head, bulging eyes, prominent ears and an incredibly long neck. The name comes from the Somali word garanuug, meaning giraffe-like neck. It was amazing to drive through beautiful country side, bright yellow mustard fields, neatly lined up green houses and lush green pineapple farms. At the park we were delighted to see herds of gazelles, flocks of Ostriches, a number of parades of Elephants, towers of magnificent giraffes, troupes of monkeys and baboons, zeals of zebras and many more other animals and birds. Parul visiting us from Tunisia has been so nice and certainly motivated us to make yet another trip in COVID times. Have to say that we felt quite safe with all COVID protocols being followed all the way. Sharing here some pictures and short videos that might inspire you to make a trip soon to Kenya and experience some of these unparalleled marvels of nature.

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Will the compassion last beyond COVID-19?

My thoughts today-
COVID-19 has taken over the world stage. As infections rise to an alarming number of 1.6 million globally, and with the whole or most of the world locked down, I am feeling compelled to share some thoughts that have been troubling me for the last few days. While it is encouraging to see that the whole world is coming together to combat this challenging fight against this extraordinary virus that does not differentiate between rich and poor, urban or rural, powerful or weak, Prime Ministers or clerks, I wonder why is this difficult time so different than other difficult times and tragedies that the world has seen and is going through as we speak? Why is everybody so in sync and collected this time?

Isn’t it just because it has now been proven that this pandemic affects the affluent, the powerful, the middle class, anybody and everybody alike so the world is taking note of it because we want to save our own precious lives?

What I find strange is how we have rarely given a thought or paid attention to the 1.5 million people from low-income and marginalized populations that die every year due to Tuberculosis. Or that about 3 million people do not even get the treatment for this ailment at all. This is because unlike COVID-19, TB is predominantly a poor man’s disease that breeds due to unhygienic and impoverished living conditions. It is contagious, but it does not affect affluent people as they are not exposed to those living conditions. I wonder if any of today’s self-sufficient souls, with well-stocked kitchens, secure homes, working-from-home status and maintaining social distancing have ever felt or done anything for these 1.5 million dying each year? They are just numbers, merely statistics for all. On the contrary, as COVID-19 kills rich and poor alike, the whole world seems be together in its fight.

I wish that this wave of compassion and empathy that has now suddenly but pleasantly emerged in the world stays for times to come, and that some attention is given to the eternally existing humanitarian catastrophes that continue to affect the world population. As an example, there are more than 71 million refugees around the world, some in camps, some in very dangerous conditions. There are people dying in hundreds of thousands due to HIV and malaria and much more. In India itself, there are now 5 million internally displaced migrants in isolation camps getting barely enough to eat, no money at hand, nowhere to go. All this due to incredibly harsh measures against the poor to enforce the lockdown. Wish it was handled better with some empathy.

People that are in their comfort zones are able to follow the precautions to prevent spread of this virus, but they often very comfortably look at the underprivileged with disdain for furthering its spread. Unfortunately, it’s not that people stuck in deprived conditions aren’t serious or sane, or do not love their lives or of their loved ones, or are not sensible human beings, or want to expose others to the deadly virus. They are simply unfortunate. We cannot blame them for prioritizing their day-to-day survival over the spread of the pandemic. We have to be sensitive to their conditions, their psychology and their limitations when it comes to blaming them. We need to push for a collective action to create conditions that enable them to take the measures necessary to contain the spread.

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While at home..what to do?

So many lives have been lost and disrupted by the deadly corona virus all over the world. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who have lost their loved ones. As the situation continues to escalate, we must try to stay safe and not expose ourselves and others to risk of catching the virus. So stay at home please!
I have been reflecting on the “side effects” of the social distancing being practiced across the world: people are working from home with nowhere to go, no pubs, no bars, no restaurants, no cinema , no theatre and no socializing. WOW ! That is big!
To add to this, fewer flights , fewer cars on the road , less industrial pollution – perhaps Mother Earth is healing.
I wanted to write this post to offer some suggestions to people who are not used to being at home all the time and are in a dilemma about how to stay productive. If you are not used to it, it can be challenging to stay disciplined enough to be productive. However, this situation also could present a great opportunity to do those things that we never otherwise get the time for.
As for us, it is good to see Manoj at home now, though he is working most of the time with his conference calls and desktop big screen installed on the dining table. But it’s good to see him around all day and I try to make the most of the time that we get together at doing things for which Manoj never had the time or gave any attention to, like looking at family videos and pictures.
This is coming from my experience of being at home for the past few years. After you are through with Netflix and other binge watching, you might need something else to do.
Here is what you can try:
1. Dig out old home videos and watch them with the family – they could even be running in the background while you work or take a break from work at home.
2. Cast pictures on your phone on the TV screen. Trust me, you will enjoy it. Your family and any companion at home may have never seen these pictures ever.
3. Find out where all the board games are hiding in the house. I can assure you, this will be the quality time with the family that you have not had in last many months.
4. Think of what you always want to do if you were not working full time or having to go for work each day. Do it now.
5. Try your hands at things you have never done, maybe cooking , some Arts and crafts, abstract painting, gardening at home, growing plants in water or jars or make some lamps out of used wine bottles. Pinterest actually has lots of great ideas. I am sure you will find something very interesting for you to do and you will be proud of yourself when you make something out of nothing.
6. Read the books you never got time to read.
Remember this opportunity of being at home with the family with nowhere to go may not ever come back again (not that it should come back, at least not in this kind of medical scare situation), so make the most of it.
Bonding does need some time and undivided attention for all.
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Photo Culture..3

Continuing from my earlier posts on photo culture, I have to say that recently I have been taken aback by the undying love for perfect pictures at family events and celebrations. You would think that the most important purpose of these events would be to ensure everyone savours the moments, ceremonies and rituals. I have been both amused and annoyed at times when it seems that the primary privilege of doing so has been bestowed on several teams of professional photographers who get the best access and view. Not only this, they often have to push back the invited guests to ensure pictures are perfect.
I wonder what happens with these professional photos taken at private events. And to what end? I have witnessed first-hand that by the time the pictures are printed and ready to be shared, the intended audience is lost. I think the majority of those pictures/recordings are only seen a few times later likely by close family members who are privy to that professionally created memory. At some events like this, it seems like invited distinguished guests and family members are secondary guests and the photographers are the most important and primary ones.

Considering that it is important to create memories of the event in pictures and save them for future.. I feel instead of paying big money to these photographers with big bodies and big equipment blocking our view, there could be a couple of tech savvy family members taking pictures or a drone camera that does the job without making guests feel secondary, even though at the cost of not having some perfect pictures.

What do you think? Have your experienced something like this?

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Photo Culture..2

As I mentioned in my earlier post, there are many changes happening in the world that I am just not able to fully grasp. Continuing on the trend of talking about photos, I wanted to share some thoughts and see whether my friends can share their experiences to help me learn more on this topic.

In today’s maddening photo culture, life seems to revolve around the camera. If you wear something nice, eat something good, go to a beautiful place, meet friends, celebrate an occasion or simply go to work, the first instinct is often to take a picture.

It commonly seems that if you go somewhere or do something without taking a picture, you have not been there or have not done it.

This and the innumerable selfies that people take worries me that this is a sign that society is moving towards more self-centredness.

I wonder — what are the unintended consequences of this phenomenon?

We have taken many technologies for granted without fully understanding their broader social impacts. In this case too, I fear that the easy access to taking countless photos, and the way this is promoted in the media and popular culture, is leading to society falling prey to the natural human tendency of narcissism, in some cases perhaps even bordering on a diagnosis of NPD (Narcissist Personality Disorder).

What do you think?

Do you think our photo culture enables/promotes narcissism?

Is this a problem? If so, how can we solve it?

 

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Torn Clothing

Following up on my last post, here are some of my thoughts on a trend that has baffled me since I first started seeing it many years ago. Would love to hear from you on whether you agree or if you can enlighten me on what I’m missing.
Why would you pay top dollars for torn jeans?
This seems pretty straight forward – we mend or throw away most of our clothes that have tears in them. Why doesn’t this apply to jeans and certain other kinds of clothes? With most of our other clothes we seem to concur that a tear, rip, stain or other damage isn’t acceptable — not just because it looks shabby — but also because in many cases the comfort and durability of the clothes are compromised.
I have noticed this trend rise and fall for many years and have been perplexed by how people blindly follow this “fashion” while ignoring their own comfort or rationality. Is it because some celebrity wore torn jeans in a certain way someday and that led to a cascading sequence where others followed, and now their friends followed as well, so now it’s our turn to follow the crowd to look cool?
Perhaps some say that they actually like torn clothing for its artistic value. This may well be the case for a few, but the vast majority of people I know that may say so, don’t seem interested in any other form of art.
Early in the onset of this trend, seeing ripped clothes would genuinely have prompted me to sympathize with the person wearing it. I might even have offered to help them out or share a good used pair of jeans with them. In fact, I still get this strong urge to sympathize with people wearing ripped clothes for fashion, even though I know they are financially able to buy a good pair of sturdy jeans or any other designer clothes for that matter. They are in fact sometimes paying hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars for the ripped ones when they could get a perfectly untorn pair for far less. This is especially ironic because this trend originated from a rejection of corporate society and the status quo.
This contradiction is even more clear if you think about how those less fortunate may feel when they see privileged people intentionally damaging their clothes — at best it may be blissful ignorance, at worst a cruel form of mockery.
Young kids blindly following a fashion trend could be forgiven to an extent, but what amazes me is when people who have seen the world for decades get into this follow-the-crowd syndrome and wear torn clothes while paying through their nose. Where has the sense of value for money vanished? Jean or denim fabric is iconically known as being sturdy — it is supposed to last long and provide durable protection from the elements.
To cap it all off, to me, torn and ripped clothes just do not look good on anybody!
So please let me know — what you think? Do you wear ripped jeans? And why? Help me decipher this bizarre trend! Looking forward to your thoughts.