from Rajan in Mumbai, India: apple chapati for my mother-in-law

apple chapati

Apple Chapati. My mother in law is 91 years old. She has stayed with me since 2010. After my daughter got married recently only two(oldies) of us are at home. She did not move out of the house except twice. Once when I moved to another city for a job and once when my daughter got married. Otherwise she is confined to her room. Past ten years she is following a fixed time table: have morning tea and breakfast, then read newspapers/books/magazine, followed by lunch, again read, have a nap, have evening coffee & snacks followed by dinner and then sleep. She manages on her own except taking bath on her own.

She is very much missing newspapers due to lockdown. The only question she asks is when this lockdown will get over. Even though she is almost in a quarantine situation since  more than 9 years as she can’t really move out, even then she is living her life as per her wish. Whoever comes to meet me, she meets and greets them enthusiastically, shares some stories with them and laugh with them. I am astonished and surprised over her approach towards life, her attitude with which she is living. Not complaining about getting bored. On the other hand I recieved many telephone calls from young and adults including some teachers that they are getting bored because of Lockdown. There is so much to learn from these kinds of old people. At least I am learning something.

She is very fond of eating tasty Indian food, especially sweets. Every alternate day we give her some sweets to eat. But yesterday there was no sweet at home. I was thinking what to do. Suddenly  I saw an apple lying in the fruit bowl, inviting me to eat it. An idea came to my mind – to use it to make Apple Chapati out of it and I made it. She liked it.

I used an apple, sugar, cardamom, ghee( butter), whole wheat flour, very little salt and milk. First I made a dough out of wheat flour, milk and a pinch of salt then made a filling(paste like) out of ghee, apple, sugar by heating it till you get a paste. Then follow the procedure as we follow to make a stuffed paratha. You may try one. Taste depends on the skills. I am sharing a picture of the final product with you.

My experiment was successful!

from Susan S. in Washington, DC: dreams and birthdays …

“ This is one birthday I’m not likely to forget.”

I woke this morning after the first fitful night of sleep since the C-19 pandemic began affecting my community.  Normally I don’t remember dreams, but last night was one awful pandemic-related dream after another.  I was in impossible and dangerous situations I couldn’t escape from.  Different people and different circumstances in each dream, but all with the same theme.   I read an article in the Washington Post recently about people experiencing frightening dreams.  I’m no expert, but this seems perfectly understandable.  We are all coping as best we can, and then at night the demons of our fears grab us in a way that our normal defenses protect us from during the day – most of the time.   One more consequential cost of what we are all experiencing worldwide.  

Last week my mother turned 97.  She lives in a retirement community that has different levels of care. Thank goodness she is still able to live independently in her own comfortable apartment.  Two residents in the assisted living unit recently died and several members of staff tested positive.  As a result, all residents in independent living have been quarantined in their apartments.   Today is day 27 of that quarantine.   We were able to get permission from the staff at her community to let a few members of the family who live nearby sing happy birthday to her – us standing in the open courtyard and Mom on the 2nd floor balcony of her apartment.   Here’s a photo.  Her comment after we’d sung and congratulated her – “ This is one birthday I’m not likely to forget.”

a neighbor’s statement of the times

My neighbor decided to make a statement about C-19.  Please see the photo of the large boxwoods for which he fashioned wire glasses and masks.  It’s drawn a lot of attention from people in the neighborhood who have been out in the good weather. 

Meanwhile at the national level, President Trump is exploiting the C-19 crisis to accomplish his right-wing political agenda so he can tout his accomplishments to his base support in the presidential election process.   He has relaxed regulation of mercury in the air and water; he is appropriating private land by imminent domain along the southern border to build a wall; he has banned immigration for 60 days, and the list goes on and on.  Former VP Biden’s fundraising is $187 million below Trump’s and Biden’s staff is not in place – he has 25% of the number of people Trump has running social media end of his operation.   Still, there are more of us than there are of them, and with the recent unity in the Democratic party, I remain hopeful.  

Keep well  and remain resilient.  

from Rajan in Mumbai, India: Quarantine!

My daughter Janhavi Welukar, Consultant Skill Education            B.L.S/LLB, MA in Public Policy and Masters in Development Management added the following story.

April 9. QUARANTINE has become the new “it” word. Everything in our lives has started revolving around the “quarantine” issues. Memes about quarantine have been flowing in like biblical flood since the start of lockdown period; your WhatsApp, Facebook Instagram everywhere there’s just one thing trending. In this time of social distancing Virtual has become the new Real. Screen time has increased since personal interaction has reduced. If you scroll through your feeds on social media, you’re bound to run into many perspectives of people about this quarantine period.

Some people are looking at the optimistic side for mindfulness and are of the view that maybe we all should practice this for more days in a year to enhance mindful living. There are retrospective talks about missing one’s loved ones and missing important things in life like the growing up years of your child, children or parents living abroad, maybe a broken relationship or friendship which was worth much more and many such thoughts and feelings. Some people said it’s a great reminder of how important nature and environment is and we are nothing but small specs of a much larger system. Some even said that it is an humbling experience as one understands the true meaning of life itself and what it means to live. Whichever medium you use today, you’re sure to have come across one of these things. But in my mind, it’s just intellectualizing things.

I dedicate today’s article to my mother and many such mothers across the world. My mother was a housewife. Every day when I returned from school, she would greet me with an enormously enthusiastic smile like I had just made the discovery of the century. She would then proceed to feed me healthy food (for which she would have to find new ways of garnishing to make it more interesting for me). Then it would be the time for my homework, sleep and then sending me off to play time. By this time, it would be the time for my father to come home. She would greet him so very lovingly and chit chat about his day and share a nice cup of tea with him and move on for dinner. Then sleep then again breakfast, send child and husband to school/office and the same routine would continue. She went out once a week to get the groceries and would get about 5 hours per month to do her own thing. And yet I never heard her say I am bored, or life is too monotonous, or I feel caged, or I am depressed, or any those fancy things we discuss today in times of quarantine.

One thing to note is that my mother lived in the pre-social media age. Our lives today are nothing different than a regular housewife’s life every day. But see the hoopla around it. This comes from a life of privilege and luxury of spending our time on our own terms without any restrictions. I can’t imagine how my mother and many other mothers kept their morale, energies and creativity high every day of their lives. The only thing they strive for is a happy and healthy family, good education for their children and prosperous lives of their children. Now imagine having to do all of this on a tight budget. Today I pledge that I dedicate all my 21 days or more to all those housewives who imbibed the simplicity within the complexity that we know as “life”. And henceforth promise to keep my spirits high, help people around me and find innovative ways of keeping my mind active and healthy for as long as I can.

from David Maughan Brown in York, UK: You couldn’t make it up.

April 3. You couldn’t make it up.  Our government has devised a cunning new strategy for meeting the imperative needs of the country it is supposed to be governing.   When you are busily demonstrating that you are manifestly incapable of meeting the (derisorily low) targets you have set yourself, and you realize that someone has noticed how badly you are doing, what do you do?  You just raise the target.  So, when it was pointed out to Boris that his 10,000 tests a day target wasn’t even close to being met, he dexterously raised the target to 25,000 a day.  When a couple of weeks later it becomes glaringly apparent that the 10,000 target still isn’t close to being met, Matt Hancock in his incapacity as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care earnestly, and with a spirited demonstration of commitment to the cause, raises the target to 100,000 tests a day.  Meanwhile Germany has been conducting 500,000 tests a day for weeks.

There’s a certain, but very limited, schadenfreude to be had from watching what was always going to be the most incompetent UK government in living memory, if not history, floundering in the face of the present emergency.  It is only very limited because their hopeless inadequacy is resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths.   If the sole criterion for appointment to a senior position in government is going to be support for Brexit, as it was with this cabinet, don’t expect the combined wit of the whole assemblage of Secretaries of State and other Ministers to be up to organizing the proverbial in a brewery, let alone to protecting the public in the face of a global pandemic.   Support for Brexit required nothing more than a blind determination to ignore all advice to the contrary and crusade on down some imaginary yellow brick road to what the ridiculed experts predicted would be a wrecked economy.   Not the ideal qualification for addressing the worst crisis the country has faced since World War II.  The irony is, of course, that a long predicted and entirely unplanned for virus has come along to show them exactly how to wreck an economy.  Not, needless to say, that that has so far managed to persuade any of them that it might be a good idea to postpone the deadline for the final departure from the EU beyond January 1st.  If their thinking is that the economy is already in its death throes so they might as well get on with performing the last rites, one could understand, if not sympathise with, it.  But they won’t be thinking that.  They will be convinced that, like Jesus raising Lazarus, their longed-for Brexit will somehow miraculously bring our economy back from the dead.

4th April. Apart from 90 minutes or so spent weeding between the autumn raspberries, which are beginning to show signs of life on our allotment, most of the day has been spent in a frustrating and ultimately unsatisfactory wrestle with IT.  Nothing could have been better calculated to highlight for me just how much we will miss by way of sun, wind and birdsong if, as seems likely, the government’s answer to the idiots who are gathering in parks and on beaches as soon as the sun comes out is to tighten the lockdown and force everybody to stay at home rather than going to their allotments.

Susan’s no more than middle-aged Apple laptop has been hobbling along geriatrically, behaving erratically during its long pauses for breath, so an update of the anti-virus software and a deep-clean (to use current virus terminology) is needed.  The software is purchased and uploaded with various difficulties I don’t need to go into, solved in part with the assistance of a brother in Swakopmund; the computer is scanned; 58 (!) assorted viruses are identified; and we arrive at the moment of eventual triumph when I get to press the button that delivers the coup the grace.  My finger hovering eagerly above the button, I discover I’m being set a multiple-choice test with three possible choices:  ‘Trust’, ‘Quarantine’, and ‘Repair’.

‘Trust’ is easily enough discarded as the wrong answer.  Why would I bother to go to all the trouble to identify the viruses as viruses, and therefore, presumably, in 1066 and all that terms ‘not a good thing’, if I was then going to ‘trust’ them?  Trust them to do what?  Behave themselves and stop messing around with the computer?  No way.  I’m in quarantine myself and am fully intending to get out as soon as possible, so ‘Quarantine’ looks to be a merely temporary solution.  Unless, of course, viruses somehow starve to death in quarantine, which seems unlikely.  The third option threatens to blow what is left of my mind.  ‘Repair’ a virus?  I don’t want to ‘repair’ the damn things, I want to nuke them.  If they aren’t doing as much damage as they are supposed to do, that can only be a ‘good thing’.  To abuse the overworked viral analogy once again, it’s as if the devilish Wuhan scientist who invented the Covid virus (according to the racist conspiracy theorists on social media) were to be asked to ‘repair’ it because it wasn’t killing enough decadent Westerners.  ‘Repair’ seems a straightforward enough word, but I obviously don’t understand English any longer, and don’t want to press either ‘Trust’ or ‘Quarantine’, so the finger, getting tired of hovering, takes the plunge and presses ‘Repair’.  A long wait later, the message comes back telling me that all the viruses can’t be repaired after all.  So out of sheer exhaustion I press ‘Quarantine’ and hope that whatever ‘quarantine’ means the viruses can’t escape from it as easily as the idiots in the parks.

5th April. We have just, for the fourth time in 24 hours, been told in some detail what the Queen is going to tell us when she broadcasts to the nation at 8.00pm tonight.  I admit to listening to the news too often – but that is beside the point.  This is only the fourth time in her 68 year reign, we are repeatedly being told, that she has broadcast to the nation at a time other than for her annual message at Christmas.  We are to understand from this that these are uncommon times and circumstances.  We might not have realized that if we hadn’t been told so often.  But what are all the tasters, tempters, teasers or trailers (take your pick) all about?  Who thinks it is a good idea that everyone should have heard what she is going to say up to ten times (if they listen to the news even more often than I do) before she gets to say it herself?

Is this a way of giving the plebs an opportunity to get their heads around a long string of words, some of which have more than two syllables, so that they can understand what she is saying when she finally gets to say it?  Is it, in other words, a variation on the ‘Get Brexit Done’ mode of communication:  things need to be said over and over and over again if people are to take any notice, and the Queen, bless her, can only say it once herself?   Or is it, much more simply, an attempt by the BBC to get their money’s worth out of Nicholas Witchell as their long-standing Royal Correspondent.   Witchell was appointed as Royal Correspondent in 1998, by which time Her Majesty was already 72.  It is my private suspicion that he must have been appointed in anticipation of her soon to be lamented departure.   Witchell’s lugubrious expression and doleful tones equip him perfectly to sound appropriately funereal when the time comes.  In the meantime he serves the very useful purpose of discouraging the hoi-polloi from envying the monarchy, and resenting the extent to which it depends on their taxes, by managing to make the life of the royal family always sound so irredeemably miserable.