Thursday, June 30, 2005


Originally uploaded by gopoo.

It was 29th June,my 61st birthday. We decided to dine out and I was given the choice by my better half to decide on the restaurant. I remembered having seen this new eatery having come up opposite Babulnath Temple at Girgaum Chowpatty. I didn't have to scan Times Food Guide or go through Rashmi Uday Singh's 'Around the World in 80 Plates' to get the bearings of this spanking new foodjoint.

We headed for 'Soam 'named after the Babulnath deity. Valet car parking was very welcome,as it was drizzling . Though there was a sizeable crowd waiting for seats,as we were just two we got our turn rather quickly though I suspected it was a bit out of turn probably to impress the newcomers. Gleaming white flooring,comfortably airconditioned,neat and clean and good ambience. Essentially a cafe for short eats-chaat,snacks and mini meals. All veg-idlis,dosas,gujju snacks and gujju/marwari chota meals. We were served on peepul leaves,bronze-copper Rajkot thalis and there were a variety of chutneys and aachars on the table. We looked at the menu card and after some debate decided to order the following:

1)Thandai Ice Sherbet

2)Bajra Methi dhebra with launji

3)Paanki Chutney

4)Gatto nu shack with satpadi roti.

The food was tasty and filling.Their service was courteous.And to top it all, the total bill came to only Rs 275.We even carried one bajri roti away in a doggy bag!.Strongly recommended for light veggie chaat cum meal.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Like Son,Like Father

Black Buck
Originally uploaded by gopoo.

The son did it several years ago. The father emulated him on June 3. Both are now charged for similar crimes. Killing an endangered species. The black buck.

Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi,ex MP,former cricket captain of the Indian team finally surrendered to the Haryana police after going underground for more than two weeks. During this period,his near and dear ones,moved heaven and earth to get him off the hook. And the senior police officials seemed to have cooperated. Dame luck was not in favour of the killer of the buck though . Finally he surrendered and was in lockup at Jhajjar for 2 days. What a fall. Finally,the hunter was hunted down. The Nawab spent nearly 48 hours in a dingy room with minimal comforts and bread and boiled potatoes for lunch and dinner.

It is an enigma. What made a sophisticated,educated,urbane,knowledgeable,enlightened person indulge in this barbaric act. Perhaps all the qualities attributed to him,he did not really deserve. And this was not an one off incident. It was his bad luck that he got caught.When his Gypsy boot was opened in a routine manner,when he was leaving the forest area,perhaps he did not expect the chota police official to have the gumption to question His Highness the Nawob.Out came the caracasses of the black buck and two rabbits. Surprisingly,he was not detained.He was let off. That he couldn't remain untouched for long is a different story.

One explanation for this seemingly mad behaviour which I tend to agree with is the Nawabi arrogance that no mortal can question their actions. Otherwise how do you explain the killing of thousands of birds in one single day by the Nawab accompanied by the begumsahiba and chote nawab in Kashmir?

Whether he will be ultimately brought to book is something to be seen but Raymond's 'complete man' has been shorn of all his clothes and stands naked in front of all animal loving people.He killed a female deer and one which was carrying.His crime therefore gets compounded.It is said that shikaris don't shoot during the mating season. Also that they do not kill a female deer. And also not when she is pregnant.And Pataudi violated all these unwritten rules.Shikar ka nasha hai,nahin to aur kya.

The Baishnoi community for whom the black buck is like a guru has sworn to take revenge.They follow the 20 and 9 commandments laid down by their preceptor. Bees aur nau and that is why they are called baishnoi.

Naveen Patnaik,the CM of Orissa is anguished. He fell in love with the black bucks when he saw them in his father's constituency,Aksa. And so carried away he was with its beauty that he immediately painted a black buck on canvas and wrote an appeal in Oriya asking his people to preserve the endagered black buck and bring no harm to them.

Sharmila Tagore says that she has great faith in the country's judiciary.I don't know what that means.But for the crimes that the three have committed,they deserve to go to the gallows.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Lassi Masti

Originally uploaded by gopoo.

Heard of Abhinav and Nidhi Agarwal? Well,they run the Chaat Masala restaurant near the Bombay Stock Exchange.You can dine in style and pick your favourite chaat from a spread of about 30 different chaats.Their paanipuris are awesome.And here too you have a great choice.Have you tried paalak ki chat? Crispy spinach leaves and green chillies with sweet and sour chutney and chaat masala.
The main course has multani dhingri kebabs,paneer tikka masala,mirchi ka saalan(made famous by the hyderabadis)and superb desserts as the finale.Moong dal halwa or tiranga kulfi.
A bit stiff on the purse though. Re 400 per head. Though not big money for having street food in a sanitised ambience. Oh,I completely forgot the main reason for posting this blog.

Lassi. Strawberry,kala khatta,kesar etc. Absolutely heavenly! And why don't we make lassi our national drink. Even Lalu wants coke,pepsi and other drinks to be replaced by buttermilk(a diluted form of lassi) in khullars(clay pots)!.Chalo,kuch thanda ho jaaye.

Made famous by the Punjabis,lassi is the ideal drink in the hot season.The lactobacilli in lassi acts as a lubricant and helps us to digest food easily.It also relieves one from gas and constipation.Containing protein,vitamins,iron and calcium,it can be consumed in all age groups -from newborn babes to the elderly.

It is the quintessential Deshi drink.

Lassi piyo aur masti karo.

Airfare Warfare

Airfare Warfare
Originally uploaded by gopoo.

It is no more plain vanilla stuff. The subject of airfares has become so complicated that the math is maddening. An airline can have thousands of fares with different set of associated rules for each leg of a trip. If two persons take a round trip together with three flights going and coming, there can be as many as 1000 to the power 12 or 10 to the power 36 airfare combinations. isn't that mindboggling?

Computer scientists Jeremy Werthaeimer of MIT and Carl de Marcken have developed a software that is now being used by many airlines.It is an airline pricing search engine. But no airlines can guarantee the cheapest fare.

Now comes the question as to how are the ticket prices determined?. It is completely determined by the airlines. Prices are calculated based on number of passengers on an aircraft and cost of operating the aircraft. And airlines offer different fare levels on different flights. How does that explain the drastic fall in the Delhi-Mumbai return airfare after Spicejet and Kingfisher decided to join the fray? And this when the aviation fuel prices are rising.
The fundamental rule to follow to get a cheap ticket is to buy the ticket early.The price on the ticket has got nothing to do with the length of the air journey.It is a question of supply and demand. Airlines want to maximise total revenue and they avoid flying with any empty seats. These are the main goals. There are other subgoals as well. Customer loyalty(frequent flyer programmes),weaning customers from other airlines etc. And there are further complications like flying on a particular day of the week or at an unpopular time. Attractive fares for less congested aiports. And what is the result of trying to meet all these different goals? A complex airfare system resulting in different passengers having paid different fares on the same flight.It may even be cheaper to fly Mumbai-London-Delhi than Mumbai-Delhi direct.

But then there is peace in war also.Though there is intense competition generated by the low air fares,the airlines work in tandem as well. For example recently when my IA flight from Bangalore did not take off,the IA aiport officer immediately put me on a Jet Airways flight though I was holding an Apex ticket. It was sheer luck that I got the best seat.The new mantra is competition with cooperation.

The order books of Boeing and Airbus are overflowing. So much so that Airbus has decided to call off its protest against Air India's recent orders on Boeing.They even wanted the matter to be referred to our Cental Vigilance Commission. In the recent Airshow in Paris, the orders generating from India were so many-80 airbuses,100 boeings etc etc that millions of eyes popped out at the billions of dollars of orders on these two born enemies.

It is being said that 2005 will be the year of R.K.Lakshman's common man flying? Will it be so? Time alone will tell.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Free Fall Of Air Fares

Free Fall
Originally uploaded by gopoo.

airfares@1re.isn't it incredible? or is it ludicrous? hard to say. but now that is the ground reality. gone are the days of monopoly by indian airlines.we now have jet airways,sahara,kingfisher,spice and air deccan all over our skies.and some of them daring to venture beyond.

but then you needed a guy like captain gopinath to set the place on fire. audacious,innovative,lots of chutzpa. his inagural flight about a year ago ran off the tarmac. a bit superstitious as i am,i thought it was a bad start. no fears.he is blowing great guns. he was the one who came out with the one buck fare. limited seats in every air deccan flight for re 1. the exact modus operandi though not clear to me. it is,i am told on a first come basis. but then people are excited. flying from bangalore to delhi for re 1 is more than a steal. of course they have to pay some re 221 as taxes bringing the fare to re 222. but then that is small change.

when this scheme was announced,the air deccan call center received more than 10,000 calls and its website had more than 50,000 hits. someone said what will happen to their image,if they sell tickets so cheap.

the inspiration for col gopinath comes from cartoonist r k lakshman whose 'common man' is the brand ambassador of the airline.and the suggestion for re 1 airfare seems to have come from lakshman.

the irony of it is that when it was first introduced early this month an infosys employee flew on a re 1 ticket! col gopinath wants more people to fly. that makes sound economic sense. and he is going to make it possible. it is a miracle and nobody is complaining.
now how does the math work out. let us take a chota break.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Jamai Sasthi-Work can Wait

Jamai Sasthi
Originally uploaded by gopoo.

All play and no work makes 'jamai'(son-in-law) a good boy. When I landed in Kolkata on Monday the 13th June, little did I realise what was in store for me. I had lots of work to do. My colleagues didn't think that was possible. Because it was Jamai Sasthi. A day when the mother-in-law pampers her son-in-law no end with food.

A spirit of gaiety was hanging around the whole city. And in particular in all govt offices where the employees had set their work aside to enjoy jamai sasthi. I should have looked at the Bengali almanac before making my programme. It was the sixth day after amavasya(new moon) in the month of jaishta and for bengalis it is a very memorable day.

Notwithstanding Buddhababu's(CM) call for a new work culture,around 2 pm people wound up their work and headed for sasur bari(in-law's house)with a pot of rosogolla in hand. Not only jamais but women too left their work to prepare an elaborate meal for their favourite sons-in-law. The brahmachari saw no point in being left behind. Offices looked bare,thanks to this self-declared holiday. And there were fewer buses and taxis on the road. Because the drivers and conductors too did not want to miss this one- in- a -year opportunity of being pampered by their sasurma.

And on Tuesday I thought it was all over. No,in Kolkata it is different. The whole forenoon was spent in discussing the previous day's jamai bhoj!

Monday, June 20, 2005


Originally uploaded by gopoo.
That is the Tamil equivalent for jackfruit.On a hot sunny afternoon while I was driving down a busy Basavangudi(bastion of tambrahms) road,I could not resist the temptation of buying the jumping jack.I took the snap of the vendor and then the lady-in-waiting.I put it in my bag and rushed off for a meeting.And in the evening I became a jackfruit myself-so much of the fruitsmell emanated from me!


Originally uploaded by gopoo.
I love jackfruits.But then I am a poor buyer.And always end up paying more and getting a fruit which is not ripe.Hence I have decided to buy only after it is cut and tasted by me for its quality.I have to therfore perforce buy and eat one sample piece on the streets.Not that I mind it at all,but the question is whether the one piece I test is safe enough to be eaten.I am careful, though,and choose only a vendor who has a clean cart and clean hands.Back home they are thoroughly washed,dried and eaten dipped in honey.
Madhu,Madhu,Madhu.That is what our ancient sages said about honey.And when you take it with jackfruit it is paradise.


Originally uploaded by gopoo.
If you are suffering from abdominal pain,this is what the doctor has ordered.The highly nutritious ripe bulbs are laxative and provide quick relief.
Jackfruit has its origins in India,near the western Ghats.Now it has spread as far as to Jamaica!.Associated with Ramayana and Mahabharatha,a common blessing to a would-be mother is that she should bear a bonny baby like a jackfruit.
Wood from the jackfruit tree has been used for building palaces in Indo-China.It changes colour with age-from yellow to brown or dark red.It is not easliy attacked by termites,bacteria and fungi.Largest among all the fruits,it can weigh around 40 kgs.The ripe bulbs smell like banana and are eaten raw,cooked or made into chips,papad etc.The seeds are roasted and added alongwith sambhar.
It is highly nutrious.Rich in carotene,carbo,calcium,potassium,vit-c etc,it also contains phosphorous and iron.It is taken as a tonic by the Chinese.And the Buddhist monks boil its wood chips and dust in water and extract a dye which they use for dyeing their robes.It is indeed a mutifunctional fruit.It is a jack of all fruits.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

From Kanyakumari to Kashmir

From Kanyakumari to Kashmir
Originally uploaded by gopoo.
It has defied the law of gravity so to say.And moved up from KK to K.It is crowding out Wazwan,the mutton delicacy.With the silence of the guns,thousands of tourists are pouring into Kashmir and it appears to be good times once again.An interesting off-shoot of this development is that the average Kashmiri is being exposed to the pan-indian flavour and he is waking up to it.And masala dosa is a favourite among the Kashmiri youth.

Aam Bahut Hon Aur Meethey Hon

Oh Mangoes
Originally uploaded by gopoo.

About 150 years back,the famous Mirza Ghalib while sitting with friends and eating mangoes remarked thus when he had eaten yet another irresistable mango.Let there be plenty of them and let them be sweeter.
In the month of June, when mangoes are on the peak,one can really go mad.The botanical name for the fruit is mangifera indica.Thanks,otherwise,even the dasheri and chausa could get patented by the Kellogs and the like.There is competition from Northern Australia,South Africa and Southern USA.But can there be a match to our alfonsos,chausas and langdas?
There is one horticulturist who has become a phenomenon in mango cutivation.He lives in a dusty village some 20km from Lucknow called Malihabad.He is Kaleemullah Khan. And Malihabad is India's mango capital In 20 sq km radius,about 700 varieties of mangoes are grown.And it fetches a whopping Rs150 crores each season.Of course,hopefully,if the mango mukuls(flowers) don't get affected by a cloudy spell.And there is a 90 year old tree on which grows 300 different varieties.
Dassheri,Chausa,Amrapali,Chitla,Sharifa,Abdulla Pasand,Langra,Alphonso,Bombay Green,Banganapalli,Neelam,Swarnarekha and even Prince,Glass and Tommy Atkins.We have close to 1000 varieties which have hit the market this season.
Probably,the quantities would have been more if the Red Dragon had not shown interest in our king of fruits.For the first time,China has lifted the iron curtain on mangoes and there is a flood of mangoes from India and Pakistan.For 20 years we have been trying to export mangoes to Japan and with no luck so far.That speaks volumes of how difficult it is to trade with Japan.

As usual our friend Kaleemullah Khan is the cynosure of all eyes this year also.He has nurtured 300 varieties of mangoes in one tree,has got himself into the Limca Book of Records and this summer his tree was laden with 1000kgs of mangoes.Yeh to mitti ka masla hai!

Cafe Mozaic at Taj residency-3

Cafe Mozaic at Taj residency-3
Originally uploaded by gopoo.
And that is garlic bread on the ladle containing the spaghetti.

Cafe Mozaic at Taj Residency-2

Cafe Mozaic at Taj Residency-2
Originally uploaded by gopoo.
Just to give you an idea of how it looks.

Cafe Mozaic at Taj Residency

Cafe Mozaic at Taj Residency
Originally uploaded by gopoo.
Last Friday when I was in Bangalore,after some hectic labour negotiations,I decided to have a light lunch and also do a small recap of the morning session in a quiet corner.I chose my favourite place which in our Bangalore days as a family we must have visited so many times.The Southern Comfort has now been rechristened the Cafe Mozaic.Good ambience,and excellent service.All that Taj hotels are known for.I decided to have something light as I had another marathon meeting in the evening.
Creamy roasted tomatoes and pepper soup served with basil butter.Spaghetti with baby potato,oven baked eggplants in a creamy pesto sauce.That was what I ate and it was quite filling.I was sure I could last out till midnight!

Friday, June 17, 2005

I love you,Cello

I love you,Cello
Originally uploaded by gopoo.
It really amazes me.The proliferation of the cellphone in our country.It is no more the preserve of the rich.Executives,businessmen,doctors,students,bhajiwallas,doodhwallas,newspaperwallas-you name them and they are found holding one in their hands and quite often one in each hand.And almost every workingwoman you see on the road or every school/collegegoing student holds on to the cell like dear life.And whether we like it or not the Ambanis must take a lot of credit for making the cellphone omnipresent in our country as it is today.

Recently,Cheil Communications'Brand marketing institute of South Korea which is a top advertising firm conducted a study which showed that a mobile is one of a Korean teenager's most valued possession.Among 13-15 age group,77.5% said it was a must-have.For those in the 16-18 group, the percentage was 76.7%.The survey showed that mobilephones are the key to the youngster's social network.In the internetsavvy South Korea,the teenagers interviewed said that they would feel totally lost without a cellphone.What would they do to keep in touch with friends and send them pictures and text messages if they did not have the cellphone,they said.

I have a bit of advice.If you are a parent and want to mete out a stiff punishment,confiscate the child's cellphone.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Originally uploaded by gopoo.

When I was first introduced to this word by Lulu,I thought the pronounciation is like Pele.But then when I did a google search I realised from one of the sites that the right way is to pronounce it as meem like dream or neem.That is for starters.And now my answers to the 5 questions.

1)Total number of books that I own:
My father was a voracious reader.He left behind a massive collection of books on a variety of subjects.My wife and I have been collecting books for the last 35 years.I have therefore a collection of more than 10,000 books.

2)Last book I bought:Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.An international best seller,the Daily Telegraph calls it a literary masterpiece.

3)The last book I read:The Red Carpet by Lavanya Sankaran.Very enjoyable and witty.

4)Five Books that mean a lot to me:Now,that is a toughie.What comes to me straightaway are:

4.1)The 4000 Sacred Verses by Sriram Bharathi (The Tamil Vedas)
4.2)The Ramayana by Ashok.K.Banker
4.3)The Mahabharatha by C.Rajagopalachari
4.4)Lance Armstrong-It's Not About the Bike,My Journey Back to Life-a true story of a six times Tour de France winner
4.5) Seven Habits of the Most Effective People by Stephen Covey

5)Which 5 people would I like to see fill this out in their blog?.That is still tougher.

5.1)Lulu because she introduced me to blogging when it had just started.
5.2)Rums who reads my blog and comments and I have started reading hers.
5.3)Vir Sanghvi-I like his writing.
5.4)Manmohan Singh-what lies in the mind of this genius?
5.5)Abdul Kalam-for the same reason.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Oh Kolkata!

Oh Kolkata!
Originally uploaded by gopoo.
Kolkata has many firsts to its credit.The first cantilever bridge in India-the Howrah Bridge.The second Howrah Bridge-Vidasagar Setu is also one of a unique design.And the city always believed in economical mass transportation.Though again as the first city to have a metro in India,Kolkata has still not given up the electric tramcar.Introduced in early 20th century and probably pulled by horses then,it became a symbol of a modern Kolkata when it was electrified.There are two classes,first and second.The seats are cushioned in the first class.I remember that when I was a student in Kolkata the Calcutta Tramways Corporation had announced a 1 paisa fare increase.There was so much of bedlam that many trams were burnt.Those were the very early days of the Marxists in opposition.Today they are more responsible and sobered lot particularly after the purging of the Naxalites by Indira Gandhi and SS Ray.I have ridden on it many times though not for many years now.It is an experience.Bombay gave it up in the early 50s,but Kolkata still sticks to it.Like they say,Kolkata is the last post of the Marxist Leninist ideology.China may create its own form of Marxism-Capitalism,but Kolkata will stick to the ML philosophy.I am not very sure.Winds of changes are blowing and the CPM government seems to be gradually shifting towards a free market dispensation.
But I love the trams and I hope they do not get blown away.

Jhunka Bakhra

Jhunka Bakhra
Originally uploaded by gopoo.
The other day,I skipped home breakfast and after a while was feeling ravenously hungry.I got an urge to try something different and decided to order one plate 'jhunka bakhra'.This is a staple maharashtrian breakfast and the common man's unmissable morning nourishment.So much so that during the Shiva Sena regime,the government sponsored jb joints all over mumbai and probably even subsidised it to gain votes through the stomach.
Now what is it? Bakhra is millet.It is a form of wheat eaten extensively in the rural areas.It is available in the form of bakhra flour and making bakhras is like making chapatis.
And what is Jhunka? It is a combination of the following and prepared as given below:
Take chana dal,wet for 4 hours,remove most of the water and make into fine paste in a mixer.Take green mirchi separately,add adrak,garlic,and make a paste.Prepare a tadka of asfoetida and mustard and some curryleaves.Add the dal paste and allow the whole thing to cook on a small fire for about 20 minutes.Add salt,red mirchi powder and haldi for taste.
Voila! You have an ethnic breakfast ready.
Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong
Originally uploaded by gopoo.
I picked up this book two years ago at the San Fransisco airport. And I have read it many times over. It is an inspirational real-life story. Of a six-times Tour de France winner. One who fought all odds when it was detected that he had testicular cancer. And now this July he will be making his last appearance. He says he misses his three young children and a younger and fitter body. "It's not an old man's race".
A professional athelete for 20 years,he feels that the body does not keep going and going and going. Diagnosed with cancer in 1996,he has won a record six titles between 1999 and 2004,every year.
Those who know about this gruelling event,will understand and appreciate how the body is pushed to its extremes in this tortuous cycle race of human endurance. 200 riders cycling the entire circumference of France,mountains included,in three weeks in the heat of the summer. Lance calls it a contest in purposeless suffering. The climax is the Pyrenees. One bad day in those treacherous mountains and the race could be lost.
His book,a New York Times bestseller,"It's not about the bike,my journey back to life",makes engrossing reading. Written with Sally Jenkins it is a genuine and honest account of Lance's life from childhood to adolescence and fame. A must read.
Lance will be parking his cycle after tdf 2005. We will all miss a truly great hero.

Kavya and Lavanya

Originally uploaded by gopoo.
They are not characters out of the Ramayana or the Mahabharatha.They are young,flesh and blood puppies.They have entered the "lit-frat" with a bang.And they are getting bucks for the bang.They are now part of the "lit-glitt".And what a red carpet welcome they have got.They got kissed, have got wild and have gotten in.How Opal Mehta got kissed,got wild and got in is the tentative title of Kavya's book and Red Carpet of Lavanya's.
Kavya Vishwanathan is a Harvard fresher and has signed a two-book deal for 500,000 dollars with Little,Brown and Co.She came second in a nation wide poetry contest judged by Carl Dennis,winner of the 2002 Pulitzer prize for poetry.She is keen to become a banker and decided to join Harvard.And little did she know what destiny had in store for her.And with her books set to release in early 2006,the world may lose a banker and gain an author.
And who is Lavanya Sankaran? Also a banker and niece of a wellknown Tamil writer,she had nine publishers vying with each other in a three-day auction for publishing rights.Ultimately,Dial Press in USA and Headline in UK emerged the winners.And Lavanya got a phenomenal six figure sum in US dollars.Eight short stories crammed into the Red Carpet are all about characters with whom Lavanya had interacted while she grew up in Bangalore.Intergenerational clash,societal contradictions and the new assertive youth are the pivotal themes around which her stories are based.Selected by Barnes and Noble as part of their Discover New Author Programme,the Red Carpet is already 5th in the best-seller list in India. Lavanya who has achieved instant fame is very very busy.She has no time to count the zeroes in her cheque.Indeed,a splashing debut in India and abroad.She is already looking at another novel.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Nature's Blood-bank

Nature's Blood-bank
Originally uploaded by gopoo.
It is an exhilharating drink.Something that I greatly enjoy and so easily available in Mumbai.Literally on the streets.And on a hot summer day which drink can bring greater joy to the parched soul?.
As long as you ensure that it is prepared in hygenic conditions,you can derive the maximum mileage from this elixir of life.You name it-kidney disease,diseases related to the blood,stomach diseases,what have you.This is a cure all.
In 100 gms of cane juice,there is 90.2 gms water,9.1 gms carbohydrate,and calcium,iron,phosphorous,iron and vitamin A.Wheras in sugar,you don't get iron and vitamin A,you get plenty of it in jaggery.
Vitamin A in ganna helps in formation of corticostorene.Also,it has vitamin B complex and such an easily available and cheap source of vitamins for good health should not be ignored.
When the temperatures have gone through the roof,I can't think of a better drink to soothen the nerves.Add adrak,mint, and lemon to sugarcanejuice and enjoy what the gods drink.