Ramayana- The Game of Life, Book 2

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I grew up listening to the tales of Ramayana and Mahabharatha. On Sundays, I watched shows that were based on our ancient epics, on TV. I also watched my parents act the parts of Dasharatha and Keikeyi, Rama’s Father and step-mother, in a play based on Ramayana. Whenever I ran to my Grandma with one of my worries or adolescent issues, she sang verses from the epics that related to the problem at hand, explaining the story behind them and helping me solve my problems. I was relieved to learn that what I was going through at the time wasn’t something novel; The issues we face now in Kali Yuga were faced by people who lived millions of years ago, in Dwapara Yuga and Treta Yuga ( 3 of the 4 Yugas or era, according to Hindu philosophy) too. Books that hold stories of the kind of lives our ancestors led, the problems and dilemmas they faced and the measures they employed to overcome them ought to teach us a thing or two about life.

I love to read such books. I almost always reach out for books that teach me Life lessons and help me be a better person. But our ancient texts feel formidable: hard to read and harder to comprehend. They are in Sanskrit and in the form of verses, which can scare most commoners like me from ever reading them. Enter the translators/interpreters who convert the original works into forms accessible to the masses.

One such book is Ramayana- The Game of Life, by Shubha Vilas. It is a retelling of the epic, Ramayana, that was originally written by the sage, Valmiki. Usually such retelling entails really long, repetitive discourses by the interpretor on the greatness of God (For example, Bhagvad Gita – As It Is, by A. C. BhakthiVedantha Swami Prabhupada). I have reached out for such books now and then, but they have always left me bored and unable to read further than a few chapters.

The moment I began reading the Book 2 (Shattered Dreams), I somehow knew I’d be able to keep reading and finish it too. It is small (about 387 pages), the font-size and print is easier on the eye and apart from a few typos the English is unblemished and easy to follow. It was as if I just had to pick the book and flip it open to the page where I left off and the book just dragged me along on a ride. And what a ride it was! I was taken through a jubilant Ayodhya about to crown Rama as its King and into Keikeyi’s Kopa Griha (sulking room) where Dasharatha’s World is turned upside down by her demand to crown her son, Bharatha, as the King instead and to the picturesque Chitrakoot mountain, where celestial couples descend to the Earth for their Honeymoon and where now resides our hero, Rama, his wife, Sita, and his stepbrother, Lakshmana, as hermits. With every twist and turn I found myself gleeful, morose and in awe, my mood varying with the event I was reading about.

In the beginning, I was annoyed with the quotes at the footer. It felt like a work of fiction; While morals implied in a story is acceptable, lessons on life in the form of sayings or quotes at the foot of every page isn’t. I wanted to interpret the text in my own way and not blindly accept the writer’s interpretations. I decided to read them only when I felt like and skip the rest. That set me free. Gradually, I began appreciating such “ramblings”. It was better to have them there than in the middle of the story which would have interrupted my flow and made the reading tedious.

I took a lot of notes as I read this book. I copied passages that inspired or moved me. I pondered upon the lessons of following the words of my elders and wise men and women, helping others along my journey towards attaining perfection, staying humble, living with integrity and the fleeting nature of joys and sorrows. I found myself discussing the day’s reading with my husband on our morning walk the next day. Not often has a book touched me on so many levels as this one did. I’ll gladly read it again.

I’m already planning on reading the first book “Rise of the Sun Prince” and anxious to read the next one in the series which might contain the crux of Ramayana – The Kidnapping of Sita by Ravana. It breaks my heart to imagine the end to the peaceful stay of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana in the Forest as hermits and the loving couple being torn apart…. Still, I’m game.

This review is a part of the biggest <a href=”http://blog.blogadda.com/2011/05/04/indian-bloggers-book-reviews” target=”_blank”> Book Review Program </a> for <a href=”http://www.blogadda.com” target=”_blank”>Indian Bloggers.</a> Participate now to get free books!

Indian-style Veggie Burrito

We LOVE Mexican food around here; Actually we JUST LOVE FOOD around here, as you may well know by now; Eating and working-out are our favorite pastimes! Not only Prasad and mine, but my in-laws’ too. They are willing lab-rats for my kitchen experiments. I love trying new recipes that I find online or re-creating the foods we used to eat in the US, with the ingredients available here in India.

To make a dish palatable and enjoyable to my in-laws, I throw in a lot of veggies and add a spoon of Curry Powder prepared by my mother-in-law. Curry powder perks up a dish- Pasta or Fajitha, Burger or Burrito- and makes it more Indian.

A Veggie Burrito usually consists of Fried Veggies, Beans, Rice, Guacamole, Salsa, Sour Cream and Cheese. But I skipped the Guacamole part since I couldn’t get hold of a ripe Avocado.

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Fried Veggies and Black Beans

I heated a spoon of Canola oil, cut a medium-sized onion into thin slices and tossed it into the pan. Not waiting for the onion slices to brown, I added other veggies like a julienned Carrot, thin slices of Capsicum and a bag of mushrooms, quartered. You can also add slices of Zucchini or half a Soy Chorizo to this like I used to in the US.

I added a can of Black beans and a cup of soaked and cooked Black-eyed peas to the veggies. A bit of sugar, a spoon of salt, a sprinkle of Oregano and a spoon of Curry powder went into the pan soon after. I didn’t wait for the Veggies to soften and turned off the heat just as they lost their rawness but were still crisp enough.

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Rice

I normally use leftover rice to make the rice filling. The grains don’t stick to one another forming a mush.

I just added a bit of salt, a pinch of turmeric, a bit of red chilli powder and squeezed half a lemon into a cup of cooked rice and gently mixed them all up .

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Salsa

I followed this recipe to make fresh Salsa at home instead of buying a bottle from the Supermarket, like I used to. We get plenty of Tomatoes from our farm and I’m always looking to incorporate them in all the dishes I prepare.

In a pan I took oil, added 2 roughly chopped onions, about 6 chopped garlic, waited for onions to turn translucent and the garlic to lose its raw smell. Along with 4 roughly-chopped tomatoes, I added 2 green chillis and turned up the heat. I switched off the heat after the tomatoes became tender. To this mixture I added a spoon of salt and juice squeezed from half a lemon. Then I waited for it to cool. I pulsed the mixture in the mixer along with a few sprigs of Cilantro and a spoon of cumin seeds, without grinding it completely. My salsa was chunky and tangy.

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I didn’t find sour cream at the store but I did have a block of Pizza cheese. I assembled the burrito by warming both sides of a Tortilla, layering it with a spoonful of the Veggie and Bean mix, Rice, Salsa and shredded cheese and folding it. I did the same with the Taco shell too, but without warming the shell.

Although a dollop of Guacamole would have made the dish a lot more creamier and richer, I hardly missed it. Varying texture and flavors within the folds of the Tortilla and the Taco kept it interesting as it is.

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