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Tuning in to you

'The problem is I can't tell the difference between a deeply wise, intuitive nudge from the Universe and one of my own bone-headed ideas!'Sherlock would tell you that trusting your instincts is an elementary skill. I will tell you that he is right. How do I know (other than usually siding with wizards from London)? Because in the brief history of being me, there have been countless instances where impending dazzle or doom was predicted by that indescribable feeling near-about my gut (it is where information travels to after your brain has given up trying to make you listen). I have hence begun to trust and follow this clairvoyant traveler. But it isn’t always an easy trail.

For one, she (a politically correct instinct) can be awfully vague, especially if you don’t trust her. Last June, heading to the airport for a short trip prior to an eventual cross-country move, I experienced palpitations of the nature reserved for football managers staring at a scorecard zero at half time. The fluttering presented numerous grisly possibilities –  passports left at home (checked), visas not appropriate (checked & yet, God have mercy), cocaine inserted in our luggage by an insidious man stepping off from a formulaic film reel (may his airport coffee be poisoned by piss, more than it is for everyone). Failing to find any reason for fear, I entered the departure area after pulling out two heavy suitcases and loading them on the trolley. The instinct, much to her chagrin, had been shoved aside. Following the customary check-in line crawl, it was only when our turn came at the counter that she (that smug villain inside my head) had a hearty laugh. One of the suitcases, instead of being full of necessary items for our new home in the desert city, was instead a suitcase packed to the hilt with winter clothes. It had fortuitously been set in the same room as the traveling suitcases before it was meant to sleep in the store room until further weather notice. In all the rush and frenzied flutter, I had not bothered to glance at the suitcases being loaded onto the car. During the journey to the airport when we could have turned around, lady instinct had failed to point me in the direction of the suitcases, as she is often want to do, telling me simply that something was wrong or about to be, but wanting me to trust and follow her to the answer. (In case you’re wondering about my sweaty life in a sweater, you can exhale easy knowing that it all turned out okay thanks to crazy co-ordination and possibly reckless driving that brought us the right suitcase in time). Phew!

In addition to being imprecise, the first instinct also has a taste for the macabre. While she might go into an overdrive when you tap in to check if that boy giving you the eyes is any good, she can also (and has done for me on more than one occasion) drop hints on accidents waiting to happen or already occurring. These are the kind we most like to ignore, for their violent content, overriding them with admonitions on feeling ‘so negative’. Of course she will once again not tell you enough to necessarily save you from it, but will have the last word with an “I told you so.”

However, there is one consistent element to her behavior – she sends the right signals when you’ve cleared the snow from the driveway., i.e., when you have miraculously (or Buddhistically, yes, that’s a word starting now & I call trademark on it) built connections with your inner whatever-you-want-to-call-it (mine is Mary Anne, because frankly, I don’t know her yet). In reality, she is always standing outside the house, waiting to be called in for some tea (which apparently lays open the doors to intuition through the pineal gland or what Descartes considered to be ‘the seat of the soul’).

Trouble with all of this is the same as with everything else in life – it is at the end all up to you, putting everyone, rather unfortunately for you, outside the circle of blame (you can invite people over to the circle of influence though). Once we understand the relevance of cultivating intuitiveness, it can be quite akin to gardening, with all the time required to tend to it, time spent away from a gardening app on your smartphone. This is among the greatest services we can do for ourselves, quieting down enough every day to listen to our voice (not voices – that should be reserved for the therapist sessions). Every so often it will then show up interesting bits that make us who we are and answer some, if not all, of life’s questions that come with multiple choice conundrums – Yes, No, Who’s to Say?

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There is no pill for this annoying thing

There is an ad on radio where a woman is asking another how she ‘gets so much done’ in just 24 hours. The super mommy who wakes early, makes food, presentations and evening park visits, credits it all to a pill (not THE PILL meant to keep aforementioned tiny park visit companions at bay).

Since she’s on radio it’s no secret that she’s lying, about three things mainly. First, no pill (or coffee) can make you fill your day with perfectly timed tasks done easy. Second, there is no such thing as perfectly timed tasks. Third, it is never easy.

All that the average lot of us manage to achieve on most days is avoiding a car crash while looking like a car crash. But there are some ‘highly efficient’ individuals, who spoil it for everyone really, because they have one (awfully boring) habit that unfortunately seems to work. It is called (don’t hold your breath) a To-Do list, named so that when it’s over you can end the day with the Ta-Da jig. In recent months I have had the undesirable pleasure of putting it to practice. Now I’m one of those people who either will not enter the rink at all or will go all Karate Kid on it (with many a bludgeoned face to show for it). So in my third decade on earth when I finally seemed to have a handle on what I wanted to do in life (write for peanuts & vino), I decided to begin ‘managing’ my time down to the minute.

Caution: it does not look pretty. It’s more kangaroo on acid on a trampoline (because she forgets she doesn’t need a trampoline). Here’s what the homo sapiens version looks like – you open a shared excel sheet (because it’s easy, accessible on multiple devices anywhere, does not waste paper), list down every darn thing that you need to do every day, decorate it with deadlines (I would curve the life out of them if they weren’t dead already), say ‘done’ on the side when you’ve got it over with and just to make it a party out there (if you’re the kangaroo like me) plugin the start and end time on the dreary bits so you’re racing to get out of there quick.

No one is going to put me on the radio to sell this pill but honey it works for this mama (so far) and it could work for you too. You don’t have to complicate your life exactly as much as I have with this attempt at becoming the boss of me. To your aid have come the good folks who make apps to glue us to our phones even more than we already are. They’ve created a few apps for the list lusters, so why not have a go at Carrot (lists turned into games) or Wunderlist (it’s pretty and allows you to share things like grocery lists with your partner, because c’mon, supermarket scuffles ARE the sex in cohabitation).

What lists allow us to do is break down tasks into surmountable bits that aren’t half as scary when they’re written down and ticked off one by one instead of floating incessantly in our minds. It allows us to do what writer Anne Lamott mentions in her brilliant book ‘Bird by Bird’, “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

The biggest upside of the piecemeal approach to a day (other than the high of writing ‘done’ beside all tasks) is the patterns that appear over time, showing how you may be spending the majority of it in things that add little or nothing to your life (yes Facebook, I’m talking about you). More significantly, tracking your day can be the acknowledgement of one of life’s greatest truths – the only egalitarian treasure all humankind is born with and one we can enjoy until the end, is time (that is, when we can learn to hold down this Road Runner). Beep Beep.

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Rote Beete Suppe (Beet Root Soup)

It was 1975. Two Indian friends were visiting a common German friend in East Berlin, then capital of the German Democratic Republic. That friend’s parents had years ago left their Nazi occupied country and settled along the Polish-Ukraine border. She had found her way back to divided Germany. That evening she served them a pink, sour soup. It was something she’d learned from her mother.

It had enticed the taste buds of my Father-in-law, one of the visitors, so much that he learnt the recipe from her. Making it several times during his stay in the country, he eventually forgot all about it when he returned to India in the early 80s. That is, until recently, when the sight of Saure Sahne (sour cream), leftover from my mushroom soup experiment, brought back the unique flavour of the beetroot soup and he delighted us with blending it all together again.

The dish is a popular soup in Eastern Europe, finding its way into Poland and Germany, through people carrying stories and special recipes along as the settled in newer parts in the region, in the aftermath of the war. The elaborate version of this soup, with many vegetables and even meat, is referred to as borscht (in Russian) and by differing names as dialects change across borders. This is a red hot (or pink depending on how much sour cream you like in it) soup not only in its form but also in the debates surrounding its origin.

This dish has now travelled to me, sans borders and the limits names and places often impose on people, travelled like all good things do, free as stories from life should be. And now I’m sharing it with you.

Rote Beete Suppe (Beet Root Soup)

This recipe serves two.

Ingredients:

1 big bulb (or 2 medium or 3 small) of Beetroot

200 gm Saure Sahne (Sour Cream)

2 tsp Butter

Salt to taste

Method:

Peel, wash and clean the beetroot bulb. Chop it into small pieces, preferably squares.

In a grinder mix the chopped beet root and sour cream to make a paste.

In a pan heat 2 tsp butter, add a little salt to taste, add the beetroot & sour cream paste.

Stir for a minute and add water according to the consistency you want.

Once boiled, cool it.

Add Black pepper as per taste and coriander as garnish.