Cooking with Deepti

Cooking with Deepti

Cooking with Deepti

*thanks Jenn for writing down these recipes*

Mint Chutney

Fresh coriander (coriander 2/3, mint 1/3)
Fresh mint
Onion
Garlic
1 tomato
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt
Water to blend everything together

Optional* Add any of the following: pomegrante powder, mango powder, green apple, mango, peach

Cheeta (Lentil Pancakes)

Moong Dal (Soaked over night then blended into paste. Option to sprout the dal for 2-3 days for added nutrition!)
Rice flour (to thicken dal paste)
1-3 green chilis
2 cloves of garlic
Ginger
Cumin seeds
Salt

Sprinkle water onto skillet to make it non-stick. Alternately, rub the skillet with a raw onion to make it non-stick and flavourful! Turn the temp down to spread dal paste onto skillet like you do when making crepes. Then increase the temp.

Poha (Rice Flakes)

Step 1:
Cover poha with water then strain. Mix in salt and sugar. Let poha sit for 15 minutes. Each rice flake should be separate, not sticking together.

Step 2:
Fry mustard seeds until they pop. Add onions, fresh curry leaves, green peas, salt and turmeric

Step 3:
Add in poha, roasted peanuts and raisins. Add fresh lemon juice.

Option to garnish with fried potatoes! Cut potatoes into thin strips, fry in hot oil, remove potatoes, then refry for extra crispiness!

Aloo Paratha (Potato Paratha)

Dough:
water and flour

Filling:
Potatoes, red chili powder, salt, onion, coriander, mango power

Tip: Filling and dough should be the same consistency so the filling doesn’t leak out when you roll the parathas.

Indian Green Tea

9 cups Water
Cardamon
Cinnamon
7 Saffron
Green Tea
2 Red chilis (to be added in after all the other ingredients have been cooked and it has been taken off heat. Let chilis soak in tea no more than 2 minutes.)

Advertisements

Chai highs, 4 star hotels and chilling with my “Ommies” in the Golden Triangle

In the final week of our trip, eight of us booked a Golden Triangle tour, perhaps one of the most famous short journeys in India. In a whirlwind 6 day tour, it visits the three cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur containing some of India’s most iconic monuments.

Our mini bus picked us up in Rishikesh and winding along mountain roads and past monkeys, we retraced our path back to Delhi where the many cars, people and tall buildings were a bit of a shock after largely car free Swargashram in Rishikesh. It was strange not to see cows milling about on the roads and the clogged Delhi traffic is astounding.

We get to our 4 star hotel in Delhi and the bed was like sleeping in a cloud. Heavenly!

Old Delhi streets

Old Delhi streets

We visited sites around Delhi including Gandhi’s ghat where he was cremated, a Hindu temple, the Jama Masjid mosque in Old Delhi and perhaps the most memorable was the pashmina shop. Pashminas are scarves handwoven from goat hair – an amazing work of art as many take years for the weaver to collect the fibres and weave the delicate, soft scarves. We got to see the art of selling as well. We were all a little grumpy and tired from a morning of being driven around from touristic site to site, the shock of how expensive a meal can be outside of our little local cafes in Rishikesh that we had gotten used to and the overall transition from life at a yoga school to the life of a walking wallet tourist. When our tour guide announced that we were going to a shop he was affiliated to, we were less than excited. We piled in, glum and the shopkeepers did their magic.

To this day, some in our group thinks there was something in the tea they served us. I suspect it was the caffeine and sugar in the sweet, milky strong tea after 6 weeks of basically no caffeine and sugar in our diets. Whatever it was, soon beautiful, soft, colourful pashminas were being unraveled before our eyes and wrapped against our skin. It was a seduction of the senses, the rich chai tea, the rich fabrics and the lavish individual attention and compliments of the salesmen. Ironically, though we were a bit shocked at the price of our lunch, many in our group dropped big bucks for the luscious pashminas scarves and other handicrafts. We walked out with our wallets lighter but also our hearts a bit lighter too.

The next day, we drove to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. 6 years ago when I went to India, I felt that the Taj was overrated and didn’t visit. This time, I gave it a chance. It is perhaps one of the most iconic images of India with its grand the four minarets crowning its perfectly symmetrical white marble domed centre. Built by a Mughal emperor, the white marble and semi-precious stone inlayed artwork of this magnificent tomb is said to be a testament of love for his wife. Though popular and iconic, the grandeur of the place is truly awe inspiring and impressed even slightly cynical me. The detail of the marble inlay is really impressive as each of the flowery scrolls, geometric shapes and Arabic scripts from the Quran comprised of flaked, shaped and carved semi-precious stones such as turquoise, onyx, tigers eye, coral vermillion and brilliant blue lapis lazuli, and then the white marble was also equally detailed carved and then the colourful pieces where glue in so it resembled a colourful painting. The quality of the stones were so fine that shining a light onto the marble and the semi-precious stones made them glow translucent with their soft colours. The Taj Mahal took 22 years to construct and at the end of the endeavor, the emperor was ousted by his son with support of the local population before more the kingdom’s funds on his tomb that was supposed to mirror the Taj in black marble.

At the Taj Mahal

At the Taj Mahal

Just outside of Agra is Fateupur Srikti, a well preserved first Mughal capital. It was built there because there is an old mosque with a Sufi saint who lived there in ancient times and was supposed to be able to grant wishes. The maharaja had three wives but no heirs so he went there and made a wish for sons. He got his wish for a son afterwards and he was so happy, he moved his capital there. The palace complex was designed with detailed art carving, meeting areas where the officials sat on pillars overlooking the petitioning population, many high columned pavilions where the royal ladies would rest and catch the breeze on a hot day, perfumed pools where musicians used to play and a giant game-board set into the courtyard where the maharaja used to play with his concubines as the game pieces.

We visited another palace, the Amber Palace in Jaipur. Jaipur is the gateway and capital city of Rajasastan, a province of India that has a very unique vibrant desert feel. The women here dress in even more colourful saris in highlighter green, oranges, and pinks and covered with jewelry. The roads are blocked at times, completely filled with sheep and/or cattle as herders walk them by. Jaipur is known as the pink city with the old walled city painted with vibrant colour. Though it’s called the “pink city” it is actually more like the “orange city” as the pink paint is made from clay. Jaipur is one of the first planned cities in India built in the 18th century. Previously, the royal family dwelled at the Amber Palace and surrounding town 11km away. Built on top of a hill and surrounded by a mini “Great-Wall-like” defense system that snaked along the tops of the surrounding hills, we rode on elephants up through the sun gate like the maharaja used to. The palace is divided into three inner areas after the entrance courtyard where the soldiers were barracked. The gate into the palace was covered in rich fresco paintings with paint made from gold and other natural pigments such as marigolds and from semiprecious stones such as lapis lazuli. In the outermost section was a high columned hall where the majaraja used to have public audiences from his royal swing situated in the centre. Overlooking the gate into the private audience area was delicate carved marble latticed screens where the royal ladies used to be able to look out without anyone being able to gaze on their faces. Inside the private audience area was a rich garden with pools and fountains with a beautiful hall off to one side covered in mirror work so that the ceilings looked like starry night skies. The final inner portion was the living quarters of the maharaja’s 12 wives. The royal ladies did not walk around the place complex but rather had chairs that their servants carried them around on. Even though we only see the architecture left today, it was easy imagine richly clad plump little princesses lounging on swings overlooking the perfumed pools in the garden.

After our tour, six of us spent a couple nights at our teacher’s house in Delhi. We did yoga and meditation, relaxed, learned to cook yummy Indian food, hung out and got to know each other even better. Using the analogy of a yoga class structure, our time at Deeptiji’s house in Delhi, getting to know her and her family more, was like the cooling down period at the end of a class. It’s like the important more relaxed stretches and final resting pose, savasana, where the whole session sinks into your muscle memory and into your very self. Going on this very packaged tour was truly a unique experience different from my usual backpacking wandering ways but it was a lot of fun to extend our Rishikesh experience hanging out with people from the group in basically our air-conditioned party bus that chauffeured us around sights and shops. I think it made it easier and less of a shock of completely leaving from our large family at Rishikesh Yog Peeth and I really got to know the other people in our travel group, the wonderful Marta, Dasa, Ling, Anson, Edmund, Jennie and Rebecca, and of-course, our truly inspiring teacher Deepti and her family.

All my "Ommies" - we are "Om" buddies sitting down and chanting healing sounds across the Golden Triangle

All my “Ommies”

Whirlwind Final Week at Rishikesh

It has been a whirlwind last week.

We had a talent show last Friday where we found out that we are an incredibly talented bunch as people drew, danced, sang songs they wrote for the occasion, played guitar, told stories, sang opera and all sorts of wonderful things. One girl is a world champion for vaulting, which is gymnastics on horses, and another dances hula hoop professionally, and another Is super passionate about composting. Jenn and I were involved in a 9 actor art yoga play piece where we told the “story of us” through om chants and yoga positions that gave tribute to the victims of the flooding and our own personal journeys of growth and discovery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last Sunday, we trekked up a mountain to where Rishikesh Yog Peeth is building their ashram. It is so peaceful up there overlooking the valleys, surrounding by so much green, flowering vines hanging off of branches and butterflies fluttering about. Nearby the ashram in construction is a tall 50 metre waterfall that cascaded over rocks, through caves, down into the lush forest below. We climbed all over a part of the waterfall and also into the cave where a part of the waterfall began. Nestled in the womb of the waterfall, a few of us meditated and chanted om and the reverberation of the vibrations surrounded us as water flowed past our legs in the semi-dark. It was really amazing and a truly special moment and place!

I have been volunteering at Khushi Kids and more and more kids are showing up. The public school was supposed to open up this past Monday on July 8th but there are still small mountains of mud and sand in the classrooms. They have broken down the front gate to the school now so they can get tractors in there to pull out more dirt than people bagging sandbags. In addition to teaching English, I also ran two workshops. I did an art workshop where we made picture frames and then took pictures of all of them for their beautiful new frames. Yesterday, I did a nutrition workshop where we learned about carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. We made posters, coloured them and then I have everyone mangos after they correctly identified two vitamins in mangoes and what those vitamins are good for (vitamin C and vitamin A – immune system and vision)! I had 30 kids in my hour and half long class yesterday!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wasn’t able to get to go to Khushi Kids as often as I wanted this week because I also got sick. It hit quick. On Monday night, I started feeling a scratchy throat. Tuesday morning, I felt a little cold and because that is a complete anomaly here, I realized I had a slight fever. By that evening, I was too sick to go to asana practice and my whole body felt so achy and weak. It took all of my energy to get up to go to the washroom. However, the amazing thing about being a part of a big family now is that everyone was so wonderful. Other students checked up on me often, making sure I had water and anything else I might need. They shared their support, caring and personal pharmacies. I think between the whole group, we could have a pretty well stocked pharmacy. I am just really touched by how many people cared and showed their love and support. The teachers always asked me how I was feeling as we saw each other around and our friendly restauranteers and even Kapil from Khushi Kids offered to drive me to the hospital if I wanted. By the third day, the fever broke and I started feeling better. Actually, what really helped was going to yoga practice where breathing with movement and sweating was amazing. I guess it makes sense because we are all so close with each other but the same sickness spread through our group like wildfire and many of us were sick for a bit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I managed to recover enough for Friday to make it to our friend Ashlinn and her partner Havvie’s Indian wedding blessing. It rained before and after but during the ceremony, it was a beautiful sunny day. We all got dressed up in our colourful saris, did our make-up and hair and went up to the Shiva temple up on the hill where our friend from Sai Home restaurant (who is also a Brahman priest) did the ceremony. The ceremony involved flower petals and rice for prosperity and tying the sashes of their wedding clothes together and walking around the fire as witness seven times together and then putting bright marigold garlands on each other. It was a very beautiful ceremony and Caitlin sang the songs that they each picked in dedication to each other.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In addition of all this, we also fit in our normal schedule of yoga practice, writing our philosophy essays, preparing and teaching a class, study and  our anatomy and physiology exam and of-course had to fit in ample chai time and hanging out with each other.

It was all worth it and we had our colourful graduation last night. We dressed back up in our saris and Indian outfits and had an hour and half long blessing ritual, then had live Indian devotional music where we all started dancing, then Roshan with all of our teachers gave us our certificates.

6 weeks seemed like an eternity at the beginning of the course but the last two weeks has passed by both in a blink and timeless. It’s like a really good dream where you feel that you have lived an eternity in another world yet when you wake up, it feels like you just closed your eyes. We have been on a wonderful, magical journey with 50 other people who have become like family to us. Each person is so uniquely amazing and I feel has deeply touched every other person making positive energy ripples through us all. I feel so blessed to have had this amazing opportunity to meet and experience all these positive lights and also get to know my own inner light a little better. This morning, as we made our emotional “see you laters”, we already are making plans on when we will see each other again.

The light in me greets the light in you. Namaste.

Karma Yoga

Karma yoga is defined as application of yogic philosophies – a fearless expression of yourself that produces no harm to anybody and at least some benefit to somebody. It is a giving without expectations and an intention to help others. In a way, sitting meditation is experiencing the universe within us and karma yoga is connecting with a shared humanity externally.

Inside out and outside in.

Before going further in talking about my karma yoga, I’ll first give you a little background on situation. We are currently in the middle of our 5th week of study here and I think it has been a challenging week for many of us. The 1st week was a bit of a honeymoon period – full of excitement and energy. The 2nd week was more settling in and a drive to get to know everybody and explore the whole city. In the 3rd and 4th weeks, we found our favorite lunch time hang-outs – out favorite shops and restaurants – but also came up with more challenges including the natural disaster happening all around us, the hot and humid weather and many people getting sick with stomach issues or simply the common cold. In the 5th week, I feel a month of pushing to try our hardest, long days and nights kept up by explosive thunderstorms that actually shake the building a bit, the heavy humidity and the aftermath of sicknesses have taken their toll. Tensions are a bit higher and our inner sense of peace is threatened by small but annoyingly frustrating things like unpredictable rains and heavy humidity leaving freshly washed clothes smelling like mildew and making me wonder why I bothered washing the clothes in the first place and the swarm of flies that we can’t seem to escape from. However, on the other hand, I feel like we have also become a lot closer and like a family. We share our positive vibes, hugs and support.

We all have ways of coping with some of these 5th week challenges. Many eat out more now, treating themselves with some different meals to break up the routine a bit. Some shop and have honed their bargaining skills. Some also try to become more involved in the community. So here we are back to karma yoga…

As you may have read in one of my earlier blog entries (“Eye of the Storm”), I have been feeling a little helpless in learning about peace in the middle of a major natural disaster where we are somehow a little detached from the whole situation. I ended that entry by talking about doing my best where I can in the local community.

I think in a lot of different cases, the big events get a lot of attention in the short term while longer legacies and conditions that heightened vulnerabilities in the first place fade quickly from public imagination. While rescue efforts are very, very important as is coordinating relief camps, the empty streets foreshadow a longer term issues. This is supposed to be the height of tourism from Indian nationals going on holy pilgrimages or rafting excursions down the Ganges. The monsoon rains coming a month early and subsequent disaster has hurt the local economy, destroyed infrastructure, ruined crops and threatens with the risk of water contamination.

Inspired by a desire to help where I can and an understanding that those hardest hit often already faced many social inequalities, I have started volunteering with a local organization called Khushi, which means joy in Hindi. Khushi (http://khushi.org.in/index.php) mainly runs an afterschool program for about 300 kids. Children attending government schools usually come from impoverished backgrounds and often suffer from malnutrition, medical problems and educationally, crowded schools with little individual attention and high drop-out rates. Khushi works to fill in the missing gaps and works with the local school to improve facilities including new classrooms and salaries for teachers, paying for children’s school uniforms, books and registration fees and has a free afterschool program 6 days a week covering a variety of school subjects, plus computer, art, yoga, sewing and other classes. They also run a food program.

Khushi works in the Sheessam Jhari neighbourhood of Rishikesh, a poorer neighbourhood mainly inhabited by migrant Bihari people. Bihar is a state in northern India and one of the poorest in the nation. Many Biharis have migrated to other parts of India in search for work, often struggling to survive with unreliable, exploitative informal work and suffering from increasing discrimination and prejudice. Kapil, one of the staff at Khushi, said that many of the hawkers (probably including my dedicated bindi salesperson) are Biharis. A friendly local restaurant owner who we have gotten to know gave me a lift to the school on his way to Rishikesh market today and pointed out that a line of people waiting for food handouts at a local ashram were mainly all Biharis.

Somehow, I realize more and more that everything is interconnected. Our yoga lineage that we are studying is the Bihar school. I wanted to help out more with the flood victims who I had conceptualized as those stranded in the mountains. Instead, I aim to help out where I can locally in Rishikesh and end up realizing the damage the rains have wrecked in the city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Sheessam Jhari neighbourhood, where Khushi mainly serves, has been hit hard by the flooding and much of the neighbourhood is still under a layer of sand brought by the overflowing river. The neighbourhood lost something like 25 feet deep of riverbank and people are working hard to build a sandbag wall as more rains have been forecasted. A lot of the sand for the sandbags comes from excavating areas pretty much buried by the flood. The school, which is less than 100 feet from the river, is completely flooded and mired in about 3 feet of sand. It was rather shocking to walk up to a classroom and realize that I was standing halfway up the door frame and the fan looks just hanging a few feet above the water. Workers are digging trenches to drain the water still trapped in the classrooms.

A ditch draining water from the classrooms

A ditch draining water from the classrooms

A classroom - note that the water level went up to the blackboard!

A classroom – note that the water level went up to the blackboard!

Another flooded classroom

Another flooded classroom

The school is closed so while there are less children currently attending the after-school program at Khushi, I feel like Khushi is playing an extremely important role of continuing education and I feel very honoured to help out.

I was working with a bright 12 year old girl today at Khushi who was very shy at first but really opened up with a thirst to learn as we read together, made animals sounds associated with the story, worked on some English grammar and conversation. After an hour and a half, I asked if her head was getting full. She smiled and said no. After two hours, I asked again if her head was feeling full of information. She smiled again and said no. However, my head was full and the English portion of the afterschool program had finished.

Khushi

The Khushi Vocational Centre. Kapil (staff) is sitting next to the window and three students. 

She invited me to her family home for tea after. She lives with her mother, father, grandmother, three brothers and what seemed like a family clan of other relatives and their children. Her family home is a two story concrete structure that looked like just an unfinished frame of a building. There was an opening from the roof all the way down to the ground floor above the concrete staircase, which had no walls or railing. Rooms where people slept looked remarkably like stable stalls. However, the place was relatively clean and cared for and though no one (except the girl I was teaching) spoke any English, they were rich in hospitality.

Her family and I at her house

Her family and I at her house

Flash OM!

Forest of Om flash mob in Rishikesh, India

We have started to teach yoga to small groups of 4-5 other students where we each take turn teaching some poses. A few days ago, after we had completed the poses and we had a little time for some creativity. We had done what some have called a “Sea of Om”, though it wasn’t called that here. Basically, you chant “om” to your own breath so people are starting and stopping at different times, sounding like waves in a gently rolling ocean. From that, I thought of a “Forest of Om” where om is chanted to your own breath in tree pose. Instead of waves, it is now a breeze weaving through trees in a forest.

It worked out really well and the idea for a flash mob of om was born. As my first flash mob I’ve ever planned, I thought it was a lot of fun though I do admit I was a bit nervous through the whole process. However, I think it was a success – we had one person who we didn’t know and did not know about the flash mob until walking by it join us!! Also, another prominent meditater said that we cultivated a sense of calmness in a usually hectic city street.

No cows wandered our way though.