Sunday, November 29, 2020

Karthigai: The Festival of Lights and Lamps

What is Karthigai?

In South India, Karthigai Deepam is the festival of lamps and lights, and it is celebrated after Diwali in the full moon day in the month of 'Karthigai' in the Tamizh calendar. This festival is so beautiful, and every house in every street light up all the lamps ('vilakku' as it is called in Tamizh) and arrange them beautifully inside and outside their homes. 

What is the significance of Karthigai?

Lord Shiva (as Lord Tripuranthaka) killed the three demonic brothers who ruled all the three worlds, and this Lord is prayed in the form of fire on this day. It is prayed that every living being on this Earth who sees this light today is blessed with good thoughts and rid of the many sins we commit. This is a traditional festival of great significance, and it is prayed that the everyone is blessed with good thoughts and good life. 

What is the special traditional food made on Karthigai?

The festival of Karthigai calls for a special menu, usually with dishes like sweep ghee appams, pori urundai, adai, etc. These are very, very tasty. You can see the picture of delicious nei appams that we make on Karthigai!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

"Goodnight"

I am someone who loves a good night sleep, and I get it almost every day I can. Sleep is so important to our body. It calms you physically and mentally. It's important to get seven to nine hours of sleep at night. That is the catch. Along with the enough number of hours, what is equally important is to sleep at night. Most people think it is enough to just cover the number of hours of sleep, but nothing helps the body like night sleep. And, to sleep, you don't need the fanciest rooms, or beds, or pillows. All you need is a happy,  hard-worked day that puts you to sleep as if someone is singing a lullaby! Here's a poem, by poet unknown, on a good night's sleep. 
You do not need a bed of down
To give you sleep at night.
A counterpane of pink and brown
And pillow soft and white
You do not need a pretty room
All dressed in dainty blue.
Where soundest slumber-health may come,
With pleasant dreams, to you.
But fill the day with labor, Ned.
And work with all your might,
For that will fill the hardest bed
With softest down, at night.
And if you want a counterpane
With many colors gay.
Not only work with might and main,
But—add a bit of play!

 Goodnight, sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite!

Friday, November 27, 2020

The Best Moisturizer

I have struggled with finding a good moisturizer, especially in the last 3-4 years when I was in college. The constant weather and water changes from home to hostel made my skin drier than ever. At first, all the moisturizers, every brand that I have tried, seemed to work. But after a point, they have no effect on my dry skin. One day, in an act of desperation to end the stint of dry skin, I went back to what my mom and grandma keep saying- coconut oil. I just squeezed out some coconut oil and applied it on all my dry spots. And, what a surprise! It worked so well, and my skin looked so healthy!

Coconut oil is the best moisturizer that I have ever come across. It suits all skin types. It can work wonders with your dry skin, and ensure that you never have see a patch of dry, flaky skin ever again. It makes it soft and shiny, and it is so damn inexpensive! Once I started using coconut oil, I couldn't stop wondering why I just didn't listen to my mom before! 

Coconut oil is your all-in-one miracle that ensures your skin, hair, lips are all moisturized, soft, and shiny! If you are skeptical about the smell of coconut oil, though I like it, you don't have to worry. Common brands like Parachute have scented coconut oil that can give you a mild, pleasant fragrance while the oil does all the good to your hair and skin. 

So, if all the creams and moisturizers that you have tried aren't working for you, then please do use coconut oil. I can guarantee that this would be the best decision ever for your skin and hair!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Travel by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Travel is something that rejuvenates us, gives us a new perspective, and makes us better at what we do. And for some, travel is something that gives a joy that is otherwise irreplaceable. Edna St. Vincent Millay is a 19th century poet. I really like her works, and this is one of her poems that is so simple and yet so warm to read!

The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by, 
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming, 
But I see its cinders red on the sky, 
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with the friends I make, 
And better friends I'll not be knowing;
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take, 
No matter where it's going.

Hope you enjoyed it! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Screen-time Overloaded

We have all been glued to a gadget all day, every day since this Pandemic began. Classes have shifted online, all projects are to be done online, and even entertainment is online. It's been more than eight months since we could go out with a friend and have a cup of coffee for a 'break' with our friends. Both work and relaxation have become associated with a gadget. Added to this, many people also have erratic sleep schedules. So, what happens to our eyes?

I, too, have been on a laptop day in and day out, doing something or the other. And some days, our eyes just feel too tired to even look at the screen any longer. What is most important is that we listen to these needs of our body. 

So, here's what I have been trying to do for the past couple of weeks. There's nothing that we all don't know already, but it's important to keep it in mind and actually try to follow it as much as possible. 

I read about the 20-20-20 rule that I came across. What is the rule? Every 20 minutes of screen time, take a break to look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Simple, right? 

1. Keep your screen brightness eye-friendly.
2. Sit in a well-lit room
3. Take enough breaks. 
4. Do activities every day that requires you to not look at the screen. You can cook, exercise, read from a physical book, or anything else!

This is for all of us. Going forward, shifting to a world that is completely online is impending. So, we better learn to respect the signs our body gives and not push it unnecessarily!

Have a nice day!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

7 Favourites of What I Have Read In 2020

I have read close to 60 books this year (until now). This year feels like a comeback on my reading and my writing, and that makes me really happy. You can check out all the books that I have been reading this year here. Here's a list of my 7 favourite reads of this year (as of now)!

1. The Trial by Franz Kafka

A dark satire: the story is dreary and sad, but it hits you where it aims to. It isn't an enjoyable read. In fact, it makes you uncomfortable, and leaves you out of focus with so many themes incorporated in the story. It is difficult, oddly horrifying and satirical, but it is brilliant. 

2. Moonlight Marauders by Teshter Master

Moonlight Marauders was a wonderful read. Those who understand the technicalities of flying would thoroughly enjoy every word of the book. And, those who may not understand every word: again, would thoroughly enjoy every word. It was a journey with the most exciting and spirited squadron that I came to love by the time I reached the final page! 

3. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

This is the most favourite pick this year! I absolutely loved the book, and I am so glad I read it. This book had a weird way of making me so happy with every win by Seabiscuit, and I have come to love the way the horses were described. I think it is one of the best narratives- descriptive, fast-paced, and doing full justice to its story! It's a must-read!

4.  So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson

I am absolutely thankful for reading all the books that I have read, and also for reading So Many Books, So Little Time. Into the first ten pages, I scrambled back to get my diary and a pen. It was such a pleasurable, joyous read, that took me by surprise as I went chirpily from one chapter to another, duly jotting down the interesting titles in a legible scribble, and made a mental note of the ones I wanted to get on reading immediately! Also, special credits because this book introduced me to Seabiscuit!

5. The Soldier's Art by Anthony Powell

I had this book lying around in my house, so I picked it up and read it. And, later found that it is the eighth of Powell's masterpiece of 12 brilliant novel-sequence: The Dance to the Music of Time. This was brilliant, and I may have lost out on references from the previous volumes. But, I hope to read them all, and regale in Powell's absolutely smooth writing.

6. Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand by K Vijaya Kumar

Once I began reading, my hands flipped the pages involuntarily and my mind ran along with the story. It's racy, gripping, absorbing, fascinating, scintillating, and it chills you to the bones when you realize it's a true story! 

7. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

This was the first time I was reading a play of Wilde, though I have read his short stories before. I absolutely loved it! With other stories like The Canterville Ghost, one is already familiar the unbeatable humour of Wilde. But, this play is a gem! The fluidity and the spontaneity of the characters that has been captured in the script was mind-blowing. 

Do you have a favourite read in 2020? Share it in the comments below!

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Whole Truth

The Whole Truth is a book of 24 poems by James Cummins, and it's all about the world of Perry Mason that Erle Stanley Gardner created! I was so surprised that an entire book exists celebrating the fandom of Perry Mason!

The poems are written in the style of sestinas, where the poem usually does not rhyme and every stanza contains the same ending line as th first stanza. 

Here's my favourite poem of the lot!

A silent Perry remembered how it used to be: look
Hard at all the faces, figure out who’s the killer.
Consider the money, that was always the best clue—
The only way you got the older ones into the game.
But, of course, money was never the real question.
The read question was, does it all end in silence?

He’d been very good at cracking someone’s silence—
Watching the eyes, the critical moment when a look
Betrayed the fear he would ask the fatal question.
And he would ask… does it all end in silence?

Do you have any sestinas that you like? Do share them in the comments! 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Lucky Jim

Title: Lucky Jim
Author: Kingsley Amis

Jim Dixon teaches history at a provincial English University, and is near the end of his first year at this job as many problems loom over his head. He hasn't made a great impression. He hasn't managed to impress the absent-minded head of Department Professor Welch, who has the power to take the decision whether he could continue in his job or not pending the end of the term. And, he hasn't published any work to stand as a testament to his scholarship. Over and top of these academic difficulties, Dixon finds them slipping over onto his personal life as well. 

This funny tale takes us through Dixon's life with uncanny details that so truly resemble the world of academia and the attempt of every single person involved in the set-up of a University! It is hilarious, and absurdly comic in its narrative. The English satirical and sarcastic humour leaves you with a wicked laughter, just the way when you read Dickens or Wodehouse!

The whole beauty of this book is what a thorough brat the protagonist is. Throughout, there is a soft corner that wants him to win in the end, and there is a direct opposite question looming as to whether he really deserves to win. That makes Lucky Jim an enjoyably twisted tale of a fairly simple plot line, exploiting the reins of University politics and the general life of academia to the fullest. I absolutely loved this one, and it'd probably go down to be in one of my most-favourite list in the times to come!

If you want a good laugh, with unending splashes to relatable satire, pick this up!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Never Judge A Book- by its Cover, or its Movie

When you read that title, the natural thought would have been that this is a post where a self-declared book lover cribs about her favourite and wholesome books being destroyed to pieces by its high-budgeted movie version, and how people judge the original book based on the crappy movie. Well, I should admit that situations have improved since my school times.

Back when I was in school, I knew people who have sworn to have read Harry Potter several times over, and then talk about the eighth part (well, there are eight movies!) Or, say that they hate Percy Jackson after watching the most horrible translation of the book as a movie. Or, call The Wrinkle in Time as a boring, useless story after watching its sad movie version. Or, watched the Hobbit to claim they actually knew the workings of Middle-Earth! It always broke my heart. I think these were some of the worst movie adaptations ever!

But then, the "don't judge a book by its movie" just because so common (and cliche), that most people have actually stopped judging. In fact, it has brought a kind of acceptance of the fact that had they read the book they might have liked it better. The fact that movies twist the stories and their plot lines to an inexplicable level has been a boon of sorts- people have realized that it is almost impossible to claim to have read a book after watching its movie!

But some movies truly do turn out as good or even better than their books. I think it is best if we evaluate them for themselves, and not judge a book by its movie, or vice versa!

As for not judging a book by its cover, I'd go a step further and say: don't even judge it until you finish reading 1/3rd of the book! Always give it the benefit of doubt if you find the narrative to be slow/boring. But, if it is the content that you have a problem with, then always go by your instincts.

Now, why don't you read A Wrinkle in Time this weekend, and find out for yourself? (I am big fan!)

Friday, November 20, 2020

A Walking Song

Image from Pinterest
Hasn't it been a while since we went back to Tolkien? Here's A Walking Song from the Tolkien Reader that I read today for my little dose of Tolkien happiness! I also remember this song from The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the Lord of the Rings series. This was one of Bilbo Baggins' songs that  Frodo, Pippin, and Sam sing as they hike through the Woody End! 
Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed;
But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone.
Tree and flower and leaf and grass,
Let them pass! Let them pass!
Hill and water under sky,
Pass them by! Pass them by!

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
Apple, thorn, and nut and sloe,
Let them go! Let them go!
Sand and stone and pool and dell,
Fare you well! Fare you well!

Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We'll wander back to home and bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
And then to bed! And then to bed!

This is one of those songs that come up repeatedly in the series because it is Bilbo's. I really like this one. I think the best way to read this one is not not read it, but sing it. You can put the tune that is "as old as the hills" as Bilbo would say! Have a nice day!


Thursday, November 19, 2020

9 Stories, And A Growing Love For Metafiction

Over the many years, there are some books whose style and narrative that I loved more than others. And, over the years, I found out that there was a pattern. I loved those books that weaved a fiction about a fiction, taking us to the edge of tricky complexity in the criss-cross storytelling that meandered between the fiction of the book, and the fiction about the fiction that the book was dealing with. This genre is called metafiction. Confused? Here's how David Foster put it that pretty much sums it up:

“If Realism called it like it saw it, Metafiction simply called it as it saw itself seeing itself see it.”

I could identify seven novels, one short story by Tolkien, and one Shakespearean play across all the books that I have read which had a starkly attractive and captivating metafictional narrative. I think, it is after reading these books, and noticing a pattern, that I started falling absolutely in love with the metafictional narrative of stories.

1. Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

3. Don Quixote by Miguel de Crevantes

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Doughlas Adams

5. The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

6. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

7. Murder at the ABA by Isaac Asimov

8. Leaf by Niggle by J. R. R. Tolkien

9. The Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke

Does this narrative captivate you as much as it captivates me? Do you have a favourite novel narrated as a metafiction? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Fitness Marshall

official logo of The Fitness Marshall
This long stint of workout from home, without much else work or hectic schedule, has been one full of gleeful discoveries. Just like I had stumbled upon Fit Body by Ashley, the next big jump-with-joy moment came when I discovered The Fitness Marshall

Caleb Marshall (@TheFitMarshall) truly is youtube's hottest fitness pop star. I love those dance workouts by him and his two 'backup booties'! There's fun, there's sass, and there's lots and lots of sweat. Most of their song workouts are classified into light sweat, moderate sweat, and heavy sweat workouts, and you can choose across the songs to make yourself a 45-50 minute workout. Or, The Fitness Marshall has already done that for you through the playlists The Sweat Set, which comes in the right mix of light, moderate, and heavy sets. You won't even have to worry about getting bored of the same songs in The Sweat Set because the mix is changed every once in a while, keeping the energy up and swinging! If you want a quick workout, then again there is the Speed Sweat playlist for an awesome sweat session in under 20 minutes! 

I have been enjoying every minute of my workouts with The Fitness Marshall. Up until some weeks ago, I thought nothing could beat Fit Body by Ashley, but it is really a tie between these two now! They have some incredible energy and zeal, and it only leaves me smiling and dancing away wishing I could actually have an in-house Zumba session with these incredible people!

So, for all of us loving the workouts by these two, the cherry on the cake is their collaboration! They have made dance workouts for a couple of songs together too, and we could include them in the workout playlist for some extra smile! The Fitness Marshall also has a monthly membership for 60 hour continuous sweat sessions, and a free 30-minute sweat session is available to give you an idea of what the 60-minute would be like. I bet the sessions would be incredibly energetic and sweaty, and I look forward to try them sometime soon!

Do check them out!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Sukku Kaapi To The Rescue

People in my house, including me, have a strong faith in the benefits and powers of the small dose of sukku kaapi that we take the moment we feel anywhere remotely close to the possiblity of catching a cold. The slightly blocked nose and the feeling of cold vanishes as you take that small dose of sukku kaapi. So, what is this sukku kaapi?

Sukku kaapi is a concoction that you can mix in hot water or milk. The powder is also called sukku malli powder, primarily made of herbs and spices like dried ginger (sukku), coriander, black pepper, long pepper (thippili), nannari, athimadhuram, aswagandha, chitharathai, turmeric, nutmeg, fenugreek, and palm jaggery. All that needs to be done is to take 100ml of water, boil it well, thrown in about 2 teaspoons of sukku malli powder, mix and drink up! If the taste is too strong in hot water, it can even me added to milk, or tea. To make it a little more sweet and for extra taste, you can add palm candy (panagarkandu)!

This is one of the most used traditional drink in our house. You can have it any season for any cold or weakness. Sukku kaapi is known to boost the general immunity very well, and one can even take it regularly (maybe once a day, or a couple of times a week). This could probably help in avoiding any season-based cold/sickness altogether!

This powder can be made at home, or bought in the store. We buy the brand that is shown in the picture, and it is really effective. When I go back to college every time after my semester break, one packet of sukku malli powder is guaranteed to be sent along with me! Some of my friends in college really love it, and it is definitely an acquired taste. But, whether or not you enjoy drinking it, the benefits sure exist!

This is just one of the traditional fixes to maintain immunity and health. And, whatever the logic it works on, and irrespective of whether we are aware of it, it works. With winter approaching, seasonal flu is common, immunity sometimes needs a boost, and nothing is better than our own sukku kaapi!

Monday, November 16, 2020

A Blind Intelligence

Art by Marcia Baldwin
A blind intelligence.
That is how Jane Hirshfield calls out to the truest form of optimism in her short poem titled Optimism, and I wonder if anyone could have described it better. 
More and more I have come to admire resilience
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.
I love this poem for how true it rings. Optimism is just that. It is not about discussing the fairness or unfairness of things. It is not about staring at a blocked spot of sunlight. It is simply about turning to a new spot of sunlight and moving on. Unfairness, righteousness need to discussed, without a doubt. But, personally maybe, for our own growth despite the hardships, it is important to keep finding out another creek with the spot of sunlight. It is important to be blindly intelligent.

Nature shows us optimism against all odds. And, it is true that it is a blind intelligence, but isn't that what that keeps us all going? We need to be the tree, just as tenacious, as persistent, as green with hope, and as determined to find that new spot of light when the old one gets blocked. This one is such a beautiful poem that shows us a lot in such little words, strung together so very beautifully. 

I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did! Have a nice day!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Finish What You Write

2020 is definitely the year where I have been writing more, in general. The only thing I keep in mind while I write is to not give it up in the middle. Seeing your writing to completion is an achievement in itself. And, once in a while, it's good to take a pause and review. So today, how about we refer to Neil Gaiman's eight rules for writing? 

Neil Gaiman has been one of my favourite authors when it comes to the genre of urban fantasy. And, the eight rules he says is so absurdly simple that it is almost impossible to follow unless you really want it. Here are the rules:

1. Write

2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.

5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

7. Laugh at your own jokes.

8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

When I first finished writing my stories as a kid from class six, or class eight, or class ten- the one thing that adults around me were amazed about is the fact that I wrote it to a finish. Half the things we do now are left incomplete. Judging what you write, while you write is not going to help. As a reader, as a writer- I have experienced every word Gaiman has said, and nothing rings truer! 

Therefore, let's all do just one thing now- put one word after another, and finish what we write!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Very Happy Deepavali

Deepavali is one of the grandest and biggest festivals in India. For all of us, it is an occasion to flaunt our brand new and charmingly pretty traditional outfits, gulp down ghee-laden sweets and other savouries guilt free all through the three days of the festival, and walk up to the terrace to see a sky lit up with flowering and sparkling fireworks all over! It's a day that brings light into the darkness, in all our lives!

In South India, Diwali is celebrated as the day Lord Krishna defeated the legendary demon king Narakasura. We celebrate the victory and the death of Narakasura with an abundance of colourful fireworks that light up the night sky. It is a day to meet and greet all your loved ones, and share the happiness (and your sweets). People make beautiful, colourful kolams (rangolis) to decorate in front of their homes. 

And, along with three days of eating heavy sweets, comes the famous traditional antidote 'deepavali marundhu'. Deepavali marundhu is a type of homemade medicine to avoid falling sick from all the heavy meals and sweets that we consume on these days. It is typically homemade with spices and herbs that help offset these heavy meals, but these days you get them ready made in shops too! There is no escaping taking this, and it's for our own good!

In our school, the day after the Deepavali holidays, we were allowed to wear our new Deepavali dresses to school. We always kept our most favourite and best outfit to wear to school, and the day when school reopned, there used to be a vibrant dash of colours and traditional outfits across all classes. Even the teachers could be seen flaunting their new silken sarees of all hues! I miss going to school flaunting my fancy new clothes, waiting for the compliments, and complimenting others! It used to be such a very special and happy day for all of us! 

And even today, this Deepavali does lighten up our darkened times, and brings a dash of joy in the time of worry! A very happy Deepavali to all of you!

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Inheart Series

Today, I came across a very interesting news that sent me back to some great memories: Cornelia Funke is going to give us a fourth book that'll send us back to the riveting Inkworld, through The Colour of Revenge that is expected to be out in October 2021! The least I can say is that made my day!

I stumbled upon the Inkheart in my school library in class seven, and I picked it up out of curiosity though I had never previously heard of it. That's when I absolutely fell in love with this series. I couldn't pull my eyes away from the novel all day, everyday in school until I finally finished it. The Inheart trilogy was one of my most favourite books around my middle school years. It has three books- Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath. Funke is a German author, and the original language of the book is German. But, Funke herself had it written in English, too. At that age, Meggie, Mo, Dustfinger, and Eleanor made my world!

After reading Inheart, I took upoon myself to mend all the slightly torn books at home, and set right the bindings. I started valuing how a book must be kept way more than I ever it. I couldn't ever again hurt the spine of a book, or turn a page rashly. I dreamed, and I still do, of a house full of books for walls, with every copy of every book I read and love- just like Eleanor's. I wished I had the silver tongue that could transport us into lands far and wide, dangerous and magical, beautiful and breathtaking, just like Meggie and Mo do. 

Funke gave us a series where we are unapologetic and unabashed in our irrevocable love for books themselves, their silver words, and the fantastical lands of fantasy that they transport us too. This is one of the best series I have read- with a concept that was mindbogglingly refreshing. The thought that after so many years Funke is here to give us another book that can take us back to the Inkworld makes me both excited and scared. Excited, because of the prospect of continuing where it left, and being in my favourite fantasy world once again. Scared, because I have time and again seen so many authors destroy their wonderful creations. But, my hope is sided towards the excited part as I have seen some brilliant concepts that Funke gave us through those novels. So, if she is picking up what she last left in 2007, maybe it is because she has something we all must look forward too!

Waiting with eager excitement that matches my thirteen year-old self to meet Mo, Meggie, and the rest, and looking forward to the release of The Colour of Revenge

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Apple-Walnut Cake

We had recently bought a stock of walnuts from the Tons Valley Shop, and these walnuts come from the villages in upper Tons valley in Uttarakhand. We had also got some really juicy and tasty apples from O' Kinnaur Apples, straight from their orchards in Bhabha Valey, Kinnaur distict of Himachal Pradesh. All these are absolutely organic, pesticide-free, chemical-free, and extremely tasty! The Tons Valley Shop also supports women of those village as these surplus walnuts are dried and sold by women in the community to earn some extra money for the household!

My mom, always trying to make every dish healthier with fruits and nuts was really excited to try making an apple-walnut cake, from the fresh stocks that we bought. So, although I'd have probably never tried making a cake with apple by myself, today's turned out sweet and tasty. Here's one, tasty recipe for the apple-walnut cake we made today!

What you need: Atta, apple, walnuts, cashews, sugar, butter, milk, oil, vanilla essence

1. Grate 1 apple. Add one cup of sugar to the grated apple. Take a thick bottomed pan or vessel. But the grated apple and sugar in it, and keep stirring till all the sugar melts and you reach a sauce-like consistency. 

2. Let it cool for under a minute. Then add half a cup cooking oil and whist it till there are no lumps. Make sure the molten sugar does not harden too much. 

3. Add half a cup of milk and whisk it will till it blends with the apple-sugar-oil mixture. Next, add two spoons of unsalted butter, and whisk again till no lumps are there.

4. Add 1.5 cups of wheat flour, little by little, and keep whisking it into the batter. Add 1 cup of milk, or as necessary, and correct the consistency of the cake batter. The correct consistency is that the batter must be fluffy, and fall in folds when you let it flow down.

5. Add a generous about of chopped walnuts, and any other type of nuts you prefer in your cake. Add a little bit of vanilla essence and whip it all together. 

6. Grease your cake tin, place the butter paper, and pour the batter in. Tap the cake tin gently to even out the batter.

6. Preheat your cooker. Add a good amount of salt to the base so that you don't burn the vessels. Place a stand, and keep the cake tin in. Let in bake for 40 minutes.

7. Prick the cake in the center to see if your cake is baked. Take it out, and let it cool down. Your cake is ready!

We really enjoyed having this cake when it was slightly warm. I think it went with the feel of the cake. My mom really loved it because she is a fan of nuts and fruit-based cakes. We all liked it too! This time, the sweetness was perfect unlike in my previous chocolate cake! I am sure it gets better every time with practice! And, it's time to probably take a break on cakes now, and try something different!

If you have any tips/suggestions, or you tried this out and loved it(or didn't)- let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

In Time, On Time

Punctuality is one of the best habits to develop. Alexandre Dumas, in The Count of Monte Cristo, writes: "Punctuality is the politeness of kings." True as it may be, I think the other way holds good too. Punctuality, in my opinion, is the king of politeness. 

Here are some nice reasons why this habit helps:

1.  Punctuality is the first thing that teachers, be it in school or college, or the seniors at work, or even colleagues, always acknowledge and appreciate.

2. It reassures people by giving an implicit positive assurance about your sincerity and capability.

3. It presents you with an image of reliability and politeness, and they trust you better. 

4. "It talks volumes about being professional in attitude when it comes to work"- as a senior at work told me once. 

5. The truth is that when you have this habit ingrained, you do not even have to try to be professional! In fact, I go on time for work, or when I promise to a friend. And, there is no difference I see between the two situations. 

6. It just becomes a part of your very identity, and that gives you a lot of confidence!

7. Finally, being on time shows how much you respect your time, and their time. It shows that you don't take the other person and their time for granted. And, it shows that you value your time, too.

Being on time is something indispensable for me. It has always been a habit ingrained into us at home. We had never gone even a minute late to school, all through our school life. I can never knowingly walk late into the class, or be fine with the delay of submission of a project beyond the time mentioned(even if it has absolutely zero consequences). If I tell a friend I'll meet them in 10 minutes, I am ready and waiting for them by the 8th minute. 

But, you can't be punctual all the time. It happens even to me. Sometimes, you just cannot avoid a delay, try as hard as you want. In those times, what we need to do, but fail to do, is to communicate. All we need to do is let the other person know that we are running late, and give them a time frame to look forward to. Leaving someone hanging without any communication is what makes a delay really hard to put up with. 

Moral of the story: Being on time is better than being in time. But, being in time, or on time, is better than being late. But again, being late on communication is better than no communication. Happy day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Old Man and the Sea

Title:
 The Old Man and the Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway

Santiago, an old and skillful fisherman, is considered as 'salao', or extremely unlucky, after not having caught a single fish in the last 84 days. His apprentice is forced to shift away to the guidance of other fishermen, thanks to Santiago being branded unlucky. To bring an end to seemingly endless streak of bad luck, Santiago decides to sail up into the Gulf Stream, far into the sea till Straits of Florida, for his next catch. As he sets out, his catch happens to be a huge marlin, and a creature as determined to live as the old mas to catch it. The story weaves on as an old and tired Santiago battles the marlin in the sea and catches it finally, only to lose it to sharks on the way back to land.

This tragic tale of the old man's battle with the marlin and sharks in the sea has an incredible narration, and that is the best experience while reading this book. The plot is fairly simple, and there are a plenty of biblical references, with the Bible being referred in the name of 'The Sea Book'. In the final part of the book, as a tired Santiago having lost all the marlin, drops to a deep slumber, he dreams of "roaring lions" and his youth. Contrasting this with the tone and narration of the story, maybe Hemingway meant the book to mean that though the old man was defeated in one way, he was never truly defeated. 
“But man is not made for defeat," he said. "A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
It's strikingly simple, yet has some profound thoughts. It's a book on pride. The old man is as proud of the marlin's attempts to live as his own attempts to haul the fish. We come across Santiago referring to the marlin as 'brother'. I have heard some refer the book as 'overrated' and 'boring', but I absolutely loved the narrative. It's a simple and small read, but has a strikingly captive narration! I really enjoyed it!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Boss by Glynn Young

Work in a cubicle has become the norm. As we stare out at the open from inside huge glass windows, at the free air and the cool wind from a trapped room artificially cooled down to a temperature that's usually too cold in the name of being pleasant, we look forward to getting into a bigger cubicle with a bigger glass window, someday, maybe. Read Glynn Young's Boss, an attempt to capture in simply rapt words of something that that has become way too common and labelled as 'ambition'. 
Stares at the corner where 
two glass walls meet, almost
the exact point where the sun
sets, caught in the rise
of his people asking, probing
how and more and the descent
of his own boss seeking cuts.
He chooses the way
he’s been taught, looking
upward, knowing there’s little
reward in the daily, where
life is.

I really loved this one for how simply it conveyed the essence of it was trying to say. No fancy words, no grand poetic brandishing, yet a good dose of truth! I hope you enjoyed it too.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Young Readers

I have been reading books since a pretty young age. And, in the beginning, books are a lot harder to sit and read- for all of us. But, I do believe that given the right book at the right time, we all pick up reading and fall in love with books. I have had a couple of friends ask me suggestions for their young cousins, nieces, and nephews. And, I always told them an author or a series that is catchy enough and has continuity. 

Let's take an example. If you give a kid a book (which is just a single book, and not part of any series), even if the kid loved the book, there is no way you can guarantee that they'll be excited to read the next one. That's why series are a saviour. Once someone is hooked to the first book, they will automatically want to read the next one, and the next one, and so on. So, habit of reading comes better when there is a series!

I already wrote a post on which authors I used to loved as a kid: 5 Authors for Children. And, if you take all these authors- the stories are usually inter-connected. Same characters repeat, and this can help sustain interest. 

All through my class III and IV, I used to love Blyton to bits. I think The Enchanting Faraway Tree, Famous Five, or Secret Seven is definitely a great place to start reading. But, for slightly older kids, I think classic series like Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Young Samurai, and the likes are the best. Fantasy is the best at that age. Like Anne (of Green Gables) would say it: lots of scope for the imagination! 

I think I became a reader who can sit and read for hours and hours together when I started reading Harry Potter. So, once you can do that to one book, you'll get into that zone of a reader with a good reading habit! Another thing that my dad used to tell us and we always stuck to was completing at least half the book before we decide we don't like it. I swear by this rule because the two most favourite series ever for me- Harry Potter, and the Hobbit(leading to the Lord of the Rings)- I thought I hated them until I crossed a certain point in the book when I irrevocably fell in love with them!

Always encourage your little cousins, kids to read. It's a fun world, and it has made most of what I am today. If you want any suggestions specific to genre/other things, feel free to ask away in the comments below! I'll be thrilled to help!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Pouch

In school, there were usually two distinct categories: the people who used pencil boxes and those who used pencil pouches. I have rarely seen people who use one go for the other, including myself. I am a strict pencil pouch person. I prefer them to boxes and I loved using good pouches. 

Why is a pencil pouch better than a pencil box? (Slightly biased)

1. It doesn't break

2. You can store way more!

3. They last for a really long time, in comparison to pencil boxes.

4.  They come in better colours and designs.

5. They are absolutely great utility-wise.

6. They don't break!

7. Pouches are just way better. Even just like that with no reason. 

I have had friends on the other spectrum argue that if boxes break, then pouches also tear. But, please! Boxes break on a single drop many times. Pouches take sever years to tear! I have had such a wonderful pouch that I used all through my middle school years, and it carries so many memories! The pouch you see there lasted through most of the middle school phase up until my class IX! There's stuff written all over it by me and my friends. This picture was taken by my dad in those years!

Till today, I use only pouches. If you are a pouch person too, here's a virtual high-five! But if not, tell us why a pencil box is better in the comments below!

Friday, November 6, 2020

The Chaos

Most Indian languages are spoken the exact way they are written. For example, in Tamil, there is no confusion whatsoever. A word is pronounced exactly the way someone spells it in writing, with no exceptions. When I learnt Spanish for a brief time in college, the first thing the Spanish teacher taught us was that the words are to be pronounced exactly how they are written with no exceptions whatsoever. And, that is one of the main reasons why English can be really tough to learn. 

Even for some of us who have studied English all through our school, pronouncing those words correctly and especially new words can be extremely tricky. Knowing English is one thing, but being confidant in our pronunciation in this pretty inconsistent language (usually with scarce logic) is an entirely different matter.  

A funny poem on the inconsistency of the English pronunciation is captured beautifully in the poem The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité.  Here's an excerpt:

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable, but Parliament.
Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, though, sough, tough??
Hiccough has the sound of sup...
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

The author of The Chaos, Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité, was a Dutch writer and traveller. To any foreign learner of this language, and even for people deemed to be well versed with it, English can be one of the most confusing languages. At a personal level, though I am confident in writing English and I can speak fluently, there are words you are not at all sure about when it comes to saying them out loud!

You can read the poem in full here. Do you have a funny moments with English? Share in the comments below!

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Learning the Law

Title:
Learning the Law
Author: Glanville Williams

Learning the Law is a title that you will hear since your first semester in college. Some professors mention it in class, you see it in the library, you hear that name from sources you won't even remember a few years later. I never read it, though it was always talked about as a "classic" for law students. The first year in law school and hostel life had way more interesting things stocked for me than reading a "classic".

And, now when I'm almost half done with fourth year of law school, I picked this book up when I am browsing what I could read next. As I was looking through a list, my subliminal memory beeped as my eyes scanned past Learning the Law. Curiosity finally got the better of me to check out this "classic" to reflect on how much it would have helped me know what I'm not doing in law school (though I couldn't have guaranteed that my 17-year-old self would have followed all that)!

The moment I opened the book, I understood why they prescribe it for the first years. It's simple, short, and it doesn't read strictly like a text book. But, what it does is give a good, basic insight into the common law systems and equity- laying the base for the study of law. Williams also dedicates chapters to discuss on scholarship, legal research, techniques for case study and better analysis on it, and moot courts. These are some undeniable aspects of legal study that a law student in any given year would need. With a chapter attractively titled "From Learning to Earning", Williams also talks about the practice of law, being a lawyer, and the other possible career opportunities. 

The last chapter in this book was the icing in the cake, for Sandhya, the ardent fiction enthusiast. Williams discusses and gives you Shakespearean references of 'law', and titles across dramas, novels, biographies, and actual books on real-life trials. Along with these, there are a host of suggestions that he makes on the essays, humour books, and history that we could read based on the law. 

True to its tagline, the book is a "guide, philosopher, and friend". I think every first year must check it out. Everyone said the same to us, and yet hardly any of us read it. I'll tell you- you don't have to read it- but just open the book, read a few paragraphs here and there, check it out, and then I'm positive that you'll at least give it a better glance once you start with it! I am so glad I read it at least now, for I have a star suggestion-list of novels, biographies, trials, and essays waiting for me to read!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Opening With A Bang


The opening line of a novel talks volumes about it. It gives way into the tone and mood, and the wit or gravity, or both, of the author. Not all books have a beginning line that leaves a lasting impression on you. And most often than not, the best opening lines of a novel are those you feel that has summed up its entirety in one single line, after you are done reading it fully. Once again, not all opening lines can achieve that sort of an impression. Some books may be very popular and famous, but it's not always that they open up with a line that'll stay in your mind forever! To me, there are some of these books that I always think of when I think of opening lines. 

I have always wanted, for as long as I remember, to use these lines as the beginning for my essays/stories, and write something entirely different. And finally, I got some time to actually trying that out! And, writing them has been so much fun because they turned out exactly how I have always imagined they would! 

So, here's going to be a series of posts again- with my essays and stories with the beginning lines of these books, some of my all time favourites: Peter Pan, David Copperfield, Catch 22, 1984,  Watership Down, Pygmalion, and A Tale of Two Cities

I cannot wait to share them with you all on this blog, one by one! What is your favourite opening line of a book that has left a lasting impression on you? Share in the comments below, and stay tuned for the upcoming posts!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Pizza For A Tuesday

There are only two dishes I know that no one refuses. One, dosa- everyone loves dosa. And two, pizza. That is the most common thing we have when we go out to eat in college. If we could not come to a consensus on any other place to go, La Pinoz was the definite one that none of us would really refuse.

It's been so many months since I had my last pizza, and usually when we think of pizza, then we think of ordering it in. But, I tried to make it at home, and it turned out so beautiful!! Surprisingly, it was pretty simple. 

My pizza today had cheese, onions, tomatoes, capsicum, and (a lot of) paneer. I would have gone with much less paneer, but I had already diced and marinated it- so just went ahead to throw it all in as toppings! 

Here's how I made it.

What you need for Pizza dough: maida, baking soda, baking powder, salt, oil, water, lemon

1. Take 2 cups of maida and add half a teaspoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of baking powder. 
2. Add salt as per taste. 
3. Add a little oil, and mix it well. Then, add the juice of half a lemon. Mix it well again.
4. Add water little by little. Make a soft dough. 
5. Knead it for full 5-8 minutes. Most of how it turns out really depends only on the kneading.
6. Let it rest for an hour or two. 

Pizza dough is ready!

What you need for Pizza sauce: tomatoes, onions, dried red chilly, tomato ketchup

1. Boil 2 tomatoes and 1 dried red chilly for 3-4 minutes until the skin of the tomato starts to leave. Keep it aside for it to cool a bit. 
2. Chop the onions finely, and saute till the raw smell goes off. The onions will have turnned slightly transparent. 
3. Peel off the skin of the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes and chilly, and also the sauteed onions to a mixer jar, and grind it into a paste. The paste can be smooth or slightly pulpy, according to your taste. 
4. Transfer this paste into a kadai with little oil, and let it cook. Add tomato ketchup and some salt as per taste. Turn off the stove when the sauce becomes thick. 

Pizza sauce is ready!

This is basically the part from which you can do as you wish. Pick the toppings that you like, and assemble the pizza as you wish! I used marinated paneer(fried), onions, tomatoes, capsicum, and a lot of cheese!

I marinated the paneer cubes by coating it with a cup of curd mixed with a little bit of kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala, salt and lemon juice(all as per taste).

When you assemble, take care to keep these in mind:

1. Make sure the edges of your rolled dough are slightly thicker and banked, this will make sure that your toppings don't spill out. 
2. Be generous with the pizza sauce. That is what practically gives all the taste. 
3. After assembling the toppings, once again ensure the edges are thicker and slightly elevated. Also, coat the visible part of the dough on the edge with oil//butter. This makes the crust come out so well!
4. Wait for 2-3 minutes after your pizza is done before you cut it into slices. 

It came out so well, and it really takes not much time at all if you have your sauce pre-made and stored away. You just have to make the dough, top it up to get it ready into the oven!

I loved it. If you want, do try it out. And, if you have already made before and you have any tips to make it even better, let me know in the comments below!

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Automatic Customer

Title:
The Automatic Customer
Author: John Warrillow

John Warrilow starts the book with an interesting, common-sense, yet often ignored premise: subscribers are better than customers. Well, though subscribers are also customers, they are a sort of 'automatic' customer. Does a business need subscribers? Does it make the business better? Does it actually help in growing the business? He answers all of them, one my one, with a treasure trove of examples in The Automatic Customer
"The biggest factor in driving up your Sellability Score is the degree to which your company can run without you, the owner. That’s a head scratcher for a lot of owners who are the best salesperson in their business. The secret is to build recurring revenue that brings in sales without having to resell the customer each month."
Automatic customers or subscribers, Warrillow notes, make the company not just valuable, but also makes it more enjoyable for the owners to run their Company. From WhatsApp to Amazon to Apple, most of these businesses succeeded thanks to their strong 'subscription-based' models. 

The book is broken into three segments. In the first one, Warrillow takes his sweet time to discuss the numerous case studies as to the successful companies we know whose success is majorly due to their smart subscription models of business. We also get an insight into how exactly a subscription model works in a business, and how it drastically increases the value of the company- getting into mild details about recurring revenue models. In the second part, Warrillow discusses in detail on the nine subscription business models, devoting a chapter for each of them. These models open up a lot of new ideas for any industry of any size to adopt something that would fit them best by even doing a hybrid of those models! And, the final segment of the book gives a blueprint for building subscription for our business. This has some really good discussion on how to select the factors that will define subscription for your specific businesses, and also on the statistical aspects of it.

The best part of the book is how extensively it discusses the companies we know! When examples of Amazon or Netflix is given, the concept he tries to explain becomes so very clear because we are the "automatic customers" of these businesses! Warrillow has also made this one more actionable than just preachy about creating subscriptions. It's short and sweet, yet it manages to fill your head with countless ideas. 
"My hope in sharing these stories is that they will inspire you—no matter what industry you’re in—to develop your own subscription business. I believe it will make your business less stressful and a whole lot more valuable. If I have sparked an idea for how you might create some automatic customers in your company, then this book will have served its purpose."
I think this is a great book to get introduced to subscription models, their advantage, and their issues- and this definitely gives you a direction on how to start thinking if you want to build a subscription model for your business. You know it's a good book when it answers all the interrogatives- what, why, how, when, and whether at all!

I really enjoyed this one!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Longfellow's November From The Poet's Calendar

I had shared a poem by Wadsworth in June, July, August, September, and October and most of them really enjoyed reading the beautiful poem of the month. These poems are from The Poet's Calendar by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The Poet's Calendar is a compilation of Longfellow's set of twelve beautiful poems, each song describing and narrating the essence of each of the twelve months of the calendar year. So, here you have Longfellow's November:

The Centaur, Sagittarius, am I, 
Born of Ixion's and the cloud's embrace; 
With sounding hoofs across the earth I fly, 
A steed Thessalian with a human face. 
Sharp winds the arrows are with which I chase 
The leaves, half dead already with affright; 
I shroud myself in gloom; and to the race 
Of mortals bring nor comfort nor delight.

This poem describes November by telling the Greek mythological story behind Sagittarius, the zodiac sign of November and his arch enemy Scorpio(of the previous month). So, it shows the contrast. The style is also different from the rest of the months as this one is full of mythical references!

If you want to read all the set of twelve songs, you can read it here: https://bit.ly/2YrS66R Happy November!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Fog by Helen Cadbury

Painting an imagery is extremely important, especially while writing fiction. The thing that leaves you with the most impact is how the author manages to establish the imagery of a setting or mood. And, that is where fog comes. It is one of most utilized phenomenon of nature to create a mood, a setting, and a premise in literature. When I think of fog, I think of the descriptions in Dickens' Bleak House where he uses fog to create the setting before leading the readers on to the scene where the Lord High Chancellor sat with "foggy glory". 
"Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds." - Bleak House

The description of the fog runs for a good two more pages, as typical of Charles Dickens. That is his beauty. And yet, I loved this simple 12-lined poem that captured all of the fog in its truest spirit. This is a poem by Helen Cadbury. 

Earth-sweat, sea-breath,
hangs about, cold-shouldering street corners,
disconsolate, untouchable,
smothers horizons, pockets whole villages,
sprays dirty thumb-smudge graffiti
on city walls, in ditches,
spits chill onto the woollen scarves of citizens,
who shrink into their coats, avert their gaze
until the cloud-fall sighs and heaves itself away
- a slow unfathomable fade -
to hide in low valleys and the shadows of churches,
waiting to muster when the day's back is turned.

 Do you have a favourite imagery that has been etched in your brain? Share in the comments below!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Grimm's Fairy Tales

Title:
Grimm's Fairy Tales
Author: Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm

Fairy tales are a constant for kids since very young. Stories like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Cinderella have multiple versions through the ages and multiple authors who have retold it. These are stories that were told orally from generation to generation, and the German Brothers Grimm compiled a set of over two hundred stories in an attempt to not lose those tales. 

I have heard often that the Grimm brothers' tales were originally not intended for children. This always made me wonder why because they were primarily fairy tales of princes, princesses, kings and queens, battles, love, and friendship. But, when I did read Cinderella, I realized that the Grimm brothers' tales were of little more gruesome version than the usual versions, involving a little more violence and bloodshed, which may not be very appropriate for children. The original editions of their tales were known to be even more gruesome in detail, but the subsequent editions have been toned down as it became a favourite among children. 

I remember narrating the Little Red Riding Hood as a kid in school. I used to love that story! Even though almost all of those stories have been splendidly recreated by Disney, and for the longest time as children we believed the stories were of Disney's, as we grew up we associated them with Grimm's Fairy Tales. Today, even though we all know that these tales are eons old, and they have only been compiled and given a new form by the Grimm Brothers, the tales are popularly known as the Grimm's Fairy Tales, though none of it is actually theirs! But we have the Brothers Grimm to thank for having all of these splendid folklore even today!

If you are old enough, you should try reading the actual 'Grimm' versions of Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel. They are pretty fun (and a little more gory than the child-proof versions)! Have fun reading!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Chocolate Cake

I baked my second cake today. I have to say that it was way better than the first one in how I baked it, but the sugar went on the lower side today. So, today's cake was a tad bit on the less-sweet side. It would have been absolutely, mindblowing-ly amazing if I had added more sugar. But, here's the recipe. 

What you need:

Dry ingredients: maida/flour, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder

Wet ingredients: ghee, milk, thick curd, cooking oil, vanilla essence

How to make:

1. Take 2 cups of maida, 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup of cocoa powder- sift them together and mix well. 

2. Take ghee at room temperature, 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of thick curd, 2 tsp cooking oil, 1 tsp vanilla essence- whisk all the wet ingredients well and make sure there are no lumps. 

3. Slowly add the dry ingredients in the wet ingredients and whisk them till smooth batter consistency is reached. There should be no lumps.

4. Take the pressure cooker, add some salt to the base. Keep a stand, and pre-heat the cooker for 15 minutes on medium flame. You should not put the weight on the cooker. Do not forget to remove it.

5. Meanwhile, coat the cake tray with cooking oil, line it with butter paper. Pour the batter, and tap the tray gently to make it even.

6. Bake for 40 minutes on low flame, and let the cake cool down completely. Spray sugar syrup on the base, sides, and top of the cake to keep it moist. This is especially important when it's not a cream cake and since I didn't use any frosting.   

Your cake is ready!

Baking is definitely one that needs practice, but I am pretty sure that I can get better at this! If you have any tips/suggestions, do let me know in the comments below. I'd love to read them (and improve my skills)!