Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weekend Cooking

Here are pictures of some of the meals I have cooked in the last few weekends. Added new pictures of stuffed Japanese jalapenos, roast chicken and shepherd's pie.

 Jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese, bacon and mushrooms

 My first attempt at Shepherd's pie 

Cheese croquettes

Cous Cous Salad

Pasta in creamy sauce (with onion, capsicum, carrots and bacon)

Mediterranean sausages with lemony potatoes
Roast chicken with roast potatoes, carrots, corn, peas, onions and pumpkin


Another roast chicken (thighs) and vegetables.

Chicken and spinach lasagna

Summer berries parfait (camera played tricks and don't have a single clear picture)

Finally, the wonderful people I cook for! They appreciate every little effort and forgive the biggest of mistakes!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Humble Stumble

It has been a full one year since I left KP and stepped into another world.

The best part of this experience was seeing how KP was perceived positively by people in the industry. People I had never met knew about me and my work at KP. Although I always knew we were doing good work, impressing customers and setting high standards, their reaction still doesn't cease to surprise me.

If this is a sign of my humility, I am happy to have it.

But not everyone I met was familiar with me. The worst was talking to them about myself, selling, proving, convincing that I was who they were looking for because there is no one else as good as me out there. I can't begin to describe how uncomfortable and soul-sucking I find that.

If this is also a sign of humility, then it hasn't done me much good here. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ain't No Sunshine

This song was as if written for my mommy, who leaves a big hole in my heart every time she goes away.

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
It's not warm when she's away
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And she's always gone too long
Anytime she goes away

Wonder this time where she's gone
Wonder if she's gonna stay
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And this house just ain't no home
Anytime she goes away

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
Only darknesss every day
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And this house just ain't no home
Anytime she goes away

Hear it here...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Such a Person

There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a young person on a mission to improve himself constantly, introspecting and reflecting on his situation with an open mind and a seeking spirit, and rebounding from even the worst of situations with new resolve and optimism. Nothing more inspiring than seeing such a person's journey from frustration and desperation towards strength and hope. 

I am sure such a person and others like him will solve this world's myriad problems because they surmount the obstacles within themselves as a means to solve seemingly external problems. Such a person proves that beauty, hope and growth are possible in any situation.

It is about such a person that Daisaku Ikeda wrote "A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation, and further, can even enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”

I am the mother of such a person.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Chant

When the emptiness inside
Hollows me out into a big gaping hole
As big as this city itself...
I chant.

When my failures
Like dark ugly shadows
Loom larger than all I have achieved...
I chant.

When despair paints gloomy pictures
Of tragedies yet to happen
And I become acutely aware of the fragility of life...
I chant.

When the weight of all I have to do
Becomes heavier
Than the spring of freedom in my step...
I chant.

When lost senseless in the maze
I suddenly find my way
And see that amazing sliver of light...
I chant.

When bathed in that light
Hope bubbles with infinite possibilities
And I, limitless, glow in the beauty of life...
I chant!

(See also

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I am enchanted by this little angel who, flying by, stopped by my house and graced it. She made me a better person, my house a better home and this world a better place.

She wakes up with a smile on her face. She goes to sleep with a smile on her face. Her laughter fills my house and my heart. Her sweet voice, her non-stop chatter, reverberates in my head even when I am miles away from her.

She has several episodes of severe annoyance during the day, mainly when she sees someone beating her at...err...anything, be it finishing lunch ahead of her or walking faster than her or pressing the lift buttons before her. But nothing annoys her more than seeing anyone else holding her mommy's hand, or hugging her, or getting attention from her. One weekend, she made me say a completely out-of-context sentence to her before every meal (Start with this while I heat the other stuff) because she had heard me say it to Atreya the night before.

She hides in her nani's blanket every night, hot and sweaty, waiting for me to come looking for her. She hides behind pillars and doors, wanting to surprise us. She tip-toes and giggles uncontrollably, eyes twinkling, whenever we decide to hide from each other.

She plans every night to sleep with her nani, but always comes back to my bed. The one night that she did fall asleep in nani's bed, I missed her so much that I carried her back (Magically! as she commented the next morning). But when I tell her I want to go watch a movie or something else by myself, she is surprisingly gracious. Oh did I tell you that she will do anything, literally anything, for an icecream and her iPad!

Her companion is an ugly green-colored witch with a beak nose and warts galore. She adores her. The witch is also her alter ego, sometimes saying naughty thing in her high pitched voice that the polite princess can't say. I asked her if she finds her witch pretty, and she said "Witchy aunty is beautiful"!

She loves her long hair and often thanks me for making them long. Every time I do her hair, she goes to the mirror to inspect the result, and if it is not to her liking, this sucker mother will redo them even at the risk of getting late to work. But the look on the face when she likes what I have done with her hair is worth everything.

She doesn't walk- she skips. She dances without warning or prompting, contorting her body in strange poses. I love this body- her jhadhoo-like feet, her solid hands, her rough skin, her bushy eyebrows, her bunny teeth, her strong legs. My rustic stocky princess- that's who she is. She looks nothing like me. She looks exactly like me.

She likes everything pink. Pink and shiny. She has many plans for when she turns 18, including putting on lipstick and makeup, wearing high-heeled shoes, and cooking near the fire.

She hugs me every now and then, kissing my hand or my belly or any other body part accessible to her. She sees me off to the bus stop on days I leave before her. Seeing her waving me good bye with that sweet smile of her fills me with joy I can't describe. No better way to start my day.

She makes up strange words to describe her ideas. Today it was SNASH (I want to hug you and snash you). I also recall SQUIGGLY (that girl with the squiggly eyes) and SCRUNCHY (this packet is scrunchy). Because she says RENEMBER for remember, the whole family mispronounces the word now.

She always offers to help me when I am toiling away in the kitchen. I let her clean parsley, or whisk eggs, or mash potatoes, or roll things in breadcrumbs. Both of us believe that the food I cook tastes good only when the she has contributed to the cooking process.

Yesterday, overwhelmed by my love for her, I asked her how come she came to me, what had I done to deserve this wonder. She replied "Sunita mama gave me to you because she saw how much you loved me".

Oh my sweet baby, no one could have ever imagined how much I would love you, not even I!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Anatomy of an Instructional Game

Having believed for over 18 years that my son Atreya's blood type was B+, we got a shock of our life when his NS (Army) card had O+ listed on it. My first reaction was that the NS guys had made a mistake and insisted that he get it corrected. Three weeks later, his blood was retested and the result was again O+! Someone had indeed made a mistake, but 18 years ago!

A few days after this incident, I was preparing to make a short presentation to a small group on games in online learning. I decided to use a paper Purnima and I had written on games (see as the anchor for my presentation. I also decided that instead of listening to my discourse on games, the audience should experience the power/problems of games in learning by playing some online games. Unfortunately, I no longer have the rights and access to the games we had referred to while writing the paper. So, I searched high and low for game demos available online. And guess what I came across- a game on blood typing!

As I played the game, I found myself immersed. Part of the reason was of course its personal relevance to me because of the recent incident. But there was another reason too. It was a good game. This was reinforced by the reaction of each one of the six people who played it in front of me during the session.

What Made it a Good Game?
Before I analyze the game and say what worked for me, first play it for a bit here:

1. Alignment of Content and Context
The interactive and its wrapper were totally aligned. There was nothing artificial about context (people needing blood transfusion) and the content (identify blood type and select donor blood) of the exercise. Artificiality of context, very often seen in learning games, jars and distracts and makes the misaligned context an irritant. An aligned context, on the other hand, becomes invisible and aids immersion. 

2. Learnability
The game was a total learning tool by itself- it did away with the need to have a tutorial. Before playing the game, I had only briefly looked at the supporting learning materials explaining blood types, tests and compatibility, not long to master the content. Likewise, my session participants were not given enough time to read the supporting learning material thoroughly. Despite that, after playing the game for 2-3 scenarios, each participant had learned that a reagent clumping means you have a match, and that O can donate to all and AB to none but itself.

3. Sufficiently Challenging
The task required by the game was fairly challenging for a lay person, at least in parts. When I first played it, the concept of reagents clumping was new to me and posed a challenge. In the session, I heard enough shrieks (from the game and the participants) to know that wrong blood types were being administered. Today, weeks later, I found myself stumped by the concept of compatibility of Rh+ and Rh- factor. This new challenge, and the confidence that I will overcome it by playing the game, made me want to play the game again.

4.  Variability via the Content
The interactions in the game were repetitive, giving the players a chance to better themselves. Though repetitive, the game was not boring because of the nature of the content. The 4 blood types and the Rh factor provided enough permutations and combinations to bring variability to the experience.

5. Variability of Interactions
There was variability in the ways users interacted with the game interface. It included jabbing a patient for blood sample, dropping the blood sample in test tubes, selecting the blood type and placing the blood bags on the stand.

6. Fun Factor
Finally, even though the context is serious, the overall tone of the game was fun. Feedback included statements like "You are bloody right" and visuals/audio clips of patients getting electrified if you gave them wrong blood type. There were simple animations of test tubes shaking and blood flowing into tubes and the interface had a relaxed gamey feel to it. Just one thing bothered me...why were the visuals of people done so badly?

There is one more thing I learned from the game- even though all of us wrongly believed Atreya to be B+, he was never in any real danger. Hospitals always check the patient's blood type using these reagents before giving any transfusion just as the players of this game do! I double confirmed this (pardon my Singlish) with my doctor mommy!

Did you also like this game? Did something else work for you (or didn't)? Do share here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ghost Town!

I read in a blog post today that a post without comments is like an abandoned house down the end of your street. Sounds sad no? By this measure, my blog is an abandoned city, a ghost town.

So come on folks, party a little here...leave comments once in a while!

Are you listening?

Every time I grapple with questions about my life, my future and what will make me truly happy, there is a voice at the back of my head constantly telling me that I should not be asking these questions at this age, that I should know the answers by now. I want to tell that horrible voice that I DON'T KNOW and would you please just SHUT UP!

I am one of those people who haven't ever known what is right for them and who have never lived by any plans for a so called 'good life'. This is as true of me at 46 as it was when I was 16.

I studied what I liked without wondering about what the kinds of jobs it will get me.  I was focused and driven but without any specific ambitions of becoming rich or successful. Those type of thoughts just didn't occur to me. Likewise, I never had any specific plans to have kids by such and such age because ideal families are a certain way. In fact, had I planned to have a child, I would never had one because by all accounts, I shouldn't have had a child- I was too ill. But when the madness struck, the Universe parted the mountain just about wide enough for me to walk through it. It gave me fertility and 35 weeks of reasonably good health to bear Atreya. My mission to have Aloka was similar- not carefully planned but driven by an unstoppable desire. In many ways, the same is true for the jobs I held after that. No plans, no career goals, no eye on any ladder- just a desire to create value. That value sustained me for years at a stretch and in turn, made the world I lived in a better place in certain albeit small ways.

There is place for people like me too in this Universe. People who flow with the flow and find themselves in places that seem made for them. People who don't know what is best for them, but the best finds them regardless. And when they are in between, they hurt and ache in all odd places and try hard to seek answers because it is not in them to compromise and calculate. And the last thing they need is someone telling them that they should know the answers by now.

Are you listening, voice?