Being Brave: I will NOT be Helpless

To truly understand what this post is, you need to first watch the video at No Country For Women (http://nocountryforwomen.com/)

As I watched this video, I had several reactions – anger, frustration, repulsion, gut wrenching pain and a complete sense of helplessness. I found myself asking, what should we do? How can we change this? Will this ever change?

I was tempted to give into the powerless feeling that was sweeping over me. It is the bane of my generation, this feeling that we can’t do much to change anything. We carve our lives with ambition, hard work and success, insulating ourselves from things that we have no power over. Most days the insulation works, keeping us away from the realities that surround us. On some days like this one, something manages to slice through that insulation and hit us at our soft spot.

But the answers I was seeking, were yet to come to me. Conversations with friends and sharing the link on Facebook wasn’t going to cut it this time around. This wasn’t one of those Social Media activations that make a dent in the shape of the problem. Something had to be done in real life, in our everyday, in our homes, offices and on the streets.

Then my friend Mou shared this video about the History of Wooing Women made by cdza and also this article written by Sarah Hepola. The comments section is particularly illuminating. All this was symptomatic of where our very ‘global’ culture has moved.

Today I read my friend Sonal’s post about this. And she has given me the answer. The first thing to do is to stop being helpless. There is no way we can allow ourselves to shrug our shoulders, draw the dupattas/jackets/stoles closer and promise ourselves that we wouldn’t be in such situations. Because every woman I know has been in this situation where men have behaved in a way that disrespected womankind.

I have been there too, and am guilty of doing nothing more but looking away in disgust. And thinking later, if only I had said something. But pacifying my conscience by thinking that there was no way they would have heard you anyway. Sometimes I’ve been so angry, that I haven’t been able to say or do anything.

Only once have I physically reacted by slapping the first face I saw when a mob tried to grope me on a local train. I was 19 and my mom was travelling with me. The courage of the young and the fact that my mom can smack the daylights out of anyone probably made me actually take action. We travelled the rest of our journey with a imaginary body bubble that no one dared to cross.

From personal experience, I have seen that there are two things that hold us back – Fear and a feeling of Helplessness. Which is why, we must be brave, there is no other way. By pledging that I will Not be Helpless, I am making a choice, to think, speak up and do something. 

If you’re a woman, I urge you to do the same, irrespective of where you live. Take control and do something, anything. Don’t risk your lives, but don’t be passive. Sonal’s action points are a good place to start. Write about it, talk about it and, most importantly, when faced with a situation that calls for you to be brave, be.

If you’re a man who believes that women have be disrespected long enough, help spread the message too.

Feel free to use the graphic above, if you’d like to use it somewhere to spread the message. No attribution needed.

P.S.: You may wonder, what a post like this is doing on a blog about travel, design and spreading cheer. But this blog is all about sharing with you everything that inspires me. All creative pieces shared above urged me to voice my thoughts to you. And I also believe that life just shouldn’t be compartmentalized like that!

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MIDWEEK TREAT: LOW FAT BROWNIES

I firmly believe that chocolate, ice cream or brownies can fix anything.

A few days ago, I had a super high intensity craving for brownies. Now, I can’t get my hands on any brownies, living where I live. Thankfully, I had on hand all the stuff I needed to bake some and a nice Sanjeev Kapoor recipe too. I improvised a little tossing in some walnuts and adjusting the flour ratio.

Since they turned out pretty yummy, I had to spread the love! So here’s the recipe with some modifications and tips.

Makes about 16 brownies | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 25 mins or more


Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup wholewheat flour
3/4 cup refined flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda bicarbonate
3/4 cup caster sugar (Original recipe calls for a cup, but I cut down on it for a less sweeter version)
2 egg whites, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 tablespoons oil (Original uses 1 1/2, but I found this makes the brownies too dry and flat)
1 tablespoon butter, melted or a blob will work too
My own little fourish, 1/2 cup of walnuts broken into tiny pieces. Avoid the temptation to chop or bash the walnuts, you will end up with quite a bit of crushed powder.

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F. Grease an 8 inch square tray or line with butter paper.
Sift the flours, baking powder and soda bicarbonate into a bowl.
Melt the butter over very low heat. Add the cocoa powder to this and slowly stir over the low heat for two minutes. Make sure the mixture doesn’t boil or burn. You can also add some of the milk to this, to prevent the chocolate from burning. Melting the butter and cooking the cocoa powder makes for a better tasting, non-doughy batter.
Beat the caster sugar with the eggs until combined and fluffy.
Divide the flour up into three parts. Start with folding the egg whites and sugar into a portion of the flour. Alternating between dry and wet ingredients mix in the remaining ingredients until everything is well integrated. Be careful not to over beat the mixture. If you’re using an electric blender, keep it to low speeds.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until it’s firm to touch and an inserted knife comes out clean. Leave in the tin until completely cooled.
Use a sharp knife to cut into 16 odd squares and remove from tin using a spatula.

These low fat brownies are a real treat, especially if you have been on a diet. The walnuts add a crunchy texture and crank up the health quotient too. A perfect excuse to stuff face.

They are great as a dessert after a scrumptious lunch or even better as a midnight snack. You can wash them down with some chilled milk.

Have you ever been consumed by a craving so much that you’re willing to do anything to satisfy it?

Infectious Creativity: A-Z of Unusual Words

I stumbled upon The Project Twins thanks to a couple of friends on Facebook. James and Michael Fitzgerald, the artists who run The Project Twins – a graphic design and illustration studio in Ireland – have a wicked imagination. Their A-Z of Unusual Words project is described thus: Bold graphics and visual wit are used to interpret and represent a collection of strange, unusual and lost words.

The one on top is a illustration of Acersecomic – a person whose hair has never been cut. The one below is my favourite, Tarantism – disorder characterised by an uncontrollable urge to dance. I definitely connect with that one!

You’d love their entire collection of illustrations on this one – fun, quirky, solemn, dark – the whole gamut. Go check this out and also the other projects this talented duo has been creating here.

And on that note, have a groovy weekend!

Project DIY: 10 Minute Evil Eye Charm

When I was travelling to Israel and Turkey last year, I was determined to return with a unique Evil Eye Charm for our home. I saw tons of them, but they all seemed like touristy versions, and I wasn’t too happy. Which is when the idea of creating my own struck me.

I found some really ideal, simple glass evil eye pendants the size of my palm in Tel Aviv. Since am usually looking for a bargain, I decided to go for the plain ones with a blue nylon string to hang them. At 8 Shekels a piece, they were about 20 shekels cheaper than fancy ones. I was going to add my own personal touch to these anyway, so it made complete sense to buy the minimalistic pendants.

It took me about a year but while I was unpacking here in Porbandar, miraculously, I found all the bits to make up a wonderful unique piece. A length of thick, coarse string, some beads and the evil eye itself. Like the title of the post promises, this won’t take you longer than 10 minutes to rustle up.

You will need:
1 evil eye pendant made of glass or ceramic. Pick a size you like
Some coarse string of desired length and proportion to your pendant
10-20 beads in colours of your choice
Thin string to tie the beads

Start off by stringing the pendant through your coarse string so that you have at least 6 strands to create a braid.Tie a firm knot as shown here to hold the pendant in place.

Now, braid the strands artfully. As you can see, I started off with a casual three-piece braid and then changed it to a slightly more intricate six string one. 

It is time to thread your beads through the thinner string. Tie a knot at each end of the beads to keep them from slipping off and make sure you leave enough thread on either side to enable you to comfortably tie it around the coarse string braid.

Depending on the thickness of your braid, use 2-3 beads for each round of adornment. I used beads in only three places, since I really wanted to see more of the coarse string. Tie off the ends of the string to create a sturdy way to hang the pendant on the wall. And you’re done!

The smooth glossy finish of the pendant is offset wonderfully by the coarse string and the few black beads add a bold accent to this piece. All that remains to be done now, is to hammer a nail into the wall, next to the switch for the buzzer to proudly display your new accessory. And to ward off the evil eye!

Picking up where we left off: Back, alive and kicking

Hello again from Porbandar, almost the Western tip of India. The sun sets here around 7:30 p.m. which is crazy, for someone like me who’s used to twilight around 6. It’s taking some getting used to, my brain still thinks it’s late afternoon even though it is time to switch modes from being an advertising professional to a blogging Sunny Nomad.

We’ve landed a nice little flat on the sixth floor and when I work, I gaze out at some greenery. If I crane my neck, I can catch a glimpse of a river in the distance. It’s nice. The other day, a couple of flamingos cruised past as I looked out for some inspiration. Isn’t it wonderful when you’re rewarded so handsomely? Unfortunately, by the time I got out my camera, they were way past the zoom capabilities of my point-and-shoot.

Our very few neighbours are helpful and settling in has been made possible by our very efficient chowkidar (watchman) Karsanbhai. I also have to remind myself that every woman is a ‘ben‘ while every man is a ‘bhai‘ in these parts. You show respect by calling someone ‘mota bhai‘ or ‘mota ben‘ – loosely translated ben is sister, bhai is brother and mota means someone older. The other day I received a package, and the mailman called me Priyankaben Nayar!

While I speak a smattering of the Mumbai version of Gujarati, N is fluent in the Kathiawadi dialect spoken here. When I open my mouth, I usually end up amusing the listeners, but am learning to overcome my embarrassment and soldiering on.

The picture above offers you a glimpse of a lovely reflection from my balcony in the soft evening light. The breeze just completes the feeling of being on a vacation island, high above the noise and pollution. What a glamourous vision of Porbandar, don’t you think?

Since my work has resumed full time, all the DIY projects I’ve been dreaming of will take some time before they take physical form. But I hope to share something pretty soon. My kitchen needs rescuing, every day I find a new way to organise and re-organise almost everything. Those tips I pinned about using baskets for storage (since we have an acute shortage of cabinets) have come in handy. In Mumbai, I dragged N to Crawford market just so we could pick up some quaint old wicker baskets. They’ve been an absolute life-saver.

This weekend, I intend to pretty up the open storage and hang some pictures on the walls. Am looking forward to making the home cozy and comfortable, one day at a time. Cookies and lazy mornings are what keep me going!

But enough about me. How have you been?