Hey, what’s cookin?

Cooking is so much about playing with colors, aromas, textures, and shapes. It’s all about being creative; letting the God in you perform miracles with food. Every experiment in the kitchen doesn’t, of course, always lead to something great, but it certainly gives you a feeling of adventure and excitement while you witness a transformation; the manner in which food changes its color, shape, and consistency is truly amazing.

Here are some pics from my past experiments with cooking and creating innovative recipes.

Sauteed and spiced Singharas

Vegetable tikkis

Sauteed neem leaves with onions

Spicy black gram

Beetroot tikkis

Grated and sauteed radish

Sauteed kakru

For recipes, click here and read on…https://wp.me/P67zXw-2hk

Rest in peace, Danish Siddiqui

In memory of Danish Siddiqui, an outstanding Indian photojournalist

On 16 July 2021, Danish Siddiqui, age 41, one of India’s finest photojournalists, died on duty in war-ravaged Afghanistan. It was a sad day indeed, not just for India, but the entire world.

He left when we all needed him the most; to bring out the truth, the grim realities, our misery and anguish that insensitive governments ignore and push under the carpet; to arouse the conscience of powers that matter.

Armed with just a camera, Danish reported boldly and fearlessly on the various crises he got assigned to during his brief lifetime; Iraq war, Hong Kong uprising, Rohingya muslims, Delhi riots 2020, India’s Covid-19 devastation, to name but a few. The photos he clicked during his coverage always had a special quality.

During abnormal situations like wars and riots, law and order break down completely. With politicians also deeply involved, there appears to be a bigger conspiracy at work. Victims who survive through the senseless violence are often so badly traumatized that they see no point in even lodging an FIR.

In this scenario, photojournalism that Danish was so passionate about, helps by providing undeniable evidence against the perpetrators of violence and initiating necessary action.

Delhi’s riots of 2020, a direct consequence of the anti-CAA agitation, were uncannily similar to those of 1984 with sikhs as the targets and identified by their beards and turbans.

Here is one of Danish’s photos from riots of 2020, Delhi. It went viral.

Muhammad Zubair, 24 February 2020

The man in the photo, Mohammad Zubair, age 37, had nothing to do with the anti-CAA agitation. On the morning of 24 February 2020, he went to a 17th century Idgah at Sadar Bazar for his annual pilgrimage. He dressed the way muslims normally do when they visit a mosque (white salwar-kameez with matching skull cap).

On his way back home, around 2 PM, blissfully unaware of what awaited him, he picked up some fruits and sweets for his children. He had forgotten to bring along his mobile phone, so his family couldn’t warn him. He was close to his destination when a mob identified him by his dress and shouted, “Maro is mulle ko!”. They meant in Hindi: kill this mullah.

They kept on thrashing him brutally with rods and swords all over his body till he turned into a mass of blood and flesh. He just couldn’t understand why they did this to him. They were screaming anti-muslim slogans and mentioned the name of politician Kapil Mishra.

Danish was on duty in his riot gear; helmet, gas mask, and all, being a trained photojournalist. He clicked the tell-all photos and discussed the story later in his press sessions. Zubair had a miraculous escape because of some good Samaritans who helped him get prompt medical attention. His family didn’t see any point in reporting the matter to the police.

While Zubair was recovering (see the pic below), Danish remained in close touch with him and apologized to him for not intervening.

During Danish’s last week in Afghanistan along with the Afghan security forces, a piece of shrapnel hit him in the arm. But this didn’t deter him. After taking basic first aid, he carried on with his job. He was talking to the shopkeepers when he was struck down by Taliban’s rocket firing on Afghan security forces. See below some pics.

Danish, unperturbed, in Afghanistan
Danish’s corpse at Spin Boldak, Afghanistan

As per the latest media reports, however, dated 30 July 2021, Danish didn’t just die accidentally in crossfire. He was brutally murdered by the Taliban at the mosque from where he got his first-aid treatment. The Afghan soldiers who tried to save him all met the same fate; murdered in cold blood.

The strangest part of this tragedy is that amid thousands of grief-filled messages from all over the globe including those of UN Secretary General Chief Antonio Guterres and Joe Biden Administration, USA, our own Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained conspicuously silent.

Danish was buried in the cemetery at Jamia Milia University, his alma mater, on 18 July 2021. His father worked here in its Department of Education.

Rest in peace, Danish Siddiqui…Death has given you far more fame and glory than Life itself…How I wish our paths had crossed when you were alive…Your work and your extraordinary courage will definitely inspire many to follow your footsteps.

Tokyo 2020 or 2021?

Tokyo 2020 (Typo error or deliberate?)

This pic is of the front page of the Hindustan Times, Delhi, 23 July 2021. See what the ad says in the pic below.

HT ad. Front page 23 July 2021

Turning to “Tokyo for hope and inspiration” is fine. But do it in 2021, my dear HT, not 2020. Why live in the painful past? It has come and gone, killing millions worldwide with many undergoing a slow death. The worst is not over yet, as the third wave of Covid is staring at us. Remaining rooted in 2020 will serve no purpose. Why build a brand around a year that has nothing worth commemorating?

Are you listening, HT?

Be in the pink with Jamuns! Here’s how

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May God bless those wonderful souls who planted Jamun (Indian Blackberry) trees many years ago in Delhi! But isn’t it sad that in spite of so many of them all over Delhi, we still have to buy the jamuns, just like everything else?

The berries that drop from the trees on the ground below get squashed, pick up dust, and become unfit for consumption. Most of them get trampled upon under the feet of passersby. That’s because Jamun trees are tall and their fruits are located too far away. You can’t just reach out and grab a few.

Jamun tree in our local market, West Delhi
Fallen jamuns crushed on the road

Because of the space crunch, most people in Delhi now live in apartments. Only a few have jamun trees adjoining their houses. They are the fortunate ones who can pluck those luscious fruits right off their branches from their windows and balconies.

Fallen Jamun tree branch in West Delhi

In July 2021, during my free time, I experimented with something different. Something I never did my entire life. I bought about half a kg of jamuns and made jamun juice. It was fantastic, beyond my wildest expectations.

Churning about half a kg of jamuns with some sugar and ice in a hand blender got me four glasses of juice that disappeared in a jiffy! It was a pleasant surprise for me and my famiy, as it’s difficult to eat more than four or five jamuns at one go.

In this hot and humid weather in Delhi with another Covid wave threatening to engulf us again, such tasty, immunity-building drinks are always welcome, isn’t it?

Jamun season is, unfortunately, far too brief in Delhi. It begins in around June end, just before the onset of monsoon, and ends when the monsoon begins. During the rest of the year, these trees lead quiet, uneventful lives. So do the best you can with these wonderful berries while they are still around. Even their seeds have loads of benefits. Use them as well.

Try out these two recipes below. You would love them. I look forward to reading your comments.

Jamun juice recipe:

1. Peel 500 g jamuns and keep the fleshy part in a utensil. Keep aside the seeds for further use.

Jamun fruits flesh
Keep the jamun seeds for sun-drying

2. In a mixer/blender, add the jamun pulp, 3 glasses of cold water, some ice, and sugar as per taste. Don’t add too much sugar. You need to have some sourness. You may use gur or gur powder in place of sugar.

3. Churn till all the jamuns are completely blended and you get the desired viscosity.

Voila! Your jamun juice juice is ready. It’s easy, isn’t it? See this pic below.

Chilled jamun juice

Jamun seeds powder: This powder serves as a very good hair conditioner and facepack. Here is the recipe along with their photos.

Jamun seeds powder recipe:

1. Sun-dry the seeds. Once the outer pink coating dries completely, peel it off from each seed and let the inner green part dry.

Sun-dried jamun seeds, outer coating removed

2. Once the drying process is over, grind the seeds in a mixer-grinder into powder form.

Jamun powder, ready to be transferred

3. Keep the powder in a sealed jar and use whenever required.

Store jamun powder in an airtight jar.

4. To make a hair pack, mix half tablespoonful of the powder in one tablespoonful of yoghurt or dahi. Then add 2 tablespoons of pure coconut oil. Mix properly. Rub this paste into your scalp. Shampoo your hair after about two hours.

5. For the face pack, mix dahi and powder as in 4. above. Then add half tablespoonful of besan and apply the paste on your face. Wash it off once it dries.

P.S.: Also read these articles below by popular writer-blogger Mayank Austen Soofi.

1. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/delhi-news/delhiwale-season-s-ambassador-101622675252448.html

2. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=4129580033790391&id=100002153045695

Living Dangerously – A photo-story

Naughty Mynah chick, eager to fly
Fallen Mynah chick
Mynah chick, back inside the nest, safe behind high cardboard walls. While taking a pic of the chick inside, I noticed that it had the company of one more chick.

I thought the story ended with those cardboard walls. It didn’t.

On 13 July 2021, I found the chick on the ground again. This time, it was in the company of two other siblings.

When I went closer, they began shaking their legs and shrieking with their beaks open. It was really heartbreaking, but I had other far more important things to do before I could begin to rescue them. The stray cat, thank God, was not around.

I began by pushing them into two cloth bags and placing them back in their nest. But it occurred to me that their Mom won’t be able to feed them that way. So, my husband Sukhangshu quickly dropped them together into a plastic tub with some of their nest material. I placed this tub inside the nest after discarding everything else that was there. Now they can only fly out. No more crawling out. Their Mom will, hopefully, take care of everything else.

All I want now is that these kids fly out at the earliest. I hope and pray that I don’t have to rescue fallen bird chicks again. Amen.

20 July 2021: I noticed that the chicks were getting taller and raising their beaks above the walls of the plastic tub they were in. One of the chicks flew out and flitted around on the stairs below their nest. It set my heart beating again in fear. Here is its pic. Such a clumsy little thing!

A daredevil mynah chick
Cheeky mynah chick

Sukhangshu pushed him into another tub, taller than the other one, with great difficulty and I placed it beside the other one with its two siblings.

21 July 2021: The taller tub was on the ground and the chick was nowhere to be seen. The other tub inside the nest was empty too. I was startled to find their little wings shaking. For one moment I wondered whether the little ones had left their souls behind and got compressed into these shaky little things. On looking closely, however, I found that some ants were busy moving them around on their heads. Sukhangshu likes to believe that they flew away, as there were no signs of any struggle and we didn’t hear any loud cries.

I didn’t have the heart to show him the carefully pulled out little wings and a scarlet drop inside the plastic tub. All through the day, my heart felt heavy and the face of that hyperactive chick, the way I saw it last, kept appearing in my mind. Here is the pic of that empty tub.

Well, this story has ended now. A big tragedy indeed. How I wish the chicks had flown into the blue sky instead of the belly of a hungry, greedy cat.

My Proud Neem Tree

In big cities like Delhi, people turn around and give you cold stares when they see you plucking leaves and fruits off trees growing in parks. It’s very embarassing. I had that experience once.

A group of policewomen on Covid duty in my colony asked me, “Aunty, what will you do with the Neem leaves?”

They gave me a funny look when I said I will eat them. I found it rather amusing being addressed as Aunty. It was time to dye my hair again, I reminded myself.

That was when I decided to grow a Neem tree at home.

I pulled out some seedlings around another Neem tree somewhere else during twilight when no one was around. I quickly planted them in pots at home. That was during lockdown 2020.

Till April 2021, they hardly grew much. I didn’t have too many expectations either. Neem trees are, after all, not meant to be grown in a pot. They need a lot of space. They become tall and thick and spread their arms far and wide.

But after I added some vermicompost, my Neem plants began growing rapidly. See the photo of the tallest one on top. I love the way it stands; with great pride, its head held high…

Position Vacant in Bollywood: Mrs. Aamir Khan No. 3

Waiting for the next Mrs. Aamir Khan

Yes, you read it right! Who will be the next wife of our famous Bollywood actor Aamir Khan? This is the question assailing everyone’s minds now after getting news about his divorce from his second wife Kiran Rao.

Aamir divorced his first wife Reena after 16 years of marriage. His second marriage lasted for 15 years. He had two children, Ira and Junaid, from the first marriage and one child, Azad, from the second one.

It is widely believed that Fatima Sana Sheikh may become Mrs. Aamir Khan no.3. If this is true, she will have to remember that, going by Aamir’s past record, their marriage may last for only about 15 years. In the end, she will be part of a big “family” that Aamir refers to in his most recent PR building video. It has him and Kiran smiling and holding hands, radiating with joy.

Well, for lesser known mortals like me, all this business about marrying, separating, divorcing, and announcing about this to the whole world, like it was something to be proud about, sounds so terribly ludicrous and amusing.

With their lives so badly entangled including joint collaborations in film projects, a young son, and hundreds of other things that they share, was it really necessary for Aamir to let the whole world know that he and Kiran no longer sleep on the same bed ? This is what puzzles me.

Marriage is not like an apple that you can cut neatly anytime. Unlike films, nothing can ever be perfect in a marriage. But things work out when you try hard enough.

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