Information security, Technology

‘Tech Bytes’

Here is a link to my new ebook ‘Tech Bytes’ which is free to read for a limited time on Kindle..through this book you can learn about privacy focused technologies like DuckDuckGo, Threema, Swisscows, Brave browser, Tor browser and more….you can also take the quiz at the end and test your knowledge! πŸ™‚

Here are some reviews of the book:

“The author discusses in the book the basic features and operation of both these apps apart from browsers like “Brave browser’Β  and search engine (DuckDuckgo) where the focus is on privacy. The book also provides information on the messenger ‘Threema’ which is also an open source app that gives due importance to security and does not collect user data.Β ” (https://rajeevianlinesandverses.blogspot.com/2021/05/book-review-tech-tales.html)

“I want to make special mention of the chapter on haveibeenpwned.com (Chapter 9). I discovered that my password had been leaked by a few websites that I use regularly. Following Jayanthi’s advice, I changed my passwords to protect further privacy invasions.

The last chapter on Whatsapp hacks is an eye-opener and many of us will be eager to try them.

Jayanthi has also thoughtfully included a quiz at the end to help you test your comprehension of the book. I am glad to report that I was able to get them all correct.” (https://satabdimukherjee.in/2021/06/05/book-review-tech-tales-by-jayanthi-k-manikandan/)

Food, India

Jackfruit truffle! :)

Cooking at home is one of the best ways to spend time with oneself and with others in the family. On the lines of the saying β€˜Family that prays together stays together’, I feel it is more apt to say that a family that cooks together and/or eats together stays together 😊 – especially in this challenging time of the pandemic. Cooking and/or eating tropical fruits/vegetables takes me down through memory lane. It brings back memories of my childhood with grandparents and cousins.

Not a summer passes without getting to taste the two exotic tropical fruits – mango and jackfruit. Despite being in a big city, mangoes we have aplenty – on pushcarts, supermarkets, organic stores and on roadsides too. Although the jackfruit seems to be elusive most of the time, we manage to get hold of one jackfruit every summer. This year too we got lucky and got one jackfruit from a known source. We were quick to clean and devour the delicious fruit and this time I decided to make good use of the seeds as well. I found a recipe was a dessert recipe instead of the usual stir-fry/curry recipe.

Known to be packed with healthy nutrients which provide remarkable benefits, I quickly took to the chore of cleaning up the seeds. Firstly, they need to be dried well before cleaning as they are very slippery and hence would be difficult to handle. I kept it out to dry in direct sunlight for a couple of days. Once it dried completely, the outer covering which is whitish was easy to peel off. Then what remains are seeds with a thin brown skin. I used a knife to scrape out most of the skin. Some prefer to use the seeds as it is. I prefer to scrape the skin. The recipe I was going to follow was, to present the powdered jackfruit seeds as a truffle. I was certain that my kids would find it appealing as they, like most kids are influenced by western dishes.

So after lightly scraping off the thin brown skin I toasted the seeds on the stove till the nutty aroma wafted around and the seeds started spluttering. One of my friends mentioned that in the traditional kitchens of Kerala these seeds would be toasted directly in the firewood stove and that would have a better aroma and taste as compared to the same procedure done in the modern kitchens. I did reminisce those days when I would watch and sometimes help my grandma to ignite and kindle the flame in her firewood stove using a thin long cylindrical hollow rod.

Then after I allowed it to cool a bit, I powdered the toasted seeds in a mixer. Next step was to make the caramel sauce which would help to bind and shape the powdered seeds into a laddoo. For this I melted the required amount of sugar with a little water and waited for the sugar to caramelize. Once the sugar started to caramelize, I added heavy cream and mixed it well and poured this delicious sauce to the powdered seeds and shaped the mixture into laddoos.

Now I just poured melted chocolate onto the nutrient packed laddoos and voila! It turned into a truffle. The seeds of an Indian fruit shaped into an Indian sweet and disguised as a western one was an instant hit.

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process of making this jackfruit seed truffle. My kid’s approval of the dish in disguise indeed has motivated me to bring in more such recipes and has further deepened my passion for cooking. Looking forward to my next tryst with the jackfruit πŸ˜‰.

– This is a guest post by Dahlia Joseph!

Musings

No

Maybe the most difficult thing for many of us is to say ‘No’ to things we are not comfortable with. This includes saying ‘No’ to family members, friends and colleagues and at work. When I was younger, I could never say ‘No’ to anybody! πŸ™‚ Sometimes, I used to feel that I was getting arm twisted!! 😦 and made to do things against my will! I am sure everybody might have been involved in one or two(or many situations like this! :))

How do we say ‘No’ in the most gentle manner without offending the other person? here are a few things I have learnt over the years:

  1. Time is the most important factor here. We get more confidence to say ‘No’ once we get older πŸ™‚ These days , I can say “No” in any personal or professional relationships and wherever I am not comfortable!! πŸ™‚
  2. Seriously though, I think it is not wise to say a straight “No” in the beginning of your career
  3. Later, in the career with enough experience you can judge and gauge the situation and work accordingly
  4. Personal relationships are a whole other matter – it is very difficult to say ‘No’ if you are young and to your parents especially! πŸ™‚ If you are instructed to meet somebody or call somebody, you may have to do it for sometime but you can always tell politely that you cannot do it ….slowly! πŸ™‚ after you gather some strength and maturity!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
  5. Other family members might follow a similar trajectory – it is good to say ‘yes’ for sometime, but after a while as you get older, you can say ‘No’ to things you are uncomfortable about.
  6. The best way to say ‘No’ is saying calmly that you cannot do it or if the person cannot handle a “No” you can always say you will do it later!! πŸ™‚

How do you say “No”? πŸ™‚ has it been difficult ? But trust me, once you get older, you will not care about anybody and say a “No” very easily!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

This is the last post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon !!

India, Musings

Indian luxury! :)

Most think the Western world is a land of luxury but India has its own hidden luxury particularly for women! πŸ™‚ When I stepped into India after a long stint, I had forgotten about this type of luxury! In fact, this type of luxury had taken more forms too! πŸ™‚

Yes, I am talking about the maids and other helps of India! πŸ™‚ These are various helps in India without whom the Indian home engines will grind to a stop!

Maids –

The maid in India is primarily supposed to come in only for cleaning, but does various other things too. In cities like Bangalore, the maids will give a lending hand to everything in the house like dusting, cutting vegetables, a little bit of cooking, doing the dishes, putting the dishes away, sweeping, mopping, making tea and many, many more chores. Since the maids will be from a poor financial background, the people who employ them will also help them in any way they can(like paying for their children’s education, paying for the vaccination and more)

Cooks –

We do not need to order food from outside all the time when one tired is cooking at home in India. Cooks will come and make the dishes that you require them to make. Some of them will in fact buy the things for you and make them at home for you! πŸ™‚ They can make rotis, sabjis, rice, grind the idli -dosa batter for you and more. This ensures that you eat healthy home food all the time! πŸ™‚

Drivers –

Do you not feel like driving in the crazy Indian traffic? Just hire a driver…:) There are experienced drivers who know the ins and outs of the city and can take you wherever you want to go.

Gardeners –

While the above three people are required in most homes in India, a gardener might be needed only in case of an independent house and if there is a necessity.

All these people are a blessing to many an Indian household and life would not be the same without them. The Western thought is always to do the chores on their own and since manual labor is expensive, machines are employed to get the same effect. The Indian luxury though is a world apart! and is easily affordable too πŸ™‚

Upon our return to India, I was initially amazed by the availability of so much of help and was trying to do things on my own. But I soon caved in and cannot do with my maid today! πŸ™‚ The lockdown of 2020 in India(when maids and other help were not allowed) showed that we could do our work if needed be(the American habits were still residing in us! :)) but I have embraced the Indian luxury and cannot live without it today!

P.S. I only have a maid, I like to drive and don’t mind the minimal daily cooking! πŸ™‚

This post is the 9th post for BlogchatterHalfMarathon

college, exams, India, Musings

How is remote work/learning going?

The pandemic struck and there has been one reality that has been binding the world. It is of remote work and learning. Remote work and learning is a reality in India as of today. With three laptops (and an almost working laptop! :)) and Teams meetings and Zoom calls in my home, it has not been an easy experience.

Prior to March 2020, I was the only one doing remote work and now, my whole family had joined in! πŸ™‚

What have we learnt from the whole remote experience?

  1. Small children can manage with phone/tablets but those devices are not suitable for older kids
  2. If older kids and working parents are involved, then, each will need a separate laptop(maybe some manage without the same)
  3. Bandwidth issues, network connectivity, dropped calls are all a reality
  4. Many had suggested a Wi-Fi extender, but we had shied away from it – but a Wi-Fi extender is a great boon! πŸ™‚ Even though phone companies advertise for great bandwidth, we realize it falls short, once we start using it! Hence the Wi-Fi extender is the greatest boon to help us.
  5. With meetings and classes in different rooms, different sounds from different rooms becomes a reality! πŸ™‚
  6. However good the laptops maybe, with time, they seem to crash! 😦
  7. The mic does not seem to be work or the camera does not seem to work or the unmute button does not seem to work or everything works great sometime! πŸ™‚
  8. School/college seem to get over by a certain time, but work never seems to get over! 😦
  9. Zoom fatigue or Teams fatigue is real
  10. Schools/colleges have figured how to conduct online exams after struggling with it for some months
  11. Teams is good IMHO! πŸ™‚

How has your remote work/learning experience been? Have you finally got the hang of it? πŸ™‚ How do you and your family manage?

Here’s to wishing that the end of remote work/learning is around the horizon! πŸ™‚

This post is the eighth post for BlogchatterHalfMarathon

Family, Festivals, India, Parenting

Joint family system vs Nuclear family system – which is better?

India is one of the few countries which has a unique family system – the ‘joint family system’. In a joint family system, it is not only the parents who stay with their grown children and their spouse but there may be other members of the family living together as well. There might be two or three generations of a single paternal or maternal lineage living together. There might be a single family head or a group of elderly family members under whose direction the family might thrive. In a joint family system – food, career, religious regulations, responsibilities, finances might all be shared.

The nuclear family came into existence under the Western influence in India. The nuclear family consists only of the mother, father and the children. Once the children grow up, they will embark on their own independent journey. In a nuclear family, the roles and responsibilities might be shared by the husband and wife.

While many think the joint family system is dead in India, it is not. The bigger cities might not see it as much but the joint family system still exists.

Advantages and disadvantages of a joint family system:

The advantages of a joint family system will definitely be the ability to live together with anybody. Caring and sharing might be the motto behind all joint family systems. Trying to live with one’s own family members might not be easy all the time. But the people in a joint family system have definitely mastered it! πŸ™‚ Learning to let go of certain things, adjusting to each other’s personalities, sharing the financial responsibilities are some of the advantages of a joint family system.

Children will be moulded better by learning to live with everybody. Adults will also get the companionship that they will miss in their old age. There might also be more events and celebrations at home. Children might learn the authentic way to celebrate religious festivals rather than Google it! πŸ™‚ In addition, child care and taking care of elderly will not be given to organisations and will be managed in the family only.

The disadvantages of a joint family system might be the same as the advantage of a joint family system(what an irony! :))

No one might be constantly be able to live with everybody all the time and one will feel like they need some “me” time and “alone time”! There is also a possibility that you might be able to take any independent decisions and act on it instantly.

Advantages and disadvantages of a nuclear family:

The advantages of a nuclear family might be:

  1. the ability to take independent decisions and act on it instantly without asking anybody
  2. Not having to manage too many personal relationships
  3. Just the freedom of doing things your own way
  4. Not having to listen to anybody! πŸ™‚

The disadvantages of nuclear family might be a little more different than other reasons. In a nuclear family, in many instances, the financial responsibility might fall solely on the husband’s shoulders. Thus, running a family, managing the household and the children has to be done only by 2 people (which is not an easy task) The husband -wife duo have to run to other people(baby sitters, day care centres, maids, cooks) to smoothly run their life.

So, which is good for whom? That just depends on each person and each husband-wife duo. If they are not comfortable in a joint family setting, it is better they manage alone and brave it all.

However, man being a social animal and we from India loving family and celebration – it is quite a possibility that most Indians cannot live away and alone all the time! πŸ™‚ and they will live in a bit of both families combined together…:)

This post is the seventh post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

Festivals, India, Religion

Six abodes of Lord Muruga

Did you know that Tamizh kadavul, Lord Muruga(or Lord Kartikeya) has six abodes in Tamil Nadu? Lord Muruga himself is known by different names in Tamil Nadu. They are Kandan, Kumaran, Karthikeyan,Subramaniam, Balamurugan, Murugan, Balasubramaniam and many, many more. My own father’s name was Shri. N. Kandaswamy which is also one of the names of Lord Muruga.

The six abodes of Lord Muruga are known as ‘aaru padai veedu’ (six abodes) Each abode has a story associated with it. I have visited three of them for sure. Here they are:

Tiruparankundram:

Tiruparankundram on the outskirts of Madurai is the first abode of Lord Muruga. The God is known as Subramanya swamy in this temple. According to legend, Lord Muruga is supposed to have defeated the demon king Surapadman here. He also got married to Goddess Deivanai, daughter of Lord Indra at this very place. Because of this significance, it is considered to be very auspicious to be married here.

Tiruchendur:

Tiruchendur is the second abode of Lord Muruga. The temple is situated on the banks of the Bay of Bengal in Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu. The God is known as Sri Subramanya swamy in this abode.

Soorasamharam (victory of Lord Muruga over Surapadman) and Kanda Sashti are celebrated in a grand way in this temple.

Palani:

Palani is situated in Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu. It is home to Lord Muruga in the form known as ‘Lord Dandāyudhapani Swāmi‘. This is the third abode of Lord Muruga. Legend has it that Lord Muruga was angry since he did not win the fruit competition and stood in this place as a recluse. You can find more information about Palani at this site: Palani.org

Swamimalai:

Swamimalai is the fourth abode of Lord Muruga. The God is said to be teaching his father the meaning of the word ‘Om’ in this place. He whispers the meaning of the word into his father’s ear and there is a statue depicting the same story.

Swamimalai is located in Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu. There are 60 steps to reach this temple. The God is known as Swaminatha swamy in this abode.

Thiruthani:

Tiruttani is located about 100 km from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. This is fifth abode of Lord Muruga and the God is known as Subramanya swamy in this abode. Those who pray to the Lord in this abode are blessed with mental peace and happiness.

Pazhamudhircholai:

Pazhamudhircholai is located 25 kms north of Madurai, India. It is the sixth abode of Lord Muruga. The place is fertile and dense and is supposedly the place where the God’s other consort, Valli had lived. The God is known as ‘Solaimalai Murugan’ in this abode. Lord Muruga is seen with both his consorts Goddess Valli and Goddess Deivanai here.

The wordy duel between Tamil poet ‘Avvaiyar’ and Lord Muruga is said to have taken place here.

I have visited Palani, Tiruchendur, and Tiruparankundram for sure. Have you visited the other shrines? Which have you enjoyed the most?

This post is the sixth post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

India, Musings, US

Which is your favorite cuisine?

I am no foodie but do give into extravagant taste drives once in a while… πŸ™‚ Having said that, my tongue was led into an international expedition 25 years ago when I stepped into the USA! πŸ™‚

I think India itself had limited choices then and I was not exposed to all the International delights! πŸ™‚ Having a better half who loved to explore different tastes and cuisine, I soon learned to appreciate the different types of food! πŸ™‚

These are some of the cuisines that I have tried :

South Indian cuisine πŸ™‚ –

South Indian food is cumbersome to make and is definitely delicious when made with a deft hand! πŸ™‚ (which I don’t have πŸ˜‰ ;)) Idli, Dosa, the Pongals, Idiyappams, Puttus, the biriyanis, the kulambhus, the sweets and savories are just a small number of dishes that will take your tongue on an amazing journey!! πŸ™‚

Mexican –

Mexican food is definitely cooked differently from Indian food and is much less tedious to do it too. I do love the Soft tacos, Tacos, Chalupas, Taquitos, Burritos, Nachos,  Enchiladas, Fajitas, Quesadillas and more! πŸ™‚

Chinese –

I know two versions of Chinese cuisine – one is American Chinese and one is Indian Chinese! πŸ™‚ Chinese cuisine involves soups, noodles, chow mein, lo mein, orange chicken and more. I have not been a regular consumer of Chinese food , but suffice it to say, that I appreciated it as well.

Italian –

Maybe, the one cuisine that I really had a tough time getting used to was Italian cuisine than any other cuisine because of the lesser amount of spices used. Pasta, Pizza, Lasagna, Pasta salad are what come to my mind right away.. πŸ™‚

Thai –

It has been quite a while since I have had pure Thai cuisine, but loved the Pad Thai, Green curry, Red curry – all of which are sure tingle anybody’s taste buds.

American cuisine –

American cuisine might be a melting pot of different cuisines, but the Mac and cheese, bagels, waffles, fries, burgers, cheeseburgers, chilis, clam chowder, fried chicken and other dishes do give your taste buds a party! πŸ™‚

From all the cuisines that I have tried – which have I loved the most? I think I would be slightly more partial to the South Indian foods and Mexican foods more than other cuisines just because of the taste! (though I have loved all of them and learned to appreciate all types of food)

Which is your favorite cuisine? Is it different from the ones listed above? Do drop your answers in the comments below! πŸ™‚

Have a nice day! πŸ™‚

This post is the fifth post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

India

Quiz about my homestate! :)

I belong to Tamil Nadu, India and even though it has been 25 years since I have moved out, it is still a pleasant feeling whenever I visit it even today… the language, the conservativeness, the flowers, the saris, the dance, the music, the respect…there is nothing equal to that even today! πŸ™‚

Having said that, how well do you know my state? Take this short quiz and learn more about Tamil Nadu today!

Click to start the quiz

This post is the fourth post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

P.S. If you don’t know the answers, please message me! πŸ™‚

Health, India

Vaxed?

“Have you taken the jab?” “Why haven’t you taken it as yet?”

These are some of the questions that non-vaxers have faced. While I can understand the concern it is quite annoying to hear it repeatedly. I can guarantee that 99% of the people would have encountered vaccine anxiety prior to taking the vaccine.

From the day the vaccine has been out in the market in the world it has been filled with controversy. There have been many who have been extremely eager to take it from Day 1, and many who have shied away from it and yet many who are on the fence and still deciding. Vaccine hesitancy and vaccine shyness is just an ordinary process that normal human beings experience. This is happening all over the world and in my view is just a normal human feeling.

Why vaccine shyness?

I know of many who have hesitated to take the vaccine(inclusive of me! :)) Even health workers may have slightly hesitated to take the vaccine themselves or give it to their family members.

Why does this happen? To put it simply – it is just a fear of the unknown. Nobody has taken the vaccine before and nobody knows its side effects (and really, no one can predict the side effects) And if you are in your late 30s and beyond, you may already have some health concerns which may aggravate your hesitancy(or any age for that matter)

A lot of articles and videos on the Internet do not help the vaccine hesitancy in any way either.

How to overcome it?

With time, vaccine hesitancy will come down as more people realize it is the need of the hour. They will see other people taking it and be motivated to take it as well (which is already happening in India) While I am not a doctor and never believe in forcing anybody to do anything – I do believe that most people will take it if you give them some time. In the mean time, it is good for all the vaccinated/unvaccinated people to remain safe!

My advice for all the vaccine hesitant people – “Don’t read too much…just do it” πŸ™‚

and my advice for all other people – Don’t keep asking the unvaxed about their vaccination status – most will do it!! πŸ™‚

P.S: My entire family got vaccinated after all the initial analysis! πŸ™‚

This post is the third post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

India, Musings, Religion

Is each state of India loyal to a particular Hindu God?

As my ponderings and observances continue, I have always wondered how each of state of India seems to be more loyal to a particular Hindu God. For those, who are unaware, Hinduism has a lot of Gods and Goddesses.

Some of them are:

Lord Ganesh

Lord Karthikeya

Lord Shiva

Goddess Parvati

Lord Hanuman

Lord Ram

and many other Gods and Goddesses. Each God may also be referred by different names across India as well. The mythological stories surrounding the Gods will also vary across India. For example, in Tamil Nadu, Lord Ganesh is considered to be the first son and Lord Karthikeya is considered to be the second son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Which state is loyal to which God?

As I have observed, each of the Southern states seem to favour a particular God( which is not to say that the other Gods are not revered)

In Tamil Nadu – we have ‘Tamizh Kadavul’ Murugan (or Lord Karthikeya) though we can see little idols of Lord Ganesh adorning every little nook and corner too

In Karnataka – Lord Hanuman (every nook and corner in the state will have a little idol of Lord Hanuman)

In Kerala – I have visited Kerala only two or three times and I think Kerala might be favoring Lord Aiyappa (Sabarimala temple) and Lord Krishna

I am not too sure about Andhra Pradesh and Telangana – but I think they may be favoring Lord Narasimha more than other Gods

Maharashtra may be favoring Lord Ganesh more than any other God

Similarly, I think most of North India may be favoring Lord Ram and Lord Shiva

In West Bengal , I think Goddess Durga might be more revered than other Gods

In Odisha, Lord Jagannath might be revered more than other Gods

Why does this happen?

The only reason why it may be so, is because of the religious significance attached to each place. For example, one of Hanuman’s birthplaces is said to be in Hampi, Karnataka. Similarly, there are a lot of stories attached to Lord Karthikeya and his six homes(aaru padai veedu) in Tamil Nadu.

I am sure all other places have their own mythological tales which creates the God for the place.

What are your thoughts? Do you think each state in India is more loyal to a particular God?

This is the second post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

college, IIT, India

2nd year at IIT, Roorkee – A Mother’s perspective

And just like that we are done with the 2nd year at IIT, Roorkee too! πŸ™‚ Like last year, I would like to reiterate that I am not studying in IIT, Roorkee πŸ™‚ but my son is…. you can read my last year’s post here

July 2020 and beyond:

The pandemic struck in 2020 and India went through a grueling lockdown from March 2020 to June 2020. Once June 2020 arrived, hopes were high for a return to normal life. Could schools re-open, could colleges re-open and could people return to work? Unfortunately though, the virus was just getting started! 😦 From June 2020 to October 2020, India’s first wave was crushing everybody and with no vaccine then, it was not wise to re-open anything. Nobody understood the cycle of the virus as none of us had ever lived through a pandemic.

IIIrd semester at IIT-R:

IIT-R decided to physically reopen the college in July 2020, but had to scale back the plans as the virus was raging all over India. Online classes became the only way that classes could move forward. IITs have students from all financial backgrounds and from all over India(even North East India) It was quite unfair to assume that everyone would have a stable laptop with an even better Internet connection! Many had left their laptops in their rooms in Roorkee, in March 2020 when they left for their mid-semester break! (inclusive of us! :()

Surveys were conducted to assess the situation and how many had good devices through which they could attend classes. When it was felt that all students could attend online classes, remote learning started. The initial hiccups were there and everyone missed campus life and campus learning. All yearned to go back and do a normal living(which has not been possible even till today!:()

The staff and students slowly got used to this new way of learning. Mid-term exams had to be scrapped as most were figuring out the logistics of conducting exams. Those courses that had lab components were pushed to the next semester(in the hope that colleges would reopen atleast by January 2021….which could also not happen) Videos were shown of the lab experiments and students could understand it that way. Quizzes, tutorial sheets and presentations were introduced to grade the students.

There was hope that ‘R’ land could re-open at some point of time in the New Year and students could physically give their end term exams. January 2021 came and went but B.Tech 2nd year students could only give online exams.

Overall, the third semester was a learning experience for both the students and staff of IIT-R. All of them had to get used to this new way of studying and assessing the students. The third semester was not a gruelling experience academically but it was an uncertain one thinking that the college would reopen soon.

IVth semester at IIT-R:

The fourth semester at IIT-R started in February 2021 running almost a month behind. IIT-R battled pandemic chaos in its own environment.

In January 2021, when COVID cases had ebbed, few Master’s and Ph.d students were asked to come back to campus. A small set of COVID cases were detected in campus which soon swelled to a nearly 100 cases! Testing, isolation and treatment is not very easy in R-land. Many staff and students were impacted and the second wave was becoming more difficult for everybody. The second wave was touching more people and conducting the fourth semester was not an easy one.

Inspite of that, classes went on almost normally and there was more structure to the classes. Having gone through one semester of online classes, both students and staff knew what to expect. Quizzes, presentations , tutorials were given and this semester was definitely more academically challenging than the third semester. You could finally feel the IIT heat every once in a while with the son screaming “stressed”! πŸ™‚

Clubs and groups in IIT-R were also running online with new recruits and new activities.

Since the COVID second wave was affecting off-campus students and on- campus staff, the end-term exams for fourth semester was cancelled after a survey. Students were graded on their previous assignments and grading was tight! IITs were slowly learning the art of “continuous grading” instead of putting most weightage on the final exam(though most weightage was on the mid-term exam this time)

Overall, the fourth semester was a much more satisfying semester than the third one since many have accepted this new way of studying. It is quite a certainty that the next semester will definitely move ahead in the same way.

My feelings :

While, most of us were initially grumbling about this new reality that has been thrust on us, as a mother I felt content that my son was safe at home and did not get caught in the hostel in the 2020 lock down. Thoughts are always there about when he might be asked to go safely back, but I think that day is still a few months away.

Son though feels that he is missing a portion of his precious college life, but I am sure life will have a lot of good things in store for him for the future but for now though… we have to bow to the rules of the pandemic and stay safe!

Note: My son returned from IIT-R in March 2020 and has not returned back since then. Hopefully, the world will become safer for all us to return to the real normalcy soon!

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.’ 

Musings

Writer woes

When I originally went through this post in my head, it was an absolute rant post! Now, thinking about it after a couple of days later, it is a much calmer post(hopefully! :))

I have been writing for the past 9 years, and there are several things that I have learnt over the years. Some of them have been nice but some of the them have downright been disgusting! (sorry for the language!)

Here is a list of things that I have learnt:

First and foremost is always the “pay” in the content writing field. Writing is such a beautiful thing and not everyone can do it (any genre is difficult and does take time) In spite of that, in the content writing industry, from what I have seen if you get paid 1 Re/word, it is a great thing! (I don’t know how this thing came about itself) There are people who pay 50 paise/word or even lesser!! And there are still some who will ask for “free writing” too!! I myself have been approached by many people to write for “free” for them. Now, these are not just startups but well established companies do it too(I have never understood the rationale behind this – if you can pay all other professions in a startup, why can’t you the pay the writers as well?)

The next thing that irks me is the way the content is freely attributed to somebody else. Initially, the articles written by me have my name on them but after a while, they get attributed to somebody else (why would somebody do that also, I have not understood)

The third thing that I always find annoying is when we are asked to write a sample writeup for every new company that we are applying(it is fine for newbie writers, I guess) There is so much of my content on the web, and I am still asked to provide a free write-up, why? And sometimes, after we submit the writeup, there is a deadly silence on the other end too!! (what? why?)

Yet another thing on my annoying list…. Many people think content can be churned like magic! 😦 No buddy, good content does not appear so quickly like that(which is why it is good to employ multiple writers or creators) Good quality content particularly in the technical field takes time(at least for me) I have to read, understand and then write(this is me, I am sure there are faster writers) For my Master’s degree program, in the US, we were asked to write several papers and we were given adequate time to finish all of them. I greatly appreciated that fact then and appreciate it even more now.

Last but not least, is the number of revisions that a writer is asked to do. While I have not been asked to revise my content frequently, after 9 years in the field, I unfortunately, cannot revise my content any more, once I have submitted it. I have as it is, revised, edited, re-edited and re-edited and cannot do it any more. Once I have submitted it, it is the best content there is πŸ™‚ English or any language is a relative language and unless you are a perfect English teacher it is fine as it is. And with tools like Grammarly, anybody’s English is just perfect is my thought! πŸ™‚

My experience:

My experience in the content field has overall been good. I have had interesting experiences here and there and fought to have my name redeemed in some articles(though I have left the others)

I have been paid well too and some of my articles have done very, very well. The key to an article doing well in my opinion is definitely the topic selection. If you are passionate about a topic, you will write it really, really well and it will show in your writing. On the other hand, if you do not feel a topic, you will not do well(quite interesting that I can write only on programming, Information security and privacy topics) If you write about a good topic and present it well, it should definitely raise a few eyebrows and get some extra clicks and will last long! πŸ™‚

The silver lining to the poor pay and other disadvantages to the content writing field, is that the world cannot live without us writers !! πŸ™‚

So, come on writers, write to your hearts content….the world is your oyster! πŸ™‚

P.S: I have done my Master’s in the US, but I am currently a freelance writer in India and I am mostly talking only about organizations

Book, Technology

My third book!! :)

I am proud and happy to announce that my third book has been published by Blogchatter… πŸ™‚ this book is a tech drive along Medium.com, Duckduckgo.com, Brave.com and other sites… do give this book a read and drop your reviews! πŸ™‚

It is free to download for a limited time only from this link:

PS: You do have to register at Blogchatter site to download the book

https://www.theblogchatter.com/download/tech-tales-by-jayanthi-manikandan

Family, India, Parenting

Boy vs Girl – does it really matter?

In 2021, the birth of a boy or a girl should not matter. But it does even today. India being a highly patriarchal society, the birth of a boy is still welcomed and the birth of a girl still evokes confusing feelings(even in bigger cities)

Bringing up, boys and girls – is it any different?

We mostly hear the cliched expressions “girls are easier to bring up” or “boys are easier to bring up” – but having a son and daughter, I have not seen any differences in the easier vs harder part!! Both of them were hard in some ways when they were young and both of them have been easy in some ways too. It is just that their personalities were that way.

Some kids just might be having more energy and might feel like bouncing off the walls πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ (but that is just a “child” thing to do and nothing to do with being a “boy” or “girl”, is what I feel!! πŸ™‚ )

Educating them: Should it be different?

Coming from a family with no brothers, I have never seen my parents having any confusing feelings about bringing us up. We were given all opportunities as any son in the world. We were encouraged to study and always do our best all through school and college ( and I don’t mind studying even today! :)) We did all the professional degree courses and were encouraged to never shy away from studying.

Again, having a son and daughter, I have never shied away from giving the same educational opportunities to both of them (and even if I remotely thought about such a thing, somebody would have definitely shredded me!! πŸ™‚ :)) Ultimately, it is their interest and choice.

Other things: should girls or boys be given different treatment?

My parents never shied away from keeping us away from this or that. We were always encouraged to do anything and everything. I could drive, stay away from home and study in a hostel, learn to play all sports in the world, travel and go on long trips with school/college friends and more. Ultimately, my parents knew that life will happen and we cannot stay protected in a cocoon all the time.

But dangers do lurk everywhere and we were always taught the importance of safety and how to recognize dangers anywhere. So, it is always wise to make the kids understand the risks before giving them the wings to fly.

So, then, why is a boy child still welcomed? Is it

  1. Because they carry the family name forward? (Lucky, us from Tamil Nadu , we don’t have surnames at all, we just use husband’s name or father’s name as our last name :), so, technically, in Tamil Nadu – they should not worry when a girl is born πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ )

2. Is it because, the wealth and other property assets were originally only given to boys ?

That has been altered, now, I think.

3. Is it because originally, sons stayed back as a joint family system?

That also has changed in most families with time. Now anybody stays with parents, – whether it is the son or daughter.

4. Is it because, mostly the sons were the primary bread winners in their house?

Again, that too has changed with the passage of time. Now, girls are equally well educated and can earn well to support their parents or anybody else!

So, what else is the reason for the society to favor boys more than girls? (at least in big cities) Any thoughts?

Family

Where did humanity go?

Warning: Bitter post

After my father was admitted to the ICU on 27th September, 2020, we had to face a barrage of insensitive questions. Sometimes, in dark times, we see a glimmer of hope, a little ray of sunshine, hope and a good soul somewhere. Here, we could not find anything like that even remotely 😦

Looking back, I do understand that the entire medical infrastructure is under stress because of COVID turning all our lives upside down. But total lack of sensitivity to a patient and their family was shocking.

My feelings:

Initially, my father was in the emergency room in a critical condition before being moved to the ICU and my mother was asked questions like:

Do you have sons?”

Who will pay for his medical bills?”

I am not sure whether this is an apt question when a person is fighting for his life and is under respiratory distress. A doctor’s profession, I have always thought is a very noble one. Yes, I have heard many times, that doctors are also only human beings, but asking such questions definitely shocked us.

The only thought that crossed my mind when I heard these questions was whether all sons in this world are looking after their parents perfectly and all daughters are abandoning their parents totally? Is this an Indian mindset?

Anyways, coming to the question, they did not know about my father’s “independant nature”! (he paid all his bills on his own ultimately, he did not need anybody’s help)

The brutal questions and comments did not stop there and it continued as he was in the ICU.

My father was soon shifted from the emergency room to the ICU because his condition was critical. He stabilized after a few days and he needed to have a surgery to help him breathe on his own.

When we went to see different medical practitioners before the surgery, while some of them said they will do their best, others wrote these words in blunt terms;

Death on table can occur, internal bleeding can occur” and wrote all pessimistic things in the medical dictionary and we were expected to sign it, so that they were absolved of all their responsibilities! Saying such things was brutal enough, but giving it in writing was beyond words( yes, truth had to be told, but not in such a way)

I could not imagine if this was the way things were done now. Were we out of the medical loop? We didn’t know if the medical world was always like this or was it in a special avatar because of COVID stress.

While, all of us knew that my father was deteriorating – a little, calm, composed talk was all what we needed to hear.

“He is critical – but we will do our best”

Is what I was yearning to hear, but never heard.

In the 2 weeks that my father was in the ICU(we could not meet him in person because of COVID, only video calls were allowed), I was the person who was constantly motivating them to never give up hope! They were only preparing us for the eventuality. I almost felt that the medical team gives up hope once a person is aged and has co-morbidities. They immediately stop fighting for the person. We could not understand how a life could be taken so lightly without a fight.

Improvements in the ICU:

While he was in the ICU, after the initial rough days, my father’s condition stabilized and he was soon following people in the ICU with his eyes(that was big milestone for him) and showing small improvements.

With all the hope and constant video calls he learnt to recognize us and even spoke a few words to us through the video calls( his brain definitely started to work a bit more)

In the preceding evening before he passed away, he recognized all of us through the video call and when I asked him “How are you?”,

He said, “I am fine” (I could almost cry that day when he told me “I am fine” – when the doctors had given up hope and he was hooked up with tubes and wires and was in the ICU) Well, that was my father…never giving up hope and always saying positive things..

Unfortunately, he suffered a cardiac arrest the very next day morning and he passed away. Even then, I was called first as he was having his cardiac arrest and told to prepare for anything. I did not understand that either – why should one make a phone call when one is doing CPR on a patient? Is this the way it is supposed to be done?

The same evening, except for 2 rituals, we daughters also did all last rites for my father ( I am sure he would have not wanted it any other way)

Life after my father:

After my father passed away, I was totally mad. Why? Because – I felt more could have been done. We would have felt more relieved if there was more “try” in the picture.

A bit more calmer now, I do understand all doctor’s and their woes in these trying times. We are very thankful for him getting admitted at least in a hospital in these difficult days. But I definitely do not want to see anybody suffer the way my father suffered. To prevent it all, I could say a few things definitely for elderly parents:

  • Find a doctor who believes in you and whom you believe in
  • It is always good to eat a proper diet and manage whatever exercise can be done(that of course goes for any age, I guess)
  • Break the stereotype- whether sons or daughters – if you can and are nearby your parents and they need help, please look after them. Don’t wait for the brothers to go running to them.
  • Early detection for any disease is absolutely important
  • Any medication changes should be done in a careful way
  • Neurological medications are very powerful – use them with care
  • With today’s medical billing, fees will run high – be prepared for it
  • And you only have one set of parents – fight for them !
  • God is there!

As for us, behind all the social media smiles and emojis, everybody is learning to heal but in a different way. I always remember his teachings and propagate them to my children(they know it already!! :)) For me he is always my “Super man” who is always shining light on my path. I know what he will say for each of our actions as he is watching and guiding us in our journey. He will definitely be proud of how tough and strong we are in difficult times.

These 3 writings do not do full justice to the person my father was. It is just a small drop in my father ocean and I am sure he is proud of all of us and the way we are trying to move forward in life!

PS: The medical fraternity never found the reason for my father’s respiratory distress. It was just blamed on Parkinsons disease.

Love you appa!! There can be no one like you!!

Other thoughts on my father: The cruelty of Parkinsons disease

Celebration of Appa

Family

The cruelty of Parkinsons:

My father was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease in 2014. I wrote a post about Parkinsons disease which is available in my ebook. Parkinsons is a neurological condition that affects the brain and slowly robs the person of their abilities to do a variety of everyday tasks which is chiefly characterized by tremors(buttoning their shirt, dressing themselves, taking bath, eating on their own – all become difficult after a while) In India, unfortunately awareness about Parkinsons and Alzhemiers disease is poor. Having lived in the US I knew a lot about Parkinsons disease and Alzhemier’s disease. Research is continuously ongoing in these areas to alleviate the difficulties of those who are suffering.

2014 – 2016

My father was in denial for a long time and he was on the lowest dose of Syndopa (the most popular medicine to treat Parkinsons) for almost 2 years. He still hadn’t visited a neurologist and maintained his almost normal routines.

Through the 2 years, his walk changed and I was quick to notice it even though we visited him in Chennai only occasionally. His type of walk was known as “shuffling”. His balance was also getting more harder. He slowly reduced his outside walks because he knew something was definitely bothering him. He very rarely complained about his physical difficulties and the only thing that he told me once was that his limbs were feeling “stiff”( a totally Parkinsons condition)

We never really understood what was hard for him and what was easy for him as the days progressed. We just had to take a guess( he won’t tell – are all men that way?) As an example, if he was not interested in looking at the books that he used to love to read, we have to understand that he found reading difficult. If he was not reading the newspaper, we had to understand that he was not able to read the newspaper. If he did not go for walks outside, we had to understand that he found walking difficult. They say women are hard to understand, but we three women could never decipher my father !

He finally did visit the neurologist around 2016 and his medicines were properly adjusted. He seemed to be walking much better for some time. In the meantime, he also did his own research about the disease and cut out newspaper articles and understood that in addition to medicines, it was exercise and physical therapy that will help him.

Thankfully, he never had bad and visible tremors (his type of Parkinsons was known as ‘Vascular Parkinsons’ is what I learnt later, which affects the lower body more than the upper body) In spite of all the medications and physical therapy exercises, he soon had numerous falls in 2019. He was lucky that in each of his falls, he did not suffer a fracture. After a long time, he understood that this was a monstrous, irreversible and progressive disease. He finally agreed to move closer to where we stayed so that we could all fight this monster together.

2019 and the move:

This was probably the best thing for all of us as we could care for him with all our might. He was at the happiest and simplest best for almost 9 months. His health picked up and he was decently independent inside the house with the help of a walker. Everyday, I used to visit him and he used to welcome me and we used to gorge on my mother’s yummy food(even though, both of us were trying to lose weight!! :))

In the mean time, he did have other age related issues like dementia. He did forget a lot of things but remembered his bank days from 20 – 30 years ago. The Parkinsons medications used to give him a lot of confusion too. But we just adjusted and helped him along instead of putting him on more medications.

By late July 2020, a small trigger caused a cascading effect of bad reactions on him. He started to sleep more and more and his brain started deteriorating rapidly . Since, COVID was running the show, we could not take him to the hospital as freely as before. We did numerous video appointments with the doctor and we were quite confident that he will get up soon.

He did talk freely when lying down though his speech was increasingly getting slurred.But he was vocal and could tell the tastes of different food items and used to crack jokes here and there. We still did think he would get better all along and the physical therapist did come regularly all through August.

Then, started the respiratory issues. We had no idea, where those respiratory issues came from(no, he was COVID negative – we had kept him safe to avoid any other health issue) His respiratory issues were bad when he was lying down(and it was diagnosed as sleep apnea) Our video appointments with the doctors continued. COVID was at its peak in September in India and in spite of having respiratory distress at that time, we were never asked to get him admitted at any point of time or even be seen in person at the doctors ( maybe because of COVID? – we never understood why)

By early and mid September, he started deteriorating even more. There are no words to explain what he underwent in mid September. His brain was suffering a lot and it pained us all to see him that way. He had involuntary movements of the eye, hands and head. We tried our level best to keep him happy and talked to him all the time. In spite of all the dementia, he never forgot the three of us and recognized us any time.

By late September, we knew COVID or no COVID, he had to be admitted to the hospital. He was taken into the ICU on 27th September after battery of heartless questions at the hospital.

Up next…’Where did humanity go’?

Previous article about my father: Celebration of ‘Appa’!

Family

Celebration of “Appa”!!

I cannot write about my father in a single post..rather, me, my mother and my sister and the entire family will need several books to write about him. That is how much he powered our lives and kept us going…..he was the role model for me and many of us all of our lives!

He was witty, far ahead of his times, always thinking out of the box, terrific orator, a social butterfly(now you know where I get my social skills from!! :)) and just plain smart!!I was a total “Daddy’s girl” and he molded me completely…

When I was young, I used to tell my mom that I wanted to get married to somebody like my father πŸ™‚ I adored him that much… (no, my husband and my father are similar but still dissimilar in their ways and I liked it that way, finally πŸ™‚ )

His younger days:

My father was never an emotional person(atleast, not in front of me!) and we had never heard him talk about his younger days. He was just determined to come up in life and so he stepped out of his parents place at a certain point to make and carve a name for himself!

He motivated himself to prepare and study for the State Bank of India Probationary Officers exam and got selected right away!(this was way, way long ago – when not many knew about the PO exam) There was nobody in the family who was in the banking sector till then – so he did it all by himself due to sheer self motivation.

Even though he was from a small place in Tamil Nadu, he also made it a point to study and excel in English and he did with flying colors. He could talk in English eloquently and made sure that we both daughters were also educated in good schools and spoke excellently.

How he brought us up:

My mother was always the pillar behind my father and she used to admire the way he brought us up. He was not the shy looking-from-far father – he was a father who was very,very active in his children’s lives. These were just a few things that he taught us that still ring in my ears:

a. Be smart and independant:

My father always instructed all of us in the house to be “independant” and “smart”.

“Be smart, ma” or “Smartaa irungaa, ma”….

“Be independant, ma” – his voice would go and we would wonder what that really meant! (now, we know)

b. Dress well:

He loved anybody who was brave and all who dressed up well. For him, if it is a shirt, the collar has to be pulled down correctly..otherwise, he is not going to be too happy. If it it is a school uniform, clothes have to be neatly ironed and tucked in properly.

I was encouraged to do beauty treatments(but me being me , I was hardly interested!!) He always admired my mother’s way of dressing up and encouraged me to dress like her(but, me…ha, ha!! :))

c. Good role models:

In my younger days, he used to like Steffi Graf and soon I was also encouraged to like her πŸ™‚ We rooted for her in all her tennis matches!! He would select nice role models for us (like Graf) and encouraged us to emulate them. He always wanted the girls in his life to be tough, strong, smart and independent and be successful in life!

d. Read good magazines

Since the world was very small when we were young(no Internet then), he bought us magazines like Femina and Women’s Era and encouraged us to look at the world in a wider way.

e. Don’t dwell:

Since we were 3 women in his life, we would have emotional party every now and then. But he was a very patient father and husband and never reprimanded us for drowning in our pity party. My foot surgery and the confusion after that severely jolted me. He waited for almost a year, till I drowned in my worries and then told me firmly, “Enough of thinking about the same thing again and again…now, move on” . Yes, after a while, he did not like to dwell on the various ifs and buts…

f. Plan and organize

He was a dynamic personality who grew by leaps in the banking sector. Since he was in a transferable job in the bank, we would get transferred every four years and that led us to travel to North India as well. He used to go first to the location and did all the planning. He did do a lot of research on the schools nearby, find a suitable accomodation and then shift us.

I had a sudden move from Chennai to Mumbai and had a tough time adjusting from Tamil to Hindi in 5th grade. But he knew it all and found tuition teachers to help me with the transition.

This type of research continued into the college years too. Before I was set to enter college, he used to check which subject will rock the world in the coming years( and this was 1989!) Surprise, surprise – it was “Computer Science” that was said to change the world and soon both of his daughters were studying that in college(he was far sighted, I tell you!)

He always maintained a neat diary where everything was written and planned.

g. Other funny tidbits

When we used to go to a Bata store to buy a shoe, we “had” to wear the shoe/chappal and walk up and down and show it to him… it is not short walk that we have to do – we have to really walk the store…:)

His favorite saying was always “The proof of the pudding is in its eating”

He was amused by the birthday/anniversary/Diwali wishes every year that appear over and over again ever since Whatsapp came into existence…he used to ask me “It comes every year – what is so special?” and now, even I wonder the same….

When he spoke, you couldn’t help but listen to him. He had amazing oratorical skills!! All my friends from school knew him, all my friends from college knew him and all my friends from wherever I stayed knew him … and he knew them all too! πŸ™‚ He loved just the aspect of people. My paternal grand parents family, my maternal grandparents family – there was not a soul who did not come to him for advice or a nice talk.

He also had every girl relative in the world. He was blessed with an elder sister, younger sister(amongst other siblings), wife, mother, 2 daughters and 2 grand daughters and all of us dearly loved him. In fact, there cannot be a single person who couldn’t have fallen in love with him!

In spite of talking so much, sometimes, I think I hardly knew anything about him – I didn’t know what his favorite color was, what his favorite hobby was (he used to like to read books) and more. Did he really like Chennai? Did he like life in the bank? Did he like to study history?(he was M.A. in History) What did he really like? I was the one who used to keep questioning him all the time!! πŸ™‚ But the answers were vague…I didn’t know -but my mother might know…

Anyways, he was always the magician who could solve all our problems.Even after we got married, we could run to him and my mother for anything and everything!

School admission – he was there, college admission – he was there, when his grand kids were born – he was there, he was just proud of whatever his daughters did…and he was the rock for us all…

He loved all three of us in different ways and all three of us loved him in different ways. We will always love you and we will always miss you appa!

Dedicated to my father who passed away on 11th October 2020

Next post: The cruelty of Parkinsons disease

Festivals, India

How we celebrate Navaratri…

India is so beautiful and diverse in its culture and traditions and each festival is celebrated in a different way in each corner of India. I am born and brought up in Tamil Nadu and the festival of Navaratri is celebrated in a yet another nice way.

Navaratri:

While I have hardly paid attention to the intricacies of Navaratri and its special significance, I do know that Navaratri is celebrated to cherish the victory of good over evil. Navaratri denotes 9 religious nights and in Tamil Nadu, each of the 3 days are associated with each Goddess. The first 3 days are devoted to Goddess Durga, the next 3 days are devoted to Goddess Lakshmi and the last 3 days are devoted to Goddess Saraswathi.

Golu:

There is always a tinge of happiness and festivity in the air before Navaratri starts. When we were children, we were very excited that our exams were over and we could celebrate the festival more peacefully and happily now! In Tamil Nadu, most homes who were celebrating ‘Navaratri’ had beautiful ‘golus’. A ‘golu’ is a collection of dolls on padis or steps. The steps had to be in odd number format. The steps were covered with a fabric and the dolls were placed on it. We can either make our own steps or you can get the ‘Golu stand’ from the store right away(which are foldable)

The ‘golu’ had dolls from the Hindu mythology and you can see various stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata depicted by the the dolls. The top most steps had idols of Gods and the ‘kalasham’ ( a jar with coconut and mango leaves) The lower steps have dolls depicting everyday life, weddings, bride and groom, kitchen play set and more. Seeing the ‘golu’ in different houses is always a delight!

While we never had a golu in our house, we used to have fun ‘golu hopping’ when we were young.

Thanks Suhasini for the image!

Golu hopping:

The most exciting part of the Navratri has to be the ‘golu’ hopping. We are always invited to a multitude of houses and little girls are dressed in beautiful pattu pavadai and make the house more happy with their giggles and laughs! They are encouraged to sing a nice song and the shy and the introverted girls soon croon a devotional song here and there!

Once the singing is over, prasadam mostly consisting of ‘sundal'(lentil) is distributed to all those who come home. The guests are then given vethalai, paku, mirror, comb as parting gifts.

Saraswathi Pooja/Ayudha Pooja and Vijayadasami:

The ninth day of Navaratri is celebrated as ‘Saraswathi Pooja’. On this day, the Goddess of learning, Goddess Saraswathi is worshipped. Goddess Saraswathi is decorated and we keep all our textbooks and notebooks from school/college/work before her. We keep sandalwood paste thilak and kumkum thilak on the books hoping the Goddess blesses us with abundant knowledge!

We were also instructed not to touch the books or open the books for a day at least (and we used to be very happy then – that we did not have to study for that day!! :))

‘Ayudha Puja’ is also celebrated on the day of ‘Saraswathi Puja’. We celebrate all the instruments in the house by first cleaning them and then applying ‘thilak’ to all appliances in the house like TV, refrigerator, car, bike and even the doors.

Thanks to Asha madini and anna for the picture!

Vijayadasami:

The 10th day after Navaratri is ‘Vijayadasami’. In Tamil Nadu, Vijayadasami is an auspicious day to start new activities. I remember I started to learn Bharatnatyam on a Vijayadasami day many,many years ago. Young children are encouraged to start any new pursuits on this day as it is supposed to be more successful that way.

After Vijayadasami is over, the dolls are carefully packed and put to sleep in their boxes. They will be refreshed again for the next Navaratri!

I hope you had fun celebrating Navaratri virtually through my words! This year, COVID playing truant, has kept most festivities under control. I hope the next year, we can celebrate ‘Golu’ with all gaiety and happiness!!

Stay tuned for more posts from my friends Lavanya, Kanika and Suhasini this Navaratri!

Musings

September 11,2001

On that day,we were in Long Island, NY,US which is 45 miles east of New York City. My son was hardly a month old and I was busy learning to be a new mother to a newborn baby. We were busy trying to decipher him along with my parents!! πŸ™‚ (who had come to visit us in the US)

It was close to 9 a.m. in the morning and my dad was watching television and there were disturbing scenes on the television. We didn’t understand what it was first and neither did anybody or any of the news channels in the US. It was about some commotion in New York City which was only an hour’s drive away from us. Initially, we thought a building was burning down and turned to do our chores.

Only after a while did we we realize it was one of the Twin Towers which was burning. We had visited the Twin Towers just a year back and could recognize the place immediately. The news channels were also flashing the news that the Twin Towers had caught fire.

Before, I write any further, I have to write about the Twin Towers.

Twin Towers:

The Twin Towers were New York City’s pride. The Twin Towers of New York city were part of seven buildings of the World Trade Center and they were located in the Financial district of Lower Manhattan. Each tower had 110 floors and they were the tallest buildings in their time. More than 430 companies were housed there and as many 50,000 people went to work there everyday. Still many more came to visit. The Twin Towers were subjected to many attacks during their lifetime and many of them had failed(till then)

As we sat there watching the burning, we thought that the fire engines will be called and the fire will be put out sooner or later.

Just half an hour later, even as the first tower was burning, we were horrified to see an airliner go straight into the second tower of the World Trade Center with amazing accuracy and precision. It dawned loud and clear that this was no normal burning and nor was it a fire without serious reasons. Now both the Towers were ablaze and everything was being tried to rescue those who were trapped.

The fires in the two Towers were raging and we still thought that the fires would be put out soon. There was widespread confusion in New York City and ambulances and medical/state and federal workers were racing to help anyone and everyone.

There were many who were jumping off the floors of the towers in panic and despair.

The Fall:

After an hour of burning, at around 10:00 a.m., and with all television channels glued on it, we were shocked to see Tower 1 collapse completely and be reduced to total dust and rubble in a matter of minutes. After seeing tower 1 collapse, we knew and dreaded what was coming up next.

And at around 10:30 a.m., the inevitable happened and Tower 2 collapsed too…again in a matter of minutes!!

The Twin Towers collapse generated a lot of toxic dust and confusion for all who came to work/lived in New York City and New Jersey. It was then, that we knew life had changed for all and it would never be the same again.

According to Wikipedia:

  • The people caught above the 80th floor of Tower 1 and 60th floor of Tower 2 were killed instantly or were caught without any rescue being possible
  • at least 200 people jumped to their deaths mostly from the higher floors
  • helicopter rescue mission was not possible since no plan existed for the same
  • 2996 people lost their lives
  • more than 6000 people were injured
  • more than 90 countries lost their citizens in the Twin Towers collapse
  • Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., an investment bank on the 101st–105th floors of the North Tower, lost 658 employees more than any other organization
  • New York City lost many brave fire fighters and police officers
  • Many other buildings around the Twin Towers were also damaged
  • Almost 18,000 people are supposed to have suffered from the toxic dust that was generated
  • The last fires from September 11,2001 were extinguished finally by December 2001

New York City has clawed its way back and that is supposed to be New York’s fighting spirit. It is 19 years since the man made tragedy happened, but it still lingers in my heart hoping such man made disasters never happen again…

Book, Review

Book review: Itsy Bitsy Spyder by Apeksha Rao

Title: Itsy Bitsy Spyder

Author: Apeksha Rao

Number of pages in the book: 60

About the book: The book totally has five main characters out of which three are women. The relationship between a mother and a teenage daughter is a see-saw battle in most homes. When the daughter tries to choose an entirely different career than what her parents want her to do, it leads to greater misunderstandings and war of words and that is what this book is about.

My thoughts on the book: This book is very well written by debuntante author, Apeksha Rao. Having a teenage daughter at home, I could understand some of the conversations perfectly πŸ™‚ The author seems to have good knowledge about spying and weapons and that shows in her authority when writing about the same.

I liked the fact that the mother character was an extremely powerful character and I also liked the way the daughter was groomed into her parents career path right from a young age…(she knew how to hack into a account when she was twelve(wow! :)))

Will the daughter choose the career of her choice or will she be forced to take up an alien career? Waiting for the next book to find my answer! πŸ™‚

You can buy this book on Amazon from this link.

Family, India, Musings

Indian Matchmaking

The show ‘Indian Matchmaking’ on Netflix is all about India’s famed arranged marriages and how it works. My Twitter TL and all my social media feeds are talking about this and I also had to jump in and give my thoughts too!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

I had already blogged about this unique way of getting married a while back(which is available in my e-book now)

With lockdown, no maid and too much work all around me…what do I do? Binge watch this series on Netflix πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

No, this is not a spoiler post or anything to do with each and every episode featured but my thoughts on the whole series:

  1. If you haven’t heard at all, this is the story of an Indian match maker who is trying to find a suitable match for Indians in India and US
  2. Depending on your age, you will either be hooked onto it and binge watch to finish it! πŸ™‚ …or you couldn’t care much… πŸ˜‰
  3. Nothing has changed in the match making scene in India and now Indian-Americans in the US are involved in this drama too(and I have been married for long time now – so I have also gone through the whole drama πŸ™‚ :))
  4. If at all anything, Indian marriages are more pompous now(more gold flows now and there are pre-wedding photo shoots, and more and more photo shoots, I heard)
  5. Requirements for a “fair, good looking bride” still seem to be in the trend(I cant imagine using the word “fair” in US, but in India the word “fair” is liberally used in the marriage scene)
  6. Interestingly, Indians in the US are also using Indian matchmakers to find their life partners this way! (why? :))
  7. First generation Indians in US were just happy that they are in the US
  8. Second generation Indians definitely have different issues as far as settling down is concerned
  9. If women are super successful and completely financially independent, do they find it very hard to get married? I don’t know – that is the vibe I got…
  10. I heard this series made many people cringe, but I thought it was a pretty realistic representation
  11. But match making in the Indian scene is a tough job as the entire family is involved and everybody has something to say!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

What did you think? Did you care to watch it?

Did you like it or did you just freeze watching it? πŸ™‚

Musings

What 8 years of writing has taught me…

I have been writing for exactly 8 years professionally and these are some of my learnings over the years…I started writing strictly technical Java and Information security concepts for about 2-3 years and then, moved onto personal writings over the years.

  1. Writing is hard work – yes, you read that right…it is real hard work..whether it is fiction or non-fiction, writing in today’s SEO world is sheer hard work. I could have never imagined that a good piece of writing will require so much effort, but it does.
  2. There are some writers who can write quickly and with ease, but all will definitely need a plan.
  3. Different people will have a different take on your writing!! (this was the most interesting realization for me!! :)) The bottom line in writing is if you are understood then, you have done a good job!! πŸ™‚
  4. The most important part of a blog post or any writing is first choosing the perfect TOPIC. While we can write on anything in the world, it is the choice of topic that will allow the author to give their best and the reader to enjoy it!
  5. For any type of writing ,the ‘flow’ has to be good and in today’s SEO world, the keywords and other things have to be well rounded too(ugh, the part I hate the most! :()
  6. Writing needs a good ‘Eureka’ moment…when idea strikes, better to pen it right away!
  7. My technical writings are actually much easier to write than my non-technical ones!! πŸ™‚ All I have to do is to have a good grasp of the concept. And for the topics that I do not know, I do have to research a lot on the topic and write.
  8. But, it is obviously my non-technical ones that are easier to understand and which get more views!! πŸ™‚
  9. I have never suffered from ‘Writer’s block’ but I do struggle with writing when the circumstances are not right!! πŸ™‚
  10. Interestingly, I can only write about topics that I am truly passionate and interested in(maybe all writers do this – I am not sure) For all the posts and e-books that I have written the past 8 years, I can confidently say I have written all of them only because I truly believed in them.
  11. In spite of editing and re-editing and re-editing, not all of my posts and writings come perfect. Of course, all of us are entitled to a bad hair day, right? πŸ™‚

What do you think about writing? Is it as easy as it sounds?

Read all my technical posts at: http://blogtech.online

Read all my personal posts here: https://jayanthiweb.wordpress.com

Family

Teenage Cryptography!

I have been studying about the various forms of ‘Cryptography’ in my Information security pursuits in the past 10 years, but there is another form of cryptography that envelops my world currently!

It is teenage cryptography and it is totally new to me and has no rules and no regulations! πŸ™‚ Normally, cryptography has concepts such as ‘key’ and ‘algorithm’. But this one does not have any ‘key’ or ‘algorithm’!! πŸ™‚ It just makes use of your inherent cryptographic skills to crack it…

When I am chatting, most from my generation like to type things neatly and properly so that the other person can understand perfectly well! The maximum I put is a ‘OMG’ and the various emojis..in my chats!! πŸ˜‰ (really!!) .I don’t even type a ‘LOL’!! (lol!! :)) Now, my teenage daughter just types away and I have a hard time figuring out what she is typing:

Some of them go like this:

nvm

lol

kk

srsly

nm

ikr

plz

y

hv

gtg

hafta

ttyl

thx

dat

xD

idk

idc

wyd

Conversations might go like this:

“Ma bad…I really gtg”!! πŸ™‚

“Srsly, she said dat?” πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

“KK…”

“idk and idc”!!

“wyd?”

“nvm….xD” πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Now, many from my generation might definitely understand this but I am one among the few who is learning the ropes of this new cryptography! What do you think? Was it easy to understand the above code or did you have tough time cracking the code? πŸ™‚

India, Musings

My Thoughts, My Way!

My new e-book on Amazon is here! πŸ™‚ Do read the book and drop a review…

Here are some reviews for my book:

I enjoyed reading the book majorly due to the thought provoking ideas Which also had me clinched to it throughout. ….

After reading this book, I must say that I have enjoyed reading the author’s thoughts. I got to know about America, why Tamilians have no last names, and that there are more people who can’t decide between an Idly or a Dosa :D. My recommendation for everyone is to dive deep in these thoughts with the author’s creation that is β€œMy Thoughts My Way”

– RightPurchasing(http://www.rightpurchasing.com/my-thoughts-my-way/)

…..this is a personal account of life experiences that the Author has shared with the readers. She had been to the US for fourteen years and gives a first hand account as to how life slowly changes around us and in many places she has compared the life in both the countriesΒ Β 

Her thoughts are very simple yet strike a chord because of the relevance of the topic. For ex topics like the debate between ICSE & CBSE or start ups in India or the bond between mother,daughter, father and son might seem very normal and trivial. Β But I really enjoyed seeing it through the eyes of the Author.Β 

– Chinmayee (https://chinmayeecreations.wordpress.com/2020/06/22/book-review-13-my-thoughts-my-way/)

Looking forward to great reviews!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

college, exams, IIT, India

Ist year at IIT Roorkee

And just like that the first year at IIT Roorkee is over. For those of you who don’t know me might think I am studying at IIT, Roorkee( I wish, I was though πŸ™‚ :)) … but that is not the case, it is my son who is doing his B.Tech at IIT Roorkee!!

It has been quite an amazing ride to be a parent and watch your child compete and clear one of the most toughest competitive exams in India! It was just 1 year back that we heard the news that he had cleared the JEE advanced and we were busy selecting the college after various rounds. We finally locked our college selection at the 3rd round with IIT, Roorkee(though if we had waited for a few more rounds, he might have got into IIT, Delhi which is ranked higher)

IIT, Roorkee:

I have never lived above the latitude of Mumbai in India and the son had never moved anywhere apart from our beautiful southern states in India. We were curious about the new North Indian adventure and how life would treat us/him.

Roorkee is a small and simple town(from my first impression) located about 3 hours from Dehradun. As I have already written in an earlier post, IIT, Roorkee is one of the oldest educational institutions in India. Being an old institution, guarantees that everything is settled and everything is in its place. Professors know how to conduct classes, they know the student mindset very well and most of the things move like clock work. Life as with any undergraduate course work is hectic and students are always kept on their toes.

We initially thought crossing the geographical distance from Bangalore to Roorkee was painful. We didn’t know the correct path to arrive at Roorkee – but who is a better teacher than experience, right? After 2 or 3 times of travelling, we knew the correct flight/train/bus to take from our origin to destination.

Academics:

Now, like I have already said those IIT kids are total “brain boxes”. The sheer intelligence of kids(can I call them “kids” at 18 or 19 years of age? :)) blows you away. If we think we are smart in an IIT, there is always somebody smarter than us!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ The Computer Science kids in IITs are just mind bogglingly brilliant .. there is no doubt there(of course, smart kids doesn’t mean immune to the disasters of life!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Of course, with that kind of immense competition also comes stress. To handle that kind of stress and increasing number of suicides in IITs, IIT, Roorkee has come up with its own “Wellness center”. The first year in college is always a tough time for kids and parents to adjust. It is the first time that kids are leaving their nest and it is the first time that parents are letting go.

IInd semester:

Just as we were warming up to Roorkee and were happy to see the son getting settled in his second semester, the pandemic struck! 😦 Luckily, the son was home by then- but the question now for colleges in India was how to complete the second semester. Online mode of education was tried but it was difficult to achieve it completely since students in IITs are from remote corners of India where basic power and Internet problems persist.

Even as it looked( and it still does) more and more bleak for colleges in India to reopen due to the pandemic, it was finally decided to wrap up the current semester through various grading means. The semester has finally been completed and first year at IIT, Roorkee for the son is done! πŸ™‚ (it was quite a bummer that it couldn’t be completed in the traditional way, but we have to have to bow down to the pandemic rules, right?)

Some tidbits about IITs:

  1. There are many economically challenged children who make use of the education at IIT and that is always heartening to see
  2. In IIT, Roorkee, all students get a single room from the second year
  3. Some students get a single room in the first year too
  4. Many students have their own YouTube channel which flourishes
  5. Many write technically awesome content on ‘Medium’ and more
  6. And many students do feel the academic pressure in IITs and will get lower scores
  7. And unlike private colleges, we have to clean our room on our own! There are no maids to sweep and dust our room! πŸ™‚

Here’s to looking forward to a better 2020!! πŸ™‚

Note: All these are a mother’s perception alone – a child/students’s perception might be different…

Food, India, Musings

How do you manage?

She was set to cook for the day. As usual, the same thoughts were running through her head. What will she make for breakfast, lunch and dinner today? As with most women and mothers, it was the same perplexing question everyday and it was the same puzzle every morning. If she didn’t have the mind map for the food menu for the upcoming week.. it was a much more exhausting time in the kitchen.

What to cook? What to cook? was the thought that was constantly running through her head again that morning too.

She was amazed by the gazillions of drool worthy Instagram food pics and YouTube videos but could never make one such video or post! She was unfortunately one of the few people, who could never cook with that kind of passion or skill. She was amazed at the whole world’s culinary skills too. Her idea of kitchen was to be in and out of the kitchen ASAP!!

Kitchen shortcuts:

Being in the US for a long time taught her a lot of kitchen hacks. For all the glamour of staying in the US, there was/is no maid and no cook in the US – only machines and kitchen hacks rescued her.

Anything that was a paste or powder was welcomed by her!! :)(call it lazy or taking shortcuts, that is the way she was!! :))

For Tamarind rice – get the powder or paste

For Pasta sauce – get the sauce from store

For all the variety of biriyanis – just use the store bought biriyani powder

For garam masala and other powders – don’t go nuts making them all at home – just use the store bought ones!! πŸ™‚

Ginger garlic paste – just buy from store

Small onions are supposed to add an awesome taste to South Indian dishes. But peeling them and dicing them was another work altogether. Her idea of working with the cumbersome products such as small onions was to avoid them altogether and stick with big onions entirely!! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ ( and hers was quite an understanding family except for one member whom she had to cajole every now and then!! :))

Now, being from a Tamil family(a state in South India) there was always one magic ingredient that was needed in everyday cooking. Families from South India couldn’t imagine cooking without this lovely ingredient. Most families except for hers used this produce lavishly in their everyday cooking!! πŸ™‚ And most in South India cannot bear to think of any shortcuts with this produce either – it had to be extracted from scratch and used. Chutneys, gravies and almost every dish on the table needed this product.

What was this magical ingredient, you may wonder or some of you may have guessed it as well… but of course, it is the ever trending COCONUT!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

COCONUT:

Families, in South India go through an average of 3-4 coconuts per week and this is just an average…many families may consume more!! Now, coconut breaking and scraping is not very easy for the amateur. With time, one acquires the skill to do it fast and with finesse. It is definitely quite a ritual for most families from Southern states to start the day with breaking and scraping the coconut. It then makes its way into different dishes to create an absolutely magical concoction!! πŸ™‚

Most families cannot even think of a dish without this ingredient. Now, how does the lady in our story manage the star ingredient in her house? πŸ™‚ It is just simple – she avoids it altogether for as long as possible and thinks of innovative ways to manage the kitchen without it!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

She had enough cooking ideas which enabled her to procure the coconut for only one day a week!! (can her Tamilian friends imagine that?!! :)) She had always been asked how she manages without the magical coconut in everyday cooking and she would only respond with a smile…and rattle off her secret recipes without involving coconut πŸ™‚ – all the rice varieties, pasta, noodles, tomato chutney, sambhar and more. Believe me, there are plenty of recipes in the South Indian domain that do not need the humble coconut!! πŸ™‚

So, what do you think? How many coconuts do you need on an average per week? Can you manage without it? Can you give some more kitchen hacks for this lady to reduce her time in the kitchen so that she can write more? πŸ™‚

Β Culnilarly yours πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚