Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pumpkin Kheer( Parangikai Payasam)

I loved trying out Pumpkin Kheer( Parangikai Payasam) as a part of this Dessert Challenge using SugarFree - There are many variations of this recipe but the one I am going to write about has been passed on to me from my maternal aunt and my mother. 

Pumpkin ( Parangikai in Tamil ) Kheer ( Payasam in Tamil ) is the easiest and the most healthiest kheer one can think of. Pumpkin is used very commonly in a variety of dishes in a South Indian cuisine, mainly side dishes like curry and gravy but it is fun to use the same vegetable for making a sweet dish. This dessert is as tasty and delicious as a Badam( Almond) kheer, Basundi or Rabadi. 

Since this challenge was about recreating one of my favourite dessert recipes by substituting it with SugarFree I thought of giving the dessert a healthy touch. I have used skimmed milk instead of double toned milk which is generally used for making thick payasam/kheer.  The main reason for me to use pumpkin was that it adds an extra nutrition value to the dish. I thought, since we are cutting down on the fat and sugar content by using the right ingredients why not go for a dash of another healthy ingredient?

Pumpkin is widely grown vegetable and is rich in antioxidants, dietary fibers and vitamins. It is a low calorie, easy to cook vegetable and can be easily digested too. The flavonoids, xanthin and  carotenes present  in it add to the beautiful colour of the dishes made from Pumpkin. Pumpkin seeds are also considered to be a rich source of essential fatty acids  and dietary fibers. I have also used almonds and cashew in this which are a rich source of essential fatty acids.

Pumpkin Kheer( Parangikai Payasam)

Recipe type : Dessert 
Cuisine : South Indian
Serves : 3-4 
Preparation time : 15 minutes 
Cooking time : 20 minutes 


L-R ( Measuring cup, Measuring bowl)

Capacity of measuring bowl and measuring cup used = 150 ml

  • 1 cup grated pumpkin ( Half of a small pumpkin)
  • 2 and half cups of skimmed milk ( Brand used : Nandini Good Life Slim milk) 
  • 10-12 Almonds ( For grinding and garnishing)
  • 5-6 Cashews
  • 3-4 pods of Cardamom
  • 8-10 Raisins
  • 5-6 tbsp SugarFree Natura sugar (The quantity can vary according to the sweetness required)
  • Half a tea spoon of ghee

Keep all the ingredients ready before starting the process

  • Heat one and half cups of skimmed milk in a heavy bottomed pan and add the grated pumpkin to it. 
  • Allow the pumpkin to cook in the milk for 2-3 minutes. 

Cook grated pumpkin and milk in a pan
Allow the mixture to boil
  • Add the almonds, peeled cardamom, cashews and allow them to cook along with the pumpkin.

Almonds, cashew and peeled cardamom pods have been added
  • I have grated the pumpkin in order to fasten the cooking process. Almonds can be soaked overnight and then added to this mixture if you want a fine paste. I wanted some of the crunchy almonds to be in the kheer/payasam so I did not soak them overnight. It enhances the taste. 
  • Cook the pumpkin and milk mixture for another 10-15 minutes. Keep stirring in between and remove the condensing milk from the sides. 
Cook for 10-15 minutes

  • Once the pumpkin becomes soft and is cooked , allow it to cool. 
Allow the mixture to cool 

  • After this mixture cools down grind it in a mixer. A fine paste will be made within minutes. 
  • You can choose to grind the almonds till they become a fine paste along with the pumpkin or you can leave them half ground. 
  • Take one cup skimmed milk in the same pan and add this paste to it. Mix well and allow it to cook for sometime. You can also add water if you want it to be watery in consistency. 
The remaining milk and pumpkin paste is added
  • Once the milk and the pumpkin paste comes to a boil add 5-6 tbsp of Sugar Free Natura and mix well. 
  • Switch off the flame and stir until the sugar dissolves. Since it is powdered sugar it can dissolve very fast. The heat from the milk and pumpkin is enough to melt the sugar. Stir it and then add raisins. You can add half a tea spoon of ghee for the aroma and flavour. 
  • Variation : You can also add the sugar to the milk and mix well before before adding the pumpkin paste.
Pumpkin Kheer is ready
  • Pumpkin Kheer/ Parangikai Payasam is ready. You can serve it hot or transfer to cups and cool it. 
  • It is going to be a perfect dessert after a sumptuous lunch or dinner. 
  • I have served them in earthen pot like cups and garnished with grated almonds.
Parangikai Payasam is served

This is a short video of the step by step procedure to make this kheer/payasam


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vitamins and their role in relationships

This post is a much delayed one because I did not have the time to think about this. Only when my better half made me realize how important a role Vitamins could play in relationships did I feel the importance of sharing this on a public forum.

Before I start discussing about this in details I would like to bring to the notice of my readers that I am a Biochemist and it makes me well aware of the metabolism and role of vitamins in our body. I would avoid using too many technical terms here.

So, let me share few instances which have made me believe in the fact that vitamins as the name says – Vital amines, play a very important role in not only maintaining the normal metabolism of our body but are also essential in leading a peaceful life.

We all have read about different types of vitamins and the deficiency conditions associated with these in our school days but apart from remembering the names of the diseases and the daily dietary supplements which are rich in specific vitamins we wouldn’t have been conscious about the absence of essential vitamins  from our diet. With changing lifestyle our dietary habits have been modified to suit our busy schedule. We do not always eat healthy despite having a clear picture of what is good and what is not good for us.

Among these vitamins, the most rampant yet ignored deficiencies seen in individuals are related to Vitamin B 12 (Cyanocobalamin) and Vitamin D. Research says that low levels of these two vitamins can affect the mental as well as physical health of an individual. These two vitamins go hand in hand in maintaining the function of the central nervous system and also reflect on the bone health. Extensive research has proved that severe deficiencies of these vitamins are linked to psychiatric problems too. Although, Vitamin D is still under the scrutiny of research when it comes to mental health conditions, there have also been studies to prove the same. They are also essential for maintain the normal metabolism of the body.

Symptoms can be varied, among them, the commonly seen features can be fatigue, tiredness, irritability, headache, body pain, muscle spasms, bone weakness, the person is always low on energy, finds difficulty in concentrating and it can also lead one to depression. These symptoms can mimic a severe psychiatric problem which can be easily cured by just a vitamin supplementation in adequate doses. They can be sneaky and harmful if not detected early. It is like a silent epidemic leading to severe consequences.

I have been aware of all this in theory as well as in practice. The irony of the fact is that when I had a mixture of such symptoms I couldn’t identify them myself neither did the clinician whom I had consulted. It happened exactly a year back. I started feeling pain one day suddenly in my left heel.  I ignored the symptom thinking it was because of wearing moderate heel slippers for a long time. After 3-4 days, the pain reduced and I felt normal. One day I walked barefoot in a marriage function hall. That night I had terrible pain. I had to keep my feet in hot water to reduce the pain. I thought that I might have stepped on something sharp unknowingly and also the after effects of wearing the heel slippers could have increased the pain. Days passed this way and my pain kept shooting up and then went down. I felt normal when I walked at home wearing soft spongy slippers and also when I wore good sport shoes. The pain used to increase extremely when I stepped on the floor after waking up. The pain was terrible. I couldn’t put my bare feet down. I immediately had to put my slippers on in order to walk normally. I thought it was just that injury which was causing the pain. I did not take any pain killers till then. I just kept my feet in hot water and made sure I did not walk barefoot. The pain radiated to my head. It was terrible to feel that pain when I put my feet down after waking up. Three months passed by this way and my pain did not vanish completely. At times it was not there but sometimes it came back with full force. I consulted an orthopedic doctor in a very good multi-speciality hospital. He gave it a technical name and suggested some medications along with some foot exercises. The major part of my medication was the pain killer. I did not take the pain killer and instead took the collagen and elastin fiber strengthening supplement. I followed simple foot exercises he suggested me. The pain did come down within two months but did not vanish either. It used to appear suddenly in the morning making my day start with pain. Once I was on the move, I felt absolutely normal. I did not want to go to the doctor again until I completed the course of my supplements. I used to feel very low when I had that pain. I was so comfortable walking barefoot just months ago and now I wasn’t even able to stand barefoot for more than five minutes.

I was also getting very irritated those days quite easily. It was mainly because of the pain with reasons not clearly known. I was expecting the pain to leave me soon but it did not. It kept coming back and radiated to my brain. I felt extremely exhausted and fatigued by the end of the day. I started feeling tired always and slept a lot. Waking up in the morning early was getting difficult for me. I even felt tired climbing up just 40 steps at an age when I should be running marathons. I always felt low on morale and kept telling myself that I was tired. I used to get angry at my own self for reasons unknown. My brain was working normally and I was doing everything that a normal human being would do but I did not have that happiness. There was nothing wrong at home or at my work place. I was normal on the outside but internally something was not keeping me happy. It was exactly one year post marriage and I must say that I am very lucky to have the best person by my side as my life partner. We did have disagreements but those days I was not normal. I was not being happy for what was there around. I was completely disheartened and sad with my own self. It reflected often on my husband also. He was absolutely clueless seeing me unhappy. It so happened that at the same time my parents were also at home and had come to stay over for a couple of months. For any girl it should be a happy and a proud moment when her parents spend more time with her at her house after marriage. They are able to be a part of her day to day life post marriage and are able to see her happily married. Unfortunately my face reflected happiness but not my behaviour. I was becoming extremely irritable not only with myself but also with my parents. I was normal for the external world but for my close ones I was not my original self. I love writing and I have always written in my diary if not as blog posts. My blog had become dormant. I stopped writing my diary and I justified myself by saying that I was too busy juggling with personal and professional life after marriage. I used to write even when I was sad but those days I did not even feel like taking out my diary. I cried a lot without any reason. Initially my parents suspected that I was not happy in my married life but when they had a heartfelt conversation with me they understood I was extremely happy. They also were more than satisfied seeing me with my better half. Soon, they started having doubts with just my changed behaviour. Multiple counselling sessions were there at home but nothing worked. I still cried for no reason at times. It was not just crying, I wailed as if something intricate has been taken away from me. I had everything that any normal human being should have. I was thankful to god for everything but I was still unhappy with god knows what!!  I had terrible dreams at times; I woke up crying very frequently and refused to wake up early. My parents urged me to start going for a morning walk. I did that too but it did not help me much.

Then one fine day my husband and I sat and discussed in depth about all the problems that I was going through. He actually sat and wrote everything that I was feeling, irrespective of it being good or bad. It made me feel a little better. There wasn’t any problem anyway that we needed to solve my troubles. It was mainly my fatigue and my heel pain that was making me feel more irritated.

My husband told me to consult the doctor again and also get my Vitamin D levels checked because he had faced a similar problem two years back . He fell down while playing Table Tennis, because of which he ended up with a tail bone (Coccyx) injury. It was not cured completely despite him leaving biking for 1 year, taking pain killers and Vitamin D supplements and also following strict instructions from doctors to use the ring cushion. MRI, X-ray, everything seemed normal. Finally, an orthopaedic doctor suggested him to get his Vitamin B12 levels checked. They obviously were low. Three months of those supplements with adequate precautions for one year did away with his pain completely. That person who couldn’t sit for 5 minutes without the ring cushion was able to sit through our entire wedding proceedings comfortably. Considering that in a Tam-Brahm wedding the rituals require you to sit for a long time on the floor.

That night I slept a little peacefully but tears did not stop rolling. I am generally a very sensitive person and I get too emotional but these emotions were not seen coming from my original self. My parents told me that I had changed but I was not aware in what way. One fine morning my dad had to get a routine blood check-up done – Blood sugar and Lipid Profile. We had called a technician from a lab for home collection. While he was giving his sample something struck me. I thought I could also get my Vitamin D level checked apart from getting my blood counts, blood sugar and lipid profile done. While that technician was drawing my blood I thought, I should get my Vitamin B12 also checked thinking that it could also be one of the reasons of my pain. I linked it with my husband’s symptoms back then and asked him to add this test too. After all, with the development of science I knew one vial of blood would be enough for at least three of these tests. I went to office and got so busy with work that I almost forgot that I could expect my blood reports by evening. I was checking my mail casually when my reports popped up. Dad’s reports were yet to come. I was too shocked after checking my mail. I was severely deficient in Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. Rest all reports were normal. They were even lower that I had expected. Even my husband did not have such low levels despite his prolonged pain. I called my parents immediately, still in a state of shock. Since I understand the biochemical levels and numbers I knew it was not normal. Dad took me to our family physician immediately. Seeing my reports she questioned me about all those symptoms that I had been feeling and also asked me the reason for getting these tests done. When I explained to her about my symptoms she prescribed medicines for me immediately. My Vitamin B12 levels were so low that I had to take injections every week along with tablets. My medicine course lasted for almost 3-4 months.

When I came back home my parents and my husband were almost in the state to pity my condition. They stood by me giving me the confidence that the medications would relieve me of all pain. They were more relieved now because we all got to know the exact reason for my changed behaviour and problems. Clinically my condition could have worsened and could have led to depression had I not taken that step to do this self-checking. That is when I started reading up a lot on this and referred all possible scientific journals related to this. The results and conclusion of the research studies were shocking. I had suffered only a part of those deficiency symptoms. Vitamin B12 deficiencies could be leading to multiple problems which we will not be aware of. I realized that I did get pricked in my heel and the pain heightened because my bones were weak and bones always have nerves running along with the muscles and blood vessels. That is where Vitamin D and B12 come in. Vitamin B12 deficiency was making my nerves easily susceptible to pain, in any form. 

The medicines started showing their effects within a week. My parents went back home by then. I was feeling so much normal. At times I used to even feel like running away to the Himalayas away from everyone. I am not such a person who is known to run away from people. I love being with people and enjoy life as it is. At the same time I also started practicing Yoga. I could see drastic changes with medications. Yoga also helped me be in control. I was basically boosting my immune system as well my general physical health. I am so glad to say that the symptoms were nowhere to be seen after 2 weeks of medications. My heel pain also reduced a lot. It was practically not there. I still had that pain but I managed to overcome it. I started being active on my blog again. I started writing frequently and was feeling too excited about it. I went to my orthopedic doctor telling him about my progress and showed him my reports. He concluded only then saying that the pain could have been mainly because of these deficiencies.

I still wanted to test my physical strength. After 4 months of medication, I registered for my first 5k (Pinkathon) in February 2015.  I have never managed to complete a 2 km run continuously in so many years and here I was confident enough to go for a 5k run . I went for my first training run when my day was made after merely seeing Milind Soman. That 5k run experience was normal. It was more of a walk than run. I pulled it through but the after effects were only seen when I came back. I had to again put my feet in hot water and also take pain killer. I slept for almost 3 hours. The week after that, I had another training run and the surprise was that Milind Soman himself was going to run with us.  It was sheer happiness for me. My day was made. Problem started after the first kilometer. I couldn’t run. I just walked. I jogged a bit but walked more. Those who were with me had gone ahead and I was just left with a few women behind. I managed to complete the run and came back home. One more pain killer and I slept for almost half a day. Three days later was the actual 5k. My first ever run in a marathon. I was too skeptical and I kept myself ready with pain killers. Luckily I felt more comfortable on the day of the run. 5k seemed easy. I took a little extra time that a regular runner would take but keeping my pace slow and steady I managed to pull through without any problems. Three months back I was not able to stand barefoot and climb 40 steps easily; here I was holding the medal proudly in my hand after successful completion my first 5k. I had triumphed over my pain that day. Slowly I started gaining my strength and stamina back. I did another TCS 10k with my husband and later ended up doing another 5k at the Bengaluru Marathon. 

Thanks to the timely intervention of my vitamin supplements and the constant support of my husband. Without him by my side nothing could have been possible.

This is just my part of the story. There are many friends and relatives around me in whom I identified such symptoms and got them checked. Symptoms can be different for different people. Awareness is what is important. Only now has the awareness increased among clinicians too. Only a handful of good clinicians are there who suggest their patients to get these vitamin levels tested. The best part is that the tests are easily available and done, although a bit on the expensive side but the treatment is simple. One has to just consult a physician and follows simple dietary changes along with external medication. Vegetarians are seen to have more of Vitamin B12 deficiency but these days that notion has also changed.

In case you are facing any such symptoms without any other physical ailments it is better to consult a clinician and get yourself thoroughly checked. The earlier the better as it reflects on the physical and mental health. When these two go bad, relationships also tend to get affected. They tend to weaken you even emotionally. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Angels in disguise #madeofgreat

This post is written for the #madeofgreat campaign where for the first time Tata Motors is undertaking an overall brand association campaign with a brand ambassador. Lionel Messi is talent galore with conviction and is an icon for today’s youth. He is a winner who is trustworthy, reliable, pioneering, simple and driven by self-belief, which is what is at the core of Tata Motors as well.  Do check out their website for more details about this collaboration between Tata Motors and Lionel Messi. It is certainly a  #madeofgreat  combination. 

We meet many people in our day to day life from the time we are born. The first person with whom we establish our first bond is our mother then our father. They are followed by our grandparents, relatives, school friends, teachers, neighbours, friends, college professors, hostel mates, colleagues at work, our life partner, people whom we interact with on a day to basis and many more who just come and go. Family members are someone whom we are close to and we see them throughout our life span. We see changes around, we get influenced by people around us every single day knowingly or unknowingly. But there are some who leave a lasting impact in our lives. They can be called strangers because we have had no previous acquaintance with them. We just meet them once and we never know we will ever be able to meet them again. Such strangers- whose identity is unknown. We are purely influenced by the moments spent with them. When life throws surprises at us for which we are not prepared such strangers come in our lives just like angels in disguise and pull us out of the muddle we are in. It may sound mystical but such instances do happen in reality. I have been through one such incident with my husband and friends on our recent visit to Leh- Ladakh. Precisely, when we went to Tso-Moriri.  I am going to describe about that one terrifying night when Tibetan nomads pulled us out of a very dangerous situation. The amount of help they rendered  and their act of selflessness and extreme kindness was what influenced me the most. It touched a very delicate corner of my heart and I can confidently say that no one has ever left such a deep impact in my life. I neither know their names nor their location because they are nomads. Even if I want to go back to Leh-Ladakh the next year to meet them, I might not find them there because they are always on the move. They were just god sent angels that day who helped us. 

Tso Moriri is the largest high altitude lake located at an altitude of 14,836 ft and has a 24 km expanse. It is actually known as Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation Reserve. This wetland is a protected land also called as -Ramsar site. It is 240 kms from Leh. ‘Tso’ means ‘Lake’ in Ladakhi/Tibetian language. It is a brackish/salt water lake. It is in the Eastern Ladakh region and is to the south eastern side of Leh. It is located in Changthang, which is a high altitude plateau. It is a remnant lake. This lake has a closed drainage system. Snow melts and drains its water into this lake but the water does not flow out. Vegetation is sparse and one can see nomadic Tibetian settlements there. The most common animals spotted there are sheep, Yak, Himalayan dogs and at times the Himalayan Marmot or even the extremely endangered Snow Leopard or the Tibetan Wolf. The nearest village is Korzok where you can see some habitation; otherwise most of these areas form a major part of the high altitude cold desert. It would be even difficult to spot animals or creatures around at times. If one gets stranded in such places it is difficult to even find shelter. It is just a plateau with nothing on it. The most famous, 135 year old Korzok Monastery is located in this village. Tso Moriri has been recently opened to foreign trekkers.

There were four major check points in our route - Upshi, Chumathang, Mahe and Korzok, Tso Moriri. We were 3 couples travelling on Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500cc. We had rented them in Leh for our trip. In Ladakh, everything is very unpredictable, right from the weather conditions to the terrains. There are frequent landslides. Weather conditions can become extreme. When we are travelling in such terrains on bike it is always a risk but one has to take risks when we want to tread the adventurous route. That morning , when we left for Leh, Yd ( my husband's) bike had a problem for which we had to spend two hours getting it repaired and hence we got late while leaving from Leh. We had just crossed Upshi when Saveen's bike had a flat tyre. After a lot of struggle we managed to get help in transporting the bike back to Upshi and get it repaired. Two of them went with the bike while we all stayed there. We were practically stranded for three hours in the middle of nowhere. Our journey had already been delayed by five hours by then. We had to encounter many huge water crossings on the way. As a result of this our shoes we wet, we had practically nothing left to eat or drink. There was no food or drinking water available around. It also started raining. The breeze was also strong and we were getting closer to sunset but not to our destination. We were shivering. We still had 60 odd kilometers to travel and we had no clue how long it would take for us to reach because it was getting dark. There was nothing around. 

We kept moving ahead in the hope of finding some source of light or a place to even halt for a while. Yd kept telling me that he did not remember travelling through this terrain in 2012. He was only looking for an open plateau with multiple routes leading to Tso Moriri. This was nothing close to it. We were now on a road. The only sign board for us was a Y shaped junction where there were many Buddhist prayer flags. We moved ahead not able to find any sign board. It was close to 9:00 PM when we reached a long stretch of road with some shiny, water body like thing to our left which many couldn’t even make out and totally dark plains to our right. There was nothing to be seen except a few meter distance in front with the help of the headlight. We were practically moving into nowhere. Suddenly, we spotted one small light, as good as a twinkling star. Thinking it could be a lantern we moved ahead trying to go closer to it. As we moved further, we spotted more such neon like lights. I was sure that the water body beside us was Tso Moriri and the lights were from Korzok village but Yd told me that it was not Tso Moriri. No one was there to even tell us what it was. We crossed the area where we had seen lights and again moved into darkness. We were totally blinded by the darkness. Thanks to the headlights, we spotted another water crossing. Saveen moved in front and tried to check the stretch of road beyond the water crossing but was not able to. The bike headlights all combined together also could not spot the route beyond the water crossing. We did not know what to do because if we moved towards our right thinking the water crossing was not deep we could land into deep trouble. Bike could get stuck; the road could just end from there or could also lead us to the edge of a cliff/ a mountain. Not able to decide further, we decided to turn back and go to the place where we saw few lights. We reached there to find nothing but just one or two lights. The lights were seeming like a mirage at night. There were also few tents pitched around with no one to be seen. By then, the intensity of rainfall had also increased and we were all freezing in the cold weather. It was more because of the rainfall. We reached close to one of the tents and put the bike headlights around. There was a huge barricade made with stones and we could see horns of animals which smelt like sheep. The smell was unbearable. The first thought that came to my mind when I saw the moving horns of the sheep and also the noise made by them was about Snow leopards. I remembered reading the news about Snow Leopard hunting sheep that were kept in a confined place like these.

Meanwhile, hearing the thundering sound created by the bikes one or two people came out. A man and a woman came out. They hardly understood Hindi and only told us that this was not Korzok village. We understood that Tso Moriri was further up from the place we were in. We hadn’t lost our way but the distance to be covered was unknown. Saveen and Yd tried explaining to him about the water crossing and requested him to come along with them on the bike and show the route to Tso Moriri from there. That man indicated in the conversation that there was a route after the water crossing that will take us to Korzok. His wife was also around. For ten minutes they both stood staring at us, not able to understand our intentions. They must have surely thought, ‘Which fool will come here at this time?’ They might have also suspected our intentions but seeing our helpless situation that man agreed. We all waited while the other two went with the man. Yd also gave him 200 rupees and also assured him that they would bring him back to the same place. They somehow convinced him to show the route.

Once they left, Viren, Spiti, Deepa and I waited there , out in the open, completely drenched, shivering , teeth clattering out of fear, tensed and a sense of unknown prevailing within. The smell of the sheep flocked together was nauseating. We tried searching for that lady so that we could get some shelter till then. I waved the torch and tried to call out but there was no one around. I waved again and shouted- ‘Koi hai, Koi hai’ in desperation. The torch light moved into nowhere. It was just pointing at some mountain which was too far. Suddenly, Deepa and Spiti spotted a small animal like thing scurrying around. When we pointed our torch light we were shocked to see a small baby running around in tattered clothes, without warm clothes or even rain coat. Here we were wearing double layers of warm clothes with a rain coat, shoes and a helmet, yet we stood there shivering. Soon, her mother- that man’s wife came out and looked at us quizzically. We requested her in Hindi and asked her to give us shelter in the tent till our friends were back with her husband. She took us inside immediately. We went inside to see a carpeted floor on either side fenced by cloth bags and rugs around. The tent was made of cloth and was held only by a single pole in the center. All the corners of the cloth forming the tent were tied to stones that were kept around. We were too relieved to find some shelter. We shivered and also freaked out thinking about our plight for the night. It was close to 10:00 PM. While we tried to sit, we found that the carpet was wet. At least we were free of our wet shoes and socks. Water was dripping slightly from the corners but sitting inside was such a relief for us.
The lady asked us a few questions in Hindi and seeing our helpless state she could only offer her pity to us. She was also just wearing an overcoat over her traditional gown with a scarf wrapped around her head . She kept staring at us as we spoke to each other describing our fear. There was a stone kept inside the tent where she sat, simply staring at us. I think she was empathizing with us but she did not know how to express. She also lit up a mini fireplace in the center. It was her stove. She offered to make tea without us asking anything. We were so delighted to even hear about the offer. She started preparing tea immediately. Everything was happening in that small tent. The kettle was put to boil and dried goat shit was used as a fuel for the fire. She had two bags full of them in the tent. She wasn’t shivering or feeling cold. Spiti and Viren were also feeling too sick because of the extremely cold weather outside. We all tried to keep ourselves a little warm with the fire. Deepa had become very quiet by then. She also sat in one corner and kept her fingers warm with the heat from the fire.

Saveen and Yd also came in a while with the man. They all came inside the tent. In that small tent there were 8 members now. We sat crouched there. I was literally kneeling and sitting on my toes because the carpet was wet. That man had showed them the path from the water crossing. Actually, the route was to our left and not to our right. Yd and Saveen said that they had travelled quite a distance to check the route. They were deciding whether to go ahead or not when Viren suggested we stay back in the tent. It was already raining and everyone was feeling extremely cold, so we all came to a conclusion that there was no point going further in the rain. Yd and Saveen however were very confident to move up further, go to Korzok and get help from Yak Camp. Then they would come back and take us. But seeing the weather they also stayed back. We squeezed ourselves inside the tent and were almost sitting crouched, very close to each other. Water had started dripping more and more. It was falling right on Yd’s head and on Viren and Spiti’s head on the other side. We sat facing each other in a horrified and helpless state. Viren and Spiti had to open an umbrella inside the tent to keep off the water falling on them. There were so many people in the tent and so much carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide was generated by the burning fuel that at one point of time I wasn’t able to breathe. I just couldn’t inhale air inside. I was close to feeling suffocated. It made me even more nervous. Finally, when I went out to relieve my distended bladder I breathed fresh air. That lady was kind enough to hold my hand and take me out in the open. There are many firsts in life. I have never done this ever in the open, not even knowing what is around me , where I am, in pitch darkness and in a high altitude region with a complete stranger woman standing there to protect me in the night. Life was throwing different challenges at each step. Once I felt a little normal, I went in, again wet and shivering. Tea was ready by then. We all had the hot tea, apparently made from goat milk. Who cared then whether it was goat milk or cow milk or camel milk? We were too grateful to have been even offered tea. I gave her some money for helping us. She smiled and looked at me quizzically not knowing why I was giving her the money. With all the help that she did for us, she demanded nothing in return. I had to force her to take it.

We requested them to allow us to stay in this tent for the night. They readily agreed and gave us their tent. They also told us that there was another tent where they would stay instead. We were feeling extremely bad for having taken their tent. If only someone could see the other tent, we could shift there as this tent had started leaking. Everyone looked at Yd who was standing in the corner. He took a torch and went with that man in an umbrella. He was extremely nervous going with a complete stranger into darkness. Yd said that the man was showing the torch everywhere pointing towards a tent but there was nothing to reflect the light back. It was pointing again into nowhere. To their dismay the tent had completely collapsed and on being asked he told Yd that, it was that tent he had been referring too. The last hope that Yd had was also shattered. He was extremely disappointed and also shivering after he came back seeing the collapsed tent. I could sense the disappointment on his face. We had no other option but to wait there. I was ready to sleep in that tent provided the rain stopped and water was not leaking. Yd was shivering so much that his teeth were also clattering. That kind lady offered to make dinner for us too. She asked us, “ Will you have dinner?” We wouldn’t expect this hospitality even from our close ones at times. She said that she could make dal – chawal for us. We readily accepted as we were too hungry. We all sat around the fireplace, warming our hands, feet and also face. That lady was cooking in the same tent. She cut onions and added dal chawal in the cooker and cooked our meal there while we all sat wondering what to do next. The husband and wife duo looked at us helplessly trying to find a solution for the leaking tent. They seemed upset seeing water entering the tent. While dinner was getting ready, we had tea. Yd and I were ready to pop pills for fever and body pain as we started feeling symptoms of cold and fever. In the same small tent I even managed to remove my contact lens and wear my glasses. Thankfully, our luggage was brought inside by Yd and Saveen. Deepa had started feeling sick by then. She was also very hungry and was also having acidity. She had suddenly turned quiet again.  We were all in a helpless situation. No one was having the energy to even move out of the tent. Then, something happened. That lady was trying to move some utensils around when her hand hit the pole that was holding the tent. The entire tent shook and more rain water fell on us. She put it back to rest on the stone immediately and held it upright but we realized that this tent could also collapse any moment. The cloth was also not water proof. We had to leave this place or find another sturdy tent for shelter.

I don’t know what struck me that time. My mind was clouded with fear while at the same I was realizing that the people there had such a good heart to help us out and offer food when we didn’t ask for anything except shelter. We were all able to understand that even in such a remote corner of the world, nomads who did not speak or understand our language much were ready to help us out. I was continuously thanking the lady and asking her to help us out further. I was repeating this again and again. Probably it was also a symptom of altitude sickness- talking too much. We only had our words and money to thank them. Even that wouldn’t suffice for the help which they had provided. She looked at me with a smile without being able to understand my thankful gestures. She only looked helplessly at us and later looked at their leaking tent. None of them were clad in waterproof clothing. It was probably a normal day for them. During our conversation I asked them a question which might have seemed extremely stupid and impractical then. I did not even remember that it was me who asked this question. Only when Saveen told us later that he was extremely pissed off listening to my stupid question at that moment, did I realize that it was my idea to even ask that lady. I asked her, ‘ Aapke paas koi gaadi ya car hai kya ?’ Despite having the knowledge that they were nomads and they could not own a vehicle. They were shepherds and poor people who stayed in tents and here I was asking if they had a car.

To everyone’s surprise, that man understood my question and said yes. So my stupid question actually gave us a ray of hope. It was not a car but a camper which they called 404/407. Apparently his cousin/brother/friend, someone whose name was Namgyal had a 404/407. That man left immediately to call his brother and get a vehicle for us. We were all excited thinking that we would be able to reach our camp in Korzok soon. We planned to leave the bikes there and only take our luggage along. This was also depending on the space in the camper.That man came with Namgyal soon. Namgyal spoke in Hindi and also understood about our condition. Initial plan was that, Yd and Saveen would go with Namgyal till the Yak camp in Korzok and get another vehicle like Innova or a mini truck and take the others back. Namgyal interrupted saying that there was no need for another round trip as he could accommodate us in his truck if 4 members tried to adjust in the seat behind. We readily agreed. There couldn’t have been a better solution. Namgyal was almost half asleep when he was woken up. He was also ready to help us just like the other two. Our dal-chawal was ready. It smelt heavenly at least for me and Yd because we were so hungry and exhausted that every smell around seemed to be masked by the aroma of the rice cooked there. Yd appreciated the lady for the tasty food and also enjoyed a spicy powder which she gave to mix with the rice. His appreciation was genuine and we both actually had two servings of that rice. I asked her the recipe also for this awesome rice that was cooked. Even in that helpless and lost state I managed to strike a conversation with her. That was the only meal we had in the entire day after breakfast. Deepa was not even able to complete the food as she was feeling nauseated because of the smell around. Viren and Spiti were also not feeling well because of the cold and damp weather. They were practically tucked in one corner shrunk into each other. My hands were refusing to warm up and my teeth were still clattering. Yd and Saveen were the only ones who managed to do everything even in the rain. They stayed calm throughout despite their tiredness. They were also feeling equally cold and sick but they acted as our support system. Deepa was praying for the rain to stop. 

As we completed our food and left from there, our bags were put behind in the truck by Yd and Saveen. This was all happening at around 11:30 PM at night. Before leaving we gave some money to that lady and the man for their help. Again, she did not expect money for all that she had done. Even Namgyal did not demand money. His only concern was that his truck’s wiper was not working. So he said that he would go slowly in the rain. We had a vehicle to take us to our camp. We required nothing more. One by one we entered squeezing inside the truck. Saveen and Yd sat with Namgyal in the front seat while Deepa, Viren, Spiti and I sat in the seat behind. We were still wet. Our shoes were still soaked and few things that we were holding in our hands were also wet. In the truck’s carrier behind all our clothes, saddle bags were kept which were surely wet because of the rain. All we wanted was to reach our camp. My hands were freezing cold but with Deepa’s help I tried to keep them warm in her jacket.

Half an hour passed and we were still travelling. We had also crossed that difficult water crossing which was actually nothing. The roads seemed pretty okay but we were discussing that it was good that we did not take a chance and drive through it. The journey was getting longer and longer. Viren and Spiti were fast asleep. Deepa and I were also not too comfortable. Deepa just kept quiet. Yd and Saveen kept doing a status check in between. Yd was continuously having a conversation with Namgyal , most of which was extremely boring and irritating but it was enough to keep him awake. He kept telling me too not to fall asleep. The rain had slowed down. Deepa was a little relieved. It would help us reach Tso Moriri faster. The cold breeze had not stopped though. It was freezing cold. Exactly as I describe. We were almost freezing.

Suddenly the rain drops became huge and intense. They were falling on the glass screen and refusing to move from there. They were just getting stuck there making it difficult for Namgyal to see. To me they seemed like pigeon shit falling on the glass screen and refusing to go away. Only when Namgyal strained his head out while moving the steering with his left hand and with his right hand removed the slick we realized that it was snow. Within ten minutes it grew thicker and thicker and Namgyal kept repeating the same act without bothering about snow falling on him or even cold affecting him. I remember he was just wearing a jacket for protection. No head gear, no goggles, no gloves or no rain coat for protection. He was comfortable and happy in helping us out. We had to cross a herd of sheep on our way which were not visible in the dark but we could hear their sound clearly. We could only see something from the front glass which was getting cloudy every second. We were amidst a snowstorm.

After a while, Namgyal stopped his vehicle and told us that it was not possible for him to take us further as the snow storm had increased and the roads were going be blocked soon. Driving would be dangerous in this weather plus he was not able to see anything in front. Snow, being opaque does not allow light to pass through. It was difficult for him to see anything and this exercise of removing snow each time and driving further up was difficult. He told us that if we moved further up, the intensity of snowfall would increase and we might be in a tougher situation. He suggested that we should go back. But where do we go back to? May be the tent where we stayed would have also collapsed because of the snow water would have entered completely?  We told Namgyal that we did not have a place to go to. What he told us next left us feeling surprised and shocked. He told us in Hindi, ‘I will take you to a hotel, if you find place there you can stay or else I’ll take you all to my house. It is near Mahe Bridge.’ At that moment his simple act of humanity seemed like words from spoken by an angel. We knew then that humanity still existed in this world. He was just like a God sent angel.

Now that we decided to go back, he had to reverse the vehicle. The road was so narrow that it was difficult for him to even reverse his truck. He somehow struggled with it, moving his vehicle back inch by inch and looking carefully outside. We were not able to see anything but the people sitting inside. He was also doing this very carefully. Anything could happen at that moment if he missed a ditch or he reversed the vehicle up till the edge of a mountain/cliff. Any wrong move of the vehicle could put our lives at risk. But he was very careful and reversed the car perfectly even in that weather condition. All this while, snow was falling completely over him as he was dusting it off every time. I was too scared to witness this and in an attempt to close my eyes I dozed off. I did not know what happened after that but I heard Deepa speaking in between and asking if I was awake. I replied to her and again closed my eyes. I was hanging between reality and sleep. We were all completely dependent on Namgyal.

Saveen and Yd were still talking about something to Namgyal. I remember the point when I woke up for a while. The vehicle halted and he spoke something in his language. Apparently it was a hotel where he was telling us to stay. No one opened the door. He kept calling names but no one came. The next option was to drive around 20- 30 odd kilometres to reach his village which was near Mahe Bridge. We couldn’t have asked for more. The journey was never ending. I woke up in between, looked at some faint light in front and again closed by eyes. Viren and Spiti were also awake for a while but they again went back to sleep. Deepa was mumbling and also asking Saveen about the time it would take. She was extremely affected by the weather, altitude, having  food at an odd hour, acidity and mainly the smell of sheep and diesel. She was holding up for a very long time trying to be calm. I was also woken up when she asked me if I was alright. I was still shivering and my nose was cold. I was having difficult to breathe but I managed to remain calm. There was one such moment when Deepa and I held hands and we were almost in tears but we managed to stay calm. All we wanted at that time was a shelter to prevent us from the cold, rain and the snowstorm.

After about an hour we reached Namgyal’s house. I was asleep for the past one hour. I was woken up by Deepa telling that we had reached his house. It was not snowing there when we came but it was raining. Not heavily though. It was close to 2:00 AM when we reached his house. It was a small house made of mud. We couldn’t see anything around. I only remember being told to get inside the room fast. Namgyal helped us in getting into one of the rooms. Yd and Saveen were busy bringing the luggage inside the room. All our bags were covered with a thick layer of snow. In that extremely cold weather they cleared out the snow and brought all the bags inside. Viren and Spiti managed to get a place to sit in the corner. They were half asleep and too weak to talk or respond to what was happening around. Deepa and I were forcefully woken up from our dazed sleepy state  when we stepped on the soaking wet carpeted bed. There was no place left dry for us to even stand. The room was muddy and also wet because rain water had seeped in through the roof. The roofs there are made of mud which cannot hold water. They get damp and eventually start falling. We told Namgyal that the carpets were soaking wet. He told us to go to another room but there was no light. We were shifting into the other room when Deepa had severe vomiting. She felt even more nauseated after entering the room. She lost a lot of fluid. Namgyal was extremely kind enough in giving her a bucket from his house. When she looked around to wash up and drink water, there wasn’t any. In a hurry we had left all our water bottles in the tent. Namgyal had some water stored in a can which was only sufficient for Deepa to wash her face and rinse her mouth. She did feel a little better after vomiting but loosing fluids had made her extremely weak. We both went to another room which was totally dark. We both sat on two carpeted beds in different corners. Thankfully they were still dry but in the centre of the room there was a huge patch of damp mud which had fallen from the room and water was trickling from the room. Namgyal went to help Saveen and Yd with the luggage and for a minute Deepa and I were left in pitch darkness. We couldn’t even see each other’s face. A thin ray of light escaped through the crack in that room’s door. I could see some movement happening outside the room and was able to hear Saveen’s voice. He was really worried about Deepa’s health condition. Yd also came in a while and kept our luggage there. We only had to keep a track of all our bags. We had no clue if our mobile phones and wallets were safe but we knew that they were somewhere inside one of the bags kept safely.

I felt relieved only when Yd came and sat beside me. Namgyal gave us warm blankets which we needed badly. We kept our rain coats aside and decided to sleep. Spiti and Viren also joined us. The place where they sat had also started leaking. Namgyal was very worried looking at the condition of the room. He was feeling bad that he couldn’t do much to help us. He had warm blankets for everyone. With both the rooms in his house occupied; one by us and one by rain water, Namgyal went to sleep in his camper. We requested him to stay back and sleep in the same room but he decided to sleep in his truck instead. We wondered at his helpful and kind nature.

The most important part of the day’s event is that no one asked for money or demanded anything from us. They were doing everything out of humanity. Had it been in some other place , I doubt if someone would have been so helpful without expecting money first. We had only few hours left before daybreak. That was the time when we all prayed for the night to end soon and were desperately waiting for the sun to rise. That was the only solution to all our problems. It was the longest and most adventurous night of our Ladakh trip and in our lives so far.

We were taken to Tso Moriri the next day by Namgyal.  We left from Tso Moriri at around 10:00 AM. In an hour we reached Thadsang. The sky was clear and the sun was shining bright. We wanted to meet that Tibetan lady and thank her again for her help. She was smiling happily looking at us. We also saw that little girl who was scurrying around at night. She was dressed in a cute traditional gown. She was going to welcome the Lama who was arriving to their village shortly. That Tibetan lady had also kept Saveen’s bike keys safely. She handed it over to him when the bikes were loaded on to the campers.  The tent where we stayed in was intact and the locals were behaving as if nothing had happened the previous night. It was just another normal night for them. The carpets in that tent that were damp were put outside for drying. That was when we observed the fenced area where the sheep were kept at night. We also saw horns of sheep lying around everywhere and the disgusting smell still persisted.

One camper had two bikes and the third bike was put on the other one. Our wet shoes and socks were dumped behind in the carrier. Our bags were kept on the top carrier. Another interesting fact about the people there is - Unity. They all work as a family, be it anything. While our bikes were being loaded many came for help, shockingly Namgyal’s 70 + old mother also came to help them out to load the bikes. She told Saveen, Yd and Viren not to do anything and she was able to lift a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 cc bike on to a camper. They were able to tie the bikes to the camper so strongly that even if one tried to shake them, the bike’s stood still. Hats off to the spirit of the people there!! We were amazed seeing their unity and strength. We bade them good bye and left. 

It was one such incident that shook our confidence but increased the amount of respect for the Tibetan family especially that lady and Namgyal who chose to help us without any hesitation. The most important part of their nature was that they did not do it expecting any monetary benefit. It was an act of humanity. It is rare to find such selfless people. An unforgettable incident and unforgettable Tibetan people there in Thadsand village. I really wish to see them again if I get a chance to visit Thadsang village again. They taught us selflessness that day. They trusted us and helped us without expecting anything in return. It is very difficult to be that way. Considering that they are poor and are nomads, I did not see a hint of greed in their eyes. Money seemed secondary to them. For them it was all about giving us shelter, food, water and lodging in the middle of the night. They wanted us to be safe and reach Leh safely. Otherwise, who would offer one's own tent for us to sleep and choose to go to a dilapidated one themselves. I still wonder if ever someone comes knocking at our door in the middle of the night seeking shelter how will we react? Will we be able to be so selfless and think so clearly without any doubts?