Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bullying? Is there a solution to all the despicable stuff that is happening in schools?

For the life of me I do not understand this concept of bullying in USA. I was born and raised in India, in the southern most state of Tamil Nadu. We have had this issue of bullying in colleges once upon a time, and when matters got worse people have taken their lives- freshers who just moved from school to college with totally different surroundings around 17-19 years of age. And then there was a highly publicized case of a life tragically lost, Sarika Shah, when some strangers tried to tease her and her friends, with one even triggering another until a life was lost. (http://www.hindu.com/2008/03/15/stories/2008031553880400.htm) I do not want to go into all facts of the case, or what happened in the court case that followed. However, with that one case came a heavy handed court and police declaration that all women be left alone in colleges and a term called "eve-teasing" became prevalent. Any female student who felt harassed by her seniors/any other college members could just write a petition against the person(s) who was harassing and put it in a dropbox that became mandatory in every women's college. The college authorities would have to take strict action - most often leading to suspension/dismissal of the perpetrator(s). Teasing of all forms was banned in colleges. To some extent this lowered the incidents and the fear for all freshers joining college.
        Now, the above case mentioned college. But, how about school? As far as I can remember, there is no teasing/bullying in schools. In fact, in our system, the class students do not move from one class to another every hour. It is the teachers who move. If you are in the 8th grade, you are all in the class where other 8th graders are. Every hour, the teachers - maths, physics, language, social science - come to the class. Only during physical education class does the entire class move out to the ground. Even then we would not have dozens of other classes outside. If during this hour 8th had the Physical education, the next hour it would be some other grade having PE a class far away from your class. You are supposed to walk to the PE in line and walk back to your class in line.  There was no concept of walking in groups, or your cliques at any point of time except during break hours. During class you have no time to talk, much less bully one another. Before a teacher is due to leave the classroom, the next teacher is out waiting by the door most of the time. We have a system where we do not talk back to our teachers. If a teacher were to say something, we "obeyed" it. Irrespective of whether we liked it or not. We "respect" our teachers. We have a saying - "Mata, pita, guru, deivam" - Mother, Father, Teacher, God. Just the four words meaning the order in which we need to respect. Starting from the mother who brings you in to this world, the mother who introduces the father to you who is one of your first teachers, then they who take you to the (school) teacher who teaches you about values, about life, about God, and then God which can also be thought about us our conscience or self-awareness. What I want is for others to understand that we obeyed all four and we were duty bound to listen to all four. So if something did happen in school, someone did say something hateful, you could either go to your teacher or your parents and get a solution for this problem. They put an E N D to the problem and the problem-maker by either warning/punishing or figuring out a way to bring things under control. We probably were afraid of teachers and punishments for not completing homework than what someone else taught about us or how we looked.
        Then I read in the paper/internet news article that bullying happens everyday in the USA. The teachers do not say anything to bullies or bullied, they do not interfere unless there is some form of physical abuse and only then they get taken to the principal/higher authorities and also that sometimes a bullied victim who is fed up of being taunted who hits or strikes is the victim in the school as physical abuse is dealt strictly. Really? do not people know- us as adults - don't we know that abuse - be it physical, emotional, verbal, sexual are all abuses? That most of the time a  verbal abuse is much worse than physical? We have a famous two line poem written by Thiruvalluvar - a great Tamil Poet - who said
"Theeyinal sutta pun ullarum aradhae
Naavinal Sutta vadu"
-Roughly translates to "The scar left by fire will heal but a scar left by words doesn't."
Which I feel is true. We still remember hateful comments/remarks made by people around us while a fist fight or a wound caused by that subsides in time. So who should be punished in this case? I think a lot of people need in the capacity to make changes have to think how can we intervene and how can we stop this? How can we make sure that another innocent life is not lost on what is being told about them or to them?
        I cannot imagine how my life as a not really beautiful, overweight, short, teenager would have been or how I could have survived a system like what is here in the US. Maybe there is a reason why the children move from class to class. Maybe it is because of the various options they have to chose from to study unlike the same curriculum that all kids used from the 1st to their 10th grade and there is again very less difference in the 11th and 12th grade -just say a science (physics, chemistry, biology) or a non-science (accounting, commerce, economics) class. So, when you have you students from different classes all meeting in corridors, you need to come up with a system where they do not get abused, wherein every class just moves from one class to another; no bullying happens in corridors. May be there should be a teacher walking the corridors every now and then to see if the students are just walking to classes or making idle talk or causing trouble. The teachers should not be locked in their own rooms oblivious to what is happening outside their door or outside on the corridor. If a teacher cannot do it, then you should employ staff who can monitor the kids. Everyone needs to be accountable. A teacher can ensure that every child comes to her class or doesn't make a roundabout way to the class. This can be done when all students of a grade meet at the same place the first hour and a class appointed teacher can take the attendance of the entire grade. The students who are absent can be notified to all other teachers who have classes with that grade. So if 'x' students were supposed to show up to a class at 11am, but only 'x-3' showed up and the remainder three are late for some reason, the teacher must ask them why they were late, should make them stand if they have just been hanging around doing nothing, make sure that they are not part of a clique and have not caused any trouble in the class or are being bullied. These are things that a teacher needs to do. He/she can definitely hang near the door and make sure nothing bothersome is happening out when one class leaves and another is going to come in.
        Another point I would like to make is how 'social media' has made us boundary less. Anything that happened at my home, in my school, in my street, in my city, in my state, in my country stayed there unless there was a BBC/CNN in my days of school and college. But now, I sniffle and I put on one of the 'social media' sites I am part of; I do this, we do that and it is all on the site. So the impact is also that much when something happens negatively. A slant, a crude joke, a remark travels the world thanks to these sites and the mass video jungle where again the whole world can see you. Somehow, in making everything public, we have lost our privacy. Our kids are the ones who suffer the most. Also, we cannot ban this on our kids alone if everyone else is on it. Then comes another problem with peers as to whether you 'belong' or not. I think that kids these days have to grow up more quickly; they have to mature more quickly; whether they like it or not and that is in some ways very sad.
        I have a toddler and I have started to worry already - is my son going to have a good childhood? Does he look okay? Do I have to keep him on a diet so he doesn't get any weight issues? Is he going to grow tall or is he going to be teased for his height? Is his name(of foreign origin) going to be a reason people will tease him? Is he going to have an accent different from the rest of the kids that will put him in a spotlight? Should I just do home schooling for him? I do not think I should be worrying about all this. I do not think that parents should be thinking of all this when their DS/DD is just born. A non-working system should be fixed. The numbers may not be great, but they are not mere numbers. They are someone's most beloved and cherished son/daughter. I do not have a right to take away that life; you do not have the right to do so either. Neither should a bully be allowed to terrorize nor allowed to take the life of some dearest son/daughter. Someone who talks and behaves hatefully should be punished - whatever the age is, in whatever way that is appropriate so that it stops, so that in future kids can go safely to school, happily to school and mothers and fathers can rest in peace and be content that their little one is getting close to being the adult they choose to become in a career they want to shine in.
       

Friday, April 12, 2013

Grilled veggie sandwich and bell pepper eggs.

Feeding my 18 mo is not a challenge. He simply is a good eater. However, I like to experiment and do different stuffs so my little one can have a variety. Being from India, the staples are always Idly(rice pancakes), dosai (rice flour savory crepes), thayir sadham (yogurt rice), and paruppu sadham(lentil rice.) Apart from these I make pasta dishes, bread sandwiches, cutlets, etc for him. That being said, I do not cook meat at home although I make eggs. He doesn't seem to like the taste of eggs and when I give him a boiled egg, he just loves to squish the yellow part and throw it down so I can go ahead and clean up the rugs for the next one hour! Phew!! Still, I try to boil, scramble, fry or do something or the other for him to eat to get him used to the flavor. Recently I kept seeing pictures of capsicum/bell pepper eggs and wanted to try them.  They were yum and we all enjoyed eating eggs that looked very appealing. So here are the pictures without much ado.











I did not want raw bell pepper rings and so I did char them a bit on all sides first. Then I broke one egg inside one of the rings. What I found was that the eggs just did not hold inside the rings as I originally thought it would but just ran all over. So I added a couple of other rings and thought I would try to get half and half in them. So I ended up having just the white in one more of the rings and the remainder of eggs with yolk on another ring. They simply ran out even then. I realized that may be I just needed to cut them out to shape in the end.












I like my eggs fried and done well on both sides and so I flipped them over and then while serving cut of some large chunks that were dangling outside. 

 Next, I had left over bell pepper rings from top and bottom and some zucchini slices and so I seared them on the tava and added them to a grilled cheese sandwich to finish off dinner for my DS.
 


One easy 15 minute meal ready! My LO just devoured the sandwich and egg. I should say that he loves just a hint of spice as of now and so he loved the red pepper which has a slightly sweet taste to it.






Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My favorite wraps!!!

I somehow like the idea of food wrapped around all snug and ready to eat. It is one of my favorite diet concepts (I usually eat half a wrap and store the other half for another meal). However now-a-days, I have this feeling that store-bought wraps are not that healthy and, I am not getting enough vitamins from vegetables because you cannot put a lot of items if you want the wrap to stay intact. So, wraps have become more of a splurge for me rather than my go to food because of the carbs vs vegetables war that I am recently engaged in. I have a goal to get 10 lbs off me, that I have gained in the past three years due to lots of reasons and I am not going to give them as excuses. Just a goal that I want to achieve in say over the next couple of months - slowly, steadily, and surely!

Onto the recipe: I had some button mushrooms and was not in the mood to make a sabji so I decided on wrap for dinner!

Button mushroom

 Mushrooms and vidalia onions getting deglazed with lemon juice. You can deglaze with wine or any choice of yours.
 The wrap cut down through the middle and to be stored for another meal. Not a lot of vegetables, still the store bought wrap is huge and I don't like to pack with calories. I did add a side of salad for me instead. I need to start making my own tortillas as I am sure they would be healthier and better tasting!
Mushroom avocado wrap


Mushroom-Avocado Wrap Recipe:

Ingredients:
Vidalia sweet onion-1
Button mushroom - 20-chooped lengthwise
salt- to taste
Any salad/spinach mix
Tomato diced -1
Avocado - 1 -cut in lengthy strips
Hummus/baba ghanoush/- 1 tbsp
Lemon-1
Oil  - 2tsp
Wraps -4-5

Method:
  1. In a pan, add the oil  and when hot, add chopped vidalia onion. Saute in a high flame for 2 minutes or till the onion turns translucent.
  2. Add the button mushrooms (or any other mushroom you prefer) in the pan and continue to saute. After a minute, add salt as per taste.
  3. Add pepper/paprika depending on your taste. I did not add either.
  4. After a couple of minutes, add lemon juice to deglaze.
  5. Saute on high, till the mushrooms turn soft. Keep stirring to avoid burned mushroom.
  6. Once the mushroom turns soft, turn off the stove and cool completely. Transfer the contents to a different bowl/plate to cool quickly. If not in hurry, let it cool on the pan itself.
  7. Now prep the other ingredients as the mushroom cools down. Dice the tomato, and cut the avocado into lengthy strips.
  8. Heat a griddle or tava, and put the wrap when the griddle is hot. Do not heat for more than a minute. Turn the wrap over and heat it, for around 30 seconds.
  9. Turn of the griddle and place the wrap on a plate. Spread a tbsp of hummus/any other spread over it. Add salad mix of your choice in the middle along a straight line, leaving around an inch around the edges to be able to fold the wrap.
  10. Top with tomato, mushroom, avocado, and and drizzle some lemon juice over. 
  11. You can add some salad dressing if necessary
  12. Wrap the tortilla as you would a burrito and serve.
Makes: 4-5 wraps.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fabric Markers Fun!

I wanted to personalize a pillowcase to send to my son's daycare. Due to regulations and standards, all nap items for our tots are to be sent in a pillowcase and I hated the plain pillowcase that I have been using for almost a year now! I had meant to go shopping for a nice pillowcase for him but never finished that task! So here I had a bunch of colorful markers with which I had colored my key holder and I thought, why not create my very own special pillowcase for DS. Of course, I took a lot of inspirations from fellow pillowcase painters and came up with a design I liked. The end result is not fab, but hey, my 18mo is too young to notice the flaws and he just absolutely loves the "star" and "truck" and he just is able to say those words like a million times for the amount of them in the design!! Win-winner!


Friday, February 22, 2013

Tofu Tikka!

Paneer is one of my favorite dishes although eating all the paneer butter masala from USA has made me hate it so much! Every potluck, every restaurant, every dinner always has one paneer dish as it is very easy to prepare and is always a winner as most people love it. Probably because of the fact that I was having more and more of it, that I started to stay more and more away from it. I buy Tofu, instead, which looks similar but god forbid! doesn't taste similar and also coz it's healthier. So I wanted to try to make a tikka out of the tofu this time and so went ahead with the experiment. I cleaned and pressed extra firm tofu to remove all water and cut them into big chunks. I sliced half way down the tofu and put some coriander thovayal(Cilantro quarter of a bunch  cut and slightly sauteed in about 1/4 tsp oil pureed with 2-3 dried red chillies also sauteed and salt to taste.) in it. Then I added in a separate plate some turmeric powder, chilly powder, amchur powder, ginger garlic paste, garam masala and oil and mixed well. I then carefully put the tofu one by one in this mixture and coated it as good as possible and refrigerated for around 2 hours. Then back from refrigerator, into a hot tava with a few teaspoons of oil. I made sure they were well cooked on all four sides from the tava till they all got a nice brown coat on them. A pack of extra firm tofu yielded around 10 cubes of tofu and me and DH had five each. I forgot to take the picture and it was finished too soon! Was very filling as I was unable to finish my dinner after eating the 5 pieces. Next time, should marinate with some yogurt/lemon and also add vegetables - onions, tomatoes, peppers to make it much more interesting in presentation and also take pictures. So here are just the pictures from my prep.



 As you can see, the tofu is a bit more crumbly than a paneer would be, but in the end, it did hold well on the tava as I waited till they were done on each side before turning over so that gave a little bit of firmness to tofu as it got done on the tava.Sorry that there are no pictures of the final result, but I am going to do them once again just for the sake of the pictures!

Verdict: A fulfilling snack - protein rich - add along with vegetables and it is great food! Kids can have this itself as a lunch in their boxes along with vegetables. But remember, don't expect paneer tikka - tofu tastes different!



Hummus No Ways!!!

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely love hummus and I am not sure whether it is with tahini or not as these are from hummus that I have ate at food courts and restaurants. Well, I know what the basic ingredients are, how to mash it up in a food processor and of course, I had all ingredients plus a bunch of carrots and celery that DH bought to use. So, I mused, I'm making up hummus to eat these vegetables...And because I did not have tahini in stock, borrowed a  recipe from online - here!
        No big deal, just rinse well your can of chick peas, add some salt (remember canned peas already has enough!), two garlic pods as mentioned in the recipe, 1/4 cup olive oil, and chilly flakes (My own addition for heat!)  Blended it all to a super cool mushy hummus and here it is!


Verdict: Loved the textured, but I did not like this hummus at all. Zilch. For me the 2 pods of garlic was very overpowering that it caught in my throat. It has been a week and I gave it to DH for lunch but am not eating it. I guess it will go to trash in another few days :(

Mista Pasta

Pasta, is a comfort food for me to cook for my 1yo when I am out of options. This is because I always will have some vegetable in fridge/freezer, pasta is always in stock, as also milk, tomatoes, and some italian seasonings. This is one of my favorite dinner meals for my lil one. I do not like the marinara as I come from South India and if it is not hot - hot enough for you to sniffle and have a few tears down your cheeks, then the food is not really worthwhile ;) However, cheese is an acquired taste for us desis who grew up without it in India and so can eat it bland. This is why I would easily make a white sauce instead of marinara for my ds. Here is my usual routine for him for pasta.
  1. Cook pasta, al dente. Strain and keep aside.
  2.  Microwave, steam, stir-fry, or grill vegetables
  3. Make white sauce, and stir everything in it.
This takes utmost 8-10 minutes especially when you can do each in different stoves. 

For white sauce, I don't follow any particular recipe. I just put a pat of butter on a pan in medium high and once the butter melts add about a teaspoon of flour and just fry the flour for a minute or two and before it browns, add milk to it. I usually add the whole milk as that is what I give my 1yo. I probably would add around 1/4 or 1/3 cup of milk and then simmer till the sauce thickens. Once it is to my desired consistency, I add salt, a few dashes of pepper, mix well and then put the strained pasta as well as the veggies and voila I have a one dish wonder for my 1yo. Of course, I make enough so me and my DH can eat a few teaspoons! Non-guilty pleasures :)

Pasta with bechamel sauce
Pasta with white sauce and zucchini
Verdict: My 1 yo absolutely loves this pasta and so does DH!