Earth depictions – The Indian Himalayas

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via Photo Challenge: Earth

Whenever anyone talks about the grandeur of the Earth, there is only one thing that comes to my mind, and that is the majestic grace of the Indian Himalayas.

Happy Earth Day to you all!!

Here are two pictures from my recent visit to the Himalayas

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The Kumaon Himalayas, Uttarakhand, India

 

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Twilight is my favourite time in the Himalayas. As the sun bids you farewell for the day, it colours the mountains in a different shade. So peaceful, so retrospective. 

Your everyday essentials

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I have always wondered about the definition of a ‘day’. Years ago, we were taught the geographical definition – through rotation of the earth. Then we were taught about times and phases of the day by timings, activities and routines – the social definition. But here I am curious about a personalized definition – what makes your day seem like a ‘day’?

In other words, is there an activity in your life that is essential for you to feel ‘complete’ about each day?

I have had discussions with several people about this, and have heard very variable and interesting everyday essential elements such as:

  • A day without laughter is a day wasted
  • A day without a good deed is a day wasted
  • A day without exercise is a day wasted
  • For the workaholics, a day without work is a day wasted
  • A day without prayers is a day wasted
  • A day without coffee is a day wasted!

What is it, that for you makes your everyday count? Any more interesting ones from your side?

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For me, the definition of a worthwhile day has long been the productivity associated with the day. Pretty much like the brain here in this ‘heart versus brain’ conflict. I am more like the brain here! I do get perturbed if there is no productive element to the day. Do you ever felt trapped in this yardstick of ‘productivity’ that makes your day seem like a day? Do you feel lost, unsuccessful, wasteful if there is no ‘productive’ element in your life?

I have often struggled to establish equations with myself with the permissive limits for daily productivity in order to feel accomplished at the end of the day. Because being productive each day is not easy. When we desire to have small and big successful missions everyday, we often meet with disappointment. Be it something as small as dusting your piece of furniture or finishing some pending work at the insurance office or something big at work like, say in my case, a crucial experiment in the lab. The success or ‘productivity’ of our tasks are governed by so many factors which we do not control; that it’s almost always more likely to go wrong than go right 😛 And the resultant failures or delays that arise have made me feel wasteful about that day.

And hence over the years I have done some upgrades to my thinking system, my definition of ‘daily productivity’ has undergone evolution; and I am glad that it has.

I have shifted from a necessity of ‘productivity’ to a necessity of ‘contribution’ for each day. A contribution – be it to work, to an organization or to another persons life – is my measurement of the worth for everyday. Not the productive or non-productive outcome of the contribution. I have now realized that the only way to make each day count is to try and contribute in as much spheres of life as possible. Mistakes will happen, things will often get stalled, factors beyond our influence may impact the outcome – but it’s important to keep contributing. At the end of the day, this attempt to contribute is my everyday essential.

Needless to say, writing this post has made a tick on my contributory checklist for today 🙂 Have you been able to tick off your everyday essentials in this day?

 

The security of simplicity

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via Photo Challenge: Security

The word security makes me think of a state of mental calmness and absence of the fear of losing in a race. Kind of like the ‘inner peace’ state. Inner security you could say.

One element in human nature that imparts this kind of a security is simplicity. Simplicity of lifestyle and of thoughts frees a person from complicated insecurities arising out of a rushed, complex, racing desire to constantly be after something in life. I have often noticed the greatest inner security in people with the simplest of lives.

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This picture here is a representation of one such place where I saw tremendous mental security and content in the people of this village. This village is called Mana, a small village set in the Garhwal Himalayas of the state of Uttarakhand in India. We visited this place on a Sunday where we saw this scene near a school. The photograph is not great since I took it with a simple phone camera, but hopefully will convey the general theme.

Notice the little children participating in a race while parents look on with appreciation. The women were seen to sit in a row and knit sweaters, caps etc for the upcoming winter. This knitting is the chief source of livelihood for the women in the village, while the men engage in farming. That pretty much sums up the lifestyle in this village. The people here were so happy, so content, so secure in their little world. Simplicity and in turn security in true sense.

Twists and turns of curly hair

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An illustration by one of my old friends recently got me ticking about something that has been on my mind and head (literally!) for a long time. Gravity defying self organizing structures on my head that are sensitive to humidity. Simply put – curly hair.  My relationship with my hair has undergone exactly as many twists and turns as the hair filament itself. It started with wonder. As a kid I always wondered that my hair looks different from others. I had realized that in my class of about 40 students, only about 8 had curls and everyone else had straight shiny free flowing filaments. Then, a few more years and the relationship changed to dislike, almost hatred. That’s because most of my girl buddies would sport lovely silk ribbons and clips that made their hair look so organized and pretty all the same. My hair on the other hand, was impossible to organize and always made it a point to bury deep down or actually break any hair accessory due to the enormous jumble and weight of the curls. I disliked them. But, soon enough this dislike itself sparked up my interest in biological questions, and subsequently biochemistry classes in college taught me that it was all just a game of sulphur based bonds that creates curls. Wow now it seemed cool. Now the relation changes to scientific awe. Around this time itself I had my newly found perspective of scientific awesomeness in curls and I started noticing a lot of personalities (especially scientists) with curly hair and the unique dimension that this gives to them. Needless to say, a lot of secret (and open!!) crushes on cool European scientists with curly hair followed :P. A few more years and the novelty of the biochemistry of curls died down, and the relationship has now changed to that of acceptance. I know what curls are, I know their charm and how to manage them and I know their issues too. I did try straightening my hair once, and totally hated it because it just wasn’t me!! Curly hair does come with a management price – but it’s okay since the charm and uniqueness makes up for it 🙂

Over the years, curly hair gives you a lot of unique experiences. From school to college to now, I have definitely earned extremely innovative nicknames because of my curly hair. Some cool ones are maggiehead, black burnt Maggie noodles, cauliflower look head, Greek Goddess Medusa, woolly sheephead (Abcam sheep to be precise – for all my biology friends to understand :P), DNA/chromatin loops, birds nest and many others which essentially meant ‘non-straight’ :D!! I’m sure all of you with curly hair must have had some of these as well – do you have any new ones to share? I have also had at least 100 aunts give me suggestions on how to reduce curliness. I have had hair dressers tell me ‘Ma’am aap smoothening kara lo baalon ka, fir theek ho jayenge’ (meaning – Ma’am do try the smoothening treatments on your hair, it will heal them) – (Yes in my mind I have punched each one of them on the nose and shouted -Dude, curliness is not a disease!!). On the positive note, I have also bonded with many people over curly hair.

So all in all, overall, I am on a steady acceptance and balanced relationship with my hair now. And one thing that has been reiterated in my mind over and over is – I want everything in my life to be straightened out, except my hair 🙂

The New York Maple syrup

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I had a chance to visit the beautiful New York city during a conference last year in summer. It was the first time that I was visiting the US. For an Indian generation where most of us have either been to the US for work, or studied there, or are living there, or are married to people who live there; my first visit actually happened quite late in life since I don’t fall into any of the above categories. I had somehow heard a lot more stories about the West coast from relatives and friends and my better half, making the eastern side slightly elusive for me. And when I asked my father what I should get from there, his answer was to try to get something that’s original and uniquely made in that region. Indeed for me a bigger element of interest in any city is its traditional practices more than what urbanized modern day routines have done to it. And thus began my quest to look for something ‘Made in USA’ and representative enough of the east coast and New York. A few suggestions by friends led me to the Maple syrup. Over generations it’s made through tapping of Maple trees. The cold and warm weather cycles in this region enable its production. Though originally from Canada I guess, this syrup in made extensively in different parts of this region; and a couple of locals told me about region-wise compositions from different parts of north east America and Canada. The maple syrup is a smooth sweet unique accompaniment to food. It is rich, it is full of substance, and it has a very unique taste that’s unmatched with any other. Mind you it’s loaded with calories and so consuming it definitely comes with a fair share of deposit to your pre (or non) existing fat. Simply put, it has a unique awesomeness that comes with a maintenance price. And that is why this food item completely represents NYC in my mind.

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The World Trade Center

The uniqueness of the Maple syrup parallels that of New York. Tall skyscrapers in Manhattan bearing the hundreds and thousands of offices. The busy New York Penn station. The equally busy but more charming Grand Central station. Thousands of ambitious working people thronging to these stations. A fashionable working class in definition. Lots of passionate street artists. The elegantly marked streets and avenues. It is GRAND!  There’s an age independent representation of glamour, fashion and ambition to the working people here. Whether it’s the people or the architecture, the message with NY is clear – You better be awesome enough to fit in here!! Take the efforts to be awesome and full of quality, and the city will shower you with success. And that’s what the Maple syrup also conveys. This syrup adds a beautiful taste to toasts, waffles, desserts, fruits, even salads! But only if you add it to the right kind of ingredients. Do not expect the maple syrup to rectify and beautify any messed up combination of foods – it demands a check on the composition and quality of ingredients before contributing to addition of taste. And just like that you should not expect NY to accept anything less than the most grand and classy!!

We use the Maple syrup often in the kitchen. And every drop of it makes me think of NYC. Among the many souvenirs that I got from there, this is the only one that gives me a feeling of bringing back a part of NYC with me 🙂 In a slightly unconventional use of the phrase, may I say NYC has surely made a way to my heart through the stomach 🙂

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View from the Empire State Building