Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Hey, teachers leave the kids alone! Should they...?

"Hey, teacher leave them, kids alone!
Hey, teacher leave us, kids alone!"
I wished, like the other kids that my teachers vanish
But none was able to fulfill my wish
My love for Pink Floyd will never diminish.

Today, I'm glad to acknowledge
I wasn't left alone as a kid
My teachers stood by me
And I dared to dream and be able to stand tall
'Cause some teachers were not 'just another brick in the wall'
Their teaching was neither bound by books nor the classroom walls
And I'm grateful to most of my teachers
For being what I am, not just another brick in the wall!

Did I hear it all? They've heard it before me.
Did I read it all?  They've read it before me.
Did I see it all? They've seen it before me.
Did I feel it all? They've felt it before me...
Pink Floyd could sing and Ivan Illich could write
About de-schooling society and irrelevance of 'education'
While Postman and Weingartner and others
Told us enough about being subversive
Such radical thoughts on teaching and education
Have mostly verged on hypocrisy, in reality.
As I can say from personal experience
It was nice to get carried away by dreamy stuff
Not knowing where to strike a balance
As if I was sailing on a rough sea
This is where my teachers anchored my boat
Made me think, question, accept, deny
Helped me in forming my identity
Instilling courage, confidence and competitiveness.

Teachers are always the most sought after
As learning never ends
So will 'teaching' and facilitating
Since learning is a lifelong pursuit
And a journey in search of knowledge
The search for teachers would always remain
Someone who can guide, instruct and mentor in different fields
And tell us 'to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield!'
As did Ulysses in the famous poem by Tennyson.

When I look back and reflect on the lessons that life has taught me
Deep in my heart I've a special place for those who inginited my curiosity,
Inspired, nurtured my inquisitive mind and boosted my enthusiasm.
Not all were designated as 'teachers'
Nor was all learning in the classroom
Never was it limited to the textbooks
But I'm lucky to have met them throughout
In childhood, adolescence and my youth.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The joy of baking cakes

I love to bake cakes. It's such a joyous and feel-good thing to do. But, sad, I manage to do it only occasionally - not because of reluctance or lethargy, it's more to do with insufficient time for planning while working on other priorities. How I wish baking was my profession and not just a spare time activity!
Chocolate vanilla marble cake with strawberry icing

Busy day chocolate cake with chocolate icing
In fact, I love whole lot of baked stuff - cakes, muffins, breads, buns, cookies and pizzas. Actually, I often dream of baking all of them at home, though I've tried out only cakes and muffins (because of the limitations with the oven size and shape and scheduled and unscheduled power cuts in Hyderabad). In my college days, some of my friends not only shared my  interest in baking but they've always encouraged me by sharing interesting recipes. Padma Tamirisa and Aparna Tamhane - you are always in my thoughts when I bake! Padma's recipes "Golden butter cake" and "Busy day cholocate cake" and Aparna's recipe for cookies have remained my eternal favorites. Over the years, when I got confident with the basics, I started exploring marble cakes, carrot-orange-walnut cake and banana-walnut cake.

Of late, I don't miss any opportunity to try out my skills at the oven. Thanks to Shreya, my ten-year old niece, I get constantly motivated to not only bake but also try out different types of icing/frosting. Earlier, I would feel lazy to go an extra mile and explore decoration options and hence I'd leave out the icing part of it as that proverbial 'icing on the cake' that remained a wishful thought. Now, I find immense satisfaction in 'messing' my fingers with the butter-cream-icing sugar and enjoy the colors and flavors, eventhough the icing doesn't turn out consistently well all the time. Shreya often helps me and gives ideas for icing and decoration while I learn to improve my knowledge and skills in frosting.
 Chocolate vanilla marble cake
Chocolate cake with vanilla icing and strawberry flowers
Vanilla sponge cake with chocolate icing (Maansi's b'day)
It's difficult to resist the temptation to bake when we have such a wealth on information, videos on the Internet www.joyofbaking.com, www.wilton.com, and on TV, shows hosted by Rachel Allen, Nigella and of course the popular Masterchef Australia series and others. The content and presentation is simply irresistible. Even the most reluctant person would want to try out the recipes. Well, sometimes, it may be little frustrating because all the ingredients that are used in these TV shows may not be easily available in India, we may have to get them from abroad or order them online. Nevertheless, one can always learn and improvise with new ideas to accomplish the impossible.

Baking is different from regular cooking - this is what is nice about it. It demands accuracy and precision in everything - measure of ingredients, heating, cooling, decorating etc. And the best part of it is that you never know how the cake comes out after it's pushed into the oven - and I heard from the most seasoned bakers that they also have this feeling of 'suspense' till the time the cake is in the oven. For someone like me who cooks Indian vegetarian stuff all the time, it's a different experience. Normally, I don't need to use an oven for any of my regular cooking, nor do I store eggs in my fridge. Often, not having the key ingredients like eggs and butter at normal room temperature make me put off my baking plans. But whenever I plan to bake I enjoy the creative satisfaction I derive from the process of doing it and it is so very  pleasurable and de-stressing! And the best compliment I got for my cake was from my niece Maansi. Sometime, last year when she visited us, I had baked a carrot cake and I wasn't sure if she would like it. But, to my surprise, she not only liked it but found it difficult to believe that it was home-baked:) And of course, Shreya had often suggested that I start a cake shop and sell cakes in my apartments:) Well, not a bad idea!