Family, India, Musings

Miss Cool! :)

You know about Captain Cool, but have you heard about Miss Cool? πŸ™‚ Well, then you have to visit my home to see her…she is my lovely daughter who got 98% in her 10th grade results which were declared on Sunday! πŸ™‚

The pandemic enveloped the world 2 1/2 years ago when she was in 8th grade. Little did we know, the pandemic would keep us all guessing and keeping us on our toes about what would happen next.

As 2020 gave way to 2021 and then to 2022, we were still wondering the same thing:

When will school be able to open safely offline? Will the higher grades be asked to come to school first? Will the vaccines be available to the kids? Will the kids be able to take their vaccine?

Eighth grade went, ninth grade came and went and tenth grade was also here! But school was still online! Kids had to still study with a laptop and she adjusted beautifully. If I had to do so many online classes, I would have surely slept through them all! πŸ™‚ I personally don’t know how she did it and understood the various Math and Science concepts through online learning. There were no physical interactions with her friends – it was only online chats, online parties, online games and more! But I did not see her grumble one bit…she was just the usual laughing and goofy person! πŸ™‚

By middle of 2021 though, the two prominent Indian boards decided to conduct two semester exams instead of the traditional one board exam. Even though students did online schooling, they had to do two offline exams!

My cool miss of course made it look so effortless! πŸ™‚ She had two bouts of serious sickness but somehow she was always smiling, playing and studying through it all.

These are her reactions for different things:

One board exam – okay – I will do it

Two board exams – okay – I will do it

Portions cut – ok – not a problem

Sit at home all day with rest of family getting stressed – ok – not a problem! πŸ™‚

Of course, I was always behind her – telling her to study, but she had this sweet and smiling way of doing things!

She also had an in-house tutor at hand(;) – my son) who could clear her most difficult questions and queries about the various subjects. She will sit with her books, get distracted with her social media memes and platforms, get yelled at by me and go about doing her work in a totally nonchalant way(ha, ha)

My teacher:

All teens sit on Instagram with different handles and profile pictures, so that their parents cannot guess who they are! πŸ™‚ My Miss Cool was no different and I was behind her on Instagram as well to see what she was doing! She taught me various teeny-bopper things on Insta and I just admired kids and their creativity!

She also taught me different words and their meanings and I just blinked trying to understand it! πŸ™‚ These are some of her words:

“Amma, this person is so suss” (meaning – “This person is so suspicious”)

“Amma – Facebook is for old people”(ha,ha)

“K-pop is the genre and BTS is the band name”(me – face palming! :))

“Amma – you are always stressed” (Gosh, I was never stressed before I had kids!! ;))

“Amma – you are helicoptering me too much” (ha, ha – we mothers have to do it – don’t we? ;))

Miss Cool could also easily carry ethnic clothes without any squirming and grumbling. She was just as comfortable in shorts as in half-saree! πŸ™‚

She is also my first cyber security student who follows my cyber security teachings diligently. She never shows her face anywhere and is prudent in her social media postings(I hope! :)) She reads most of my tech and personal posts and gives her reviews critically! πŸ™‚ She has her own blog too and is a “trying poet”!! πŸ™‚

The only place when Madam Cool becomes Madam hot is if food is not to her like, composition and texture!! πŸ˜‰ Apart from that, all is cool!! πŸ™‚

My dear daughter, I hope you stay cool all your life and accomplish all the things that you want to do ! Good luck for 11th grade and beyond!

Lots of love and cheer,

Amma, Daddy and Anna!

Book review, Travel, Travel, Michigan, US

Book Review: The Indian Retirees guide to road trips in the USA

Title: The Indian Retirees guide to road trips in the USA

Author: Brinda Vijay

About the book: The author has covered numerous destinations in the US and has described them vividly with pictures and words. Having lived in the US from 1996-2010, I loved reading this book and looking back on fond memories. I was almost travelling with her from East coast of the US to the West coast of US and having a good time! πŸ™‚ I have visited most places along the East Coast of US from New York City to Mackinac Island in Michigan and this book made me go back 15 years! πŸ™‚ These places are a delight to visit and I hope everybody gets a chance to visit them some time.

I have not visited the West Coast of US as much and it was fun to read about the destinations there. It was exciting to read about the Bonneville salt flats, rodeo, skiing and the miraculous stairway at Sante Fe, New Mexico. I hope to catch all these destinations when I visit US sometime! πŸ™‚

I liked the fact that Brinda has provided good Indian restaurants at all the places that she has visited. It was also nice to read about why retirees should travel. “Travel broadens the horizons” is my motto and I totally agree with her reasons. I also liked the fact that there is a ‘Table of Contents’ hyperlink given at the bottom of many pages, so that the reader can easily navigate to another chapter.

A great book that is tempting me to visit the US again! πŸ™‚

You can download Brinda’s book from this link:

https://www.theblogchatter.com/download/the-indian-retirees-guide-to-road-trips-in-the-usa-by-brinda-vijay

You can also download my book from this link:

https://www.theblogchatter.com/download/memories-of-my-father-by-jayanthi-manikandan

Book review

Book review: Tales for Wise Living

Title: Tales for Wise Living

Author: Dr.V.Sowmyanarayanan

About the Author: Dr.V.Sowmyanarayanan is a Professor by profession, a blogger and also a mridangam artist, painter, and a music lover. He shares his works regularly through his blog titled β€œGOCARAM” means β€œperception.” He is a multi-linguist and his thorough knowledge and interest in ancient scriptures, enabled him to work upon an editorial assignments. He does programmes such as talks, quiz, stories etc., in All India Radio, Chennai to promote & propagate languages like Sanskrit & Hindi.

About the book: Ancient Sanskrit Literature is a treasure trove of information and I myself have been enamoured by it. Panchatantra and Hithopadesa are two popular Sanskrit works that are rich in values. While Panchatantra was supposedly written by Sri Vishnu Sarma, Hithopadesa was written by Narayana Pandita. ‘Tales of Wise Living’ translates these ancient works into simple readable format for the users.

‘Tales for Wise Living’ contains 28 little stories based on Panchatantra, Hithopadesa, Maha Bharatha, Markandeya Puraana. ‘Tales for Wise Living’ contains seventeen stories from the Panchathanthra, six from the Hithopadesa, four from the Maha Bharatha and one from the Markandeya Puraana.

It is quite interesting but I have read all of them before and enjoyed them all. Dr. Sowmyanarayanan simplifies all the tales and makes it easy to read. While I have read the translated works earlier, it was nice to see the moral of each story in Sanskrit written below each story as well. The simple values that these tales pass on to current and future generations is really wonderful. Some of the simple tales are ‘Hare and Lion’, ‘Tiger and Greedy Man’, ‘Wisdom is a boon’ and more.

‘Tales for Wise Living’ is a must read for this generation and re-read for older generation which will take them back in time!

Do download the book for free from this link:

https://www.theblogchatter.com/download/tales-for-wise-living-by-dr-v-sowmyanarayanan

You can also download my book from this link:

https://www.theblogchatter.com/download/memories-of-my-father-by-jayanthi-manikandan

exams, Family, India

My girl!

These are not easy times…neither me, your father or brother have gone through such times at your age! The pandemic has made sure that you have not seen your school for the past 2 years and you have not seen your school friends in person for the past 2 years as well! There have been no in-person birthday parties, no sports day, no annual day, less in-person exams, no school bus rides, no bus gossips and no in-person fights… πŸ˜‰ There have been a lot of “no”, “no” and more “no” and “virtual”, “virtual” and “virtual” the past 2 years…..

But I love the way all of you children have taken the pandemic in your stride. You have adapted to virtual classes, virtual birthday parties, virtual art classes, online exams and virtual meetups. You have been in touch with everyone and have a gala time even though virtually! I love you all the more for this!! πŸ™‚

The ICSE boards suddenly decided to change the pattern of exam to two semesters at the last minute and you all adapted very well. All along, ICSE was only focused on “keywords” and now, MCQs popped up at the last minute. All the children adjusted very well and as parents we could only sit in awe and admire the children for their adjustment!

Today the 10th grade ICSE Semester 1 results were declared and I just love your scores. Congratulations for achieving such awesome marks(even though you could have done a tad bit better!! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ (After all, I am an Indian mother and I have to expect the perfect scores in any exam, don’t I? πŸ˜‰ ;))

You have undergone a lot more this academic year in addition to the pandemic. You had a nasty bout of physical sickness in October that had to get you hospitalized for 2 days. You sailed through it all with your giggly and joyful self(in sharp contrast to your brother! ;)) You appeared for Grade 10 semester 1 physical exams and had a good time in November and December(or did I have good time dropping you and picking you from school? πŸ˜‰ ;))

At 5 ft 3 inches you are the shortest in a family of tallies!! πŸ™‚ Yet, you don’t care about that either and are just happy with yourself!! πŸ™‚ You have a sweet mind of your own and we have our regular mother – daughter fights!! πŸ™‚ We always agree to disagree and have never ending dramas and arguments. If there is one person who never agrees with me in the house – it has to be you!! πŸ™‚ Yet, it is never in a bad taste and I am always surprised how the youngest person in the house never agrees with me… πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚

It is also always amusing that you are my sharpest food critic as well! You have your own dressing sense and we both can never agree on clothing attire for you. We have been having attire battles from the time you were in grade 2!! πŸ™‚

You have been teaching me the meaning of acronyms such as “smh”, “idrk”, “yeet” and more…:) sometimes, I feel like I am in a Greek land !! πŸ™‚

Yet, you are one of two people who follow my InfoSec teachings diligently. You do not put your picture anywhere, use a safe and private browser and do not get carried away by social media sharing ! πŸ™‚ You know all the nitty gritty details about OTP, Single Sign on, and other basic InfoSec concepts. You also know that CISSP is a leading InfoSec certification! πŸ™‚ You dreamt of becoming a white hat hacker though that might have changed by now.

Whatever, you wish to be -be,my Girl! πŸ™‚ The world is your oyster!! And I will always be there for you!! πŸ™‚

Now, let us get started for Semester 2 exams of Grade 10!! πŸ˜‰

Love,

Amma, Daddy and Anna!

Family, Humor

Wordle

Have you heard about the new Word game ‘Wordle’ that is supposedly creating ripples around the Internet?

Welcome to yet another addiction just as the third wave looms large! (face palm!)

For the uninitiated – what is ‘Wordle’?

It is the latest game that is rocking the Internet. You can find the game at:

https://www.powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle/

It is a one player game wherein the player gets six tries to guess the five letter ‘WORD OF THE DAY

May be the most curious part about the game when I saw it for the first time for me was the yellow, black and green tiles and the they were arranged. It seemed to be some sort of cryptographic algorithm!! πŸ™‚ Why were they arranged that way and what was the reason behind their colors was my first thought….if you are as curious as me, read on to know more…:)

This is how the game is played:

  1. The player has to guess the five letter ‘WORD OF THE DAY’
  2. You get six tries to guess the word
  3. Once the player guesses the WORD OF THE DAY correctly, the tiles turn all green! πŸ™‚

3. You can type a word and if any of the alphabets typed is present in the ‘WORD OF THE DAY’, it will turn yellow similar to the picture below:

As an example in the above case, the alphabets ‘A’ and ‘B’ are present in the ‘WORD OF THE DAY’ but in different positions, so the tiles turn yellow….so the player goes for a second guess…

4. In the second guess, if the player types an alphabet and if it is present at the exact same position as the ‘WORD OF THE DAY’, it turns green…

As an example, the alphabet ‘B’ appears in the exact same place as in the original ‘WORD OF THE DAY’, hence the tile turns green…

The player continues to play the game and guess the 5 letter WORD OF THE DAY by making use of the yellow and green tile clues… till all the tiles turn green….

Once all the tiles turn green within the six tries, the player has guessed the ‘WORD OF THE DAY and is a winner!! πŸ™‚ The result will look like the one given below:

Can you understand this result? In order to understand it, you have to play it…:) come on and click the link below:

https://www.powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle

The primary advantage of playing Wordle is you will definitely improve your English vocabulary!! πŸ™‚

Points to note:

Everyone gets the same WORD OF THE DAY

The alphabet in the green tile can be repeated in the WORD OF THE DAY

You can play it on multiple devices to involve more people

You can share it on various social media platforms and have more fun with family and friends! πŸ™‚

Is it addictive?

I am not sure how addictive it is, but let’s just say that I am waiting for the next Wordle… πŸ™‚

college, IIT, India, Musings

Should we feel proud of Indians being successful abroad?

From the day Parag Agarwal became the CEO of Twitter, my timeline has various thoughts on whether we should feel proud of Indians being successful abroad or not.

While, everybody was pouring their thoughts out on the same topic – I knew it was time for me to empty my thoughts on this too! πŸ™‚

I just had only one thought when Parag Agarwal was crowned CEO of Twitter – “PROUD”! πŸ™‚ Why?

Because:

  1. It is an ode to the highly criticized Indian education system and being super successful after getting through it (Parag Agarwal did his schooling, college education in India)
  2. It is an ode to our higher institutions of learning(IIT in this case, but most colleges in India are goo too)
  3. It is an ode to successfully transitioning to the US college system from the Indian college system(yes, almost everybody does it, but still doing it is a great deal)
  4. Getting ahead in one’s own country and one’s own organization and surviving all the office politics is hard enough and to do it in a foreign country is no easy job
  5. The fact is, that individuals from India are highly respected all around the world and I am really proud of that! πŸ™‚ After all, isn’t that the aim of all who are leaving India – to shine brightly in a foreign country such that the home country is proud?

What do you think? Isn’t it amazing that Indians are super successful abroad?

college, IIT, India

Do all IITians go abroad and should they go abroad?

Many a time, most of us would have heard of the disdainful retort for any IITian “You will leave the country and go abroad and use your talent there”!! We have all heard of the word “brain drain” and how India’s top rated and best talent go abroad in search of better educational and business opportunities. Is it really true? Do, all IITians really leave India at the stroke of midnight in their final year? And once they leave, do they never come back?

Well, to be frank, I have seen many, many IITians stay back in India and start many fine entrepreneurial ventures.

Without taking the pandemic years(when student aspirations had to be put on hold) into account , here are some interesting statistics about IITians:

  1. Only about 40% of IIT Gandhinagar graduates are supposed to have received an opportunity to study abroad or pursue an internship abroad in 2019(Source: https://www.livemint.com/education/news/iits-to-hold-entrance-exam-in-us-with-eye-on-students-faculty-1568704075085.html)
  2. In January 2017, fewer than 200 of the 10,000 of the IIT graduates went abroad (Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/indias-brain-gain-fewer-than-200-iit-grads-went-abroad-last-year/articleshow/56578855.cms)
  3. In the year 2016 -2017, only 4 percent of IIT students opted for positions outside India( Source: https://www.businesstoday.in/latest/story/reversing-trends-in-placements-fewer-iitians-opting-for-international-job-offers-156506-2019-01-09)
  4. According to IIT, Tirupati, Director, only 10% of the graduates want to go abroad for higher studies. This can be compared with 70% of IIT graduates going abroad in 1984 (Source: https://www.edexlive.com/people/2019/aug/15/less-iitans-are-opting-to-study-abroad-they-want-jobs-iit-tirupati-director-7472.html)

From the above statistics alone, it can be figured that many IITians are opting to stay back in India and pursue ventures within the country(of course, this is only a small research done by me)

So, why are not many IITians leaving the Indian shores?

Some of the reasons are listed below:

  1. ‘Entrepreneurship’ is the name of the game for youngsters in India today. Many IITians do know what they are going to do once they graduate from college. They may already have a business idea and get to work on it as soon as possible.
  1. Many IITs do foster and encourage students to start their own company and achieve their business goals. As an example, IIT Roorkee has an entrepreneurship cell which is open to students to start their business venture(https://www.ecelliitr.org/)
  2. We all know of many successful ventures started by IITians. Some of them are Ola, Zomato, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Razorpay, Dunzo and more
  3. Salaries within India are as good as in foreign countries(and after having been adjusted for cost of living factors)
  4. Many also think of pursuing a higher education within India (IIM)
  5. In addition many also pursue UPSC exams as well

These may just be a few factors why IITians do not think of going abroad(now, many will go abroad – not everybody stays back but the proportion of students staying back might have increased)

In spite of all these factors, should IITians and other graduates go abroad?

My thoughts on this:

I would definitely say it is good to experience life outside India to have a 360 degree life experience. Staying abroad for 14 years had definitely made me see things in a better perspective!

It is also good to experience the foreign education system(US/UK) and other work practices as well.

After all it is one life to live – might as well experience it all and live it well!! πŸ™‚

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!