Tuesday, November 24, 2015

13 things from 33rd birthday

1.Finally, I have accepted that I am over and above 30. Wisdom has taken over and I have realised that we should be grateful to God for a healthy, long life rather than sulking over the fact that we can’t party till 4 a.m. anymore

2.I deleted my birthday on Facebook to see how I feel when my virtual friends don’t wish me. But a birthday tag started a string of wishes and frankly, it felt better than FB telling you ‘It is Nisha’s birthday. Help her celebrate’!

3.The Boy bought me flowers on the birthday eve. It was the sweetest thing.

4.I planned my day to the T. So much so that I asked a friend a day before to go for lunch adding a gentle reminder at the end, that it was my birthday! She is unconsciously forgetful and I am very considerate!

5.Wishes poured in from everywhere. Every word made me smile.

6.I even danced to ‘Abhi to party shuru hui hai’ early in the morning.

7.New dress? – absolutely!

8.The Boy got me swanky sunglasses earlier in the year and a more swanky laptop 3 days after my birthday. I think I can’t ask for more gifts this year and can never say that he never gives me anything.

9.I went to breakfast with a bestie and had a ball.

10.I went to lunch with another bestie and heard her share secrets which now worry me.

11.I went to dinner with my ultimate bestie – the Boy – to the most swanky restaurant in town. (Now those are 3 swanky things in the post!!).

12.This birthday managed to have its own story – we went to this newly opened restaurant which is set on 50th floor in the centre of the city with the most amazing views. It serves authentic Asian which is not our favorite cuisine. So we went overboard and ordered the set menu so that atleast something would suit our taste buds. Within 30 minutes the smell from the kitchen made me feel nauseated. I had to leave the meal midway and walk out. This is the first time we spent so much money on a meal and this is the first time we left it like that. The dessert which the waitress packed for us tasted absolutely divine.

13.My most favorite wish came from an old bestie with whom I talk only 2-3 times in a year. She said that I am still her loveliest friend and best advisor. Another bestie wrote that I was her soul-mate and that she truly loves me.
It is so amazing that when you hear genuine comments from your closest people you feel life is worth every little thing that it is made of.

I am grateful to be 33 and to have gathered so much love in this short life. I am also grateful that I look so awesome in the pictures below!

Well, some things never change, do they?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

One from the New Laptop

Once upon a time when we were in school, a new subject was added in Standard VI - it was the very exciting and extremely difficult Computer. Our teacher came and explained ‘What is a computer’ to us. It was followed by history of computer, description of a CPU and then the much awaited practical class which started with LOGO.

We proceeded to BASIC and the C++ by XII standard. Frankly, unless we had an inclination to become a programmer, this all seemed worthless. At home, I was introduced to the world of Internet by a cousin who stayed next door. I didn’t have a desktop then, so I had to sneak into her room and go online.

Internet just meant chat rooms that time. We didn’t have much to study from the Web since its access was in limited homes. Within a year my parents got me a desktop as well and my world expanded virtually. I was 17 then and loved every bit of my new found toy.

I used this desktop till I got married. It was placed in, what we called, the computer room upstairs. My mother, poor thing, checked on me even at 2 in the night. No checks, however, could stop me from doing what I was doing. I was a tad spoilt in this area. And well, if I wasn’t, how would have I found my life partner!

After we got married and I was at a new home, I needed a laptop for writing. So we hired a taxi for a few hours and went to four stores to check various laptops. I still remember that evening because it was so exciting! We wanted to find the best value for money laptop. We eventually bought a Sony Vaio and was extremely satisfied with it.

It has been more than 6 years to that purchase. Our laptop just went blank once which was sorted by formatting. Starting over solves all the problems in these devices, doesn’t it? I use to hit my CPU very hard whenever it troubled me and it always started working fine after a couple of slaps!

Anyway, now the Vaio was getting old – it was a core duo, windows vista and the works. The exterior had started to break as well. So we decided at the beginning of the year that we would purchase a good one soon. Our search had started months back. The sale started a month back and we went from store to store in our own car.

Life has changed. We could now look for the best specifications and the best models. We could even afford an iMac. But since we are against all fads, we wanted to choose what we liked best. Sooo, here I am, typing on my new Lenovo Yoga 3 Z 14. It’s a sleek, fast and extremely sexy device which would see my life change in the course of next 5 years atleast.

That’s how I see my previous laptop as well. It saw me as a new bride. We were inseparable in hotel apartments when the Boy was out on consulting assignments. It saw me blog. It has various documents titled book ideas! It made me win prizes. It helped me discover various countries and make varied itineraries. Frankly, my laptop has seen me laugh, cry, bored and happy - just like a best friend would.

I’ll be giving this to my maid’s son who is 14 with a hope that it helps him in his education and give him the same memories it gave me. Funny how a laptop can have such significance in your life! It definitely had the biggest hand in keeping me sane all through these years.

Dear Lenovo, please be kind like your older step-sibling!

New is Silver, Old is Gold! Just metaphorically though!

A Tale that is #MadeOfGreat

I have a simple story to tell. It is of seeking excellence in every act, innovating with self-belief, rising with simplicity, and battling against all odds. It is of success, it is of dedication and it is, ofcourse, of the man behind it.

I’ve known him since I was a little girl. He would come on his scooter to the small rented house that we had and have serious conversations with my father, his first cousin, for hours. My dad was 15 years older than him, but to me, he looked just as old. I had no idea what they would discuss, yet I was intrigued.

On weekends, it was a ritual for us to visit their house, but strangely, I have no memory of having him around.

A Reliable Son

Now that I think about it, he was, perhaps, at his shop. Having lost his father at a tender age of 17, Vinod bhai took over the responsibility of his shaken mother and two younger sisters as a reliable elder brother. At that time they had one rented store that sold sarees. The only advantage that he had was that the store was in the middle of a busy shopping area in the heart of Lucknow.

The Self-Belief

In a recent conversation with him I got to know details that I had missed as a child. When he was 12, he went for his first purchase with the store manager. He told me in great detail the setting of a wholesale market in Varanasi and how cloth material was auctioned. While he told me the story, his eyes had the sparkle of a child who had just visited Disneyland. I wondered if that was the right age for a person to engage in any kind of business activity. I gathered that he had passion for business from that age itself.

He told me about the time he had to sit for his graduation exams. He would take his books to the shop and study between attending to customers morning, evening and noon. It was an age when young men and women enter adulthood and discover the fun things in life. Yet here he was, self-driven towards success without even thinking about the sacrifices.

Seeking Excellence

After a few years, he took several initiatives and risks to expand his business. He started developing the first floor for newer products. When the renovation work was going on, he developed jaundice. He sat in the shop since someone had to oversee the operations. The doctor came at the venue and gave him the much needed glucose intravenous. Neither exams, nor illness could stop him from doing what his family trusted him to do – act responsible for himself and his family.

Years passed. After getting one sister married, his mother looked for a bride for him. Without caring for his own happiness, he put his family needs first. He and my father bought a house together and they started living on the same plot.

Within a few years of that, he bought a new store and launched another Indian-wear shop. I remember him coming at 2 in the night every single day for a few months. Even though he was just newly married, his determination of seeking excellence in his field was not lessened.

Pioneering Innovation in his Field

These are just a few stories of him from a million that I know. If you speak to this person, you would not realise that he is the same man who studied for his graduation exams while attending clients. He is extremely well-read and a walking-talking encyclopedia of everything around him!

His business is ever expanding and to keep up with the times, he recently launched an online portal selling clothes with Chikankari. As of now, this portal is no. 1 in its field and the whole credit goes to the man himself. His wife tells me that he sits online every night for hours seeking ways to innovate and  improve his business.

Success with Simplicity

At first glance you see his success and dedication, yet his simplicity and humility is makes him the person that he is. He could have easily been full of himself since he is, what we call, a self made millionaire. But one smile from him, and you can see the down-to-earth person that he is. Dedication, innovation and sacrifice has made him great. One conversation with him and I feel there is so much to achieve in this life. I can proudly say that I live next door to a hero who is #madeofgreat and take inspiration from him every day to constantly strive towards success with simplicity.

I wrote about his journey for a Tata Motors blogging contest on Indiblogger. Tata Motors has undertaken a #madeofgreat brand association with Lionel Messi since he is a winner who is trustworthy, reliable, pioneering, simple and driven by self belief, which is what is at the core of Tata Motors as well. Let me know in the comments section about what do you think about this association and get a chance to win an Amazon voucher worth Rs. 750.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Shaken Faith

We change our display pictures
We share our worry
We all have an opinion
We’re all full of rage and fury.
They are destroying our peace
We are showing no mercy
We are bombing their camps
They are targeting our country..

Where does it end?
When did it even begin?
We were born to love
Isn’t killing a sin?
Is it for money? Is it for power?
I look for reasons within
When bodies are laid on the ground
I don’t know how they will call it a win.

That dead body could have been me
How could anyone have foreseen.
If we could all shed our differences
What a beautiful world it could have been.
If there is a God
He needs to intervene
I pray for all our fellow humans
With a shaken faith in between.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Luxury in the city of Nawabs

Lucknow is a beautiful city of Nawabs. The city is full of culture. Every nook and cranny has exquisite architecture. The food is especially a treat - from chaat to paan to Kulfi to world-famous Tunde Kebabs - you'd love every morsel you put into your mouth.

For tourists, we have plenty of hotels where one can stay. One of my favorite places in the my gorgeous city is Hotel Clarks Avadh.

Clarks Avadh is a luxurious hotel conveniently located in the heart of the city. It has easy access to all the historical sites such as Bara Imambara, Residency, Bhool Bhulaiya, et al. The roof-top restaurant Falaknuma serves authentic Indian, the 24-hour coffee shop serves Chinese and continental. Clarks also has a pool to dip in and a health spa facility.

The ideal location and luxurious rooms makes Clarks a wonderful place to stay in.

The second hotel that defines luxury in my city of Lucknow is Hotel Vivanta by Taj.You can't come to Lucknow and not visit this magnificent hotel. It defines everything that Lucknow stands for - exquisite architecture, Nawabi style and comfort. The sprawling lawns of the hotel property is second to none in the city. The pool is a delight to dip into. They have a grand lobby which makes way for restaurants, rooms and banquet halls. They have two restaurants and a beautiful lounge where guests can unwind and have food and cocktails.

Taj is definitely a hotel where one wouldn't be disappointed. Given the classic blend of modern and luxury, I wish to stay there some day to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and enjoy the city from a very different perspective.

If you are reaching Lucknow by air, the one luxurious hotel that you cannot miss Piccadily. Being connected with ring road and Shaheed path, you can reach any part of the city with ease. It has two restaurants where you can wine and dine and a lounge bar that offers unique concoctions. I've always admired the hotel from outside on my various visits and would love to check out its facilities and various rooms.

From these hotels you can visit sites of interest. Other than the Awadhi architecture, we also have a zoo and various parks where you can relax. Shopping in Lucknow is a unique experience in itself since we have world renowned Chikankari and zardosi stores. One visit to Chowk and you will be blown away by the sheer variety of styles and designs. Also, you have to take a stroll down Hazratganj, the main market in the city. There is no limit to the food items that you can taste here. Chowk serves the best Kulfi, Hazratganj serves the best chaat and Aminabad is a kebab haven! And if you want a fine dining experience, you cannot miss the restaurants in one of the hotels that I have mentioned.

If you are visiting Lucknow and want to experience it in true Nawabi style, I highly recommend you stay in one of these hotels. You would not only stay in comfort but you will also get the real feel of the city of Avadh.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

McCain and The New Bride

We got married at a fairly young age. Both me and Sumit had just finished our Masters and started working for the first time in our lives. Since we had been dating for a while now, we thought it was the right time to move to the next step.

After the wedding festivities and a romantic Honeymoon in Goa was over, we realised that moving to a new life meant starting a household with a kitchen. That would be a brand new adventure, we thought. Oh, how naïve we were!

We bought fancy China and distinct pans.  We moved the trolley in the supermarket with great élan and stuffed it to the brim.  Proud of our prudent decisions, we checked out and lugged the packets to our new kitchen. Suddenly a realisation dawned upon us - neither of us knew how to cook. I mean, we could make tea and toast and noodles, but that was it. My mother had essentially written a cookbook for me so that I can tread through the initial few days with some ease.

With an ‘I can do it’ attitude, I opened the diary and made the first dish which was a staple in my maternal household – Aaloo Matar. Potatoes were overcooked, salt was a tad more and the colour wasn’t half as good as mom’s – the rest was ok.

Can't cook but can pose! This is from my first time in the kitchen ages back!

The husband, while trying to chew the hard roti that looked like Japan on my floral China, wiped my tears and made it sound like he was having the meal of his life. It was encouraging, but I felt bad for him.

I was trying to learn the tricks of being a good cook. So, I wore swimming goggles while chopping onions to lessen the tears. I tried to call my mom before starting the cooking process so that I would not burn my fingers while trying to handle the spatula, knife and my mobile at the same time. After about five cuts in one week, I even bought a big box of bandage.

Unfortunately it needed much more than that and I was seriously running out ideas. All my husband’s friends were bachelors and they wanted to meet the new bhabhiji! Reluctantly I decided to invite them on a Friday evening when I would cook and celebrate our new life.

My plan was simple – we would serve lots of alcohol so that when they sit to eat they can’t differentiate between a round roti and a square one. These were the tricks that you couldn’t find in the cookbook, you needed to think on a completely different level to come up with them. Husband was impressed and we stocked on liquor instead of aaloo pyaaz!

I went to the supermarket two days before the d-day. While browsing through various aisles I landed on, what I now call, the aisle of God. The frozen section looked interesting. The instruction behind a packet of McCain French Fries read thus:

“Preheat Oil. Deep Fry for 3 minutes. Sprinkle salt. Enjoy.”

How tough can that be? I thought to myself and grabbed a bag. Potato wedges, Cheese Jalapeno nuggets, Aaloo Tikki, and a few other snacks lay stacked next to each other. Don’t be greedy, I told myself and checked out.

I went home and poured some oil in a pan. After heating it well enough, I threw in some frozen potatoes. Just like the packet said, they were ready in 3 minutes. I sprinkled some salt on it and waited for the bell to ring.
The husband was back from work. I told him to open a bottle of wine because I wanted him to try a snack I had made. I am sure his heart would have sank in anticipation of another disaster, but he maintained his smile.

The first crunch between his teeth brought a smile on his face. “How did you come up with such perfect ones?” he asked while putting another one in his mouth.

“I didn’t, McCain did!” I exclaimed.

“Those frozen ones? I’ve heard they are used in most restaurants also since normal potatoes can’t give you the perfect texture.”

“Really, so now I can make restaurant style food?”

“You wish.” He teased which was obviously followed by a slap on his back.

The next day, instead of stocking on aaloo pyaaz yet again, I stocked on Aaloo Tikki and Veggie Nuggets.

Sumit loved the tikki which I baked to perfection and raved about the nuggets. We decided on the snack menu – fries with a dip, nuggets and tikkis.

When I told my mother what I was going to serve for starters, she started shouting over the phone. Why would you serve such unhealthy food to your guests?  was all I heard along with trans-fat in different sentences.

Was I really serving food that would kill them? I just had to know.

I went online and looked at the McCain site to know what was inside. The site clearly stated that their food was fresh, nutritious and trans-fat and cholesterol free. We just had to move to a new thought process from the older one which stated that Indian women had to slog in the kitchen to prepare meals for guests without even getting much credit for it.

I read out loud the following from the McCain website to my paranoid mother:

“We use only 100% vegetable oils in our formulations. In addition, these oils are neither hydrogenated nor partially hydrogenated resulting in potato products that are trans-fat free.”

I researched and told her how our Bhujia, Salted fried peanuts and biscuits were more fattening and higher in calories than these benign potatoes. After  much convincing, my mother gave me a green signal. Oh yes, even from a distance she had that school-principal kind of effect on me!

The boys came that Friday evening. We poured our favorite wine in glasses and made a toast to long-lasting friendships. I went inside the kitchen and started preparing the snacks directly from the bags.
Sumit came inside to help me, but before he could, the fries, nuggets and tikkis were ready! I was so scared that I made him taste each of the starters yet again. The smile on his face clearly filled my heart with pride – like I had gotten an A in class!

Veggie Nuggets by McCain

Aaloo Tikki by McCain 

The rest of the night is history but it remains one of the evenings of which I have the fondest memories. I’ve now learnt how to make round rotis and cut onions without wearing swimming goggles. I’ve learnt how to make perfect kebabs and yummy chole. But McCain still remains a dear friend. I always serve one of the world’s favorite starters along with my newest specialties. And whenever I take out the packet, the memories of my newly married days come flashing by and bring a smile on my and Sumit’s face.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Art of Playing Scrabble

Believe it or not, I like nerdy games. I have never downloaded Candy Crush or Temple Run game or anything that doesn’t need my brains to explode. I unwind by doing word searches!

Oh man, I feel so proud of that. You see, when you are the CEO of a household a.k.a. a housewife, you need all sorts of encouragement that you are no less than that Statistical Data Analysis person (Read: Chandler). And when you beat great minds in a game of words, your confidence reaches great heights.

Now I play scrabble like I am going to war. It began with a friend who use to cheat a lot. So I started to cheat as well. You know, when in Rome thing. Then it got really boring because we were making words like 'Mesoderm' which didn’t make any sense to my tiny brain with a minuscule vocabulary. Without explaining to each other, we quit.

Next was my dear husband. Now you know what position they are usually in. Even if they have the strongest horse and the sharpest weapon, they would hang their head in the battle-field if their wife was the opponent, because if they didn’t, God save them in real life.

But you see, my Boy is made of a different breed. He takes pleasure in being hit on his head and seeing me pout and sulk. In the process, he made me strong and smart. There have been times when he has been on a winning streak and seen the worst in me. But there have been equal number of times when I have thrown his IIT-IIM degree on his face and used statements like 'How’s that, sucker!?'.

To give my ego another boost, I started playing with a bestie who is a big journalist at Economic Times. I am proud to tell you my dear readers that she is now on sob-mode because she has lost all three games she has played with me. She even gave a virtual slap to the Boy when he commented 'Badi aayi journalist'! Oh yes, birds of feather, swear together!

That is not all. Since people I know don’t want to play with me anymore, I started using the random opponent ‘Smart Search’ option. Words with Friends Application tried its best. Most opponents I got had better records than me. However, since yesterday, three of them have resigned because they couldn’t keep up with me. And this last guy, I think he will quit today because I am a 100 ahead of him even though he has won 1950 games more than me. 

Yes, I don’t blow my own trumpet without proof. I think I need to play with a Harvard person now to get back to earth.