Friday, April 27, 2012

Pitha From My Mother

Here's a piece about Bihu and pitha I'd written a long time ago, for somewhere else. Magh Bihu is in January, so I've got my timing wrong. But I'm going to Assam next week and I was feeling nostalgic, so you get to share in.

The Assamese celebrate Bihu thrice a year, but each Bihu has a different significance. The one in April is celebrated with music and dance and marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year. The one in mid-October is a time of solemnity and prayer, as farmers and their families wait out the season until harvesting begins and food becomes plentiful again.

The one in January, Magh Bihu, was always my favorite because it’s marked, above all, by feasting.

And the one delicacy that’s prepared in most houses during this time (or was, because it’s by no means easy and making it from scratch is becoming ever more rare) is the pitha. Pitha is the name for not just one item but a variety of them all prepared using rice flour as the primary ingredient.

There are some varieties of pitha that you can make in any season, but some can only be prepared with flour from a special kind of rice (bora saul) that you only get at this time of the year, so these are what I feel nostalgic about each year as January rolls around.

And making these from scratch is a long laborious process. When I was a child, my mother used to buy the rice a week in advance. Then she would grind it herself with the aid of a large wooden pestle and mortar. My sister’s and my services were also enlisted, and while I was too young to make more than a few dents in the rice with the heavy pestle, I eagerly worked up on the sesame seeds, beating at them till the black peels yielded the tiny white seeds.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Short Update Post

So thrilled that the author herself commented on my last post. That is basically all.

Of course, this makes her even more awesome. Check out her blog and the letters from school children who read Mockingbird, and how graciously she replies to each one. She also covers interesting books, and I'm going to be checking out some of them (and if you're a parent, you might want to look some up for your kids).

I just have to say again, Mockingbird is an amazingly beautiful book. I couldn't stop crying while I read it, and yet I couldn't put it down. It makes you want to hug the young protagonist and root for her, while also sympathizing with everyone else in her life. If you haven't read it yet, go on.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Career Lessons from Kathryn Erskine’s “Mockingbird”

First published elsewhere; republished with permission. Spoiler alert!

A love for reading is something my boss and I share, and we have even managed to send each other books apart from often sharing opinions on recent reads. Mockingbird is one of the books she sent me. I was so hooked I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I had finished it (and for some time after). It is a beautiful, powerful story of a ten-year-old girl with Asperger’s syndrome who recently lost her brother to a tragic incident. While struggling with the social anxieties of school and dealing with the shock of losing the only person who ever understood her, Caitlin also looks for a way to help herself and her grieving dad achieve closure.  But as I put my reading away and transitioned to workday mode, I realized that this book isn’t just about dealing with disability or loss: it has profound lessons for all of us, and many of these lessons can be applied to work life.

1. Do something you love.

Caitlin is smart and has an advanced vocabulary, she used to like spending time with her brother, and she likes candy. But what Caitlin spends most of her time doing is drawing, which she is very good at.  She draws every single day: it’s a refuge when she wants to get away from other people and all her social anxieties.

I love writing and I love that my job allows me to do so much of it. There are times when I feel overwhelmed and stressed out, and then I take out a little time to sit down and write a new blog post, and I’m reminded again of how much I love my job.

No job and no life is perfect: you’ll always have some stress and some setbacks. But find something you love to do and you have somewhere to retreat to when the going gets tough, only to emerge stronger. Find work you love and work is, if not easier, much more interesting and meaningful.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How Volunteering Helped Develop My Professional Skills

First published elsewhere: republished with permission.

I volunteered off and on with a local non-profit for several years. It started as a way for me to help others, but I’ve found I have learned so much from volunteering. Here’s some of what I learned to do better through my volunteer work.

1. Networking

I am both an introvert and shy, so I always found networking very difficult. But when I’m volunteering, I’m there for a reason, I’m passionate about the cause, and it seems easy to talk to someone else who’s interested in the same way. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people this way, and even came in touch with a couple of job opportunities (which didn’t work out, but I made great contacts). Some of the people I’ve met through my volunteers’ group are now good friends.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mid-Week Reads: the Sleepy Edition

 More from Sheryl Sandberg:
“Women in the U.S. became 50 percent of college graduates in 1981,” Sandberg, 42, said at the Women in the World conference in New York. “In every industry, women have steadily made progress in the past 30 years except at the top, where, essentially, over the last 10 years, there hasn’t been progress."
And I so totally agree with what she says here (and have been known to say the same thing).
"The most important thing — and I've said it a hundred times and I'll say it a hundred times — if you marry a man, marry the right one. If you can marry a woman, that's better because the split between two women in the home is pretty even, the data shows."
I loved this article on living alone.

"My vagina isn’t happy about what’s been happening recently in Indian media."

"James Cameron is a 15-year-old girl." BEST review of Titanic ever. (Says someone who hasn't seen the whole movie. And refuses to.)

Apparently, I'm not a freak. You all also need eight hours of sleep a day: most of those who don't sleep that much are chronically sleep-deprived. So there.

And here are some tips on getting sleep. Now go to bed (unless of course, you're reading this tomorrow and are at work).

For those who saw this earlier, apologies. Blogger had trouble scheduling this post.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

My House

Since I haven't shown you around my house since before we moved in, here are more views of my house. 

Yes, I can embroider! No, I don't much, because it tires my eyes and my eyes get plenty tired from reading anyway.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Mid-Week Reads: April Fool's Edition

You thought I was done sharing Hunger Games stuff? You thought wrong! But read this thoughtful piece on disability (SPOILERS though, so don't click through if you haven't read the first book and/or watched the movie.)

Here's another one, about how the romance that was treated in such a multi-faceted and critical manner in the book was turned into just another love triangle in the movie.

The author of this blog commented on a recent post here. If you're interested in Hinduism, and comparisons between Hinduism and Christianity, I urge you to check it out.