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Archive for the ‘Ruminations and rants’ Category

Movements and Mah di Dal or Dal Makhni

In Punjab, Ruminations and rants, Under 30 min! on April 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm

If you live in India then you have all just been witness to a new kind of activism – the non-violent, light-a-candle protest for a cleaner, corruption-free India.  You may well ask what is new about that – did the Mahatma not start it all those years ago?  I beg to differ.  Those were sustained movements that had mass support from people who knew what they were struggling for.  Anna Hazare rightly said that the struggle has just begun.  But the masses that turned up to support him, especially those in this most corrupt of cities, do they really know what it means to be part of a clean society?  I will be amongst the happiest people if Delhiites really want to be honest and clean.

But I seriously doubt we understand the meaning of signing up for never paying a bribe.  It will mean waiting in line for our turn.  It will mean following rules and living by the laws.  Even when we don’t agree with them.  It will mean no unauthorised constructions, building within prescribed FAR, no encroachment on public land.  It will mean paying our taxes.  It will mean jail time every time we break the law (imagine that!).  It will mean being civil! Those who were there at Jantar Mantar the past week to support Anna in his mission, do they understand the full portent of being part of a non-corrupt society?

The visual media came into its own and declared it a revolution.  If these journos spot a white person in a crowd they assume them to be experts and ask, “So, do you think India has changed?” ??? What kind of a question is that for a tourist?  The forthright white woman told this senior journalist she couldn’t answer that but she might call what she was witnessing a spark perhaps. I think it was lost on our reporter from NDTV who (and many others like him) went on to then compare it with the recent uprisings in the Arab world!  Don’t ask.  Here’s another perspective.

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Getting it Right

In Ruminations and rants, Tea Party on September 29, 2010 at 11:15 pm

the cup that cheers

Thank you all, for making time in your busy and (sometimes) maddening lives to indulge me once again this year.  Many of you out there (even the silent ones who show up only in the stats!) have become like friends over the last few years, and what better way to celebrate with all of you than by having a virtual tea party! This annual Party happens around India’s Independence Day, and this year, aptly, it is also about our Rights and the Responsibilities that come with them.

There can be no Tea Party without cake and we had plenty of those in all shapes and sizes and flavours! There were spicy puff pastries, savoury and sweet scones, hot chillies and bhel, cooling ice cream cakes, all accompanied by pots and pots of hot teas, and cold coffee! Read the rest of this entry »

It’s the Recipe, Stupid!

In Ruminations and rants, This and That on August 16, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Happy Independence Day everyone!

Discussing the big deal about blogging, India Uncut in a recent post, outlined what it means to blog. One of our jobs seems to be that of critic and opinion maker.  Self-criticism cannot be left out.

“Blogging keeps bloggers honest. Bloggers need watchdogs as much as the mainstream media does, and the Blogosphere plays this self-regulating role. Every post you write, every errant sentence, is liable to be taken apart by a fellow blogger somewhere—especially if you write about hot-button topics like politics, economics or Himesh Reshammiya. Trust me, the criticism is never-ending, and while much of it can be superfluous, some of it can also be sharp and precise. The result of that is that you cannot slip up, and be sloppy in either your thinking or your writing.”

The food blogging world may seem less serious (unless we are talking food sustainability and its environmental implication) but here too we must fulfill the responsibilities that come with the freedom of speech and expression, a Fundamental Right enshrined in our Constitution.

I wasn’t planning to bring it up. With time you develop a thick skin and wonder if there is any point. There is a general lack of ethics in our society today which manifests itself in all spheres of our lives. It would be naive to expect the blogosphere to be exempt. There have been umpteen cases of plagiarism in the blogosphere and we have all tried to highlight it every now and then. The Net is vast and there is plenty of room to get lost in the labyrinth. On this hope hang many a blogpost.

But it being Independence Day and all…and maybe the defiance of the offender in this latest episode of unethical behaviour tipped the scales.

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Mad Tea Party: Express Indian

In Ruminations and rants, Tea Party, This and That on August 24, 2009 at 12:38 am

It was hard to come up with a title that had already not been used!  Quick Indian Cooking, Express Cooking, Simple Indian Food, Quick and Easy Indian Cooking, and my own section, Under-30-minutes! And yet, people want to continue to shroud Indian cuisine under difficult and complex.  Complex – I sure hope it is!  How can you expect simple from a culture that can say ‘cook’ in 1652 different languages! Even when we use just 5 ingredients to create a dish, it still turns out with shades of complexity!  But that, I think, is the sign of a cuisine that has evolved… over millenia, in our case.

The notion that Indian Cuisine is too complicated, too time consuming, and too rich is widespread.  That should make us a nation of smart (though idle), fat people. Which, urban India might actually be – fat, not idle – but I digress.  We have another Party coming up.  For the First one we all fried poori and served it with potato bhaji.  For the Second Party we chose to share our deep fried love with batata vada in its many avatars.  For this Third Edition, I am thinking we should address some of  Manisha’s concerns and see how we can help dispel the notion that Indian cooking is all about toiling in the kitchen, deciphering complicated techniques and recipes, and dousing it all in some heavy cream before serving.

India is the flavour of the season.  Which means that more people than ever before now know where to look for it on the globe.  There is also a growing awareness about the  myriad mini-Indias that exist within her, complete with their own language, culture and, of course, cuisine.  In India there is nothing known as Indian Food, or curry powder, for that matter!  We do have Kashmiri, Punjabi, Maharashtrain, Bengali, Andhra, Tamil cuisines…. which itself is a nomenclature quite inadequate to express the distinctive regional variations found within the states!  In cultural complexity it will not be an exaggeration to equate India to the European Union where the States of India are akin to the European member Nations!  European – a complex cuisine?  You bet!  Break the whole into its parts, and the mist starts to lift.

So, how about we find some of the less complicated gems from within the regional Indian cuisines and bring them to the Party – A Mad Tea Party – III? The dish should have six ingredients (or less), and it should be possible to cook it in 30 minutes (or less).  Time needed for soaking ingredients, rising time etc, need not be included into this calculation.  Essentially time when you can be fully occupied doing something else entirely is exempt from inclusion.  If you like, you may also subtract unsupervised time such as “pressure cook for 10 min,” “cover and cook for 15 min,” if no stirring at all is needed, as in the cooking of soaked beans and lentils in a pressure cooker.  This will ensure that those of us not having access to canned products or not wanting to use such processed ingredients are not disadvantaged on account of time.

If you can make a meal of it in the stipulated 30 minutes, all the better for it.  Since frozen vegetables are part of our lives now, these are permissible.  For those who would like to use fresh, veggie preparation time may be indicated separate from the other preparation and/or cooking time.  The essential part being, that it should be possible to cook the dish in 30 minutes of active time, using whatever shortcuts available to us today.

The rules are simple:

  • Cook an Indian party dish* using  not more than 6 ingredients (not counting salt and chillies), in 30 minutes max. (from the kitchen to the table). The chosen dish need not be fat free but, must not be swimming in grease of any kind, including fresh cream.  Write a post about it (with or without a recipe D ; list the ingredients used and the time taken to prepare the dish) – the region it belongs to, how you enjoyed it, maybe a picture of the dish and/or the family enjoying the dish. (Old posts don’t count!)
  • Deadline: You have till September 13 to do this.
  • Too hot to cook? Go out and eat one of these light dishes at a restaurant! The portion will be right, and you don’t have to stew even for 30 min! Write a post about it, and how you really enjoyed it!
  • Link to this post. You may, if you like, use a Pingback and it will automatically show up in the comments here. Or leave a comment on this post which will lead us to your post!
  • Don’t have a blog? You can still join the party; just leave a comment here about how you enjoyed your easy Indian dish! You may, if you like, provide a link to any pictures you may have posted on a photo-sharing site such as Flickr or Photobucket.  I will include your name in the list of those who participated!

* Any dish that you think you will include in a Party menu for your friends counts as a Party Dish.

Have a Party!

Tevye is coming to town!

In Ruminations and rants on November 25, 2007 at 11:31 am

Tevye and Daughters

For reasons beyond my understanding, there is a severe lack of good theatre in Delhi. In case you didn’t know – Delhi is home to the National School of Drama (NSD), the premier institute for dramatics in the country.

Bombay and Calcutta (or whatever they are calling them these days) have a strong theatre scene despite the competition from equally great regional cinema. Good Hindi movies are rare (unless you go back to the 70’s) and good Hindi theatre even more so. There is also a dearth of original playwriting in Hindi (and maybe the audience or lack of, is to blame) and most of the plays that I have seen have been translations from other regional languages or, more commonly, from English.

As a teenager I regularly got to watch plays, both in Hindi and English, produced by the dramatics society of the students of IITD. Some of them were directed by the noted theatre personality Faizal Alkazi; everything from the music to the set design and performances, was very professional. That is where my love for theatre began.

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It’s Party Time!

In Bread, Potatoes, Punjab, Ruminations and rants, Traditions and Customs on August 12, 2007 at 8:54 am

The Party is not over yet! The previous two posts and the comments there have piqued my curiosity. And it’s getting the better of me. 😀

While admitting that poori-bhaji is a national (if not yet international) favourite, I cook it infrequently in this seemingly health-conscious age. I am always reminded of it on the day of Ramnavmi, when I see neighbourhood kids (mainly girls – they are revered on this day only 🙂 ) flitting from one house to the next and their growing piles of poori-halwa and chana.

I am getting the feeling that some of us may have deprived ourselves too long! So, I implore all of you to join in the party and make some poori-bhaji for a change. You could start with a longer walk in the morning or burn it off later in the evening as you go shopping this weekend or the next.

The rules are simple:

  • Cook poori-bhaji this week (Aug 12-Aug 19), write a post about it (with or without a recipe 😀 ), how you enjoyed it, maybe a picture of the meal and/or the family enjoying the meal.
  • Too hot to fry? Go out and get some! The portion will be right, and you don’t have to fry ‘nothing’! Write a post about it, and how you really enjoyed it!
  • Link to this post (which will be updated next week to include my poori-bhaji. Of course, I have to make it again; these pics are from months ago!) You may, if you like, use a Pingback and it will automatically show up in the comments here. Or leave a comment here which will lead us to your post!
  • Don’t have a blog? You can still join the party; just leave a comment here about how you enjoyed your poori-bhaji! Feel free to provide links to any pictures you may have posted on a photo-sharing site such as Flickr or Photobucket.

Never made poori-bhaji before but would like to join in the party? Here’s the simplest of recipes to get you started! There are suggestions for variations too.

If a health condition prevents you from enjoying these foods, we understand. Responsible cooking and eating comes first. Always.

It is also India’s Independence Day this week, on August 15. Another reason to celebrate! I hope all of you (Indians as well as those of other nationalities) will join in!

Update: Aug 15

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Food, Glorious Food

In Ruminations and rants on August 10, 2007 at 2:56 am

I just know this is going to be one of those rambling posts…don’t go away!

When I went to grad school in the US in the late 90s there was much that impressed me. Common knowledge of everyday science was not the least of them. We didn’t get hungry – we experienced a sugar-low; we didn’t need a cup of coffee or tea – but our bodies were craving caffeine. The chemistry behind food and digestion was common knowledge. I, on the other hand, had never thought of food or hunger in this manner ever.

Fancy cafés just outside the Campus walls were great places to hang out and enjoy that giant cup of java, and a mammoth cookie. There was no Starbucks where I was! And I was in Manhattan! Kansas 😉 .

When I returned four short years later, I had modified my teenage dream (though not a teenager anymore) of owning a bookstore. I now dreamed of a bookstore with a café.

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A Delhi Summer – On the Streets

In Dips and Spreads, Eating Out, Low Fat, on the side, Ruminations and rants, Tea Party, Travel, Under 30 min!, Vegetables on May 16, 2007 at 8:10 am

It is not easy to sum up an old city like Delhi, with all the layering, in one post. And I am not planning to attempt it.

In this city of 10 million people there is no getting away from the crowd. There are people everywhere, and they continue to pour in – from smaller cities and the villages. The biggest influx into Delhi was in 1947, during the Partition of the country, when many Hindus and Sikhs from West Punjab (now in Pakistan) sought refuge.

It is only natural that a city 3000 years old has imbibed influences from all over the world, and these are reflected in its culture – art and architecture, language, and of course, in its cuisine. The Persian influence is prominent in the Mughlai cuisine, though the Punjabi flavours predominate today. But whosoever came and settled here had to deal with the hot and dusty summers.

An Amaltas in all its glory

Not that that is an entirely bad thing. How else would the mango 🙂 be so sweet? While the temperate world revels in its fall colours, we have a green green spring followed by the vibrant summer. The sun makes our greens shine, the reds brighter, and the yellows sunnier. Who can rival the Gulmohur (Delonix regia) or the Amaltas (Cassia fistula), when it comes to a show of colour?


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The King of Fruits

In Drinks, Low Fat, Ruminations and rants, Tea Party, Under 30 min! on May 7, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Thawed, sliced Amrapali (from my Dad’s trees)

Summer is peaking in Delhi and there is, on the Web, a lot of hot air around the most beloved of our fruits, the Mango. On it being exported to the US. On Hapoos vs. the Rest. All the heated debates and discussions are rooted deep in our love, bordering on reverence, for this most delicious of fruits. The Mango is believed to have originated in India, and the best varieties still do! There is no debate over that 😀

The mango is no ordinary fruit; it is woven into the warp and weft (literally!) of this ancient country and its customs. Torans made out of the leaves of the mango tree adorn the doorway of Hindu homes on auspicious and religious occasions, and are included into many of the associated rituals. The tree and its fruit are symbols of fertility and abundance, love and devotion. It is also referred to as Kalpavriksha or Kalpataru, the mythological wish-fulfilling tree.

Babur, the first Mughal emperor, called it the ‘finest fruit of Hindustan’. The beautiful mango tree with its evergreen fronds was frequently featured in the beautiful Kangra school Miniatures.

Mangoes 02
fruit laden Amrapali (in my parents’ garden)

The beautiful mango is the inspiration for the ageless Indian motif, the ambi that weaves its way into sarees and other textiles. The ambi was later modified into the elongated Kashmiri badam (almond), better known all over the world as the Paisley motif, after the Scottish town where machine-made copies of the exquisite Kashmiri embroidered shawls were manufactured in the 19th Century.

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Yahoo! India Content Thieves

In Ruminations and rants on March 5, 2007 at 8:09 pm


I write to support Ingi Pennu’s campaign against plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious violation. Violation of our trust in each other. And violation of laws as well.

But, first I had to get the full story. Since the portal in question is in Malyalam, a language I do not know, it took a bit longer to find the beginning of the thread. But I like to get to the bottom of things. I used the Web. I Googled -“Yahoo! India Content Theft.” One thing led to another – Global Voices, DesiPundit, PlagiarismToday…Well Copyright Violations had a lot of posts on this, starting at the start. With screenshots.

It seems Yahoo!India, to provide easy content, looked for the easy way. But easy is often not the right way. Good things take time. Good wine takes time. Good Scotch takes time. Good writing takes a lot of time. It don’t come easy.

Yahoo! India (through Webduniya or not) decided to simply lift content from Surya Gayathri’s Malayalam blog (and a few non Malayalam ones as well!), rearrange few sentences, change a few photographs (more about this in a minute!), and viola, they had ‘new’ content.

But they forgot who the ‘Person of the Year’ was! I am. Before they could sit back and revel in their new ‘expansion’, the cat was out. The content was stolen! Oops. After knowing how quickly Kavya Vishwanathan was found out for a few stolen paragraphs that were in printed books! Its On The Web, Stupid! Big OOPS.

And those pictures – well methinks those are lifted as well. I should know. One of them is mine, from my much cherished early posts – A Simple Potato Curry from the Fields of Uttar Pradesh! Try it, it’s really worth ‘copying’! But seriously, plagiarism is no laughing matter.

Potato Curry 004

I have the power. If you like easy, you must be willing to pay for it. With bad publicity. Ill will. The buck stops with Yahoo!

We all make mistakes. It takes greatness to say sorry. Say you are sorry, Yahoo, and all will be forgiven. We have been friends for too long.