In my previous entry I mentioned stress, and one of my reader mentioned the fact that getting simple things done is stressful enough in India, and I promised I would share one of these silly daily events that get your adrenaline pumping, I just didn’t get much time to do it until now.
It was Wednesday morning, around 11.30am, Ishi and I had breakfast, and she was about ready to go for a nap as we were watching “The Lion King” on DVD, then suddenly…poof, no electricity, that alone isn’t news, it happens way too often in India, but after 5 minutes I got puzzled because our building has power backup and clearly the generator was not kicking in. I thought maybe it was defective, it happened once in the past, but then 20 minutes passed and I was about to go enquire about it when the maid banged on my door and then asked why my doorbell wasn’t working, I told her there was a power cut for the last 20 minutes and she sounded really puzzled explaining to me that no there was power, the lifts were working and the flat in which she was just a few minutes ago never had a power cut…Ha!
I then remembered the electricity bill on the fridge, and sure enough it was barely one day overdue…yes one day, so I went ringing the neighbour to see if they had power, and sure enough all was fine. So I had to go all the way down to the basement were the society manager has his office, where there were 2 other people like me wondering about the sudden power cut…and there was a guy sitting indifferently in a plastic chair, right beside the manager’s desk and intercom line just barking the bill amount due. I got the amount barked at me, and me to explain to the manager and BESCOM guy that yeah true I was guilty of forgetting the bill, it came in the mail box just 8-9 days before the due date and DH travelling al the time he didn’t fill the cheque the short 3 days he was there. I told the manager that instead of cutting us leaving us wonder what the hell happened they could at least dial the intercom extension of those whose cheque was not in the drop box on collection day, and his supreme majesty of BESCOM looked at the manager like he could not believe what he was hearing, the manager then explained to me that it was not part of that guy’s duty to do that but that it was however my duty to pay bills on time, I pointed out that it wasn’t even 24hr late, and YES apologized and said I was ready to pay right now and give a cheque, in the 3 minutes that I was in the lift going back up to my flat, the security officer dialled my extension and my maid picked up, and told me they would come for the cheque, only for me to find no cheque book around, and calling DH to find out that…yup he took the joint account cheque book with him to Pune! And obviously I was just short on cash that day, so I grab my debit card, and Ishi run back to the basement, ask his BESCOMic Pompousness if a cash payment is acceptable, and upon getting a positive inform them that it would take 10 minutes, at which point I run in my sweat pants and baggy t-shirt in the noon sun to the nearest ATM, withdraw the amount, and run back to my home, straight to the basement, tomato red in the face and huffing and puffing like the asthmatic I actually am with the manager immediately pulling a chair for me and the BESCOM guy to look rather unimpressed by the whole thing, hand the cash, and get my fuse switched back on...wew!
I’m not questioning that bills have to be paid, but I strongly question the punishing act of immediately cutting the power without warning, especially when one is barely one day late and the collector guy is seated right next to an intercom phone that can reach every single flat in the building. How hard would it have been to just check that people were there, and ask why the cheque was not in the drop box? All those who were in the same situation as I was just did an honest mistake of forgetting what date it was, I wasn’t aware that this was a capital offense worthy of immediate and rather rude disconnection.
In Mumbai they used to give you quite a few weeks before taking strict action, in fact the bills we received in Navi Mumbai had 3 different tariffs: the prompts payer in the green tariff paid only the amount due, and then the orange and red tariffs were for those medium late and very late at paying the bill, if after a full month of till ignoring the red tariff had passed apparently they would cut the connection…I say fair enough, plus we had the opportunity to pay directly online. Apparently BESCOM has an online payment option too, and in our old house we used to have several weeks of grace period, but in our current building the collector guy come on the 25th, open the cheque box, and check all cheques and match them to his list, all those not in the box but on the list get cut.
Should I feel sorry for the guy not feeling common courtesy isn’t his duty, or enquire about his fingers…surely he must suffer from a serious hand injury for not being able to dial the extension…poor thing, and staying as cold as stone seeing a bright red huffing and puffing lady carrying a toddler in one arm and the money in the other…clearly as the criminal I cannot expect any mercy there right?
The whole crap lasted less than one hour but it got my adrenaline pumping for a while, all the hassle of paying a late bill I tell you!
We all keep reading it, how India is the diabetes capital of the world, and in pass of becoming the Grand Central for heart disease as well.
Medias keep writing and talking about it, and for most it’s all blamed on processed food and sedentary habits alone.
I say this is all true of course…BUT, no one mention stress, and how stress actually influence eating habits and lifestyle. And for once stop blaming the common man here, true we eat crap, but wouldn’t be just fair to dig a bit more and see why that is? Stress be it positive or negative trigger a release of various hormone in the body, which in turn influence our body to eat more of a certain food group to prepare that very same body toward what’s about to hit and resist. High level of stress for example increase the release of adrenaline in the body which prompt the muscles to work harder, which means more calories are needed and fast. In our ancestors before the age of processed food and supermarkets that might have prompted them to eat more fruits and add a few ladle more of rice and bread to their diet to cope with the temporary crisis.
The issue we have nowadays in cities is that stress is practically part of our daily life: Long working hours, polluted environment, noise, the housework load not shrinking, family duties, less free time…blame us all you want for being sedentary, but we aren’t superheroes. Days have 24hrs just the same as always, but we are just expected to do more, I wonder who after 12-14 hours of work stress has the envy or urge to go for a powerwalk, or spend hours in the kitchen making an entire meal all from scratch, beside even if we were eating only unprocessed food, the sad fact is that stress and all the hormones spike going with it would prompt us to eat more carbs and stock up for a upcoming threat.
In cave men days, the threat was tangible, right in your face, and the adrenaline rush could potentially save your life. In our urban jungle and corporate world, the threat is elusive, it’s called work pressure, boss urging you to meet a deadline, being a good performer, chasing a bonus, worrying about salary cuts, being abused by a client. They are as stressful as the lion running after the cave man, but in an office the adrenaline response by our body is wasted, physical boost in strength is not what will help one meet a deadline, but our body doesn't really differentiate between the need for physical energy boost and mental boost. The same hormones are released regardless.
The other main difference, is that our ancestor might have found themselves running for their life in order to survive, but once the threat was behind, there was a little time to recollect, and rest before the next threat.
In our current world…not so much, stress is there from the moment you wake up, to the time you go to sleep. Stress is a constant, adrenaline levels are a constant as well, it’s there right in your face, at all time, day in day out. No wonder that we are heading toward the health disaster we are heading toward, but is it really all our fault, or the carb rich diet? Wouldn’t it be time to just restructure work life a bit differently?
I’m insulin resistant, and while I know what to eat and not to eat, and am good about it in general, I’m also human, and yup I know that when stressed out, I will crave different food, and that if I don’t “indulge” my mood will take a drastic turn for the worse. And it’s not that I crave candies, or junk food, nope, mind you since I’m generally good about not eating these in huge amount or storing them at home, whenever I have a stress episode it prompts me to go for a second serving of whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce, or eat more bananas and other fruits, or go for more than one serving of nuts, and feeling hungry barely after 2 hours of eating a meal.
I saw that happening in Mumbai, the place was so stressful to me in many ways, and the whole weight loss I achieved being back on metformin went right out the window, I gained it all back, on healthy food! Since the day I’ve been back in Bangalore the stress level went down again for me, and in the past 3 months I managed to loose 3 of the 5kg I gained back in Mumbai. Not to say we are living in stress less bliss right now, far from it but it’s still far lower than before, and sure enough it is making a big difference for my metabolism. The fact I’m also having the opportunity to be out at the playground with Ishita is also a factor. But then that is my sole job, my career is taking care of my child, this is contrary to what some might say a full time job, and I’m fortunate to be able to focus just on that. There are days where this simple task alone is taking the toll out of me, and in those days I can’t help thinking how much more difficult would that be if I had another job on the side, how much more stress I would be under to perform well in both arenas? And how my health and the health of those around me would suffer in the process?
Would it be fair to blame me for not having the energy to cut and peel veggies to make dinner at the end of the day? Or relying on caffeine and sugar to just get me through a day at the office to still have a little strength left back home? And how can someone tell us go hit the running track or the treadmill after 16 hours of strenuous work both in the corporate world and on the home front? Dear healthcare providers, forgive the city dweller for the lack of exercise, stop reminding them what’s good for them, we all know it by now, instead focus on making companies understand the importance of sticking strictly to 8 hours of work a day with very occasional overtime evenings, make them understand that erratic shifts aren’t good for health, that there is a benefit in a longer lunch break, and a comfortable ergonomic workstation.
I still remember my 7 months in a call center, and how hectic that was and how these short 7 months did some damage to my health.
We all met at least one person coming with stupid comments or questions, be it a relative, an acquaintance or a total stranger. Yes you know the type that will ask you if you are pregnant when you are waddling around in a store all heavy of 35 weeks of gestation. Or the person that will ask you why you are doing a certain obvious thing? Know what I’m talking about? Yes that’s the one, the dumb one, the one who seem to never have read the instruction on using their brain.
We all know or not really know but met such persons right?
Well ladies and gents, I present you a strong World Championship contender, she lives in my building and I mentioned her in my “Free Spirit” entry already, she is the lady without kids that insist on watching every steps Ishita makes, and asked about a few skin marks, among other thing.
What is the most disturbing though, is not her asking me these questions, nope it’s her asking them EVERY single time we met (which is everyday). But if it stopped there I would just let it pass, but for the past 3 months, there hasn’t been a day this lady hasn’t asked how old Ishita is, or if she is going to school already…darn bite me, or this lady is showing signs of premature Alzheimer (she is younger than me), or she doesn’t really care about the answer, or she is seriously dumb…a miracle she remembers my daughter’s name in the span of 24 hours I say, because seriously if she can’t remember that no she doesn’t go to school, then what are the odds of her remembering the name?
Here is the questions she ask me on a daily basis, the answer I keep giving, and oh boy the one I wish I could just launch at her, knowing that sadly she would not even get the sarcasm in them:
1) How old is she? Me replying “She is turning 2 this July” but really itching to say “Why I’m glad you asked, she just turned 100 year old yesterday”
2) Does she goes to school yet? Me saying “Nope she is too little” but really wanting to say “She already has 2 Harvard degree, went to Cambridge and graduated 5 times, I guess she is fully covered in the academics department don’t you think?”
3) What does she eat in general? My reply “Everything we eat” but really restraining myself not to say “Why we feed her food, but we are slowly introducing gravel and toxic waste into her diet”
4) Does she likes food? Me : “Yes she does, especially pasta and fruits” but come on wouldn’t it be nice to just reply “No she hates food but boy you should see her go and eat the dog poops”.
5) Does she like carrots? You have to feed her carrots? Me saying “She truly hates carrots with passion, but she loves tomatoes” and me thinking “If you bring the topic of carrots one more time I swear I’m going to shove a truck load of them down your throat…asking once, fine, but seriously you can’t remember the ONE think I told you my daughter wont eat, how dense are you?
6) Does she understand French? “Yes she does” but secretly wanting to answer “Why I’m glad you asked, because no she doesn’t, she understand Cantonese though, a pity that neither me or my husband speak it”…I mean HELLO if I tell her bring the ball and she brings it, that means she understands it, why ask that every single freaking day?
7) When does she usually wake up? Me : “6 am without a fail every morning” No secret answer, but a serious urge to shake the crap out of the lady for asking me the same idiotic question every single day and then ask “So at what time did she wake up today” to which I reply coldly “6” and to which she replies with a question again “Does she do that everyday?” ….me taking a big breath because I thought we clarified that point just 30 seconds before and reply very coldly “YEAH”
Then along the same line of daily questions there is the hair clip thing, the what time does she usually go to bed, the why isn’t she napping in the afternoon and why does she nap in the morning.
And of course there are the not so daily occurrence questions, that are all equally stupid and irritating such as:
“Why does she want to go on the swing?” …ask her she probably knows better than me why
”Why is she wanting to be carried by you right now”…um let me develop a mind reading ability and I’ll get back to you
”Why is she not giving me the toy”…clearly because she doesn’t want to entrust YOU with her beloved toy lady!
”Why does she want to play with sand, it’s dirty”…because sand is fun, isn’t it?
Or today seeing clearly that Ishi was carrying a plastic flower and asking ME “What is she holding in her hand” I actually ignored the question 5 times hoping she would use her brain and recognize the object in her hand, as it was a real no brainer, but her to ask the question one more time! And me to answer “A flower” cold, brief and sharp with a tone strongly suggesting that I was not going to play this question game and that she better leave, and her not taking the hint, as dense as she must be and ask “Why is she holding a flower?” Me answering “She likes it” on the same warning tone, but seriously wondering if I should not have asked her “Why would you prefer her to carry an automatic rifle to the playground?”
And now I give you the icing on the cake, if her questions where not already enough, she insist on trying to cross me or beat me to the punch in every single situations regarding Ishita:
making horrible shrieks of panic every time Ishi barely sway on her feet, or when she climbs the monkey bar, or decide to throw herself on the ground, or is attempting to climb the stairs on her own.
And of course as her mom I am clearly not in charge and she must shadow (and I mean she is 5 inches behind me) my every steps, she has been even pushing me out of the way to be the one holding my daughter’s hand while she goes down the slide, and even once asked me why Ishi was refusing to hold her hand and still waiting for MINE….ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHH Do I need to explain it? I mean isn’t it obvious that I’m the MOTHER here and that she trust me? I mean come on! If you have the choice between having your own mom holding your hand or the hand of a deranged lady who just pushed mommy out of the day to be the one to get to do the honour…which hand would you choose?
And today I almost blew up, Ishi was on the swing, and I was pushing her and she was giggling and having a blast, and we were both happy, until that idiotic lady came behind me, stepped beside me and hold the chain to slow down the swing, telling me that she is going too fast! And then ask me why my daughter is whining and refusing to go off the swing! looked at the lady straight in the eye and very sharply said “She was having FUN, with ME, and YOU stopped her”
And of course you would think that if all the other previous cold sharp answers didn’t deter her, this one would but no, she kept shadowing me for a solid 20 minutes afterward, and I kept ignoring her while even Ishita was giving her cold stares, and then finally she left, only to return 5 minutes later with another mom and kid, and tried hard to fit in.
I am at loss with that one, she seems to be quite basket case, she claims to be a preschool teacher, she still lives with her parent and isn’t married, but I have my doubts about her profession, if she is a teacher, then it is scary and it seems unsafe to have her supervise kids, if she can’t even remember what age one child she sees everyday in her building, what else does she let slip in school? And while we are at it, if you spend your day being a teacher to 30 pre-schooler, would you hang out at a kiddie playground after working hours?
I sadly think that she might be lacking a little in the intelligence department, but that it isn’t really what her problem is, I have the nagging feeling she is aching for a child on her own, so much so that she goes to the playground to pretend, and doesn’t even seem to care or think that her snatching kids out of their mom’s grasp and try to play with them and feed them.
But then my intuition keeps telling me that this lady isn’t safe, a few time she asked me if she could stay down with Ishita alone while I should go home and take rest, or just go ahead and go to the supermarket but leave my daughter with her, there is something not normal about her behaviour, and even Ishita is apprehensive about her and try to avoid her.
In conclusion, yes she is a bit of dumb, but that doesn’t make her inoffensive, and I wish I could really find a solid way to get her to stop her mindless ridiculous question game, and just leave me alone. Is there a tactful polite way to do so?
I already referred to the bathroom in another entry, calling it the wet room, I also think I did point the fact that most people in India still wash themselves using a bucket and mug instead of the shower head, and how having a shower is often called taking a bath.
But there is one difference between Swiss shower culture and Indian one.
You see most people in Switzerland will take their shower in the evening when they come back from work, few like my father take one shower in the morning, and one in the evening though, but to people back home, it is considered really gross just not stepping in the shower after a whole day outside sweating, and getting exposed to dust and pollution, even more gross to step in the bed under the blanket carrying your nasty body odour and dirt.
Growing up the evening shower was practically ritual, served a relaxing purpose as well as the hot water helped relaxed tense muscles too.
Imagine my initial shock though when I first met DH and later came to Indian to learn that India is a nation of morning shower people and that most rarely step in the bathroom for a wash at the end of the day (DH included). Worse though is that I actually now do as the Roman do and end up having a shower in the morning…closer to noon, though once I’m done with the heavier part of the household duty, but still nowhere near the 6-7pm time I was going by back in Geneva. And yes I came to this realisation only yesterday when I actually forgot to take a morning shower and ended up taking a blissful shower at 8pm and felt all fresh and nice and relaxed and ready to cuddle in bed with a good book.
Now of course DH had his exceptions to the no evening shower thing when we were living in Chennai and Mumbai, both places are so hot and humid that by the end of the day you end up feeling seriously sticky and just need the refreshing touch.
What I noticed though, is that as far as our bed in concerned, the bed sheets are dirty much much faster, and DH’s pillow especially much greasier, I’d like to think it has something to do with the fact we slip under the blanket carrying a whole day of dust and grime on our skin.
In the beginning DH would be quite puzzled on the days I took an evening shower and washed my hair before bedtime, pointing out that this habit invites sickness, while the advice might be extremely sensible in the Dead of winter in North India considering the lack of proper heating inside houses, I don;t see how that could be a problem the rest of the year, in houses that rely on AC unit, it’s just a matter not to turn into to Igloo mode for an hour or two, and for us who never had an AC unit ever in our various homes (yes included in Chennai and Mumbai) the climate is pleasant enough to let your hair be wet for a little while. In Switzerland most people will or wrap a warm towel around their head for a while, or blow dry the hair a little in Winter, and I’ve never noticed myself being any more sick when I was stepping in the shower at night back in Geneva…funny how we regard night time and shower.
And yes I know some of you might actually be thinking it’s gross not to shower in the morning and go to work “dirty”, but then since those in favour of night time wash are stepping in a clean bed and staying there for 8-10 hours without being exposed as much to street dust and heavy sweat, the morning job of freshening up can be done with a damp face towel and a little soap, in front of your mirror, in just 2-3 minutes and a spray of deodorant to top the morning routine, meaning you end up having to allot way less time in the bathroom and more time in bed drinking your morning cup of tea or coffee, and since office hours in Switzerland generally start around 7.30 – 8am, every minutes saved in the morning to get a little more sleep counts, especially on these still pitch dark and cold December mornings.
We never really realise how what we cook in is as much part of our culture as what goes into the pot, or how old we are.
Back in the days in Switzerland, I was living in a tiny studio apartment, my cookware was pretty basic: one medium flat bottomed frying pan, two sauce pans in size small and medium, and I added later on a huge pasta pot from Ikea because I liked the idea of the integrated strainer which meant just lifting the noodles out of the water and straight to the plate without a risky manoeuvre over my sink which was of course always full of dishes. While I used the damn pasta pan a lot, it took a whole lot of space in the tiny few kitchen cabinets I had yet I was insane enough to purchase a rice cooker to save space on my 2 hot plate stove which were laid out with one in front of the other, meaning that cooking two dish at once meant you would burn yourself having the arms over the steam emanating from the dish cooking in the front…clearly the genius who designed that “kitchen” never cooked in his life…ah the good old student days!
Of course when I shifted to India I donated my cookware to family member. Once settled and about ready to cook Indian food all the way, DH and I bought the bare necessities one need to cook desi food: a wok (called kadai in India), a concave bottomed tawa (flat pan to cook chapatti), one small pan to make tea, one bigger pan to boil the milk, and a pressure cooker.
Ha I hear some of my western friends or laugh or scratch their head because back home pressure cookers are the stuff from our grand ma’s kitchen, but it took me a few weeks in India to know that it wasn’t just an antique used to steam vegetables. Nope the pressure cooker is used to cook rice, and lentils, and while we are on the topic of lentils, I can’t help rolling my eyes when I find an Indian cooking recipe meant for people abroad telling them to soak the lentils and then cook for 45 minutes…no wonder Indian cooking has the reputation to be lengthy to cook. The pressure cooker mean you don’t need to soak most type of daily used lentils, and it cooks in just 15 minutes. needless to say that if you are serious about cooking Indian cuisine regularly, you need that piece of cookware in your kitchen.
Years have passed, DH likes my continental cuisine, and with it came the need for a little bit more pots and pans in the kitchen, we purchased a big sauce pan, a heavy bottomed frying pan, and a flat dosa tawa, which in all respect looks like the flat pan used to make French pancake, and in fact we use that one practically just for pancakes, we also got ourselves a small non-stick frying pan to make our morning eggs. I’ve been quite good at adapting certain continental dishes to cook in the wok, but with DH’s recent confession that he much prefers my continental skills to my Indian cuisine I decided to widen my repertoire a little and looked around for new recipe to try, but now am coming to the realisation that if I’m going to be serious about cooking more of the stuff from back home I will need at least a heavy cast iron flame proof casserole, the type my mom had, as quite a few dishes call for first a quit cooking on the stove and then a longer baking phase, and the flame proof casserole is one of these who can go straight from the stove to the oven without making the mess I did this weekend cooking a garlic chicken in creamy sauce.
I guess the cast iron casserole pot is as much a must in continental cooking as the pressure cooker is to Indian cuisine.
I have 2 pyrex baking dishes too , but they can’t go on the stove.
Kitchen related but not exactly cookware, a fully equipped continental kitchen isn’t complete without a few pie and cake dishes. Back when I was in Zurich in 2008 I found a small kitchen items shop that had the cutest stock of cookie cutter, and I also ended up buying mini pie dishes as well, so that I can make individual fruit pies or savoury “kiche” but I think I’ll have to find a bigger one, because we always end up feeling unsatisfied eating just 4 mini pies.
This weekend DH added two more dishes to his list of favourite continental fare: Oven roasted garlic chicken in creamy gravy. and mushroom risotto.
I’ve been the quiet, almost invisible type all my life, in school in actually concerned my teachers a great deal, because they felt I was not participating, which resulted in my mom having to attend a great deal of parent teacher meetings in which she tried to defend my case, but kids have to be social, and I was in appearance not, some teachers with a bit more insight pointed out that I exclusively hang out with my two best friend and nobody else, they even tried to force me to make new friends by deliberately making me sit far away from my trusted circle, and placing me in study groups which incidentally had quite a few of my “enemies”, felt like a steak in the lion’s cage. One teacher pinned me as autistic, sent me and my parents to the State’s psychology department, for some testing, weeks of drawings, physical activities, story telling, and counselling the verdict was that I was normal, highly creative, but an introvert, and that there was nothing wrong with that, the teacher who sent me got the report, was a bit miffed, but after that realised that there was no point pushing me to be an extrovert because that was like taking a fish out of water and tell him to grow legs and walk, but I was still the oddity.
A couple of years back, I came to know about Meyers-Briggs personality type test that has been developed to identify which of the 16 personality types a person can fit in. he 16 types has been the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung. We all fit one type rather than another. Took the test, I’m an INFJ type, which stands for : Introvert iNtuitive Feeling Judging.
Apparently my type is one of the rarest of all 16, it is estimated that about 1% of the population is INFJ. And my type is highly intuitive, sensitive and internalize a great deal of feeling, rather than share concerns, they bottle up, they are capable of driving themselves sick rather than spread the burden. They rather have a close very exclusive of trusted friends than a crowd of acquaintances, social gathering are taxing draining affairs which are avoided as much as possible.
A big event such a wedding is taxing enough to have me want to stay home and do nothing the next day, always have, and back in my teenager’s day I really didn’t like parties, as an 18 year old I just didn’t like going to pubs or dance clubs, preferred having my close friends at home watching a DVD and chatting…got my family pin me as middle aged, or too serious, my Stepmom even tried to be my social event planner, trying to get me to parties with her sons, with me telling her to leave me alone, and her to tell my dad I was…um…weird. My dad who is pretty much an introvert himself never quite understood what she found weird.
Introverts though can be good actors and act like an extrovert should it be needed and even fool a crowd, but there are tell tale signs that they aren’t what they appear to be, INFJs are very private, and secretive, they will not share themselves willingly, or do so but strongly control what goes public and when, they are also by nature unintrusive, they won’t be the one to go toward someone and ask questions about the private life of someone, they are good at taking in the tiny bits of info that come their way, and their sharp intuition has them figure out things before a word is spoken.
INFJs are very loyal in nature, but you must earn their trust, and it doesn’t come easy, but once you gain it, it’s for life, and those in the close circle of friends are rarely demoted. If you have an INFJ type among your close friends, know you can count on them.
INFJs are the creative lot, many talented writers, and actors belong to that type, they also do great lawyers, social assistant, and therapists, they can be fierce fighters for the causes that they hold close to their heart, but in general hate conflict and will avoid the fight at all cost, but if it has to come down to it, know they won’t back down easy.
INFJs are their own hardest critic, they are personal overachiever, when a job has to be done it has to be done right away, and they will expense a great deal of effort having it out of the way, but the job gets done according to their rules, not the rules of other and while they are good at following their own guidelines they can seriously suck at following a plan that has been laid for them, unless they strongly feel the plan can work. This actually miffed some of my teachers in high school, and even my boss when I was an interior decorator apprentice, most saw me as a slacker, not following rules, not doing homework I didn’t feel like doing, but what annoyed them the most was that came exam time I was pulling it off, they expected to give me a F and I could easily come out with a B, or at the worst a C- if I really didn’t care about the topic, but with my own master plan I knew which topic I could afford to fail, which topic didn’t require me to work too hard to pull of an A and which required all my effort. My parents and some of my teachers said I had the capability of a straight A student, but that my stubbornness got in the way. The truth is that I never cared for school, I never saw the point of it, because one’s ability to recall when which king died and what revolution happened at what date, doesn’t prove you are smart, and a degree doesn’t prove you are worth more than someone without one, it just show how good a performing monkey you are, and I’m no performing monkey, I don’t work for peanuts. Obviously never made me popular with the majority, but I don’t really care. because what matter is what I think I’m worth and how I can improve myself, not what the world think I am worth or what I should do.
The reason I am writing all this now, is the result of a few days of reflexion, see I decided to embark on a new venture: Network Marketing. That might actually sound silly, because by default this involve interacting with others, but I still believe I can do it, I even told my mentor that I was an introvert and that going out there and getting as many lead as fast as possible was not a skill I was born with, but I’m willing to learn, I just know it will work better at my own pace than going as per the guideline’s have been given, I also said that my goal is less about fast money through fast achievement, and I believe I’ll end up in the same place at my own pace regardless.
As a child people made me feel being an introvert was a disease an ill to be cured, I now know that it means I have different strength and different weaknesses to work with, but that it’s as good as anything and that I can do as well as anybody else in this world.
Yesterday Ishita has been invited to her first kid’s birthday party from one of her playground friend from our building.
I haven’t been to a kiddie party in ages, and I actually was wondering how to work the whole different age group of guest thing as Ishita’s birthday is coming and I thought it would be nice to get something fun organized.
There are fundamental difference in how kids birthday parties I had in Switzerland and how things work in India. The first thing is that back in the days in Switzerland, a child’s birthday bash is a STRICTLY kid affair, parents drop the kids to your place along with a gift, and come at the pick up time you wrote on the invite to pick their kid back. In India this is an “all welcome thing” of course those invited are the birthday boy/girl’s play buddy, but parents are most welcome to stay and are in fact included in the food/cake count, there are of course still fun games for the kids and all.
Gifts are NEVER EVER opened in front of your guests in India, in Switzerland it is considered a bit rude not to immediately open the gift and thank the person who gifted it to you profusely, but in India it’s the opposite, opening your presents in front of an audience is a no no, I knew that from the engagement ceremony when we had brought gifts for my in-laws, the same scenario repeated at the wedding, and even DH feels a bit awkward opening presents my mom gave him in her presence.
Personally, I much much much prefer the Indian way, there is less pressure to fake liking the gift and openly thank the person in front of a crowd for something that is well umm clearly crap (Like the horrid candy floss pink nylon cheapo floor length satin night gown and matching net robe I got at my wedding). there is also the fact that in an even such as a birthday celebration there is none of your guests feeling bad for not giving as much as a great gift as someone else. And in the case of a kid, far less urge to just play with the new toys right away when they should be playing with their guests.
And for like every party in India, food is always served last, as it signals that the party is drawing to an end, in Switzerland pretty much like any party, food is the main event with a few potato chips and pop corn while guests arrive, a game or two just before cake, then cake time, which again is a formal sit down affair with a big table all dressed up, kids eat, then there is a few more games, and parents start coming picking up their kids around the “end of party time” printed on the invite.
Again, I like the Indian way much better, no worrying about place setting at the table, in fact dinning tables turn into kind of buffet in most house parties I have been to, guest eat food from their lap on a chair, or sofa or coffee table, and when it comes to kids, I can see how convenient that is, kids have a low tolerance for long sit downs, and just going about eating a little and playing some more works much better, back in my child days, birthday party meant the Birthday kid at the end of the table, all the guest sitting down around the table and no one standing up until the cake time was finished…leaving the table in the middle of any meal is considered really rude in Switzerland, but hey I think kiddie parties should be fun, not mega formal.
I know older kids tend to have bigger parties, often in malls in the arcade zone the food court or Mc D (and yes I had a Mc D birthday when I was a kid too), but when you have a toddler, less is more, the bigger kids will enjoy the food just the same, games such as “pin the donkey’s tail” are fortunately still big hit and work very well for school age kids, and younger guests like Ishita yesterday got a blast from the nursery rhyme CD and stuffed animals in the Birthday Boy’s bedroom and playing with other tots.
Ishita liked the party, her best friends were all there, there were lots of new toys to play with, but she didn’t particularly care about the party hat (which could have had teeth and chewed out her head for all she cared) and preferred the hakka noodles and sweet corn to the cake.
I never liked TV, but I tend to spend more and more time in front of the idiot box these days, I never liked ads, and I never will really.
Ishita has started taking an interest in cartoons, so in the morning I let her watch Playhouse Disney because they have cute educational non violent cartoons, and I have Pingu and Dora the explorer for her to watch in DVD.
While the early morning cartoons in playhouse Disney are cute and innocent, I really wish they would keep the commercials in between less idiotic and crude.
For example the totally spoiled rotten moronic girl sitting on top of a chandelier holding sachets of powdered fruit drinks shouting stuff like “I want a pony…monkey…” to her parents and getting her wishes fulfilled on the spot…as in making a parallel between the fact that her wish should get fulfilled as fast as the couple of seconds it takes to prepare a junk drink…WTG people, teach the younger generation to be self obnoxious brat raised on sugary drinks!
then there are the flavoured milk powder brands, the one that makes your child perform in school better, the one that will help him crush his opponents in sports, and my “favourite” of all : Complan, the one that only promise you one thing : Your child will grow taller.
Over the year DH and I laughed silly at the ads for that particular brand, fake research institute proving that “Complan kids are taller” than non Complan kids. The one with the sad music and whiny boy who complain he can’t reach ripe mangoes and ride a grown up cycle, with a close shot of the mother’s face full of guilt for her kid’s sadness, and the joy of the kid who then can do all the grown up things after drinking his Complan milk, or the two siblings fighting over Complan flavour with the older brother putting his younger sister’s flavour out of reach in the supermarket for her to only be able to reach it because she is a “Complan Girl” and is tall enough to reach it…SIGH!
Are there people out there who actually believe that the chocolate/vanilla/whatever powder you put in milk is going to make their child taller than average?
Sounds to me that multivitamin powders merits now replaced the good old “Eat your spinach, you’ll be stronger” or “Drink your soup, you’ll grow taller” or “Eat fish, it’ll make you smarter” I got served as a kid.
Growing up, the glass of milk with chocolate was a treat, not a substitute for good eating habits, my soup didn’t make me taller, I hated spinach but can lift a sofa and be active the whole day, and the fact I didn’t care for fish didn’t make me fail in school…but I still see a major difference here, my mother and my grand mothers were at least cajoling me in EATING food rather than rely on a protein drink. I didn’t escape the rules of genetic drinking home made vegetable soup daily, but I certainly got a taste for various healthy food stuff.
I wonder what will become of the milk flavouring powder generation though.
Ishita’s paediatrician warned me against these very same protein drinks, urged me to cut down the amount of formula she gets a day to 12oz total to encourage her to EAT food, ditto with juices and any sweet drinks, between her morning formula and evening formula all she gets to drink is water, and as much whole fruits, nuts, whole wheat bread, rice, eggs, cheese and veggie as she possibly wants during the day, because these are healthy base in a diet. He also told me that if she ate well, 3-4oz of cow’s milk with chocolate powder can be offered as a TREAT, not as a substitute for a meal.
Believe me when he told me that I could have hugged him, because that’s exactly how I see it.
But I now start worrying about what Ishita is exposed to via the idiot box even more than before, I screen what cartoons she is allowed to watch and how long she can watch it carefully, and I have no control over what goes into the TV commercials.
I never thought I would actually come to the following conclusion, because as an adult who can make her own informed choice and laugh at some of the products that are advertised, I know a child will take a lot of things as face value.
My conclusion being that since alcoholic beverage ads and cigarettes ads are banned, maybe just maybe it would be time to ban junk food ads from the TV as well, and have a panel of expert make sure that ads promoting so called health drinks such as Complan and Pediasure cannot give false promises such as growing faster, and replacing a healthy meal in fussy eating kids. How ridiculous is that the censorship board removes certain short scenes in grown up movie and serials, but that kids channels can get away have rude behaviour shown in TV ads and even cartoons?
The other day I was reading The Big, bad, blonde, bahu’s latest blog on preserved food and the difference between US and India in how canned food, frozen food, and leftovers are perceived.
I obviously faced similar clashes there, mostly with my MIL. Let’s clarify right away though I understand perfectly where her opinion comes from. She dislikes leftovers in general, and that has to do mainly because she is the first generation of lady who got introduced to a fridge…that too later in life, not in childhood. And in a country where it can be 45+ degree Celsius in Summer it means food outside a fridge WILL spoil fast and everything has to be bought on a need of the hour basis and consumed quickly. The reason why spices are used in Indian cooking is also a matter of food preservation.
Every single culture on this planet has their own way of preserving food and insuring the survival of the specie rather than decimation by food poisoning. And I actually find it very amusing now when someone asks me why we eat only canned food in the west. First because it couldn’t be further from the truth, and then because canned food is the evolution of the earliest food preserves that were a necessity for people in Northern countries to actually survive Winters.
While the climate is rather temperate in most of India with shorter Winters and no frost making the soil unworkable, back in Switzerland no veggie can really be planted or grow between November and March, which means five months during which people had to live on what they processed after the harvest before the invention of fridges, and high speed import of food from across the globe.
In India you still find seasonal veggies in December and even in the 2-3 months of really dry weather before the monsoon you will still find a few veggies who will grow fine. There is also a wider variety of pulse on the market which can be stored and be consumed all year round.
While grains are also available in Switzerland, they can’t sustain someone through a harsh Winter with no other food source, hence the necessity of preserves, I have two grand mother that both learned the art of preserves in home economy school, they grew up during world war 2 which to an even bigger necessity not to waste their rations and even more of an obsession to turn every single scrap of leftover food into the next meal, they like my MIL didn’t have a fridge, but Switzerland having less heat even at the peak of summer, meant food could be stored in the cellar, which was the room intended for preservation in every homes. Both my grand mothers grew up in a farm house where such storage room was big and located appropriately to insure the least sun would come warm the walls (underground), later they got married one live in an apartment built for lower middle class people, the other lived in one of these brand new residential layout in the suburb in one of these little row villas so popular in the 50’s and 60’s, this is also the time at which having a fridge started to be not necessarily cheap, but envisageable for most families, though old habits die hard and both kept the darkest coolest corner of their home as a pantry just the same, my apartment living grand ma kept hers in hallway built in wardrobe,my other in her basement. I think both really stopped making preserves in the 80’s because they both agreed this was time consuming and no longer a necessity due to the easily available fruits and veggies and the fact imported goods weren’t as expensive as they once were, their reusable preserving glass jars became a great way to store rice, pasta, cereals and dry fruits instead.
My own mom who grew up with a fridge, but a mother who still did preserves, did try to do it for a while but gave up pretty much at the same time her mom threw the towel, but the concept of pantry pretty much stayed alive, my mom’s was a huge wooden decorative chest placed in the most sunless spot in the hallway between our room, but instead of containing jars of preserves, it contained, canned kidney beans, crackers, extra packs of rice, store bought jarred pasta sauce, canned exotic fruits for fancy dessert and all the non perishable food that came as a promotion at the supermarket which could be bough in bulk in order to save precious money.
Her kitchen cupboard had all the spices and opened packs of pasta, rice and pulses transferred to her old preserve jars. And the freezer compartment of the fridge had frozen meat, frozen veggies and sometimes ice cubes in there. That was until the 90’s when my paternal grandmother showed her the fridge sized multi compartment freezer unit she just bought, and my mom thinking it would be a good idea bought one for our kitchen at which point we started shopping right across the border in France to save more money as back then the French Franc – Swiss Franc rates were working in the interest of the Swiss, suddenly my dad’s salary was buying a lot more food and our freezer could hold it all and it simplified the life of my part time working mom when it came to planning meals, often it was just about taking the meat out of the freezer the night before to thaw in the fridge, explain the rest of the family what to do at lunch time if we came home before her (kids in Switzerland have a long lunch break but go back to school in the afternoon until 4-5pm), it became even more handy after my parents got divorced and my mom worked full time, with both my sister and I being in different schools with very different timings, dinner was the time we would sit down and plan the next day’s lunch, if the meal my mom planned required a little prepping she would half cook the thing in a casserole, then store the thing in the fridge and whoever came home first took the casserole out, continued cooking, and took some frozen veggies out of the freezer to cook so that by the time we were all at home for lunch we could sit down and eat and then go back to work/school. If there was enough leftovers, they would come back on the table the next day after having been stored in Tupperware style airtight boxes right after the first time they were served and straight to the fridge.
My mom also used to pride herself on her home made Bolognese sauce made with ground beef, mushrooms and tomato concentrate, but preparing it was lengthy, so she would often take a rainy Saturday afternoon, take her gigantic saucepan out (that thing could hold 6-7 litres of liquid) and cook a huge batch, then store it in freezer proof plastic containers that could hold 4-5 servings each, and each time we wanted spaghetti she just had to throw the icy sauce into a saucepan and let it simmer on low flame while the past was getting cooked. No preservative in her sauce, no colouring, and stored in the freezer it can stay fresh for a year or more (though we were all such fan of that Bolognese that it never stayed in there more than 4-5 months).
Yes, preserving food is very much part of western culture, so are big pantries. Started as a necessity in old ages, turned out to be a convenience in modern days of dual income nuclear families. And in fact culinary inventions such as smoked meat, smoked fish, sausages, cheese, wine and pickled vegetables were all ways to make sure nothing got wasted and could be kept for harsher days.
And now before some of you might start commenting on how India sure had their dark times too…I am NOT denying it, I KNOW that famine did occur, but what I was trying to explain in this entry, is that while India had rough days, most people living in the plains never had to deal with harsh snowy winter that had to push them into preserving food the same way people in the west had to, this is all cultural, and culture is intrinsically linked to the land we live on and how the elements treat us. Each culture has their own set of religious or pagan rite that marks such things as harvest, end of Winter, return of fertile time, solstice celebrations and the culinary treat that goes with each festival.
My fundamental question though is why then is that a lot of people I met in India telling me that western eating habits are all unhealthy…clearly we survived through the time as well as any other culture no? And yes I agree industrial processed food isn’t the best, never has been, and in fact a lot of people in my generation goes back to home made preserves just adapted it to the present time using the freezer more than they would vacuum seal technique on glass jars.
My MIL is the most ferocious of opponent of my western “quirk” to store leftovers in the fridge (in an airtight container), or my other quirk of cutting spring onions and storing them in the freezer in a ziploc bag so that I always have some fresh stuff to add to a dish, or my major quirk of cooking muffins and cakes to use my over ripe bananas and then freeze them so I always have a healthy home made whole wheat flour low sugar treat to satisfy my sweet tooth. She should not know about my storing whole wheat store bought pizza base sitting in my freezer now.
And speaking of culture and food preservation still, I might be Swiss, but while back home I used canned and frozen stuff more, I now use more fresh produce too.