Tuesday, December 30, 2008

beating blogger's block

it has happened to me many times.like writer's block,you come up against a wall,when you want to blog. and don't know on what topic you would like to blog. if you suffer from this problem don't worry . help is near. a twentytwo year young graduate from georgia tech college in atlanta, usa has designed a web-based tool which helps overcome blogger's block.called skribit, paul stamatiou has developed this blogger's cure. go to www.skribit.com. it must be good. within a year since it started,this website gets 4 million hits per month.

necessity is the mother of invention,they say.paul suffered frequent blocks while contributing to his own blog www.paulstamitiou.com which he had started in 2005.he put forth the idea in a conference of entrepreneurs,computer programmers and and marketing executives.with cofounder calvin yu he built the tool over a weekend.
when you don't blog for three days,people start asking why haven't you blogged in a while,he says.with skribit,blogreaders can vote on topics and post suggestions on what to write about. and the widget will sort them out by how hot they are.when the blogger uses your suggestion,you get notified.the key thing is that in skribit you get new ideas rather than just writing about what everyone else has.

users can suggest topics on the site.it can be anonymous or with a user account.then the blogger can read the site to get a clue as to his next post.also,he can post a widget of the tool on his blog.then suggestions will come directly to the blog.paul himself often uses skribit. the proof of the pudding lies in the eating.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

the hot chilli and its multiple uses

the other day i read an article in the 'et' in praise of 'bhut jolokia'. before you think it is a ghost story, let me hasten to add that it is not. nevertheless it is also frightening though to a lesser degree. it is the world's hottest chilli. it belongs to the capsicum chinense family. grown throughout the state of assam,bhut jholokia has SHV(scoville heat units) rating of 1,001,304.oxford university researchers have developed a technique of determining the degree of hotness of chilli sauce without tasting it. jalpeno ranges fromn 2500 to 8000.naga jolokia is 1million.based on nanotechnology,it is like measuring blood sugar levels at home. overtaking mexico's red savina which till last year topped the ranking (577000) in the guiness book of world records. the big red chilly of assam seems to be finding its way to the stomachs of chilli loving fans from india and abroad. recently a company in UK has orderd for 10 tonnes of bhut jolokia.there are many more who have shown interest too. not only for adding spice to the food but also for use as chillicake and chilli fences too to keep wild animals at bay in the farms and chilli coated iron bars as well.

what is behind the hotness that chilli pepper has? it is a substance called capsaicin.even a small dose can create sweat pours,quickening of the pulse and tears down one's cheeks.it is also a pain reliever.in the west which is known for its bland food sans all the spices that the east gobbles, tolerance to capsaicin has been very low.however,the present generation is guzzling hot sauce like never before;tabasco saauce or the superhot habanero peppers have caught their imagination.now a new pepper has emerged. called the dorset naga it is very very hot.it has a scoville rating of 1.6 million units.so now bhut jolokia has slid into second place.the naga which hails from bangladesh has become an instant hit.

the dorset naga chilli has been cultivated by curry lovers joy and michael michaurd in west bexington near dorchester.it has been developed from a bangladeshi pepper.the seeds are very potent.handlers have to wear gloves and cut the peppers under strong wind conditions so that it doesn't strike the eyes.if you are a chilli lover learn more about chilli peppers from michael.he runs workshops for keen gardeners and cooks who want to learn everything about chilli peppers.

chilligrenades is the new antiterro ammunition.drdo(defense research and development organisation) has developed a new kind of hand grenade for the military and police commandos to force out terrorists hiding in buildings and nab them without killing them.how i wish these were available to the anti-terrorists group when they barged in to the taj and trident on the black day of 25th november.the chillismoke grenade will irritate the eyes and cause immediate breathing difficulty and swelling of eyes aand compel the terrorirsts to come out in the open.the devise uses oleoresin capsicum.

for some chilli afficionados,the scoville reading is misleading.just like you cannot rate wine by its alcoholic content,they say chillies have to be categorised by freshness,dryness,pickleability and smokyness besided heat.the flavours change dramatically depending on the other conditions.they prefer the mexican matrix which takes into account both heat and the other conditions. a peruvian chilli called aji(Pronounced 'ahhee') has a lemony taste which when fresh and dried has a banana flavour.

can a fondness for chilli-eating lead to an addiction? and its side effects? after all, all of us know from our grandmothers that hot food causes acidity. bleeding in the stomach in extreme cases.scientific studies though have not drawn any conclusions whether chilli-eating can permanently damage the mucous membranes in the stomach. andhraites eat maximum chillies.but their stomachs are relatively safe.we,perhaps are the only mammals who eat chillies.other animals keep themselves poles apart from chillies.maybe we need to draw some lesson from our animal friends.

we have exported the fondness for chillies.the fascination for chillies has overtaken jason and steve,computer software engineers.and it has led to an addiction.they have given up their jobs and have started chilli farming in devon,uk. encouraged by their iniiitial succcess they have increased their acreage tenfold and have jampacked them with dozens of varieties.besides making chillies,they also make chilli jams,sauces and oils.all cooked by jason and steve.for the future they want to make tabasco style hot sauce and also launch a new chillichocolate. it has been an exciting change of profession for jason and steve. from computerchips to chillifarming.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

an eye for an eye,a tooth for a tooth,two shoes for iraq occupation

the iraqi shoe- thrower, a journalist, has become an overnight celebrity in the middle east for throwing his shoes one after another at president bush. bush with great alacrity ducked and saved himself the ignoniminy of having the shoes on his face. mr zaid was a poor shooter. only from 12 feet distance he missed a sitting duck. but anyway, he was applauded for his courage. for the parting gift that he gave to a visiting head of state. libyan president munnawwar gaddaffi's daughter will be presenting mr zaid with a medal for his courage. and a saudi billionaire has offered $10 million for one shoe. who has the coveted shoes no one knows. not certainly george bush. nor zaid either as he was last seen being pulled away by the iraq cops in his white socks.

in iraq if you are referred to as "son of a shoe" it is a damning insult. perhaps zaid meant that when he hurled the shoes.many years ago when he was addressing the united nations, nikita krushchev, the premier of ussr, took out his shoe and banged it on the table conveying his displeasure when there was a confrontation with usa on cuba. in hindi,' joote se maroonga' or 'cheruppala addikiren' in tamil mean the same.i will hit you with my shoes or my chappals.also when people are to be insulted publicly, their pictures are garlanded with chappals.

hurling shoes or brandishing them are manifestatations of anger and contempt. it is universally acknowledged as an expression of revenge or frustration as the case may be.the arab world is rejoicing at the temerity of zaid.let us hope that george bush learns his lessons atleast now and refrains from public appearances outside the usa.else he may create a record of sorts of being a president on whom maximum shoes have been hurled abroad besides eggs on his face in his own country.

Monday, December 15, 2008

yet another ponzi

it was charles ponzi who promised investors in the usa in 1920 that he would double their money in ninety days flat. those who fell for the temptation lost whatever they had invested.bernard madoff pulled off another ponzi scheme recently with far greater implications. the estimated fraud is in the region of $17 billion to $50 billion. the latter estimate is by his own admission. as if the blood on wall street that recently flowed was not enough,the recent revelation of the 'mother of frauds' has sent shockwaves all over the world and in particular among those unfortunate who believed in the suave and smart-talking madoff.

though how he worked his magic was puzzling to everyone,a steady annual return of 10-15% was too good to be ignored. a former chairman of nasdaq,he knew how money could be made and perhaps lost. his auditing firm was a three- man team-unseen and unheard of. banks like nomura had recently begun soliciting investors for madoff internationally. how much nomura itself lost is anybody's guess. many investors have lost all their savings excepting perhaps their properties while a charity lost its entire endowment.the legendary investor warren buffet had famously said that when the tide is down you really know how many people were swimming naked.

we too have seen many such ponzi schemes in india. and most mini madoffs have fled with their loot.i can understand when a layman falls prey to the lure of high interest. that well-informed and intelligent people and institutions should fall into such pits is incredible.

oh man,thy name is gullibility!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

a taste of bliss

people crave for bliss. they try all sorts of methods possible to attain something which is so very elusive.
some chant and meditate,some worship in temples,some do intense yogasanas to obtain kundalini shakthi.some engage in intense sex.
people are prepared to struggle to obtain that deep feeling of relaxation,a stressfree mind and body,a state of absolute calm and serenity.but then, there are some easy ways too to achieve bliss. "ghar ki murgi daal barabar". sadly,we take for granted what is easily available and start chasing a mirage. that is a common human tendency.

there is a plant called tulsi known for more than 5000 years.it has remarkable properties.it has amazing healing powers.this legendary plant is known as the 'queen of herbs'.the green tulsi is known as sri or lakshmi tulsi and the purple one as krishna tulsi. an important plant for vaishnavites,because this scared plant is dear to lord vishnu. therefore it symbolises purity and brings people closer to the divine(bliss).

it has amazing healing powers.it is used in ayurveda for treating numerous ailments.it has antioxidant properties,it is a painkiller,it is good for those who suffer from diabetes as it reduces the blood sugar level,helps those suffering from high bad cholesterol to lower their cholesterol readings. the aromatic plant is believed to promote longevity.

the other day while i was shopping in the bg club shop,i came across a box of 100% organic tulsi green tea. the manufacturers implore you to take a sip of ancient wisdom and relieve yourself from stresses and also lose weight. by drinking their blend of the finest tulsi and premium green tea. tall claim? i wouldn't think so. already after drinking two cups a day for the last fortnight, i can see the benefits. i feel more energized. it is like a balm which heals your body and mind. i love its fragrance and refreshing flavour. i make it a point to add fresh tulsi leaves to my morning pongal.( the thais use it extensively to add flavour and aroma to their food.it is a very important element in their cuisine.)

tulsi means 'the incomparable one'. it is true to the literal meaning.it is a wonder plant and tulsi tea is a wonder drink.it's winter here these days.i will therefore have it with hot water.and when summertime comes,i will beat the heat with icecold tulsi tea with a slice of lemon to add more flavour to the taste.

that is the route to bliss. don't hesitate. just go for it. you have got the elixir of life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"kolkata, whatever happened to your heart?"

kolkata is famous for its kindness,hospitality and caring for the poor. hence it is known as a city with a heart. and 'the city of joy'. that image got a big dent last week. when a senior citizen was allowed to die on the streets. shivering in the cold,the poor person had no one coming forward to rescue him. lying for a few days on the crossing of rafi ahmed kidwai road and ripon street near a garbage vat,he was just allowed to die.and a police patrol van was parked only a few metres away.

till a young ambn-amro bank official noticed the old man's plight and lifted him out and carried him to a nearby park.he draped him with a blanket and washed his hands and feet with warm water and tried to revive him. the boy's father, a unani practitioner,suggested he rub hot oil on his chest. before the youth could do that and also find out the identitiy of the old man,he breathed his last. known for its empathy with the poor and underdogs,the sudden callousness of kolkattans is unbelievable. the young bank officer's efforts were touching.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

in an ocean of debt

in 1989,seymour durst,a real estate developer installed in manhattan the US national debt clock to highlight the national debt which was then 2.7 trillion dollars. on september 30,the total crossed the 10 trillion dollar mark. this display in times square is owned by the durst organisation.they plan to update the clock in 2009 by adding two extra digits.already with the 700 million dollar bail-out of financial institutions,the US national debt is expected to cross the 11 trillion dollar level.the clock shows the family share of $86017!

payments are overdue on the debt that americans have piled up on their credit cards.debt counselling services are working round the clock taking distress calls.easy money and low interest rates fuelled the debt binge.now that prices of houses have fallen,the good times seems to have come to an end.with the consumers deciding to cut back on spending,the country is truly in the grip of a recession.66% of the US economy is driven by consumer spending.and now that the consumer in no position to spend recklessly where will the economy head?

it may be a long time before the consumer starts spending again. maybe it will do him some good to learn what thrift is all about. and to cut his coat according to his cloth.

here is a message on the debt clock.

The Outstanding Public Debt as of 06 Nov 2008 at 04:58:58 PM GMT is:
The estimated population of the United States is 305,045,345
so each citizen's share of this debt is $34,660.66.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of
$3.87 billion per day since September 28, 2007!
Concerned? Then tell Congress and the White House!

let us hope that the president-elect obama and the new congress do something drastic to save the US economy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

bitter is better

i disliked bitter gourd from a very young age. actually, i detested it. my mom tried her level best to persuade me to eat bitter gourd. but i just did not budge. till many many years later. ironically, i started liking it after she passed away. bittergourd sambhar(paavakkai sambhar) is de rigueur for a sraddha(annual death ceremony) meal in the south among tambrahms. may be it was the cook who made it so well that i started craving for it and would actually look forward to this sambhar whenever such an opportunity arose.having no sympathisers at home for my newfound love for this bitter vegetable in sambhar form, i decided to take it raw and sometimes as a juice and even as a vegetable fried with slices of onion. all these experiments helped me to satiate my craving for this marvellous vegetable.for me it was an acquired taste.i normally never miss having shuktho when i am in kolkata.nirmal is a phenomenal cook.his shukto,a bengali preparation(mixed vegetable consisting of bitter gourd and also bitter leaves of neem or patol), is so good that i go over the top when he prepares this bitter dish.taken with rice as a starter during lunch by the bengalis it has a cooling effect on the stomach.of course shuktho has other vegetables added to give more taste and flavour alongwith panchphoran and neem leaves as well to add further to the bitterness!

i was not aware till many years later that this vegetable also referred to as bitter melon has multiple health benefits. rich in iron,it has twice the calcium of spinach,twice the potassium of banana and twice the betacarotene of brocolli. and for some of us who get hangovers due to one too many, the bittergourd juice is the perfect antidote. it is a terrific detoxicant and cleanses the liver. low in saturated fat and cholesterol,it provides vitamin A,iron,magnesium and phospherous and also vitamin c, vitamin K and zinc,magnesium and potassium. and it is low in sodium. therefore salting them for removing the bitter taste dose not actually harm you. credited with blood purifying properties,it can even cure skin related problems. people suffering from respiratory problems have immensely benefitted by consuming karela juice regularly. it also acts as a missile against diabetes. juice of the leaves of the plant has excellent medicinal values.

take a cup of bitter juice with a tablespoon of honey. asthma,gout,rheumatism,jaundice and other disorders of spleen and liver will not come near you. drink and eat bitter and feel and be better.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

celebrating vegetarianism

during my last visit to kolkata in end september along with my colleagues we decided to have lunch at the kenilworth hotel at shakespeare sarani. we were quite surprised when on arrival, the steward told us that the hotel was celebrating three days of vegetarianism. nonogenarian sadhu vaswani,spiritual head of the sadhu vaswani mission based in pune, the wellknown guru and referred to as the "shaper of souls" was camping in the hotel and in deference to his wishes, the hotel run by raju bharath, decided to observe and offer only vegetarian food during his stay. i asked him whether that did not put off the non-vegetarian guests. he replied that on the contrary,there were more people visiting the restaurant than normal.

dada j p vaswani maintains that peace and harmony will not be there until we "stop all killing".november 25 which is his birthday is celebrated as "meatless day" and animal rights day."if today i don't hesitate in killing an animal,i won't hesitate in killing a man tomorrow. life is god's gift;only he can take it away," says dada vaswani.

for many years now one can see a virtual vegetarian uprising. and india is recognised as the main originator of vegetarianism.hinduism and its offshoots-buddhism and jainism were born in india. all these religions have preached ahimsa (non-injury) from ancient times.even in a country like usa there are about 15 million full-time and part-time vegetarians.you have jewish vegetarianism and sufi vegtarianism groups too.more and more people are being influenced by the animal rights movement and by environmental and health concerns.veg food is no longer "rabbit food".

veg falafal and chinese special veg food has become the flavour of the day.veg cookbooks are sprouting a dime to a dozen.there is even a lowfat jewish veg cookbook written by debra wassermann. according to rev dada j p vaswani,the true vegetarian is one who is filled through and through with reverence for life.life is a gift of god which no man should destroy.as is the food,so is the mind. as is the mind,so are the thoughts. as are the thoughts,so is the conduct. as is the conduct,so is the health.

the buffet lunch was thoroughly enjoyable. it was absolutely delicious. a combination of east and west. an interesting fusion and subtle mélange. starting with spicy avocado soup,we had pasta avaieletta, baked vegetables, german potato salad, vegetable quessidillas with broccolli, pod thai noodle and baby potatoes with garlic. the dessert counter had besides Indian sweets, mangocheese cake and chocolate parefit. it was an unforgettable lunch and something that all eight of us ate to our heart's content.

the icing on the cake was swarup chatterjee, the amiable chef. the avocado soup was heavenly.when i requested that I wanted to meet him,he promptly came over to our table and met me. i congratulated him on the excellent spread that he had painstakingly prepared and in particular the mouthwatering soup. i asked him whether he could give me the recipe. within 15 minutes he came back with the recipe artistically written in his own hand. something i will treasure. i liked the youngster. his spontaniety, his culinary skills and his desire to satisfy nay delight a customer.

"nourish life with vegetable food.and shun the sacrilegious taste of blood".

it's mind boggling

normally,i do not get intimidated by numbers. i am quite numeric but not a number cruncher though. so I have my love-hate relationship with numbers. i have found that in life success depends besides other things on a good memory, commonsense and a capacity for mental sums. exercises to the brain at an early age does wonders. that’s the time when the brain is receptive. it is not cluttered. absorptivity and retentivity are both high.when i was young,i was taught to memorise mutiplication tables upto ten and in some schools some were taught to committ to memory upto twenty. in rajasthan they go up to 100. no wonder that marwaris are so good at numbers which they use effectively for their business activities. there is a place in rajasthan called shekawat from where these number geniuses appear.

when we talk of inflation- an index worked out to indicate the cost of living ,if it is in single digit, we presume things are under control. when it goes to two digits, red lights start flashing and government tries emergency steps to control the rising monster. when it goes still higher we refer to those countries as banana republics where inflation runs in three figures.

but then what would you call a nation which has inflation running in nine digits? a recent press report said that zimbabwe had hit 231,000,000% per year. a record 231 million percent in july compared to 11.2 million percent in june. a loaf of bread which was costing 500 zimbabwean dollars in august now costs about 7000 zdollars.unable to carry on under these circumstances,many zimbabweans have resorted to barter and also rely on their friends and relatives in south africa for supplies of essentials.

this must be a record and fit for entry into the guiness books.and president mugabe will no doubt top the honours in the rogues' gallery.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

an irresistable offer

when my daughter and son-in-law invited me to join them for the weekend at kashid beach,it was a welcome break that i was loooking for.both of them love the beaches at alibag and particularly kashid which is one hour's drive from the mandwa jetty,the disembarkation point for alibag. last december,i had visited kashid to attend a wedding and i liked the place so much that i vowed to myself to return soon. but then till this offer came,i had really found no time to go away for a break.

living near gateway of india,as we do,the drive to the ferry embarkation point took me just five minutes.i took a vantage seat in the airconditioned cabin of the ferry liner and enjoyed the comfortable 45 minutes ferry ride to alibag. at mandwa jetty, a car from prakruti hotel resorts was awaiting me. the drive to the hotel was really bad due to the very poor condition of the road. what a pity! and this is our problem. we have good tourist destinations but the roads are so bad that it makes reaching those places a pain more than a pleasure. wish the state government does something to provide funds to the local municipality to improve the road condition. alternatively, considering the fact that the superrich have their lovely villas in alibagh and kashid, it shouldn't be difficult to mop up the funds for some better roads and other amenities.

the four-star prakruti hotel promoted by one mangoleran shetty has excellent rooms,facilities like swimming pool and a bar with restaurant. the food served is excellent. being a vegetarian i missed out on the seafood that this place is famous for.my daughter had sent me a sms asking me to head to the swimming pool on my arrival. when i arrived,i made a beeline to the pool and joined my granddaughter and her parents and their friends.we had a great time for about an hour playing in the water and discussing with my son-in-law's friends about the wall street crash!(they all work for the ws biggies in india).

later we drove around kashid and enjoyed looking at the lovely beach-pure white sand and the blue sea. the paddy fields on the other side with green mountains and rivulets all added to the beauty all around. the casuarina groves providing a thick forest cover was an eyesoothing experience. kashid reminds me of the bogmolo beach at dabolim,goa where i lived for a little more than three years.

kashid is an ideal place to have a second home.a perfect weekend getaway.its beaches are the best in maharashtra and perhaps one of the best in the konkan region. the surroundings are peaceful and the local population very quiet and friendly.the casuarina groves and the pristine beach so closeby are irresistable attractions. while driving down to kashid from mandwa jetty,i checked on the property prices with the enterprising driver. "6 lakhs a gunta only,sir", he said.he also offered to help me buy a plot of land through his brother who is a real estate broker. a gunta is 1000 sq feet.no doubt pricey.but then land prices have shot up in the last six months to a year and a correction is due.the global financial meltdown and the stockmarket crash in india would help in the fall of these high prices.that may be an opportunity to buy a small piece of land and build a second home as a weekend retreat to this lovely beach town.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

sattoo-the quintessential bihari food

having lived in kolkata for many years,i developed a few bihari(state of bihar is bengal's neighbour) friends.during my frequent visits to kolkata,i meet them for a chat or to be precise for a little bit of 'adda',time permiting. and then they sing hosanas on their favourite sattoo.i decided to find out more about this powder that excites them so much.

the bihari's soft corner for sattoo is well known. i dare say,you can not separate a bihari from his sattoo. he would swear by it and would be prepared to live on sattoo alone for days and months. in fact, when there are severe floods like the recent one where the river kosi changed course, sattoo helped many stranded citizens to survive till food packets were air-dropped. i had heard of this chick pea powder in my young days and perhaps had it several times.after having heard praises galore,i decided to explore it further and examine its true value.

sattu is roasted bengal gram made to fine powder and added with black salt and a bit of jeera powder in a tall glass of water.it is a drink to die for.some though prefer to have it with jaggery or sugar.what does it contain? it has loads of folic acid,manganese,molybdenum and fibre.it has proteins and minerals like copper,zinc,magnesium and iron.it is a good food for diabetics. it helps lower bad cholesterol and improves blood sugar levels.

many biharis take it for breakfast in the form of small sattu balls which are fried in oil.some take it in the form of paranthas. green chillies,chopped onions and ajwain are also added to make a proper sattu dough for the paranthas.and garlic too if you like it.and garam masala, jeera and dhania powder. you can have burfi made out of sattu too! what more can you ask for from a humble chick pea? and some have it as a drink.

i decided to try out the sattoo drink.i had bought a 500gm packet of 'satyendra sattoo' in kolkata.it claimed that the drink would be wholesome,energetic and soothing.i took four teaspoonful of sattoo powder, diluted them in water to which i added a pinch of salt and a slice of lemon. for the last two days this drink has been my breakfast.it has kept me going till lunchtime without any hungerpangs in between.a 500gm packet costs rs 35 which is about 80 cents.and is supposed to be very helpful for gastric problems,constipation and acidity.it improves sleep and appetite.and keeps the stomach clean and cool.
it is cool.paisa vasool as the saying goes. "taste the wholesome,energetic and soothing drink in a natural 'n' healthy way".

have fun.have sattu.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

the end of the road

randy pausch's last lecture was a lesson for everyone. how to live life to the maximum and seize every moment as it comes.the professor of computer science at carnegie mellon university agreed to give this last lecture when he was diagnosed of terminal cancer of the pancreas.there is a tradition at carnegie mellon of inviting a faculty member to give an annual lecture in a series called 'journeys' in which the faculty member is expected to speak on what he/she has learnt from life and what wisdom he/she wishes to pass on if it was the last opportunity. in the case of randy pausch,the last lecture was really a last lecture because he had a only a few months to live.

delivered on 18th september 2007,there were 6 million people who viewed the lecture online.he spoke to an audience of about 400 students and faculty members.the entire video is available on "you tube" and I would urge everyone to see it. it is absolutely absorbing.the title of the lecture was "really achieving your childhood dreams". randy pausch has a great sense of humour and he is also a great showman.he starts of with his ct scan slides and shows how his pancreas have been invaded by the deadly tumours.and then he starts a series of press-ups and tells the audience that apparently he is fitter than many of them. showing no signs of weakness or exertion for a man who has given up fighting the disease. his death was certain in a few months. "we cannot change the cards we are dealt. just how we play the hand". the exuberant last lecture was full of lessons like overcoming brickwalls.they are really not obstacles but they are there to make you perform better. to seize every second. time is precious and is running out.the terminally ill professor made millions of people all over the world sit up and rethink life.his lecture and the book that followed has changed innumerbale lives,touched american politics and has set off a publishing phenomenon.

his friend jeff zaslow, co-author of this book and a columnist of the 'wall street journal"(wsj) posted a 5 minute video in the wsj's website. it took off like a rocket.randy pausch even appeared on an oprah winfrey show which was watched by more than 10 million people.

the cocky and arrogant professor had a huge fan following in the campus.he had a loving wife jai and doting children-logan,chloe and dylan.a complete family man,he acknowledges his gratitude to his parents who allowed him to dream.the last lecture was actually for his kids.he wanted them to dream like him.and for them to know when they grow up as to how much he loved them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

ganesha goes green

today is the last day of the ten day long ganesha festival. as usual ganeshas will be submerged and a tearful farewell given to the lord with the crowd chanting in full throat -"ganpati bappa mourya, putcha varsha parat ya". the remover of obstacles,one whose blessings are invoked before any auspicious thing is started, lord siva and goddess parvati's intelligent son and the most popular deity among hindu gods and one who is well known internationally for his elephant face will be immersed in the waters and eagerly awaited till the next year.

when "aum ganeshaya namah" is chanted, we are saying let wisdom prevail in what we do. wisdom seems to have dawned finally.there was a difference in the celebrations this year. in the past, the repercussions of celebrating ganesha festival without caring for the environment was so visible.however, this year,thanks to the zeal of environmentalists,there was a marked change in people's attitude and there was an awareness and concern to perform the festival with minmum damage to the environment.

pop(plaster of paris) idols release co2 reducing the oxygen level in the water and harm marine life. the paints on the idols further aggravate the damage.water bodies being sources of drinking water at many places get poisoned by the paint and deposition of floral offerings. there were many organisations which made their celebrations eco-friendly. some recycled all ganesh offerings. others created artificial ponds for immersion of ganesha idols. some made the idols from paper pulp. newspaper and mud mixed together.the newspaper acts as a binder.then with the pulp and use of hands the idol is made.painting is done with natural colours extracted out of turmeric and mud.some made ganapati out of clay.some even had silver ganapati idols and immersed them in a bucket of water and wiped them clean.to be kept in a safe place to be brought out the following year.some even ran workshops to educate people on keeping the festival ecofriendly. about 20,000 ganesha idols were made by school children using mud and vegetable dyes.

the bmc set up a website www.ecoganapati.com jointly with fropper.com to provide details of ecofriendly ganeshas,location of artificial immersion ponds and other ways of celebrating the festival in a green manner. e-coexist.com promoted sales of eco-friendly ganesha idols. there will be a cleanlilessness drive,the website said with students and fropper.com members on the coastal front to clean up the mess.

a god who refused to marry because he felt no woman was more beautiful than his mother. a god whom no woman wanted to marry because he had an elephant head. said to have two wives though-riddhi and siddhi.material propsperity and intellectual growth.a god whose every part has deep meaning and significance. his trunk,his large ears,his third hand,his singular tusk and whose posture of sitting on a rat with one foot on the ground and the other resting on his knee convey esoteric meanings.

our beloved ganesha has now become an e-god.the obstacle remover has brought wisdom to the people.let us hope this movement picks up and that ganeshas pollute less and make the environment greener and more greener.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

'the last lear'

shot in 40 days flat on a relatively low budget(bigB charged only 10% of his normal rate),the arindam chaudhuri production was a treat to watch.the movie was premiered at toronto last year and was released last friday at mumbai(wonder why such a long time-gap), after scaring the guts out of the producer and bigB. jaya bhaduri's off- the- cuff remark that for her hindi came first and then only marathi did not go well with mumbai parochialists and politicians. they all jumped into the fray criticising jaya bhaduri and allowed hooligans to go on a rampage tearing billboards of 'the last lear' and burning effigies of jaya bacchan and even threatened to stop the premiere of 'the last lear'. bigB apologised on behalf of his better half and truce was called and peace was soon established. the young nephew of the shiva sena supremo bal thackeray,raj thackeray, who led the assault yet again on behalf of the marathi manoos won yet another battle. and film star muzaffar raked up another controversy saying that he was upset that his trademark hairstyle was copied by bigB in the movie without his permission! not only that, his looks and mannerisms were copied by rituporno ghosh for the character of harish mishra. these distractions soon blew away and the film was being shown to packed houses over the weekend.

the movie begins on a divali night with fireworks and crackers bursting.an auspicious start.but then the protogonist(harish mishra alias harry) is in a state of coma. veteran thespian(amitabh bacchan) who plays the role of harry seriously injured his spinal cord when he did a stunt.harry(bigB) is a 75 yearold retired stage actor.one who breathes,drinks and eats william shakespeare.his ambition was to act as king lear in the play which was to be staged for which he did a lot of painstaking research and went under king lear's skin.just before the play was to be held,someone from the stage crew had commented about his live-in companion (vandana) which upset him so much that he gave up theatre altogether in a huff. living in an old and ancestral north kolkatra mansion with closed circuit tv in his room, he lives in a time warp.he is a personification of vanity and arrogance. sporting silver hair,the diehard theatre person ridicules movies and says he would never act in a film.you can show only the face or the hands and if you want to show the whole body of the person you have to take a shot from a distance,he tells siddharth(arjun ramphal) who wants to make a film titled "the mask" with harry in the main role.siddharth's younger brother,a journalist interviews harry before he decides to act in the movie.while discussing shakespeare,harry is shocked that the youngster referred to the main character in "midsummer night's dream" as oberoi instead of oberon.and he never forgets the gaffe.forced out of retirement,the ageing and decadent actor decides to make a movie debut albeit with some reluctance.siddharth is overjoyed that he has found the right actor for his film.

shefali shah as vandana,preity zinta as harry's co-star shabnam,divya dutta as the nurse ivy,arjun ramphal as the film director siddharth-all perform their roles to near perfection. credit goes to director rituparno ghosh for extracting the best out of each actor.there are some very funny scenes like when both harry and siddharth see on the cctv at harry's home,the activity in front of the old mansion. the movement of people doing different things at different times. siddharth feels that this itself can become a story for a movie. every now and then there is a passerby who relieves himself against the compound wall of the mansion. the scene where harry implores siddharth to allow him to do the stunt of falling from the cliff much against siddharth's will is very touching. after all has he not paid a hefty sum to hire akbar, a stuntman.he,however, relents when harry goes down on his knees and begs of him and tells him that after all he is like siddharth's father.should he not accede to his wishes? a fatal mistake by siddharth. because harry breaks his back doing the stunt.

is there any message that arindam chaudhuri wants to convey? what is shakespeare's lear doing anyway? actually there is no connection between king lear and the last lear excepting probably the common factor of age and arrogance in the characters of king lear and harry.theatre acting is very different from acting in a film,the director seems to say and the harassment of young maidens by their suspicious boyfriends does not appear to be very uncommon.ivy and shabnam share this fate in the hands of their respective boyfriends. about which we come to know when vandana,shabnam and ivy share their dinner on the night of the premiere sitting in the drawing hall of harry's home. harry is lying in a serious condition in an adjacent room after the accident. frequent flashbacks unfold the story till the climax when harry mutters some shakepeare dialogues.how relationships change! the selfish director,siddarth, who never turned up to see his main hero after the tragic fall in stark contrast to the sympathetic co-star shabnam who skips the premiere to be with harry also shows different people exhibiting different feelings and emotions.the old are difficult people to handle;they are irritable,cranky and vulnerable. and some men take advantage of their age and susceptibility. women more often are at the receiving end and do not get a fair deal.relationships are complex and not easily understood and explained.

in sum,a remarkable movie to watch.bigB's performance when he quotes shakespeare with great panache and elan was for me something unforgettable. a well-knit team of actors who raise the bar with their outstanding contributions and make the film truly a delight to watch.

the jury is still out whether the film will be a commercial success. for me that is besides the point. it is a job well done.

Friday, September 05, 2008


it is not the climate that i am referring to.nor the glamorous filmstars.it is the quintessential south indian hot drink that goes under the the name rasam. taken in between sambhar and thayir sadam(curd rice),any south indian meal is incomplete without rasam.it has to be hot.both temperature wise and in chilli content.the andhraites excel in making their pappu chaaru as hot as as it can be. they also prepare theeyati chaaru(sweet rasam). made with dal without dal,the key to the taste of rasam is the selection of the spices.the numerous variations include-mysore rasam,tomato rasam,lemon rasam. pineapple rasam(a popular rasam in my family),vayppambu(neem flower) rasam(my favourite), drumstick rasam,baby onion rasam, ginger rasam,milagu rasam,buttermilk rasam and so on and so forth.

the story goes that once the mysore maharajah gave a banquet in honour of some visiting dignitary.his hebbar iyengar cook was a super chef. the chef's sambhar was so tasty that the kitchen ran short of it due to the huge demand. when informed of the stockout, the maharajah immediately called the chef and asked him to come up with something very fast.the chef who was at his wit's end got a brilliant idea. he very innovatively created with the sambhar left overs the now famous rasam. needless to say it was a super hit with the guests.

during the first world war when the british troops were stationed at bangalore,one evening the tamilian cook in the barracks' canteen prepared a soup for his 'saar'.the englishman found it delicious."what do you call it?",he asked excitedly. "milagu tanni soup, saar",replied the cook meekly. thus was born the now famous mulligaitawny soup,an anglo-indian favourite. it is plain milagu (whole pepper) rasam served with rice.

wow! what a rich melange of spices! asafoetida,mustard seeds,fenugreek seeds, and cumin seeds.curry leaves and coriander leaves to top it all.with tamarind giving the required tanginess and split red gram,turmeric powder,ginger,garlic if you desire,coriander seds,peppercorns salt and ghee and even a small stick of cinnamon and rasam podi for added flavour,you can reach seventh heaven with your taste buds fully gratiated.no wonder it is called sattumadhu (sadam plus amudu), which means rice with nectar, by the tamilians.

simple to prepare and very high on the satisfaction count this simple mixture of tur dal water, juice of a small ball of tamarind, tomatoes( i like it in big chunks,though many prefer small ones),onion and garlic (for those who crave for that flavour),green chilli and salt with a final tadka(sputtering) of pepper,cumin and mustard seeds,split black gram and desi ghee(rarified butter),fenugreek seeds,methi and hing. it is a 20 minutes' job and when served piping hot can be savoured as a drink or mixed with rice and taken as rasam rice as it is generally done. one could also add vada to the rasam and make it a rasa vada,which i find the punjabis love.a favourite in wedding lunches and dinners,one needs a fair amount of skill and dexterity to manouever the rasam on a plaintain leaf.otherwise you could end red in your face with your neighbour looking daggers drawn for making quite a mess.

"in vain our hard fate we repine. in vain our fortunes we rail. on millagutawny we dine,or congee(kanjee) in bangalore jail." this was composed by an english prisoner during hyder ali's rule in 1784.as early as 500 bc,the aryans were eating "supa",a sanskrit word that described the extracts of cereals and various pulses which were later flavoured with ginger,pepper and pomegranate. the rasam has a long long history and loved by commoners,prisoners and kings. if you have not had this liquid appetiser, just don't wait. just get it and slurp. if you are one of those who haven't indulged in the finer things in life,this is your moment. embark on a journey of senses and discover the world of rasam.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

narielpaani(coconut water)-the miracle drink

it is a fantastic drink. absolutely safe. no chances of any contamination. no chemicals. nothing spurious about it. and the latest research reveals that it helps patients recover from chikungunya, typhoid, cholera, jaundice etc. called elaneer in tamil nadu, daab in bengal and narielpaani in maharashtra, this super-heatlhy drink has everything going for it. i am not saying this. it is the world health organisation (WHO) which strongly recommends this drink.

it is a diurectic. it has pottasium and small amounts of sulphur,phosphorous and copper. it has vitamin C. besides, it is a beauty aid as well. it is excellent for hydrating the skin. deepika padukone swears by it. and so do yana gupta, kareena kapoor and ameesha patel who are all narielpaani buffs.

it is a great detox. it has negligible fat and calories.

make it a part of your daily routine. it will work wonders on you. a common sight in front of our hospitals is the humble narielwala. my narielwala,rajesh from kerala (actually rajen but made to rajesh by the mumbaikars) knocks on my door every morning with a broad smile on his face and a nariel in his hands- full of the miracle drink. god bless him. i know that my day has been made.

Friday, August 15, 2008

the patron of the poor-khwaja moinuddin chisthi

"khwaja mere khwaja,dil me samaja........when i heard this sufi number in 'jodha akbar' i went into a trance. and it continues to haunt me.what beautiful words and how brilliantly converted into a song by the great music director a.r.rehman.the picturisation of this number was unforgettable.and no wonder that rithik roshan got up and joined the singers and went into the turkish whirl.

"i am neither christian nor jew,neither persian nor muslim.i am neither the east nor west,neither from land nor from water." " i am concealed,secret,sometimes,sometimes i appear,and become obvious.sometimes i am a muslim,sometimes i am in the faith of moses,sometimes i am christian.in order to be a model to everyone,i manifest differently in every time."-jallaluddin rumi,the sufi poet and mystic.

sufism has been of great interest to me of late. i have read a few books on its main ideas and about jalaluddin rumi the founder of this cult.currently i am reading a book on rumi by will johnson.i even attended a a sufi evening last year during the kalaghoda festival.as i was particularly interested in the song set to music in jodha akbar. a.r.rehman is a devotee of gharib nawaz chisthi,a sufi saint. no wonder that he has composed such a beautiful song.

gharib nawaz khwaja moinuddin chishti was born in seistan, iran in 1138 in a well-respected syed family. his family was well-off and he led his childhood in comfort. however, when first his father and then his mother died in his teens, his economic condition deteriorated. for a while he subsisted on the income from the orchard he had received as inheritance. he was initiated at the age of 18 and for the next 22 years served merely as the water-boy for his convent. during that period, he was not allowed to attend the exclusive circle of his murshid. eventually when he reached the age of 40, one day khwaja uthman harooni called for him to his court, showed him his two fingers, and asked him what he was seeing in between those two fingers. gharib nawaz khwaja moinuddin chishti replied, “I am watching 18 thousand Galaxies.”

after performing Hajj, he visited the masjid-ul-nabawi (holy tomb of the prophet) in Medina. there he meditated at the tomb for several days. during meditation, he met the prophet muhammad, who commanded him in these words:
"o, moinuddin! thou art the helper of the faith. we hath granted thee the land of india. go there and stay, at ajmer. thy stay shall remove the faithlessness and glorify the truth."

from the land of paganism i.e. ajmer, khwaja moinuddin started the spiritual movement of the propagation of the truth. his efforts bore fruit and within a short period of sixteen years, ajmer was traansformed. It became the nerve center of moral and spiritual leadership in India,paved the way for a grand religious and social revolution, and provided opportunity to countless people to lead a life of equality and honor.

he was kind and forgiving. once a man came to him with the intention of murder. he read his intention spiritually, and treated him very kindly, and asked him, to do what he had intended. the man was ashamed and requested to be punished. khwaja moinudin replied, “the mendicant's habit is, whoever does evil to them, they treat him well." he forgave the man who later became his follower.

in spite of his renunciation of worldly things, his monastery was famous for his generosity and magnanimity. an enormous amount of food was cooked in his kitchen. no one ever went hungry from his gate. he is also known as Gharib Nawaz (patron of the poor). a large kitchen even today serves the hungry and the poor of all faiths from the campus of his monastery. his tomb is one of the holiest places in India where pilgrims, Muslims as well as Hindus come from every corner of South Asia to pay their homage. unfortunately,the terrorists did not even spare this holy place.

one night gharib nawaz khwaja moinuddin chishti went into his chamber after prayers and closed the door. he did not allow anyone to enter. all night long, the people outside heard a mystical sound coming from inside. at the crack of dawn, the sound stopped. sensing that there was something wrong because the door remained closed at the time of morning prayers, his devotees opened the door and found him dead. the year was 1229 A.D.

i am reproducing a translation of the song 'khwaja khwaja' which i found in the web for the benefit of those who may be interested. i thank the author profusely for the excellent translation.

"Khwaja ji.. Khwaja
-[Khwaja, O Khwaja]
Khwaja ji.. Khwajaji
-[Khwaja, O Khwaja]

Ya Ghareeb-un-Nawaaz
-[O supporter of the poor]
Ya Ghareeb-un-Nawaaz
-[O supporter of the poor]
Ya Ghareeb-un-Nawaaz
-[O supporter of the poor]

Ya Moin-ud-deen
-[O helper/assistant of the Faith]
Ya Moin-ud-deen
-[O helper/assistant of the Faith]

Ya Khwajaji, ya Khwajaji
-[O Khwaja, O Khwaja]
Ya Khwajaji, ya Khwajaji
-[O Khwaja, O Khwaja]

Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samaja
-[Khawaja, O Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]
Shahoun ka shah tu, Ali ka dulaara
-[You are the king of the kings, you are the beloved of Ali( R.A).]

Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samajaa
-[Khawaja, 0 Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]
Shahoun ka shah tu, Ali ka dulaara
-[You are the king of the kings, your are the beloved of Ali(R.A ).]

Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samajaa
-[Khawaja, O Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]
Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samajaa
-[Khawaja, O Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]

Bekassoun ki taqhdeer, Tune hai sawaari
-[The fate of helpless/needy/poor, you have changed]
Bekassoun ki taqhdeer, Tune hai sawaari
-[The fate of helpless/needy/poor, you have changed]

Khwaja, mere Khwaja
-[Kwaja O my Kwhaja]

Tere darbaar mein Khawaja, Noor to hai dekha
-[In your court Khwaja, we have seen the spiritual light(aura)]
Tere darbaar mein Khawaja, Sarr jhukate hain auliyaa
-[In your court Kwaja, you are held high by all other Valiees(Saitns/Mystics)]

Tu hai Mutawwalli Khawaja, rutbaa hai pyaara
-[You are the Caretaker Khwaja, you have a beautiful title]

Chahane se tujhko Khwajaji, Mustafa(PBUH) ko paaya
-[If we love you(also), we may get the love of Mustafa(prophet Muhammed PBUH)]

Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samajaa
-[Khawaja, 0 Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]
Shahoun ka shah tu, Ali ka dulaara
-[You are the king of the kings, the beloved of Ali(R.A).]

Mere peer ka sadkha, Mere peer ka sadkha
-[Thanks to my Peer(saint/priest), Thanks to my Peer(saint)]

Hai mere peer ka sadhka, Tera daaman hai thaama
-[Thanks to my Peer(saint/priest), through whom, I have come to know about you]

-[O Khwaja]

Talli har balaa hamari, chaaya hai qhumaar tera
-[All our worries/bad omens are gone, we are under your euphoria]

Jitna bhi rashque karein beshaq, to kamm hai aye mere Khwaja
-[No matter how much we envy you, it will be little]

Tere khadmoun ko mere rahnumaa, nahin choddna gawaara
-[It doesn't feel right to leave your side, you are our guide]

Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samaja
-[Khawaja, O my Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]
Shahoun ka shah tu, Ali ka dulaara
-[You are the king of the kings, the beloved of Ali(R.A).]

Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samaja
-[Khawaja, O my Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]
Shahoun ka shah tu, Ali ka dulaara
-[You are the king of the kings, the beloved of Ali(R.A).]

Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samaja
-[Khawaja, O my Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]
Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samaja
-[Khawaja, O my Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]

Bekassoun ki taqhdeer, Tune hai sawaari
-[The fate of helpless/needy/poor, you have changed]
Bekassoun ki taqhdeer, Tune hai sawaari
-[The fate of helpless/needy/poor, you have changed]

Khawaja mere Khawaja, Dil me samaja
-[Khawaja, O my Khawaja, come reside in my heart.]
Shahoun ka shah tu, Ali ka dulaara
-[You are the king of the kings, the beloved of Ali( R.A).]"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the tribal warli art

warli is an ancient east indian tribe.they settled in the western region of india somwhere in the tenth century ad.they were discovered in the early seventies.warla means a piece of land.warli is a maharashtrian folk painting .this small tribe execute their paintings in mud walls of their homes with a red plastered background.their paintings are done on these walls with powdered rice paste. this tribal fork art of maharashtra has been recognised for its originality,simplicity and exquisiteness internationally.tribal routine dalily life is depicted in many of their paintings.by studying these paintings one can make out the life that these tribals led.

the paintngs show their day to day life ,their customs and beliefs.some of the subjects of paintings are:-travelling in bullock carts,applying cowdung on floors and walls,string of mango leaves on the top of their entrance door,musicians at a wedding party,drawing water from wells,carrying stacks of water containers on the head,temple marriages,forms of humans and animals,hunting,harvesting etc. surprisingly there are no gods and goddesses in their paintings.they also paint on paper.

india has rich diversity in its culture.the handicrafts produced in our country are very special and follow historical traditions and artistry.the warli painting stands out as an outstanding example of the efforts of the tribals to exhibit their simple life,thoughts and ideas through the medium of painting.

some four years back i met a warli artiste accidentally in an exhibition.after i had chatted for a while he suggested that he would come over to my house and do some paintings.it was a two day job.he prepared a red background on the front walls of our balconies and did some exellent paintings which are as good as recently done even today. these are open balconies subject to sun and rain.i am happy to have a piece of indian tribal art on my balcony walls which i see every day and admire the painting skills of the warli tribal folks.

Friday, August 08, 2008

"jaane tu, ya jaane na"

it is the latest candy-floss romance to hit the screens in the mutiplexes where the youth converge in hordes. aamir khan,the producer,has struck gold.he has hit the bull's eye. written and directed ably by 30 year old abbas tyrewala,the movie is all about love,friendship,jealousy etc. emotions strongly prevalent in the youth. and as a spinoff it appeals to senior citizens as well who go down memory lane when they watch such films.

the faces are fresh and appealing. the young lovers jai( imraan khan) and aditi( the south indian genelia d'souza) are very close to each other but do not realise that they actually are in love. or is it that they are in a state of denial about their love for each other? the bonhomie and camaderie among their tightknit group of friends is phenomenal. rotlu,jiggy,bombs and shaleen tell mala about the love story of jai and aditi when they are waiting at the airport for the lovers who are returning from the us.it is a flashback. the two rajput cowboys who turn out to be jai's cousins are hilarious. paresh rawal as inspector waghmare does a good job. music by a.r.rahman is scintillating and choreography excellent.

son of amar singh rathore(naseeruddin shah), a proud rajput, jai is his father's exact opposite and a great embarrasment to his late father. jai is a mild,soft-hearted ,non-violent personality.something unheard of among rajputs.the dead amar singh now and again peeps out of his portrait and chides his mother(ratna pathak) about jai."he can be called a man only if he rides a horse,has a physical duel with someone and goes to jail".three important conditions for being a rajput. naseeruddin performs his role admirably.jai and aditi decide on their lives' course by trying to seek new lovers. when jai starts dating meghna (manjari phadnis), aditi gets very very jealous. she gets engaged to sushant (ayaz khan).he is the exact opposite of jai. aggressive,possessive and capable of physical challenges.qualities which aditi admires. but it is now jai's turn to turn green. he hits sushant when he kisses aditi on her lips.jai is jailed and teased and taunted by inspector waghmare who has a running battle with jai's activist mother.the rajput cousins come to jai's rescue.the experiment initiated by jai and aditi totally fails and jai and aditi realise how madly they are really in love with each other.it is a happy ending with jai galloping on horseback to the airport to stop aditi from leaving the country. amar singh rathore emerges from the portrait beaming, proud os his son who has fulfilled all the three essential requirements for being called a rajput!

the youngsters are watching the movie again and again."how many times have you seen 'jaane tu?",' is the oft repeated question in the age group thirteen to twenty. and this is spreading like an infection. the youth are coming back with their buddies,their social networking friends and even their parents! imran,the fresh face,has become an overnight star.genelia too.

everyone is enjoying it. so what if pappu can't dance,saala!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

kolkatans are large hearted

kolkatans are a kind and caring lot. if any proof is required, diki sherpa from sikkim will testify. she suffers from renal failure since 2000. both her kidneys have now stopped functioning. daughter of a lama, she has no money for her medical bills. but the rich & famous and the poor are all chipping in.

about rs 4 lakhs is required for her surgery.already about half of this has been raised.industrialists sanjiv goenka,sanjay budhia.harsh neotia and football icon baichung bhutia have all contributed. even those who cannot afford have generously donated. like raju sardar,a banana vendor and sanjay duley,22, a rickshaw puller from chandernagore with rs 1000 each,which is more than their ten days' earnings with the words "may god bless diki". various hospitals have given diki sherpa discounts on medical tests and dialysis.rabindranath tagore institute of cardiac sciences has offered to defray the medical expenses before and after surgery.

the latest news is that diki was operated for kidney transplant on july 30.it was a marathon five hours operation which ended successfully.it would take 72 hours for diki to regain consciousness,the surgeons said.

well done kolkatans. keep it up.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

i love lychee

lychee has been one of my favourite fruits from childhood. and like all good things in life, they don't come easily. lychee has a short season and if you have missed it you have to rest content with the tinned stuff. its crimsoncoloured skin hides a lovely translucent white juicy flesh which when you consume gives you a heavenly feeling. recently during my visit to kolkata i was lucky to find plenty of lychees on sale on the roads. i bought a big bagful.

lychees originated in india and are mainly grown in bihar,especially in muzzafarpur district along the river gandak,thanks to its agro-climatic condition. searing heat this year destroyed much of the crop. the burst of heat was immediately followed by rains. a double disaster for lychees.i came across an article which said that israelis have an innovative technology that can help increase litchi life span by keeping it fresh for atleast a month after they are plucked in full ripe condition. i hope our government buys the technology to boost the production and improve its availability. last year we exported about 100 tonnes to the middle east,canada,russia and the netherlands. this year we might not reach even a third of that.export requirements are stringent. lychees have to be delicious and must have a diameter of six centimeters to be exportable!.

lychees are oval in shape, have a brittle leathery skin with a light pink to deep red colour and a small seed. they are incredibly juicy,very aromatic and give forth a delightful burst of unbelieveable flavour. one can make a 101 things with lychees. sorbet,fruit salad,and even ice cream with ginger.also known as chinese cherry, lychees are very popular in south asian countries. according to some horticulturists,they resemble the muscat grape. in china, honey is harvested in large quantities from hives near lychee trees.lychee seeds are credited with analgesic qualities.

lychees are also considered to be a symbol of romance. a chinese poet had wrritten about lychees thus: all flavours here are joined, yet none is master; a hundred diverse tastes, blend in such harmony no man can say, that one outstrips the other; soverign of sweets, peerless, pre-eminent fruit, who dwellest apart in noble solitude.

i could not think of a better tribute to my favourite lychee.