There are times you’ll meet a stranger with whom you’ll click, and in the shortest time period, divulge all your inner thoughts and beliefs to that person. It’s a feeling of a delirious high when we get our feelings across to a sympathetic ear, regardless of whether the chance encounter between you two will ever come to pass again or not.

I look back at all the times I’ve put my faith into somebody and revealed my secrets and innermost feeling and insecurities to them. Whether a stranger, an acquaintance, a lover, or a friend, that bond has only been forged when I believe that there will be a nonjudgmental (or maybe just noncritical) ear to listen, and I presume the other person’s faith and knowledge that I will deliver pure, unadulterated words of truth that need not be unmasked. What trust such a momentous conversation and dialogue can have… I am grateful for these incredible experiences.

I’ve learned other the years that these chance occasions are always unexpected and shocking. Bonds forged once are not automatically renewed, nor are somewhat distant relationships automatically excluded from a plausible connection in the future. It’s the combined forces of time, place, moment, and present emotional and mental state that determine if the ‘click’ between two familiars or two strangers is there or not.

I’ve come to take these chance encounters, and moments of ‘truth speak,’ as priceless gem-like milestones in my life. Not quite epiphanies, as I tend to relegate those to only my academic endeavors, but more a meeting of serendipity. These are the bonds of faith.

For those individuals who forge that bond with me, I am eternally grateful for your compassionate ears.

**This may not be the best argument for why someone should be a vegetarian, but I struggled a lot in my teenage years to try to persuade others to follow this exact argument… fond memories… This is my attempt at writing persuasively**

Are any of you vegetarian?  There are many different kinds of vegetarians but in general it is the practice of being an herbivore and not eating meat, poultry, and fish.  Why would you become one?  Well, there are many reasons.  It may be a requirement of your religion, or you may just hate the taste of meat.  Also, you might be against the horrifying injustices and cruelties animals suffer in slaughterhouses, or just want to lead a healthier lifestyle.  The three main types of vegetarians are lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who eat eggs and dairy products, lacto-vegetarians, who use dairy products but not eggs, and vegans, who consume neither.

Milk and other dairy products are not used by vegans because they believe that it is only meant for calves.  We are the first species to drink milk after our weaning years and the first to drink the milk of other animals as well.  Also, eggs are not alway considered vegetarian because they are the hen’s offspring and the product of their sexual organ.  Also, the size of the egg grows as time passes.  Therefore, they are impure and not completely lifeless.

I am a lacto-vegetarian.  Since the time I was born, I was brought up to follow this diet because of my religion, Jainism.  As ahimsa, non-violence is one of the most important Jain principles and way of life, being a vegetarian is a way of minimizing the amount of violence and pain I give to other living creatures.  Other Jains who are very pious, are much stricter than myself and don’t eat tuber-roots, which are vegetables grown underground.  The reason is that vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, are the home of many tiny organisms.  So, by digging up these vegetables, the lives of many creatures can be in danger.

Being an herbivore doesn’t mean I don’t harm anyone.  Science has proven that vegetables and fruits are one-sensed organisms.  They have the sense of touch.  However, there is less violence involved in plucking a fruit rather than killing a chicken.  Trees are living beings as well.  Scientists have been able to hook up cardiographs to them, which show their heartbeat.  They are very sensitive and their graph goes wild when someone comes to cut them or their friends down!

Did you know that many famous people are either vegans or vegetarians?   This includes Drew Barrymore, Michael J. Fox, Brooke Shields, Brad Pitt, Ricki Lake, Leonardo da Vinci, Louisa May Alcott, and Mark Twain among many others.  All of theses individuals probably realized that by eating meat they would become murderers.  In other words, by being a non-vegetarian, it would be like you were killing and eating your own ancestors, which is the not too different from cannibalism.

There are many advantages of practicing vegetarianism.  People have less pesticides, fats, and cholesterol, and at the same time, are less likely to have a heart attack, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease, hypertension or any other illness.  Their bodies retain fewer antibiotics, fossil fuels, and toxic chemical residues, and they have a very small chance of receiving a bacterial infection such as E. coli.

Vegetarians get their calcium, protein, iron, and vitamins from different vegetables, leafy greens, beans, cereal, nuts, fruits, juices, bread, and about fifteen minutes in the sun each day.  The proper food promotes their physical and psychological health.  Meat has more proteins than the daily need but an excess amount of meat protein creates unnecessary uric acid, which is a breeder of several diseases.

Becoming a vegetarian is the first step in lowering the violence done onto animals.  A total number of about seven billion animals are slaughtered each year in the United States alone. SEVEN BILLION ANIMALS ARE SLAUGHTERED EACH YEAR!  That’s about 500,000 animals killed each hour!  Animals raised primarily for the production of food are not capable of having natural sexual, social, hygienic, and parental behavior.  They are in excruciating pain from they time that they are born and taken away from their mother to the time they are taken to the slaughter house.  R. M. Dolgin once said, “Anything that can feel pain should not be put to pain.”

Individuals who consume meat, dairy, and egg can cause many sicknesses including: strokes, heart attacks, kidney stones, breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer among others.  Vegans have a four percent risk of death from a heart attack compared to fifty percent risk for meat eaters.  Also, the intake of cow’s milk is linked to dysfunctions of the thyroid gland, osteoporosis, headaches, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.

It is imperative that everyone become a vegetarian in the near future for the sake of the environment, for animal rights, and for health purposes.  Being a vegan or vegetarian will significantly increase the lifespan of human beings and help them have a more tension free life.  They will be able to save the lives of about 100 million people who would have starved to death as a result of malnutrition and at the same time decrease the amount of pollution in rivers and streams.  Vegetarianism will help make the world a better, happier place where all beings will be treated as equals and animals will have their own rights.  As Leonardo da Vinci said, “The time will come when men will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”

Stirfry Spring Rolls

Fresh Vegetable Stir Fry Spring Rolls

**Most of the time, I like to cook quick meals that I know are healthy and require little preparation. One staple go-to meal for me when I’m feeling peckish but not famished is a simple fresh spring roll with stir-fried vegetables. By fresh, I mean not deep-fried. Since I bought my first packet of rice paper in Chicago, I’ve never looked back. It is now one of the main ingredients I will buy in bulk to bring back to India whenever I’m travelling.**

Stirfry Spring RollIngredients:

1 tsp Oil
1 Onion
1 Carrot
1/2 Bell Pepper
1/4 Cabbage
1-2 Tbsp your choice of Sauce
[Option: tasty with a handful of bean sprouts and/or rice noodles]

Recommended Sauces:
Soy Sauce
Barbecue Sauce
Peri Peri Sauce

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan and add onions. After 2 minutes, add carrots and green peppers. In the end, mix in cabbage and noodles/sprouts (optional) then put in a few drops of your favorite sauce to the mixture. Make sure it tastes a tiny bit stronger than you’d like, because it will get wrapped in rice paper.
  2. Take a rice paper round and dip in water for 10-20 seconds. place wet rice paper sheet on a mat or cutting board, load stir-fried mixture, and wrap into a parcel to make spring roll. Repeat until your rice sheets and stir-fried vegetables are over.

Note: Through trial and error, I’ve learnt that this form of spring roll tastes better when the sauce flavoring is put inside the roll, as opposed to a dipping sauce accompaniment. Also, even if the filling for the spring roll is runny, the rice paper tends to hold liquid well. Alternatively, adding just a few strands of rice noodles will have the effect of soaking up any extra liquid. Just have fun and experiment!

Cooking Time: 15 mins
Yields: 4-6 rolls 

Writing Piece: Simplicity

November 22, 2015

**I found this little gem I wrote as a sophomore in high school and it resonates with who I am and want to be. Although my life is nowhere as carefree as it was back then, I think the true goal of “voluntary simplicity” is a high and virtuous art of living!**


Simplicity

My life is simpler than most people would prefer.  People would say I am very lazy, but it just turns out that I like to sit around at home doing what I call “nothing” all day.  My hobbies and routine fit perfectly with my way of life as well.  I am not in the least fond of shopping, computers, using cell phones, etc… and would rather spend that time watching television, reading books, eating, and sleeping.  I prefer to have as much free time as possible, instead of cluttering my schedule with classes one after the other.  As I become stressed very easily, I find no need to strain myself with things that don’t interest me.

I strongly believe that one’s lifestyle is heavily dependent on how he is raised in his childhood.  Coincidentally for me, my life has never consisted of too much busyness. As a child, my parents encouraged me to take a few classes in Japan and New York but they never interfered with my daily life.  Now, I don’t take any classes, other than joining a few after-school clubs.

I have stayed at relatives’ houses over a period of time on numerous occasions and I find their lives too fast for me.  My cousins have to run from one place to another, and literally fall asleep before their head even touch the pillow because they are so exhausted from the day.  I quickly become worried for most of the day for no apparent reason and am aggravated when put into this atmosphere.  Being a perfectionist, I find myself troubled about everything as it feels like I have no time to breathe once in-between activities.

If someone were to ask if my life could be any simpler, my answer would be absolutely not.  However, if asked what I could do to less simplify my life, I wouldn’t mind taking a few classed, the way I did several years ago, but nothing more.  I like the way my like has shaped up and find no reason to burden myself with clutter so early in life, as I will have to go through more hardships in college and later on in life.  Some people choose to adopt the lifestyle of “voluntary simplicity” and I am one of them.

To celebrate my birthday and the start of a new year for me, I decided to get my hair chopped off into a small buzz on June 1st, 2015. Because my birthday is roundabout halfway through the year, I thought it would be a good time for new beginnings. Hair is a huge part of my identity, and I felt incomplete the way I was.

I’ve wanted to shave my head once (and be bald) to see how it feels at least once in my life. The thought has been with me for over a decade. I never had the strength to take the plunge because my parents and brother were dead set against it…until now.

created with 'Snap Collage'

created using the Snap Collage App

Growing up as I did, having dark, thick, lush hair is a sign of health and beauty among Indians (the anthropology of hair – I’ve even written a thesis on it!). Cutting off one’s hair deliberately is done when grieving the loss of a parent, child, or spouse. This why some Hindu widows are seen with shaved heads, mourning for the rest of their lives. And individuals who join the ascetic order shave or pluck (in Jainism) their hair as well to show their renunciation of the worldly life and its associated attachments. It was also mentioned that it would be insensitive for me to be walking around in the UK looking like a Skinhead – believed to be the South Asian-hating British equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan (this is not a fair and whole picture of Skinhead members, but the stereotype). And in a more mainstream point of view, having no hair is obviously also linked to cancer patients and the side effects of chemotherapy. For all these reasons, I couldn’t go against my family and get the haircut I always wanted.

So, understandably, the fact that I nearly shaved it all off was not taken all too well by the family when they saw me after my transformation, but they have thankfully come to terms with it. When I had made up my mind to carry through with my plan a few days in advance, I had tried to prepare my grandparents and family members as best I could to minimize the shock factor. But my reasons for taking the plunge are unrelated to the reasons given by my family…and no less important.

I got my first professional haircut when I was in high school I think. Until then, my dad – who liked me with long hair – had always been in charge of trimming my hair. Going with my friends for my first haircut was a thrill and gave me a strong sense of liberation. My hair was still long, but it was nice to have it styled. It wasn’t long after that I convinced my mom to take me to get brownish highlights. I don’t think she realized what I had done until she saw my locks bleached and had a mini-shock. I don’t think my dad was best pleased either.

Anyway, not too many years later, I started cutting my hair shorter and shorter. From below my shoulders to shoulder to a long bob etc… Every time I’d cut it, I’d wait for it to grow out for about a year before cutting it short again. The same goes for my highlighting experiments every year or so.

Getting a haircut is something of a stress buster for me though. If I’ve been particularly sad and stressed, I’m known to get up one morning, get dressed up, and head to any local hairdressers willing to give me highlights or a cut. Doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, snowing outside, or a day when I knew I’d have to be in the library studying all night. I guess that’s the power of hair and a makeover. It’s an instant pick-me-up. So my family is used to seeing my medium length pixie cuts since I was in Chicago.


The decision to buzz my hair had multiple reasons. But first, these are the reasons I opted for the short buzz instead of my much-wanted shaved look:

  • I thought my scalp would be too itchy and hard to manage if I shaved my head
  • I didn’t know if the shape of my skull was pretty enough for me to feel confident (as opposed to embarrassed) about shaving it
  • My grandfather was ill at the time and I didn’t want everyone to misunderstand my shaved head as a sign of impending grief.
  • I didn’t want my hair growth to be in the ‘awkward and spiky’ phase when I attending my cousin’s wedding in 6 months.

Why I finally decided to get buzzed!:

1. I find this celebrity hairstyle to be bold, beautiful, attractive, and sexy.

2. I think going against the cultural norm is empowering for women and a major confidence boost.

3. It shows I don’t care what others think about me and that I’m comfortable in my own skin…being me.

4. I don’t have extra pressure (spouse or in-laws) stopping me from doing something I’ve really wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

5. I have never seen a picture of a female buzz I haven’t instantly loved.

6. I was always jealous of all my male friends who had short spiky fuzzball scalps and I wanted one myself!

7. I love having short hair but hate the feeling of hair falling into my eyes and face, and tickling the back of my neck, so this would be perfect!

8. If I can go through with this, I can do anything!

And the last 2 points are more philosophical and probably the most important:

9. I wanted 2015 to be a milestone year for me which would shed the negativity, hardships, and depression I had endured for the preceding 10 years with hopes of happiness, fearlessness, and contentment for the next decade. I wanted to replace my old skin with the brand new me!

10. Because Indian hair grows an average of 1cm per month, I wanted only the newest memories created in 2015 to grace my head, so to speak. So buzzing my hair to 2 to 4cms meant I could do that to some extent. I wanted to detach myself from the old pains and not have them burden me in my new quest.

**Note: I currently write from India but my WP publishing time is set to California time, so you’re see I talk about today/yesterday/tomorrow very fluidly. Don’t get too confused por favor!**

First off, it is November 11th and Happy Diwali and Veterans Day to everyone! May this year bring each and every one of you health, prosperity, and peacefulness! It is a rarity for both of these holidays to coincide, but I guess the stars are aligning! Other bloggers that have written about this day are FUSSYlittleBLOG and Pundita – check their posts out!

On Tuesday, I received a message from my dear friend asking how I’m doing and whether I’m in a ‘festive mood’ and my instant response to her was… “Hmm I never really think of Diwali as festive! Lol. Feel like I’m just stuck in a busy routine I can’t deviate from”. Originally when I said ‘busy schedule,’ I was referring to my marathon-like NaNoWriMo blogging on this site, but now, on Diwali, it refers to the constant noise pollution and annoyance of firecrackers bursting 24/7 and the fact that my brain has been busy pondering less-than optimistic thoughts about the state of the world we live in, non-stop, today.

And now…I’m tired. So instead of anything too structured, I just want to share an informal post with you about what I did and thought about today that preoccupied my fragile mind so. Apologies in advance for the stream of consciousness writing that went into recounting the activities of the day intertwined with my philosophy on humankind.


I woke up on Diwali Day as usual, had breakfast, and posted yesterday’s blog post whilst dealing with wi-fi connectivity issues. Not long after, my family headed to the office to do Puja and returned for lunch. The flaky internet now working, I randomly started searching online for iconic images I could make into shadowbox art. I started out looking for famous paintings and famous magazine cover photos that led to searches for historically important photography and thinking about the impact of black and white photography and how that would translate into 3D form. Something with a strong social message?

I looked at photos of atomic bombs, emancipated prisoners, child laborer so, sex slaves, protests and other visually powerful material. This led me to wonder what kind of images would represent historical events that don’t have photographic evidence. I also wondered if any would also work as silhouette paper cutting art. And not for the first time since changing my career path after my MSc in Human Osteology and Palaeopathology, I regretted giving up my dream of one day becoming a forensic anthropologist come true, and doing my part to help bring the world’s one step closer to reconciliation and righting the wrongs that have been committed. I was so sure back then that I’d made the right choice because of the mental trauma it would cause me, but I’m now not sure that is a good enough reason anymore.

I definitely got a bit overwhelmed and decided to relieve myself by coming up with a soap recipe I wish to try my hand at soon (talk about stress-relief multitasking). I had planned to make myself a soup for dinner but got so completely wrapped up in my web search and soap calculations that the next thing I knew, it was time for the Diwali Puja at home. We did that, had dinner, and I again wondered why on such an ‘auspicious day’ I was having such dark thoughts about the constant failures of humankind since early afternoon.

Diwali is called the festival of lights because we celebrate the victory of light over darkness, and good vanquishing evil. But in my mind, all I can think about is why the battle even needs to take place in the first place, why is there man-made sadness and evil in the world, and what about picking up the pieces after damage has been done and worrying about how it may affect those who survived the ordeal (regardless of which side they are on)?

It was only then, when I went on Facebook, that I put two and two together and realized others were celebrating Veterans Day. (Thank you to everyone who gave their service from the bottom of my heart!) But I found my thoughts weren’t comparable to the point of Veterans Day either. The PTSD, the political agendas of which service men and women are mere pawns, and the grieving families of the ‘fallen.’ Thank you is not enough and my worries about society still stand – why go there in the first place? I’ve researched wars and why they happen and what happens during them for many reasons, but I’m still no closer to understanding if they are required or can be prevented…..

I know the responses I’d get for all the questions and frustrations I’ve already voiced, and I’ll see more sense when I’m up tomorrow. But either way, I’m still uncomfortable and burdened by the way I was thinking today of all days (as this is common thoughts for me on ‘normal’ days but I try not to think about it on festive days). For today, my point of view is admittedly narrow and I have a heavy heart.

To relieve the burdens of the day, I decided I needed to do something that made me happy before I fell asleep so I caught up on all the Korean dramas I am following (talk about another jump!), which did in fact bring a smile to my face despite the ‘happy festive’ thunderous sound of firecrackers outside my window made me somewhat melancholic as its constant noise was reminiscent of the sound of gunfire and warfare. That sound was the scary lullaby I fell asleep to.

Diwali’s now over but the celebrations continue. The Korean dramas are over but it is now the next day, and the sound of bomb-like crackers has not stopped even in the daylight… The ritualized massacre and bloodbath of the creatures and organisms that call the sky their home continues…in the name of peace and love. How ironic…

Since November 4th, people everywhere on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are having a field day over something Bollywood actor Neil Nitin Mukesh allegedly said in an interview with the newspaper Mumbai Mirror. What has transpired since, and how the story has been blown out of proportion, producing thousands of additionally false and skewed stories, is infuriating and reminds me how scary the power of the internet can be…yet again.

Rumor has it that 33-year-old Indian actor Neil Nitin Mukesh has landed a role in Season 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones (GoT), offered to him by stunt director of GoT Greg Powell. Powell was also the action director of the actor’s upcoming film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. Now, I’m not one to go in search of news online (whatever the cost – I find world news too depressing), but I was aware that Facebook was trending this story on my newsfeed a few days ago and again today when HBO denied the claims that such a casting was ever in the works. The newspaper dna analysis came out with its own version on the story on November 8th, outing the actor’s remarks as lies about being cast in the series halfway through filming. The story doesn’t annoy me because these rumors are being exposed. That’s not the problem. What annoys me is that the real target of backlash is unfortunately the actor himself for making such ‘outlandish’ claims  and receiving flak for it.

It took me ONLY 15 minutes of surfing on the internet to catch a better glimpse of the original story behind all the stories (and by the way, I’m no genius, but the fact that even I could figure out where the truths and half-truths lie say a lot about how idiotic this whole situation is). You can read the short Mumbai Mirror article ‘Bollywood’s Prince to Conquer the Iron Throne’ that started it all here. This is a classic case of leading-the-reader by insinuation on the part of the author Avinash Lohana (and editors at the newspaper). In a botched attempt to produce a witty and eye-catching headline, not only is the ridiculously titled piece completely unsubstantiated by the contents of the article itself, but the vagaries in the story writing attest to how easily Neil Nitin Mukesh’s words could be twisted and misinterpreted by readers. Intentional or not, the decision-makers at the Mumbai Mirror are responsible for the actor getting the raw end of the deal. Shame.

To be fair, it isn’t uncommon at all for newspapers to print such hiccups, so the fault lies duly with the readers who swept up the fodder and catapult their own 5 minutes of fame by reporting incorrectly (they now know) the story of Neil Nitin Mukesh and his upcoming role in GoT. Queue loads of memes and tweets that personally attacked the actor’s name and his acting skills.

In this respect, actors are notorious for saying that they don’t worry about negative or crude comments people make about them. As the sayings goes, ‘it’s the media’s job to take your words out of context and reframe them as they wish’ and ‘everyone has a right to their own opinions, even if against their acting’, but in all honesty folks, unless you are a media person or actually have a serious vendetta against the culprit, there is no reason why you (the lay people) shouldn’t respect another person’s humanity, celebrity or not. Being nasty isn’t the answer, like the one that seems to want the actor dead, shown below. This sort of thing doesn’t tickle my funny bone in the slightest!

The fact that this story took a life of its own and became a media frenzy is not my issue. What bothers me and irks me to the core is the fact that such a rumor has sparked mindless victimization and cyber abuse towards the actor. Direct or indirect, Neil Nitin Mukesh has been made a laughing stock and been the butt of many a jokes (for some time now actually), and because of his supposed claims and the hand he played in propagating these claims, it is becoming worse. At the very least, the actor is being mocked for making a cheap publicity (PR) stunt. Whether it was in fact a stunt or not, my nagging concerns are still valid. Find someone to blame and relentlessly beat the shit out of them without repercussion – is that what our generation has learned and enforces? I don’t like it.

…And who hasn’t heard of false accusations of sexual harassment ruining the lives of upstanding teachers and citizens. Or the victim of rape and gang rape being considered at fault. Or not upholding the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ landmark for criminal cases that forever stain the lives of the innocently accused? These are all-to-common occurrences and a testament to the way our society functions and blames first then looks for truth later (if at all!). It’s a scary world we live in, where truth and faith are no longer given importance over first impressions and immediate reactions. I’m not saying everyone is falsely targeted, but it’s happening too much to go unnoticed in society without a vent.

I do want to end on a rather realistic note about the Neil Nitin Mukesh and GoT fiasco, however. There are gaping holes in the narrative available online. The actor’s side of the story is patchy at best, and the stunt director Greg Powell’s side missing altogether. Both individual’s point of views seem to neither be of interest nor importance. In the meantime, the actual contents of the interview and topics covered are buried behind closed doors that no one wishes to open. So, of course, my personal theories on the matter will remain unresolved:

  1. that there was a misunderstanding of what was said vs. what was meant (between the interviewer and interviewee)
  2. poor English word choice used in the original newspaper article that made it difficult to differentiate between a tentative role, a confirmed role, or even the offer just being a compliment from stunt director to actor (despite title using the word ‘conquer’, author did say ‘offered’ and not ‘bagged’ or ‘landed’ role in body)
  3. or that the actor was asked hypothetical questions and gave hypothetical answers about a future role in GoT (which was then written about in a literal way)
  4. where is it mentioned that Neil Nitin Mukesh might get a role in Season 6 of GoT and not a later season?!

The reason, as we all know, for all the gaping holes (and I agree with this rationale to an extent), is the fact that this is not news at all. No aspect of this story requires serious journalism or investigation. It is just a quick ticket to fame that had its limelight by trending for a few days then dying in its own outlandish embers without a second look from anyone. Sparks one day, put out the next. This is the epitome of Page 3 gossip, am I right?