Hot and Humid.
But the early onset of Monsoons this year brought relief to some and tragedy to many. Engineers (and politicians) will have us believe we can control Nature, twist, throttle, and contort it every which way, without any consequence. Nature, then, has no choice but to show us what she is capable of. Last week, just two days of incessant rains laid waste to much of Uttarakhand, the new state that was carved out of the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh in 2000. The rivers Mandakini and Ganga reclaimed their banks with incredible force. My parents were also amongst the many stranded in the state. They were lucky to not have ventured further up beyond Uttarkashi, though Uttarkashi itself witnessed hundreds of buildings being swept away into the Ganga. Sensibly, they decided to stay put in the safety of the ashram they were at, and waited for the rush of people to clear. I was myself scheduled to be in the upper reaches (Bhimtal-Pithoragarh) at that very time for work but the unavailability of train tickets for our team meant we must reschedule the visit. The official meeting at Dehradoon on Monday happened as scheduled while the magnitude of the disaster was still being uncovered.
The devastation is massive and it is presently estimated that it will take at least a year to reestablish the road network. The damage is yet to be assessed fully – entire settlements have been washed away in the flash floods. Govindghat, the last motorable point for the Valley of Flowers trek, is unrecognizable in the rescue pictures. There’s a lesson for us here if we will only learn – to plan development in such fragile areas to minimize impacts. Disaster preparedness is another area that we fail in again and again. The Met Department had issued heavy rain warnings for the region 48 hours in advance! The Indian Armed Forces are doing a commendable job in the search and rescue of stranded people, but where is the local government? If we do not learn from this, we will be doomed to repeat it.
Time for some distraction. Let me share a refreshing salad that needs not much more than pantry staple tomatoes. It is the salad you make when beautiful tomatoes are plentiful and you cannot but give in to the temptation of buying them by the bushels. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the recipe and ingredients – toss it together and you have a quick side that’s a great accompaniment to any meal. You could even have it on its own.
(inspired by Kylie Kwong’s recipe; another version here)
6 ripe (or many more!), firm tomatoes (you may use a mix of different kinds and make it more colourful), rough dice
1 t sugar
juice of a lime (a tablespoon or so)
generous pour of olive oil (2 T)
fresh ground pepper, to taste
chopped coriander for garnish (optional)
Put all the prepared tomatoes in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and mix. Mix in all the other ingredients and refrigerate for at least half an hour to allow the flavours to meld.
I have dithered on announcing the winners of the Bong Mom’s Cookbook Giveaway. Let me delay no more. All the comments, except Bong Mom’s responses, 53 in all, were entered into the draw. I used an online random number generator to generate a set of 2 numbers between 1 and 53. The set that came up: 6, and 8. So the winners are:
Neha Vyas, and
Congratulations, Neha and Vrishali! Each of you wins a copy of Bong Mom’s Cookbook! Send me a mail with your addresses. You have till July 1st to get in touch with me! Thank you to the rest of you, for playing along. I hope those of you who delurked for the first time, will continue the conversation.