Mamma Mia!

I return home from college at 7 o’clock every evening, throw my bag on the sofa and run to the kitchen to claim my right on some delectable mom-made snacks, followed by dinner that’s fit for a King. I’ve never really wondered how she juggles work in the office and at home. May be because she’s never let it seem like a humongous task, which I’m certain it is. Sometimes I feel I should help around in the kitchen but I can barely shuttle between college and tuition without getting drained. I salute all mothers; honestly, I can’t even imagine myself doing this much and surviving to tell the tale. *feels inadequate* *cringes* That’s where McCain comes into my life like an answer to my prayers.

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It takes around 3 minutes to cook which means one is only THREE minutes away from heavenly goodness. It’s so easy to make, either deep fry or bake and you’re all done. No hard work involved, yet the outcome is delish!

During one of my feeling-useless moments, an idea struck me. I totally intend to execute it this weekend when my young shoulders aren’t cumbered with a load of studies. *phew*

Here’s the plan (shhh, don’t tell anybody) –

  1. Come Saturday, I get my stock of McCain Smiles and sneak it into the freezer… Also, (at least) one of every other kind, some of which are – McCain French Fries, McCain Super Wedges, McCain Aloo Tikki, McCain Potato Cheese Shotz, McCain Cheese & Jalapeno Nuggets (Oh.my.God Cheese *nomnomnom*)
  2. Wait for mom to move out for her weekend-evening walk
  3. Whip up a batch of these angelic looking Smiles
  4. Wait for mom to return and surprise her with a plate-full of McCain Smiles!
  5. Click a pic of her happy-smiling face!

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Ta-da! There you have it! My master plan of bringing a smile on my mother’s face in the best way possible *lifts collar and feels proud* I bet you won’t find anything as cute and smile-able as McCain Smiles!

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Okay! Quick question! Hurry up and solve this riddle : What’s crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and delicious all over?

Think, think!

McCain, of course!

No, you’re not getting any prizes for guessing the obvious! Just come on over to share some McCain Chilli Garlic Potato Bites (yummm!) and a cuppa chai! A tasty treat is better than any gift after all, no?!

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Double the smiles all around with McCain! –> http://www.mccainindia.com

It’s Too Late

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It–It can’t be… But it is! I can see myself! I’m 5 years old. Dad’s performing the Diwali puja rituals. An innocent smile spreads across my baby-face as I hear fire crackers burst outside. Phantom-like, I observe my (once) happy family and a tear rolls down.

A momentary flash of white light and there I am again; only this time, 16 years old, receiving my ‘Prefect’ badge in school. I watch my proud, confident self read out a note of thanks.

*Flash* Scene 3 – Me, from around a year back, sitting on a rock facing the sea and laughing, carefree. Through this strange, hollow darkness, I observe my younger self, wishing I could reverse time.

Yet another flash. But I can’t see myself anymore. I can’t see anything, actually. A thick black pall engulfs me. I can’t move either but I hear voices. It’s all coming back to me. I realise what’s happening but it’s too late.

‘Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive beta,’ – mum’s voice. ‘Ek aur shot pee le kuch nahi hoga,’ – Karan’s voice. ‘At least I’m more sober than all you drunkards put together. I’ll drive,’ – my voice. I can’t breathe properly but sounds I hear; wheels screeching, friends screaming, a cyclist whimpering, a windshield smashing to smithereens and a horn that won’t stop.

Strangely the excruciating pain is now easing out. I can feel my wounded body slump and my spirit rise to look at my lifeless form. My head rests on the steering wheel. That’s why the horn won’t stop. Noooo! I don’t want to go. I want to live, please.

My soul weeps terribly but it’s just too late. Words reverberate, shattering the deathly silence – Whatever you do beta, don’t drink and drive.

Maa Aschen! Kolkata Gears Up For Durga Puja, 2015

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With Mahalaya (Mahalaya Amavasya) marking the end of the Pitru Paksha yesterday, 12th October, 2015 and the beginning of Devi Paksha from today, I could not have found a more auspicious day to post this. The Pitru Paksha (Pitri Paksha), as we know is a period when Hindus observe Shraadh/Tarpan (paying homage by making offerings of food) for the souls of their departed ancestors.

The beginning of Devi Paksha (Debi Pokho) marks the decent of Goddess Durga; when she embarks on her journey to earth. Well, Maa Aschen (Mother, Maa Durga is on her way). Here are a few pictures to support both the statement and the heady rush of excitement the words evoke. The City of Joy is abuzz. No Pujo like Durga Pujo and no better place to experience it that in Kolkata.

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“I can’t keep calm because I’m a Bengali and Puja is coming,” they say. I beg to differ. You needn’t be Bengali for Durga Puja to be your most favourite festival in the whole wide world. You simply need to belong or have belonged to Bengal. On that note, I’m a true-blue Calcuttan, part-Bengali at heart and no one I say no one, can ever take that away from me. You can take me out of Kolkata but never take Kolkata out of my heart *goosebumps*

Enough of me, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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This idol in the making, I found about a week back in Garcha Lane.
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The College Square Puja pandal as viewed from the terrace of the University of Calcutta.

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Don’t miss the two men atop this Hazra Road pandal. It’s the hard work and sincerity of such people that take shape as these marvelous structures.

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Singhi Park. The sheer number of people that visit are enough to explain its popularity.

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The framework laid and ready

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The one at Golfgreen Park. Just where you see the Taxi taking a turn, is a lane that had more bamboo work done. Probably a set up for the lights.

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The one at Mullick Bazar, weeks back. Probably my first pandal-click this year.

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Blue lights flank the Gariahat Flyover. Prettying up!

I cannot wait to see these (and more) Puja Pandals when the idols have been placed and Maa’s radiant face beams back at us; our Mother in absolute splendour.

মা আসছেন| Bolo Durga Maa Ki Jai!

He Walks Beside You

“तेरे साथी मेरे कदमों के हैं निशाँ

तू ना जाने आस पास है ख़ुदा |”

“My footsteps are your companion,
You don’t know (realise) God is beside you.”

This quote is from a song that never fails to give me goose bumps. Aas Paas Khuda from Anjaana Anjaani, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra.

I’m a theist through and through. I don’t doubt the existence of God, the one supreme force the Universe reveres. An absolute believer and fervently spiritual (not necessarily, religious), the instant I read this week’s IndiSpire topic, several quotes in praise of God flitted in and out of my mind. From mellifluous Bhajans to Holy words from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji; from profound Sufi songs to the heart-warming Hymns we sang in school. Finally, my mind rested on this one.

Life is made up of crests and troughs. This phrase acts as a guiding force when I feel down. It speaks of what He wants us to believe. There’s nothing God can’t fix. Know that He’s always by our side; invisible but never indifferent. He’s our permanent go-to person; a parent, a teacher, a best friend. When you feel overwhelmed, you know who to turn to. He’s always watching out for you. Mightier than all your problems put together, He’s the Almighty. Trust, that He’s been, is and will always be with you.

This post is written for IndiSpire, Edition #83

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Moody Poetess

‘Write a 2-minute poem,’ they said,
I yawned, as I rolled out of bed,
Stretching, tripping, scratching my head,
‘My two minute poem.’ Yep! That’s what I read.

I’m a moody poetess,
Rarely sorted, mostly a mess,
“What shall I write? Umm,”
I say to myself;
Well, that’s anybody’s guess!

Sleepy as I am, I sit & jot
Every stray idea, plot, thought,
Can’t let this brain rust and rot,
Bless this poem, oh dear God!

So, as yarn is spun from thread,
I conjure this off the top of my head,
My body is tired, eyes feel like lead;
Now that I’ve done what they said,
It’s time I get back to bed;
‘My 2-minute poem,’
Yes, that’s what I read.

This Poem is written for IndiSpire, Edition #81

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Once A Xaverian, Always A Xaverian

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The thing about clichés is that they’re done to death but undeniably true.

This apparently sudden expression of love for St. Xavier’s is probably because I re-visited it yesterday. From the moment I took my first step towards college from Mullick Bazaar crossing, it was an onslaught of memories. What struck me first was that I was actually walking, not running; which I’d do quite often because I was late for class almost all the time.

Walking past the Church, I checked my reflection in a car window; had a scuffle with my own bag, trying to find my ID card; walked in through the green gates, peering into the Chapel; listened to the sound of the fountain that surrounds the towering St. Francis Xavier idol, as my senses soaked in the welcome feeling of a familiar place. Everything I did was still the same, only probably, for the last time.

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I walked past the stairs – which had become an inescapable part of our daily exercise routine (take the stairs to the 4th floor every day and you’ll know) – and straight into the canteen. Ah! The all-time favourite hang-out spot. Well, besides the Green Benches (in the campus) and Delights (outside) of course. Speaking of which, you cannot miss Au Bon Pain, Cha Bar, CCD & the likes on Park Street which are more often than not, haunted by Xaverians across all departments and batches.

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From frequent group presentations, that definitely made friends out of class mates, to uncomfortably-frequent exams, meeting-up-to-discuss was an unspoken necessity. Speaking of which, I’d like to know how much money these cafes made off us, considering we needed their ‘free’ Wi-Fi all the time *wonders*.

The lush college grounds, Room No. 7, the Computer Lab. and of course our classroom, hold so many fond (or not) memories. What is closest to my heart is the Catholic-institute-aura of college. It reminds me of my Alma Mater, Pratt Memorial School, right from the Christmas decoration, the sound of carols emanating from some distant room, the ‘Christmassy’ feeling in general, down to the green & yellow facade in particular.

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I’ll never forget the times, when I was still a school student and I’d walk past the beckoning yellow-green building with fervent longing and tacit prayers; while the structure greeted me with stoic silence.

Let me tell you I’ve been a consistently good student but by no means a topper. Frankly, I stood no chance of ever studying in the most prestigious institute of Kolkata, St. Xavier’s College. (Not like that killed me or anything; in all honesty and fairness, I wouldn’t swap my three years at JD Birla for anything in the world).

Nonetheless, if an opportunity knocks, take it because, well, an adage says it does so only once. So, this one random day in the month of March last year, my friend suggested I put in an application for a PG Diploma course in Integrated Marketing Communication at St. Xavier’s. My first reaction was, ‘Yeah right. I’m never getting through.’ Talk about optimism.

It’s an impulsive chance I took, without too much thought, which paid off more than well. I have some sense of direction now, which is definitely better than not having any *shrugs*. Some crazy-fun friends to last a lifetime, the respectable top-brass of the Marketing Communication Industry to learn from and a suitcase full of memories; I’m taking back a lot from St. Xavier’s. Lame-pun alert! Xavier’s is my favourite brand. Get it? IMC? Brand? Not funny? Uhh, okay *sighs*.

Thank you, St. Xavier’s. You’ll definitely be one of my most cherished experiences. Ever. Nihil Ultra! *the feels*

With love,
A Xaverian

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All Is Calm, All Is Bright

‘I can’t do this,’ I sigh to myself as I rest the side of my warm, worried forehead on the cool metal rim and stare out of the window. Silhouettes of trees – sometimes huts, sometimes just the bare, undulating landscape but mostly trees – whizz past. ‘They’re all going away from me, even the trees’, I reflect as the train speeds on in the opposite direction.
I look around inside, everyone on board is asleep. I return my gaze to the scenery. ‘It’s dark.’ Both literally and figuratively. ‘I really don’t see anyone on my side. It’s a lone battle I must fight. And win. I have to do this on my own, for I’m at the point of no return. It’s all my fault.’
The barely-lit countryside has me rapt. It reflects my state of mind; brooding, quiet, morose. (At least someone is like me.) Yet, there’s a certain charm about it. The view is alluring.
I see a flicker somewhere afar. ‘I think we just passed a village. Distant lamps light up my vision momentarily, only to disappear,’ I ruminate.
‘I’m not surprised though,’ continues my soliloquy, ‘the lamps vanished just like those fair-weather friends of mine.’
‘Ah look! A light twinkles in the distance again. But this isn’t one to fade away. It isn’t transient like those village lights. It’s luminous! It isn’t like the trees, waving as I journey past. Instead, it moves along with me. It’s constant.’
‘Oh! It’s a star!’ With this realisation an immediate calm descends on me. I feel at peace, almost. Its silent communication is spell-binding. I wonder what it’s trying to say. I feel a surge of hope after so very long. The star travels alongside, lighting not the landscape but a fire in the cold hearth of my heart.
Maybe I’m not alone; maybe I have a companion somewhere in the skies. Maybe someone, somewhere is looking out for me after all. ‘I can do this.’

Who’s The Boss?

Today has to be the worst day ever! Who does my boss think he is anyway? Let me see HIM meet the deadline with the cart-load of work we have to finish. He needs to get a grip and stop yelling at me as though it’s his birth right. The old man is off his rocker, I tell you! If only he cared to take note of the trouble his employees go through to keep this place running. If it wasn’t for our round-the-clock slogging, he would’ve been out of business ages ago. Kaput!
Oh, how I wish this day does a somersault and turns things around in my favour for a change. This dungeon of an office needs some freshness, both literally and figuratively. However, for that to happen, I’ll have to hope for a miracle! I really need a break. Maybe I should take a stroll for a while to divert my mind. Just some me-time and then I can get back to the grind.
Hey, wait a minute. I hear some music playing outside. It’s a peppy song and the voice is entrancing. The singer must indeed be a superstar with that kind of talent! I can hear a cheering crowd as well. Sounds like people are having a good time. What do not go hand in hand, are FUN and this sorry excuse for a ‘work environment’. It’s surprising that I hear sounds of merriment coming from anywhere near this depressing place. Wonder what’s happening downstairs. Wait, let me check and fill you in on the goings-on.
Hi, I’m back and you won’t believe what I’m about to tell you! Oh my God, I’m over the moon. So, I walked out to see what the hubbub was about and guess what! There I saw them – Anushka Manchanda, singing a catchy number in her enthralling voice and the immensely gifted actor, Allu Arjun, dancing to the beats in perfect sync. Doing what they do best, they had the mob rapt. How should people not be mesmerized, when they have the singing sensation and dancing king performing live! I struggled to make my way to the front and saw them up close. Stood there enjoying the performance and for once, did not mind being jostled by a swooning mob.
Artists of such stature performing on the street right outside my office! I could pinch myself and still not believe it! It’s like they were sent as an answer to my prayers. My day is made! So, I guess my #MaxFreshMove was making a move out of office. Taking time off to do what I want, instead of what I have to, seemed like the need of the hour. After all, the real boss of my life is ME. A million thanks to them for bringing a much needed whiff of freshness into my stifling work life. God is good. *All hail* May magic like this happen more often!

I am blogging for #MaxFreshMove activity atBlogAdda.com. Are you?

Dream Team

It was snowing and the view from atop the mountain peak was spectacular. Cupping my hands around my mouth, I shouted my name. The echo responded. Then I heard it again, and again, and again. Louder each time. Err, isn’t the sound of an echo supposed to fade?
Then I felt myself fall off the cliff, as my chin slipped off my palm and my face slammed into the desk in front. I woke with a start. Oh great, I was daydreaming again. I do that a lot. Like, all the time.
It had not been an echo but my class mates trying to get me to join them for a game of Dumb Charades. I raised my hurt nose a little and peered at the teacher from my seat in the last row. She was droning on without the slightest inkling of how deathly boring she always is. Well, time to wake up, I thought as I muffled a yawn.
I heard music playing in the school grounds. Sounded like a concert. I strolled to the window and saw a large crowd of my school mates gathered in the basketball court. That’s strange. Our school fest was over last month and the stage had been dismantled, right?
I walked out of class without the teacher even bothering to look at me and made my way to the grounds. I had to investigate for myself, to know whether I was seeing right or losing my sanity to the History lesson.
I couldn’t believe my eyes! There was Anushka Manchanda, singing an incredibly melodious song. By her side was superstar Allu Arjun, regaling star-struck students with his impeccable dance moves. They had the crowd spellbound. Their fans were screaming themselves hoarse. What a wave of freshness they’ve brought to this utterly boring day, I thought to myself. That’s when I heard the two of them call my name. Huh, what? Me? Really? They want ME on stage with them? By the time I could absorb the feeling of this unbelievable moment, someone stepped on my big toe. Ouch, look where you’re going, I screamed.
Oh! Oh, God, no! Not again! I was pulled out of reverie-mode by my friend who had stepped on my foot, on purpose, to wake me. The teacher was yelling at the class in general and me in particular. She was going on about how I could have the cheek to sleep in her class and how she would have to write a note to my parents. Her scolding though, was having no effect on me. I was replaying and savoring every moment of my dream. I mean, it isn’t every day that celebrities with enviable talent call you to join them on stage! So what if it’s only in fantasy land?! They sure make a ‘dream’ team (pun intended). I was energized all right, and wide awake, mind you. You could say my #MaxFreshMove involved no movement at all. I did sleep my way to freshness after all! Ironic, isn’t it?

I am blogging for #MaxFreshMove activity atBlogAdda.com. Are you?

A Life Full Of Colour

Every day on her way to school, Asha walked past the slum and invariably encountered the little boy. That little boy, of about 8-10 years, with sad brown eyes and tear-stained cheeks. Every morning she found him right there. Sitting on the floor, leaning on the wall of his ramshackle shanty, staring blankly into space. She didn’t know what drew her to him or why he reminded her of herself. All she knew was that he was terribly poor and terribly sad. She often caught herself thinking, ‘he’s only a small child. I wish I was rich and had lots of money so I could do something for him.’
Holi was just around the corner. An indicator of the advent of spring, the season of new hope. Hope, that’s what her name meant too. Maybe that’s why she’d always had a mental connection with this festival of colours!
It was Thursday, the day before Holi. Asha was on her way back from the market after making a huge purchase of water pistols and gulaal. She was eagerly awaiting the family reunion and Holi celebration. That’s when she saw him again. The little boy.
She was about to look away and walk off as usual only to drown herself in guilt later. Without a substantial amount of money she couldn’t possibly do a thing for him, could she? She didn’t have that kind of money. Barely had she taken another step, when she felt drops of water fall on her face. It had started drizzling and with the first shower of the year, Asha felt a strange feeling. A sense of liberation and courage. It was as thought the Heavens had opened up to give her a sign. She immediately opened up a pack of colours, beckoned to the boy and offered it to him. He hesitated and then stepped forward. She applied a little colour to her own face and smiled. He did the same and smiled too. That was the first time she saw a glimmer in those vacant eyes. A tiny troop of children from the slum joined in their mini celebration. They laughed and enjoyed the colours and the rain.
Much to her mother’s astonishment, Asha returned home drenched and colored but with a spring in her step and smile on her face. She’d realized you don’t need to be rich to add a dash of colour to someone’s life. Nor do you need to be wealthy to feel content. All you need is a willing heart and smile to live a life full of colour.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.