My May 16th, weekend column from Mail Today is out.

Features my take on hope as I see it.

My nephew, Karun Sagar was asked by me to write something inspiring. His writing flows as easily as water down a stream.

Crispy Okra Salad, a recipe I came up with as a young young boy, that was the prize winning recipe at Devi, the one that was the only Sub-Continental recipe included in Food and Wine Magazine line up of the 40 Best Dishes of the Last 40 Years, is included here.

Read full column below, or see it on Mail Today by India Today.

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HOPE

A friend asked me if I could write about hope. A friend who hangs on to hope even when life seems hopeless and everything but hopeful. This is a man who defies everyday challenges with grace and dignity, with strength of character and the persevering stamina of a champ. In moments when others would break and panic, fail and hide, he rises and shines, conquers and succeeds. This is the man asking me to write about hope.

It isn’t that he doesn’t see hope. It isn’t that he is not feeling it. It isn’t that he doesn’t believe in it. He is asking me to write about it, to put into print what he and several others are feeling and wanting to see shared. They are hopeful and hoping to spread the message that hopelessness is not the answer to what is ailing us. It is hope that will bring us to the other end of this Corona Era in one piece. But not just any hope.

The 24/7/365 cable news networks find oxygen and inertia in times of crises. Their sensationalized opinion-heavy broadcasts of the Corona virus take on pandemic levels of hysteria. They profit by stoking the embers of the psychoneurosis that excites the emotional and sensory reactions of their audience. Delirium and agitation of the masses is the currency that most benefits cable networks pretending to peddle news.

Those who are broken by this Covid-19 moment, striving in crisis mode and drowning in the adrenaline that comes with believing in this fear and panic, have invested in the illusion that they are in control of their lives and even of those around them. And so their hope is to rebuild the world around themselves, to regain that feeling of invincibility and security in possessions, wealth, intellect, or relationships. But this is a frail and puny hope. A useless, disillusioned pipe dream.

Real hope is a powerful message in times when things are comfortable enough but still in line for betterment. It grows legs when there is a desire and anticipation to want things to happen differently and for the better, and to happen in real time. It is the confidence with which we expect, and the comfort in feeling we might get there, that drives hope for most of us.

When this hope finds tangible believers, it is always related to someone or something. A cause or a person. A belief or ideal. Trust and reliance are synonymous with hope. Youth, like my nephew Karun, feed it with more gusto. It is relatable when it comes garbed as useful and in the interest of another or others. It makes one feel like a custodian who is guarding through their actions the future of others and not just self.

Where this hope finds currency, it has guardians championing its relevance. Keepers of hope instill confidence and faith in others for the belief in their greater cause. Messengers of hope, its salesmen if you will, stand guard like sentinels, soldiering away through the passage from one point to the next, where hope moves for its own survival before it is lived and celebrated as reality.

Challenging times show us our true mettle as people. They call to action our fortitude. They challenge us to believe in the future. Doubting and questioning are the unwanted pregnancies of panic and fear. Hopelessness the offspring of dread and a shamelessly ratings-driven media. Mob mentality and mob hysteria make the best of us turn into skeptics. They make us lose sight of our ability to reflect, study, debate and then act with maturity. Even easier it is to be in with the popular crowd. It takes a daring man, a well-fed soul, and a mature mind to see hope when doom is the celebration of the moment.

Tomorrow will come. It may come a tad slower than it used to come before Corona gripped our lives. Those that reach the other side unbroken and full of hope will be the leaders and changemakers of tomorrow. This is what my friend—a man whose whole life has been riddled with Corona moments—wants me to tell you. Hope is the only way to live and be.

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IT'S TIME TO FLY

My nephew, Karun Sagar, a student at Sara Lawrence College, is a musician, screenwriter and rebel with the world on his shoulders. His is a cool genius that makes magic wherever he applies himself. These are his thoughts when asked what inspiration a 20-year-old living in New York might have for the world.

I like stories. I’d guess most people do. They’re the currency of meaning, the lights of our horizon, the why behind what we do. Or maybe they aren’t. Maybe they don’t mean shit. Whatever you think of stories, here’s mine.

There’s a person I know. A person who told stories. Stories everyone seemed to love. More importantly, they flew. High. High in the horizon, glittering like the silver people seek in clouds. Glowing with the gold of Apollo’s amber eyes. It was then I decided, for better or worse, I’d like to fly too.

They were a beacon.  A floating flame whose shining example showed me what I could become. Or maybe they were a shadow, a dark reflection whose gaze I gravely needed to escape.

Admiration? Envy? It was probably both. But whatever you think drove me, whatever was my why, what I chased was them. More specifically, I chased what they had, a seat in the stars. My vessel? My stellar wagon to the great beyond? Stories, of course. At least that was the plan. And then the world stopped, or at least it feels like it did. The actors, the musicians, the components of my spaceship locked away as a pandemic grounded the world.

But enough about me.

I was told to inspire, though I’m not much good at that. So maybe I’ll just be true.

It’s possible, like me, you feel that time’s stopped. Or, more precisely, that time should stop. That the clocks should stop ticking. That the world should stop spinning. And our bodies should stop aging, lest we inch closer to the reaper’s grip. Alas, it did not. And as time keeps ticking, so should we.

I’m going to guess there are things you want. Things you were planning to achieve. Memories, experiences, chapters of stories you wish to add to the book of your life.

My advice? Prepare.

If you are willing and able, and I am truly sorry for those who aren’t, find a way. A way to make achieving whatever you want more likely. I still want to fly, and I still want my place on the horizon. So I’ll keep writing, keep making stories, keep building my stellar vessel. You might want something different. Something less ambitious. Something more so. Regardless, keep moving. Keep doing. Time hasn’t stopped, so neither should we. The great reaper waits, all the same.

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CRISPY OKRA SALAD

  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium or 2 small tomatoes, quartered, seeded, and roughly diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • About 8 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • ½ kilo fresh okra, trimmed and cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chaat masala
  1. In small mixing bowl, stir together onion, tomato, and cilantro. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. In wide, 4-inch-deep heavy pot over moderate heat, heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches oil until deep-fat thermometer registers 350°F. Fry okra in batches (returning oil to 350°F between batches) until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer fried okra to paper towels to drain.
  3. In large mixing bowl, combine okra, onion-tomato mixture, lemon juice, salt, and chaat masala. Toss gently and serve immediately.