Banana Oat Nut Bars (Butterless, Flourless, Sugarless)

Last Monday, when I was at work, my very distraught sister reached out to me. She is quite a calm and composed person as such and I had not seen her so worked up in the recent past. She works in a leading newspaper in Delhi and what she said at that time made a chill run down my spine. A national-award-winning photographer, who worked in her organisation, had been to drought-hit Jhansi on an assignment. He was tracking the movement of a water train and had climbed over the train for the perfect shot. Inadvertently, he brushed against a wire and within seconds lay there, electrocuted.
The incident sent shockwaves across the industry, people started talking about safety on duty. My sister was still in disbelief and kept on narrating stories to me about the extremely hardworking and talented photographer who left no stone unturned to shoot every possible angle of his subject. Such an irony that his forte eventually became his doom.
Three days later, news broke that 2 journalists had been shot dead in Bihar and Jharkhand in a span of 24 hours. Siwan bureau chief of Hindustan Rajdev Ranjan was attacked by a group of assailants who shot at him 5 times. Later that day, Jharkhand television journalist Akhil Pratap Singh was also shot on his way back home from work.
Now I didn't know Ravi Kanojia, Ramdev Ranjan or Akhil Pratap Singh personally, and had they not been from the same fraternity, their untimely and gruesome deaths probably wouldn't have hit that hard. But these three instances in the last one week, brings to the fore, more than ever, the sad picture of the shameless lack of security that journalists have in present-day India. What was even more glaring was the relative indifference of the people — both journalists and otherwise — on the issue. We are the first ones to splash Modi's degree across Page 1, we are the ones to pick and choose the best shot of Virat Kohli celebrating RCB's victory to publish on our Sports page, we are the ones who have over the years demanded justice for Jessica Lal, Jyoti Singh, Arushi Talwar and others. And yet, we are so painfully silent when the victim is one of us. Why this reluctance to stand up for people who stand up for everything? 

Seven years ago, I went to journalism school with dreams in my eyes and hopes in my heart. Being a journalist requires you to give up a lot of things — your personal and social life, your weekends, your evenings out with friends and families, your normal sleep cycle. You work till ridiculously late hours, often in lieu of very, very low salaries (which at times doesn't increase even in 2-3 years) under tremendous deadlines pressures and almost always at the cost of your health. I have done all of that, mostly because there's nothing I'd rather do over it. But when the pride associated with your profession seems to fade and you find yourself cursing the very place you belong to, you feel ashamed. And today is one such day. I've never felt more let down by my fraternity. And it hurts a great deal to write this.

Makes 16 bars

Ingredients:
Bananas, overripe and peeled: 3 large
Rolled oats: 2 cups (I used 1 cup normal oats and 1 cup muesli)
Dates, deseeded and chopped: 1/2 cup
Mixed nuts, chopped roughly: 1/2 cup (I used an assortment of cashews, walnuts, almonds and macademia)
Vanilla bean paste (or vanilla essence): 1 tsp
Salt: a pinch

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 180°C and butter a aquare or rectangular baking pan. Set it aside.

2. Start with mashing the bananas well. In case they had been refrigerated before (like mine were) bring them down to room temperature first.

3. Then one by one add the oats, nuts, dates and vanilla paste. Sprinkle salt and mix everything together till all the ingredients are well incorporated.

4. Pour the mixture evenly into the baking pan. Pat from top to level it or tap against the kitchen counter a couple of times to distribute the batter.

5. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges are crispy and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. .

6. Cool on a wire rack for around 30 minutes. Halfway through the cooling time, make incisions in the bar to cut it into 16 pieces.

7. Enjoy this as breakfast, a mid-morning or evening snack or even an after-dinner dessert.Without feeling guilty at all! :)
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