The Momo Curse

Originally posted on The Fallen:

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A few days ago I went on a momo-eating trip to Flavors (a trying-to-be-a-restaurant-but-still-a-stand for all your chaats and evening snacks opposite Hindustan Club.) We had only just sat down in a cab and adjusted ourselves to our now filled stomachs and the smell of paan that my mama brought with himself, when the driver declared that there was a tire puncture. Alright. New cab then. As I was opening the door of the new cab, a realization dawned on me. I had left my phone in the former cab. After hurriedly ruffling through my pockets we launched ourselves inside the cab and established that the driver was on a following a cab mission (which is as common a phenomena in Bollywood as forgetfulness is to me). The cab raced through Hungerford Street, Theatre Road and then to Chowringhee with all of us scrutinizing every cab that passed by for…

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Summer Fruits

I wouldn’t want to be born anywhere but here, my India. And every time I rant about bad roads, crass people, crummy politicians, and frequent power outages I find nature’s bounty smile at me as a gentle reminder why this is mine own country.  Fiery reds fight with burnished yellow as tree lined avenues of bright yellow Copper Pod Trees and Flames of the Forest and bounganvillas of all colors (red, white, orange, magenta, yellow and pale pinks)  shine brighter and more cheerful as summer peaks.

But for me summer truly gets here when I see trees laden with mangoes tempting the kleptomaniac buried deep inside. I can’t resist the green fruit, its headily tempting aroma and its tangy taste. Ripe mangoes are good too but nothing like the tangy taste of a raw mango best eaten simply with salt and red chilli powder.

If you are heading out of the city be sure to check out the mango vendors near the toll gates who make cut mangoes seem a work of art. Thotapuri mangoes slit into ten but still held together at the base.

I thought of sharing a few of my favourite mango recipes and those of you who can steal or buy a mango or two should definitely try these out.

Aamodka

This is my version of a mango-laced vodka cocktail.

You need: a slice or two of raw mango (I prefer the Thotapuri variety since it isn’t too sour) cut into small cubes; 30-60 ml of vodka (depends on how strong you want your drink to be); 1 tbsp of mango slush (I prefer Maala’s mango slush); soda; 1 tsp of honey (increase it if you want more sweetness); ice cubes; mint leaves; 1 chilli slit; chaat masala

Method: Mix honey, vokda, mango slush, ice cubes, mint, slit chilli in a cocktail shaker. Shake. Shake. Shake. Transfer  all but 1/4 of the concoction to a high ball glass.  Now add soda and chaat masala to the cocktail shaker along with the 1/4 concoction and shake. Transfer to the glass and stir with a spoon. Add the cut mango cubes and serve chilled.

Caution: The raw mango with the chilli will give a pleasant buzz

 

Aam Chutney

You will need 2 Thotapuri mangoes; Mustard Oil – 3 tbsp; Salt to taste; Chilli powder (1-2 tsp depending on pungency level); Asafoetida/Hing (a pinch of two);  Methi/Fenugreek seeds (1/4 tsp); Mustard seeds (1/4 tsp); Turmeric (1/4 tsp)

Method: Grate Thotapuri mangoes. Heat oil in Kadhai (wok) to smoking point. Add mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Once it crackles, add hing and the masalas. Either reduce heat or remove from stove before adding masalas else it may burn. Then add the grated mango and salt. Mix well.

Note: Chutney can be refrigerated. If storing outside increase quantity of oil by another spoonful or two. Goes great with rice.

 

Aam Soare (Mango curry)

You will need  Thotapuri mango (1 or 2 slices cut into large cubes); 2 tomatoes finely chopped; 1 big onion coarsely chopped; curry leaves; fenugreek/methi seeds; mustard seeds; garlic pods – 4; turmeric powder (1/4 tsp); Chilli powder (1-3 tsp depending on pungency); salt to taste; Cooking Oil (2 tbsp)  to temper

Method: Heat oil in kadhai.  Add mustard, fenugreek seed and after it crackles add garlic pods and curry leaves. Then add chopped onions and fry till brown (not burnt brown but light brown). Add chopped tomatoes and roast till oil seperates. Now add turmeric powder and mango cubes. Pour 1.5 glasses of water and simmer till mango cooks. Add chilli powder and salt according to taste. Simmer for a few more minutes till the raw smell of chilli powder gives way to the fragrance of the curry.

Serve hot with rice or idlis or dosas.

Aam rasam

You will need  Thotapuri mango (1/2 mango cut into medium-sized cubes); curry leaves; tomatoes -2 big; mustard seeds; hing/asafoetida; red chillis-whole; garlic-6 pods; a small ball of tamarind soaked in water (extract pulp); jeera/cumin seeds (1/2 tsp); peppercorns (1 1/2 tsp); salt to taste; 1 spoon ghee (clarified butter); Eastern rasam powder (or MTR or Aachis or any brand of rasam powder)

Method: Pulp tomatoes, garlic and 1/4 piece mango together in mixer or food processor; grind jeera and peppercorns together; Heat  khadai to smoking point. Add mustard and curry leaves. Once it crackles add ghee. After ghee heats slightly add red chillis and hing. Stir in tomato puree  mix and tamarind pulp. Add 2 glasses of water, jeera/pepper mix, rasam powder and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and finish it off with garnish of coriander leaves.

Can drink hot since it is a great remedy to counteract summer cold else serve with hot rice and ghee with papads (poppadums) on the side.

 

Note: Unless mentioned chilli powder refers to red chilli powder; Mustard seeds for tempering can be either 1/4-1/2 tsp ; hing is a pinch; salt is to taste since it depends on individual

Bon Appetit, and enjoy the Indian summer :D

 

Live In the Moment

Election fervor has overtaken most of India, in fact all of it. I hear random strangers discuss the ultimate outcome. I hear housewives discuss the pros of electing Modi and the cons of having a third term of the Congress. In the midst of this are radio ads that say Carpe Diem since it’s IPL season too. So that’s another frenzy that’s fast catching on.

For this is India, where we are quick to embrace the new, cast out the old, encompass the good and discard the bad. I love my country, or can’t you tell.

So Carpe Diem it was…

Bambubhai and I decided to do a quickie road trip seeing it was a long Easter weekend. He had forgotten the hunter’s blood (his camera has been gathering fungii now for over six months) while I had to answer nature’s call (my last trip to coastal Karnataka was refreshing and I was still spinning images in Hi-Def color in my head).

We set off at 7 in the morning in spite of firm resolves & alarm clocks to get out of the house by 5. You see the city is blistering hot right now. A few kilometers on any of the highways or expressways and you will start seeing mirages (which I thought till last year was only a phenomenon in the desert).

Thankfully the crores of rupees spent by central and state governments have made the intertwining National & State Highways a joy to drive on for most part. Nearly 45 kms out of the city and we started to see drongos, sparrows nestling in tiled roofs, kids playing with gay abandon, men gathered in the chowk reading papers, women working in the fields or washing clothes (yes, even here it is the woman who bears the brunt), cows grazing, goats and hens cutting across roads, riot of colors every few kilometers as women spread fresh tomatoes, onions, potatoes, ladyfingers (okra), brinjal, doodhi (louki/bottle gourd), coriander, mint, curry leaves, cucumbers and fields of grapes, bottle gourds, marigolds, mangoes….Ahhhhh, mangoes.

If only Bambubhai wasn’t such a stickler for rules!! Green trees with their branches invitingly bent towards the road laden with mangoes, big green mangoes…Wild mangoes, Baiganpalli and Totapuri. The delicious fragrance of mangoes, the sight of those beautiful green fruits was just too much to resist but the only problem Bambubhai insisted on revving up the car the minute he saw the King of Fruits for he knew he had a kleptomaniac as company.

The last time I stole mangoes it turned out as yummy, enticing chutneys on my dining table loaded with the goodness of asafoetida, turmeric, chillis and salts. Hot rice and the mango chutney mom cooked..I was in heaven.

Onwards we went past the mango fields to travel slow on roads that were half completed. Huge boards proclaimed a 27 lakh/32 lakh/43 lakh/etc…. project that the government in its senses saw fit to leave incomplete. So a tar road beckons you invitingly to explore it farther and when you do you are betrayed on to mud roads.

This is what we the electorate vote for every 5 years. Betrayal.

At least nature kept/keeps its promise.

Summer brings the bloom to indigeneous trees on Indian roads. While the eucalyptus looked unadventurous and boring we saw Flames of The forest all red and home to zillions of parakeets, koels and crows (alright the number is a mirage in my highly-imaginative mind, and well numbers have never been my strong point).

We lost our way and kept to the meandering roads to be greeted by a temple in the middle of nowhere. That is the beauty of India, you are never alone. God is around to (mis)guide you but then this is probably when man takes on God’s role. Every village has its own deity that adds a mystical beauty to the place. We came across old wrecks of what must have been beautiful temples once ravaged by time and neglect. We came across brightly festooned temples with color papers and strings of flowers draping the courtyard, where sweet vendors plied their over-colored sugar candies and puffed rice and farsaan.

We saw even saw a grey francolin dancing across the road and nearly ran over it. We braked the car to see the rum bird doing a rummy dance across the fields and then all we heard was the rustle of dry leaves. A hilarious sight worth capturing, only problem neither of us had taken our camera.

The meandering road led us to a marsh. A MARSH where trees where half buried in water and looked lost, like it was meant to be in a Harry Potter movie but was transplanted to this spot on the highway where vehicles (trucks, canters, bikes and cars) sped at high speed and never-a-one stopped to admire this lil spot of tranquility. What we saw shocked us more. There were egrets, cormorants, herons, grey herons, coots, wild ducks and more happy nestling. (No, this wasn’t the famous Ranganthittu bird sanctuary and it made this sight so much more amazing). We stayed here rivetted till the hot sun started pelting us with sweat down our brows and making our clothes unbearably sticky. We reluctantly moved onward.

We came across stores that sold farm fresh mushrooms. We came across rabbit farms. We saw poultry farms and hatcheries.

To think forgoing sleep meant so much more than a bad headache.

To think Living in the Moment had such untold joys.

Get out there you and see the world in all its glory. Carpe Diem!

 

Note: All Bird IDs courtesy Bambubhai. I’m but a disciple of the great one..

Staying Afloat or Learning to Thrive not merely survive

Nina, 42, worked as a HR manager in a globalised corporate entity for over 14 years steadily climbing the ladder from being a fresh minion in the HR department to managing the human resources need for the company’s Asia-Pacific rim. She was touted for a promotion and a rewarding bonus in the next review cycle. 

Ravi, 35, worked in the sales team for the newly-opened foods division within a software to sanitary pad conglomerate. He had already made several trips overseas, was his boss’ blue-eyed boy and much-sought after in social events. His boss had given him a challenging target for the first quarter and he was confident of surpassing the numbers. 

Both Nina and Ravi found themselves scouring wanted ads in the next review cycle. While Nina was passed over for promotion over a younger colleague and quit her job feeling slighted, Ravi was rendered unemployed due to ‘a structured downsizing.’

Six months later, Nina had reinvented herself as a life skills coach and opened a training academy that helped companies strategise and implement better HR policies, provide soft skills and life skills training to employees and make the workplace ‘a place to live’.  She had three steady clients and several prospective leads. 

Ravi had switched two jobs and was busy figuring out where his next pay check would come from? Though he wanted to continue working for another corporate he was unsure of facing the bleak prospect of a lay off. 

How do you think this should play out?

In the real world, unless Nina had good, paying clients, minimal commitments and a nifty nest egg set aside she would have  had to fold up and look for another job. Ravi would have had to take whatever came his way till he found his feet. 

Nina, indeed, held on to her new-found entrepreneurial zeal and today has several happy clients in her kitty. She is a much-sought after speaker in management colleges, conducts training programmes for aspiring HR professionals, mentors youngsters in communication skills and helps senior managers enhance their life skills and perform better at the workplace. 

Ravi decided against working for yet another corporate. He banded with four of his friends to set up a business consultancy that offers virtual sales leads and business support services. He has a handful of clients and is busy developing a mobile app that will help companies schedule meetings in different time zones and geographies. 

So what differentiates people like Nina and Ravi who learn to thrive in crippling circumstances and the rest who go into survival mode?

For starters, both Nina and Ravi were consummate networkers. Chance meeting in the corridors were not reserved for gossip but used as a chance to cultivate relationships. Social networking platforms and office events were fertile ground to nurture relationships based on commonalities, collaboration and bonding.

Upgrading Skills. Nina and Ravi were always willing to expand their sphere of influence meaning they helped on projects and functions where their expertise besides the functional one furthered the need of the organisation. Nina, for instance, had a knack for project management and ended up volunteering on projects that were not related to her core area of expertise – HR. She was not shy of speaking about her accomplishments or taking on additional work. Nina had also enrolled herself in weekend classes on project management to get certified.

Ravi  represented his organisation at industry -level meetings and trade lobbies. Though an introvert by nature he was starting to enjoy participating in these events, networking and even speaking at smaller, focus groups. He was slowly shaping himself into an influencer who always stayed abreast of industry trends and standards. He wrote articles and papers on his areas of expertise – food processing and agro sector.

Life did not begin and end at the workplace for either Ravi or Nina. Ravi was an adventure junkie and had initiated a Adventurers Unlimited club in his organization. The club had grown in popularity by the time he moved out of his organisation. He ran a language club and also volunteered for social causes run by the CSR department including teaching slum children maths and english. He had met several interesting people through these volunteer projects. Nina had initiated a Buddy Programme as part of the new employee orientation. She made it a point to meet up with group heads and mid-level managers to understand issues and concerns. She held random lunch table meetings with new employees. On weekends she was a lecturer at a management institute mentoring management graduates.

Big Picture for these two was not a seat on the directors’ board but living a more meaningful life. For Nina this meant having time to spend with her family, her garden and two dogs while continuing to volunteer at the old age home and lecture. Through her business venture, she roped in experienced veterans to teach life skills at her sessions for corporate clients and academic institutions. Ravi enhanced the scope of his work at the NGO that provided learning to children living in slums. He used his contacts to get stationary, books and used computers for these children increasing their confidence. He was able to build a proper school and enroll more volunteers for the programme.

Both these people are thriving in the environment they have created. Though both are stressed at finding clients and managing their full calendars, they are enjoying every single minute. They have learnt to be the Boss of their life by managing themselves, their network and their team more effectively.

 

Be the Boss:

Always look at the Big Picture. Your life does not end and begin with the Organisation

Have Life Skills. Volunteer. Enjoy Activities that are only for your (inner) growth

Build Your Credibility. Communicate.

Network. Professionally and Personally.

Mentor.

 

 

 

The Job’s Garden of Eden by Rachel Chitra

I stumbled across this refreshingly delightful work of writing on a friend’s wall. Turns out the author is a mad hatter with dog(s) and kid in tow living a charmed life while she moonlights as a journalist.

The post evoked great childhood memories for my mum as I read this out loud. Of indulgent parents and living in the lap of nature unspoilt and uncompromised by the baggage of modern living.

While I’m still trying to entice the author to be a guest blogger on The Glass Ceiling for now here’s her post. I can’t think of a better way to wish you all A HAPPY FRIDAY and a Fantastic Weekend Ahead.

Hope you enjoy Rachel Chitra’s The Job’s Garden of Eden with incredible photographs by Nathan.J.Novak as much as I did.

 

THE JOB’S GARDEN OF EDEN

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In our family’s private circle of church friends and relatives, my grandfather Dr E.J.C.Job’s sprawling plot of land in Mandaveli was always referred to as the “Garden of Eden.” And indeed it was an overwhelmingly lush and green spot. My grandfather was such an enthusiastic, scientific gardener that if one were to call him a horticulturist it wouldn’t be far of the mark.

Another irony is that despite my grandfather’s deep love for the soil and all kinds of flora and fauna, he spent the majority of his life on the high seas as an Indian Naval doctor. It was only after his retirement as Surgeon Commander I.N.S that he was able to revel in his life-long passion by converting his house into a veritable paradise.

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If I remember right, we had 5 coconut trees, 2 jackfruit trees, 1 really top-of-the world alphonsa hybrid mango tree, a neem tree, two drumstick trees, stalks of banana in the backyard, papaya, Ram Sita (sugar apple), pumpkins and custard apple. We also had our own lime tree and I still love the fragrance of crushed lime leaves; even today while rambling through Russell’s market I can buy a whole cartload of lemons if I spot them with their leaves intact. We also had a sapota tree and one lovely amla tree, which was nearly 2 stories high. My grandfather unfortunately cut it down later when he felt he couldn’t deal with the hordes of school boys descending on us and almost breaking their limbs in their quest for amlas.

My grandfather used to garden everyday – meticulously pruning, shaping, fertilizing and generally coaxing his wards into good health. He would also casually mention the scientific names of animals and plants as I followed him around the garden like Mary’s little lamb. For me if I can remember off-hand names like clitoria ternatea, Annona squamosa, Phyllanthus emblica (mixed up in my child’s mind as umbilical cord), Panthera leo, panthera tigris, Canis lupus, Felis catus – it can only be because like Enid Blyton I had in my grandfather a deep connoisseur of nature.

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My grandfather was also a strong believer in letting children learn for themselves. So when my 8 year old father got stuck climbing a mangosteen tree, my grandfather just casually told him to come down the same way he went up and walked off; even as my worried-sick grandmother hovered around shouting frantic instructions. My father finally plucked up enough courage to make the attempt and descended in safety. It was the same with me – when my grandfather told me not to climb the drumstick tree I didn’t heed his advice. Later when I had huge welts on my skin from coming into contact with the stem-boring caterpillars, which had made the drumstick tree their domain, he never told me “I told you so.” But there was a twinkle in his eye as he ministered to the swelling, which sealed our own private pact of discovery and growing up.

We also had a lot of flowering shrubs – white, magenta & violet december flowers, gundu malli, jaddi malli (jasmine), kangambaram (red & orange firecracker flower), fiery red roses, balsam, spreading vines of pink button roses, Idli poo (jungle geranium) and abundant bushes of Vadamalli. The Vadamalli was a plant that my grandfather had never fancied much, but then nature finds its own way; and this abundant crop had grown from the discarded garland of one of our dear departed relatives.

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Come March and we had the Easter lilies! The Easter lilies adorned the edge of the lawn facing our house and my grandmother used to faithfully cut them every Easter to occupy pride of place in our drawing room. And these Easter lilies were huge ones that were almost a hand span in diameter. Now I wonder if they were that huge as a result of my grandfather’s experiments as I’ve never come across any to rival them in terms of sheer size. 

 Another lovely thing about the garden was that it was the pleasantest place to be in if my grandmother set me down to finish my embroidery or knitting exercise for the day. It used to be so pleasant to sit under the cool shade of the neem tree, with the wind tousling my hair and listening to the low hum of local gossip as our street watchmen gathered under it like me on the other side of the fence to take their afternoon siesta. Many of them used to also pluck the neem stems to use as toothbrush & toothpaste – such a healthy habit, which I never picked up because of the intense bitterness of neem.

Despite being a gardener, my grandfather never once resented the predatory and destructive activities of my cats and dogs. He always tolerated their mischief in the manner of Issac Newton and his dog; “O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done.”

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During the jasmine flowering season, the garden smelled heavenly with the smell of ripening mangoes, the jasmine and the sweet pink button roses (traditionally used to prepare attar).We used to string together the abundance of our garden flowers to adorn the heads of our care-cell members and my own unruly, tight oily plaits. I used to love this job and one of the few things I’m good  at it – is stringing flowers together with the speed and professional ease of the road-side flower girls!

My grandfather also loved his ferns, edible tubers (maravelli kizhangu, sakkaravalli kizhangu) & kitchen herbs (coriander, pudina). We also had plenty of medicinal plants too – like aloe vera, Kuppaimeni, Kathalai, Ceylon Spinach (that I really wished my grandmother didn’t include in her menu) and Manathakalli – it must be more than 10 years since I last had those wonderful berries, but I can still distinctly remember their taste.

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One of our maids Dhanam hailed from Vaniyambadi and was a farmer herself. She used to be thatha’s assistant in harvesting our sundakka shrubs (turkey berry), grafting the rose bushes, taking a burning torch to the caterpillars on the drumstick tree, etc. But she really came to life only with our coconut tree, she would painstakingly split the leaf stalkes down with her pocket knife and hem and haw at them till they produced nice, thick broom sticks, she would fashion kitchen scrubbers from the coconut matting and little monkey faces for me from the coconut husks.   

I think for my grandparents it was a marriage made in heaven. They perfectly complimented each other in every way. Apart from their deep, abiding love for each other they were also very supportive of each other’s hobbies and interests. I can still remember how my grandfather even at the age of 70 would go clambering up a ladder with a long stick & wired net to pluck mangoes for my grandmother’s jams and pickles. My grandmother was an amazing cook, who used to produce the most dazzling array of pickles, chutneys, squashes, jams, relishes and alwa from the flood of fruits that used to descend on us with each passing season. There used to be rows and rows of salted limes or mangoes laid out on clean white sheets on the terrace, on the balcony, on the window ledges, on the garage roof to be dried in the sun and later turned into bottled goodness.  

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Before the family’s finances permitted my grandfather to pursue his medicine, for nearly a year he studied at the local agricultural college. He was passionate about horticulture and was open-handed and generous with the efforts of his labour. Every visitor to our house – would leave with gunny bags brimming with coconuts, mangoes, jackfruit or whichever fruit was in season. For some of our friends – who were not country-born – there would be this big jackfruit-cutting session with oiled knives, newspapers and cordoning off of kids and dogs with grubby paws.

I think my grandfather’s garden was a testimony of his overflowing love for plants, animals, his family and his friends and it is with the fondest memories that I view these pictures of the halcyon days.

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Hard Times

When the going gets tough get going. Nope, it’s not that oft-repeated saying but this classic Billy Joel number from the 80′s.

I was reminded of it when I watched my grandpa make a sprint to our patio to check out the peacocks. No, I ain’t kidding. We actually have peacocks frolicking in our backyard (and front too) with all the bee eaters, shrikes, racket-tailed drongos, puppies and strays, magpie robins, kites, shikaras, mongooses and even lapwings on a rainy day! And yes, my grandpa still sprints!!!

Getting Younger and Wiser

He’s 95 years young, no, not the peacock… my grandpa. He’s lived in India through pre-independence, post-independence, license raj and post-liberalisation.

To put that in context, he was a babe in the woods when the British ruled India during the 1920s. His world was a privileged one. He had a proper fiefdom with hectares of land and people at his beck and call. He ran away from home to study in Chennai since he didn’t want to be an illiterate gentleman of the farm. After all, he was just being true to himself.

Just as an aside, we made a trip down memory lane to visit his Chennai roots. You can read more about it here….

There was no saffronisation though people were rigid in their religious beliefs. My grandpa was a staunch believer in the Congress party and the ideals it stood for. So he participated in the Salt Satyagraha, albeit on the sea shores of Chennai. He spent a brief spell in jail as a freedom fighter. There is a photo of Gandhi and Nehru together addressing one of the freedom struggle movements here.  Now, he reads the magazines and papers, and watches the news on TV but he abhors politics. He has seen and lived with people of a better breed, who stood by what they believed!

As I go through old albums I come across a ticket stub for a cruise ship bound to Australia. There is a post card datemarked circa 1940s with an address bearing the same street that my brother resided in 70 years later (Though both these glories actually are that of his brother).

He recollects how people would bow before him because he was a zamindar (landlord). Society did not believe in dignity of labour and people still lived in the varna system, he says. Yet, he worked along side his ryots (farmer).  There is a weathered press clipping where my grandpa is extolled for using the latest technology (irrigation at that point in time) on his farm. There are certificates bestowed on him by various agricultural institutions including for skills he mastered in silk worm rearing.

Perspective aplenty

There were no malls when he was a teen or a sprightly man living through his 30s, 40s and 50s that charged Rs 120 for a plate of idli/vada or a Sukhsagar by the sea in Jumeirah in Dubai. Instead what he had was an anna to buy himself a hearty breakfast of puri/bhaaji, dosas for lunch and a ride back home with some change left over. Wow, 1 anna got so much more than what Rs 100 gets me today. Again, to put this in context one anna is probably worth 6 paise today. LOL, we don’t even have ten paise and 100 paises make one rupee. And even the 1 rupee has become obsolete.

My old gentleman was and is a tough nut.

He married for love, not an arranged nuptial which was all the rage then. His wife was a socialite (so he says) and she was always impeccably groomed. She was a baker and she inspired women to come into their own through baking, agriculture, sewing and other handicrafts. So what??! Remarkable, I say, considering this was the 1930s when women were not expected to do more than bear children and slog over wood stoves from four in the morning to twelve at night. Society was patriarchal, not matriarchal.

When the going gets tough, he got going.

He lost his land in the land acquisition act. From being a gentleman farmer in his fiefdom he came to the big, bad city where he reinvented himself to become a manager in the transport & logistics sector. He travelled from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. He got his children the very best he could offer from imported biscuits to Sharbati wheat, even then called grains of gold.

From a man who held on to his conservative beliefs, whether religion or women’s rights, today, he is the more progressive individual I have met. Unfortunately, his kids never enjoyed that mindset but we grandchildren do. There is nothing we can do or no one we can beat, so thinks our grandfather.

As I stare at hard times progressing steadily into my 30s I falter and fall. Losing a job, battling health issues, struggling to meet financial commitments, getting a start-up off ground and still staying focused on the positives becomes tough.

But heh, one look at this diamond in the rough and I know I have what it takes to meet life head on. After all I’m of his stock.

 

 

 

The Age of Intolerance

Last night I watched an absolutely thought provoking movie starring Denzel Washington. The movie tells the story of a group of black students studying in Wiley College who are egged on by their teacher to fight back racism through debating and claim what is rightfully theirs, human dignity. The narrative also dwells on the lives of the black community in Texas (and the intolerance that whites show to blacks, racism and conflict could have been anywhere in the South during the 1930s when racism was still rampant, The Klan was the leitmotif of white America in the south and lynching a common occurrence).

Based on a true life story the Great Debaters is directed by Denzel Washington and he stars in the lead role. Not surprisingly Oprah’s Harpo Production produced the movie. While Denzel gives a power-packed performance (as is usual) it is Forest Whitaker and Denzel Whitaker as James Farmer Sr and James Farmer Jr who draw you in. While Dead Poets Society is a coming-of-age movie and urges you to live life, The Great Debaters provokes you to look beyond your immediate self and fight for humanity.

“An unjust law is no law at at all”. This line is a refrain through the movie.

And does it hold good now or what as we hurtle forward in Intolerance: between races, religions, ethnic groups, rich and poor.

We precariously live in an Age of Intolerance, where students get suspended for cheering a sporting team from an ‘enemy’ country and even booked under sedition; where (girl) students are arrested in the middle of the night for expressing their opinion on social media; where journalists come under the scanner for being unbiased and objective; where stones are thrown and lives in peril for going against the body politic; where women are maimed and brutalised for daring to be ‘modern’; where publishers withdraw books because an unheard-of group complains it hurts religious sentiments;  where going against populist agendas and ‘popular’ politicians can have dire consequences; where oppression is key to enforcing global capitalist policies and people are easy pawns to do with as governments deem fit.

Instead of freedom and economic prosperity what the 21st century will witness are more Arab Springs as citizens fight to throw off self-serving governments and oppressive forces.

 

Uprisings

Graphic Courtesy: map report

Good news: The educated class and our youth are not apathetic after all. We care.

India crosses the moral line of no return if Narendra Modi becomes prime minister

mpreeti:

Development vs Humanity, you decide?!

Originally posted on Quartz:

In October 2012, I spoke to a crowd of mostly Indians in the Detroit area about the need for innovation in Indian media. After my talk, I was stopped by an Indian woman who looked to be in her forties, was elegantly dressed, well-spoken, and struck me as someone who I could have easily run into at a gallery opening in Mumbai or high tea at a five-star hotel. She complimented me on my speech, I thanked her, and we began talking about the far-off 2014 Indian election. What she said to me that day festers in my memory:

“Even if Narendra Modi was involved in the Gujarat riots, I don’t care. His economic work wins out. I will vote for him.”

Since then, I have not been able to shake a deep-seated disturbance at her disregard for essential humanity. This disregard, I fear, is shared by many in India. Before…

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Writing Techniques

I love to write and read. They are manna to my existence besides pet dogs, family, gardening, travelling, watching movies, a good Riesling and cooking of course. So I invariably, unconsciously end up doing a lot of both. Now I’m no expert while it comes to writing but I seem to communicate better in the written word than the spoken. So oftentimes I have people with great ideas who would love to write but are inhibited by themselves asking me: “How can I write more, how can I write Better?”

Well I don’t claim to know much of both, but, for starters, here is what I have learnt over the years as a journalist and a communications professional.

1. The first trick I was taught was to consider writing like a work of art. If you are given a canvas to paint what would you do first. Sketch an outline and then fill in the colors, right? (Correct me if I’m wrong here or if there are better techniques I’m always wanting to learn). Well writing is the same. So whether it is an essay, a term paper, an email, a case study, a marketing brochure, an article, an interview or a short story ALWAYS have an outline.

This outline could be a story idea where you know how it ends and begins so connect the dots. The plot is your canvass to paint as you please. Same with an essay or a term paper or  a case study and here you are luckier since you already have a theme.

2. Always write your thoughts down on paper before you start tap-tapping on your keyboard. This will help you Structure your thoughts better. Help see if there is a logical flow.

3. Write what you believe in else it ends up a farce. Now this could be difficult with writing a piece of marketing collateral, say a brochure for an underwear company that wants you to claim they make undies that give you the power of superman/woman ;0. Hehe, get creative.

4. Writing is all about letting your creativity flow. Don’t let others judge your creativity or tell you how bad or good you are. If you are willing to read what you have written once, twice and several times more than my friend there is someone/people out there willing to read you. Of course this doesn’t mean you malign another’s character or spew vitriol brandishing your pen. Writing gives you artistic license but it also means being responsible for what you write.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously as a writer, that is where you falter. Writing is about having fun. Whether you write about yourself, some one else, a product or a theme but always inject humor (if possible).

6. Write and write and then write some more. The more you write the better you get at it. This dated NYT article is worth a read  if nothing but to understand the world’s most prolific writer Mr James Patterson. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most number of NYT Best Sellers. Of course, he uses co-authors now to write novels published in his name but this also gives him more time to concentrate on books he wants to focus on, so he says. But the point is the prolific nature of his writing. So write now, today, this instance.

7. KISS still holds true. Sigh, and this was one of the most difficult things I learnt since early in my career as a writer I was given a subtle message that more is beautiful and only much later did I realise ’tis not. . You don’t need to write long-winded sentences or obfuscated text. Simplicity is key to all things good, and this is especially true in writing. Writing is after all a means of communication and if you keep it simple it is easier to get your message to your reader.  

For those who don’t know (huh anyone there?!), KISS = Keep It Simple Silly/Stupid :D

8. PROOF READ. It has become a fashionable trend these days to write in sms lingo, use atrocious grammar, unintended bloopers because a busy writer forgot to do a basic spell check or even write without periods and other punctuation. STOP! If you plan to become the next blockbuster author pay heed to what you write.

9. At some point in time all of us deal with the Writer’s Block. Simple way out. Get back to basics. Writing is an exercise and that is why our grade school teachers pushed us to fill up reams of paper with our thoughts, ideas and purpose. Some times the best way to beat the Writer’s Block is to write, even if its is nonsensical!

10. Develop your own unique style. While injecting humor is a good idea, it is easier said than done. All of us have our own unique style of writing. Some of us are staid and old fashioned, while some dashing, some irreverent, some humorous, some wield a poison pen but coat with irresistible doses of sugar, some are bitter, some are sweet, sometimes cloyingly so. So what’s yours?!

 

Of Donne Biriyani and becoming a life long foodie…..

After being banned from the kitchen it was a lark being able to step in with strict instructions from the dear old ‘mater’ not to exceed 30 minutes. So feeling like Jamie Oliver in his 15-minute meals I was trying to figure out what to whip up for a quick but good Sunday meal. With a kilo of fresh chicken sitting atop the kitchen counter along with mint leaves and lemon, donne biriyani seemed the obvious choice. Deciding to chance it further I opted to prepare Nagarjuna style Chilli Chicken. Well suffice to say both the dishes turned out so good that the family requested an encore and that’s what we had a few days later, but this time it was Mutton Donne Biriyani. I seem to have got the technique right as they requested an encore again.

Having had enough of biriyanis and Indian food I have been egging dear family to eat out a bit, and here is what it resulted in.

Food Reviews :D

Meanwhile for those curious about the Donne Biriyani. Here you go. Most readers may be familiar with Andhra style Hyderabadi Biriyani and the Mughlai Dum Biriyani. In fact most of the takeaway joints specialise in one or both of these styles. Both these Biriyanis are made using Basamati Rice or long grained, fragrant rice. Donne Biriyani, however, is a Maratha style Biriyani made with jeera sambha rice and there in lies one of its secret and extremely popular in Bangalore.

I discovered Donne Biriyani when my brother trotted home one fine Sunday morning with a stack of white boxes and delicious mouth watering fragrance in his trail. The boxes contained Chickpet Donne Biriyani. Spicy, hot and flavorsome we became addictive to the Donne Biriyani. There are quite a few popular eateries such as Naidu’s Donne Biriyani, Huliappa’s Donne Biriyani and of course what I prepare at home now :-P

Donne means a leaf bowl made from the Arecanut Palm Leaf. The Biriyani is usually served in these bowls giving it that special aroma. The biriyani is spicier than the Hyderabadi Biriyani and not as rich. I checked the net not too hopeful of finding the recipe coz my brother assured me the Donne Biriyani was a closely guarded secret but luckily the Internet is the guardian of secrets so I came upon Vidya’s  and Muktha‘s blogs which gave an elaborate recipe for the Donne Biriyani. After lots of trials and experiments here’s my version. Quick and easy this will take less than 30 minutes and enough for a family of four. Bon Appetit!

DONNE BIRIYANI

Ingredients:

Chicken: 1/2 kilo

Jeera Rice: 2 cups

Steamed Rice (Sona Masoori): 1 cup

Bay leaves: a few

For the green paste:

Onions: 1 big or 3 small cut into chunks

Garlic: 10 pods

Green Chillis – 8

Cloves, Cinnamon, Cardamom: 5/1 stick/4

Javitri (Mace)- 1 flower

Mint leaves-  from 4 sprigs

Coriander leaves – from 3 sprigs

In a pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and roast ingredients above. Grind to fine paste.

Additional Ingredients: Juice from half a lime, spoon of Kasuri Methi (dry methi leaves)

Method: In cooker, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add bay leaves and roast for 30 sec.  Pour ground paste and roast till you get the fragrance of spices. Add chicken pieces and marinate over low flame. Add 1/4 tsp garam masala, 2 pinch of turmeric, 1/4 tsp of Dhaniya powder. Add rice. Pour water till the rice and chicken are covered. (Rice to water proportion: 3 tall glasses of water to 3 cups of rice. Remember jeera rice doesn’t require too much of water else it will take lumpy). Add juice from half a lime and a spoonful of kasuri methi leaves. Add salt to taste. Stir once. Close cooker and cook for 5-6 whistles.

Serve hot with boiled eggs, sliced onions and lemon wedges.

P.S: The above was the easy version. For those with time and patience, the mutton biriyani follows the same recipe. Only difference: half cook mutton before hand and use the mutton broth instead of plain water while cooking the biriyani. The half-cooked mutton is added in the same stage as the biriyani and instead of using plain water the mutton broth can be used which adds more flavour and richness to the biriyani.