Facebook – “Like” or “Unlike”

I’ve been on Facebook for a long time now, but I still can’t decide whether I like it or not. I like that it helped me find friends with whom I had lost touch; I like that I get updates on their relationship status, mental status and their whereabouts; I like that I can participate in a virtual book-club and interact with the other book-lovers; I like that I’m a part of a community of bloggers that help one another BUILD their online presence. But there are things about Facebook I totally despise, like the amount of time that gets wasted in the course of checking my account or the bitter aftertaste that’s left in my mind after a bit of surfing through the site.

I log onto Facebook with the intention of checking my notifications and messages and responding to them. It won’t take longer than a few minutes, I reason with myself. Then something catches my eye… I’m notified that a friend has changed her profile picture. The protocol requires me to “Like” the picture or simply ignore and move on. But I don’t. I dig in to see who has commented on the picture. And yes, I read the comments too. An hour, a precious hour that could have been spent making ‘real’ connections with the people that truly matter to me, would have gone down the drain by then.

And then the “friends” themselves… Some of them really matter. I have their phone numbers too. But the rest? I don’t want to know what they are up to. I can’t understand why I’m bombarded with the updates of their “friends” too.

I’m pretty contented with what I’m blessed – I have a loving husband, adorable kids and a big, caring and crazy family; I read, write and travel all the time, the very things that I’ve always wanted to do. And I’m ever so grateful to God or the Higher Power for my blessings, but, sometimes, one glance at my News-feed is enough to send me down the rabbit-hole of insecurity. Then it feels as if my blessings are not enough, that I’m not enough.

It feels as if everyone else is happy, except me. Those “happy” faces may not be revealing what’s actually going on, but they do seem to be having the “perfect” husbands that buy expensive gifts or the “perfect” kids that stand still for a picture; They seem to be having the time of their lives, wearing designer clothes and traveling to exotic locales.

I know, most of the time, what’s shown on the outset isn’t the reality, and I must step beyond such petty insecurities. I know, I know. But sometimes it’s hard. I’m a human after all. So I avoid checking my account on a regular basis and do so only when I receive a bulk of notifications in my mail or an interesting discussion comes up in one of my groups. And I make sure I don’t hang in there for more than a few minutes or so.

Like it or not, there’s no closing my Facebook account anytime soon. By the way, I simply “like”, no LOVE the movie “The Social Network” though…

Horticulture Expo, Telangana – 2015

I love to click pictures of flowers, especially Roses, as you may have observed; I love long early morning walks that take me along a path lined with trees; I love plucking fruits and veggies off the plants and eating them right away or bringing them home to cook. I’m a Nature-lover through and through. But gardening? I have a love/hate relationship with it! It is something I wish to be able to do, but, in which I have failed so miserably, so often.

Many a times I have prepared the soil, sown the seeds, watered the seedbed for a few days and rejoiced at the sight of the saplings emerging gingerly out of the soil. But they have always shriveled and died in the end. Never have I been able to nurture them.

I have given up on the idea that I too am capable of growing a Vegetable Garden someday. It’s simply not my thing. That’s my Mother-in-law’s forte. Thanks to her passion and patience, we grow a lot of the veggies we consume.

So she and I (along with the kids) decided to visit the Horticulture Expo. on Necklace Street, by the Hussain Sagar Lake (remember the post I did yesterday, about “Eat Street“? It is close to that.) in order to buy a few flowering plants, seeds of veggies and fruits and big pots. The entry was free; we were charged only for parking our car.

The more we walked, the more there was to see. Orchids, Bonsai, Pots of every size and shape, tools required for gardening. Even Organic veggies and fruits were on display and for sale. My mother-in-law was left spell-bound; she couldn’t decide on what to buy and what to leave behind. Medha and Madhav were ecstatic to be out in the crowd and were found to be running around, checking out balloons and bubble-makers. Thank God we had taken Madhav’s stroller along, we could fit a few plants in the storage space, apart from strapping him to one place!

Then a woman came, offering to carry the plants and pots for a 100 rupees. She was with us the whole time, poor thing, carrying the stuff we bought, on her head and placing them down on the ground whenever we paused to purchase at a stall.

We bought a lot, enough to fill most of the space in our car. Mother-in-law had to be dragged out in the end as I was beginning to feel tired, managing a couple of high-energy kids. I was feeling hungry too (there wasn’t much to eat inside).

She will probably go again, but I had my fill (of myriad colors, flower arrangements and the buzz of the crowd).

A Night @ Eat Street

I love Eat Street. It has a bunch of eateries to suit every palate, from “Sultan’s Biryani and Kebabs”, that specializes in Mughlai cuisine,  to “Wok of the town” that serves Indo-Chinese food. And there is a Subway and a Pizza Hut too, which means, there’s something to eat for everyone.

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But what attracts me to this place isn’t just the food, but the whole dining experience. It is an open-air food court and a Fair, beside the Hussain Sagar Lake.

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I always enjoy relaxing there with my family, a slice of Tandoori Paneer Pizza in hand, gazing at the opposite shoreline, all lit-up and dazzling, throwing colorful reflections on the lake. The cool breeze and the excited chatter around makes one forget that we are just a hop, skip and a jump from the bustling main road.

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When we were last there, I took the opportunity of our visit to practice some Night Photography. At first I kept clicking pictures without paying much heed to the shutter speed, that is, the time it takes for the shutter to open and close to capture a picture. If it closes too fast, not enough light enters the camera, which means, pictures shot in the dark appear darker. By allowing the camera’s shutter to close slowly, more light can be allowed to enter.

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Prasad suggested I needed to allow my camera to focus before pressing down the shutter release button, so that I reduced the shutter speed.

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I tried that, and the pictures slightly improved in their quality, even though they still appeared grainy.

I dream of the day when I am taking pictures like a pro and using this post to show where I’m coming from!

P1100359I have read in photography websites and books, that a good photographer never uses the flash and makes do with whatever light is available, because using a flash adds an unnatural light to a picture. I get it, but sometimes I just don’t care about what the purists have to say! If breaking a rule means I get a good picture, then break a rule I will!

I did get some good pictures when I (Finally!) turned on the flash.

P1100376 P1100381By the way, I believe it is very VERY important to capture the everyday fleeting moments before they are lost, than to fret over the quality of the pictures or the minutiae of Photography!

Letter to Medha

This feature is inspired by Elise at eliseblaha.typepad.com. I plan to write a letter each to Medha and Madhav once every month.

Dear Medha,

You always have a bag slung across your shoulder, no matter where you go, just like I do, but I think mine is way too lighter than yours. It has to be!

As I sit here, taking an inventory of your bag, there’s not an inch of space on the couch, that isn’t covered with its contents…

While mine has –

  • Some cash
  • a Debit card
  • a Library Card
  • a couple of Business cards
  • an Extra diaper for Madhav
  • a Phone
  • my Samsung Tablet
  • an Eye-liner
  • a Lipstick
  • a comb
  • a couple of candies for Madhav and you

You have the whole world in your bag!

It contains-

  • a few keepsake 10 rupee notes we bought at Iskcon (that supposedly brings good luck!)
  • a pack of tissue paper
  • an empty box of mints
  • 2 bunches of keys
  • a lock
  • an unidentifiable object that acts as a magnet and has a pin-like protrusion that poked my palm as I examined it!
  • a water-color box
  • an empty box of chewing gums containing two empty Lip Balms
  • a spinning top
  • a box of chalks
  • a 4 GB memory card
  • USB cord
  • a whistle
  • 3 phones (Toy phones obviously.)
  • a hair clip
  • a couple of toys
  • a bubble maker
  • dozens of Business Cards
  • Receipts
  • a couple of handkerchiefs
  • a teeny tiny bottle of Pond’s cream
  • a couple of mirrors
  • pieces of wood
  • dried leaves
  • (Taking a deep breath…) a snail’s shell

Yup! You carry all that and more. Whenever we go out of station or to a place that requires us to do a lot of walking, your papa and I go through your bag (without your approval, of course. It is hard for you to let go!) to decide on what can be carried, what stays back at home and what needs to be tossed in the dustbin right away (Out you go magnet-like-thingy-that-poked-me!)

But a fresh pile of knickknacks adds on, by the time we reach home. Cleaning that bag of yours is a futile exercise, but watching you carry it around everywhere you go, asking me to keep it safe when you need to play, pulling out a little something for Madhav to cheer him up when he’s crying, brings a big smile on my face!

By the way, I must thank you for a jolly time I had going through the contents of your bag and thinking of the joy this simple act of collecting and protecting such tiny (and weird) “treasures” as the shell of a snail brings to you…. Thank you!

Love,

Mama.

 

Farmhouse- This week.

An assortment of Roses are in full bloom in our garden. They have been keeping me and my camera terribly busy.

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P1100264The winds are making it hard for me to keep my camera steady and click good pictures. If getting a good enough picture of a Rose swaying to the tune of a heavy wind is hard, then photographing kids, always on the move, is harder.

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P1100282Good photography demands a lot of time, patience, a playful spirit and a willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes. I don’t have all of those in abundance yet, which shows in the kind of pictures I take. But I do have the perfect location in the form of our farmhouse and the perfect Models in the flowers and my kids! So I make complete use of every visit to the farmhouse to hone my photography skills.

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P1100293Ripe, red Tomatoes with waxy skin (naturally, and not because of a coating of oil wax!) that tasted delicious; Bitter gourd, Brinjal, Drumstick, Spinach that looked way WAY better than the limp leaves that are found at the Super Market, were only a part of the bounty we plucked from our garden this week.

 

 

 

Spice Garden

 

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We had thoroughly enjoyed the food and the ambience at the Spice Garden Restaurant on our  first visit and were going back for more.

Back in the US,  especially in Tucson, where we lived, there were pretty good Indian restaurants,  but they weren’t strictly vegetarian. That meant the restaurants paid more attention to the dishes containing meat, or so we used to feel. It always felt like we didn’t have enough variety and that when we paid for a buffet, we were covering the expenses for preparing non vegetarian food, which we didn’t even touch. In India it is so different. We have so many purely vegetarian restaurants to choose from, that serve banquets fit for a King, that we are spoilt for choice here!

Being a foodie family, that’s what we are found to be doing most weekends, trying new restaurants.

As I was saying, we went back to the Spice Garden once again, ’cause we LOVED it the first time around. This time too we weren’t disappointed.

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We were served a welcome drink called Spice Green, which was, like the name suggests, Spicy and Green. We adults loved it but not the kids. When I asked the waiter what went into its making, he said something along the lines of “Sprite and Cough syrup”!

“I’m sorry, Cough syrup?”, I asked.

Again, he repeated something, very fast, that sounded like “Cough Syrup”. I don’t think it was Cough syrup, why would anyone put Cough syrup in a juice? At a fancy restaurant? Maybe I should have asked someone else for clarification. That didn’t occur to me then!

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The soup was served. I chose Sweet Corn over Tomato soup. There were a good number of Salads to try.

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The starters were the real stars of the “show”! They were served at the table itself, hot and crispy. There were Cheese Balls, which surprisingly the kids didn’t like, but we did. And Paneer Tikka and Aloo 65, each appetizer tastier than the other.

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I was busy trying to figure out the best way to capture their beauty with my camera, than focusing on finishing my plate, that I was soon served an ultimatum by my husband – Eat first or be abandoned!

Even though the mouth-watering starters filled up most of the space in my tummy, I decided to give the main course a try, as everyone else was raving about the dishes.

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The Kids loved the Pasta and Coriander Noodles. I loved the buttery Paneer Masala with Roti; Vegetable Do Pyaza was a pleasant surprise, since it didn’t look appealing, but tasted nice.

Even if I feel full, I can’t resist digging into a dessert. Kova Puri looked and tasted delicious, while Heera Jamun looked so cute like tiny marbles that I had to pop a couple into my mouth, even as my tummy began protesting because it couldn’t be stuffed anymore!

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P1100245I didn’t TOUCH the Saffron Phirni, no, really, although it looked tempting and came in a clay bowl. I just thought it looked cute paired with a scoop of Butterscotch Ice cream.

I fed them to my dear husband! 🙂 (Psst…. The family dustbin!)

Price for the buffet – Rs. 299 (plus taxes)

 

Petrified Forest National Park

This is an essay I wrote as an assignment for an Environmental Studies course I took at a Community College in Tucson, USA. I’ve altered it and added pictures from the trip to make it read less like a Scientific paper and more as a travelogue.

As I read through the essay, I realized I had forgotten most of the things we saw and experienced at the Petrified Forest National Park. I’m so glad I recorded the events, even if it was just for an assignment. I’m also glad that I continue to record our BIG and small moments as blog posts ’cause my memory is never to be relied upon! 

October  2009,  my husband and I visited the  Petrified  Forest  National  Park  which  is  a 6  hours  drive  from  Tucson.

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At  first  glance,  the  park  appears  to  be  strewn with huge  boulders.  But a  closer  inspection  reveals  that  they  are logs  that  have  turned  into  stones, as  if  the Gods had cursed them! They were trees once and turned into fossils over time. The park has over  200  million  year  old  fossils  and  hence  the  name  “Petrified”(changed into a stony substance). Petrified  Forest  was  set aside  as  a   national  monument  in   1906 to  preserve  and  protect  the  petrified  wood  for  its  scientific  and  aesthetic  value.

That they were trees once upon a time cannot be denied at close proximity. The “boulders” have an outer layer that looks like the bark of a tree. They have tree-rings  too.  But when  you  touch  them,  it feels like Granite.

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It  is  hard  to  believe  that  about  225  million  years  ago,  during  the  Triassic  period,  even before the Dinosaurs began arriving, a  floodplain  existed  here  littered  with   fallen  trees.  Periodic  flooding  buried  these  logs  under  layers  and  layers  of  silt.  Over  time,  silica-laden  waters  filtered  through  these  deposits  and  petrified  the  wood  by  encasing  the  trees’  organic  material  with  minerals.  Iron  oxides  give  the  petrified  wood  its  distinctive  red,  yellow  and  orange  hues;  manganese  oxides  produce  blues,  purples  and  deep  blacks,  while  the  original  carbon  produces  shades  of  gray.

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It  is  believed  that  Geologic  forces  similar  to  those  of  the  Triassic  period  still  shape  the  earth’s  surface,  and  may  create  the  preliminary  conditions  for  future  petrification.

Before   being  set  aside  as  a  national  treasure,  the  forest  was  plundered  in  the  19th  and  20th  centuries  by  commercial  collectors  seeking  petrified  wood  to  sell  as  souvenirs.  Completion  of  nearby  railway  line  provided  early  travelers  and  relic  hunters  easy  access  to  the  forest.  Vandalism  exists  even  to  this  day  but  measures  are  put  in  place  to  curb  them.

We  explored  many  sites  on  foot.  One  of  those hikes  took us  to  the  Blue  Mesa. It is  the  best  place  in  the  park  to  explore  Badlands.  Badlands are  found  around  the  world, usually  in  arid  regions  where  poorly  consolidated  rock  undergoes  infrequent  but  torrential  rains.  Bentonite  clay  within  these  formations  can  swell  up  with  moisture,  shrinking  and  cracking  as  it  dries,  creating  an  “elephant-skin”  surface.

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Remnants  of  a  village  and  rocks  with  petroglyphs  on  them  are proof that people once homed in this arid, mostly barren area.

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The sparse vegetation here  does not  have  the  luxury  of  shelter,  running  water  and  climate  control.  But ,  by  using  a  variety  of  specialized  growth  forms,  plants  have  adapted  to  these  challenging  environmental  conditions.  While  hiking  along  the  rim  it  was  exciting  to  observe  the  tactics  each  plant  had  adopted  to  survive.  We  learnt  that  the  prickly  pear  has  shallow  wide-spreading  root  system  to  gather  surface  moisture  from  brief  showers;  the  salt  bush  has  fine  hair  covering  light-colored  leaves  which  give  protection  from  intense  sunlight;  Mormon  tea  has  scale-like  leaves  and  waxy  skin  which  help  in  retaining  moisture;  the  yucca’s  leaves  are  arranged  to  channel  moisture  to  the  plant’s center  and  so  on.

There  were  boards explaining  what  medicinal  properties some  of  these  plants  had  and  what  other  uses  were  they  of  to  the  inhabitants.  These  plants  must  have  made  their  lives bearable and livable.

To top off an enlightening experience, we  were  bid  adieu with a spectacular sunset,  which  left us planning another visit to the park.

 

Sources :-

The notes I took at the Park and the website www.nps.gov).