Monday, November 4, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Garba and how it should be played!

It took me three years and a new country to discover how Garba is really played. A quick ywhacky illustration to show what I mean.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

VeganMoFo Recipe #3 : Green Machine Mocktail

Being a teetotaller is quite a boon! Every time I go out to the pub/club/lounge/bar I always scrutinise the drinks menu for their mocktails and fresh juices and often come across some of the best drinks in the house! Not to forget the surprised faces of the bartender when you order the least-ordered drink in their drinks menu! Well, to be fair in one of the world's most drunk nations you don't often see the odd nutter coming up to the bar and requesting for hot chocolate or juice! Unless it is me visiting a pub once in a blue moon!

One of the best mocktails I have had so far is the Green Machine at The Swan at the Globe on the Southbank. The pub is in the same complex as Shakespeare's Globe!

When I arrived with my glass-jar (see picture below) full of garden-green drink, all of my fellow friends who were sipping on their Rose-wine could not resist but ask what I had ordered! And most of them instantly accepted my offer and took a sip of my stunning mocktail. These signs told me this was no ordinary drink! It had an aura if it's own and it had charmed me and my alcohol-friendly friends!

I thoroughly enjoyed drinking it! A fresh dash of crushed mint and apple and lime and ice all at once, topped with the spright-fulness of cucumber! And the best bit, it was served in a jar! Yes, in a glass jar with a handle - one of the quirkiest things I have come across so far in any pub!

Here is the recipe crudely put together from the quick glance I had at the menu before ordering.

- Put some cucumber, mint and bananas in a juice mixer
- Add fresh apple juice and lime juice
- Add crushed ice
- Start the mixer
- Pour into a jar
- Drink!

Voila! Your green machine is ready to drink! And it's vegan!


Friday, September 6, 2013

VeganMoFo Recipe #2 : Rice flake salad

One of India's most loved street food items is Bhel! If you look closely at a menu of Indian street food, you will find it is anything but junk food! It consists of lots of healthy snacks and salads that one can enjoy for a few rupees.

One of my favourites is this Indian salad made with rice flakes.

The main salad consists of:
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped onions
Chopped cucumbers
Boiled and diced potatoes
Rice flakes (mum-raa)
Salted peanuts
Sprouted lentils
Boiled black peas

There are four main salad dressings you need:
1. Sweet red chutney made from tamarinds, dates and jaggery
- Boil some deseeded tamarinds and dates
- Make a paste using a food processor
- Sieve this paste into a bowl
- Add jaggery to the bowl and mix till it dissolves 
- Add cumin powder, red chilli powder, little turmeric and salt

2. Spicy green chutney made from mint, coriander and green chillies
- Wash a bouquet of coriander and mint thoroughly
- Remove the main stalks and discard them
- Chop off the leaves
- Put them in a mixer with chopped green chillies, salt, lemon juice and some pieces of ginger
- Add a little water and make a paste in the mixer

3. Garlic chutney made from garlic, red chillies and sesame seeds
- Take a mortar and a pestle
- Put cloves of garlic, red chilli powder, dollop of oil and a handful of sesame seeds in the mortar
- Use the pestle to crush and mix all the ingredients to make a thick paste
- Take small portions of the paste and mix with water to create a sauce and use as and when you are making the salad

You could make all the chutney's in the mortar and pestle for a more refreshing taste but this can be time consuming. Alternatively you can also make the garlic chutney by mixing all the ingredients in the mixer.

4. Lemon juice
- Take a lemon, wash it and roll it on a flat surface, apply pressure as you do this
- Chop it into half
- Deseed it carefully
- Squeeze it and collect the juice in a small glass bowl

For garnishing:
Finely chopped coriander
Bombay mix (available in packets at most Indian food stores)
Sev (available in packets at most Indian food stores)
- If not available in the market, make a dough of gram flour, salt, oil, red chilli powder and turmeric
- Get a sev-making machine which could resemble a noodle/ spaghetti making machine and use it to produce thin fine noodles and fry them in vegetable oil
- Strain all the oil and place them on tissue papers
- Crush them and use for garnishing

You can also make a dry salad by mixing a pinch of the following instead of the chutneys above. Squeeze in a lemon to your dry salad and top it with sev and chopped coriander.

Dry salad powders:
Chaat masala (or Jalani Jal Jeera)
Indian olive powder (amchur)
Black salt

Take a big bowl and toss all the ingredients and dressings in it as per your taste. I always try different combinations and rarely do I have the same-tasting bhel on my plate! That's the best part of this beautiful snack and makes 'cooking' it all the more fun!

Voila, your healthy Indian rice flake salad is ready to tingle your tastebuds! And yes, it's vegan!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

VeganMoFo Recipe #1 : Indian Savoury Cakes

So when I moved to London three years ago I realised how much I would miss eating home made Indian food. One of them was this Indian sweet and sour sponge cake made from gram flour. It never  occurred to me all these years that Khaman, as it is called in India was in fact a cake! It was only after I started baking in London that I made the connection in my head and decided to treat Khaman-making akin to cake-baking and I was surprised with the results! It is amazing how a little bit of garnishing and change in perspective can change one's outlook and existing notions. Not to mention my Khaman-Cake tasted so much better too!

Khaman is a Gujarati dish, best enjoyed with coriander and mint chutney, a tarka (oil seasoning with mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves) and generous sprinkling of grated coconut. The best Khaman is light as a Victoria Sponge and it is an art to master the recipe at home with freshly ground gram flour. Well at home my mother used to make Khaman from an instant mix that was available at the shops. The best and most easiest of these instant mixes was from a brand called Talod.

Follow the recipe below which is available on Talod's website and also on their instant mix packets.

  • Take the powder in a vessel after removing the packet given inside.
  • Add 2-1/2 cup (360ml) water and prepare a soft paste. Keep this paste aside for 5 minutes.
  • Take the contents of the packet in a half cup (1/2) of water, mix it well and add it to the paste. Immediately stir this paste well and put it on a thali (plate) rinsed with film of oil.
  • Put this thali (plate) to steam for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the thali (plate) and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Now sprinkle a cup of water over it and cut it into pieces.
  • Heat 100 gms. oil, put mustard seeds and green chilli. When hot, pour two cup of water into it,after boiling sprinkle it on ready "Khaman" to season.
  • Sprinkle clean coriander leaves and fresh coconut scrapings for better taste.                                   

You can order your packet of Talod mix here

Original Khaman looks like this when served.

In my cake version I did not cut the steamed cake into cubes but carefully upturned the steamed cake from the thali (plate)

I made four such round sponges of Khaman and used two 200gm packets of Talod's mix to make them. Make sure the sponges have completely cooled down before manhandling them to arrange your layered cake.

The second layer went on top of the first.

The third on top of the second and finally the fourth layer went right on top. You could add a thin layer of grated coconut and/or coriander chutney in between the layers if you wanted to. Finally decorate it chopped coriander leaves and glaze it with the tarka. Serve with a few raw green chillies!

Voila, you're triple layered Indian-gram-flour-sweet-and-sour steamed Victoria sponge is ready to eat! Oh and yes, it is vegan!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Forgive me

It is that time of the year again. It is Pajushan (Paryushan or Das Lakshana). An annual Jain festival. In fact the biggest most auspicious festival for Jains. But it is unlike any other auspicious festival celebrated in our times.

There are no firecrackers. No elaborate meals. No new clothes. No gifts. No loud music. No dancing on the streets. It stands out like a black sheep in the family of world festivals.

Just like all Jain core beliefs that are different and out of the ordinary, so is this festival. It is probably the only festival that celebrates the simplicity of life by keeping things extremely ordinary during the eight to ten days it lasts for.

Here is why I love this time of the year:

1. Renewal
It is time to renew ourselves. Forget the past. Clean the slate. And revive our spirit. After the brunt of worldly pleasures it bears over the year, it needs a break!

2. Gratitude
Walking barefoot gives us a sense of belonging and oneness with nature and surroundings. We feel a sense of responsibility for the earth we live on and it is a great reminder of one life's truths - that small things in life make a big difference! And that we should be thankful for all life has to offer us.

3. Reflection
No television. No music. No unwanted entertainment. We've got the rest of the year for all that and all other material pleasures. For these eight days are all about the simple life. This gives us ample time to reflect on everything around us. Reflect about us. Rethink where life is heading. What our purpose is. What went ahead as planned and what didn't. What mistakes were committed and what great deeds achieved. It is a whole lot of me-time and I love it! 

4. Fasting
Fasting and eating before sunset has such a profound effect on the body it gives us a new lease of life! Our body is a machine and it needs a break from all the wear and tear it goes through on a daily basis. There is a more profound reason for fasting and giving up material pleasures, which is experiencing self restrain and being aware, more aware, by depriving yourself of life's pleasures. But for me the best part about giving up late night snacks and junk food and maintaining a strict Jain diet is that the body feels fresh and light! Lots of water, lentils, grains and pulses and sleeping early works like magic for our mind, body and soul.

5. Meditation
The last day culminates with a three hour prayer session and is a great way to experience the joys of meditating. Helps us take more control of our thoughts and channelise our energy in the right direction. The peace and calm accompanied by chants that are hundreds of thousands of years old are a firebrand combination and the best routine for mind-gymming.

6. Rituals
The mystical rituals, decorating idols with flowers and saffron, bathing them in milk, to the gong of bells, and songs of yore, at the break of dawn, with stories from the past, and powerful characters - these are the kind of things most wonderful fairytales are made of! The best part is, this festival allows us to be a part of them.

7. Forgiveness
It is time to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Time to crush that ego-mountain that has built up over the year and act selfless. To realise that life is equal for all, single celled organisms to multicellular humans like us. To accept that over the course of our life we have caused some harm, unknowingly and knowingly, by our actions and thought, and that we must take a moment to remember all that we can and ask for forgiveness. This act of asking for forgiveness keeps me grounded and when forgiven it rids you of all the baggage one's carried along. So here I say it...

Michchhāmi Dukkaḍaṃ


Sunday, June 30, 2013

7 and 1/2 reasons why you should volunteer

Interact. Rotaract. Victoria and Albert Museum. The Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Centre for Performing Arts, University of Westminster. What do these organisations share in common? - Me volunteering with them!

Over the past ten years I have volunteered with these associations and I cannot stress enough on how important it is to take up volunteering from time to time. 

Reason no. 1 - They need you! You are their ray of hope! Their oxygen! Volunteering can turn your dream of turning into a superhuman true! Every cause you support and contribute to will make a huge impact in changing the lives of so many people.

Reason no. 2 - You need them. The experience leaves you enlightened and enriched. It teaches you things no classroom can. Your life needs a break from the hustle and bustle of your hectic life. And volunteering can give you just that! And even better you make a big positive difference in the bargain.

Reason no. 3 - You become Santa Claus overnight. The most precious and pure gift that one can give another is the gift of time. Taking a small chunk out of your quota of life and contributing it to make someone else's life better is a gift unmatched by anything else in this world. 

Reason no. 4 - Karma never bitches behind you. You do good things, good things come to you. You start a good deed and pay it forward, and it geometrically progresses creating ripples of happiness in the air we all breathe. What goes around comes around, you will instantly notice more good things coming your way.

Reason no. 5 - You expand your circle. You meet new people. You learn about their lives. In turn you learn so much about yourself. You meet individuals you would have never otherwise met. You do great things you would have not otherwise done.  

Reason no. 6 - You make the best use of your free time, utilising it for something productive and worthwhile, sometimes even without great effort. It adds on to your experiences. Your CV. Your story. Self-realisation happens. Selflessness sprouts in your heart. Definitely better than faffing away time doing something irrelevant. 

Reason no. 7 - You get to travel the world, and even better most of the times for free. Demand for volunteering is global, join the supply and take off!

Reason no. 7 and 1/2 - Its the closest you'll get to doing magic if you're a Muggle!

So waste no time. Think what your are passionate about. Look out for a cause that matches your passion. Do anything and everything you can to make a difference!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ywhacky Art

Series of quirky quotes supported by watercolour sketches.

Dangerous Acquaintances

Pond flowers

This one is titled - The mystery of the British taps

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Checklist for moving abroad

Let's start with the fine print shall we?

1. This is an exhaustive but not an all-inclusive list. You might have things not mentioned in here that you might want to take along.

2. This is a reference list. You do not have to take all of this with you. It is a good way to check your list of things against this list to make sure you don’t forget to take anything that you wanted to. I repeat, you don’t have to take all these things.

3. You will be able to buy most of these things at most places where you might end up going.

4. The decision on whether to buy the things in the destination country or take it along depends on a number of factors. When in doubt on whether or not to take something along, do this Ideal Packing Test©
  a.How important is it to my daily life?
  b.What is the price-difference in my country and destination country?
  c.What are the essential things I will need in the first few weeks?
  d.Is it a necessity?
  e.Is it small & light or bulky & heavy?
5.There is a big list of what you can take and what you can’t through customs and across borders. Please check these requirements for your home and destination country and airline before taking anything along.

6. Always pack keeping in mind the available luggage allowance your airline offers and also remember that your suitcase also has weight (approx.3kgs/check-in suitcase, 1kg/cabin luggage) !

7. Also, while packing it is important to decide what goes into the cabin luggage and what in the check-in luggage.

8. I have tried to keep both the sexes in mind while compiling this list, but I know it can never cover everything that a girl might want to pack in her suitcase so I leave it to the fairer sex to suit themselves and add on to this list

So here we go…

Things to do:
1. Learn driving
2. Get local/international driving license
3. Learn cooking
4. Check which immunization/vaccinations you might need to take before going to a particular country
5. Full body-check up
6. Dental check-up
7. Eye check-up

Vanity and first-aid kit:

o    Balm
o    Bandage
o    Cotton
o    Crocin
o    Basic medicines for cold, cough, diarrhea, ear ache (during take-off and landing)
o    Glucose powder
o    Soframycin
o    Dettol
o    Mirror
o    Soap case
o    Tissue papers
o    Ear buds
o    Tooth brush
o    Tooth paste
o    Nail cutter
o    Scissors
o    Soap
o    Body wash
o    Combs
o    Hair brush
o    Spare buttons
o    Black and white spool of thread
o    Needle
o    Perfume
o    Duster
o    Scrub
o    Sponge
o    Hair dryer
o    Shaving gel
o    Razor
o    Spare blades
o    After shave
o    Electronic shaver
o    Hair straightener
o    Make-up kit

o    Tea (or Girnar instant chai packets are brilliant)
o    Turmeric (haldi)
o    Coriander powder (dhania)
o    Red chilly powder (mirch masala)
o    Mustard seeds (sarso/rai)
o    Tamarind (paste or whole, imli)
o    Different dals and rice in small quantity for initial use
o    Coffee
o    Cardamom (elaichi)
o    Clove (lavang)
o    Cinnamon (dalchini)
o    Tea masala
o    Garam masala
o    Sambhar masala
o    Pav bhaji masala
o    Pickle (but very messy to carry, 99.9% it will leak and spoil all your clothes in your check-in luggage)
o    Dried curry leaves (kadee pata)
o    Cumin seeds (whole and grounded, jeera)
o    Asafoetida (hing powder)
o    Snack packets (like Bombay mix, chiwdas)
o    Instant food packets – upma, noodles, rice
o    Ready to eat masala packets (paneer makhani, black dal)

Music & Movies:
o    External hard disk with your favourite songs and movies.

o    Course books (contact your course leader and try sourcing them for cheaper from home country)
o    A4 white paper
o    Pencils
o    Erasers
o    Blade
o    Sharpner
o    Stapler
o    Staple pins
o    Pens
o    Scribbling pad
o    Glue stick
o    Pencil case
o    Ruler
o    Stick on pad
o    Spellotape
o    Safety pins
o    U-pins
o    Clips
o    Envelopes
o    Blank CD’s
o    Blank DVD’s
o    Pen drive
o    Headphone with mic
o    Webcam
o    Files
o    Folders
o    Sleeves
o    Sketch pens
o    Markers
o    Note book
o    Highlighters
o    Removers
o    Executive diary
o    Punching machine
o    Rubber bands
o    Soft board pins
o    Photos of near and dear one’s (to make a filmy softboard or wall in your room)
o    Calculator

o    Big plates
o    Small plates
o    Glasses (any material, one steel)
o    Cups
o    Mugs
o    Bowls
o    Forks
o    Serving spoons
o    Pressure cooker
o    Cooker containers (spares, rings and valves)
o    Non-stick frying pan with turner
o    Tongs
o    Knives
o    Cutting board for vegetables
o    Cooking pans (kadai)
o    Utensils holder
o    Non stick tava
o    Laddle
o    Spatula
o    Peeler
o    Rolling pin (belan)
o    Tooth picks

o    Jeans
o    Shorts
o    T-shirts
o    Shirts
o    Night clothes
o    Formal suit
o    Undergarments
o    Socks
o    Sweaters
o    Cardigans
o    Jumpers
o    Sweatshirts
o    Pullovers
o    Muffler
o    Winter jacket
o    Summer jacket
o    Rain jacket
o    Autumn jacket
o    National costume
o    Windcheater
o    Trousers
o    Skirts
o    Blouses
o    Tights
o    Shrugs
o    Ponchos

o    Sport shoes
o    Formal shoes
o    Sandals/ floaters
o    House slippers

o    Hangers
o    Small napkins
o    Blanket
o    Back pack
o    Sling bag
o    Key chains
o    Card holder
o    Torch
o    Alarm clock
o    Camera
o    Camera charger
o    Mobile phone
o    Mobile phone charger
o    Converted plugs/pins
o    Wallet
o    Gloves
o    Laundry bag
o    Small lock and keys
o    Towels
o    Bed sheets
o    Pillow
o    Sunglasses
o    Caps
o    Umbrella
o    Ties
o    Handkerchiefs
o    Belts
o    Clothespins
o    Iron
o    Laptop
o    Tablet
o    Music pod

o    10th Std. mark sheet
o    10th Std. pass certificate
o    12th Std. mark sheet
o    12th Std. pass certificate
o    Bachelor’s degree mark sheet
o    Bachelor’s degree pass certificate
o    Any other documents of other degrees
o    Convocation certificates
o    Recommendation letters
o    Resume
o    Covering letter
o    Visa
o    Passport
o    Offer letter
o    Any other important letter from university
o    Tailoring measurements
o    Basic prescription from doctor for common allergies / medical conditions you may have
o    1 photocopy of of the above
o    Soft scanned copies of the above (save them securely)
o    Passport/stamp size photographs

Checklist for hand luggage:
o    Medicines for air sickness (No liquids)
o    Novel
o    Sweater
o    Offer letter from university
o    Passport
o    Ticket
o    Boarding pass
o    Landing card (will be given in-flight)
o    Visa
o    Photocopies of tickets, VISA, offer letter
o    Sufficient cash in currency of destination country
o    Address book with important contacts at home and destination country (2 copies, one at home one with you)
o    Phone book with important contacts at home and destination country (2 copies, one at home one with you)
o    You photos
o    Keys to locks attached to check-in luggage

Let me know if you have any comments on things I might have missed out on or on allotting the items under a different category.

Happy packing!

P.S. - Big thank you to a Mr. Madanlal Jain who passed on this list to a friend. I have in essence edited that mega list to write this blog post.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to survive a family gathering?

So to bag the role of presenter for Smoke TV's video on Examination Tips I had to submit a demo video. This is what I came up with!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jet Airways in-flight food experience

I've got a air travel problem. During my Jet Airways return flight this month the tin foil canister that my main course came in was a bit odd. May be its been odd all throughout and I never noticed it as I always eat while watching a movie during the flight. But it did not escape my hawk eyes this time. I noticed that every time I scraped my fork into the canister to take a bite of rice it peeled off a thin layer of white film from the base of the inside of the canister. 

And this was towards the end of my meal when most of the rice was in my tummy and I could see the bottom of the canister from the inside. It shined silver in places where the white film had been scraped off and was a pale white in spots where the film had not been attacked by the tines of my fork. 

Being a self proclaimed OCD I suffered a minor anxiety attack and called for an in flight attendant. At first he told me he will ask his supervisor and get back to me. Thoughts about what it was raced through my mind - plastic, fungus, what have you! But I waited. Patiently. 

Another flight attendant, a 'she' this time, passed by and on watching me sit like a statue with my canister missing inquired if I was all right and whether my main course was missing. I repeated my reservations about the packaging of the food, her colleague who I'd spoken to on noticing the oddity, entered our conversation and backed me up. 

I questioned whether or not the film was edible and if it wasn't what was it and if it would have any impacts on my health. She replied back saying only time will tell as the film was already in my system! And that she was not aware of what it contained. Panic attack again!

After speaking to her supervisor she got back to me confirming that the film is to protect the food from getting burnt when they reheat the food and that it was edible. I felt much better on listening to this confirmation but there was this sense of uneasiness that lingered in my head about what it was. And I am still a bit unsure about it. 

May be you could help me investigate and find out! If you know anyone who will be traveling via Jet Airways please request them to check for this film and observe if the same thing happens when they try to scrape off the base of their canisters. And if they do, request them to question the in-flight staff like I did. Please let me know what they reply!

I wonder how the supply chain of in-flight food works.

On another note, mine was a Jain meal which was made up of a pot of curd, a canister of boiled rice sandwiched between stale smelling palak paneer and a dry vegetable made from cabbage and coconut, which was awful by the way. 

This is another issue, I wonder why chefs confine themselves to sticking to the standard, redundant, tasteless, unadventurous dishes out of all the delicious Jain and vegetarian food that they can offer!

I've traveled by Jet airways multiple times and have always enjoyed their main course and desserts. Even when it has been the standard mixed vegetable and paneer tikka masala with bread. But not this time though, the cabbage and coconut was horrid. 

What has also always been horrid is their choice of fruits and salad leaves in their salad bowl which go brown on the edges from being kept under cling foil for days I suppose. And the fruits are generally moist and swimming in their own juice - they are sweet but are chopped up in big chunks and are soggy!

Policy with any food service should be this - if you can't serve it well, don't serve it. It is a waste of food and all the energy, time and money that goes in delivering the fruits and veggies to our seats.

Being a Jain what I do love is the fact that all muffins served on Jet flights are egg-fee so kudos for that! Though the chocolate chips in the muffins are hard as gravel. Ouch!

Sorry Jet I know I've been a bit too harsh but I love your in-flight entertainment and will always travel with you and am spitting fire because I want you to improve.

By the way, happy twenty years!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Three portraits to make one

The hat, face and body come from three different portraits to make one. This sketch was part of a vintage poster making workshop held at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

For more sketches click here.

Sketching portfolio

Please click below to browse images of sketches made from 2010 onwards.

Exploring depth with doorways

William Murray

Three in one

Portrait of William Murray

Sketch of William Murray with a twist to his facial features drawn at the Drop and Drawing session at the National Portrait Gallery, London. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Harper Reed-ism and technology gyan

One of the benefits of working at an industry trade association is the fact that it allows us listen to and network with some of the brightest minds in the industry. Last week the Direct Marketing Association UK organised their first ever Tech Summit. The key note speaker for the summit was Harper Reed, the Chief Technology Officer of Obama for America 2012, Barack Obama's re-election campaign. His talk was peppered with humour and slapstick statements but also loaded with lots of interesting thought provoking insights about how technology works and why it is not a field restricted only to the data-IT geeks.

The videos for the event are now up on the DMA UK's website. Click below to listen to Harper Reed and the other speakers.

Simple presentation with a high impact. Great lessons on technology management.

Really captivating demo of Adobe Insight and how it makes sense of Big Data.

Engaging speaker, showed us how practical application of academic knowledge can turn companies into 'Vanguards'

Talks about on-demand TV and how technology enabled them to make the most out it

Happy brain gym-ing!

Magic happens when you travel

I have applied for a travel contest sponsored by Contiki Tours. The winner will be awarded a free trip across Europe. Please take 5 seconds and vote for my application by clicking here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Exclamation Marks!

This morning I logged onto our parallel world of Facebook and was shocked once again to see how many "Weekends back Yipee...", "Thank God the weeks over", "So looking forward to the weekend", status messages and updates had flooded our newsfeed. Alarmed by how much we all look forward to the weekend I asked myself, "Why can't we look forward to each day like this?"

A week ago I saw a television commercial about how our life is consumed by 'impatience'. That's how the commercial summed up our lives, just one word - 'impatience'. Why couldn't that word be 'happiness', 'love', 'peace of mind'?

I am not saying looking forward to the weekend is a bad thing. We all know how busy we are. How we wake up every morning, yawn, brush, bathe, gobble up some breakfast, run behind the bus / train / taxi, yawn again, reach work (late in most cases...) and yes yawn a bit more(1). How we have to skip our daily home packed lunches only to gulp some junk food in a blink-and-you'll-miss moment, while we run around trying to finish our work(2). How we do overtime, day after day, only to reach home late for dinner. How we tire ourselves so much that it takes away our appetite for dinner; all we wish to do is crash(3) on our bed. So yes, I agree, the only way to get back on track is a good weekend! And so we all look forward to it eagerly after five days of sheer chaos. Do the math your self. 365 days in a year, 260 of which are spent in a race to beat the other, in our bid to work and earn and work and earn. Just a mere 105 days that we look forward to, in the whole year, because that's what constitutes the weekend! Why can't we look forward to all 365 days with equal excitement and sense of relief?

I think I know why. May be because our life and times don't allow us to. It is because society is replete with standard concepts of work, life, corporate life, education. Because we are taught from the very beginning, laws that make no sense when we give them a second thought. "You have to grow up to be a big man", "Money is important", "How will you sustain your family if you can't stand upon your own feet", "You must get a distinction at least if you can't top your class", "You can bunk class but please go for tuitions. They'll fetch you some good marks", “When is the next pay rise?”. It all comes down to this, marks, work, money, the works, the monotony. We hear so much of all this and see so many around us manage their lives around these laws that we start to believing in them too. 

Everyone is running behind their goals, which are often a result of the 'laws' and not results of what people really want to do. And there is always this foreboding pressure, that if we don't chase these goals we might lose out on something. We have been so preoccupied with what everyone else in our lives is doing that we don't have the time to stop, take stock of our lives and plan our future. All we want to do is a bit more than everyone else. Just a bit more. More enough to beat the other. Now multiply this theory by a million. Imagine a million people all running around to take the lead and beat the other in this race called life.

Who made these rules? Who said we need to be up on our feet 24x7, running around to sell bank accounts or sit in front of non-living entities called computers(4) for eight hours a day or spend time freezing appointments and business deals over carcinogenic radiation producing gadgets (read : cell phones)(5)? I don't know who made the rules, but all I know is that everyone is following them for sure. Some wish to break off, but cannot muster the courage to do so. Others are ignorantly going with the flow, not knowing where their life is heading. Not knowing what their purpose in this world is. One sheep jumped of a cliff (and made the law), all sheep are following suit.

Don't get me wrong. I am not of the opinion that corporate organisations are bad or a nine to five job is torture. I am not saying don't get distinctions in your exams or don't be responsible to your workplace. I am not saying we are all hopeless young people with pointless goals. What I do want to say is this. Lets lower the force on the accelerators of our lives. Lets slow down a bit and lead a balanced flexible life. Not a predetermined, rigid, nine to five, blocked, robotic one (unless you really enjoy this!). And it is precisely because of this that our life is overpowered by impatience. And that is why we look forward to weekends. 

Come Friday and we put these full stops to our busy schedules to enjoy a nice weekend. Why can't we lead a punctuated life with some occasional commas, if that means to take a minute out and do something we really like, to mould our day like we want to. Or for that matter why a comma? Why not put in a daily dose of exclamation marks in our lives by the random surprises we give, by just giving our parents a warm hug, by doing something that will make us say, "Oh! that was great!" 

Exclamation marks! That’s what life is about! Not a full stop.

Wouldn't it be great if we were all given a weekly working plan of doable things and it would be left up to us to divide our time as per our liking and finish the given work in our office hours within a stipulated time period? Say we finished our job faster or earlier, we could use the time that we saved for anything we wanted to do. But the reality is that if we were promised a given amount of work for a week and if we happen to finish it in three days. Then we are given more work to finish before the week ends. Again this is because it's a chain reaction. It all starts from the top. Less time but more and more work, fast business means more money!

Wouldn't it be great if we substituted money with another more meaningful medium to live. Like say happiness. Then there would be no fluctuation in the currency value. All humans would have equal happiness to take and give. If a farmer grew crops he’d sell or should I say exchange his harvest with a carpenter in terms of happiness. The carpenter in turn would render his services in terms of happiness. Exchange of warm smiles, excited jumps, cheers and hugs! The stock market would reflect the happiness levels and companies would be rich not with monetary profits but on the basis of how much net happiness they earn. And earn it only to dissipate it among other members of the society. Happiness would multiply as the product/service was shared. The exchange happens in terms of things that individuals can use their skills to provide - build a house, stitch some clothes, bake some cakes, render transport services. It’d all be about giving and taking. And then who cares whether how much you give and take is the same or no, as far as it’s happiness that’s being exchanged. Probably the most peace-loving country on the planet has understood the true value of this, Bhutan quantifies Happiness Quotient of their country, not GDP. Various parameters are laid down to ensure that the country’s development and welfare is on an upswing.

Things are rather different in most other countries. It’s alarming how people are dragging their lives along. Lack of sleep. Lack of healthy eating habits. Lack of relationships. Lack of “Me-Time”. Lack of free time. Lack of smiles(7). But then no one seems to be asking more of all this from life. What some might be bothered about is the lack of money. Let's wake up from our fairy tale and let's stop being in denial.

I know this all sounds too depressing and I have been way too extremist in my views. It's not like we have no joy left in this world at all. Just that a majority belong to this impatient life and we need to do something to turn the tables. 

Well, I can already see your minds feeling uneasy. I suppose it’s been a good ten minutes that you've devoted to this blog and that’s a lot considering it’s your precious weekend time that’s being utilized… Give it a thought though. On a parting note remember to get a bit of this in your life - ! 

P.S. - Get in touch if you want to trade in happiness.

(1) Just do this small activity. Try counting the number of people you see yawning in one day. May be even count the number of times you yawn in a day. You will be alarmed to see how many people around us are so sleep deprived. (Including you!)

(2) Its one of the worst insults to the sanctity of home. Our mothers cook the most sumptuous meals for us only to have it left over because we can’t seem to find the time to relish it during hectic work hours. Once, I came home late after work. Mom opened the tiffin. She felt so bad I hadn't eaten a morsel. She woke up early in the morning only to ensure I don’t stay hungry. I felt so shameless. Never give into this one. Come what may home made tiffins must be eaten.

(3) Crash…the word reminds me of this Oscar winning movie on racism. A must watch! Let me know when you see it. I wouldn't mind joining in. It’s super!

(4) Just think about it. We spend so many hours in our lives attached to non-living things. Computers, I-Pods, cars… Hard copy books are acceptable though, reading gives you an experience like none other and makes you wiser.

(5) This is not a lie. I really hate cell phones. Wish we could just burn them all and throw them away. The radiation can really affect your brain cells and cause cancer. This is no joke. They are the biggest enemies of “Me-Time”

(6) I just used inverted commas within inverted commas. I thought it must receive a mention. From brackets in brackets to now this, my random writings have come a long way.

(7) I think this happened may be a year or two ago. One of my friends mentioned this to me while traveling in a Mumbai local. He pointed towards the crowd of passengers in front of us in the compartment, “Look at them, a hundred faces but none of them are smiling”. And since then I have been occasionally noticing this, in the bus, on the roads, people really just don’t smile. So please smile occasionally.

It's a Beautiful Day - Spring Concert

In case you were not aware what the choristers from University of Westminster were up to, we performed at our annual Spring Concert in early April 2013.

If you missed it, here is a collection of the songs we sang. It was a great evening, everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and loved how the concert had musical pieces from different corners of the world.

The Circle Of Life

Swing Low Sweet Chariot


Ekla Cholo Re

The Lord is My Shepherd

Take me or Leave me

Amazing Grace

O Re Mi

Get Happy, Happy Days are here again

Beautiful Day

To see a list of all the performances click here.

The University of Westminster's Choral Society is led by Robbie Jacobs and consists of students, alumni and staff of the university. The performances are put together by a collaborative effort and give students a chance to hone their singing skills. If you would like to work with them please contact the director of the Centre for Performing Arts here or drop me a line and I can put you in touch with them.