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Shobhaa De talks about risks and her pretty exhilarating life, An Excerpt

Shobhaa De’s writing exudes an empathy that has turned several of her books into life manuals for generations of Indians. Her keen wit spears and spares none, least of all herself.  Her book ‘Seventy and to hell with it’, she says is a gift to herself for entering into the seventh decade of life.
Here’s an excerpt from the book where she talks about risks and her experiences with them.
Here I am, looking back on seven decades of a life that has been pretty exhilarating. Yes, of course I have messed up. But even those mess-ups have taught me vital lessons—in survival, coping, collapsing, undoing, rejoicing. Most of these lessons have come from allowing myself to be open to everything life is throwing my way—good stuff, bad stuff, indifferent stuff. This is what I frequently tell my children when they are despairing. If you remain yourself and stay receptive to what’s happening around you, you will pickup signals that will provide most of the answers you seek.
Perhaps not instantly, but the answers will come.
When I was a teenager, I used to take every aspect of my life for granted, without questioning what was going on around me. In a way, this attitude protected me and spurred me on to take crazy chances, often with my life. I thought nothing of jumping in and out of rapidly moving local trains which I took to and from school. Of course, I was showing off my daredevilry, since there was always a crowd at Churchgate station. But those adrenaline-fuelled seconds when I tried to
make it inside the compartment without losing my footing gave me such a rush it made that lunatic risk very attractive. Today, I can ask myself, ‘What on earth were you thinking? Or proving?’ I still don’t have an answer that satisfies me. Perhaps I was testing myself. All I know is, danger and dangerous situations still attract me. I have never opted for ‘safe’ when there was ‘risky’ staring at me. It’s a personality trait, or a character flaw. God knows. Show me two scenarios, one that is controlled and the other that’s insane, and I’ll instinctively opt for the latter. This worries my husband and children, but deep within, even I know half of this is nothing more than posturing. Confronting fear is just a part of it.
I am in the process of identifying my biggest fears as I key this in. What do most human beings fear the most? I’d say it is loss. Loss of a loved one, loss of face, loss of security, loss of health, loss of identity, loss of mental and physical faculties. Loss of one’s own life. From this abbreviated list, I would say, for a wife and mother, there can be no greater loss than the loss of a child and spouse. Nothing prepares you for it. Nothing can. Sages advise us to start gearing ourselves up for such an eventuality from the time marriage vows are taken to that dreaded moment you are forced to come face-to-face with tragedy. Meditate, they tell you. Pray. Ask God to provide succour. Does any of this help you to deal with a wound that can never be healed? I don’t know. I hope I am never tested. But it is this fear of losing a beloved that is at the root of all other fears. As a child, you fear losing your parents. As a grown-up, you fear losing your child. Conquering this fundamental fear is what drives us to face other fears.
When I think of all those reckless stunts I performed in school and college (most of which were unknown to my trusting parents), did I stop to think what the repercussions would have been on so many lives had something terrible happened to me as I hung out of a fast train, tempting fate
every second day? I continued to ride racing bikes down crowded roads, clinging on to the handle of a public transport bus for additional speed. I crashed cars that didn’t belong to me when I was grossly underage, after persuading the children of the owners to steal the car keys. I lied about my adventures in local trains (ticketless travel being the more innocent one) to my mother, who believed I was at a school picnic when I was actually bunking school and loitering on distant beaches. What if any of these silly jaunts had backfired? Point is, they didn’t. I was fortunate.
Risk-taking is something I enjoy immensely. It comes naturally to me. I like stepping into the unknown and seeing where those steps take me. This is true whether it involves love and romance in my youth or professional choices later in life. My decisions were mainly impetuous (‘immature’ is how my father described them) and spontaneous. Where did this behaviour pattern come from? Certainly not from my home environment, which was conservative, conformist and solidly, comfortingly middle class. I appreciated anarchy and chaos far more than control and comfort. This troubled my parents a great deal, and I must have given them countless sleepless nights during those restless years when I couldn’t wait to get out into the big, wicked world, the one beyond my traditional Maharashtrian home, and taste the myriad exotic flavours waiting to consume me, in Turkey, Brazil, Japan, just about anywhere. But where was I stuck? At home!

6 Times Sister Nivedita had to Struggle Between her Heart and Mind

Margaret Noble arrived at India’s shores in the late nineteenth century, took the vows of a brahmacharini and devoted the rest of her life to the cause of India. She was enchanted by Swami Vivekananda but their vows of celibacy kept her from expressing her feelings for him. Regardless, she went on to worship him, making her heart and mind work in tandem.
Here are six times Sister Nivedita faced a struggle between her heart and mind.
Nivedita was filled with an overwhelming sense of devotion and love for Swami Vivekananda
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Nivedita’s love for her King, astonished many
For Sister Nivedita, Swami Vivekananda’s visit to London was a divine intervention
For Sister Nivedita, being close to her King was all that mattered
She felt guilty for ignoring her family but she couldn’t help it
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Going against her impulsive nature, Sister Nivedita vowed to practice the wisdom of restraint as advised by her dear Guru
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Tell us which aspect of Nivedita’s love for her King astonished you the most.

In Conversation with Pankaj Bhadouria

We recently spoke to Pankaj Bhadouria, the winner of MasterChef India Season 1. Pankaj has written two more cookery books, Barbie: I am a Chef and Chicken from My Kitchen.
Below are a few questions we asked her:
What was the very first dish that you cooked and for whom?
From what I remember, the first was probably breakfast for my Dad. The dish was nothing but toast, butter and tea with a rose on the tray. I must have been eight or nine years old at that time so the memory is very precious to me.
What is the best cooking related memory you have?
I think my best cooking related memory is when I was cooking for the finale at MasterChef. I was very calm and not under any pressure at all! I think that not only prevented me from making any mistakes but also reflected in the food that I created that day and helped me win.
Tell us the go-to spice mix in your kitchen.
That would be the Kadhai Masala! Be it with potatoes, chicken, paneer, cauliflower, stuffed paranthas – I use it almost everywhere!
Share with us a secret that you think helped you become the first MasterChef of India.
It is difficult to say…maybe a lot of homework that I’d done over the years aided by the fact that I could work well within limited time or perseverance and not giving up under pressure. Also I would pay a lot of attention to what comments my competitors would get from the judges and made it a point to not repeat those mistakes myself.
Are there more books coming from your kitchen?
Of course, there are! Just wait for what is next to come!

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Sister Nivedita

Margaret Noble, called Margot by her family and friends, came to India in 1898 inspired by Swami Vivekananda. She took the vows of celibacy and devoted the rest of her life to the cause of India. During her stay in India, she impressed many famous national figures and even influenced the ending of Rabindranath Tagore’s novel Gora.
Reba Som in her compelling biography of Sister Nivedita traces the development of Margaret from an Irishwoman into Sister Nivedita and finally into ‘Lok Mata’ or ‘People’s Mother’—a title bestowed on her by Tagore.
Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Sister Nivedita.
She lived up to her given name and devoted herself fully to the cause of India.
She wrote over 800 letters to her friends.
After her death, Josephine MacLeod decided to share Nivedita’s personal papers and letters with Lizelle Reymond for a definitive biography of Sister Nivedita in French, which was translated into English as The Dedicated: A Biography of Nivedita (1953).
She took him under her wing, reassured him in moments of despair, invited financial assistance for his work and constantly edited and helped in the writing of his manuscripts.
She wished to learn the culture of faraway India so she could contribute towards the education of women in the light of their own civilizational values.
Do you know more such facts about Sister Nivedita? Share with us.

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